When I first wanted to create a PPA for Ubuntu, it was a pain. It was barely documented, unnecessarily complex and — the worst thing of all — if there was a tutorial, it employed rather old build tools and no guide covered code generated with CMake.
The goal was to upload M.A.R.S. to a PPA: M.A.R.S. uses CMake and I did not find any resource how to create a source package which launchpad would compile. With this tutorial I want to help those being in a similar situation I was some months ago. Please remark that I don’t have inside knowledge on what is going on here — it is the result of trial and error, but it works as supposed! So let’s get started…
1. A short inroduction
So first of all — for those not knowing it — what is a PPA?
A PPA is a Personal Package Archive hosted on launchpad. Developers can upload source code to this archive which then will be build automatically for various releases of Ubuntu in a 32 bit and a 64 bit version. These archives can easily be added to the software sources of any Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, making it very easy to install the software on end-user systems.
This tutorial will show you how to create and upload a source package to launchpad. This source package will contain a minimal application written in C++ which gets configured with CMake.
The software requirements are CMake, the GCC and some packaging scripts. You can install them with the following command:
2. A minimal application with CMake
First create an empty directory called “greet-the-world”. Open a text editor of your choice and paste the following code into it.
Save the file as main.cpp in the newly created directory. This is the program which will serve as a basic example for this tutorial. Now it’s time to create a CMake-script which will generate a makefile for automatic compilation. Save the following file as CMakeLists.txt in the same directory as your main.cpp.
If you execute the following commands, your program should be build. They create a new directory called “build” inside your source directory. From there CMake is executed, creating a makefile which then is used to compile the source code. When all works according to plan, the last command should print “Hello World!” to your console.
If everything works as supposed, clean up again:
3. Creating a source package
This step involves creation of four files which are needed by launchpad. They describe how the debian package should be build, what are the dependencies of the package and so on. They are all placed in a folder called “debian” in the source directory.
3.1 The control file
Now we will go through each individual file and check what it is for. You can download the file of each section with the given command. Just execute it inside the “debian”-directory and open the downloaded file in an editor of your choice. Or copy & paste the contents from below.
This first file is “control”. It specifies which packages are needed for building your package, what it is called and some information on you. The first section of the file describes the source package. The second part is the configuration for the resulting binary package.
You’ll have to write your name and e-mail address to the appropriate fields.
3.2 The rules file
The second file, “rules”, is very important, too. It tells launchpad how to exactly compile your application. It is basically a normal makefile with some special targets, which are invoked by launchpad.
The target “clean” is called firstly. Then launchpad will execute “build”, which does the same thing as we tested above. It will create a build directory, change to it, execute CMake (with the install prefix set to a directory inside the debian directory) and compile the application. When this succeeds, the package will be build with the target “binary-arch”.
You don’t need to alter the content of this file.
3.3 The changelog file
The third file is “changelog”. It contains some information on what you have done since the last release.
The first line specifies for what distribution your package is made and its version. Then there can be multiple lines containing the change log information. The last line has to be exactly like it is shown there. Mind the two spaces after your e-mail address! Without them, your package will be rejected!
Please change the date and the e-mail address accordingly. The date string can be obtained by the terminal command
3.4 The copyright file
The last file contains your copyright information. It does not follow any structure and can contain everything you want. Here is a GPL-3 example. Just insert your name.
4. Uploading to launchpad
Now, all necessary files have been created. The project is ready to be uploaded to launchpad! Therefore you will have to have a launchpad account. If you don’t already have one, please create one now. You will have to do some nasty stuff then — like uploading RSA-keys, signing the Ubuntu Code of Conduct and sharing OpenPGP-keys — but this is well documented at the launchpad help pages. Here are some links which may be useful:
- Create and personalise your launchpad account
- Import an OpenPGP key to launchpad
- Import your SSH keys
- Activating your PPA
4.1 The initial upload
Now you’re ready to upload your first package to launchpad! Just a few steps are needed to do so. First of all, you need to create a .tar.gz of your original source code and name it greet-the-world_0.1.orig.tar.gz. Then the package is created from within the folder “greet-the-world”. Finally you upload the package with dput to launchpad. Be sure to replace ppa:yourppa/name with your PPA.
That’s all! You’ve done it!
Check your PPA’s website, there you can monitor the build status of your package. When it fails for some reason, launchpad will send you an e-mail containing information on the reason. If all works, you can now add the PPA to your system and install greet-the-world with synaptic!
4.2 Further uploads
If you want to upload a new version of your software, use the following commands. Before you have to create a new changelog file: remember to insert the new version number and the current date! In the terminal command below, you’ll have to change the file name accordingly.
This is how I managed to upload code to launchpad. Once you understand the procedure, it’s quite easy — but I remember many difficulties at the beginning! Maybe a lot can be done more efficiently, maybe some steps are not done as supposed… but it works!
If you got some questions or remarks… use the comment form below!
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