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VEP2 - Package management for modules on Vector

Summary: Supports installing and uninstalling packages/modules on Vector

Authors: Randall Maas

Description of the changes

Motivation: We needed a way to package changes to a few files on an already deployed system, to ensure that the permissions are correct on the files (usually executable), and some restrictions/protections from screwing up system files. (Ie, don't force it to be unbootable)

This is a package manager that does those, and adds in a few extras:

  • It allows modifying parts of a file, usually the version identifier of the system, so we know what we're working with.

  • Lists the installed packages

  • Can uninstall packages

  • Can set the premissions for the files.

Some Design decisions

  • The tool had to be small, and not hard to deploy

  • The tool can’t be compiled (we don't know how)

  • It had to be based on tools already on Vector: python 2.7, and busybox based utils. Busybox supplies the shell, and tar... except tar doesn't support preserving permissions.

  • It is preferred to separate out the package manager from the update-engine as much as possible, to make int more understandable and support testing.

  • The package manager needs to protect the /mnt /dev directories; any access to these could irreversible destroy the bot. Since the packages are intended to be used by lots of people who won't (or won't be able to) examine the package for negative consequences we need to limit these unusual risks. If changes are needed to these the owner should ssh in and consciously make changes.

  • It can't run arbitrary commands from the package file during installation; the packager can be run as root and this could irreversible destroy the bot. This has the same rationale as above.

It just installs the packages

This tool doesn't do everything that the other managers do:

  • It doesn't check dependencies
  • It doesn't download files
  • It has minimal the pre-flight, post-flight scripts that are run.

The package download is handled by either the update-engine (and its line of control), or by scp command. The lack of dependency check is a benefit, as its hard to maintain, and it is rarely used correctly: maintainers tend to choose a dependency of "the latest version" (as of when the package was), negating its use.


The documentation of the tool is included as part of it's tgz. This is a quick overview.

When a package is installed it creates another package taking a snapshot of those files already there.  When the package is uninstalled this 2nd package is used to replace the newer files with the older ones.  It doesn’t delete any files that were added since or by the first package, so some extra stuff can accumulate, but that is far safer.

Creating a package. To create a package, lets call it demo, requires setting up the files sytem with the files, and the package manifest. The manifest says, among other things:

  1. The package name, version, and other helpful paperwork info.
  2. where to get the files from locally, and where they should be placed into filesystem deployed when deployed on a Vector.
  3. The path to any files that should be modifed, and how. This is used to change the reported version string.
  4. The permissions to set the files to

I've attached a really simple demo to demonstrate. To create a package unzip them, and then:

   ./ create —pkg=demo

That will create .vpkg file — a gzip'd tar file with a specific layout.  From here everything has to be on a Vector.

Installation. To install the vpkg:

   ./ install —pkg=demo-1.vpkg

Uninstall. To uninstall the vpkg later

   ./ uninstall —pkg=demo-1

Adding a restart step after installation

If vector-pkg is by called the modified update-engine it can tell it to restart the application or reboot the operating system after the package has installed. This is done using a restart_type= key in the [META] section.

There are four different values to say how to restart after applying the package. To simply restart Vector's application:


To restart Vector's application, but silently -- that is, not play the InitialWakeUp animation:


To reboot the operating system after the package has installed:


The following will reboot the operating system using a "maintenance reboot" so that the InitialWakeUp animation is not played:




Not tested by others yet. Once the bugs are shaken out, the update-engine can be tweaked.  When the update-engine gets a URL with ".vpkg" (such as from the BLE app) at the end, it downloads it, and then pass it to the package manager.


The files are on github

Change history synopsis

Date Change
2020-8-30 Created
2020-12-3 Added how to restart after installing a package
2020-12-5 Removed unsafe features, changed how to restart after installing a package