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So - I'm learning about package management. I decided I'd net-install Debian 9.6 and upgrade it to 10 because why not? I opted for the expert install and I'm sure I didn't select any extra packages anywhere. My goal was to get base, required and maybe important, but not even that if I could help it.

I'm now on the other side of upgrading to Buster, and I wish I had done this before going from 9.x to 10.x, but I logged my packages, then diff'd them against required, important, and even standard packages -- I still have over 250 packages! I installed vim, aptitude, and man but that should be nowhere close to 250 packages even with dependencies, right?

Is there a way to track down how these extra packages ended up on here, and more importantly to only install base and required and disable automatic installation of recommended packages so that the only packages and dependencies that are installed are the ones absolutely needed, requested, and in the case of dependencies, approved of?

EDIT: cat /var/log/apt/history.log | grep 'apt install' returns only three packages: man, aptitude, and vim. apt-mark showmanual returns plenty of packages that I definitely didn't install explicitly myself. If these are dependencies, I thought they wouldn't be marked manual but automatic, correct? There are libraries, utilities, etc .. many of them look like packages that would be in required or important: things like sed, tar, login, etc., but many of them one could arguably do without, I think, unless the libraries are driver related. Still, even then, the system has a bunch of packages listed in standard, but not all of them?

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I re-ran the netinst and was careful to limit the installer to only the base install if at all possible. The result seemed realistically to be a sparse base install with a small selection of installed utilities, though still coming in at 184 packages, many of which were libraries. Oddly, 95 if these packages are marked as manually installed and the other 14 are apparently not, even though I would consider no packages manually installed at this point.

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