Pint-Size PPA Primer

Package management in Linux is great, but unfortunately, it comes with a few cons. Granted, most distributions keep all your software, not just system software like Apple and Microsoft, updated. The downside is that software packages aren't always the latest versions. Whatever is in the repository is what you get. Another frustration is when the software you want to install isn't in the distribution repositories at all.

Usually, it's possible to add software packages, even if they're not in the repos. For Red Hat-based systems, those are RPM files. For Debian-based, they're DEBs. Unfortunately, installing applications that way doesn't give you upgrades when they're available; you need to keep them updated yourself. Most package management systems also have the ability to add third-party repos, but those don't always have the packages you want.

Canonical has a feature in newer versions of Ubuntu that allow the best of both worlds. They're called PPAs (Personal Package Archives). Instead of distributing .deb files, developers simply can distribute their PPAs. With a PPA, the software is updated automatically along with being installed in the first place. While installing PPAs hopefully will become simpler, in the short term, they're still pretty easy to install. You just need to find the right PPA structure, usually given by the developers that support the idea. For example, to install the Mozilla Daily Build PPA, simply type:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-mozilla-daily/ppa

Someday, installing a third-party application will be as easy in Linux as it is in Windows and Macintosh. With ideas like PPA repositories, however, your software will stay updated. And, that sounds P-P-Perfect to me.

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing. You can contact Shawn via e-mail, ljeditor@linuxjournal.com.

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