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I've found online guides to adding Ubuntu PPAs and repositories to a Debian system. Is this a bad idea? If so, why?

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I have found some vague and dire words of warning buried in the forums, such as "Adding an Ubuntu repo is a good way to mess up your Debian system as they are not really binary compatible" and "I have heard of people using Debian sid sources in Ubuntu, but even they tend to bork their systems". However, it seems like people are still doing it, and the guides linked above aren't specific about the dangers. –  Statisfactions Sep 20 '11 at 16:16
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Your mileage may vary. I wouldn't do that. It's not only about dependencies problems, but about binary compatibility (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MarkShuttleworth#What_about_binary_compatibility_between_distributions.3F): Debian packages are likely built with different toolchain versions, so you may incur in troubles.

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Thank you for the useful link! This addresses the issue that people were talking about in the forums in much more depth than I've seen elsewhere. –  Statisfactions May 19 '12 at 2:09
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Basically, since dpkg and apt are shared between Debian and Ubuntu, they will be able to read and use repositories made for "the other side" without problems. However, as soon as you try to install non-trivial packages from a "foreign" repository, you are likely to run into dependency problems. Some packages are named differently on Debian and Ubuntu, so if they were listed as a dependency of the package you are trying to install, you might end up with missing packages or duplicate installations.

From my experience, third-party-software with few dependencies (like NX) may work, but don't try to mix GNU tools or similar stuff.

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For some small things, it won't be a problem. I've heard of people using wine from the ubuntu repos on debian just fine. –  Rob Sep 22 '11 at 18:13
    
This is most of what I was looking for, thanks! Could you clarify what you mean by "foreign" repositories? Also, I'm not sure what you mean when you talk about mixing GNU tools...do you mean different versions of the same GNU tool? Or getting one GNU tool from the Debian repos and a different one from the Ubuntu repos? –  Statisfactions Sep 23 '11 at 3:46
    
"Foreign" repositories are those that are not provided by the distribution itself. For example, the Opera web browser uses a repository at deb.opera.com, and FreeNX uses launchpad.net/~freenx-team/+archive/ppa. Both serve, at the same time, as an example for software that can be installed from one repository to both Ubuntu and Debian, as their dependencies are non-critical. –  jstarek Sep 26 '11 at 17:50
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