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I stumbled upon the following answer on Unix stackexchange, where the -plow option is used with dpkg-reconfigure, but I can't find anything about it in the dpkg or dpkg-reconfigure manpages:

So what does this option doing exactly? Smells like cargo-cult to me.

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From the manpage you linked for dpkg-reconfigure:

-pvalue, --priority=value
   Specify the minimum priority of question that will be displayed.  dpkg-reconfigure
   normally shows low priority questions no matter what your default priority is. See
   debconf(7) for a list.

And from man 7 debconf:

Another  nice feature of debconf is that the questions it asks you are prioritized. If you
don't want to be bothered about every little thing, you can set up debconf to only ask you
the most important questions.  On the other hand, if you are a control freak, you can make
it show you  all  questions.  Each  question  has  a  priority.  In  increasing  order  of
importance:

low    Very  trivial  questions  that have defaults that will work in the vast majority of
       cases.

medium Normal questions that have reasonable defaults.

high   Questions that don't have a reasonable default.

critical
       Questions that you really, really need to see (or else).

Only questions with a priority equal to or greater than the priority you  choose  will  be
shown  to  you. You can set the priority value by reconfiguring debconf, or temporarily by
passing  --priority=  followed  by  the  value  to  the  dpkg-reconfigure(8)   and   dpkg-
preconfigure(8) commands, or by setting the DEBIAN_PRIORITY environment variable.

So, -plow will show all questions, irrespective of whatever default might have been set elsewhere. That might be want you want (that's often what I want, when I run dpkg-reconfigure).

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  • @StephenKitt even if DEBIAN_PRIORITY was set?
    – muru
    Jan 21 '20 at 14:40
  • 1
    Completely missed that part! The syntax is kinda confusing, I was looking for "-plow" specifically, not "-p" (especially since "plow" is a valid word). Thanks for the answer! Jan 21 '20 at 14:50
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    I stand corrected, DEBIAN_PRIORITY does indeed override everything. (And when DEBIAN_PRIORITY is set, -pvalue has no effect, so -plow is still useless.) Jan 21 '20 at 14:50
  • @Stephen so that's why it was mentioned last. I wondered.
    – muru
    Jan 21 '20 at 14:55
  • @George it is a valid word, but (unless it's a Golang program) if I see -plow, my first instinct would be to look for -p, -l, etc. separately
    – muru
    Jan 21 '20 at 14:57

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