building a DEB package from a perl script

I have a speedtest perl script i wrote - nothing complicated, takes a file and uploads it to a remote FTP or SFTP server, while calculating how long, then gives you a a measure of the MB/per second bandwidth between two sites.

I want it available on a selection of machines so it can run from wherever, so I thought i'd package it up as a .DEB file and stick it in our local repo. Nothing complicated in that, and there are a number of online tutorials about building your own debs. The main drawback with most I found was that they assume you are actually building from source rather than just distributing a script, although I also found a relevant Ubuntu thread which is pretty simple and to the point.

However, even using these tutorials it still took me a few hours to figure out. There are just a couple of non-obvious points, so i figure writing out my own steps is worth recording -

So first, grab your required packages:

apt-get install dh-make dpkg-dev debhelper devscripts fakeroot lintian

You will need to build from a directory with the name of your script in the form packagename-version, so for mine i created /tmp/speedtest-1.0, then copied in my script ‘speedtest‘ and it's data file 25MBFLAC.file ( which i could have created with dd on the box rather than copy over, but downloading the file is actually quicker in this situation ).

The first step is to run:

dh_make -s --indep --createorig -e
(dash-s means create a single binary .deb - i.e. no source version; indep means architecture-independent; and createorig is to indicate you are the original maintainer)

this creates a top-level ‘debian‘ directory containing all the necessary config files.
The main one you need to edit is debian/control - you prob only need fill in “section”, “homepage” and “Description”

Mine looks like:

Source: speedtest
Section: web
Priority: extra
Maintainer: Thorsten Sideboard <>
Build-Depends: debhelper (>= 7.0.50~)
Standards-Version: 3.8.4

Package: speedtest
Architecture: all
Depends: ${misc:Depends}
Description: Test Upload Speeds

One of the things which baffled me for a while, which was answered in the askubuntu link above, was how to specify where something is installed — it goes in a file ‘debian/install‘ which isn't created for you. The format of the file is ‘filename location/to/be/installed” (without the initial slash)

so in my case, i ran:
echo "speedtest usr/local/Scriptz/" > debian/install
echo "25MBFLAC.file usr/local/Scriptz/" >> debian/install

At this point, you should then be able to run:
debuild -us -uc

and you should have a deb file built. but..

First i ran into :

dpkg-source: error: can't build with source format '3.0 (quilt)': no orig.tar file found

As the above-mentioned askubuntu post says, you can

echo "1.0" > debian/source/format

then re-running the debuild -us -uc i ran into

dpkg-source: error: cannot represent change to speedtemp-1.0/25MBFLAC.file: binary file contents changed

This error is due to leftover build-cruft from my last run - if you check the directory one step up from where you are, you'll see debuild has already built some files for you, typically a tar.gz, a .dsc and a .build file. Delete all them, then re-run debuild -us -uc — now it should build properly!


dh_usrlocal: debian/speedtemp/usr/local/Scriptz/speedtest is not a directory

This one also caught me out for a while - turns out this is caused by my specifying “/usr/local/Scriptz” as my install location -

Most third-party software installs itself in the /usr/local directory hierarchy. On Debian this is reserved for private use by the system administrator, so packages must not use directories such as /usr/local/bin but should instead use system directories such as /usr/bin, obeying the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS).

(from here)

So, yeah, i changed my debian/install file to be “speedtest usr/bin

and finally! running debuild -us -uc completes properly, outputting a /tmp/speedtest_1.0-1_all.deb which can then be installed via
dpkg -i /tmp/speedtest_1.0-1_all.deb

One last note — there are four useful scripts to also know about — preinst, postinst, prerm, postrm — these should be in the debian/ directory - pretty self-explanatory - pre- and post- install and remove scripts - if these exist, they will be run exactly as they are named, so for example, i wanted my 25MBFLAC.file still to be installed under /usr/local/Scriptz, so i listed it to be installed in the debian/install file as “25MBFLAC.file tmp” and then in my postinst file, i added:

mv /tmp/25MBFLAC.file /usr/local/Scriptz/