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If you are just interested in the user view on the subject, i found the "APT howto" one of the best sources of information. Unfortunately, it is obsoleted now (I assume mostly because it does not cover the extended capabilities introduced by aptitude like automatic removal of dependencies) -- but i did not find a worthy successor so far, so I think it's still worth reading and maybe have a look at the aptitude manpage
just wanted to add this: don't use apt-get, use aptitude instead. the command line interface is NEARLY compatible, so you can use commands from the APT howto in most situations by just replacing apt-get with aptitude. The reason for this is (AFAIK) only by using aptitude, packages installed as dependencies are properly marked as such, so the complete removal will work.
Last edited by zirias; 06-29-2010 at 01:13 PM.
Reason: more info
As I said, try the (outdated) APT howto .. most of it's contents are still valid (like pinning etc.)
For a rough overview: the dpkg-* tools (including dpkg itself) deal directly with packages: building, creating, installing, uninstalling, unpacking etc of single packages. The apt* tools deal with package repositories, downloading, automatic dependency resolution and so on. As a user, most of the time you will use aptitude (or maybe a graphical frontend like synaptic)
apt* calls dpkg* for the actual unpacking and installing of a package. So, if you downloaded a single package somewhere and you want to install it by hand, you will use "dpkg -i" -- but you won't get automatic dependency resolution, if something is missing, it simply won't install.
normally, you will use apt-tools like aptitude that lookup packages in repositories (configured in /etc/apt/sources.list), download them including all required dependencies and install them automatically.