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Old 08-29-2016, 01:19 PM   #1
Registered: Jan 2014
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How do I fix the problem of apt-get and Synaptic not letting me install packages?


I use apt-get and Synaptic to install packages. But when I try to install them,
on the majority of occasions (80%), apt-get and Synaptic give errors that
prevent the package being installed.

With Synaptic, a recurring problem is that when installing different packages,
Synaptic wants to remove a long list of important packages that are vital to the
system. Obviously something is very wrong here, so I don't proceed with the

With apt-get, a recurring problem is that when installing different packages,
I'm getting the SAME ERROR MESSAGE, and the packages won't install.

In the case of both apt-get and Synaptic, the problems arise BEFORE the Internet
is accessed.

The following shows the output that apt-get is giving. This example shows me
attempting to install Wine, but I get the SAME error message when installing
other packages:

$ sudo apt-get install wine
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
or been moved out of Incoming.
The following information may help to resolve the situation:

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
 init-system-helpers : Breaks: sysvinit-utils (< 2.88dsf-59.3~) but 2.88dsf-22.1
is to be installed
 util-linux : Breaks: sysvinit-utils (< 2.88dsf-59.4~) but 2.88dsf-22.1 is to be
E: Error, pkgProblemResolver::Resolve generated breaks, this may be caused by
held packages.
I've spent many hours trying to learn what might be going off, and my gut
feeling is that the problem with apt-get is not necessarily to do with
init-system-helpers and util-linux. They seem to have appeared out of no-where,
and I think they might be a red herring.

The problems I'm getting with both apt-get and Synaptic suggest to me that there
is something wrong with the package information maintenance system, ie that
something has got mixed up.

Please could you suggest step by step what I need to do to identify what's
wrong, and what to do to put things right. I'm happy to give you any info you

I'd rather not use a bulldozer solution, if a pair of tweezers is what's needed.

A MAJOR THOUGHT: Because there is no guarantee that I can install a package at
the moment, I may not be able to use a solution that involves installing anything.

Apologies for the fact that there are a lot of details below, but they're all relevant.

Full Details:

1. I've removed a package to try and cure the problem but it hasn't worked.

I got a clue about what might be wrong from,

in which he could not install anything either. He found that he had previously
installed virtualbox but it hadn't installed properly. So he removed it with

$ apt-get autoremove virtualbox

After that, he could successfully do installations of any packages.

So I looked back through the package installations I have personally done since
installing my system about 3 years ago, thinking that perhaps I have installed a
package that hasn't installed properly.

Going back 3 installations from now, I found the package "convertall", which my
notes showed me had given warning messages during the install (installed with
Synaptic). (However, it did install and run.) So using the same basic principle of
the above user, I removed convertall with

$ sudo apt-get purge convertall

But after this, when using "apt-get install <package>", I STILL got the same
error output as originally.

2. Things I've tried so far:


$ sudo apt-get check
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done

man says: check is a diagnostic tool; it updates the package cache and checks
for broken dependencies.

So to me, the above output implies that there are no broken dependencies.


$ sudo apt-get install -f
Reading package lists...
Building dependency tree...
Reading state information...
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
  libgssglue1 libkadm5clnt-mit8 libkadm5srv-mit8 libkdb5-6 python3.2
Use 'apt-get autoremove' to remove them.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 2803 not upgraded.
man says: -f attempts to correct a system with broken dependencies in place.

I assume that the above output suggests there are no broken dependencies. Also,
there doesn't seem to be any point in removing the "no longer required" packages
because I don't see how that could fix the problem I have.


$ sudo dpkg --audit
The following packages are missing the list control file in the
database, they need to be reinstalled:
 cloop-utils          Tools for handling cloop compressed volumes

The following packages are missing the md5sums control file in the
database, they need to be reinstalled:
 cdrecord             Dummy transition package for wodim
 mkisofs              Dummy transition package for genisoimage
 slib                 Portable Scheme library
 libreadline-dev:i386 GNU readline and history libraries, development files
 libident             simple RFC1413 client library - runtime
 spice-protocol       spice-protocol
 dhcp3-client         ISC DHCP client (transitional package)
 execstack            ELF GNU_STACK program header editing utility
 prelink              ELF prelinking utility to speed up dynamic linking
 cloop-utils          Tools for handling cloop compressed volumes
 g++                  GNU C++ compiler
 default-jdk          Standard Java or Java compatible Development Kit
 libaudio2:i386       Network Audio System - shared libraries
 git                  fast, scalable, distributed revision control system
 libcacard            libcacard
 default-jre          Standard Java or Java compatible Runtime
 dhcp3-server         ISC DHCP server (transitional package)
man says: --audit searches for packages that have been installed only partially
on your system. dpkg will suggest what to do with them to get them working.

Regarding cloop-utils above, I seem to remember that I have ALWAYS had a message
about cloop-utils at boot-time, but despite that have had no previous problems
with installing packages. So I don't believe that re-installing cloop-utils
will improve my problem.

Regarding the 2nd long list of packages above ("missing the md5sums ..."), I
can't help thinking that they're not related to MY problem, and that
re-installing them won't make any difference. But in any case, I can't guarantee
that apt-get or Synaptic will let me install them, as things stand at the

BUT AM I WRONG IN THINKING that re-installing them won't make any difference?

3. Solutions offered on the web (but I don't see how they will fix anything).

Regarding my problem of not being able to install packages, I've seen the
following suggestions on the web, given as possible solutions. But I've added my
thoughts below about why I don't think these suggestions will fix anything
(except for "d)").

Therefore (except for "d)") I HAVEN'T tried any of the suggestions.

a) $ apt-get clean

man says: Clears out the local repository of retrieved package files.

My comment: But how can emptying /var/cache/apt/archives/ of the .deb files
(that just sit there doing nothing) fix unmet dependencies (broken packages)?

b) $ apt-get autoclean

man says: Same as clean but only removes package files that can no longer be
downloaded, and are largely useless.

My comment: But how can doing this (as with clean) fix unmet dependencies?

c) $ apt-get autoremove

man says: Used to remove packages that were automatically installed to satisfy
dependencies for other packages and are now no longer needed.

My comment: But surely, doing this won't fix unmet dependencies.

d) $ dpkg --configure -a

man says: "Configure a package which has been unpacked but not yet configured.
-a means all unpacked but unconfigured packages are configured.

Configuring consists of the following steps:
i) Unpack the conffiles, and at the same time back up the old conffiles, so
that they can be restored if something goes wrong.
ii) Run postinst script, if provided by the package."

My comment: I did a simulation of this command as follows:

$ sudo dpkg --simulate --configure -a

The command completed very quickly. I presume the fact that there is no output
suggests that there are no unconfigured packages.

4. Has my /etc/apt/sources.list got a wrong mix of repositories?

a) I gather that it's possible to get my problem if you mix different types of
repositories in /etc/apt/sources.list. I'm not sure but does this mean you
shouldn't mix any of the following: unstable, testing, stable. Does this mean
that you should only specify ONE of these 3 types in sources.list?

I've shown my /etc/apt/sources.list at "c)" below. My brain has actually seized,
so I don't know what I'm looking for. Is the list OK, or is there something
wrong with it?

The list came pre-installed on a Live Knoppix DVD. I installed this Knoppix
system from the DVD to my hard drive some time ago, and it works fine. The hard
drive form of the Live DVD is effectively Debian.

b) IF it's the contents of sources.list that is the ORIGINAL cause of my
problem, then with your kind help I can put that right.

BUT OF COURSE I still need to know how to fix the PRESENT problem of not being
able to install packages with apt-get and Synaptic. After the apt-get error
messages occur, apt-get exits, and the Internet is never accessed, and so (as
far as I can tell) sources.list is not being accessed at the moment.

c) Contents of my /etc/apt/sources.list:

# Debian/Squeeze is the stable base for this installation
deb stable main contrib non-free
deb stable/updates main contrib non-free

# testing/unstable/experimental contain newer versions, but
# packages from there are not being installed by default, unless
# they came from there in the first place.
deb testing main contrib non-free
deb testing/updates main contrib non-free
deb unstable main contrib non-free
deb experimental main contrib non-free

# Debian/volatile contains quickly changing data like spam- and virusfilter
# Does not exist anymore
# deb stable/volatile main contrib
deb stable-updates main contrib non-free

# Knoppix repository
deb ./

# x2go
# deb lenny main
deb squeeze main
deb wheezy main
deb sid main
5. Could I have caused the problem, with the following two things:

Is it possible that one of the following two things that I've done in the
past have contributed to the present installing problems:

a) In the past, when I've installed packages, I haven't always run Synaptic
Reload first
(same as "apt-get update"). (I've mainly used Synaptic to install


There have been a couple of packages that I've installed in the past (with
Synaptic), that I uninstalled (using "Mark for complete removal"). But in both
cases, it didn't uninstall the other packages that had been installed along with
the main package. So I uninstalled those individually, using "Mark for complete

The two main packages that I uninstalled were: jokosher, and ecasound.
Old 08-29-2016, 01:35 PM   #2
Senior Member
Registered: Feb 2009
Posts: 4,667

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The current version of Debian is Debian 8 "Jessie" released in April 2015.

However, your /etc/apt/sources.list makes reference to Debian 6 "Squeeze" released in February 2011 and end-of-life since February 2016.

This suggests to me you are running an obsolete/end-of-life system with mixed/conflicting software sources. My recommendation is to back up all your data and perform a fresh reinstall of Debian 8 (or another currently-supported distribution that will meet your needs).

The Knoppix FAQ's are a good source for additional information why you are getting these errors:

In layman's terms, Knoppix was not designed/intended to be installed on your hard drive and upgraded through the years across multiple Debian releases. Knoppix is a good live/demo/recovery distribution, but probably not the right "tool for the job" if you are looking for a long-term supported, full install to your hard drive.

Last edited by snowday; 08-29-2016 at 02:13 PM.
Old 08-29-2016, 03:27 PM   #3
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Registered: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,873

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Originally Posted by winger9 View Post
does this mean you shouldn't mix any of the following: unstable, testing, stable.
Does this mean that you should only specify ONE of these 3 types in sources.list?

I've shown my /etc/apt/sources.list at "c)" below.

Do as snowpine says - install a sane system.


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