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Ubuntu Getting to Know You

I know we spent a lot of time getting to know the basics of Ubuntu’s desktop environment, but you can’t use a tool if you don’t know where the power button can be found. The same for any operating system or software UI. Now that you know where things are and what they do, let me help you teach Ubuntu to fetch, roll over, and play dead.

We all have our preferred software we like to use for our daily business. While Ubuntu can give you most of them, some software is just out of reach. Software out of reach can be replaced:

Best Known → Ubuntu Equivalent

Microsoft Office 20XX → 3.2

Apple iTunes → Rhythmbox

Any Instant Messenger → Empathy

These are all programs you will find already installed and ready to go, but we are going get the software you want first. On the Applications Menu you will find the new Ubuntu Software Center.

This is your single source for almost all the software you will need or want. It is a easy to use replacement for more complex methods of software installations that use to haunt me in nightmares. If you need to install or remove software from Ubuntu, you do it here.

You can find the software you are looking for via search (by name, type, or keyword), the various categories, or the side bar for specific software such as  installed programs. No need to search the Internet, navigate websites, download installers, etc. You simply find what you want, click Install and you’ re done.

There will be times you will not find what you are looking to install. For me this was my beloved Opera. If you are an Opera user, you already know Opera has a dedicated Linux version on their home site. These kinds of install will not only install it, but add it to the Ubuntu Software Center as well for future reference. This applies to any software you manually add.

Since you have the USC (Ubuntu Software Center) open, this is a good time to install your favorite web browser if its not Firefox or install Skype, a PDF viewer like ePDFViewer, various games, and VLC. You can also replace software. For example, you can use Pidgin instead of Empathy for your IM, or GoldenDict instead of Dictionary. You can also install some other import things from USC such as the Flash plugins for your browser, and restricted DVD playback plugin.

My First Restart

We are nearing the end of our setup. The first time you will be required to restart your computer. First, all the ATI and Nvidia graphics users will want to turn on their respective Additional Drivers. This is the first thing you will find in the Administration Menu. After it searches for the drivers, simply accept and let them install all the needed software and drivers for you. Many of you will be happy to know both comes with their respective control panels for tweaking.

Finally you will want to start the Update Manager from the same Administration Menu. The update system in Ubuntu doesn’t just update the operating system. It will update the OS, all your software, the kernel, etc. You will need to make some tweaks to the settings to ensure you update everything all at once.

Click on settings in the Update Manager. Check “Unsupported Updates” and set the update schedule and release upgrades as you see fit. If you are new to Ubuntu, I recommend turning Release Upgrades off for the time being and setting the update schedule to bi-weekly. This will minimize the rather annoying pop-up messages and avoid the too short 6 month distribution cycle.

While you have this menu open, click on the Ubuntu Software tab and check all four available boxes. Then anything not labeled “source code” or “beta” on the Other Software tab should be checked as well. Now you can close this menu, check for updates, and update all your software which I am sure will require your first restart.

Finish with a Theme

For your free gift at the end of the tour, here are some great sites to get icons, themes, wallpaper, etc. to add a more personal touch to your desktop space:

Remember, Ubuntu is an African word that best translates to nurturing community; And the Ubuntu community is always their to help.

This concludes our tour of Ubuntu 10.10 and the need to know basics. Please feel free to read my first article over at MEGATechNews for my first impression of this operating system. I hope this will help anyone who is new to Ubuntu and Linux get a quick easy start.

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