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Mender tools available in official Debian repositories

Thanks to the work of Andreas Henriksson the following packages are now available in official Debian repositories:

Installing the Mender client on a device is only one part of the integration process, and to fully utilize the image based updates one also needs to integrate with the bootloader. More details are outlined in the /usr/share/doc/mender-client/README.Debian file which is installed by the mender-client package. Generic information on how to integrate Mender can be found at the Mender from scratch post on Mender Hub.

  • mender-artifact
    • Tool to create and manipulate Mender Artifacts. Source can be found here
  • mender-cli
    • Tool that makes it much easier to work with the Mender server management APIs. Source can be found here

At the time of writing these packages are only available in upcoming distribution release. That is "buster" which is the codename of the upcoming Debian release and in the "unstable" release/repository.

Note that Debian derivatives will also include the mentioned packages. The obvious example here would be the upcoming release of Ubuntu 19.04 (The Disco Dingo).

There are ways of testing this out today already if you are not a brave soul that is running on unstable.

For the steps outlined below it is assumed that you have Docker engine installed.

Start a Ubuntu 19.04 container:

docker run -it ubuntu:19.04 /bin/bash

This can take a few minutes as it needs to download the image if not available locally.

Update the package cache:

apt update

Install the available Mender packages:

apt install mender-client mender-cli mender-artifact

Now we can start using them, e.g running the Mender CLI tool to login in to Hosted Mender:

$ mender-cli login --username <user name> --server
login successful

And upload an Mender Artifact:

$ mender-cli artifacts upload beagleboneblack_release_2_1.7.0.mender --server
34.60 MiB / 34.60 MiB [===============================================================================================================================================================================] 100.00% 4s
Processing uploaded file. This may take around one minute.

upload successful

mender-cli and mender-artifact are tools that you normally would install on your host machine and having these provided through official channels simplifies downloading them. Up until now we have simply provided pre-built x86-64 binaries of these tools that one can download.

The mender-client package is mostly useful when generating custom Debian (or derivative) images using tools such as mkosi, rpi-gen or debos. This deb package release of Mender will allow you to install the mender-client for the target image by utilizing apt rather than relying on custom steps in the image generation process.

Currently the Debian release cycle is not aligned with the Mender release cycle and we normally do more releases per year then Debian. This means the version of packages provided in Debian stable repositories might not be the most up to date version of the tools.

One example is Debian "buster" which is the "next-stable" and this contains the mender-client version 1.7.0. We are looking to release a new version of the mender-client (2.0) soon, but this can not be added to Debian "buster" because it is in a feature-freeze mode and instead the Mender client 2.0 package will end up in the "unstable" release/repository.

If you are interested in getting the latest version of the Mender tools, then you either have to use the "unstable" or "experimental" releases/repositories or compiling from source.

Mender is an open-source project and we do rely on community contributions such as this to make the project available through different channels. We are currently looking for individuals that would be interested in helping out and maintaining the Mender Debian packaging. Andreas Henriksson who is a long term Debian maintainer and who did the initial packaging is able to sponsor with upload rights and will still review the work but would like help maintaining this over time. This is a great opportunity to learn more about Debian and a chance to be listed as package maintainer. If this is of interest please contact us.

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