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I was about to install mysql-client-5.5 package which has debianutils package as a dependency. However, I first checked which binaries are installed with debianutils package. It installs nine utilities: savelog, ischroot, add-shell, remove-shell, which, tempfile, run-parts and installkernel. Are any of those utilities really needed for mysql-client-5.5? Is the only way to check this by viewing the source code of mysql-client-5.5 package or is there a more convenient method?

  • Was your question a general one, or a specific one about mysql-client-5.5? – Faheem Mitha May 3 '15 at 20:04
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The package maintainer lists the dependencies for a package when they create the specifications file. Looking at the list of what debianutils is it seems they use it to aid in the installation of the package, but yes, you would need to dig deep to find why it is a dependency. I'll bet you could find the usage of these tools in the ./configure script of the source tarball...

Debinautils package description

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  • A package used by the ./configure script in the source tarball would be mentioned in the build dependencies, not the binary dependencies. – Stephen Kitt May 5 '15 at 22:15
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There's no general answer. Sometimes you can find more information on a dependency in a package's description; this is more often true for "Recommends:" or "Suggests:" rather than full-blown "Depends:", to help users decide whether or not to install the weak dependency. Another source of information can be a package's changelog; that will sometimes indicate the reason for adding a dependency.

In mysql-client-5.5's case, the dependency itself gives a clue: it's debianutils (>= 1.6). Looking at debianutil's changelog indicates that version 1.6 introduced tempfile, sensible-editor and sensible-pager. Restricting the search to those three in mysql-client-5.5 reveals that the startup scripts use tempfile, which justifies the dependency on debianutils.

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