So you went to Ubuntu.com, downloaded the latest Ubuntu Live CD ISO file from their website and burned it to a CD. You booted from that CD, waited for the desktop to appear, and double clicked on the Install icon. 40 minutes later, your hard drive is partitioned and ready to boot Ubuntu for the first time. Congratulations!
But now what?!
As you might have noticed, the desktop and software installed with Ubuntu by default is a bit bland. I’ve written the following guide for two reasons:
- To make installing some popular software a breeze.
- To expose you to different ways software can be installed in Ubuntu (a.k.a., “get your learn on.”)
So we’re going to jazz up our Ubuntu and learn about installing software by doing the following:
- Running Update Manager.
- Install Flash, Java, Windows Media Codecs, MS fonts in 4 clicks!
- Install Compiz Fusion’s Advanced Settings Manager with one more click.
- Reveal Archive Manager in the Accessories menu.
- Install Phatch from a *.deb file.
- Bonus Challenge: Install Google Earth using Terminal
Yeah! We want something more like the above screenshot. And most important of all: we want to get all of this stuff installed with ease. I said EASE! As in ridiculously simple to do. So lets get started!
1.) Run Update Manager
Difficultly: Very Easy
- Tip: To make the rest of this go faster, only pay attention to the bulleted text in bold. Like this right here. [/ Robert DeNiro]
The reason I have listed this first is simple: Typically, Ubuntu ISO images are a tad bit older than the current distribution. Therefore on a fresh install your Linux Kernel is likely out of date along with a lot of other software, and as a result your system may be vulnerable or may not be detecting all of the hardware in your computer. If this is a fresh install, you probably have at least 200 MB worth of updates you will be asked to download and install. If you are not having any hardware compatibility issues right now (as in: everything appears to be working correctly), then you can do this step last (since installing that many updates can take some time).
Running Update manager is about as easy as sitting on your hands, since it automatically checks for updates each time you turn your computer on. However, you can force this process to occur sooner by running it manually:
- Click System>Administration>Update Manager
- Click on the “Check” button to check for updates
If there are updates available, you simply click “Install” to install them. Piece of cake.
*Note: If you’re still having hardware issues after installing all of your updates, you should check in System>Administration>Restricted Drivers Manager to see if there are any devices that need to be enabled.
2.) Install Flash, Java, Win32 Video Codecs, DVD playback (and more) in just four clicks!
Difficultly: Very Easy
Did you think installing all that software is going to take you a half hour? With Ubuntu, installing software is very simple. To get started, do the following:
- Click Applications>Add/Remove…
Now that you have the Add/Remove Software app open, do the following:
- Change the “Show:” drop menu in the upper right corner to “All Available Applications”
- Search for the word “restricted” while the “All” software category is highlighted (should already be by default, as shown below):
- Once the search returns its results, check off the box next to “Ubuntu Restricted Extras”
- Sit tight, and don’t click the Apply Changes button just yet…
Ok, we’re half way done. That probably took you… a minute? Wipe that sweat off your brow, we got Compiz Advanced Settings Manager to install next.
*Notice: It has been brought to my attention that the DVD decoder included with the above mentioned Ubuntu Restricted Extra’s package is inadequate for playback of encrypted DVD’s (the kind you buy from the store). If you encounter such problems with DVD playback, this guide will show you how to install the libdvdcss2 package. Also, you may have heard a rumor that installing this package is illegal. If someone tells you this, refer them to 17 U.S.C. Sec. 1201(f). The binaries to crack the encryption are not illegal if you have a license to the content. (i.e., if you have a legit DVD, you have license to watch it.) After all, the content must be decrypted in order to make the content usable.
3.) Install Compiz Advanced Settings manager
Difficultly: Very Easy
Compiz Fusion is included by default with Ubuntu, but its super-advanced control panel is not. Need of this advanced control panel comes up if you are a power user who wants to use the 3D window management features to the max, which means turning your desktop into a rotating cube, among other things. You can also greatly customize your special effects, animations and window behaviors using this control panel. So let throw it on!
- After you’ve checked off Ubuntu Restricted Extras in the above step, do another search for the word “compiz”
- Check off “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings”
- Click the Apply Changes button in the lower right corner.
Once installed, this advanced control panel can be found in System>Preferences>Advanced Desktop Effects Settings. Your Restricted Ubuntu Extras package will also be installed.
*Notice: You will want to make sure you have visual effects enabled in System>Preferences>Appearence>Visual Effects before using the above control panel you’ve installed.
4. Enable (reveal) your Archive Manager to create zip files.
Difficultly: Very Easy
Some of you might be wondering: How can I create a zip file? The answer is with the included Archive Manager. This tool (for some weird reason) isn’t shown in the Applications>Accessories menu by default. But we can reveal it very easily by doing the following:
- Click System>Preferences>Main Menu
- Click on the Accessories menu in the left panel, then check off the Archive Manager (see below). Then click Close.
That it! Now when you open your accessories menu, you’ll be presented with a new shortcut to your Archive Manager. You can use this utility to create zip files. Keep in mind that it can also create other types of archives, such as tar.gz, so you should specify your desired file type when you create a new archive.
5.) Install Phatch – Batch Photo Management Software
Difficultly: Very Easy
Recently, I was looking around for a program that I could use that would allow me to resize multiple photos at the same time. This is what’s called a “Batch Conversion”. So I found a program called Phatch that does this job very well. To install it, you have to download the deb installer.
- Click here to download the Phatch deb file. Save it to your desktop for now.
- Find the deb file you just downloaded and double click on it.
After you double click on the deb file, this window will appear:
At this point, all you have to do is click the Install button in the upper right-hand corner. Once installed, you’ll be able to find the program in the Applications>Graphics menu.
I would also suggest that when installing programs via deb installer files, to save these deb files to a permanent location before running them. Simply clicking “Run” in Firefox will cause the file to be stored in a temporary cache folder, which could cause your deb file to possibly disappear mid-way through an installation. So saving it to your desktop and double-clicking on the file from there is the preferred method. Once you are done with the deb file, you can delete it.
6.) CHALLENGE – Install Google Earth
I threw this into the list because I wanted to give you a little exposure to the terminal. Don’t freak out! You’re just going to copy and paste some text so calm your ass down.
First thing you have to do is download Google Earth. To do that, visit this link: http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html
After you agree to the license, you’ll be taken to a new page where an automatic download will begin and ask you what you want to do with a file called GoogleEarthLinux.bin. Simply save this file to your Desktop for now.
Next we’ll need to open up a terminal window. A terminal window is similar to DOS in that it is a Command Line Interface. To open Terminal, do the following:
- Click Applications>Accessories>Terminal
When you first open terminal you’ll be given a prompt where you can enter commands. You also will be sitting in your Home Folder. If you type in the letters “ls” (That’s ls, short for the word “list”, in lowercase), you’ll be shown the files and folders in your home folder. Notice that one of them is called “Desktop”. We need to change our directory so we can run our GoogleEarthLinux.bin file. To do this:
- Type “cd Desktop” (no quotes) and hit enter.
In the world of Linux, everything is case-sensitive, so be sure to capitalize the word “Desktop” in the above command. This command will bring you to your desktop. If you type “ls” again and hit enter, you’ll see the files which reside on your desktop right now. Listed in it somewhere should be the bin file you just downloaded.
Now for the magic!
- In terminal, type: “sh GoogleEarthLinux.bin” (no quotes) and hit enter.
After you press enter, the following window will appear, and begin to install Google Earth for you:
Shortly after the above screen appears, you’ll get another one that says the program successfully installed. You’ll then be given the option to run Google Earth right away. If you don’t want to, you can just click Quit, and start it later by going to Applications>Internet>Google Earth.
Well, that wraps up this little list. There are plenty of other applications out there worth installing, such as Pidgin, Audacity, Avidemux and many more. Most of these programs can be installed using the Add/Remove applet which we used to install our Ubuntu Restricted Extras with. Simply searching for the program will likely produce a result that you can simply check off install with a couple clicks. Sure beats the hell out of looking through a filing cabnet for a software CD or a serial number (see: Windows software).
Oh yeah, one more thing. You can’t have a bad ass operating system without a bad ass wallpaper to go with it:
And here’s another great link for some wallpapers:
Have fun with your Ubuntu!
Sunday, March 2nd, 2008