Automatic package update nagging with apticron

Posted by JacobAppelbaum on Wed 24 Jan 2007 at 11:21

Do you need your machines to automatically alert you when new packages are available? apticron might be just the package you've been looking for.

apticron is a simple shell script that is called from cron once a day.

faustus:~# apt-get install apticron
Reading Package Lists... Done
Building Dependency Tree... Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
  apt-listchanges python-apt
Suggested packages:
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  apt-listchanges apticron python-apt
0 upgraded, 3 newly installed, 0 to remove and 7 not upgraded.
Need to get 105kB of archives.
After unpacking 389kB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n] 
Get:1 stable/main python-apt 0.5.10 [41.5kB]
Get:2 stable/main apt-listchanges 2.59-0.2 [56.0kB]
Get:3 stable/main apticron 1.1.12 [7332B]
Fetched 105kB in 26s (3897B/s)
Preconfiguring packages ...
You'll be prompted to configure apt-listchanges first. You'll be asked how you want display package changes. I selected text as I find it the least intrusive.

Next you'll be prompted to configure apt-listchanges. Enter the email where you wish to receive package update information.

The package will finish installing:
Selecting previously deselected package apt-listchanges.                       
(Reading database ... 57554 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking apt-listchanges (from .../apt-listchanges_2.59-0.2_all.deb) ...
Selecting previously deselected package apticron.
Unpacking apticron (from .../apticron_1.1.12_all.deb) ...
Setting up apt-listchanges (2.59-0.2) ...

Creating config file /etc/apt/listchanges.conf with new version

Setting up apticron (1.1.12) ...
Now apticron should send emails once a day when there are new packages available. A sample of such an email looks like this:
apticron report [Fri, 19 Jan 2007 18:42:01 -0800]

apticron has detected that some packages need upgrading on:
	[ ]

The following packages are currently pending an upgrade:

	xfree86-common 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	libice6 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	libsm6 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	xlibs-data 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	libx11-6 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	libxext6 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3
	libxpm4 4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3


Package Details:

Reading changelogs...
--- Changes for xfree86 (xfree86-common libice6 libsm6 xlibs-data libx11-6 libxext6 libxpm4) ---
xfree86 (4.3.0.dfsg.1-14sarge3) stable-security; urgency=high

  * Non-maintainer update by the Security Team:
    Fixes several vulnerabilities reported by iDefense
    (CVE-2006-6101, CVE-2006-6102, CVE-2006-6103)

 -- Moritz Muehlenhoff   Sun,  7 Jan 2007 13:31:35 +0000


You can perform the upgrade by issuing the command:

	apt-get dist-upgrade

as root on

It is recommended that you simulate the upgrade first to confirm that
the actions that would be taken are reasonable. The upgrade may be 
simulated by issuing the command:

	apt-get -s dist-upgrade

-- apticron 
Take a look in the following shell scripts if you're interested in seeing how it's executed by cron or how it accomplishes such useful nagging:
apticron won't give output if there aren't packages to update. If you know you have some needed upgrades, you can easily run apticron as cron would to see if its working as expected:
faustus:~# /etc/cron.daily/apticron
Other relevant and related configuration files to explore:



Posted by Anonymous (217.83.xx.xx) on Wed 24 Jan 2007 at 14:44
I'm using cron-apt for that.
This is probalby doing the same, isnt't it?

What i like most about it, is that i can let cron-apt use different sources list as well.

so my sources.list stays the same, everything stable. But at night cron-apt runs one time with my original sources.list and 1 hour later it runs again but with a sources list, let's say testing.list, that checks if any of my packets from testing also need to be upgraded.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by JacobAppelbaum (84.113.xx.xx) on Wed 24 Jan 2007 at 15:15
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You should write an article about cron-apt and contrast it with apticron! :-)

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (83.7.xx.xx) on Wed 24 Jan 2007 at 17:48
My method for an automatic packet update is a simple script running from crontab at the night. The script downloads all available actualisations and if there are any - it sends to me an e-mail message.
Simple and good working from years ;)
apt-get update > /dev/null
apt-get upgrade -d -y | grep "Download complete" >/dev/null && mail -s "There are actualisactions for /my_machie_name/" my@email.address < /path/to/mail_message_body

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by paulgear (203.206.xx.xx) on Thu 25 Jan 2007 at 01:44
Ports of the Ubuntu update manager are available in etch (packages update-manager and update-notifier are the important parts), and i find they work really well. My only question is: it uses synaptic internally - does this use aptitude, or apt-get, or its own library to manipulate apt?

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by JacobAppelbaum (84.113.xx.xx) on Thu 25 Jan 2007 at 16:14
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This uses apt-get, apt-cache, and apt-listchanges internally.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by paulgear (203.206.xx.xx) on Thu 25 Jan 2007 at 21:30
I wonder how well this will work if i normally use aptitude from the command line, then... :-|

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by JacobAppelbaum (84.113.xx.xx) on Thu 25 Jan 2007 at 21:37
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As long as you update the packages with aptitude, I suspect it's going to make no difference at all. It doesn't do very much. It updates the package list and then sends you email about out of date packages. These are pretty universal operations. You could easily make the script use aptitude if you want to hack on it.

I think another more useful hack would be to sign/encrypt the emails with gpg.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (217.43.xx.xx) on Wed 31 Jan 2007 at 16:07
Another option is the check_debian_packages script. Put it in a crontab and you'll get updates when ever a newer version's ready. It'll also play nice with Nagios if you want to monitor lots of machines.

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Posted by chris (82.196.xx.xx) on Mon 22 Oct 2007 at 13:54
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Anyone know if you can get apt-listchanges or apticron to keep quiet about packages manually set to hold?

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by Anonymous (193.35.xx.xx) on Mon 8 Jul 2013 at 07:17
On squeeze edit line 138 in /usr/bin/apticron to remove the --ignore-hold flag:


/usr/bin/apt-get -q -y --ignore-hold --allow-unauthenticated -s dist-upgrade


/usr/bin/apt-get -q -y --allow-unauthenticated -s dist-upgrade



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Posted by debacle (80.152.xx.xx) on Wed 18 Mar 2015 at 11:29

I had a take on this as well, because I wanted to be pestered by both email an Jabber. So there is Pain in the APT. Will be packaged for Debian ASAP.

[ Parent | Reply to this comment ]

Posted by debacle (80.152.xx.xx) on Tue 7 Jul 2015 at 15:46
The current version of the script, painintheapt 0.20150622, is now available in Debian unstable, testing, stable (via jessie-backports), and oldstable (via wheezy-backports-sloppy), as well as in Ubuntu development (Wily Werewolf).

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