Tag Archives: Ubuntu

Ubuntu 17.04 and the future

A Zapus is a kind of jumping mouse. A Zesty Zapus is the new Ubuntu Linux operating system, 17.04.

It has just been released and has some important features. But Zesty Zapus is not as interesting at the Artful Aardvark, which I’ll discuss briefly below.

Support of 32 bit hardware is waning across the Linux world, and in this release the 32 pit PowerPC is not supported. The 64 bit PowerPC still is, but I would not be surprised if that support dropped in the not too distant future.

There are various other changes deep under the hood that the average desktop user may not care about, including the use of systemd-resolved for the DNS resolver for networking.

Of special interest is that Ubuntu is now not by default using a swap partition. Swap is a place in your hardware, normally on a drive, that the operating system uses as extra memory, so that when you don’t have enough physical memory, the swap can be used. There are two ways to make swap, one is by dedicating a hard drive or hard drive partition to it, the other is having the operating system use unused disk space on your computer for it. In the past it has been considered faster and more efficient to use a partition, but the non-partition option has always been in the background to use as needed and you didn’t have to have a swap partition. Now, Linux seems to be moving away from the partition and using the swap file instead, and Ubuntu will do this by default.

Zesty Zapus uses Linux 4.10. It has “driverless printing” which is a new thing and works for some printers. There are updates to various software included with the distribution, including LibraOffice (now version 5.3, a fairly significant upgrade).

Several if not all of the major “Ubuntu Flavors” are also updated, including the one I prefer, which is Mate (I’ll write about that elwsewhere).

Otherwise, this new release of Ubuntu will act a lot like the previous release.

But that will not be the case with the next release, 17.10, Artful Aardvark. As the alphabetical cycle of release names comes around full circle, so does the desktop paradigm. Ubuntu, controversially to some, not controversially to most, started out years ago using the Gnome desktop. Over time, Ubuntu created the “Unity Desktop” which was meant to unify the user experience across all devices including the as yet to exist and now never going to exist (I think) Ubuntu phone. In my view, Unity was a bad thing, I did not like the way it worked. On the other hand, the main Gnome people for reasons that are still mysterious to me, decided to copy Ubuntu and make Gnome look and act a lot like Unity.

Now, Ubuntu will kill Unity. The next release of Ubuntu will not included Unity, and will instead use Gnome.

So, to install Ubuntu 17.04, which you may not want to do (I’d wait until 17.10 if you want the Gnome interface) go HERE and follow the instructions. It is possible that you can upgrade your current installation to the new release, but if you have a non-Ubuntu OS or an older version, you may need to download an image and reinstall. Then, when you are done, you may want to do these things.

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Book suggestions:

Ubuntu Unleashed 2017 Edition (Includes Content Update Program): Covering 16.10, 17.04, 17.10 (12th Edition)

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

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Ubuntu and Linux Books

Ubuntu is a form of Linux. Most references on Linux will be applicable to Ubuntu, but each distribution of Linus has its own features, so if you are going to use a specific operating system (Ubuntu vs. Fedora, for example) you will be happier with a book about that distribution.

This is a selection of what I regard as the best books for the purpose, but if you are reading this post in late 2017 or later, and you click through to a particular book, do look around for more recent editions. Also, check out the book reviews on my other blog, which will include all sorts of science books, some politics, and a good number of computer related books.

For books on programming (in various languages, for kids and adults) check out this post.

Linux: General books

Two years old but still good:

How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know

Unlike some operating systems, Linux doesn’t try to hide the important bits from you—it gives you full control of your computer. But to truly master Linux, you need to understand its internals, like how the system boots, how networking works, and what the kernel actually does.

In this completely revised second edition of the perennial best seller How Linux Works, author Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way. You’ll learn:

  • How Linux boots, from boot loaders to init implementations (systemd, Upstart, and System V)
  • How the kernel manages devices, device drivers, and processes
  • How networking, interfaces, firewalls, and servers work
  • How development tools work and relate to shared libraries
  • How to write effective shell scripts
  • You’ll also explore the kernel and examine key system tasks inside user space, including system calls, input and output, and filesystems. With its combination of background, theory, real-world examples, and patient explanations, How Linux Works will teach you what you need to know to solve pesky problems and take control of your operating system.

    Yes, this is good: Linux For Dummies, 9th Edition

    Eight previous top-selling editions of Linux For Dummies can’t be wrong. If you’ve been wanting to migrate to Linux, this book is the best way to get there. Written in easy-to-follow, everyday terms, Linux For Dummies 9th Edition gets you started by concentrating on two distributions of Linux that beginners love: the Ubuntu LiveCD distribution and the gOS Linux distribution, which comes pre-installed on Everex computers. The book also covers the full Fedora distribution.

    Ubuntu Linux

    Ubuntu Unleashed 2017 Edition (Includes Content Update Program): Covering 16.10, 17.04, 17.10 (12th Edition)

    … unique and advanced information for everyone who wants to make the most of the Ubuntu Linux operating system. This new edition has been thoroughly updated by a long-time Ubuntu community leader to reflect the exciting new Ubuntu 16.04 LTS release with forthcoming online updates for 16.10, 17.04, and 17.10 when they are released.

    Former Ubuntu Forum administrator Matthew Helmke covers all you need to know about Ubuntu 16.04 installation, configuration, productivity, multimedia, development, system administration, server operations, networking, virtualization, security, DevOps, and more—including intermediate-to-advanced techniques you won’t find in any other book.

    Helmke presents up-to-the-minute introductions to Ubuntu’s key productivity and Web development tools, programming languages, hardware support, and more. You’ll find new or improved coverage of navigation via Unity Dash, wireless networking, VPNs, software repositories, new NoSQL database options, virtualization and cloud services, new programming languages and development tools, monitoring, troubleshooting, and more.

    Other Linux Distributions

    Not at all current, but of historical interest and probably available used: The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques and A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (7th Edition).


    Using the Linux Command Line and bash shell

    The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

    You’ve experienced the shiny, point-and-click surface of your Linux computer—now dive below and explore its depths with the power of the command line. The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more. In addition to that practical knowledge, author William Shotts reveals the philosophy behind these tools and the rich heritage that your desktop Linux machine has inherited from Unix supercomputers of yore. As you make your way through the book’s short, easily-digestible chapters, you’ll learn how to: Create and delete files, directories, and symlinks Administer your system, including networking, package installation, and process management Use standard input and output, redirection, and pipelines Edit files with Vi, the world’s most popular text editor Write shell scripts to automate common or boring tasks Slice and dice text files with cut, paste, grep, patch, and sed Once you overcome your initial “shell shock,” you’ll find that the command line is a natural and expressive way to communicate with your computer. Just don’t be surprised if your mouse starts to gather dust.

    Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

    If you use Linux in your day-to-day work, this popular pocket guide is the perfect on-the-job reference. The third edition features new commands for processing image files and audio files, running and killing programs, reading and modifying the system clipboard, and manipulating PDF files, as well as other commands requested by readers. You’ll also find powerful command-line idioms you might not be familiar with, such as process substitution and piping into bash.

    Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

    Wicked Cool Shell Scripts: 101 Scripts for Linux, OS X, and UNIX Systems

    Shell scripts are an efficient way to interact with your machine and manage your files and system operations. With just a few lines of code, your computer will do exactly what you want it to do. But you can also use shell scripts for many other essential (and not-so-essential) tasks.

    This second edition of Wicked Cool Shell Scripts offers a collection of useful, customizable, and fun shell scripts for solving common problems and personalizing your computing environment. Each chapter contains ready-to-use scripts and explanations of how they work, why you’d want to use them, and suggestions for changing and expanding them. You’ll find a mix of classic favorites, like a disk backup utility that keeps your files safe when your system crashes, a password manager, a weather tracker, and several games, as well as 23 brand-new scripts…

    How to use Ubuntu Unity

    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 installed Ubuntu with the Unity desktop, you’ll learn how to use it mainly by playing around with it. Discoverability of its various functions is more or less built into the design. But there are a few things you will want to know right away in order to get up to speed efficiently.

    The first thing you need to know about the Unity desktop is that the words people use for the various parts are all over the map. I’ll try to be consistent in my own use of terms, but if you read about Unity in other places, you may need to know, for example, that the “Task Panel” and the “Launcher” and the “Dock” are the same thing.

    Task Panel (Launcher, Dock)

    So, let’s start with the Task Panel (aka Launcher, or Doc). This works much like the doc on a Mac, but placed by default on the left side of your screen, which makes sense for wide screens. The Task Panel has a bunch of icons on it by default. You can remove or add icons as you wish. Most or all of these icons represent software you can run but that is not running now. This is your handy dandy way of running your most commonly used software (apps, applications). Just click on it and it will go.

    Once an application is running, it will have a little thingie on the icon indicating that this is an active application. More than one instance (window, etc.) of an application running will cause the icon to have a slightly different look, and when you click on it you will see small versions of all the windows that are open, so you can pick the one you want to use.

    You can quickly switch between applications by clicking on the icons of running applications.

    If you start an application from somewhere other than the Task Panel, an icon for that application will normally be added to the Task Panel. This is your chance, using right clicking, to tell Unity to keep that icon on the Task Panel, for easy access, even after you shut that application down. Obviously, there is only so much room on the task panel for icons, but you can scroll up and down. You can also make the icons smaller, which will allow more to fit. But really, you should only keep the half dozen or so applications you use most of the time on the task bar.

    Right clicking on an icon, as noted, gives you the option to lock it to, or unlock it from the Task Panel (but that menu item will call it a “launcher.”) But depending on the application, you may have a number of other choices. For example, clicking on the file manager will give you a list of commonly used (according to Unity’s designers) folders you may want to open.

    The Dash

    The top icon on the Task Panel opens the Dash. You can also open the Dash by pressing the Super Key (the key formally known as the Windows Key).

    The Dash is a big giant square thing that comes flying out of the Dash Icon. there is a space on the top that is clearly for searching for things. A common use of the Dash is to open it, and then you start to type in the name of an application. The Dash will show you an ever-narrowing set of choices which you can pick, or, when you end up with only one choice, you just hit enter and that application runs.

    If you have just installed Ubuntu and haven’t done any of the recommended tweaks, try this: Open the dash, and start typing in “terminal”. Once you see the terminal application as your choice, hit enter (or click on it). Now, the Terminal icon is on your Task Panel. Right click on the Terminal icon and lock it to your Task Panel. Once you are set up and using Ubuntu a lot, you may find that you rarely use the terminal, but when you are first installing and tweaking the system, you’ll find it handy to have this icon readily available.

    The Dash has many other powers. It can show you recent files, recent downloads, recently used apps, etc. Searching for apps is pretty smart. Terms that are not in the name of the application but that suggest the application might (depending) show you an icon for the application. For example, the search term “Network” will get you several choices including the “System Monitor,” because the System Monitor monitors, among other things, the network.

    The Dash has what are called “Lenses.” See the bottom of the Dash to find the “home” lens, the “applications” lens, etc. If you select the “music” lens, you see, and search will search among, the music files in your music directory.

    Workspaces

    Workspaces are one of those features of early Linux desktops (before Unity) that makes you look at Linux and go “I want that!!!” This idea has been implemented over the ages in Windows and other systems, with varying degrees of success or longevity, but it was originally implemented in Linux in a way that really works. It is now part of the Mac operating system, though that implementation is rather poor, in my opinion. But it was always there in Linux.

    See this post on tweaks if your workspaces are not turned on. But if they are, there should be an icon in the Task Panel, near the bottom, which is a workspace switcher.

    Here is what a workspace is. Imagine that you open three or four applications and have the windows all visible. That is a workspace. Now, you switch to a different workspace, and those windows are now not visible, because they were on the other workspace. You now have a clean workspace. You can now open other applications (or more instance of the same ones) on this clean workspace. Switching between workspaces allows you to have a handful of applications running and organized on the screen like you want them, but then, you can go to a different workspace and do entirely different work.

    For example, I might have a file manager opened to a particular subdirectory, and a text editor or two, for a writing project, on one workspace. On a different workspace, I have an email client, and a web browser with a tab showing Facebook and another tab showing Twitter. I can ignore the email and social networking while I write, but now and then take a break and go over to the other workspace and screw around on social media and check my email.

    Workspaces are a great way to pretend you are being very efficient!

    When you hit the Workspace Switcher button you get a view of all your workspaces, and can chose among them. You can even drag open applications between workspaces. (And, by the way, you can configure a particular application to always be visible on all workspaces, and otherwise tweak the whole workspace thing quite a bit.)

    But, there is a better way to switch between workspaces …

    Hotkeys and shortcuts

    This is a good point to talk for a moment about hot keys and shortcuts. There is a lot here but I’ll only mention a few features, starting with workspaces.

    In Linux, generally (most desktops) including Unity, you usually move between workspaces by holding down the Alt and Control keys and then manipulating the arrow keys. Also, Alt-Tab moves between windows open on a given workspace. Try alt-tab then hold those keys down for a bit longer, and even more magic happens. So, between these two sets of shortcuts, you can move between all your different work thingies really efficiently.

    There are a lot of shortcut keys available in Unity. To find a cheat sheet of these keys, press the Super Key and hold it down for a moment. The cheat sheet will appear in the middle of the screen.

    All hotkeys and shortcuts can be changed and reconfigured, and you can add shortcuts that don’t exist until you think them up and figure out how to implement them. This is beyond the scope of this post, but you can play around with it later.

    Top Menu bar and Application and System Indicators

    Unless you’ve been living in a command line cave, you already know about Application and System indicators. In Unity, they are located on the Top Menu Bar. Just play around with them. If you click the time/date, you get a little calendar popout. You can see if you are connected to the internet, and what your volume is turned to. Depending on what software is installed, you may see the temperature at your local weather station, or an indicator telling you that you have new mail.

    By default, in Unity, application menus, the menus that go with a specific program, are invisible unless you approach them with the mouse, and then they appear. But they are not located on the application itself, but rather, on the Top Menu Bar. See this post for instructions as to how to move them to the applications and make them not invisible.

    Also, at that link, you’ll find instructions for installing a very cool applet to the Top Menu Bar which will give you an old fashioned menu showing, organized hierarchically, all the software that you have installed on your computer. This is how I usually run software that is not on the Task Panel.

    Now, play

    That’s all the important stuff you need to know right away. There’s more, but you’ll discover it over time. You can go to system settings, and to the various system setting tools suggested here to do things like moving the Task Panel to the bottom of the screen, changing your wallpaper (the image on the desktop) and choosing whether to show icons for hard drives or plugged in devices, the trash can, etc.

    10 or 20 things to do after installing Ubuntu Mate (14.10)

    See here to see why you might want to install the Mate flavor of Ubuntu 14.10.

    Then, install it and consider doing these things. Get your system up to date. Yes, yes, you just installed it but that install image was old(ish). Update and upgrade now:

    First, you probably want to open the Software Center, to to Software and Updates, and enable all the Ubuntu Software Sourcews (other than source and the CDRom option). Then:

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

    Go to Preferences/Additional Drivers and then allow additional drivers, and pick a proprietary driver for your graphics card if you like.

    Install the Synaptic Package manager and if you like use it for some of the following updates. I like Synaptic package manager better than the Ubuntu software center.

    sudo apt-get install synaptic

    You might not need to install gdebi but make sure it is there. This is an application that installs .deb files.
    sudo apt-get install gdebi

    So now you have a better set of installation tools.

    Go to the Google Website and install Chrome. Not Chromium Chrome. Chrome will run Netflix for you. Later, when you run it, it will ask if you want it to be your default browser. Your choice (I use Chrome as my default browser.)

    Using Synaptic Package Manager (if you like) you may want to install vlc media player, and your favorite audio software.

    I like emacs, you probably don’t, but if you do, this is a good time to install it, and consider updating your .emacs file.

    Open up the control center and fiddle with stuff.

    You then might want to head on over here and see if you want any of the suggested software for power management or other functionality.





    Ubuntu Linux Made Easy

    I checked out the book Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux by Rickford Grant and Phil Bull (No Starch Press). With any book like this, the trick is matching it to the correct user. If you are the kind of person inclined to install the latest version of Ubuntu on your computer, you probably have already done enough with Linux to not need this book. If you are the kind of person who believes the trash talk about how bad Linux is, or who is frightened of the idea of stepping away from Windows or your Mac for any reason, run away now. This book is not for you. But, if you are the kind of person who has been thinking about installing Linux on that second or older computer you’ve got sitting there and want to do it in a relatively painless way, then this is a good choice. You can get all the info you need off the internet, but then you have to deal with snarky self aggrandizing technogeek obfuscation which is annoying.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 10.55.26 AMI happened to be in need of a new installation of a Linux system when this book arrived; I had just gotten a new Solid State Drive and wanted to try it out in an old laptop. Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux comes with a Ubuntu install disk, like in the old days when computer books always came with disks. Just for the heck of it I pulled out the disk and tried installing the most current version of Ubuntu Linux on the system free laptop. That worked fine, and I had Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin up an running.

    I think I should mention that I may be one of the few people you’ll ever meet (if you meet me) who has Pangolin on his computer and has eaten pangolin. But I digress.

    The newer Ubuntu systems have a new desktop environment called Unity. When Unity first came out, I, like may others, hated it. I prefer, and probably still prefer, the older Gnome 2.0 style desktop. But, since I had Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux in hand I went through with the process of using the text to inform me about using Unity and I actually changed my mind. I still hate it .. in particular, I hate the way Unity has ruined the functionality of menus and scroll bars, two of the most important things in any desktop environment. But, I also like it now in certain ways. In particular, I like the fact that I can press the “Super” key (formerly known as the Windows key) and then type in a string of text that corresponds to a known piece of software and run it. This is using the Heads Up display which at first I thought I would not like but now realize is cool. In the near future, I will attempt to install a heads up display on a more traditional version of gnome

    In general, one of the things you’ll find most valuable about this book is the tutorial on how to navigate among your software and stuff on the Unity desktop. A little time with that will save a lot of time later. this includes using software like MyUnity (chapter 9) to fix up the Unity desktop more to your liking.

    Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux also guides you through the use of the standard software, not just the system, such as the various office and graphics applications as well as Shotwell, the only photo management software I’ve ever let near my real photographs. (In this book I learned about Phatch Photo Batch Processor which looks like a functioning and very nice version of some of my own bash scripts I’ve had to write.)

    I’ve always ignored Linux games, but the chapter on games in Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux included a lot more than I remembered ever being there and I may have to revisit that activity. Overall, you’ll get a summary of some of the software in each category of possible software, and if you are installing Linux for the fist time you’ll want to sample in each area. Installing software in Linux is very easy. If someone tells you it is not, that “compiling from source” and/or “dependencies” will make it difficult, ignore them they know not of what they speak. That’s like saying “Windows is hard because all the software is written in C++ and that is hard to program in” or “driving a Subaru is difficult because it was really hard to engineer that balanced drive train thingie they are famous for.” Yes there are hard way to run any OS. Just don’t do it the hard way. The book will help here.

    All books I’ve ever read about setting up Linux have a fair percentage of the text devoted to running you through some of the more esoteric (to the average person) functionality that you will probably never use, but is mainly only easily available on a Linux machine, like programming in Python or using vim as a text editor, etc. etc. This book has some of that but much less than other books. As with any system or software guide, you simply have to give yourself permission to skip some of the chapters. Having said that, do work your way through the chapters on using the command line because it is easy, fun, and sometimes useful.

    Go ahead and try installing Linux, using this book as a guide. Just remember, Linux is not for everybody.

    Which Linux Do I Turn To In My Hour of Need?

    RIP Ubuntu. Ubuntu was great. For years, I kept trying to get my own Linux box up and running, initially so I could relive the halcyon days of UNIX and later so I could avoid Windows. But every time I tried to get Linux working some key thing would not be configurable or would not work. Well, I’m sure it was configurable and could work but configuring it and making it work was beyond me. Those were also the days when what little support was available on the Internet was limited mostly to the sort of geeks who prefer to give answers that are harder to parse than one’s original problem. In other words, studied unhelpfulness was all that was available to the novice. Then, one day, two or three forms of Linux that were supposed to be installable and usable by the average computer-savvy person came on the scene at once, including Suse Linux, some thing called Lindows or Winlux or something, and Ubuntu. I tried the first two because they seemed to have more support, and I got results, but the results still sucked. Meanwhile, I has a computer working on downloading an install disk for this strange African thing, Ubuntu, which seemed to have a problem with their server being really slow. But, because it was South African, and at the time I was living about one fifth the time in South Africa, I thought that was cool so I stuck with it.

    Eventually, I had a usable install disk for Ubuntu, I installed it, it worked. I installed it on a laptop as a dual boot system with Windows, and on a spare desktop. Within a few months, I installed it on my main desktop instead of Windows, and a few months after that, I realized that I had never booted up the Windows system on the dual boot laptop, so I reconfigured that computer to be Linux only. And that was it.

    Ubuntu was based on a version of Linux called Debian. There are many Linux families out there, but the two biggies are Debian and Red Hat/Fedora. The former is very non-commercial and very free-as-in-software free Open Sourcey, while the latter is all that but also has a significant business model. People like to pay for their operating systems, so Red Hat/Fedora gave large companies and institutions the opportunity to pay for what was really free, and in so doing, they would get (paid for) support and training.

    In a way, Debian is what makes Linux go around, and Fedora Linux is what makes the world (of the internet, etc.) go around. Sort of.

    Debian and Fedora are two different systems in a number of fundamental ways. All Linux families use the same kernels, the underlying deep part of the system. But this kernel is associated with a bunch of other stuff that makes for a complete system. This includes the way in which software is installed, upgraded, or removed, and some other stuff. Each family has it’s own (very similar) version of the original UNIX file system, and so on. Back when I was first messing around, I did get to play with Fedora and its system a bit, and I quickly came to like Debian’s system better than Red Hat/Fedora, especially because of the software management system (apt/synaptic) which I thought worked much better than the Fedora system (yum).

    As I said, Ubuntu was based on Debian, but from the very start, Ubuntu included some differences from the standard. For example, the exact configuration of the underlying file system was different. The original Debian file system was there so that software would know what to do, but everything in that file system (or almost everything) was a pointer to the Ubuntu file system. This actually made messing around under the hood difficult until, eventually, a strong Ubuntu-only community developed. You would see people refer to Ubuntu as opposed to Linux, which is a noob mistake and wrong, but over time, in fact, Ubuntu, even though it was based on Debian, became fundamentally different from both Debian and Red Hat/Fedora to the extent that it really had to be thought of as a different family of Linux.

    And that was fine as long as Ubuntu was doing what most other Linux systems did, meaning, remain configurable, don’t change the work flow or how things operate too dramatically, don’t make up new ways of doing things just to make everyone upgrade to a new product, don’t try to be Windows, don’t try to be a Mac, and always follow the UNIX Philosophy, more or less. Over the last several months, though, Ubuntu has in my view, and the view of many, jumped the shark. It may well be that future new desktop users will appreciate Ubuntu as a system, and that’s great. If Ubuntu continues to bring more people into the fold, then I support the idea. I just don’t want it on my computers any more.

    I have a desktop that I’ve not upgraded in way too many releases because I’ve not liked the new versions of Ubuntu. I have a laptop that I upgraded to the most current version of Ubuntu, then undid a lot of the features, and I’m using the desktop Xfce instead of Unity, the desktop that Ubuntu installs by default. And, I want to put Linux on a G5 Power PC.

    So, this is the part where I ask for suggestions. I have a feeling that there will be more suggestions on Google+ when I post this there, so please be warned: I’ll transfer actual suggestions from G+ over to the original blog post comments sections, at least in the beginning of this discussion, unless a commenter tells me not to.

    The following table shows what I want to do. Notice the question marks. There is an advantage to having the same system on all three machines, but that is not a requirement. The desktop has two monitors, and assume I want to run a 64 bit system on it, and the laptop is a bit slow. The primary uses for all the computers are simple: Web browser and running emacs for text writing, and a handful of homemade utilities for managing graphics and files, and a bit of statistical processing with R-cran now and then.

    So, what do I fill into this table?

    Hardware Base System (Ubuntu, Fedora, Etc)? Desktop
    Older intel dual core HP workstation ? ?
    Dell laptop ? ?
    Mac G4 PowerPC ? ?

    I’m intentionally avoiding a lot of details. I’ll get a new graphics card for the desktop if I need it, and other adjustments can be made. Also, this workstation may well get replaced with a different computer that makes less noise than a Boeing 747 taking off during a hurricane. The point is, desktop with dual monitors running a 64 bit system.

    What do you think?

    Ubuntu Server: Why you want one and how to do it.

    Why would you want to install Ubuntu as a “server” rather than as a desktop? The simple answer is: If you need to ask, you don’t want to do it. But, there is a more nuanced answer as well: By installing a server, you get to a) have loads of fun installing a server; b) learn things about the system you never thought were even there to learn; c) have your own server, so serve stuff in your very own home, so when The Internet goes down you can continue to pretend like there’s an internet. Just a much, much smaller and less interesting one.

    And, if you happen to have anything to serve up in your own home, or if you want to serve a web site of your own, the server setup will make more sense than the desktop setup.

    In truth, you can take a desktop installation and convert it over to a server by just installing and setting up some stuff. I myself am not convinced that this option is not even easier than the server-from scratch option. However, server from scratch (as opposed to tweaking a desktop install) will probably be cleaner and meaner, but most importantly, you will understand what you have in front of you better if you do it from scratch.

    There are several resources you can use to help make this work. I recently read and very much enjoyed the book Beginning Ubuntu LTS Server Administration: From Novice to Professional (Expert’s Voice in Linux). (That’s a link to Amazon. If you go there and click around you’ll see a number of similar titles. None of the gay or lesbian server editions will be visible to you, of course.)

    Here is a web site
    that goes through the process on line. Which of these methods of learning (book vs. on line vs. trial and error) is of course a matter of personal preference.

    Let’s go back for a moment as to why you might want a server. Your server may be a low-power draw machine with lower-end graphics that you use to access data (multi-media, files, etc.) and/or devices (printers, scanner, etc.) and in turn access via a wireless network elsewhere in your home.

    So, physically, a server is different from another computer because it is not a laptop, it stays on, it is el-cheapo in the graphics department, and it has storage for stuff to serve up (all of these are breakable rules, of course).

    In terms of software, there are big differences between a desktop and a server. The server has … servers. Like a web server (apache, for instance) and FTP server, and so on. That software can certainly run on your desktop, but the process of setting up a Linux server, such as the typical configuration known as a LAMP server (Linux, Apachae, MySQL databse, PHP), involves instaling, configuring, and turning on all these bits.

    Another thing about a server, typically, is that it sits there without you interacting directly with it most of the time. Typically, you are not using your server for other things like day to day text processing, emailing, web surfing, etc. Again, these are all breakable rules. But a server normally is not your main interactive computer. One thing this means is that you can approach your server with a different personal affect than your regular computer. Your server can be a dangerous place, but because it is your server and not your day to day use computer, you can manage this.

    Ubuntu by default does not allow a “super user” mode. A server usually does. So, you can sit down at your sever and check your email and stuff, but you can also sit down at your server and make modifications that only a super user should be allowed to do. Using the Ubuntu solution of “sudo this” and “sudo that” is not convenient, and can actually make some things hard to do, and some scripts that are designed to be run by super user will not operate with the sudo-only environment.

    So, you want your server to have super user capacities that you can access, and when you sit down at your server you want to act in a responsible manner worthy of any super user. The book I refer to above does give instructions for changing Ubuntu so that there is a super user mode (you use sudo to do that, naturally).

    Here is a web site that gives some suggestions for how to set up the hardware for a server, and also, info on installing Suse Linux.

    I’d like to suggest two or three other resources that might make your bedtime reading for the next few weeks if you plan on playing server administrator. First you need Linux All-in-One For Dummies.

    Then you need eitherThe UNIX Philosophy, in order to get your philosophical approach in line.

    Between the above five mentioned texts, pick one from the first paragraph and zero or one from the second paragrqaph. Go to the used bookstore in your neighborhood that sells computer books (here where I am that would be Second Hand Books) and get whatever they have along these lines that is used. You don’t need current references, as these books are talking about *nix at a level where details are not important. The idea is to get down some basics, get some philosophy, and learn what sorts of things are possible by viewing these possibilities form a variety of different angles.

    Then, go out and get a fairly current all in one bible type book that gives you the reference source you will need, such asA Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming (3rd Edition).

    Some people don’t like books, and prefer on line resources. You can find all of the above on line in some form or another, and at another time I’ll make some suggestions along those lines . Some people like the book for various reasons. I like having these books as my bedtime reading. No computer, just the book. I know, that’s strange, but it’s how I roll.

    An expression, by the way, that I really don’t like that much (“how I roll” … that expression).