Synaptic question

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  • This topic has 16 replies, 4 voices, and was last updated Aug 3-5:39 pm by BobC.
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  • #22718

    Is Antix maintaining it’s own source-tree for Synaptic now? Searching tells me that the last official version seems to be around 0.57 or so and is very old, whereas Antix testing is at 0.84.6(antix)1. I was looking to file a couple of feature requests on it:

    1) Have some way to SAVE or specify the column layout (widths, height, etc.) (EVERY time I start it up, I have to adjust them back to where I can see the names and versions of things – very annoying).

    2) About every other time I update I get an annoying popup ERROR dialog (can’t remember what it says, but something a/b permissions issue) that doesn’t seem to be an error at all in that nothing seems to be affected (I can post reply with the exact msg. next time I get it).

    Perhaps #1 is fixable via “expert-only” -o options that are undocumented, if so, can someone shed some light? Otherwise, I was looking to get the source and see if I could implement my desired improvements myself and submit them as a patch, if successful.




    Not “maintaining its own source tree” (no modifications so far), but antiX is serving a copy of the package from antiX repository because it had been removed from debian 10 (testing, slated to become buster) repository.

    Filing feature requests would fall on deaf ears (nothing new, its DEBIAN pkg maintainers have been perenially incommunicado)
    It’s development had really occurred downstream, in Ubuntu (along with software-properties-common and software-properties-gtk) and {crickets} since about 2016 when Ubuntu ceased interest in synaptic, in favor of both snappy and AppStream.

    re 2)
    Yeah, it’s a known issue. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen that (my daily driver is using v0.84.2) and I thought it had been fixed upstream quite a while ago. If you care to search the forum here for past discussions, IIRC someone had posted a “howto” toward silencing the warning.

    re 1)
    This would be nearly impossible to accomplish. We can, via the preferences}} Columns-n-Fonts dialog, choose the column arrangement… but the width of each column is data-driven. The treeview widget dynamically adjusts width to best-fit accommodate the content. Your best hope for accomplishing “my preferred” layout tweaks would be to install autokey (pkg “autokey-gtk” or “autokey-qt”) and record a series of actions, for playback each time you launch synaptic.

    addendum (post edited to strikeout “nearly impossible”):

    The default “height” (vertical percentage) of right-side panes could certainly be tweaked in the source code. If you’re motivated to edit/self-compile your own copy of synaptic to accomplish that, I’ll look into the code & post what/where needs to be changed. If you are motivated to proceed further, forking/renaming/building a customized version could be an interesting group project.

    You can see in the changelog
    that across the past several years, version bumps really haven’t added/improved functionality. The codebase has just suffered a series of bullshi administrivial changes, and DebHat -oriented changes (kill off gtk2 compatibility, add policykit support then DEPEND on policykit and kick out gksu support…)

    I would be inclined to build-n-ship the forked version of synaptic using a different name. It could be installed side-by-side with the existing version during its testing and development… and if antiX or another distro decided to use it, they could choose to divert (or symlink) calls to synaptic so that the custom program launched instead.

    Back to the “remember lastUsed” column widths detail:
    From working on other projects, I can tell you this would be a can-o-worms, would necessitate probably 1000+ additional lines of code (new controls in the gui, new preferences to be read/stored, multiplied by howevermany columns setting are to be “remembered for”) and that you’re still faced with the prospect of drag-resizing the width when toggling fullscreen, or after changing custom font size…

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by skidoo.
    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by skidoo.

    I wish it would also remember previous search strings and sort sequence.

    After reading the rest of skidoo’s post maybe I should stop dreaming.

    Oh well, its not critical…

    PS: I found the website and it has some command line options, including one for initial filter or filter file

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by BobC.
    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by BobC.

    Synaptic versions
    antiX 17 = 0.84.2
    Debian Buster = 0.84.6

    MX-19 4.19.0-6-amd6 (i3) : Debian-10 4.19.67-2+deb10u2 (i3) : anitX-19 runit (5.3.14-antix.1-amd64-smp) (i3)
    2 Laps T430 17.2 X220 17.4


    Koo, I have the 6/3 weekly version of buster installed and synaptic is on the menus, but doesn’t actually come up. It doesn’t work from a terminal as root, either. Maybe its just an issue on my machine.

    PS: my mistake as far as running it from a terminal, its just not in the path

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by BobC.

    Thank you for the quick (and thorough) replies. I suspected that something like this might be truly daunting, but hey, can’t hurt to inquire though (in case it really isn’t), as there are often others who’ve found a good solution. As a career programmer, I’ve often assumed / told things to be difficult/impossible turn out not to be at all AND the converse to just as often to be just as frequent and true as well! Then having to balance the determined difficulty with the desirability / urgency of the request before proceeding.

    For me, these issues are a very minor annoyances, having gotten here as sort of the “last hill to climb” for the moment now, as the OS and pretty much every other app. and tool I use on a regular basis I’ve either written myself, modified, optimized, forked, and/or configured to look and work almost exactly as I find best (having now in retirement, pretty much achieving near “computer nirvana” at the moment over many years of using and working with Linux)!


    As promised, here’s that error dialog I’m randomly getting:


    discussion of the exact cause & fix can be found via antixforum search ~~ “unsandboxed”


    I wish it would also remember previous search strings and sort sequence.

    If package “apt-xapian-index” is not installed
    (and, it is not pre-installed in antiX)
    the QuickSearch docked in the synaptic toolbar is absent, and clicking Search opens a popup dialog.

    That dialog (in case you hadn’t noticed) does retain a list of previous search terms…


    …but I suppose your wish is toward having the list preserved (eternally?) across sessions.

    In any event, the preserved history already creates a potential point of confusion.
    Per the screenshot, when I previously searched for “fun”, had I also specified “Name and Description”, or was the earlier search just based on “Name”? That detail seems to be preserved (the permutation which was in effect during the time of the prior search does seem to be reflected in the filtered resultset displayed each time a query is clicked in the left pane)… but I’ve often been confused by seeing “how does THAT match?” items from past Name+Desc queries displayed when my current and recent searches have been based on “Name” only.


    Continuing with the notion of “remembering”…

    This screenshot only shows a sessionlog when pkgs were installed, but the “History” popup dialog will also show any package upgrade and removal events (and the displayed text can be selected + copied)


    In case you launch and close synaptic multiple times throughout the day…
    …the “History” popup even provides a separate timestamped entry for each session.



    I remember creating the “_apt” user a while back in a previous attempt to fix this error, as someone else had said this was the problem. Anyway, it wasn’t and isn’t. Apparently, something more needs to be done? Here’s what I have so far:


    Apparently, something more needs to be done?

    There’s nothing we end-users can do.
    The fault lies with the code (and underlying decisions/rationale) within the “apt” package.
    The fault affects multiple code paths within multiple progs (incl. aptitude and synaptic) which utilize libapt.
    The earlier “fixit” you are remembering, that fixed only one scenario & we users of “stable” repository were resigned to doing that b/c the fixed, updated, version(s) at the time were not deemed “security-related” so were not sent to debian-backports.

    apt drops privileges for SOME of its subprocesses (RunAs user: _apt)
    apt creates, and will recreate if missing,
    the /var/cache/apt/archives/partial/ _and_ /var/lib/apt/lists/partial/ directories
    and, confoundingly
    (yet the apt package maintainers INSIST it correct and desirable to do so)
    sets permissions @700 (aka “drwx——“) for those directories.

    Counfounding or asinine? It’s your call…
    Although the parent directories are set world-readable,
    the devs insist that the subdirectory named “partial” (shall not be owned by root and) shall not be world-readable.


    In the words of one of the maintainers (scraped from a bug ticket):
    It’s just a warning that [it] will not drop the privileges, to avoid failing with the operation.

    3 yrs ago, another DD (debian developer) named Raphael Hertzog
    suggested the following, hopefully clearer, verbiage:
    W: ‘%s’ can’t be created by user ‘_apt’, continuing the download as root instead.

    Most of the code commits (my notes contain commit+bugticket URLs across 4yrs)
    have been made by David Kalnischkies, and about 2yrs ago he started “getting pissy” in his responses (and commit messages).
    Below, I’m quoting a msg which accompanied a commit which simply changed the verbiage (NOT the behavior)
    Can’t drop privileges for downloading as file ‘%s’ couldn’t be accessed by user ‘%s’.
    Download is performed unsandboxed as root as file ‘%s’ couldn’t be accessed by user ‘%s’.

    Note: This is a warning about disabling a security feature. It is supposed to be scary as we are disabling a security feature and we
    can’t just be silent about it! Downloads really shouldn’t happen any longer as root to decrease the attack surface – but if a warning
    causes that much uproar, consider what an error would do…

    The old WARNING message:
    | W: Can’t drop privileges for downloading as file ‘foobar’ couldn’t be
    | accessed by user ‘_apt’. – pkgAcquire::Run (13: Permission denied)
    is frequently (incorrectly) considered to be an error message indicating that the download didn’t happen which isn’t the case, it was performed,
    but without all the security features enabled we could have used if run from some other place…

    The word “unsandboxed” is chosen as the term ‘sandbox(ed)’ is a common encounter in feature lists/changelogs and more people are hopefully able
    to make the connection to ‘security’ than it is the case for ‘privilege dropping’ which is more correct, but far less known.

    Closes: #813786
    LP: #1522675

    When a given call to an apt:: procedure returns an error, like this
    synaptic is just dutifully presenting a dialog window to display whatever msg string.
    We could fork synaptic and mod the code so that it suppresses the dialog in the where this exact message string is received, but… (lather, rinse, repeat)


    If package “apt-xapian-index” is not installed
    (and, it is not pre-installed in antiX)
    the QuickSearch docked in the synaptic toolbar is absent, and clicking Search opens a popup dialog.

    That dialog (in case you hadn’t noticed) does retain a list of previous search terms…

    Yes, I installed it tonight, and it does help speed up the searches because it is filtering while you type 🙂

    Thanks for that…


    This post explains why we (you) should not use, cannot rely on, the synaptic “Lock Package Version” feature
    (reason: synaptic “Locks” are not respected by apt operations performed via commandline, nor via aptitude)

    The casually mentioned terms “mark”, “pin”, “hold” (for the “sudo apt-mark hold <packagename>” command)
    synaptic toolbar } Package } “Lock Package Version”

    The above are not equivalent, and the “Lock Package Version” synaptic feature was only ever made available as an “experimental” (toy) feature. The source code for the synaptic package even provides a build-time “–with-pkg-hold” configuration option which must be set in order to expose the “Lock” feature. (Note: historically, exposure of this feature has been inconsistent across synaptic versions, across debian releases, and across various distributions.)


    [installation of apt-xapian-index] does help speed up the searches because it is filtering while you type

    other side of the coin:
    the searchindex db files are quite large, especially when extra multiple (e.g. deb-src) repositories are enabled.

    Anyone who chooses to install the apt-xapian-index package on a system slated for longterm livesession+persistence use should consider listing
    within the file /usr/local/share/excludes/persist-save-exclude.list
    (the search index files will be automagically regenerated when needed, if absent)

    ^– same is already listed within the default “iso-snapshot-exclude.list”
    but is NOT among the exclusions listed in the default “live-remaster-exclude.list”

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