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How could I tell portage a package is already installed?



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yes, there is a package.provided feature. adding category such as:

x11-drivers/nvidia-drivers-381.22 into /etc/portage/package.provided will make portage think that this exact version installed on users box, when in reality it's not. notice a syntax, if you need specific version (381.22) you don't put atom ("=" in this example) in front of category, unlike it's needed for masks or unmasks or keywords.

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