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Five Tweaks for Your New Ubuntu Desktop [Linux]
With the recent release of the popular Linux distro Ubuntu's 8.10 version, code-named Intrepid Ibex, we've recently detailed some productive-minded Ubuntu Kung Fu, as well as a user-minded tour through 8.10. This morning, though, we're taking a more nuts-and-bolts look at changes you can make to your newly-installed system to make it faster, reliable, and more enjoyable from the inside out. Read on for five tweaks that any Ubuntu user (or Linux user in general) should consider making to get started on the right foot.
Disable or throttle back Tracker indexing Installed and running by default on Ubuntu desktops, Tracker is an actually handy search tool that's placed, Spotlight-style, in the upper-right taskbar, giving you quick access to files and folders. The only catch is that Tracker eats up a good bit of processor power to keep itself current, and, depending on how you use your system, might not be necessary at all. The How-To Geek walks through the process of scaling back or disabling Tracker entirely. Looking for a low-power, high-functioning alternative? Try learning the magic of find.
Disable atime to speed up your hard drive Some older Ubuntu distributions, and other Linux systems, mount hard drives using an atime option. The problem, as noted by Linus Torvalds himself, is that atime writes to the hard disk every time a file is accessed to keep up its indexing records. We've detailed how to turn off atime for faster hard drive access, and newer Ubuntu users can go a bit further in disabling the replacement relatime as well—but be sure to back up your original /etc/fstab file, as some applications and services might get cranky without it.
Switch to mirror servers for updates Every six months or so, a new version of Ubuntu drops. And every six months, without fail, users looking to download a new CD or upgrade their systems slam the Ubuntu.com servers, leaving many with huge download waits, and users just trying to grab the latest updates in the lurch. Save yourself the cyclical grief, and save Ubuntu's developers some hosting costs, by switching to mirror servers for updates. Universities and Linux groups around the world are happy to dish out the latest system updates, which are mirrored hastily from Ubuntu's servers, and you'll probably get better speeds finding a nearby host.
Upgrade to OpenOffice.org 3 Ubuntu sticks to a rigid release schedules, so the latest version, 8.10, had to wrap up its software picks before the OpenOffice project could finalize its 3.0 version. Luckily, it's not too hard to put the latest open-source office suite on your desktop, either as a replacement for the 2.x default or next to it. The Tombuntu blog details the steps, which require only a minimal bit of command line work.
Back up your home folder The "home" folder in Linux, found at /home/yourusername, is more than just a stash for MP3s and cat pictures. In hidden files (named with a . at the start) and specific folders, it's where most applications keep your preferences, data files, and other customizations. Having a backup of your home folder is pretty crucial to reinstalling a system that went bad, making painless upgrades, and generally feeling better about your stability. You can kick it old-school with rsync or hook up an external hard drive, but the recently-opened Dropbox makes it seriously easy and automatic to back up the home folder with a native client application.
BONUS: Install Windows fonts and multimedia codecs Because of its open-source ideals and licensing, Ubuntu can't include non-open codecs like MP3s, WMA/WMV, or DVD playback by default. Getting it all working, though, isn't too hard. Head over to the Medibuntu site, and follow the instructions for "Playing Encrypted DVDs" and "Playing Non-Native Media Formats."
So those are a few things this writer always does when installing a new Ubuntu system, or helping friends install theirs. Let's hear our Linux-savvy readers' hit lists—what are the first steps you always take when setting up your new system? Share your items, and commands, in the comments.
_Linux_  _Desktop_  _Desktops_  _Linux_101_  _Linux_Tip_  _Top_  _Tweaks_  _Ubuntu_  from google
november 2008 by tinynow
A User's Look at Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex [Ubuntu]
Author Keir Thomas has dropped by with an end-user's perspective on the all-new Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex). This is something Keir knows all about, having written two best-selling books about Ubuntu: Beginning Ubuntu Linux and Ubuntu Kung Fu (recently excerpted here).
You've probably read more than a few reviews of Ubuntu 8.10 by now, but most will have focused on technology like what bits of the kernel are new. While such features are the wet dreams of programmers, it can be hard to relate them to day-to-day experience. Instead, let's take an end-user look at the productivity boosts that Ubuntu 8.10 brings, so you can judge if Ubuntu 8.10 is actually likely to offer you any benefits or not.
Installation and setup As with all releases of Ubuntu, the improvements in 8.10 are gradual rather than striking. This is true of the installer. This functions largely as it did in Ubuntu 8.04, which is to say it makes installing Ubuntu a breeze.
New to the installer is a Login Automatically option, which appears when you're prompted to configure your user account. As it suggests, this will cause Ubuntu to go straight to the desktop each time you boot, without pausing first at the login screen. Mac OS X and Windows do this automatically, but it's a contentious feature by the standards of Linux, where privacy and data protection are closely guarded. Personally, I feel it's a useful feature, provided your computer is in a secure location. I wouldn't enable it on a work computer, for example, or a notebook.
Also new to the installation software is a prettier graphic display showing the state of partitioning. This is only a redressing of the same information provided by the older installer software, however. This graphical bar display is also now applied to the previously sparse and utilitarian manual partitioning option, where it proves useful in giving an at-a-glance overview of the disk's partitions.

But, as with Ubuntu 8.04, Wubi is the way to go for fuss-free installation: Just insert the Ubuntu CD while Windows up and running (either XP and Vista), and you can install Ubuntu as a series of virtual hard disk files within the Windows file system. There's no messing around with partitions, and you'll get an Ubuntu experience that's practically as good as a full hard-disk install. Alternatively, you can download the dedicated Wubi installer and avoid the need to create an install CD. Wubi has already been updated to offer 8.10 and now features the choice to install Mythbuntu, as well as the main releases.
The good news for those with multiple monitors is that, once Ubuntu is up and running, dual-desktop configuration works flawlessly. Well, it did for me, at least, and I struggled to get multiple monitors working with the 8.04 release on my notebook (Intel graphics). Incidentally, 8.10 does away entirely with the X.org configuration file, long the bane of newbies but also the savior of more experienced users. The idea is that the graphical subsystem "just works", and if it doesn't you're supposed to file a bug report. As useful as this is, I can't help feeling this blind automation is a step in the wrong direction. It's certainly not in the hacking spirit of Linux.
Network configuration has been given an almost total overhaul. It's now possible to configure connections to 3G (GSM/CDMA) mobile phones via NetworkManager. A wizard walks you through configuring the phone connection, and you can choose from typical settings needed for cellphone providers in your country. This is very neat indeed, and approaches Apple's level of "it just works" usability (although I should point out I couldn't test this feature, lacking a compatible phone).

In fact, ALL network configuration is now handled via NetworkManager, including Ethernet and static IP addresses. The long-serving Network Settings tool that's been around since 2004 has vanished from the System -> Administration menu. Additionally, networks configured via NetworkManager start during boot-up, rather than when the desktop appears, as was the case with 8.04. If you've ever tried to configure a broken 8.04 system that won't let you login to Gnome, you'll realize this is a God-send.
Speaking of Wi-Fi, Ubuntu 8.10 features the 2.6.27 Linux kernel, which includes built-in support for more Wi-Fi hardware. If you previously had to use ndiswrapper for your computer's Atheros-based Wi-Fi card, you might find it works fine now. Additionally, Intel n-based chips are also supported. There's better webcam support too.
Finally, it's now possible to easily install Ubuntu to a USB memory stick, in order to create a portable Ubuntu installation that you can use to boot any computer, anywhere (no more risk of viruses from cyber cafe PCs!). Just select the option from the System -> Administration menu after installation and insert your Ubuntu install CD along with a USB stick.
What you actually create is a copy of the installation CD on the USB stick. As such, you'll need to select Try Ubuntu from the boot menu each time you boot. However, any files you save or preferences you change should stick around and be stored on the USB stick (a feature known as persistence). Using a USB stick to run Ubuntu isn't fast, but once the desktop has booted it's actually pretty good.
Greeting the desktop Once 8.10 boots for the first time you'll notice the main menus have been slightly overhauled and now have large submenu indicators. Additionally, Universal Access has been given a submenu of its own off the Applications main menu, although it has only one option—to run the Orca Screen Reader and Magnifier program. I'm guessing this was added because starting and configuring what is a vital tool for some was troublesome in previous releases of Ubuntu. Indeed, initial startup and configuration of Orca is now much easier, although you'll need to work your way through a series of questions that are spoken and also printed in a terminal window.
The hotly debated "dark" GUI theme finds a home in 8.10, although it isn't activated by default. It can be selected by clicking System -> Preferences -> Appearance, and selecting Darkroom in the list. I have to say that I really like this new theme although some people hate it just as much. There's also a new default wallpaper, which will probably earn the nickname "the coffee ring".

Those with laptops and also friends will appreciate the new Guest feature. By clicking the Fast User Switcher at the top right (which has been overhauled and combined with the logout button to save space), and selecting Guest Session, you can switch the computer to a locked-down Guest account. The Guest user is unable to access the /home directory, so can't view your files. They can save files if they need to but they're saved to the /tmp folder, and are wiped when the Guest user logs out.
The idea behind the Guest user is to let you loan your laptop to friends or coworkers so they can check their email, or maybe even do some brief office work, while you rest safe in the knowledge that they won't stumble upon your specialist video collection.
Applications Most applications see point updates and, with one or two exceptions, you'll struggle to find any major feature upgrades outside of Nautilus (see below).
The GIMP has been upgraded the 2.6 release which, shockingly, only uses a single taskbar button for all its windows. Additionally, it features a dedicated document window (the layer, brushes etc. windows are now referred to as docks). It's all a little... Photoshop. To be blunt, I never thought I'd see the day when this happened. I thought pigs would have to fly, or that something crazy would have to happen—like the Dow dropping below 10,000 in a single day. Oh, wait...
We live in extraordinary times.

Brasero reaches the 0.8 release in Ubuntu 8.10, and now includes the facility to create video CDs/DVDs. It's rather primitive compared to the likes of Apple's iDVD—you simply drag and drop video files in sequence, and can't create DVD menus, for example—but it's a step in the right direction. It forms a useful basic tool for creating hard copies of movie files (it isn't limited to open codecs either; as with the media player applications, the relevant codecs are downloaded when needed).
Rather strangely, Ubuntu 8.10 includes the older 2.4 release of OpenOffice.org, rather than the all-new 3.0 release, with its myriad of rather useful new features. This omission is mystifying because the Ubuntu developers usually aggressively track new releases for inclusion, to the point of including Firefox 3 in 8.04, even though it was still in beta at the time.
Synaptic now features a Quick Search field on the taskbar, which avoids the need to click the Search button whenever you want to search both package names and descriptions. Yes, it is actually quicker. Also new to Synaptic is a statement in the detailed listing for each program telling if the program is supported by Canonical or by the community, and how long the support will last for. This is very useful.
Synaptic also exhibits a slight visual change that's also present in Nautilus, in that columns are separated by faint dotted lines (this appears in Nautilus' List View mode). This is pleasing on the eye and useful when glancing at a program window.
The Totem movie player application can now tune-in to BBC iPlayer content, so you can catch up with your favorite British TV and radio shows. Just select "BBC" from the side pane drop-down list in Totem, and then make your program selection from the list. Apparently, this feature addition wasn't trivial and involved Ubuntu people negotiating with the BBC itself. However, there were almost no TV programs listed when I looked. Just radio and a few news clips. UK stalwart soap-opera EastEnders wasn't listed, for example. This might be because of licensing issues, or maybe just teething troubles.
Encryption New to Ubuntu 8.10 is a nifty seamless encryption feature. It's always been possible to encrypt individual files/folders in Ubuntu but it involved creating a key … [more]
_Ubuntu_  _Intrepid_Ibex_  _Linux_  _Top_  from google
october 2008 by tinynow

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