Upgrading Multiple Machines With approx

Monday Apr 13th 2009 by Juliet Kemp

Tip of the Trade: Multiple Debian machines to administer? approx can help you get them updated and upgraded more quickly, and it uses less bandwidth.

If you have multiple Debian machines to administer, approx can help you get them updated and upgraded more quickly and using less bandwidth. approx is an archive/proxy server for Debian repositories, fetching packages on demand and caching them locally. This means that you only have to grab the package once for your entire local network: after that, other machines can get it from the approx server.

Install the package on the machine you want to use as a server, via apt-get with sudo apt-get install approx. Once it's installed, edit /etc/approx/approx.conf to set your repository names:

debian          http://http.uk.debian.org/debian
security        http://security.debian.org/debian-security
non-us			http://non-us.debian.org/debian-non-US

On your client machine, edit /etc/hosts to set localproxy to the IP address of your server: approx	
Then edit /etc/apt/sources.list to work via the server:

deb http://approx:9999/debian stable main non-free contrib
deb-src http://approx:9999/debian etch main non-free contrib
deb http://approx:9999/security stable/updates main non-free contrib
deb-src http://approx:9999/security etch/updates main contrib non-free
deb http://approx:9999/non-us stable main non-free contrib

Note: you could avoid editing /etc/hosts and just use the name or IP address of your approx server directly in /etc/apt/sources.list. Doing it this way means that if you move the server, you need to edit only a single line in /etc/hosts on each machine. If you use LDAP or similar for local lookup, even better!

Finally, restart the approx server with /etc/init.d/approx restart, and run apt-get update on the client machine. Note that initially you may get time-out problems: Try again if you need to. After the first run, subsequent runs should be much faster.

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