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Lintian User's Manual - Getting started
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Lintian User's Manual
Chapter 2 - Getting started

2.1 Installing Lintian

Before you can start to check your packages with Lintian, you'll have to install the lintian Debian package. With Lintian version 0.3.0, you don't need a configuration file in order to check packages.

2.2 Running lintian

After that, you can run Lintian over any Debian binary or source packages like this:

     $ lintian libc5_5.4.38-1.deb
     E: libc5: old-fsf-address-in-copyright-file
     W: libc5: shlib-without-dependency-information usr/lib/libgnumalloc.so.5.4.38
     W: libc5: shlib-without-dependency-information lib/libc.so.5.4.38
     W: libc5: shlib-without-dependency-information lib/libm.so.5.0.9
     E: libc5: shlib-with-executable-bit lib/libc.so.5.4.38 0755
     E: libc5: shlib-with-executable-bit lib/libm.so.5.0.9 0755
     E: libc5: shlib-missing-in-control-file libgnumalloc usr/lib/libgnumalloc.so.5.4.38

As you can see, Lintian uses a special format for all its error and warning messages. With that, its very easy to write other programs which run Lintian and interpret the displayed messages.

2.3 Lintian Tags

The first character of each line indicates the type of message. Currently, the following types are supported:

Errors (E)
The displayed message indicates a policy violation or a packaging error. For policy violations, Lintian will cite the appropriate policy section when it is invoked with the -i option.
Warnings (W)
The displayed message might be a policy violation or packaging error.
Info (I)
The displayed message is meant to inform the maintainer about a certain packaging aspect. Such messages do not usually indicate errors, but might still be of interest to the curious. They are not displayed unless the -I option is set.
Notes (N)
The displayed message is a debugging message which informs you about the current state of Lintian.
Experimental (X)
The displayed message is one of the types listed above, but has been flagged as `experimental' by the Lintian maintainers. This means that the code that generates this message is not as well tested as the rest of Lintian, and might still give surprising results. Feel free to ignore Experimental messages that do not seem to make sense, though of course bug reports are always welcomed.
Overridden (O)
The displayed message indicates a previous Warning or Error message which has been overridden (see below).

The following parameters after the type indicator tell you about the package that has been processed (this can either be a binary or a source package) and about the problem that has been discovered. The problem is identified by a so-called tag (for example, old-fsf-address-in-copyright-file).

Depending on which tag has been reported, the line may contain additional arguments which tell you, for example, which files are involved.

If you do not understand what a certain tag is about, you can specify the -i option when calling Lintian to get a detailed description of the reported tags:

     $ lintian -i libc5_5.4.38-1.deb
     E: libc5: old-fsf-address-in-copyright-file
     N:   The /usr/doc/<pkg>/copyright file refers to the old postal address of
     N:   the Free Software Foundation (FSF). The new address is:
     N:   Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston,
     N:   MA 02111-1307, USA.

In some cases, the messages contain some additional text with a leading hash character (#). This text should be ignored by any other programs which interpret Lintian's output because it doesn't follow a unique format between different messages and it's only meant as additional information for the maintainer.

2.4 Overrides

In some cases, the checked package does not have a bug or does not violate policy, but Lintian still reports an error or warning. This can have the following reasons: Either, Lintian has a bug itself, a specific Lintian check is not smart enough to know about a special case allowed by policy, or the policy does allow exceptions to some rule in general.

In the first case (where Lintian has a bug) you should send a bug report to the Debian bug tracking system and describe which package you checked, which messages have been displayed, and why you think Lintian has a bug. Best would be, if you would run Lintian again over your packages using the -d option, which will cause Lintian to output much more information (debugging info), and include these messages in your bug report. This will simplify the debugging process of the authors of Lintian.

In the other two cases (where the error is actually an exception to policy) you should contact the Lintian maintainers too, including the Lintian error message and a short note, stating why you think this is an exception. This way, the Lintian maintainers can be sure the problem is not actually a bug in Lintian or an error in the author's reading of policy. Once it has been decided that an override is needed, you can easily add one by supply a /usr/share/lintian/overrides/package file. With that, Lintian will know about this exception and not report the problem again when checking your package. (Actually, Lintian will report the problem again, but with type overridden, see above.)

The format of the overrides file is simple: package: lintian-message. An example file would look like:

     /usr/share/lintian/overrides/foo, where foo is the name of your package
     foo: FSSTND-dir-in-usr
     foo: non-standard-dir-perm

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Lintian User's Manual

version 0.3.3, 6 September 2000
Christian Schwarz schwarz@debian.org
Richard Braakman dark@xs4all.nl
Sean 'Shaleh' Perry shaleh@debian.org
Contact address: lintian-maint@debian.org