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Knowing your system - Part 5 - Source-based distributions: the binary way

by Marc-Antoine Perennou on December 20, 2012

Tagged as: sysadmin, knowingyoursystem, source-based, paludis.

We last saw the paludis tool. Now, we’ll take a look at how we can handle a source-based distribution using paludis for large pools of servers.

Source-based distributions for huge server pools

At Clever Cloud, we decided to use a source-based GNU/Linux distribution called exherbo, which I’ll blog about next week, because of its strictness and flexibility. Since we have to manage hundreds of servers and virtual machines, it would have been a big overload in energy consumption and in time invested if we managed it the “conventional” way. Indeed, compiling everything on the hypervisors could cause instabilities because of the CPUs being monopolised by the compilation process, leaving no power to virtual machines. The virtual machines would have the same problem, and for much longer, since you do not have the same power in a virtual machine than in an hypervisor, so compilations last longer.

This is why we decided to manage everything using binary packages. Wait… What? Binary packages in a source-based distribution? How?!

The search is over: paludis’ pbins


Paludis comes with a very nice feature: pbins.

The concept is simple:

  • You create an empty repository, anywhere in your filesystem, containing an empty packages directory, a profiles directory containing a file named repo_name which contents is your binary repository name, like mybinaries.
  • In your repository, create a metadata containing a layout.conf file, with masters = arbor in it.
  • On your compilation node, create a configuration file for you binary repository
  • On the other nodes, create a configuration file for it too. It’s the same, without the lines starting with binary_ and modifying the sync line

A sample configuration file:

format = e
location = /var/db/paludis/repositories/mybinaries
sync = file:///var/db/paludis/repositories/mybinaries
importance = 100
binary_destination = true
binary_distdir = /var/cache/paludis/distfiles
binary_keywords_filter = amd64 ~amd64
binary_uri_prefix =

location is the place where you put your empty repository.

sync is the same that location on the compilation node, and may refer to a git repository where you’ll publish your binary repository on the other nodes.

binary_distdir is the directory where binary tarballs will be placed. I recommend you to make it point to the same place as where paludis downloads its distfiles, since it will be easier to maintain in further use. That’s why I left the default value here.

binary_prefix is the URL where the generated tarballs will be available for the other nodes. Ensure that the /var/cache/paludis/distfiles directory is available via http at this URL.


You’re now fully ready! All you have to do is create the binary packages on your compilation node, push the updated repository to your git server, sync it on the other boxes and you will be able to install your freshly made binary packages without having to compile them on all of your machines.

It’s pretty simple to make binary packages, all you have to do is first to generate the binaries for everything you have installed:

It will automatically generate packages and put tarballs in your distfiles directory. If you run this after updating your compilation box, it will only generate new binary packages for those that have changed.

Last thing you might want to know: to create a binary package for a package you do not have installed yet, just run

It will create packages for all the dependencies, installing it afterwards, and finish by making the package for the software you asked.

Don’t forget to push all changes on your git server!

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