Keeping your system tidy: creating simple packages
Installing software on a GNU/Linux system is often as simple as opening a package management interface, selecting with the mouse which packages you want installed, and letting the package management system install the wanted packages—plus, any dependencies required for the package to run. But what can you do if you want to install software which is not already packaged in your distribution of choice, and you still want it to be registered in your package management system for easy maintenance?
Create your own package, of course. Which doesn't have to be all that hard.
As most people know, there are two main package management systems: the Red Hat Package Management system, or RPM, and the packages used for Debian and its derivatives, commonly known as .deb files. Since I'm a Debian developer, my experience with the latter format is obviously quite a bit higher than the experience I have with the RPM format, and so this post will focus on Debian packages; but it should be noted that most of the concepts explained here will apply equally well to self-made RPM packages.
Package management concepts
Before I can go ahead and explain how to create a simple package, it's important to understand a few things about packages and package management systems in general.