Cool APT Repositories for Ubuntu and Debian

One of the great things about Debian and Ubuntu is that you have a ton of great open source software at your fingertips via the package repositories for those distros. However, if you want to run popular packages like VMware Server or Opera, it gets a little tricker. Scott Granneman explains the ins and outs of extra repositories.

One of the great things about Debian and Ubuntu is that you have a ton of great open source software at your fingertips via the package repositories for those distros. However, if you want to run popular packages like VMware Server or Opera, it gets a little tricker.

A warning up front: this particular column is for folks who use Debian or Debian-based distros, especially Ubuntu and its derivatives. Also, you should already know how to use Advanced Package Tool (APT) and how to edit a sources.list file. Aren’t sure? Brush up at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Packaging_Tool.

The sources.list that comes with your distro is probably fine for most people, but if you’re more adventurous, or if you want to make it easy to install and manage third-party software packages, you need to add other repositories to your sources.list. Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting choices out there. However, all the usual caveats about conflicts apply here, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you start adding repos willy-nilly.


Firefox is an awesome Web browser, but Opera is pretty amazing in its own right, even if it’s not open source. If you’d like to check out the other cool non- Internet Explorer alternative, add one of the following to sources.list, depending upon your tolerance for beta software (the commented line is always helpful later, so it’s a good idea to add it):

# Opera
deb http://deb.opera.com/opera/ sid non-free
deb http://deb.opera.com/opera-beta/ sid non-free

Before you update your package cache, however, you need to run a few commands, which add the public key for the repo to your system’s keychain. If you forget this step, APT will complain every single time you run it, which will quickly drive you nutso.

$ sudo gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --recv-key 6A423791
$ sudo gpg --fingerprint 6A423791
$ sudo gpg --armor --export  6A423791| sudo apt-key add -

Run sudo apt-get update and you can now install Opera. Further instructions can be found on http://deb.opera.com.


Skype is an excellent, though non-open, VoIP client. In particular, the fact that it auto-encrypts your voice and IM traffic is a wonderful bonus. To make it easy to grab the latest version of Skype, update your sources.list with this line:

# Skype
deb http://download.skype.com/linux/repos/debian/ stable non-free

Now this will work for you:

$ apt-get install skype

For more info, see http://www.skype.com/download/skype/linux/repositories.html.


WINE isn’t an emulator, but it’s incredibly useful when you want to run Windows- based software. In recent years this project has really accelerated, so you’d be silly not to add the following line to your sources.list:

deb http://wine.budgetdedicated.com/apt feisty main

To add the project’s public key, run this:

$ wget -q http://wine.budgetdedicated.com/apt/387EE263.gpg -O- |sudo apt-key add-

To find out more, check out http://www.winehq.org/site/download-deb.


It’s nice that a company like Google doesn’t forget that its very existence depends on Linux. It’s even nicer that the company makes software for Linux as well as Windows and Mac OS X. To make it easy to work with that software, put this in your sources.list:

# Google software repository
deb http://dl.google.com/linux/deb/ stable non-free

And don’t forget to add those public keys!

$ wget -q -O- https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub|sudo apt-key add-apt-get update

At this time, the only two packages available in the repository are Google Desktop and Picasa, which you can install as follows:

$ sudo apt-get install picasa google-desktop-linux

Google Earth will be added” soon,” which will be nice. In the meantime, you can read Google instructions for APT (and other package systems) at http://www.google.com/linuxrepositories/index.html.

Canonical commercial

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has a special repository available that contains software that is free to acquire but not under an open license. Termed the” commercial” repo, it contains things like RealPlayer, Opera, SugarCRM, and VMWare Server. To grab this software, place these lines in sources.list:

# Canonical Commercial Repository
deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu dapper-commercial main

To install VMWare Server (which is awesome, by the way), just use APT:

$ sudo apt-get install vmware-server

To find out exactly what packages are available, head over to http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu/pool/main/ and drill down.


Unfortunately, the pernicious and corrupting influence of money in politics has led to stupid laws that make some software illegal- or at least legally sketchy- for Penguinistas to install and use. You can get around these ridiculous restrictions by adding this line to sources.list:

# Debian Multimedia
deb-src http://www.debian-multimedia.org sid main

Before you start installing software, take care of those keys:

$ sudo apt-get update&& sudo apt-get install debian-multimedia-keyring

Now you have a huge list of packages available to you, which you can view at http://www.debian-multimedia.org/pool/main/. Some oldies but goodies are there, like acroread (Adobe’s Acrobat Reader) and w32codecs (the codecs for Windows-based formats), and plenty more.

You’ll find software for playing, ripping, and authoring DVDs, multimedia players and transcoders, MythTV, and plugins to extend Firefox. Visit http://www.debian-multimedia.org and start exploring!

Ubuntu sources.list generator

Finally, if you’re interested in one-stop shopping, head over to the Ubuntu source-o-matic, which asks a few questions and then generates a custom sources.list just for you. To begin, go to http://www.ubuntu-nl.org/source-o-matic/.

Answer a few basic questions about your location and your system. Then pick the repositories you want from a pretty extensive list.

Your choices include, besides the standard Ubuntu repos, the following software, along with my comments:

  • Seveas’ Ubuntu Packages– a very nice 3rd party repository.

  • Ubuntu backports project– new releases of packages that are” backported” to the current and older Ubuntu releases.

  • Kubuntu.org bleeding edge KDE– this has the latest real release of KDE, not the latest beta.

  • Kubuntu.org bleeding edge KOffice– has KOffice, and is actually safe to use.

  • Kubuntu.org bleeding edge AmaroK– latest Amarok release, very safe to use.

  • Upstream WINE– WINE direct from the source.

  • Upstream Opera– the official Opera repository.

  • Upstream Beryl– lots of shiny whizzy Desktop goodness!

  • Medibuntu multimedia packages– multimedia software that isn’t included in Ubuntu for legal reasons.

  • Canonical Commercial packages– non-free software that runs on Ubuntu.

If you do decide to get the bleeding edge KDE updates, make sure you run the following first:

$ wget http://people.ubuntu.com/~jriddell/kubuntu-packages-jriddell-key.gpg | sudo apt-key add-

If you’re a KDE user, the Kubuntu repos are a great way to keep up to date with new releases of key KDE software.

Seveas’ repository contains some interesting items, including FreeNX (which provides secure, remote X11 connections, and is covered in this month’s” On The Desktop” column), w32codecs, ttf-fossfonts (108 GPL or Public Domain TTF fonts), and libdvdcss (needed to view” protected” DVDs). If Seveas’ stuff looks good to run, run this before you use APT:

$ gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --recv-keys 1135D466
$ gpg --export --armor 1135D466 | sudo apt-key add -

One cool thing about using source-o-matic is the commented help it prints at the top of the sources.list file it creates:

# If you get GPG errors with this sources.list,
# locate the GPG key in this file
# and run these commands (where KEY is replaced with that key)
# gpg --keyserver hkp://subkeys.pgp.net --recv-keys KEY
# gpg --export --armor KEY | sudo apt-key add -

That’s an excellent cheatsheet to have available to you, and I’d put it at the top of any sources.list file that you have to use.

Found a great repository? Let us know!

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