Is it possible to get a newer kernel with the ubuntu patches applied (as a deb + related packages - such as headers, since this machine would be best not compiling the kernel for time restraints)? I'd prefer a ppa, if one exists.
There's a PPA for mainline kernel builds. You can read all about it on the wiki.
The easiest way to get a more recent kernel is to grab the appropriate deb for your hardware from launchpad and install it.
I build my own kernels. Following the "old fashioned way" from the Ubuntu help page makes it a doddle. Most of the time is spent waiting for it to compile (it's big -- 6GB over 80,000 files once compiled). Don't be scared by that. It's a good learning experience.
Other people may suggest "mainline" builds but these are only kept up to date for the latest version of Ubuntu. You can usually just pull these back but pair that with GCC version mismatches and other undesirable things, it's usually just easier to compile it yourself.
I've gone over the steps at least five times on here already, so here's a link to my last effort.