How I backported Podman 4 to Ubuntu 22.04

February 04, 2023
 · 5 min read

I love containers, it's really cool technology to preserve and distribute environments. To manage containers I prefer podman and its friends buildah and skopeo. podman 4 introduced many cool features but it's unavailable in Ubuntu 22.04 which is my primary OS, the latest version there is 3.4.4. Thus, I decided to backport podman from Debian Testing where it's already packaged by mighty Debian maintainers.


As you might know Canonical drives Launchpad. This is a large portal that combines plenty of tools around Ubuntu. One of these tools is PPA or Personal Package Archive. It allows you to build and distribute your custom deb packages. I used many PPAs in the past but never created my own. Moreover, I've never tried to build a deb package. There was a lot of fun ahead :)

To build deb packages Launchpad accepts so-called source packages as input. Fortunately, I didn't have to make them from the scratch thanks to the great job of Debian maintainers. Thus, the backporting process looked as follows:

  1. Get sources from Debian testing.
  2. Update the changelog.
  3. Rebuild the source package in Ubuntu 22.04.
  4. Upload the resulting artifacts to my PPA.
  5. Profit!


First of all, it was hard to get the right documentation about package building in Debian. Don't get me wrong, there is documentation but it's all over the place, it's duplicated and out of date sometimes. Here are some links I found on

After reading I got the understanding of what tools I should use and what commands need to be run.


All package manipulations I did in the containers. I ran both and with one shared volume:

podman run -it --rm -v $(pwd):/mnt bash
podman run -it --rm -v $(pwd):/mnt bash

To build packages you need to install two packages: devscripts and build-essential. In the Debian container devscripts will be enough. Don't forget to add source repositories into /etc/apt/sources.list and update packages index:

echo "deb-src testing main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
apt-get update
apt-get install -y devscripts


To get the sources you should run only one command in the Debian container:

apt-get source podman

There will be downloaded three files:

  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.dsc - package metadata
  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.debian.tar.xz - an archive with building recipes, patches, package changelog and other stuff
  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1.orig.tar.xz - source code

dpkg-source script from devscripts extracts archives applies patches and you will get a source code directory with the debian directory within. Basically, that's the only action we should do in the Debian container. The following operations I made in the Ubuntu container.

Change log

Before uploading sources to Launchpad a new entry in the changelog file should be added. It can be done with any text editor but there is a dedicated utility dch that adds a time stamp and bumps version. You just need to write what has been changed. I didn't change anything so I put only this line:

upload to ppa:quarckster/containers


Here starts the fun. Launchpad accepts only source packages and to produce such you should run dpkg-buildpackage from devscripts:

dpkg-buildpackage -us -uc -sa -S

The command will fail due to missing build dependencies. I decided to ignore them and added -d flag. After that I got four new files:

  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1.debian.tar.xz
  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1.dsc
  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1_source.buildinfo
  • libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1_source.changes

Uploading to Launchpad

Debian and Ubuntu provide utility named dput to upload source packages. All you need to do is just to specify a path to .changes files and the PPA name:

dput ppa:quarckster/containers libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1_source.changes

After that, all required files will be uploaded. But before you must sign .changes with your gpg key:

debsign -k "<key id>" libpod_4.3.1+ds1-5.1ubuntu1ppa1_source.changes

Actually, it can be done during the building but I didn't want to configure gpg in the container.


Do you remember I ignored build dependencies when I built the source package? Of course, my build failed and I had to repack and upload the whole dependencies graph. Maybe there is a smart way to do that but I didn't figure out anything better than waiting until a build fails, then check the logs, finding missing dependencies and doing a new packaging iteration. I had to upload 38 packages in total.


Now I have modern version of podman on my operating system. Feel free to use it as well.

Even more fun

I felt a superpower and decided to backport a new networking backend for podman. It consists of two packages netavark and aardvark-dns. I didn't realize how deep this rabbit hole. podman is missing only 38 packages because most other dependencies from this graph are available in Ubuntu 22.04:

Podman dependency graph

Fig. 1 - Podman dependency graph (high resolution)

On the other hand, netavark and aardvark-dns are completely new packages and all build dependencies exist only in Debian Testing:

Netavark dependency graph

Fig. 2 - Netavark dependency graph (high resolution)

When I uploaded around one hundred packages to my PPA I encountered circular dependency and further backporting stuck.


Rust package manager cargo has ability to download all dependencies and configure the compiler to use this local cache for building. You just need two commands:

cargo vendor > .cargo/config.toml
cargo generate-lockfile

New files should be included into orig.tar.xz archive and after that the package was successfully built.


Packaging is fun :) I want to give credits to Debian maintainers because they do a great job. All I need to do is just to change a couple of line in the changelog file and run some commands. The most interesting part is located in the rules file which is a Makefile. It contains the recipe and all logic.

The only thing that really worried me was the rules file. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of hacking rules file. And I knew I'd get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably next time.


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