This is one of four related posts:
Should You Install Ubuntu Linux?
Installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
How to use Ubuntu Unity
Things To Do After Installing Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
Some Linux/Ubuntu related books:
Ubuntu Unleashed 2016 Edition: Covering 15.10 and 16.04 (11th Edition)
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop: Applications and Administration
The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction
If you have already considered your options for installing Linux, done the installation, and learned your way around the Unity Desktop, then you are ready to tweak your system. This will be easiest if you use the terminal for several of the steps. Just copy and paste the lines I give you here. Note that in Linux, unless you change it, to paste into a terminal you hit shift-control-v, not just control-v.
Most of these commands start with the word “sudo.” This is because these tweaks change the software or the operating system, and Linux needs to know that the person in charge of the computer is doing that. Start a command with “sudo” and after you enter the command, you will be asked for your password. Enter the password, hit Enter, and you are good to go. If the next time you use “sudo” is soon enough, you won’t be asked for your password.
There is one other thing you might want to know so the rest of this makes sense.
Software, applications, apps (three words for the same thing) typically come in “packages.” A package is a bunch of stuff that includes information on what needs to be installed to make a piece of software work, what needs to be done to let the system know it is there, etc.
Packages live in repositories, and they live on the internet. (They can also live on a DVD but that is rarely done for the average user … there were in fact packages on your installation DVD but that’s the last time you’ll probably use DVD or USB stick based packages.)
Your computer, after installation, is set up to know about certain repositories. This is the great advantage of using Ubuntu or many of the other major distributions. You get that distribution’s repository, and the packages stored there are carefully maintained and secured. Installing off a major repository like this means no viruses, malware, “freeware” or other junk will get onto your computer. It also means that when you issue a general update command, your computer visits the repository and updates all of your installed software based on whatever is new or changed in the repository.
During the following process, you will likely add some new repositories to your computer’s database of repositories. Just follow the instructions. But note, in order for an added repository to be known about, you add it, then you update the package system. Again, just follow the instructions.
It is also possible to install software using a downloaded package. In the case of Ubuntu (or any debian based Linux distribution), these are files with the “deb” extention. If you have the right software installed, you should be able to just double click on a deb file and pick an option to install it. I include an example or two of that process in with the tweaks below.
Finally, as you will see, there are several different software interfaces to this installation system. For the most part, you can install anything from the available repositories using the Ubuntu software center. But the Ubuntu software center is one crappy piece of software, in my opinion. It looks slick, but is slow and clunky and frustrating.
There is a system that works better (it is more responsive) but harder to use (because it does not hold your hand much) called synaptic.
<li><a href="http://gregladen.com/blog/2017/03/ubuntu-linux-books/">UBUNTU AND LINUX BOOKS</a></li>
<li><a href="http://gregladen.com/blog/2017/03/books-computer-programming-computers/">BOOKS ON COMPUTER PROGRAMMING AND COMPUTERS</a></li>
But generally, the smoothest, quickest, easiest way to install most software from the repositories that your computer is aware of is with the command line, using the command “sudo apt-get install bla-bla-bla.” As shown below many times.
So, now, on to the tweaking.
1. Make the terminal program handy
First, open a terminal. You may have already placed an icon for the terminal on the Task Panel; if so, click that. If not, hit the “super” key (the Key Formerly Known as the Windows Key) to bring up the Unity dash. Then, type in “terminal” and choose the icon for the terminal program.
Now that the terminal program is running, you’ll see it in the Task Panel. If you’ve not already locked the terminal icon to the Task Panel, right click on that icon, and opt to have the terminal icon always be in “the launcher” even if it is not running.
2. Update the software and operating system you just installed
Even if the system was updating while installing (that was an option you had during the install), there are probably still some things that need updating. If you have not done so yet, type or copy/paste this into the terminal (shift-ctrl-v to paste in a terminal) and hit enter:
sudo apt-get update
You will be asked for your password. Type it in and hit “enter.”
If you are asked a question with a “Y/n” answer, type in “y” and otherwise follow any obvious instructions.
The updated command is a quick and dirty way of making sure that the software you have installed is updated. Chances are that when you do this after install, almost nothing will happen because little or no software will be ready for an upgrade.
When all the gobbledygook is done in the terminal, type in:
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
The dist-upgrade command will, in short, do a more thorough job of updating the things that are installed on your sy stem (it does not upgrade you to a new distribution, it just updates the software with more awareness of what the distribution specifies in terms of packages and interrelations between packages). The details are not too important. What you need to know is that “apt-get update” is quick and useful, and “apt-get dist-upgrade” will take much longer to run, but do a much better job of updating things and cleaning up after itself, and should be done now and then.
If you are asked a question with a “Y/n” answer, type in “y” and otherwise follow any obvious instructions.
These steps can be fast or slow, depending.
3. Make installing software easier
First, enable the Canonical Partners’ Repository. This will allow you easier access to some software. A repository is where software lives, and your installation programs know about only certain repositories, and ignore others.
Open System Settings (on the Task Panel, the gear and wrench icon)
Click on “Software and Updates”
Go to Other Software tab.
Click the check box for “Canonical Partners”
You may be asked for your password.
You will be asked to “reload” the repository info. Do that.
There are a couple of applications for installing and updating software, and you can have fun with them, but two tools that are really helpful that Ubuntu mysteriously does not install by default should be installed now. One is called “synaptic” and it is a menu drive graphical interface to your repositories, the other is gdebi, which allows you to install software that comes to you via download in a “deb” package.
sudo apt install synaptic
sudo apt install gdebi
If asked to choose Y/n at any point, choose Y
4. Install Linux graphics drivers
This may not be important, or it may be, depending on your hardware. So just do it and see what happens!
Unity Dash >>> Software & Updates >>> Additional Drivers
Do whatever it says there to install any graphics drivers that may be available.
5. Allow Workspaces To Work
I have no idea why a Linux distribution would not have work spaces right there in your face by default, but Unity seems not to. Workspaces is one of those desktop things that makes non-Linux users go “wow, that’s cool, now I want Linux!”
A workspace is a desktop, and multiple workspaces are multiple desktops, on which one or more applications are running. Macs have something like this now (stolen from Linux, but implemented poorly). The Linux implementation is better. You smoothly sail between desktops with Ctrl Alt Arrow Keys, and Linux does not randomly make new desktops for you like a Mac does.
System Settings >>> Appearance >>> Behavior
Check the box to enable workspaces, and the box to Add show desktop icon to the launcher.
6. Install Java
Java is required for running many application’s on Linux platform, So should install java using these three commands in sequence (one at a time).
sudo apt-get install default-jre
One of the bad things about Unity was to cause application menus to become invisible and to not be on the application. If you want to see the menus where they belong, you can fix that.
System Settings >>> Appearance >>> Behavior tab >> ‘Show the Menus for a Window’
Check ‘In the window’s title bar’
Check ‘Always displayed’
One of the things I miss most from an old fashioned Gnome 2.0 style desktop is a simple menu, with submenus, that includes all the software installed on my system. To me, this is really important.
And, solvable. We can add a Gnome 2.0 style menu thingie to the app panel in Unity.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator
You will have to log out and back in again for the menu to show up. Use the gear icon in the far upper right of the screen to log out/shut down, etc.
It may be useful to show your user name on the Top Menu Bar (the strip along the top of your screen). Here is one way to do that, using the terminal.
gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel true
If you want to turn this back off, do this:
gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel false
10. What about Adobe Flash? And Therefore, Chrome?
This is complicated. Flash turns out to be something of a nightmare. Perhaps it was a good idea at the time, but increasingly developers and such are avoiding using it. But you probably need Flash now and then, but almost always in a browser window. So, the way to handle this is to use Google Chrome as your browser. Not Chromium.
The Firefox browser is installed by default in most Linux distributions. This is cultural, maybe even political. Firefox as a piece of software, and an organization, has been central to the development of OpenSource software, so it is sort of worshiped. I recommend ignoring it. So, when you get to the part below about installing Chrome, do that.
If you google “how to install Google Chrome on Linux” you get this:
- Click Download Chrome. Go here to do that.
- Choose either 32 bit .deb (for 32bit Ubuntu) or 64 bit .deb (for 64bit Ubuntu)
- Click Accept and Install.
- Download .deb file to a folder (Downloads is the default folder)
- Open up your Downloads folder.
- Double-click the .deb file you just downloaded.
- This should launch Ubuntu Software Centre.
NOTE: Google often updates its method of installing. I just installed Chrome and it took fewer steps than indicate above. If you’ve already installed gdebi (as suggested above) this will be very quick and automatic.
You will be asked if you want to make Chrome your default browser. I recommend doing this. Then, run Chrome and lock the icon to the Task Panel, because you will probably be using it a lot.
11. Install Dropbox…
… if you use Dropbox.
sudo apt install nautilus-dropbox
Then simply launch Dropbox from Unity Dash and follow the instructions.
An alternative method for installing Dropbox:
This uses the wget command to go on the internet and download a part of a web site, in this case, a file on the web site. This may not work if they changed the name of the file, but this is currently the correct name.
After downloading the package, install it using the previously installed deb package application:
sudo dpkg -i dropbox_2015.10.28_amd64.deb
12. Install VLC
Linux, and in this case, Ubuntu, comes with various multimedia playing software, but generally not with VLC, which is a very good piece of software. If you want, you can install it this way:
sudo apt-get install vlc browser-plugin-vlc
13. Install Gimp Image Editor
GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” It is an OpenSource pixel-based image manipulation program for photographs, drawings, etc. In the old days, it was included in most Linux distributions but no longer is. If you want to install it:
sudo apt-get install gimp gimp-data gimp-plugin-registry gimp-data-extras
14. Install A Junk Cleaner (Bleachbit):
I’ve not used Bleachbit. But everyone seems to like it, and you might want to try it out. It cleans up internet histories, destroys temporary files, and other junk that tends to accumulate on your system.
Linux is not like Windows (or at least, like Windows was in the days I used it). It does not accumulate a lot of junk to the point where it slows down and stops. But it can accumulate some junk, and apparently, Bleachbit helps take care of this.
I’ve decided to remove the recommendation to install bleachbit. As I already suggested, Linux is designed in such a way that the things a clean-up program like bleachbit does are unnecessary. I suspect bleachbit is a bit like Linux based ant-virus software, something that former Windows users want to see, because such kludges are necessary in Windows.
So skip this step (I deleted the code for installing it anyway).
15. Install Skype…
… if you use it.
sudo apt-get install skype
You can configure, tweak, and generally mess around with your Unity Desktop using the installed System Settings and various esoteric bits of software, but if you install the Unity Tweak Tool you will probably find most of what you want to do, and more, there.
sudo apt install unity-tweak-tool
In the unlikely event that you end up messing up Unity with all your crazy tweaking….
…you can reset unity like this:
sudo apt-get install dconf-tools
dconf reset -f /org/compiz/
Now, you know how to install software in Ubuntu, and generally, in debian based distributions, and you have some experience with the command line.
What you can do now is explore all the software that was automatically installed on your system, such as Libra Office (which stands in for Word, Excel, Power Point, etc) and all sorts of other cool stuff. If you installed the traditional style menu applet as described above, that is a good way to explore around among the available software offerings.
From now on, every now and then, run
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Also, on the standard Ubuntu distribution, there is a semi-automatic software updater that will remind you to update software now and then, or that can be set to do it automatically. I don’t like setting it for automatic on a laptop, but maybe on a desktop.