Installing Bionic Beaver
I’m not going to tell you how to install the latest stable release of Ubuntu’s Linux desktop. For that, just go to Ubuntu and follow the appropriate instructions. I recommend using a bootable USB stick, and how you manage that depends on exactly what computer you are going to make it on. All three major operating systems have their own way of doing it. A quick google search will find simple instructions. The general pattern is to download the “DVD image” onto your hard drive, put a large enough USB stick that contains nothing of value into the slot, open the correct program, and tell it to put the DVD image on that stick in bootable form.
I do have this advice. If you ultimately want a certain desktop (such as XFCE or Mate or KDE or whatever), use the Ubuntu “flavor” for that desktop, things will go more smoothly. For this particular iteration, I decided to install the main Ubuntu desktop, and I’m going to try Gnome 3 for a while and see if I end up liking it.
Ubuntu 18.04 walks away from 32 bit support, and ditches Unity. The default desktop is Gnome, but this is the modern Gnome that is not that different from Unity. I generally prefer a Gnome 2.0 style desktop, so I usually use Mate (pronounced Matt ay).
Most of these suggestions are pretty standard for any install of any Linux system. Also, you can ignore much of this.
The first thing you do when you install any new distro is to check for updates and install them. In this case, I was asked to do that automatically. That was flawlewss. But if you need to, use the terminal,
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
(see comments below for multiple alternative ways to do this provided by our loyal readers, it all works about the same)
The second thing I tend to do is open Firefox, go to Google and install Google Chrome (not Chromium) by accepting the defaults. You can install Chromium if you want, but you can also poke a hot soldering iron up your nose. OK, it is not that bad, but Chrome is simply the most current up to date but not fully OpenSource version.
I then remove an icons or side bar items for Firefox, Tunhderbird, anything else I’m never going to use.
Media Codecs and VLC
Install media codecs. These are bits that an open source free supplier can’t put on your computer themselves but you can. It is like the free fruit in the grocery store. You can’t take it yourself but if you bring a kid, they can take it. Anyway, you can get that stuff installed automatically if you (but not them) click the box to install ubuntu-restricted-extras. But if you didn’t do that,
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
VLC appears to not be automatically installed in Ubuntu 18.04. You will want it to play movies and such, including an actual DVD if you still have some of those. Use whatever software installation method you like, it is in the Ubuntu repository. You can just:
sudo apt-get install vlc
Remove the Amazon Launcher
The evil Amazon Launcher will go away if you type this magical encantation into a terminal:
sudo apt purge ubuntu-web-launchers
If you use Gnome, install Gnome tweaks.
sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool
Later, when you install some Gnome enhancements known as “shell extensions” or just “Gnome extensions” some of them will show up on the tweak tool.
Maybe minimize to dock
This means, when you have an application open, and you click on the icon on the doc in Gnome, the application is sucked into the icon. This is standard operating procedures for some docs on some operating systems, but is not default in Ubuntu 18.04 Gnome. There may be a reason it is not default in Ubuntu. I think there may be times when you want to click on the icon on the dock and have something other than a minimizing event happen. But if you want to try, you can use this terminal command.
gsettings set org.gnome.shell.extensions.dash-to-dock click-action ‘minimize’
Mess with Gnome extensions
Gnome extensions are either wonderful or awful. It was actually the quirky nature of Gnome Extensions that caused me to walk away from Gnome last time I tried it. I will experiment with this and report back later. But they seem to be working better now.
You can install a basic set of extensions that will probably work well with your newly installed desktop, and that come from Ubuntu:
sudo apt install gnome-shell-extensions
They may not show up until after a reboot or relog-in, but they will be in Gnome Tweaks if you do so.
For more information on installing Gnome extensions, see this excellent post.
At this point most guides on how to mess around will mention to play with themes. Personally, messing with themes is the last thing I do because it is a large time investment and it is entirely cosmetic. But, it can be fun and I admit that part of the reason I avoid it is because it is easy to get sucked into it.
There is an interesting thing you should know. For at least some themes, the theme itself is reset when you log in, not while in a log in session. So, if you want to install such themes, you install them, then literally reboot the computer so that the alternative log-in (to log in with that alternative theme) is an option.
This is ironic since Ubuntu 18.04 is the first version of Ubuntu to have the ability, if you chose this option, to not have to reboot your computer if you upgrade the kernel. But to install a new theme??? Wow. I’m literally sitting here drenched in the irony molecules flying out of my computer.
Here’s a good post on messing with themes in current and recent Ubuntu distros.
Ways to install software
Obviously you want to install softare. You can use the Ubuntu Software center if you like. Or, you can use any of several other methods.
In the beginning there was synaptic. It was a geeky clunky but highly reliable way to find and install new software. Then, every desktop distribution developer including Ubuntu offered replacements for synaptic (or related command line or similar methods) and they all sucked. They were horribly designed, virtually non functional, highly frustrating. Earlier versions of Ubuntu Software Center were crap. The current version is better, somewhat.
Snap and Flatpack are the newer way to install software. I think most people prefer Flatpack because it works better with all the distros and sources of software, but it is harder to install. I’ve messed around with them and I am unimpressed. I think it is yet another effort to make something simple even simpler, resulting in unnecessary complexities and bugs. Among the complexities: Getting these installation systems installed on your computer requires sacrificing an actual goat. Most people don’t know that.
Anyway, of the two, Flatpack is the one that seems annointed by the Ubuntu related community, so I recommend going down that particular rabbit hole if you go down either. Here’s a resource to help you do that.
Aside from my own gut feelings and force of habit, I like to peruse three on line resources for suggestions of what to do after installing a Linux desktop. They are It’s Foss, OMG! Ubuntu!, and Linux Config. Click on each of those links for clarification, expansion, or other ideas.