My primary reason for using Ubuntu Linux, is that I find it a far more productive, cost effective and customizable system. Everyone has their own reasons and needs for any particular OS. That said, I’m often asked by new Linux (Ubuntu) users what things I do immediately after installing Ubuntu; to tweak it a bit more. I’m still using Hardy (8.04 64 Bit) as I prefer to stick with LTS releases – This means another year to go with 8.04 before the next LTS (10.04). Until then, here’s the answers for the 10 things I do to customize a new Ubuntu Hardy installation:
Update June 16, 2009: Steven and Coder’s Wasteland has taken this post even further! In my opinion, he’s done a great job in providing a bash script that implements all the changes described in this post. Way to go Steven! You can read more about that (and get the script) at: Initial Ubuntu Install Items Script.
1) sudo aptitude install sbackup
Nothing is worse that losing all your important data (pictures, email messages, music, documents, etc.) The above command will install Simple Backup Suite (more details found on Sourceforge). For me at least it’s a great desktop backup solution. I can select which directories I want backed up (full and incremental), then have backups automatically transfered to my external network storage. I play a lot with my computer, I often break something as a result. With sbackup, I can be more confident as it’s easy to restore data (in the event I have to reinstall an application or even worse… the OS itself). You can also install via:
2) sudo aptitude install ubuntu-restricted-extras && sudo aptitude install w64codecs
If you enjoy music, videos, and so forth, you’ll want to install the extra media codecs and packages that will allow you to play almost any desktop media format (mov, mpg, avi, wmv, mp3 and so on). I wrote a detailed post: “Build a Web Developer PC and Enable Most Media Playback Using Ubuntu Linux“, which provides a bit more of an in depth explanation of the above command (including editing the sources.list to include mediabuntu). Note: If you have a 32 Bit system, change the the “w64codec” part of the command to say “w32codecs” instead. You can also install these packages via:
3) sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts && sudo fc-cache -fv
I like having the same fonts used by Windows users. People often send me .doc files, so I want to ensure I have at least the core fonts they use. The above command installes the Microsoft core fonts and then reloads the font cache. I’ve posted about this before at “How to Install TTF and CTF Fonts in Ubuntu“, which contains far more detail. You can also install the core fonts via:
4) sudo aptitude install vlc
I prefer not to try juggling with the use of different applications to play different media types. VLC plays all the media types I access. For me at least, it’s the singular application I use to play everything from an MP3 file to a DVD video (and incidentally, vlc can stream your media to other computers, even to the television!). Of course you can click the apt link and install via:
5) sudo aptitude install k3b
Even though I use gnome, I still install k3b, which is (in my opinion) among the best DVD/CD burners around. I find the interface intuitive and easy to use. There’s a post containing more applications at “Top 100 of the Best (Useful) OpenSource Applications“. Using apt links, we can also install k3b via:
6) Enable surround sound right away. I’ve an earlier post at Enable 5.1 Surround Sound on Linux – Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy, but the jist of the instructions is to edit
sudo gedit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf and change the line that says:
; default-sample-channels = 2
default-sample-channels = 6
7) Use the “Windows” Key.
I prefer using keyboard shortcuts instead of the point and click mouse. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to turn your keyboards “Windows key” into an Ubuntu key.
Go to: System -> Preferences -> Keyboard Shortcuts
Scroll down to the action “Show panel menu” and click on it. (The phrase “New accelerator menu…” will appear).
Now simply press your Windows key once. (You’ll see the accelerator now says “Super L”). Select the “Close” option and you’ll see that your Windows key now works. Note: If you ever want to change it back to the default (for Hardy 8.04), the original setting is Alt f1.
8) Make gedit remember more documents.
I often use gedit to quickly edit files in a GUI environment. I often wish gedit would remember more of the documents I edit. That way I don’t have to surf through the file system. There’s a simple way to ensure gedit remembers more of the files you edit:
In the window that appears (using the above command), select
apps -> gedit2 -> preferences -> ui -> recent
Select the “max_recents” key and change the default of 5 to 10
9) Increase the start speed of multi-core CPU systems.
This will slow down systems that have a single CPU. For multi core CPUs, we can change the services to all start together (in parallel) during boot time. The command to do this is;
sudo perl -i -pe ‘s/CONCURRENCY=none/CONCURRENCY=shell/’ /etc/init.d/rc
and then reboot with
sudo shutdown -r now
10) Finally, I sometimes need to run application that are for another OS (not Ubuntu Linux). Virtualization is the answer and allows me to run the other application without using Wine ore rebooting into another OS. You can install Virtualbox:
sudo aptitude install virtualbox
If you’re interested, more information about VirtualBox can be found by visiting the about VirtualBox page. Again, here’s the apt link to install virtualbox:
A bonus tip!
I’m often asked how to uninstall a .deb package. The command to facilitate that is:
sudo dpkg -r package_name
I hope these tips help some of you out there! How strong is your Kung Fu? -> If you’ve any tips or tweaks you think should be here, please feel free to drop them in your comments below!