Newbie Question ... getting sources.

Nils Kassube kassube at
Sun Oct 31 09:42:53 UTC 2010

Ronald F. Guilmette wrote:
> My apologies if this is an FAQ... which it almost certainly is...

Not really. I think, most Ubuntu users don't care too much about the 
source code. :)

> I am completely new to Ubuntu, and still having a good deal of
> trouble figuring out the basic lay-of-the-land as it were.  I mean
> there's all these different versions (Meerkat, etc.),

Ubuntu has a new release every 6 months with version numbers derived 
from the release date ( And to make it a bit more confusing to 
newbies :) each version has a code name like "Lucid Lynx" for release 
"10.04 LTS" or "Maverick Meerkat" for release "10.10".

> and then
> there's these four different flavors, Main, Restricted, Universe,
> Multiverse,

These are the repository names, see 

> and then, on top of all that, there's i386 and amd64

Which is used to distingush between 32 nad 64 bit hardware.

> and... And then there's "server", "desktop", and "notebook".

Where "server" has no desktop and "netbook" has a desktop optimized for 
(well, you guessed it) netbooks.

> Oh
> yea, and then we have xUbuntu, yUbuintu, and zUbuntu, just to make
> things even MORE interesting.

Where the base system is all the same as for Ubuntu but with a different 
desktop than Gnome (which is used for Ubuntu).

> Whew! (I seriously have no idea how
> you folks manage to keep this bewildering proliferation of flavors
> and versions all straight.)

Oh, that wasn't too difficult after many years of using Kubuntu. But 
congrats, you managed to find nearly all the hidden flavours, except the 
LiveCD / alternate CD / DVD flavours. :)

> But seriously, any old (Linux/Ubuntu) sources for any flavor hardware
> will do just fine, I think, as long as they are reasonably recent. 
> And I don't need anything obscure... just sources for stuff that's
> likely to appear in /bin and/or /usr/bin even on/in a stripped-down
> distribution.

First you would find out which package belongs to the application you're 
after. If you don't find a package with the same name, it might be 
useful to install the package apt-file to search for the association of 
individual files and package names. Then you would use a command like

apt-file search /bin/ls

where you can see that it comes with the package coreutils. Of course 
you could skip this step, if know the package name already.

Now that you know you want the source of the coreutils package you would 
use the command

apt-get source coreutils

to download the source to your current directory, including the Ubuntu 
specific patches.

> Oh, and ah, I'm still not quite down with this "apt" thing, so if
> anybody could explain that to me in, you know, like 200 words or
> less, I'd greatly appreciate it.

I'm not an expert for apt either but maybe you can find the info you 
need here: <>. Granted, it 
is more than 200 words, but IMHO apt is quite bulky and 200 words might 
really not be enough. Others may disagree and hopefully have a shorter 
overview handy.

> (Please don't throw rocks at me
> but, ah, actually, I'm pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool FreeBSD man
> myself.  So I was, you know, sorta hoping that I could just find a
> set of /usr/bin sources (for Ubuntu) all wrapped up pretty in a good
> old plain .tar.gz file that I could just FTP down to my FreeBSD
> machine.  But you know, I searched for about an hour for such a
> thing and finally had to just give up, cuz if such a thing is out
> there, then it is damn well hidden.

There is no such thing as sources of all the files in e.g. /usr/bin 
because nearly all applications have their executables in that 
directory. I don't know how it is managed for FreeBSD, but for Ubuntu 
the software is divided into packages where the base system is comprised 
of a lot of packages but there are many more available to be installed 
individually. Each package has its own sources and the installed files 
are found in various places in the file system. Therefore I think that 
sources for files in e.g. /usr/bin wouldn't be too useful.


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