Ubuntu: Correct protocol for requesting an update to a buggy package in ubuntu 14.04 LTS


I'm using Ubuntu 14.04.5 and for a long time there has been a very minor issue with emacs and dictionaries-common. In short, the version of dictionaries-common that ships with Ubuntu 14.04.5 is dictionaries-common 1.20.5, and when the version of emacs that ships with Ubuntu 14.04.5 starts, an error is generated in the emacs messages file:

Error while loading 50dictionaries-common: Symbol's value as variable is void: debian-aspell-only-dictionary-alist  

This is a known bug in dictionaries-common 1.20.5. However, this bug was fixed a while ago, in e.g. dictionaries-common 1.22.6 .

I (perhaps naively) suspect that upgrading dictionaries-common to a more recent stable version would be a relatively simple way of making the problem go away. However if I've understood correctly, the version of dictionaries-common in backports is still 1.20.5:

$ sudo apt-get install -t trusty-backports dictionaries-common  


dictionaries-common is already the newest version.  

If I want to fix this issue, without upgrading my version of Ubuntu, what are my options? I feel like I should somehow report this to the Ubuntu devs because this is a (extremely low-priority) bug in a stable LTS version of ubuntu which is not mentioned (as far as I can see) in pending SRUs so in an ideal world I would somehow report the issue and it would be fixed. On the other hand at the end of the day I would imagine that a dictionaries package is hardly likely to break other packages (famous last words) and perhaps I should just take the bull by the horns and update dictionaries-common to 1.22.6 or later by myself. However I do not know how to do this and furthermore I do not know if it is wise behaviour. I downloaded a tar.gz file from Launchpad and I could go ahead and try and compile and install, but I am concerned that I would then actually be breaking the package manager system completely. Is this not advised? How is one supposed to proceed in this sort of situation?


Many thanks to muru for encouraging me not just to compile the source but to actually make a package. My understanding of the situation is that creating a package from source solves the problem I was worried about (breaking the package system) because (I think) the idea is that all the dependencies I need are dealt with by the system.

Here's exactly what I did in my case. As well as downloading dictionaries-common_1.22.6.tar.gz from launchpad I also downloaded the dsc file dictionaries-common_1.22.6.dsc, as muru suggested. I then followed the instructions here:


More precisely, the plan is to make a debian package


and then install this on my system.

Before I began I had to install dpkg-dev so I can make packages.

I then ran

dpkg-source -x dictionaries-common_1.22.6.dsc   

and this created a new directory dictionaries-common-1.22.6 which I cd'ed into. Within this directory I tried

dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot -b  

but the first time I ran this command it failed with the error

dpkg-checkbuilddeps: Unmet build dependencies: debhelper (>= 7) quilt (>= 0.40) docbook-dsssl jade w3m slice recode  dpkg-buildpackage: warning: build dependencies/conflicts unsatisfied; aborting  

What's happening here is that I need to install some more packages on my system in order to build dictionaries-common. So I installed these packages using apt-get and then tried again. Of course this is not guaranteed to work -- perhaps the default versions of these packages in 14.04 wouldn't be enough. But I was lucky -- they were. The second time I tried the dpkg-buildpackage command it was successful. I was unable to sign the package as the package maintainer, unsurprisingly, because I am not the package maintainer and I don't know the package maintainer's secret key. But I don't think this bothers me.

The upshot was that now back in the directory where I was doing all this I had a new file


which I successfully installed with

$ sudo dpkg -i dictionaries-common_1.22.6_all.deb  

My error in emacs is gone!

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