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In the Synaptic Package Manager there is a category "Installed (local or obsolete)". For whatever reason I have a bunch of packages listed there.

Synaptic showing Installed (local or obsolete)

As you can see from the screenshot, the packages are Open Office packages. I doubt that Open Office became obsolete, or local (whatever that means).

I am using ubuntu 10.04.

What does "local or obsolete" mean in Synaptic, and why do packages become "local or obsolete"?

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4 Answers

These packages were either installed manually (local) or the repository from which it was installed doesn't exist now/doesn't contain the packages anymore (obsolete).

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From the synaptic help page:

Obsolete or locally installed - Display only packages that are not (for longer) included in one of the specified repositories.

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Updated with exact answer –  user16989 May 24 '11 at 15:40
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

A package is listed under "local or obsolete" if synaptic is not able to determine a repository from which the package was (most likely) installed from.

Explanation: the ubuntu package manager (apt/dpkg) does not keep track of the repository from which a packages was downloaded when it is installed. That means once a package is installed there is no way to tell from where it was downloaded. The package manager can only guess the source repository. It does that by matching the installed package against all available packages in all repositories.

If a package with the same name is found in a repository the version number is compared. If the version number in the repository is the same or newer then it is assumed that the package was most likely installed from that repository. If no matching package is found in any repository then synaptic declares the installed package as "local or obsolete".

There are three situation which can cause an installed package to be not found in any repository:

  1. You downloaded and installed the package yourself (dpkg -i foo.deb).
  2. You installed the package from a repository and later removed that repository (for example a PPA).
  3. You installed the package from a repository and later the package got removed from that repository (likely to happen in the proposed repository).

About the term "local or obsolete": the first item would be the "local" part, while the other two would be the "obsolete" part.


Self answerer reflections:

In my case, it seems that the third reason was the cause for the open office packages to be listed under "local or obsolete". I had the proposed repository enabled. The open office packages were upgraded in proposed, and later removed from proposed. I wrote more details in the answer to this question: Why are some Open Office packages marked as "local or obsolete" in Synaptic.

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I would add to @nickguletskii nice answer that it is difficult (but not impossible, of course) to obtain the same information on command line using apt-cache and dpkg.

Conversely it is extremely simple with aptitude

aptitude search ~o

It is a pity that aptitude is not installed by default anymore.

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aptitude search ~o reports nothing on my system –  lesmana May 28 '11 at 11:28
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