10 August 2021

How to use JFrog Artifactory to distribute your packages

In a previous article I reviewed some ways to generate a debian or rpm packages for your developed applications. But after packaging your applications you must find an easy way to let your users get your package. You can allways leave then at your releases section at Github to let users download them but downside of that is that any update will be cumbersome to be announced and installed. It's far better to use a package repository to let user install your package using a package manager like apt or yum.

You can try to get your package into official distro repository but chances are you won't fulfill their requirements, so a personal repository is your most likely way to go. 

For long time I used Bintray to host my deb and rpm packages, but Bintray ended it's service as of march of 2021. I've had to look for an alternative. Finally I've found JFrog Artifactory, the official heir of Bintray.

JFrog Artifactory has a free tier for open source projects. If your project is not so popular to exceed 50 GB of monthly download Artifactory should be more than enough for your personal projects.

The only downside is Artifactory is a more complex (and complete) service than Bintray, so it's harder to get it running if you're just a hobbyist. I'm going to explain what I've learnt so far so you have an easier time than me with Artifactory.

Once registered on the platform, you enter the quick setup menu:

There, you can create a repository of any of supported packages. For this article I'm going for Debian. Click on Debian icon and select to create a new repository.

In next window you are asked to give a name (a prefix) for repository:


In the screenshot I'm calling vdist my repository. Artifactory creates a virtual, a remote and a local repositories. As far as I know the only repository useful at this point is the local one, so when following this article be sure to always select "debian-local" option.

Next window is deceptively simple as it can make you think you are ready to upload packages following instructions given in Deploy and Resolve tags:

Problem is that you need to configure some things before your repository is fully operational, as I've learnt the hard way.

First, you need to allow anonymous access to your repository to allow people download your packages. What is most confusing here is that anonymous access is configured (you can see that permission in Administration > Identity and Access > Permissions) but apparently it does not seem to work at all, so when you try to access to your repository using apt you only get a unauthorized error. The gotcha here is that first you need to enable globally anonymous access at Administration > Security > Settings:



Only after checking that option you will end getting unauthorized error.

To configure client linuxboxes to use your repository, just include in your /etc/sources.list file:

 deb https://dlabninja.jfrog.io/artifactory/<REPOSITORY_NAME>-debian-local <DISTRIBUTION> <COMPONENT>

In my example REPOSITORY_NAME is vdist, DISTRIBUTION is the name of distribution you are targeting (for example, in Ubuntu, it could be trusty) and por COMPONENT I use main. By the way, dlabninja is the tenant name I gave myself when I registered at Artifactory, yours is going to be different.

You may think you're ready to start uploading packages, but I'm afraid you're not yet. If you try to use apt to access your repository at this point you're going to get an error saying your repository is not signed so accessing to it is forbidden. To fix that you must create a pair of GPG keys to sign your packages and upload them to Artifactory.

To create a GPG key you can type at your console:

Type an identification name, an email and a password when asked. For name I use the repository one. Take note of the password you used If you forget it there is no way to recover it. Big string beginning with "F4F316" and ending with "010E55" is my key id, yours will be similar. That string will be useful to identify your key in gpg commands.

You can list your keys:

To upload your generated key, you first need to export it to a file. That export need to be split in two files: first you export your public key and afterwards your private key:


With first command I exported vdist public key and with second the private one. Note I've given an explanatory extension to exported files. This is a good moment to store these keys in a safe place.

To upload those files to Artifactory you need to go to Administration > Artifactory > Security > Keys management:


There, select "+ Add keys" at "Signing keys" tab. In the opening window enter the name for this signing key (in this case "vdist"), drag and drop over it exported key files and enter private key password. When done you'll have your key properly imported in Artifactory and ready to be used.

To configure imported GPG keys with a repository go to Administration > Repositories, select you repository and "Advanced" tab. There you have a "Primary key name" combo where you can select your key. Don't forget to click "Save & Finish" before leaving or any change will be lost:


Once done, you won't get an unsigned repository error with apt, but you'll still get an error:

(Click to enlarge)

Package manager complains because although repository is GPG signed it does not recognize its public key. To solve it we must upload our public key to one of the free PGP registries so our users can download and import it. For this matter I send my public keys to ubuntu.keyserver.com:

Once a public registry has a public key they sync with others to share them. Our user must import that public key and tell her package manager that public key is trusted. To do it we must be sudo:

Obviously we must do the same thing If we want to try to install our own package.

After that, sudo apt update will work smoothly:

Finally we are really ready to upload our first package to our repository. You have two way to do it: manually and programmatically.

You can upload packages manually through Artifactory web interface going to Artifactory > Artifacts > Selecting repository (in my example vdist-debian-local) > Deploy (button at the upper right corner). It opens a pop up window where you can drag an drop your package. Make sure that "Target repository" field is properly set to your repository (it is easy to send your package to the wrong repository).

Besides, Artifactory let you upload packages from command line what makes it perfect to do it programmatically in continuous integration workflow. You can see needed command in Artifactory > Artifacts > Set me up (button at the upper right corner). It opens a pop-up window with a tab called "Deploy" where you can find commands needed to deploy packages to a given repository:

As you can see commands has place holders for many fields. If you are not sure what to place at USERNAME and PASSWORD fields, go to configure tab, type your administrative password there and return to Deploy tab to see how those fields have been completed to you.