Set up a Debian/Ubuntu APT Repository

How to set up a Debian/Ubuntu APT repository with GPG signing.

At first I tried to use Bas Wijnen’s mini-dinstall howto, but never managed to get it working. Probably due to problems with GPG. Then I went down the tried and true path of using reprepro.

I’ve tried to document my steps here, but I’ve very likely missed a few steps that a beginner admin may run into. YMMV B-)

Install

First set up the web server and its directories. I obviously use Merecat httpd, but you can use just about any web server:

$ sudo mkdir /srv/deb
$ sudo mkdir /var/www/deb.troglobit.com
$ sudo echo "/srv/deb  /var/www/deb.troglobit.com  none  defaults,bind  0 0" >>/etc/fstab

Then install reprepro

$ sudo apt install reprepro

The man page and the documentation in /usr/share/doc/reprepro/ is quite good, so I recommend at least skimming through it before you continue.

Setup

The following steps create the necessary directories and configuration files:

$ sudo mkdir -p /srv/deb/{debian,ubuntu}/{conf,dists,incoming,indices,logs,pool,project,tmp}
$ cd /srv/deb
$ sudo chown -R `whoami` .

I’ve created a set of directories for both Debian and Ubuntu, below I will continue with Debian only. Notice the use of Debian code names which are different in the Ubuntu world.

$ cd debian/conf
$ mg distributions

Notice the Suite and Codename for each entry in the distributions file below. These are the official names and their current release state in Debian. Below we will use reprepro createsymlinks to automatically create synmlinks based on this file.

Origin: Troglobit Software
Label: deb.troglobit.com
Suite: oldstable
Codename: jessie
Architectures: amd64
Components: main
Description: Unofficial Debian/Ubuntu Packages maintained by Joachim Nilsson
SignWith: 4B8786A6

Origin: Troglobit Software
Label: deb.troglobit.com
Suite: stable
Codename: stretch
Architectures: amd64
Components: main
Description: Unofficial Debian/Ubuntu Packages maintained by Joachim Nilsson
SignWith: 4B8786A6

Origin: Troglobit Software
Label: deb.troglobit.com
Suite: unstable
Codename: sid
Architectures: amd64
Components: main
Description: Unofficial Debian/Ubuntu Packages maintained by Joachim Nilsson
SignWith: 4B8786A6

Next up is conf/incoming:

Name: default
IncomingDir: incoming
TempDir: tmp
Allow: oldstable>jessie stable>stretch unstable>sid
Cleanup: on_deny on_error

We can now create the initial structure, symbolic links and initial Packages files:

$ cd /srv/deb/debian
$ reprepro -Vb . createsymlinks
$ reprepro -Vb . export

Signing

To be able to actually sign .deb files you need to create (and also publish the public part of) a GPG signing key. Answer the questions to --gen-key below, select type 4 RSA key for signing. Make sure to use a 4096 bit key. I set it up without a passphrase for convenince¹ and then upload the resulting public key:

$ gpg --gen-key
gpg: key 44D7FA0A marked as ultimately trusted
public and secret key created and signed.
$ gpg --send-keys 4B8786A6
gpg: sending key 4B8786A6 to hkp server keys.gnupg.net

Add the fingerprint to the SignWith: in the conf/distributions file.

archive-keyring.deb

The public part of the GPG key also needs to be published as a regular .deb package. Clone my GIT repo and change the active/archive.asc key:

$ git clone https://github.com/troglobit/deb.git
$ cd deb/
$ gpg --export archive@troglobit.com >active/archive.gpg

Then edit the files in the debian/ sub-directory to match your repo and build the package:

$ dpkg-buildpackage

Done.

Developer

It’s now time for the developer(s) to upload the(ir) package(s) to the /srv/deb/debian/incoming/ directory.

$ scp troglobit-archive-keyring_* server:/srv/deb/debian/incoming/

Then run mini-dinstall in batch mode from the command line, or start it in daemon mode:

$ cd /srv/deb/debian
$ reprepro -Vb . processincoming default

Users

Add a dedicated .sources file to the /etc/sources.list.d/ directory, e.g. troglobit.sources:

Types: deb
URIs: http://deb.troglobit.com/debian
Suites: unstable
Architectures: amd64
Components: main
Signed-By: /usr/share/keyrings/troglobit-archive-keyring.gpg

Run an sudo apt update and remember to add the GPG key:

sudo apt-key adv --recv 4B8786A6
apt install --allow-unauthenticated troglobit-archive-keyring

There. Packages can now be installed.

Footnotes

¹ To remove a GPG passphrase from a key, use gpg --edit-key HASH, and then passwd at the gpg> prompt. Simply press enter when prompted for the new passphrase.