[conspire] I've requested an impossible (package installation) situation

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Nov 8 17:51:20 PST 2005

Quoting Eric De Mund (ead-conspire at ixian.com):

> Help. I've fallen into an impossible package installation situation and
> I can't get up. To wit:

Well, a metapackage situation, anyway.

You didn't really state what distribution and release this is.
Debian-stable (sarge/3.1)?  Debian-testing (etch)?  Debian-unstable (sid)? 
Something else?  Kubuntu?  ;->

The server I'm sending this from tracks Debian-testing, and is thus at
the moment on "etch".  (It is also configured for optional access to
packages from unstable=sid.)

>     % sudo apt-get install kde                  

That is a metapackage.  Let's look in /var/lib/apt/lists/*Packages on my 
"etch" server, for details:

  Package: kde
  Priority: optional
  Section: kde
  Installed-Size: 16
  Maintainer: Debian Qt/KDE Maintainers <debian-qt-kde at lists.debian.org>
  Architecture: all
  Source: meta-kde
  Version: 5:45
  Depends: kde-core, kde-amusements, kdeaddons, kdeadmin, kdeartwork, 
  kdegraphics, kdemultimedia, kdenetwork, kdepim, kdeutils, kdewebdev
  Suggests: kde-i18n, x-window-system-core
  Filename: pool/main/m/meta-kde/kde_45_all.deb
  Size: 7500
  MD5sum: efe31c56b3b80d0fa6c3fa79c068158f
  Description: the K Desktop Environment official modules
   KDE (the K Desktop Environment) is a powerful Open Source graphical
   desktop environment for Unix workstations. It combines ease of use,
   contemporary functionality, and outstanding graphical design with the
   technological superiority of the Unix operating system.
   This metapackage includes all the official modules that are released with
   KDE. In addition to the core KDE modules, this includes multimedia,
   networking, personal information manager (PIM), graphics, education, games,
   web development, system administration tools, and other artwork and
   utilities. This package does not depend on development packages.
   Homepage: http://www.kde.org
   Tag: role::aux:metapackage, special::meta, suite::kde, uitoolkit::qt

In other words, typing "sudo apt-get install kde" on my system (at the
moment) would be functionally the same as typing "sudo apt-get install
kde-core kde-amusements kdeaddons kdeadmin kdeartwork kdegraphics
kdemultimedia kdenetwork kdepim kdeutils kdewebdev"

>     The following packages have unmet dependencies:
>       kde: Depends: kde-amusements but it is not going to be installed
>            Depends: kdeaddons but it is not installable
>     E: Broken packages

The usual way this sort of thing comes about is adding non-official
sources to /etc/apt/sources.list, or mixing Debian branches, or being
on -testing or -unstable, or something like that.  But you could have 
encountered a package bug, I guess.

The really interesting part is the bit that kde-amusements "is not going
to be installed".  Sometimes, apt-get becomes oddly stupid, and you have
to guide it by the hand, e.g., "sudo apt-get install kde-amusements"
before being able to succeed with the larger operation.  I'd try that,

Package kdeaddons being not "installable" is a more serious matter.  
That generally means that a suitable version is not in the known
packages for your branch.  But you might just look in the package 
repository for a package that looks reasonable, ftp (or otherwise fetch)
it to your machine and then "dpkg -i" (install package) it.

Other than that, the obvious solution to a metapackage not working is to
specify the constitutent package names, instead.

> I got into this situation by:
> 1.  Trying to install xmms-musepack, but it being similarly not
>     permitted due to conflicts.

If this is Debian, I notice that xmms-musepack is provided only in the
-testing and -unstable branches, _not_ -stable.

On either of those two development branches, you invariably get some
occasional problems with the three primary dependency hairballs:  KDE, 
GNOME, and Mozilla-derived programs.  Some of the remedies are noted

> Help! How can I get up off of the floor here?

If your system is tracking Debian-unstable ("sid"), then a bunch of your
options are noted above.

If your system is tracking Debian-testing ("etch"), then consider the
above plus maybe on additional trick:  I mentioned that I make my system
able to fetch -unstable-branch packages optionally.  Here's one way to
do it, which I'm informed is a bass-ackwards way of using apt-get's
"pinning" mechanism, but I played around until it worked, and that's
been good enough for me:

Add the following to /etc/apt/preferences (which you'll probably have to

Package: *
Pin: release a=unstable
Pin-Priority: 50

This says assign a priority of 50 (where higher is greater priority, and 
normal is 100) to any package from the -unstable branch.  Thus, no
packages will get pulled from that branch by default, in normal use of

Now, add an -unstable line to /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb ftp://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
deb ftp://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ unstable main non-free contrib
deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://security.debian.org/ stable/updates main contrib non-free

Run "sudo apt-get update" to refresh your package listings.  You're
done.  You can now specify _optionally_ that the -unstable branch should
be used to fetch named packages and satisfy any dependencies, by using
the "-t unstable" flag, like this:

$ sudo apt-get  -t unstable  install kde

Good luck.

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