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dpkg database repair


Apt-get and dpkg work so well I hardly ever have to
think about how they work. Unfortunately, this means
I'm pretty clueless when something does go wrong.

I have two computers which apparently have damaged
dpkg systems -- the status or package databases seem
to be corrupted or destroyed.

For example, attempting to run apt-get update results
in this error message (after checking for packages
data from the Debian site):

Reading Package Lists... Error!
E: Could not open file /var/lib/dpkg/status - open (2 No such file or
E: The package lists or status file could not be parsed or opened.

(looks like I've made a blunder somewhere along the line!)

The other machine constantly sends email to the administrative
email address complaining that various packages aren't being
found in a database of some kind (I forget what the exact
message is). 

It seems like there ought to be a way to have dpkg do
a consistency check/repair of some kind (I though of 
reinstalling dpkg, but then do I need dpkg to install
dpkg?).  I'm sure there must be some facility for doing
this, but I haven't found anything by just doing searches.

Is there a standard way to fix a corrupt dpkg system?
The only thing I can think of at this point is to 
manually backup all the user data areas and reinstall
the whole system, but that's pretty painful, so I'd
really like to try something less destructive.


Terry Hancock
Anansi Spaceworks                 
P.O. Box 60583                     
Pasadena, CA 91116-6583

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