Debian - Package management

Debian has introduced in the Linux world the .deb format for its packages, which are equivalent, but not compatible with the rpm packages.
The basic command tool used to install, remove, query and update packages is dpkg (corrisponds to the rpm program) but most Debian administrators use apt to manage the software on their system, because it brilliantly manage dependencies, updates, upgrades from stable to testing versions and handling of different download sources (there's a port of apt for rpm and tgz, and equivalent tools like yum or urpmi on rpm based systems).
dselect is another well known tool, which basically is a menu based frontend to dpkg, which presentes packages grouped in different cathegories.

APT logic is very simple, in /etc/apt/source.lst there's the list of the sources (local filsystem, http, ftp sites) for the deb packages to install or update on the system.
In /var/cache/apt/ are placed downloaded packages and the list of headers retrieved from sources.

Apt basic syntax
apt-get update - Retrieves the list of downloadable packages from the configured sources.
apt-get upgrade - Upgrades the locally installed packages that have more recent updates.
apt-get install synaptic - Installs the specified package (in this example "synaptic")
apt-get remove sendmail - Removes the specified package (checking for dependencies and keeping modified configuration files)
apt-get purge sendmail - Completely removes the specified package even modified configration files
apt-get -u dist-upgrade - Upgrades the complete system the a new Debian release.

There are several text and graphical front-ends that can help software management operations:
aptitude Advanced text and command line front end for APT
synaptic Attractive Gtk GUI front end for APT
dselect Menu-driven package manager
tasksel Task installer

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