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Using dpkg outside Debian

I'm investigating build systems for the Agenda VR3, a Linux-based PDA.

The VR3 is based entirely on GPL software. Its parent company is out of 
business, but there is an active community maintaining it.

One of the missing thing is a nice build and packaging system, especially 
since users often want to fine-tune the set of software installed on the PDA.

Building packages for the VR3 involves compiling sources using a mips-gcc 
crosscompiler, pruning down installed files (no need for e.g. man pages due 
to size constraints), special handling for shared libraries, generating of a 
cramfs flash image etc.

I believe that dpkg would fill most of our needs for both building from source 
and creating flash disk images, but found a few issues doing experiments with 
dpkg-1.10.4. The main reason is that I want to build "debianized" 
installation trees that are **not** rooted on / but elsewhere on disk; I also 
want to be able to manage multiple trees, hence setting the root directory as 
a compile time option is not what I want.

>From the man page, all this ought to be addressable using dpkg's -root switch, 
however I found a few issues:

a) "dpkg -l" does not pass the root directory to dpkg-query

b) "dpkg-checkbuilddeps" has the name /var/lib/dpkg/status hardcoded in it

My questions:

1. Are there patches out already to address these problems?

2. Would the maintainers be interested in accepting patches?

3. If I were to fix this, would it be an acceptable approach to use an 
environment variable named e.g. DPKG_ROOT (as opposed to command line 
switches) to globally set the root directory? This would have the advantage 
of (possibly) allowing to build existing package "rule" scripts without 



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