# Automating Arch Linux Part 1: Hosting an Arch Linux Repository in an Amazon S3 Bucket

Update on 2018-05-20

I have updated this guide to switch from repose and s3fs to repo-add and s3cmd due to a number of limitation in repose and the fact that aurutils is dropping support for it as well as some instabilities with s3fs on weaker internet connections.

In this three-part series, I will show you one way to simplify and manage multiple Arch Linux systems using a custom repository, a set of meta-packages and a scripted installer. Each part is standalone and can be used by its self, but they are designed to build upon and complement each other each focusing on a different part of the problem.

When you use Arch Linux for any length of time you start collecting sets of AUR packages that you frequently use. Now, Arch Linux has loads of AUR helpers that make managing AUR packages painless, but when you start using arch on multiple systems it becomes annoying and time consuming to rebuild AUR packages on each system. In this post, I will show you how to use an Amazon S3 bucket to create a cheap, low maintenance Arch Linux repository. As well as making use of the aurutils package to make building and upgrading AUR packages a painless exercise.


Although everything we are going to do in this post will fit inside the AWS free tier, it only lasts for 12 months. Make sure to delete any resources you create once you are done to avoid an unexpected charge from AWS way in the future. Even without the free tier, it should only cost no more than a few dollars a month to maintain the bucket - even with a large repository. You can also use alternatives like Digital Oceans Spaces, Google Cloud or a static file web server.

# Dependencies

We only require a few packages to get us going, of which only aurutils needs to be installed from AUR. It will be the only package we are required to build and install manually.

  • aurutils: a set of utilities that make it easy to manage/update a repository with AUR packages.
  • s3cmd: a tool to upload and download files from an AWS S3 bucket.
  • base-devel: needed to build aurutils and other packages.

To install all of these run the following.

sudo pacman -S --needed s3cmd base-devel
wget https://aur.archlinux.org/cgit/aur.git/snapshot/aurutils.tar.gz
tar -xf aurutils.tar.gz
cd aurutils
makepkg -sci

If you get the following error while running makepkg.

==> Verifying source file signatures with gpg...
    aurutils-1.5.3.tar.gz ... FAILED (unknown public key 6BC26A17B9B7018A)
==> ERROR: One or more PGP signatures could not be verified!

Simply download the missing key with the following before running makepkg above.

gpg --recv-key 6BC26A17B9B7018A

# Creating the Amazon S3 Bucket

Sign in to Amazon's console and head to the Amazon S3 interface. You will be required to enter your credit card details in order to create the bucket, this should be free for the first year if you stay under 5GB of storage and fairly cheap after that.

Click on the create bucket button.

Create Bucket

Name your bucket and select the region you want to host it in.

Name the Bucket

Then click on Next twice to get to (3) Set permissions and make the bucket public. This will allow anyone in the world to read the bucket and thus allows pacman to download the packages anonymously.

Public Bucket

After you should have one public bucket listed like so.

Bucket List

# Access Credentials

We now need to create an access key that has permissions to edit this bucket. We can do this by creating a new restricted user that only have access to the Amazon S3 buckets.

Head over to the AWS IAM management console and add a new user. Then enter the username and ensure Programmatic access check box is selected.

Account Name

Click Next to head to the permission page then Attach existing policies directly. Search for S3 and check AmazonS3FullAccess.

Account Permissions

Click Next and on the review page double check it has Programmatic access and AmazonS3FullAccess.

Account Review

Click Create User to get the access key. Take note of the Access key ID as well as the Secret access key. Ensure you save these somewhere, once you leave this page you will not have access to the secret key through the AWS console and will have to regenerate a new key.

Account Secret

Keep this key secret as it will give anyone with it the ability to create/modify your buckets. If you lose the key or no longer require it then head to the user page and remove it from the user.

Save it to ~/.s3cfg in the form

access_key = <ACCESS_KEY>
secret_key = <SECRET_KEY>

And ensure it is only readable by your user

chmod 0600 ~/.s3cfg

# Aurutils - Building and Managing Packages

Aurutils contains a suite of utilities that can be used to manage a repository of AUR packages. The two main utilities we will use are aursearch, which can search AUR for packages that match a given pattern.

$ aursearch aurutils
aur/aurutils 1.5.3-5 (55)
    helper tools for the arch user repository
aur/aurutils-git 1.5.3.r234.g15ef2ab-1 (5)
    helper tools for the arch user repository

And aursync which will download and build packages and ensure packages in the repository are up to date.

For aursync to work, we need to add a repository to /etc/pacman.conf

SigLevel = Optional TrustAll
Server = https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/

Give your repository a unique name by replacing [mdaffin] with something else. Change the URL to that of your bucket/repository path. You can get the exact URL by creating a file inside the directory and getting a link to that file from the Amazon Web Console.

Now we can create the repository and upload our first package to it. For this, we are going to rebuild the aurutils package as it will be handy to have that stored in our repository. But first, we need to create a directory to store the repository as well as initialise the database files.

$ mkdir -p local-repo
$ repo-add local-repo/mdaffin.db.tar.xz
$ aursync --repo mdaffin --root local-repo aurutils

Replace mdaffin with the name of your repository, this must match the section in /etc/pacman.conf. Since we have a remote repository we need to tell aursync were to place the files using --root <dir> pointing it to a local package cache (exact location does not matter).

If all goes well you should end up with the package and repository database inside the cache directory.

$ ls local-repo
aurutils-1.5.3-5-any.pkg.tar.xz  mdaffin.db  mdaffin.files

To check for and update all the packages in the repository simply add -u to the aursync command.

$ aursync --repo mdaffin --root local-repo -u

# Uploading to the S3 Bucket

Now that we have the packages locally we need to upload them to the bucket. This is where s3cmd comes in, we can tell it to take all the files in our local cache and upload them to a given directory in the bucket. There are a couple ways to do this, first is the put or cp methods which will copy up any files we give them, much like the local cp command. But as our local cache grows we will just waste bandwidth and operations uploading the same unchanged files over and over again. This is where the sync command comes in, much like rsync it checks the remote to see if the file already exists and if it is different from the local copy. Only if it is missing or differs will it upload the new files.

There is one problem, S3 buckets do not support symlinks, which repo-add creates for us. We need to tell it to explicitly copy the files the symlinks point to with the --follow-symlinks flag. And lastly, we need to set the public permissions on any file we upload with the --acl-public flag.

$ s3cmd sync --follow-symlinks --acl-public local-repo/ s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/

The packages should now be visible on the Amazon Web Console (or via s3cmd ls s3://...) and installable via pacman.

$ sudo pacsync mdaffin
$ pacman -Ss aurutils
mdaffin/aurutils 1.5.3-5 [installed]
    helper tools for the arch user repository

And that's it, you have created a repository inside an Amazon S3 bucket. You can add more packages to this repository using the aursync command above.

# Fetching Remote Changes

If you want to manage this from multiple computers then you need a way to sync up the repositories on each system. This can easily be done by reversing the sync command. For this, we do not need the --follow-symlinks flag as there are no symlinks in the bucket nor the --acl-public flag as it does not make sense for a local file. But the --delete-removed is useful for clearing up files that have been deleted from the remote bucket to stop them from being restored when you next push changes.

$ s3cmd sync --delete-removed s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/ local-repo/

But this will download all files from the remote which can grow quite large over time. We really only want to add or remove a few packages at a time and it is far more efficient to only download the repository (if it has changed), make any changes to it then upload any required files followed by the changed database. With this, we can also only download a single copy of the database, rather than both copies and manually create the symlinks. Note that we do not need the --delete-removed flag as the database files should always exist both locally and remotely.

$ s3cmd sync s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/mdaffin.{db,files}.tar.xz local-repo/
$ ln -sf local-repo/mdaffin.db.tar.xz local-repo/mdaffin.db
$ ln -sf local-repo/mdaffin.files.tar.xz local-repo/mdaffin.files

# Removing a package

If you are keeping a full copy of the remote repository locally you can simply remove the package and push the changes with the --delete-removed flag.

$ repo-remove local-repo/mdaffin.db.tar.xz aurutils
$ rm local-repo/aurutils-*.pkg.tar.xz
$ s3cmd sync --delete-removed --follow-symlinks --acl-public local-repo/ s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/

However, this cannot be done if we are only downloading the database as we will be missing more of the packages and thus end up deleting most of our remote repository. Instead, we should update the local cache to remove the package, push only the repository files then tell the remote to delete the package.

$ repo-remove local-repo/mdaffin.db.tar.xz aurutils
$ s3cmd sync --follow-symlinks --acl-public local-repo/mdaffin.{db,files}{,.tar.xz} s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/
$ s3cmd rm "s3://mdaffin-arch/repo/x86_64/aurutils-*.pkg.tar.xz"

# Wrapper Scripts

We can automate most of this with a simple wrapper script around aursync. Simply save this script somewhere, replace the REMOTE_PATH and REPO_NAME variables with your own and call it like you would aursync: ./aursync_wrapper PACKAGE or ./aursync_wrapper -u.

# Wraps aursync command to mount an amazon s3 bucket which contains a repository
set -uo pipefail
trap 's=$?; echo "$0: Error on line "$LINENO": $BASH_COMMAND"; exit $s' ERR


mkdir -p "$LOCAL_PATH"

## Sync remote DB to local ##
s3cmd sync "$REMOTE_PATH/$REPO_NAME".{db,files}.tar.xz "$LOCAL_PATH/"
ln -sf "$REPO_NAME.db.tar.xz" "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME.db"
ln -sf "$REPO_NAME.files.tar.xz" "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME.files"

## Clean up older packages that may or may not have been deleted from the
## remote so that we do not reupload them
rm -f "$LOCAL_PATH/"*.pkg.tar.xz

aursync --repo "$REPO_NAME" --root "$LOCAL_PATH" "$@" || true

## Sync local DB to remote ##
s3cmd sync --follow-symlinks --acl-public \
    "$LOCAL_PATH/"*.pkg.tar.xz \
    "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME".{db,files}{,.tar.xz} \

And to remove a package use the follow script and pass it the package you want to remove: ./del-from-repo aurutils

# Wraps aursync command to mount an amazon s3 bucket which contains a repository
set -uo pipefail
trap 's=$?; echo "$0: Error on line "$LINENO": $BASH_COMMAND"; exit $s' ERR

package=${1:?"Missing package"}


mkdir -p "$LOCAL_PATH"

## Sync remote DB to local ##
s3cmd sync "$REMOTE_PATH/$REPO_NAME".{db,files}.tar.xz "$LOCAL_PATH/"
ln -sf "$REPO_NAME.db.tar.xz" "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME.db"
ln -sf "$REPO_NAME.files.tar.xz" "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME.files"

repo-remove "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME.db.tar.xz" "$@"
s3cmd sync --follow-symlinks --acl-public "$LOCAL_PATH/$REPO_NAME".{db,files}{,.tar.xz} "$REMOTE_PATH/"
for package in "$@"; do
    s3cmd rm "$REMOTE_PATH/$package-*.pkg.tar.xz"

# Amazon AWS S3 Alternatives

If you don't wish to use Amazon buckets there are some alternatives such as Digital Ocean Spaces or Google Cloud Buckets that can be used in place. Some are compatible with the S3 API and thus can be used with the instructions above while others require a different way to sync the changes. For example, if you have a static file server somewhere you can use rsync in place of most s3cmd with the relevant flags set.

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