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Sometimes I try to use a feature of some software, only to find that I'm running an old version where the feature hasn't yet been implemented. For example, I've just tried using the -deskew option to ImageMagick. It turns out that my software repository has 6.3.7.9, but the most recent version is 6.5.5.

What's the right way to deal with this issue? Of course, I could install from source (which is what I usually end up doing), but I feel like there should be a better solution. Is there somebody I should contact to get the most recent version into the repositories?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are a couple of different options:

  • Enable the proposed-updates universe on your system via System > Administration > Software Sources > Updates. This will get the newer versions slightly faster onto your desktop. This will only get the minor proposed updates faster, as pointed out in the comments.
  • Check if there is a semi-official PPA for the software (i.e. maintained by someone from the project team). This is likely to have the latest version of the software, packaged by the team.
  • Use a PPA maintained by some individual, like you or me. This should be fine as long as you realize you're using a package that was built by an individual and the resulting security implications.

The PPA is Ubuntu's way of providing a viable distribution mechanism to teams and individuals to distribute their version of a software.

The Ubuntu official repository will, and should, contain a version that is tested and stable, and satisfies library dependencies in the system. By it's very definition, it will tend not to have the latest release at all times.

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The proposed updates get bug fixes faster, but you won't get new features from the repositories that way. Most packages I've been interested in have had newer versions in the PPAs though. –  Hamish Downer Sep 7 '09 at 22:37
    
I too use the PPA for packages I'm interested in. I thought that proposed updates basically included anything that could potentially come through the main channel in future. The community documentation is a bit vague but probably supports your point: help.ubuntu.com/community/UbuntuUpdates. Do you know a source that defines the proposed-updates channel better? –  nagul Sep 7 '09 at 22:47

Ubuntu's main focus is stability and usability so you are unlikely to find any bleeding edge stuff in their repositories. The package freeze is usually pretty early in the development cycle and from then on brand new versions rarely make it into the repositories (except for important) bugfixes.

In order to get the bleeding edge you could either use the developer repositories for the next version or install from source. As an alternative, use a more bleeding edge distribution, like Fedora. I recently switched to Fedora 11 and they seemed to be more up to date that Ubuntu.

If it is just one package you are interested in, install from source or go to getdeb.net and look if someone else has created (unofficial) Ubuntu packages for the software you need.

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Ubuntu may not be the right distribution for you. However, you can try to backports repositories. They have more bleeding-edge software, but not each software package in the regular repositories has its own backport.

In short: your mileage may vary, but you should take a look the the Ubuntu-Backports.

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