Adding PPAs to UberStudent

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Also see: Post at the UberStudent Forums by UberStudent's Lead Developer About Adding PPAs to UberStudent

Personal Package Archives, or PPAs for short, are a method for software developers to compile their software into a standardized format for ready, personal and/or public consumption. Regardless of the private or public personal aims of a PPA's creator, the public availability of PPAs enable users worldwide to easily add PPA software sources to their system that are uncommon, untested, unstable, and/or latest-release. In a PPA's most common iteration among Debian/Ubuntu-derived operating systems, such as UberStudent, they are a software compilation and release system most commonly found on the Canonical-sponsored website, Launchpad, which is owned by and runs on complex software authored by Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company. Users worldwide can freely add any Launchpad PPA to their system by simply running a few commands in a terminal, as explained at the Launchpad page for each PPA.

Anyone who has the requisite tech skills and who follows certain minimal guidelines can create a PPA and make its software available to the general public, even if they intend it for primarily only their personal use, and even if they know their software is untested and unstable. As such, adding someone's PPA to your system can have both positive, yet often very seriously negative, ramifications, depending on the particular PPA.

Types of PPAs

Not all PPAs are the same. Some few can be considered safe, others less safe, and a great many should be considered unsafe, if the user's goal is to have a stable production system that can be optimally supported.

PPAs—Whose PPA and Why?

Least Safe PPAs

  • Least Safe PPAs contain a collection of programs from various sources, and the PPA is maintained by a third party. Two of the most common examples of this type of PPA are the ones by Webupd8 and NoobsLab. Adding this sort of PPA into a system you require to get serious work done can be seriously destabilizing, even catastrophic. You should avoid this type of PPA, unless you don't mind often extremely unpredictable results and have a desire to learn from them.

Safer but Still Not Safe PPAs

  • Safer but Still Not Safe PPAs contain one or several programs made by one main developer or small developer team, and the PPA itself is maintained by either the developer(s) of the program or a person or small team appointed by a Linux distribution to package the program(s). This is a safer PPA, as PPAs go. However, since the software in the PPA is unlikely to have been rigorously tested, you should avoid it unless you don't mind the often likely possibility of unpredictable results.

Generally Safe PPAs

  • Generally Safe PPAs contain one or several programs made by a major organization (e.g., Google, Oracle), and the PPA itself is maintained by the major organization. This is the safest PPA because the software contained therein is very likely to have undergone serious testing before being released. Adding such a PPA to your system is unlikely to give unpredictable results, so long as you make sure to match your upstream distribution to the PPA (e.g., UberStudent 4.0 through 4.3 is based on Ubuntu 14.04 "trusty," so you would add the PPA for Ubuntu 14.04 "trusty" into UberStudent 4.0 through 4.3).

Best Practices with PPAs

UberStudent has developed some "best practice" guidelines regarding PPAs that we strongly recommend users follow.

Generally, UberStudent users who require their system to get real work done should avoid adding any PPA or other software source to their system. Instead, if there is a software package (or version of the package) that you need to get your actual work done but that is unavialable in the normal repositories, please ask the UberStudent developers to add the package into the UberStudent repository, or even into the UberStudent base packages. In that way, your UberStudent installation can best remain optimally stable and secure for you, the user.

On the other hand, if you are not relying on your particular UberStudent installation to get important work done, then by all means please do explore and experiment with UberStudent to your heart's content—we strongly encourage you do this sort of learning, in fact! However, in such a case, please don't expect your system to be as well supported by UberStudent's developers. The addition of especially third-party PPAs means that there are simply too many possible variables that can be involved for the situation to be otherwise.

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