Building Metapackages to Customize the Meilix Linux Distro Generator

This article will guide you to build a metapackage with your required configuration and to use it inside the meilix distro to customize and use the inbuild metapackages to customize the configuration file of packages and properties of various browsers.
Metapackages are scripts which contain the link to existing packages. It’s a .deb file. As packages include dependencies analogically metapackages include packages. So, we can say that metapackages do not contain actual software, they depend upon packages. This guide will help you to make your own metapackage easily, configure it and distribute it among your friends and other Linux users.

How to get started to build a metapackage for meilix?

At first one needs to sort out the metapackages that it needs to be there in the metapackages. One can also come up with the package which he don’t want to install but that comes under dependency of the some package.
It’s easy, a few lines of commands and you will have a .deb metapackage in your hand.
We will use equivs as a tool to build metapackages.

Install equivs :

sudo apt-get install equivs
equivs-control ns-control

This will create a file with the name ns-control and that files looks similar to this:

1.### Commented entries have reasonable defaults.
2.### Uncomment to edit them.
3.# Source: <source package name; defaults to package name>
4.Section: misc
5.Priority: optional
6.# Homepage: <enter URL here; no default>
7.Standards-Version: 3.9.2
8.Package: <package name; defaults to equivs-dummy>
9.# Version: <enter version here; defaults to 1.0>
10.# Maintainer: Your Name <[email protected]>
11.# Pre-Depends: <comma-separated list of packages>
12.# Depends: <comma-separated list of packages>
13.# Recommends: <comma-separated list of packages>
14.# Suggests: <comma-separated list of packages>
15.# Provides: <comma-separated list of packages>
16.# Replaces: <comma-separated list of packages>
17.# Architecture: all
18.# Multi-Arch: <one of: foreign|same|allowed>
19.# Copyright: <copyright file; defaults to GPL2>
20.# Changelog: <changelog file; defaults to a generic changelog>
21.# Readme: <README.Debian file; defaults to a generic one>
22.# Extra-Files: <comma-separated list of additional files for the doc directory>
23.# Files: <pair of space-separated paths; First is file to include, second is destination>
24.# <more pairs, if there's more than one file to include. Notice the starting space>
25.Description: <short description; defaults to some wise words>
long description and info

second paragraph

 

Now the question is what to do with this:
Line 3-7 : the control information of the source packages.
Line 8-25 : the control information for the binary packages
Source packages are those packages which contain the source code of the package. One can compile the source and install it in any architecture of the machine .
Binary packages are those packages which are specific to the architecture of machine. And one can easily install it with a click.

Description of important lines:
Line 3: The name of the source package, same to Line 8
Line 4: section of the distribution
There are various categories in which a source package can be put into.
Line 9: version of the package, it is helpful if you want it install packages of a particular version
Line 11: you have to write the dependencies of the packages #better remain this commented
Line 12 : Include the name of the packages that you want to include in the metapackage
Line 17: Architecture is set to all that is for both 32 and 64 bit.
Line 25: Provide description

Next is what
Then after filling up the text file, now it’s time to build it.

Build the package:

equivs-build ns-control

Now it will run and will give you a .deb file.
dpkg i *.deb will install the deb file.

This is the metapackage which contains the packages which you have included.
I have used this wiki as a source for the required information.

Suppose one of most popular metapackage : gnome-desktop-environment – It is the a desktop environment gnome flavoured. It gives the graphical user interface to the user with popular email, office tools, music and other wide range of applications.

How a common Linux user can get the benefit of it?

We know that most of the people avoid Linux because of its beautiful command line feature. They just want to use mouse/touchpad throughout.
With the help of this, a person can build a metapackage. This one can distribute to its friend and can also use for the future purpose.
One can also use this to make a collection of metapackages of different packages like hacking tools, text tools, etc.

How we uses the metapackages?

Meilix script uses the metapackages for building of all the required packages. In our webapp version (meilix-generator) we made several metapackages that will be asked from the user and a user can choose one among them according to its requirement. It will also contain the information that which packages the metapackage is made of.

Suppose event metapackages include the packages needed by the people for the events purpose which will predefined by us and they will consist of lightweight text editor, media player, document viewer etc. In an education related metapackage one contain packages related to school, workshop.

Now meilix repo contains its own metapackages that it uses to contain the distro.

How meilix metapackage is used to control distro configuration?

We can even control the distro properties including the browser configuration, it’s startup page, search page and many more things through metapackages. Let’s see how:

We created a metapackage with the name meilix-default-settings and used it to config various features in the distro. The meilix settings metapackage consists of etc folder where we can made the changes to get it on the distro. We can even include property folder in the .config under skel folder to copy the changes into the home folder of the new user. To change the chrome configuration, we need to edit the chrome.json file. To change firefox configuration we need to edit prefs.js file.

The metapackage folder is: https://github.com/fossasia/meilix/tree/master/meilix-default-settings

Repository using metapackages

https://github.com/fossasia/meilix
https://github.com/fossasia/meilix-generator  (the webapp)