Deb files or Debian Packages
What is a .deb file?
In the Debian Linux distribution (on which Knoppix is based), software is commonly distributed in the form of Debian packages with the .deb file extension. A Debian package is a single file archive which contains the files related to installing a particular program. Also included in the Debian package is a control file which lists what additional Debian packages need to be installed in order to get the program to run. These additional packages are commonly also .deb and are called "dependencies". For more information on the Debian package management system please see: Deb file format.
Because Knoppix is based on Linux, it is possible to download and use .deb files as in order to install new programs into Knoppix.
What you should beware of
Debian versions and Knoppix
Debian comes in several versions or releases:
- Stable - presently codenamed Sarge
- Testing - presently codenamed Etch
- Unstable - codenames Sid
Packages for one version are usually not compatible or usable in another version. An attempt to install a package from one version into a system based on another version may lead to instability or crashes.
Knoppix uses a delicately balanced mixture of packages from all three versions, plus packages from Debian-experimental and other unofficial sources. They have been tested to ensure that they work together.
However when you download and install a Debian package and add it to Knoppix, you have no idea which version of .deb is suitable. Even if you successfully install a .deb package plus all its dependencies, it does not mean that there will be no problems later.
In general, a single stand-alone application package with no dependencies (other than those already included in Knoppix) will install and run successfully if you pick the .deb from the "Testing" or "Unstable" version.
If, on the other hand, the .deb calls for installing or updating a lot of dependencies including big components such as kde libraries, then problems are almost certainly going to occur and Knoppix is going to "break". This is the cause of many hard-disk install problems.
Some Debian pacakges will require you to install other Debian packages before they themselves can be installed. These other pacakges ("dependencies") may in turn have further dependencies. The tedium of manually downloading more and more packages in order to satisfy all the dependencies is sometimes called descending into "dependency hell".
There are utilities such as apt-get which can automate the process of gathering all dependencies. However, often, by the time all the dependencies are gathered, so much may have changed that the delicate balance of Knoppix is upset and Knoppix may "break".
Installing a .deb package
Using the GUI
In Knoppix, if you have the downloaded the .deb file onto the desktop or are viewing the file from konqueror, clicking on the icon will launch the package manager called kpackage. Click install. If everything works, you will see "Result=0".
If there is a problem, you will get "Result=1" and kpackage will describe the problem, such as listing what dependencies are missing and need to be installed first.
Using the Command-line
Please see here: dpkg for information on how to use the dpkg command at the command-line to handle .deb files
Automating the Gathering of Dependencies