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Tags: Data Definitions

Looking at a spec file, the first thing you'll see are a number of lines, all following the same basic format:
The <something> is known as a "tag", because it is used by RPM to name or tag some data. The tag is separated from its associated data by a colon. The data is represented by the <something-else> above. Tags are grouped together at the top of the spec file, in a section known as the preamble. Here's an example of a tag and its data:
Vendor: White Socks Software, Inc.

In this example, the tag is "Vendor". Tags are not case-sensitive — they may be all uppercase, all lowercase, or anything in-between. The Vendor tag is used to define the name of the organization producing the package. The data in this example is "White Socks Software, Inc.". Therefore, RPM will store White Socks Software, Inc. as the vendor of the package.

Note, also, that spacing between the tag, the colon, and the data is unimportant. Given this, and the case-insensitivity of the tag, each of the following lines are equivalent to the one above:
VeNdOr : White Socks Software, Inc.
vendor:White Socks Software, Inc.
VENDOR    :    White Socks Software, Inc.

The bottom line is that you can make tag lines as neat or as ugly as you like — RPM won't mind either way. Note, however, the tag's data may need to be formatted in a particular fashion. If there are any such restrictions, we'll mention them. Below, we've grouped tags of similar functions together for easier reference, starting with the tags that are used to create the package name.

Package Naming Tags

The following tags are used by RPM to produce the package's final name. Since the name is always in the format:

it's only natural that the three tags are known as name, version, and release.

The name Tag

The name tag is used to define the name of the software being packaged. In most (if not all) cases, the name used for a package should be identical in spelling and case to the software being packaged. The name cannot contain any whitespace: If it does, RPM will only use the first part of the name (up to the first space). Therefore, if the name of the software being packaged is cdplayer, the name tag should be something like:
Name: cdplayer

The version Tag

The version tag defines the version of the software being packaged. The version specified should be as close as possible to the format of the original software's version. In most cases, there should be no problem specifying the version just as the software's original developer did. However, there is a restriction. There can be no dashes in the version. If you forget, RPM will remind you:
# rpm -ba cdplayer-1.0.spec
* Package: cdplayer
Illegal '-' char in version: 1.0-a
Spaces in the version will also cause problems, in that anything after the first space will be ignored by RPM. Bottom line: Stick with alphanumeric characters and periods, and you'll never have to worry about it. Here's a sample version tag:
Version: 1.2

The release Tag

The release tag can be thought of as the package's version. The release is traditionally an integer — for example, when a specific piece of software at a particular version is first packaged, the release should be "1". If it is necessary to repackage that software at the same version, the release should be incremented. When a new version of the software becomes available, the release should drop back to "1" when it is first packaged.

Note that we used the word "traditionally", above. The only hard and fast restriction to the release format is that there can be no dashes in it. Be aware that if you buck tradition, your users may not understand what your release means.

It is up to the package builder to determine which build represents a new release and to update the release manually. Here is what a typical release tag might look like:
Release: 5

Descriptive Tags

These tags provide information primarily for people who want to know a bit more about the package, and who produced it. They are part of the package file, and most of them can be seen by issuing an rpm -qi command.

The %description Tag

The %description tag is used to provide an in-depth description of the packaged software. The description should be several sentences describing, to an uninformed user, what the software does.

The %description tag is a bit different than the other tags in the preamble. For one, it starts with a percent sign. The other difference is that the data specified by the %description tag can span more than one line. In addition, a primitive formatting capability exists. If a line starts with a space, that line will be displayed verbatim by RPM. Lines that do not start with a space are assumed to be part of a paragraph and will be formatted by RPM. It's even possible to mix and match formatted and unformatted lines. Here are some examples:
It slices!  It dices!  It's a CD player app that can't be beat.  By using
the resonant frequency of the CD itself, it is able to simulate 20X
oversampling.  This leads to sound quality that cannot be equaled with
more mundane software...
The example above contains no explicit formatting. RPM will format the text as a single paragraph, breaking lines as needed.
 It slices!
 It dices!
 It's a CD player app that can't be beat.
By using the resonant frequency of the CD itself, it is able to simulate
20X oversampling.  This leads to sound quality that cannot be equaled with
more mundane software...
In this example, the first three lines will be displayed by RPM, verbatim. The remainder of the text will be formatted by RPM. The text will be formatted as one paragraph.
 It slices!
 It dices!
 It's a CD player app that can't be beat.

By using the resonant frequency of the CD itself, it is able to simulate
20X oversampling.  This leads to sound quality that cannot be equaled with
more mundane software...

Above, we have a similar situation to the previous example, in that part of the text is formatted and part is not. However, the blank line separates the text into two paragraphs.

The summary Tag

The summary tag is used to define a one-line description of the packaged software. Unlike %description, summary is restricted to one line. RPM uses it when a succinct description of the package is needed. Here is an example of a summary line:
Summary: A CD player app that rocks!

The copyright Tag

The copyright tag is used to define the copyright terms applicable to the software being packaged. In many cases, this might be nothing more than "GPL", for software distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, or something similar. For example:
Copyright: GPL

The distribution Tag

The distribution tag is used to define a group of packages, of which this package is a part. Since Red Hat is in the business of producing a group of packages known as a Linux distribution, the name stuck. For example, if a suite of applications known as "Doors '95" were produced, each package that is part of the suite would define its distribution line like this:
Distribution: Doors '95

The icon Tag

The icon tag is used to name a file containing an icon representing the packaged software. The file may be in either GIF or XPM format, although XPM is preferred. In either case, the background of the icon should be transparent. The file should be placed in RPM's SOURCES directory prior to performing a build, so no path is needed.

The icon is normally used by graphically-oriented front ends to RPM. RPM itself doesn't use the icon, but it's stored in the package file and retained in RPM's database after the package is installed. An example icon tag might look like:
Icon: foo.xpm

The vendor Tag

The vendor tag is used to define the name of the entity that is responsible for packaging the software. Normally, this would be the name of an organization. Here's an example:
Vendor: White Socks Software, Inc.

The url Tag

The url tag is used to define a Uniform Resource Locator that can be used to obtain additional information about the packaged software. At present, RPM doesn't actively make use of this tag. The data is stored in the package however, and will be written into RPM's database when the package is installed. It's only a matter of time before some web-based RPM adjunct makes use of this information, so make sure you include URLs! Something like this is all you'll need:
URL: http://www.gnomovision.com/cdplayer.html

The group Tag

The group tag is used to group packages together by the types of functionality they provide. The group specification looks like a path and is similar in function, in that it specifies more general groupings before more detailed ones. For example, a package containing a text editor might have the following group:
Group: Applications/Editors
In this example, the package is part of the Editors group, which is itself a part of the Applications group. Likewise, a spreadsheet package might have this group:
Group: Applications/Spreadsheets

This group tag indicates that under the Applications group, we would find Editors and Spreadsheets, and probably some other subgroups as well.

How is this information used? It's primarily meant to permit graphical front-ends to RPM, to display packages in a hierarchical fashion. Of course, in order for groups to be as effective as possible, it's necessary for all package builders to be consistent in their groupings. In the case of packages for Linux, Red Hat has the definitive list. Therefore, Linux package builders should give serious consideration to using Red Hat's groups. The current group hierarchy is installed with every copy of RPM, and is available in the RPM sources as well. Check out the file groups in RPM's documentation directory (normally /usr/doc/rpm-<version>), or in the top-level source directory.

The packager Tag

The packager tag is used to hold the name and contact information for the person or persons who built the package. Normally, this would be the person that actually built the package, or in a larger organization, a public relations contact. In either case, contact information such as an e-mail address or phone number should be included, so customers can send either money or hate mail, depending on their satisfaction with the packaged software. Here's an example of a packager tag:
Packager: Fred Foonly <fred@gnomovision.com>

Dependency Tags

One RPM feature that's been recently implemented is a means of ensuring that if a package is installed, the system environment has everything the package requires in order to operate properly. Likewise, when an installed package is erased RPM can make sure no other package relies on the package being erased. This dependency capability can be very helpful when endusers install and erase packages on their own. It makes it more difficult for them to paint themselves into a corner, package-wise.

However, in order for RPM to be able to take more than basic dependency information into account, the package builder must add the appropriate dependency information to the package. This is done by using the following tags. Note, however, that adding dependency information to a package requires some forethought. For additional information on RPM's dependency processing, please review Chapter 14.

The provides Tag

The provides tag is used to specify a virtual package that the packaged software makes available when it is installed. Normally, this tag would be used when different packages provide equivalent services. For example, any package that allows a user to read mail might provide the mail-reader virtual package. Another package that depends on a mail reader of some sort, could require the mail-reader virtual package. It would then install without dependency problems, if any one of several mail programs were installed. Here's what a provides tag might look like:
Provides: mail-reader

The requires Tag

The requires tag is used to alert RPM to the fact that the package needs to have certain capabilities available in order to operate properly. These capabilities refer to the name of another package, or to a virtual package provided by one or more packages that use the provides tag. When the requires tag references a package name, version comparisons may also be included by following the package name with <, >, =, >=, or <=, and a version specification. To get even more specific, a package's release may be included as well. Here's a requires tag in action, with a specific version requirement:
Requires: playmidi = 2.3
If the Requires tag needs to perform a comparison against a serial number defined with the serial tag (described below), then the proper format would be:
Requires: playmidi =S 4

The conflicts Tag

The conflicts tag is the logical complement to the requires tag. The requires tag is used to specify what packages must be present in order for the current package to operate properly. The conflicts tag is used to specify what packages cannot be installed if the current package is to operate properly.

The conflicts tag has the same format as the requires tag — namely, the tag is followed by a real or virtual package name. Like requires, the conflicts tag also accepts version and release specifications:
Conflicts: playmidi = 2.3-1
If the conflicts tag needs to perform a comparision against a serial number defined with the serial tag (described below), then the proper format would be:
Conflicts: playmidi =S 4

The serial Tag

The serial tag is another part of RPM's dependency and upgrade processing. The need for it is somewhat obscure, but goes something like this:

  1. The package being built (call it package A) uses a version numbering scheme sufficiently obscure so that RPM cannot determine if one version is older or newer than another version.

  2. Another package (package B) requires that package A be installed. More specifically, it requires RPM to compare package A's version against a specified minimum (or maximum) version.

Since RPM is unable to compare package A's version against the version specified by package B, there is no way to determine if package B's dependency requirements can be met. What to do?

The serial tag provides a way to get around this tricky problem. By specifying a simple integer serial number for each version, you are, in essence, directing how RPM interprets the relative age of the package. The key point to keep in mind is that in order for this to work, a unique serial number must be defined for each version of the software being packaged. In addition, the serial number must increment along with the version. Finally, the package that requires the serialized software needs to specify its version requirements in terms of the serial number.

Does it sound like a lot of trouble? You're right! If you find yourself in the position of needing to use this tag, take a deep breath and seriously consider changing the way you assign version numbers. If you're packaging someone else's software, perhaps you can convince them to make the change. Chances are, if RPM can't figure out the version number, most people can't, either! An example serial tag would look something like this:
Serial: 4

Note that RPM considers a package with a serial number as newer than a package without a serial number.

The autoreqprov Tag

The autoreqprov tag is used to control the automatic dependency processing performed when the package is being built. Normally, as each package is built, the following steps are performed:

  • All executable programs being packaged are analyzed to determine their shared library requirements. These requirements are automatically added to the package's requirements.

  • The soname of each shared library being packaged is automatically added to the package's list of "provides" information.

By doing this, RPM reduces the need for package builders to manually add dependency information to their packages. However, there are times when RPM's automatic dependency processing may not be desirable. In those cases the autoreqprov tag can be used to disable automatic dependency processing.

To disable automatic dependency processing, add the following line:
AutoReqProv: no

(The number zero may be used instead of no) Although RPM defaults to performing automatic dependency processing, the effect of the autoreqprov tag can be reversed by changing no to yes. (The number one may be used instead of yes)

Architecture- and Operating System-Specific Tags

As RPM gains in popularity, more people are putting it to work on different types of computer systems. While this would not normally be a problem, things start to get a little tricky when one of the following two situations becomes commonplace:

  1. A particular operating system is ported to several different hardware platforms, or architectures.

  2. A particular architecture runs several different operating systems.

The real bind hits when RPM is used to package software for several of these different system environments. Without methods of controlling the build process based on architecture and operating system, package builders that develop software for more than one architecture or operating system will have a hard time indeed. The only alternative would be to maintain parallel RPM build environments and accept all the coordination headaches that would entail.

Fortunately, RPM makes it all easier than that. With the following tags, it's possible to support package building under multiple environments, all from a single set of sources, patches, and a single spec file. For a more complete discussion of multi-architecture package building, please see Chapter 19.

The excludearch Tag

The excludearch tag directs RPM to ensure that the package does not attempt to build on the excluded architecture(s). The reasons for preventing a package from building on a certain architecture might include:

  • The software has not yet been ported to the excluded architecture.

  • The software would serve no purpose on the excluded architecture.

An example of the first case might be that the software was designed based on the assumption that an integer is a 32-bit quantity. Obviously, this assumption is not valid on a 64-bit processor.

In the second case, software that depended on or manipulated low-level features of a given architecture, should be excluded from building on a different architecture. Assembly language programs would fall into this category.

One or more architectures may be specified after the excludearch tag, separated by either spaces or commas. Here is an example:
ExcludeArch: sparc alpha
In this example, RPM would not attempt to build the package on either the Sun SPARC or Digital Alpha/AXP architectures. The package would build on any other architectures, however. If a build is attempted on an excluded architecture, the following message will be displayed, and the build will fail:
# rpm -ba cdplayer-1.0.spec
Arch mismatch!
cdplayer-1.0.spec doesn't build on this architecture

Note that if your goal is to ensure that a package will only build on one architecture, then you should use the exclusivearch tag.

The exclusivearch Tag

The exclusivearch tag is used to direct RPM to ensure the package is only built on the specified architecture(s). The reasons for this are similar to the those mentioned in the section on the excludearch tag above. However, the exclusivearch tag is useful when the package builder needs to ensure that only the specified architectures will build the package. This tag ensures that no future architectures will mistakenly attempt to build the package. This would not be the case if the excludearch tag were used to specify every architecture known at the time the package is built.

The syntax of the exclusivearch tag is identical to that of excludearch:
ExclusiveArch: sparc alpha

In this example, the package will only build on a Sun SPARC or Digital Alpha/AXP system.

Note that if your goal is to ensure that a package will not build on specific architectures, then you should use the excludearch tag.

The excludeos Tag

The excludeos tag is used to direct RPM to ensure that the package does not attempt to build on the excluded operating system(s). This is usually necessary when a package is to be built on more than one operating system, but it is necessary to keep a particular operating system from attempting a build.

Note that if your goal is to ensure that a package will only build on one operating system, then you should use the exclusiveos tag. Here's a sample excludeos tag:
ExcludeOS: linux irix

The exclusiveos Tag

The exclusiveos tag has the same syntax as excludeos, but it has the opposite logic. The exclusiveos tag is used to denote which operating system(s) should only be be permitted to build the package. Here's exclusiveos in action:
ExclusiveOS: linux

Note that if your goal is to ensure that a package will not build on a specific operating system, then you should use the excludeos tag.

Directory-related Tags

A number of tags are used to specify directories and paths that are used in various phases of RPM's build and install processes. There's not much more to say collectively about these tags, so let's dive right in and look them over.

The prefix Tag

The prefix tag is used when a relocatable package is to be built. A relocatable package can be installed normally or can be installed in a user-specified directory, by using RPM's --prefix install-time option. The data specified after the prefix tag should be the part of the package's path that may be changed during installation. For example, if the following prefix line was included in a spec file:
Prefix: /opt
and the following file was specified in the spec file's %files list:

then the file foonly would be installed in /opt/blather if the package was installed normally. It would be installed in /usr/local/blather if the package was installed with the --prefix /usr/local option.

For more information about creating relocatable packages, see Chapter 15.

The buildroot Tag

The buildroot tag is used to define an alternate build root. The name is a bit misleading, as the build root is actually used when the software is installed during the build process. In order for a build root to be defined and actually used, a number of issues must be taken into account. These issues are covered in Chapter 16. This is what a buildroot tag would look like:
BuildRoot: /tmp/cdplayer

The buildroot tag can be overridden at build-time by using the --buildroot command-line option.

Source and Patch Tags

In order to build and package software, RPM needs to know where to find the original sources. But it's not quite that simple. There might be more than one set of sources that need to be part of a particular build. In some cases, it might be necessary to prevent some sources from being packaged.

And then there is the matter of patches. It's likely that changes will need to be made to the sources, so it's necessary to specify a patch file. But the same issues that apply to source specifications are also applicable to patches. There might be more than one set of patches required.

The tags that follow are crucial to RPM, so it pays to have a firm grasp of how they are used.

The source Tag

The source tag is central to nearly every spec file. Although it has only one piece of data associated with it, it actually performs two functions:

  1. It shows where the software's developer has made the original sources available.

  2. It gives RPM the name of the original source file.

While there is no hard and fast rule, for the first function, it's generally considered best to put this information in the form of a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL should point directly to the source file itself. This is due to the source tag's second function.

As mentioned above, the source tag also needs to direct RPM to the source file on the build system. How does it do this? There's only one requirement, and it is ironclad: The source filename must be at the end of the line as the final element in a path. Here's an example:
Source: ftp://ftp.gnomovision.com/pub/cdplayer-1.0.tgz

Given this source line, RPM will search its SOURCES directory for cdplayer-1.0.tgz. Everything prior to the filename is ignored by RPM. It's there strictly for any interested humans.

A spec file may contain more than one source tag. This is necessary for those cases where the software being packaged is contained in more than one source file. However, the source tags must be uniquely identified. This is done by appending a number to the end of the tag itself. In fact, RPM does this internally for the first source tag in a spec file, in essence turning it into source0. Therefore, if a package contains two source files, they may either be specified as:
Source: blather-4.5.tar.gz
Source1: bother-1.2.tar.gz
or as:
Source0: blather-4.5.tar.gz
Source1: bother-1.2.tar.gz

Either approach may be used. The choice is yours.

The nosource Tag

The nosource tag is used to direct RPM to omit one or more source files from the source package. Why would someone want to go to the trouble of specifying a source file, only to exclude it? The reasons for this can be varied, but let's look at one example: The software known as Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP.

PGP contains encryption routines of such high quality that the United States government restricts their export. [1] While it would be nice to create a PGP package file, the resulting package could not legally be transferred between the U.S. and other countries, or vice-versa.

However, what if all files other than the original source, were packaged using RPM? Well, a binary package made without PGP would be of little use, but what about the source package? It would contain the spec file, maybe some patches, and perhaps even an icon file. Since the controversial PGP software was not a part of the source package, this sanitized source package could be downloaded legally in any country. The person that downloaded a copy could then go about legally obtaining the PGP sources themselves, place them in RPM's SOURCES directory, and create a binary package. They wouldn't even need to change the nosource tag. One rpm -ba command later, and the user would have a perfectly usable PGP binary package file.

Since there may be more than one source tag in a spec file, the format of the nosource tag is as follows:
nosource: <src-num>, <src-num><src-num>
The <src-num> represents the number following the source tag. If there is more than one number in the list, they may be separated by either commas or spaces. For example, consider a package containing the following source tags:
source: blather-4.5.tar.gz
Source1: bother-1.2.tar.gz
source2: blather-lib-4.5.tar.gz
source3: bother-lib-1.2.tar.gz
If the source files for blather and blather-lib were not to be included in the package, the following nosource line could be added:
NoSource: 0, 3

What about that 0? Keep in mind that the first unnumbered source tag in a spec file is automatically numbered 0 by RPM.

The patch Tag

The patch tag is used to identify which patches are associated with the software being packaged. The patch files are kept in RPM's SOURCES directory, so only the name of the patch file should be specified. Here is an example:
Patch: cdp-0.33-fsstnd.patch

There are no hard and fast requirements for naming the patch files, but traditionally the filename starts with the software name and version, separated by dashes. The next part of the patch file name usually includes one or more words indicating the reason for the patch. In our example above, the patch file contains changes necessary to bring the software into compliance with the Linux File System Standard, hence the fsstnd magic incantation.

RPM processes patch tags the same way it does source tags. Therefore, it's acceptable to use a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) on a patch line, too.

A spec file may contain more than one patch tag. This is necessary for those cases where the software being packaged requires more than one patch. However, the patch tags must be uniquely identified. This is done by appending a number to the end of the tag itself. In fact, RPM does this internally for the first patch tag in a spec file, in essence turning it into patch0. Therefore, if a package contains three patches, the following two methods of specifying them are equivalent:
Patch: blather-4.5-bugfix.patch
Patch1: blather-4.5-config.patch
Patch2: blather-4.5-somethingelse.patch
This is the same as:
Patch0: blather-4.5-bugfix.patch
Patch1: blather-4.5-config.patch
Patch2: blather-4.5-somethingelse.patch

Either approach may be used, but the second method looks nicer.

The nopatch Tag

The nopatch tag is similar to the nosource tag discussed earlier. Just like the nosource tag, the nopatch tag is used to direct RPM to omit something from the source package. In the case of nosource, that "something" was one or more sources. For the nopatch tag, the "something" is one or more patches.

Since each patch tag in a spec file must be numbered, the nopatch tag uses those numbers to specify which patches are not to be included in the package. The nopatch tag is used in this manner:
NoPatch: 2 3

In this example, the source files specified on the source2 and source3 lines are not to be included in the build.

This concludes our study of RPM's tags. In the next section, we'll look at the various scripts that RPM uses to build, as well as to install, and erase, packages.



There is also an "international" version that may be used in non-US countries. See Appendix G.

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