Setting up Debian APT for testing and unstable

In this quick brief how to I am going to explain how to to setup Debian for default version of ‘testing’ and being able to install package from ‘unstable’ without having to run Debian ‘unstable’ by default.

First off we are going to edit or create the /etc/apt/apt.conf file:

# nano /etc/apt/apt.conf

and we are going to append this to the file:

APT::Default-Release "testing";

Now we have to edit our /etc/apt/sources.list file and add the ‘unstable’ repository to it.

# nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Here is an example of what my /etc/apt/sources.list file looks like:

deb http://security.debian.org/ testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://ftp.au.debian.org/debian/ testing main contrib non-free
deb http://ftp.au.debian.org/debian/ unstable main contrib non-free

Now we have to refresh / update our packages lists by:

# apt-get update

Now we can install packages from the Debian ‘unstable’ repository by doing for example:

# apt-get install -t unstable linux-image-2.6.26-1-686

Here is a brief explanation of what the ‘-t’ option does from the apt-get man page

       -t, --target-release, --default-release
           This option controls the default input to the policy engine, it creates a default pin at priority 990 using the specified release string. The preferences file may further override this
           setting. In short, this option lets you have simple control over which distribution packages will be retrieved from. Some common examples might be -t ´2.1*´ or -t unstable. Configuration Item:
           APT::Default-Release; see also the apt_preferences(5) manual page.

To learn more about apt-get

$ man apt-get

Note: to change linux-image-2.6.26-1-686 package to the package you are after out of the ‘unstable’ repository.

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