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I first installed Debian with a netinst CD without networking, then edited /etc/apt/sources.list to point to the main repository, then ran dhclient eth0 to set up networking. Then I installed less. This is the only package I have installed after setting up the system.

When I run dpkg -l | less -S, I see bsdutils, busybox, coreutils, all installed. Are they all necessary? If I ran apt-get --purge remove bsdutils coreutils, would my system automatically use busybox?

In general, is there a way to tell whether your system would break after removing a package, without actually removing the package?

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If you want a system with BusyBox instead of coreutils, Debian isn't the right distribution. Look for a small-distribution. – Gilles Mar 27 '12 at 21:57
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Heuristically, here are some things you can look for:

Run apt-cache show <pkgname>.

  • If the output contains a line that says Essential: Yes, chances are you won't even be able to properly remove the package without seriously breaking your system.

  • Another good place to look is the Priority: line. If it says Priority: required, it's probably an important package that your system needs.

Note that bsdutils and coreutils are both Essential: yes and Priority: required on Debian, while busybox is not essential and Priority: optional.

AFAIK, busybox can not be used as a replacement for coreutils on a normal Debian system. You'd have to jump through quite a few hoops and break many packages to even set that up

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