RE: Bug#696154: cloud.debian.org: Please install 'less' by default on official Debian AMIs.
<Debian Developer hat on>
> packages downloaded from a mirror are going to be metered in some way
Except.... if we (Debian) add additional mirrors into AWS that are served from S3 (with restrictions to clients within AWS to minimize charges) then there's no additional charge for adding packages to end users. This is something for early next year in my timeline, unless we have any volunteers? One of the dependencies for simply mirroring the archive into s3 was our extensive use of symlinks, but S3 now supports "redirects" which may serve a similar purpose. Brining on S3 bucket into existing images may be possible via the http.debian.net redirect service we're already using.
Conversely, users who want a certain combination of package installed may take the original base AMI, launch an instance, install their additional requirements, and then create a fresh AMI in their own account.
For this bug/request in particular (for less to be installed), use the following in UserData:
apt-get update && apt-get install -y less
Any packages in additional to a minimal install on a base AWS image should only be there to enable easy and automatic installation of additional packages. Boto is one example, cloud-init (when ready) is another. Right now, we have execution of shell scripts from UserData (see also examples on http://wiki.debian.org/Cloud/AmazonEC2Image/Squeeze).
(on the road for work; delayed responses right now)