you begin: right-click to download the free 165-page Getting
Started with Ubuntu 10.04
pdf-format e-book. I did not write
this, but the Creative Commons copyright notice encourages free sharing
of this helpful manual.
Ubuntu Tips by Alan Zisman (c)
2006, 2009 I'm
not a Linux
guru, just someone who's pretty comfortable working with Windows and
Mac OS X systems who wanted to see to how well I could get Ubuntu Linux
up and running as a replacement for those systems. There are some nice
things about Linux and about Ubuntu in particular that make it a
potentially appealing choice:
Linux doesn't suffer from the plague of
spyware, and vulnerabilities to hackers that plague Windows systems
Unlike the (equally secure) Mac OS X, Linux can be
the hardware that most people already have-- standard PCs. Many
Linux-capable computers can be purchased cheaply or even obtained for
free. For instance, I'm running Ubuntu Linux on a 2001-era HP Omnibook
notebook... this Pentium III-800 MHz system cost US$4100 when new; I
bought it recently for CDN$250. With 512 MB RAM and a 20 GB hard drive,
it runs Ubuntu quite nicely.
Ubuntu is free and comes with a range of equally free
applications such as the OpenOffice.org office suite, The Gimp photo
editor, and more. Lots of other free applications and utilities are
available for free installation.
are some things about Linux and about Ubuntu in particular that
are less appealing to people like me:
There are a large number of Linux distributions.
While on the one
hand, that means there are specialized packages for users with
different needs (for instance free distributions vs paid distributions
for people or organizations more comfortable with a formal support
structure), it can be confusing. Moreover, some applications require
different versions for different distributions, or are more easily
installed in some distributions than others.
Similarly, there are a multiplicity of potential
major desktop interfaces: Gnome (used in the standard Ubuntu package)
and KDE (used in the Kubuntu varient) and lots of others. This too is
both a good thing and a source of confusion. I chose the standard
(Gnome-based) Ubuntu, in part simply because I like the way it looks
compared to KDE.
There may be no Linux drivers for some hardware
driver-installation may only be possible with more fussing than many
users are comfortable with. When drivers do exist, they may be lacking
some of the features of the commercial drivers for Windows or Mac OS X.
While Ubuntu's scanner utility recognized
the scanner in my HP PSC950 all-in-one, I couldn't actually get it to
scan, for instance.
There's a down-side to Ubuntu's being free and open
licensing reasons, it doesn't include software that isn't also free and
open source (under the Gnu Public License- GPL). So free software such
as Real Player or Adobe Acrobat isn't included. Even though there are
Linux versions of these programs, they aren't open source and licensed
under the GPL. Users have to download and install them on their own.
Out of the box, Ubuntu is somewhat multi-media challenged- though it's
Get used to the Terminal
upon a time, there were no computer graphic user interfaces like
Windows or the Mac OS... users very carefully typed commands at a
'command line', and when they pressed Enter, the computer would see if
it could interpret what had been typed. An example of this remains in
Windows' MS-DOS window.
MS-DOS evolved into MS Windows, and over time, Linux and Unix users
have needed to do less and less from their command lines. (Ironically,
the Mac operating system, which didn't have an easily-accessible
command line interface gained one with its move to the Unix-based OS
X). Nevertheless, some things in both Windows and Linux/Unix are more
quickly and easily done at the command line, and in Linux especially,
you really need to work this way from time to time. Luckily, most of
what you may need to do that way (and everything here) will simply
involve copying commands that other people with more experience than
you (or I) have written out.
In fact, you can even copy from this web page (and others) and paste
directly into the command line in order to avoid mistakes-- especially
as some of the commands are relatively long.
the Ubuntu command-line, you access it by starting the
Terminal. You'll find this by clicking on Applications, then
Accessories, then Terminal. A window will open up with a flashing
rectangular cursor awaiting your typed commands.
In other words, capitalization counts. 'ls' is the Unix/Linux command
the contents of a directory (i.e. folder). 'LS' won't work, nor
will 'Ls'. Similarly, when you refer to file or folder names, you need
to use the correct capitalization.
Linux applications (as in most Windows applications), pressing the
control key plus the letter 'c' (i.e.
copies whatever is currently selected to the Clipboard;
Ctrl+V pastes the contents of the Clipboard at the cursor. (Mac users
use the Command key for
this). To copy/paste in the Terminal, however, you need to hold the Shift key down alongside the Control key for these
commands. (Or just use Copy or Paste in the Terminal's Edit menu).
the ls command to list directory contents,
another useful command is cd
which stands for change
Your command is applied within the current directory, which is listed
to the left of the flashing cursor. It can often be useful to move to a
different directory, for instance to run a program which has been
downloaded there. Note that nested directory names are separated with
the '/' (slash) symbol (as they are in Internet addresses), while in
MS-DOS and Windows, the '\' (backslash) symbol is used: so I could:
to change to the directory that holds the photos of my 2005 trip to
London and Paris which is within the Pictures directory which sits
within my Documents directory which is within my Home folder where the
Terminal automatically opens.
you have a CD-ROM (or DVD) icon on the desktop and you want to run a
program from the Terminal, you'll first need to cd (change directory)
to the CD-ROM disc- to do that, type:
and then type your command.
Another handy Unix/Linux command is cp (short for copy). In Tip#5 (below) we'll use
the cp command to copy all my
trip photos into another directory so that they will appear in the
The final Unix/Linux command that you need to
know about is sudo, short for
Often, you need special administrative permission to do something; in
the graphical interface, a window pops up asking for your password.
That won't happen at the command line. If you don't have permission to
do something (for instance, to copy those photos into the required
directory), you'll just get an error message stating you lack
permission to do that. The easiest way around that is to proceed your
command with the sudo
command. (You'll see several examples of that below). The first time
you do that, you'll be prompted for your password... once you type
that, your command will be authorized to proceed.
Don't worry if you don't feel comfortable at the command line in the
Terminal. Following instructions by rote is OK; you don't have to
understand what you're doing.
Tip 2: Use Ubuntu's built in tools to add software Windows
users are used to either buying boxed packages of software, Googling to
find sites to download software, going to sites like
www.mozilla.org or www.openoffice.org to download programs like Firefox
or OpenOffice, or going to download sites like download.com or
versiontracker.com. Ubuntu users can (generally) avoid doing any of
those things- and avoid awkward installations by using tools built into
Ubuntu to get and install software.
useful additions in the System tab of EasyUbuntu is to add to the
Repository list. This adds to the sources of software Ubuntu uses for
its handy Add/Remove Applications menu item. This is the easiest way to
add software, as it installs it and automatically adds an icon to the
Applications menu. By
default, the handy Add/Remove Applications item shows you
"Canonical-maintained Applications". You can expand the set of
applications by changing that to All Applications in the entry near the
Some that I typically add:
Abiword is a quick and easy-to-use word processor
with support for Microsoft *.DOC and Word Perfect formats.
Real Player plays a variety of music and video files
and Internet radio
aMSN is an MSN Messenger clone (note that you
have the multi-format GAIM instant messenger program installed, but
MSN fans will be more comfortable with aMSN).
gFTP is an easy-to-use program for connecting to ftp
Adobe Reader (although another PDF viewer is already
WINE Windows Emulator allows the running of some Windows applications within
Kompozer is a web authoring system. (I'm using it
right now for creating this page).
Audacity is a multi-track sound recorder and editor
Banshee and Anorak are music organizers and players
Thunderbird email application (in place of the
default Evolution program)
Apply or OK, your programs are downloaded and installed. Afterwards,
you get a confirmation of the programs installed and the location of
their icons. What could be easier?
Some items may not appear in the Add-Remove item; instead, try the Synaptic Package Manager
- click System, then Administration, then Synaptic Package Manager.
You'll be prompted for your password. Use its search function.
You can scroll down the list of hits, to see a description for any you
have questions about.
you find what you're looking for, click on the box beside the package
name- Mark for Installation will pop up. You can click on items from
multiple sources, installing them all at once by clicking on Add.
typically search for 'Flash' and then choose the flashplugin-nonfree
and adobe-flashplugin packages. Then I search for 'restricted' and
select ubuntu-restricted extras and linuix-restricted modules.
The VLC media player is also worth installing...
for 'microsoft', I select the msttcorefonts item. And searching for
'wine' let me add wine- useful for running some Windows programs in
Tip 3: Stumped with an installation? I
learned this one the hard way. Besides the many programs listed in
Ubuntu's easy to use Add-Remove option, a number of other sources are
now also coming out
with Linux versions of some of their free programs. For instance,
Google now has Linux versions of its outstanding Google Earth: (http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html)
its Picasa photo album software: (http://picasa.google.com/linux/). The Picasa download
page offers a *.deb file for Debian/Ubuntu which works without problem.
Double-clicking it opens a 'Package Installer' that (after typing your
password) installs the program and adds an icon to the appropriate
(Graphics) Applications Menu item.
In contrast. however, double-clicking the
downloaded GoogleEarthLinux.bin doesn't do anything useful. The file
tries to load in the gedit
text editor, and fails... it's not a text document! Instead...
open my Home folder (clicking on Places, then Home Folder)
and drag the downloaded GoogleEarthLinux.bin file from my Desktop into
that folder. Then I open a
Terminal window, which by default opens in my Home Folder. Typing the
file name at the command line also fails to run it... it just gives a
'command not found' error message.
Moreover, typing "./GoogleEarthLinux.bin" (without
the quotation marks)
gets me one step closer... instead, the error message reads 'Permission
Try this (thanks to reader Justin): "right
click on the downloaded Google Earth installation file, select the
properties tab and click the "Execute" Checkbox." After that, you can
type the command "./GoogleEarthLinux.bin" in the terminal The
program uncompresses and starts to run an installer... you're asked
to confirm an install-path (location for the program) and (optional)
a 'symbolic link' (the equivalent of a Windows shortcut or Mac alias).
I added /Desktop to the end of the symbolic link path to put the link
Desktop. (Note that the capital-D is needed in /Desktop- Linux is
case-sensitive- it read: /home/azisman/Desktop).
Note the importance of the './' in front of the program
name when typing the name in a Terminal window... no, I don't know why
it matters, but it does! In similar fashion, I downloaded the free
VMWare Server application (and uncompressing the archive)... there's an
install file named vmware-install.pl but simply typing its name in the
Terminal window gets a command not
found error message. Typing ./vmware-install.pl
does the trick and starts the installation.
Add your own photos to the slideshow screensaver
It's easy to set the default screen saver... click System then
Preferences then Screensaver. And there's a large list of screen savers
to choose from. My favourite displays your favorite photos. To do this,
it makes use of the F-spot photo manager, installed as part of the
default Ubuntu package.
order to make use of it, though, you need to first open F-Spot (in the
Graphics applications menu), add some photos to its library, and mark
them as Favorites... then when you choose the F-Spot screen saver, it
will display your whatever you've chosen as favorites.
Lots more information...
I've posted another page on installing and
configuring Ubuntu, based on what I did (32 times!) in my elementary
school computer lab...
is a very active community of Ubuntu users committed to helping each
other. Perhaps the best collection of tips can be found at the Ubuntuguide:
find links for tips on most of the issue that may
confront Ubuntu users, with pages for Ubuntu versions from 5.10 on up
in multiple languages. Bookmark the page for the Ubuntu version you're
using and check there first!