Linux Ppas: Installation, Removal, And Security

PPA stands for Personal Package Archive. These offer software not bundled in a default Linux operating system. Software installation on Linux is a bit different than on Windows and Mac. Instead, software comes in repositories. But PPAs provide access to third-party programs.

However, while PPAs boast a vast landscape of available software, these package archives create a different operating dynamic. Learn more about Personal Package Archives, from what a PPA is to security considerations, and more.

What Is a PPA?


A Personal Package Archive is a repository of software which isn’t included in the default Linux operating system installation. Therefore, a PPA is a means to upload source packages as Advanced Packaging Tools (APT) via Launchpad. PPAs are only used within Ubuntu and its derivatives.

Often a PPA concentrates on one specific program. For instance, a PPA may focus on a specific program like Docker that’s not included default Ubuntu install. Yet certain PPAs provide updates for software bundled in Ubuntu like Firefox.

Why Use a PPA?

There’s a clear motivation for PPA use with unreleased software. But what about using a PPA for software included with Ubuntu? PPAs provide faster updates than the vanilla release of Ubuntu. This yield greater control. That’s because you choose which software to update, and Ubuntu handles those through the Ubuntu Update Manager.

Overall, this is a streamlined means to keep software up to date and download regular updates faster than using merely the Ubuntu software center.

How to Add a PPA?


Adding a PPA is fairly simple. Merely open the command line (Ctrl + Alt + T) and type the following to add your required repository, run an update, and install your desired software:

sudo add-apt-repository [repository name]  sudo apt-get update  sudo apt-get install [software name]

Let’s take Open Broadcaster Software. To add OBS via the command line you would enter:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:obsproject/obs-studio  sudo apt update && sudo apt install obs-studio

Once that’s complete, your software is properly installed.

How to Remove a PPA

Like most installations, there may come a time when you wish to remove a PPA. Just like adding a PPA differs from installing software via the software center, so too does removing a PPA. There are a few means to accomplish this.

Using the GUI

after ubuntu 16.04 ppas

Since there’s a PPA list under Software and Updates, you can remove PPAs using a graphical user interface (GUI). Navigate to Software and Updates, and click the Other Software tab. Look for the PPA you with to remove from the list and check the box next to it. Then click the button at the bottom of that screen that says remove. This remains the simplest means to remove a PPA.

Using the Remove Flag

You can uninstall a PPA using the --remove flag. This operates in a similar fashion to how you installed the PPA. In a command line, run:

sudo apt-add-repository --remove ppa:ppa_name/ppa

It’s a straightforward method for removing a PPA using the command line.

Using the APT Method

Alternatively, you can use the PPA purge method:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge

Then to complete the purge you’ll need to downgrade packages it provided via the official repositories. You’ll need to use the URL of the PPA which can be found under the Software Sources list:

sudo ppa-purge ppa-url

This requires a little more work. Especially if you have to look up the PPA URL in the Software Sources list, you may as well just use the GUI removal method. But if you already know the URL or have it in your clipboard, it’s worth using.

PPA Security Considerations

Image Credit: stevepb via Pixabay

Just as with an EXE on Windows, a PPA arrives with security concerns. Three main components clarify the safety of a PPA:

  1. The maker.
  2. Number of users.
  3. Frequency of updates.

Who made a PPA yields information on reliability. Since PPAs are community creations, anyone can make one. But official PPAs from the likes of Wine are about as safe as you can find. A PPA from a well-known maintainer is generally reliable. Whereas a PPA from Rando Calrissian Ubuntu user may not be as safe. This could be intentional, or unintentionally harmful like a corrupt package.

The number of users merely means greater data on package safety. It’s the same concept as downloading software or a torrent (please only torrent legally). A torrent with more seeders will download faster so there’s that benefit. But usually highly seeded torrents feature a thriving comments section with user feedback on aspects like video and audio quality. Similarly, the more users a PPA has, the more trustworthy it likely is.

Finally, there’s the frequency of updates. More updates signals an increasingly reliable and stable PPA. Look for a 1:1 ratio of PPA updates to Linux operating system updates.

Best PPAs Available

ubuntu vivid libreoffice

PPAs are abundant. But which are the best PPAs available for Linux installations? LibreOffice is an excellent PPA to add. While LibreOffice is included within the default Ubuntu install, Ubuntu often doesn’t upgrade LibreOffice to the next iteration. Thus, you may consider adding the LibreOffice PPA.

Drivers on Linux can be a challenge. Xorg-Edgers and Oibaf sport the freshest open graphics drivers. This PPA is beneficial for those using open-source drivers. However if you’re running proprietary AMD or Nvidia drivers, this PPA won’t be beneficial.

Gamers should install the PlayDeb and GetDeb PPAs. These install updated versions of both software and games. Because these PPAs prepackage software into a centralized location, installing these applications is much simpler.

While Java isn’t included in default Ubuntu repositories, you can still install it. The manual method is pretty cumbersome. Instead, the Webupd8 Java PPA makes obtaining Java on Linux much easier. This PPA features installers for Java 6, 7, and 8.

Want to run your Windows games and programs on Linux? Well, Wine is your best bet. To use Wine, you’ll need to add the PPA. The Wine PPA ranks among the most utilized PPAs available. Wine and the PlayOnLinux frontend offer an excellent means to play Windows games old and new.

Getting Personal: Final Thoughts on PPAs

There many PPAs available from a variety of sources. Installation differs from a Software Center install or single app command line installation. Whether you’re installing a PPA for software not inclued in the vanilla Ubuntu release or simply desire frequent updates, adding PPAs is an essential for updating Ubuntu applications. You may consider using Y PPA Manage, a GUI for managing Ubuntu PPAs.

Which PPAs are you using? Tell us in the comments!

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