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I want to grab nginx 0.8.x but I realize that 0.7 is in Lenny-backports. How can I "safely" install it so that maybe in the future if I decide to download a newer release from aptitude, it doesn't mess up?

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If there's a package for 0.8.x somewhere, then you can try grabbing the source package and building it. With an appropriate deb-src in /etc/apt/sources.list it should be as easy as apt-get build-dep nginx; apt-get source -b nginx

It looks like even sid is on 0.7.x, though, but this person has a guide to building a package from 0.8.x in Ubuntu which should work the same way on Lenny as long as the required libraries are installed.

If you can't find a package pre-built for your distribution then building the package from source is the best way to be sure that the package is compatible with the libraries on your system.

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