Overlay

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An overlay is an additional repository that Portage takes into account when dealing with software.

Within Gentoo Linux, users already have one "main" package repository, called the Portage tree. This main repository contains all the software packages (called ebuilds) maintained by Gentoo developers. But users can add additional repositories to the tree that are "layed over" the main tree - hence the name, overlays.

Since package repositories are nothing more (or less) than a set of files (ebuilds, metadata files, ChangeLog entries ...) these repositories can be pulled in from public repositories (git, cvs, svn ...) or downloaded as tarballs and extracted manually on the system. It is however well advised to use managed repositories by trusted third parties as any installed overlay will cause Portage to look into those files as well when deciding which software to install.

Treatment of overlays

Portage uses the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable to link to the installed overlays on the system. This variable uses a space-delimited list of paths on the system where Portage can find the roots of the additional repositories.

Manually setting overlay locations

When you want to create an overlay yourself, create a location (say /home/user/overlay) in which you will put the packages you want Portage to look into as well. Then add PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/home/user/overlay" to your /etc/portage/make.conf file:

File/etc/portage/make.confAdding an overlay manually

PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/home/user/overlay"

Using crossdev

crossdev will automatically place the ebuilds/categories it generates into the first overlay found in PORTDIR_OVERLAY. You might want to prevent crossdev from disturbing layman's overlays or your personal per-machine overlay (normally created at /usr/local/portage). You can create an overlay specifically for crossdev's use:

root # mkdir -p /usr/local/portage-crossdev/profiles
root #
echo local-crossdev > /usr/local/portage-crossdev/profiles/repo_name

Then you can instruct portage and crossdev to use this overlay:

File/etc/portage/make.confLet crossdev to store its ebuild in local-crossdev and indicate that the local overlay should override every other overlay

source /var/lib/layman/make.conf
PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/usr/local/portage-crossdev ${PORTDIR_OVERLAY} /usr/local/portage"
File/etc/portage/make.confPrevent crossdev from messing with your local overlay when not using layman

PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/usr/local/portage-crossdev /usr/local/portage"

Using layman

To make management of multiple overlays simple, a tool called layman is developed. This tool knows about popular user- and developer managed overlays and is able to install & synchronize them as well as add them to the PORTDIR_OVERLAY location.

Local overlay

For instructions on setting up a local overlay, see Overlay/Local_overlay.

Overlay priorities

Each overlay has its unique priority. This makes sure that in the case of a specific version being found in several overlays, the resolution is unambiguous. Ebuilds from overlays with higher priorities take precedence over ebuilds from overlays with lower priorities.

Note
This "natural" way of priority handling was introduced in January 2011, before that the priority resolution order was reversed, so negative numbers used to stand for high priorities

The list of overlays with their priorities can be obtained through the output of the following command

user $ emerge --info --verbose

Unless the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable has been modified as described below, the default gentoo portage tree will have a priority of -1000. That means that all other overlays take precedence. That is the default behavior, because overlays are designed to "lay over/on top" of the portage tree.

Setting overlay priorities

The overlay priority is calculated from the order of overlay entries in the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable. Portage "walks" through the variable from left to right and increments the priority on the way. The leftmost entry starts with a priority of 1, the next entry has a priority of 2 and so on.

Note
Some time ago the overlay priority could be set in /etc/portage/repos.conf. This does not work anymore

Unless the PORTDIR_OVERLAY contains the portage tree entry, the portage tree will always be assigned a priority of -1000. This can be easily changed by putting PORTDIR in the PORTDIR_OVERLAY variable:

File/etc/portage/make.confManual portage tree priority setting

PORTDIR_OVERLAY="/home/user/overlay ${PORTDIR}"

In the example above the user overlay will be assigned a priority of 1 and the portage tree will be assigned a priority of 2.

Note
If you also use layman to manage your overlays, you may be interested in the article about setting overlay priorities with layman.

Using unsafe overlays

When using huge overlays or those with unknown/low quality it is best practice to hardmask the whole overlay.

File/etc/portage/package.maskMask all packages in an overlay

*/*::overlay-name

After that you can unmask the packages you specifically want to emerge.

File/etc/portage/package.unmaskUnmask a specific package in an overlay

foo/bar::overlay-name

This way nothing weird will happen on updates and it is safer than using priorities.

Metadata cache

Cache generation

When large overlays are installed, portage may take a long time to perform operations like dependency resolution. This is because overlays do not usually contain a metadata cache.

You may generate a local metadata cache by running emerge --regen after syncing your overlays.

root # layman -S
root #
emerge --regen

eix integration

eix-sync

eix-sync can run emerge --regen after syncing your overlays and portage tree.

File/etc/eix-sync.conf

# Sync all overlays
*
  
# Regenerate overlay metadata
@emerge --regen || true

eix-update

eix-update can utilize the metadata cache generated by emerge --regen for a speedup and better accuracy. To enable this, set the OVERLAY_CACHE_METHOD to "assign" in /etc/eixrc/01-cache.

File/etc/eixrc/01-cacheSetting OVERLAY_CACHE_METHOD

OVERLAY_CACHE_METHOD="assign"