Start with a base system.

apt-get install apache2

That results in it installing the package AND starting the service.

Is there some mechanism (standard across other packages as well if possible) to request that it NOT just arbitrarily start the service before it's even been properly configured?

There are multiple reasons for this, one example is if I'm installing a service in preparation to replace an equivalent service on the box - I certainly wouldn't want it trying to start in that case, but in general, just because I've requested a package be installed, doesn't mean I want it running/started automatically.

I realize I can issue update-rc.d afterwards, but the service has already been launched (or attempted to launch) at that point.

This question should be general, but I am in particular interested for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

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    serverfault.com/questions/567474/…, but I believe the general answer is "you can't reliably do this", which is sad. – Sven Jul 22 '15 at 16:55
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    You can't do it reliably. My general advice is to never use Debian-derived distributions. – Michael Hampton Jul 22 '15 at 16:55
  • That answer with policy-rc.d is actually exactly what I was looking for - and if it doesn't work for a particular case, it's a standardized mechanism, so much more reasonable to push individual package authors. – Nathan Neulinger Jul 22 '15 at 17:10

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