A package called "android-tools", which comes with "adb" and "fastboot" command line utilities, has been uploaded to the Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal repositories recently. I've got a request to upload this package in a PPA for older Ubuntu releases, so I've backported it to Ubuntu 12.04, 11.10 and 11.04.
"adb" (Android Debug Bridge) is a command line tool you can use to access the file system from an Android device; it can be used to send commands, transfer or receive files, install or uninstall applications and more.
"fastboot" is a command line tools that you can use to flash the filesystem on Android devices over USB.
These tools can be found in the Android SDK too; using the official package in Ubuntu 12.10 or the packages in our PPA is just an alternative and easier way I'd say, to install them in Ubuntu. Also, the packages in the PPA are available for both 32bit and 64bit, while the Android SDK provided by Google is only available for 32bit.
Install "android-tools" package (adb and fastboot) in Ubuntu 12.04, 11.10 or 11.04
Like I've said above, android-tools is available in the official Ubuntu 12.10 repositories so all you have to do is search for it in Ubuntu Software Center and click the install button.
For Ubuntu 12.04, 11.10 and 11.04, you can install android-tools using the main WebUpd8 PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8 sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot
Once installed, run "adb" and "fastboot" in a terminal to see the available options and how to use these Android tools.
Update 1: we've now backported the Ubuntu Raring builds to Ubuntu 12.10 as well as Ubuntu 12.04 and 11.10. This includes a new android-tools-ext4-utils package (“sudo apt-get install android-tools-fsutils”) and udev rules to allow fastboot flashing Nexus7.
Update 2: The "android-tools-adb" package now includes / installs 51-android.rules Udev rules. This isn't available in the official Ubuntu package but only in the package available in our PPA, and is available for Ubuntu Raring, Quantal, Precise and Oneiric.
Thanks to Marcin Juszkiewicz for the packaging; I've only uploaded the package to the WebUpd8 PPA for older Ubuntu releases