Ubuntu – How to get and modify the source code of packages installed through apt-get


I am assuming that all application installed through apt-get are open source; but for those that are available in that manner, where can I get the source code for these applications as well as update them?

I have a couple applications I use regularly that aren't being actively developed any longer and I would like to add features. Where would I go to get the rights to update these applications?

In this case specifically, I am referring to the hellanzb package

Best Answer

  • Use the command apt-get source <package> (don't use sudo with it) to download the source of a package.

    From man apt-get:

           source causes apt-get to fetch source packages. APT will examine the
           available packages to decide which source package to fetch. It will then
           find and download into the current directory the newest available version of
           that source package while respect the default release, set with the option
           APT::Default-Release, the -t option or per package with the pkg/release
           syntax, if possible.
           Source packages are tracked separately from binary packages via deb-src type
           lines in the sources.list(5) file. This means that you will need to add such
           a line for each repository you want to get sources from. If you don't do
           this you will properly get another (newer, older or none) source version
           than the one you have installed or could install.
           If the --compile option is specified then the package will be compiled to a
           binary .deb using dpkg-buildpackage, if --download-only is specified then
           the source package will not be unpacked.
           A specific source version can be retrieved by postfixing the source name
           with an equals and then the version to fetch, similar to the mechanism used
           for the package files. This enables exact matching of the source package
           name and version, implicitly enabling the APT::Get::Only-Source option.
           Note that source packages are not tracked like binary packages, they exist
           only in the current directory and are similar to downloading source tar

    To build a package from source, first install the build dependencies:

    sudo apt-get build-dep <package>  

    Then use dpkg-buildpackage to create a .deb file. From APT and Dpkg Quick Reference Sheet:

    dpkg-buildpackage Builds a Debian package from a Debian source tree. You must be in the main directory of the source tree for this to work. Sample usage:

     dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -uc -b

    Where -rfakeroot instructs it to use the fakeroot program to simulate root privileges (for ownership purposes), -uc stands for "Don't cryptographically sign the changelog", and -b stands for "Build the binary package only"

    In a terminal, cd into the directory containing the package source (e.g ~/code/hellanzb-0.13) and run the following command:

    dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -uc -b

    If the build is successful, there will be a .deb file located in the parent
    directory (e.g ~/code/hellanzb_0.13-6.1_all.deb).