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I love the software updater in Ubuntu Desktop and want to configure underlying package managers with other sources of software. Sometimes I run into a new software project that isn't delivered through the updater. I install the software outside the updater but I know there's some way to tell the updater to monitor it for updates.

Looking for leads on where to find the best info (for a newbie) to customize the sources of software updating in Ubuntu Desktop.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Basically the updater program (update-manager) needs an APT source url, which can be an ftp-server or http-server. But the files on the server needs to be structured in a special way for the updater to work and you can't just add anything to it. These servers are often referred to as repositories (or repos).

A lot of 3rd party applications are available in their own repositories, often you will encounter instructions to add some lines to /etc/apt/sources.list but you can instead add them through the GUI by going to System > Administration > Software Sources and in the Other Software tab clicking Add... These lines will always start with deb and can look like this one for Oracle VirtualBox

deb lucid non-free

PPA's (Personal Package Archives) is a shortcut (of sorts) to doing this for some programs, but only the ones that are hosted at there is a bit of information on PPA's on this page. Afaik the only way to add PPA's is through the command line (terminal) with this command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:launchpad-user-name/name-of-repos

launchpad-user-name and name-of-repos will be differnt in the real world!
You will find the names of the different PPA's on launchpad or you might find people that refers to them on 3rd party sites.

After adding a new source the programs from the new source will appear in the software management tools like Ubuntu Software Centre (or what it's called, I use aptitude on a command line ;)

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This is what I'm looking for. I was able to customize some software sources through /etc/apt/sources.list and techniques you mentioned. Some software can appear in the software management tools as you outlined. Thanks! – John K Aug 15 '10 at 23:16

If the outside sources are PPAs, you can simply add them in the Third Party tab. If you're compiling from source or downloading random .deb files from the Internet (not from a PPA page or Debuntu or Medibuntu, which do have full repos), then the Update Manager can't handle those.

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