Tag Archives: Ubuntu

Taking Screen Captures on the Linux Desktop with Shutter

I am a cameraOnce upon a time, just about the only people who took screen captures were technical communicators and technology writers. Nowadays, it seems that everyone needs to grab a window or screen on their desktop. Which is why, I guess, the number of screen capture tools available for various operating systems has blossomed over the years.

If you use Linux, then you suffer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to screen capture software. One of the most useful and flexible screen capture applications for the Linux desktop is Shutter.

Let’s take a closer look at how to use Shutter.

Installing Shutter

Chances are you don’t have Shutter installed on your computer. You can download source code and packages for various distributions.

If you use Ubuntu, then you can install Shutter from a Personal Package Archive. To do that, open a terminal window and run the following commands:

 sudo add-apt-repository ppa:shutter/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install shutter 

Once Shutter is installed, you can launch it from a menu. For example, in Ubuntu select Applications > Accessories > Shutter.

Shutter main window

Getting Going

Using Shutter, you can grab the following:

  • Your entire desktop
  • A single window
  • An area that you select
  • A menu
  • A tool tip
  • A web page

Buttons for each of these options are on the application’s toolbar. When you minimize Shutter, its icon sits on a panel. You can choose an option by right clicking the Shutter icon.

Shutter right-click menu

The first two screen capture options — entire desktop and single window — pretty much explain themselves.

A captured window

To grab a portion of the screen, click the Selection button on the toolbar. Then, click and drag your mouse to select what you want to capture. When you’re done, press Enter on your keyboard.

Capturing a tooltip (the text that often appears when you hold your mouse over a button in an application) or a menu is probably only useful if you’re preparing documentation. You just have to remember to keep displaying the tooltip or menu for a few seconds before it’s captured.

Taking a screen capture of a web page works a little differently. When you click the Web button on the toolbar, a dialog box pops up. If you have a URL on your clipboard, Shutter assumes that’s the web page that you want to capture. You can also type a URL in the dialog box. Then, click the Capture button.

Capturing a website

This option doesn’t work with some websites. The capture process will sometimes time out, often without any rhyme or reason.

Editing Your Screen Captures

I usually like my screen capture software to do one thing and one thing only: take screen captures (obviously). If I want to manipulate screen captures, I can do that in an actual graphics program like The GIMP. But I make an exception for Shutter. Why? Its image editing tools, while limited, can be useful.

When you need to edit a screen capture, click the Edit button on the toolbar. You don’t get tools to resize, crop, rotate, or otherwise manipulate an image. You can add text, lines, callouts, and shapes to a screen capture. You can also highlight portions of a capture, or censor portions of an image to hide personal information.

Censoring private information

Final Thoughts

Shutter is a very flexible screen capture tool. I find it to be almost indispensable in my day-to-day work. It’s easy to use and has the features that I need (and a few that I find myself needing occasionally).

If you find yourself taking a large number of screen captures on the Linux desktop, then you should definitely give Shutter a look. It’s a worthy addition to your stable of applications.

Photo credit: Adorama

3 Great Alternatives to Dropbox

Hard driveWhen it comes to sharing and syncing files, the most popular tool out there is arguably Dropbox. It’s a favorite among the folks here at Techerator and for good reason. Dropbox is easy to use and gives you a lot of flexibility.

But Dropbox isn’t the only file sharing/syncing program available on the web. There are other tools that are definitely worth a look. Let’s take peek at three of them.

SugarSync

Arguably the best alternative to Dropbox is SugarSync. It does everything that Dropbox does, and probably a little more too.

If you use a Windows computer or a Mac, you can install a client that will automatically sync files across all of your computers (well, as long as you have the client installed). You can selectively sync folders and even choose which ones you want to sync with other computers, and which ones you want to back up to SugarSync’s web interface. Using the web interface, you can create folders and upload or download files.

You’re not limited to the desktop or web, either. There are SugarSync clients for iOS devices, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian.

You can get a free account which gives you 5 GB of storage. Or you can get 30, 60, 100, or 250 GB of storage for between $4.99 and $24.99 a month.

Uploading to SugarSync

Amazon Cloud Drive

Released in Spring 2011, Amazon Cloud Drive is something of a bare bones service. It’s purely storage; there’s no syncing. But as a storage solution it’s hard to beat.

You get a web interface (there’s no desktop or mobile client) that’s simple to use. Just log in, create a folder if you need one, and then upload your files. You can only upload files that are 2 GB or smaller, though. Once you’ve done that, you can access your files from anywhere using any web browser.

You get 5 GB of free storage, and you can get anywhere from 20 GB to 1,000 GB of storage for between $20 and $1,000 a year.

Amazon Cloud Drive

Ubuntu One

Part of the Ubuntu desktop for the last few releases, Ubuntu One lets you sync directories on your Ubuntu desktop with a web-based storage system. What’s that? Not an Ubuntu user? That’s OK. You can still upload you files using Ubuntu One’s web interface and access them on any computer.

Ubuntu One is easy to use and has a couple of interesting features. You can store your contacts and write and share notes online. You can also upload your music and stream it later. Ubuntu One provides 5 GB of storage free, or 20 GB for $2.99 a month. If you use an Android device, you can share and sync your files with the Ubuntu One Files app. On top of that, there’s a paid option that lets you upload and stream your music to your Android device or iPhone.

Ubuntu One web interface

Have a favorite alternative to Dropbox? If so,  share your pick by leaving a comment.

Photo credit: Szorstki

How to Learn the Linux Command Line with CLI Companion

CLI CompanionContrary to an enduring myth, you don’t need to constantly jump to the command line in order to effectively use Linux. There are people who spend all their time ensconced in their favorite window manager who’ve never, and never will, type a string of esoteric commands.

Having said that, there are times when knowledge of the command line can be useful. More than that, it can be beneficial. But what if you’re new to the command line, or just use it infrequently?

There are dozens of good books on the subject, and even more websites and other online resources. Having to grab a book or go to a website to find out, or refresh your memory about, how to do something can really disrupt your workflow. What if you could have a list of the commands that you use available right in your terminal window?

If you’re an Ubuntu user and that’s what you’re looking for, then it’s time to give CLI Companion a look.

CLI Companion?

CLI Companion is a yet another terminal application. But it’s a bit more than that. What sets CLI Companion apart is that you can store commands that you use frequently (or even just every so often). CLI Companion saves those commands in a text file (called a command dictionary) named .clicompanion2 found in your /home directory.

To get CLI Companion, you can download an installer here. After you’ve downloaded it, double-click on the file with the extension .deb to install. You can also install CLI Companion through a Personal Package Archive (PPA). Do that by opening a terminal window and entering the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:clicompanion-devs/clicompanion-nightlies sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install clicompanion

Now that it’s installed, let’s start working with CLI Companion.

Using CLI Companion

Start CLI Companion by selecting Applications > Accessories > CLI Companion. You can then type the command that you want to run in the main area of the CLI Companion window.

CLI Companion main window

Simple enough, but what about the command dictionary? Click on Command List to open it.

CLI Companion command dictionary

CLI Companion comes pre-loaded with a number of commands, ranging from commands to list the contents of a directory to networking commands. To run a command, click on it in the dictionary and then click Run.

You’ll notice that some of the commands in the dictionary have one or more question marks after them. This means that when you run the command, you’ll need to enter some information — for example, a directory path or the name of one or more files. When you run one of those commands, a dialog box pops up asking for the additional information.

Prompting for options

Just type the required information and then click OK.

Saving your own commands

What gives CLI Companion its power and flexibility is the ability for you to add your own commands to the dictionary. This is especially useful if you want to save commands that you use infrequently, but which are handy.

Click the Add button. A dialog box opens.

Dialog box for adding a command

Type the command that you want to run on the Command field. You might need to consult your favorite command line reference. That’s OK. You’ll only need to do it once for a command.

If you need to input one or more options when the command is executed, remember to add the correct number of question marks. Then, type a hint for each option in the User Input field. Finally, type a short description of the command in the Description field.

A custom command

Click OK to save the command. Simple, no?

CLI Companion is a great way to learn the command line, or to refresh your memory about commands that you haven’t used in some time. While I’m no command line tyro, I find CLI Companion very useful. Especially for those commands that I don’t regularly use.

An Introduction to Ubuntu’s Personal Package Archives

UbuntuDo you use Ubuntu? Then you probably know that there really only are a few ways in which you can install software on your computer. Most people use either the Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic Package Manager. Of course, you can compile the software’s source code or install it with a .deb package, but both those routes have their own issues.

While comprehensive, Ubuntu’s official software repository doesn’t contain every application under the sun. And it can be a while before updates to an application filter through to that repository. So what’s an Ubuntu user who wants to stay on the cutting edge to do?

Turn to a Personal Package Archive, that’s what.

A Personal Package What?

A Personal Package Archive (PPA) is a software repository that enables the developer, whose software may or may not be in the official Ubuntu repository, to bring software and updates to that software to users of Ubuntu. Developers host PPAs on Launchpad, a software collaboration site run and maintained by Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu).

Developers upload the source code to Launchpad, and the Launchpad compiles that code into the software that users can install. If you’re a developer, you can find more information about PPAs here.

Why Use a PPA?

The obvious advantage is that you can install and use software that isn’t in the official Ubuntu repositories. That, in itself, is a huge plus. And unlike installing software either by compiling source code or installing a .deb package, you get updates through Ubuntu’s Update Manager. That saves you a bit of time and effort when it comes to installing a new version of an application.

Of course, there is a danger that someone who runs a PPA might be distributing malicious code. While Canonical tries to ensure that doesn’t happen, you never can tell. You need to make sure that you can trust the source.

PPAs from the User’s Perspective

So, you’re an Ubuntu user and run across a nifty piece of software. You immediately want to download it, but find out that it’s only available through a PPA. So what do you do? Well, that depends on the version of Ubuntu you’re using.

In either case, go to the PPA page for the software — for example, the page for the daily builds of the Chromium Web browser. Find the section Adding this PPA to your system.

Adding a PPA in Ubuntu 9.10 or newer

If you’re using Ubuntu 9.10 or newer, find the name of the PPA. It looks something like this:

 ppa:[software_name]/ppa 

Where [software_name] is the application you want to install, for example chromium-daily.

Then, open a terminal window by selecting Applications > Accessories > Terminal. Type the following command in the terminal window to add the PPA:

 sudo add-apt-repository ppa:[software_name]/ppa 

When you’re prompted, enter the password that you use to log into Ubuntu. The PPA is then added to your list of software repositories. Then, type the following command in the terminal window to get the latest list of software from the PPA:

 sudo sudo apt-get update 

You can now install the software using the Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic Package Manager.

Adding a PPA in Older Versions of Ubuntu

If you’re using a version of Ubuntu older than 9.10, the process is a bit different. In the section Adding this PPA to your system, click the link labeled Technical details about this PPA. Then click the dropdown list labeled Display sources.list entries for: and select your version of Ubuntu from the list.

Selecting your version of Ubuntu

Notice the two lines of code below the list. They look something like this:

 deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/chromium-daily/ppa/ubuntu hardy main deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/chromium-daily/ppa/ubuntu hardy main 

Copy those lines of code. Open a terminal window and type the following command to open your list of repositories in the text editor:

 sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list 

Paste the two lines of code at the end of the file and save it. Then, exit the text editor.

Keep the terminal window open and go back the PPA’s Web page in your browser. Look for the the entry on the page labeled Signing key (which verifies the software from the PPA). It looks something like this:

 1024R/4E5E17B5 

Copy the portion after the slash — in the example above, that’s 4E5E17B5. Then, go back to your terminal window and type the following command:

 sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys [key] 

Replace key with the portion of the signing key that you copied. Finally, type the following command in the terminal window to get the latest list of software from the PPA:

 sudo sudo apt-get update 

You can now install the software using Synaptic Package Manager.

Final Thoughts

Using a PPA is a great way to not only to try out new software, but also stay on the bleeding edge of an application that you currently use. It can take a bit of work to add a PPA to your list of software repositories, but once you do, it’s smooth sailing from there.

Using the Linux Command Line with Nautilus Terminal

Nautilus logoOne myth about Linux that just won’t die is that you absolutely need to understand and use the command line to get the most out of it. I know a number of Linux users who’ve never cracked open a terminal window, and they’re quite happy.

That said, I find the command line to be an essential part of my toolkit. And, like much in the Linux world, there are a number of options for getting to the command line. One of my favorites is an add-on for the Nautilus file manager called Nautilus Terminal.

Let’s take a look at it.

A Terminal in Nautilus?

That’s what’s advertised, and that’s what you get. Nautilus Terminal embeds a terminal at the top of the Nautilus window. You can run any command from Nautilus Terminal and no matter what directory you’re in, that’s where the terminal opens.

Nautilus Terminal

And if you move around directories in Nautilus, the terminal follows you. So, if you start in /usr/local/bin and move to the directory /usr/share, Nautilus Terminal changes to /usr/share automatically. No need to use the cd command to move around.

Getting Up and Running

That’s pretty easy. You can download the source code for Nautilus Terminal and compile it yourself. Or, you can get packages for Ubuntu, Fedora, Frugalware, and Gentoo. The Nautilus Terminal download page explains how to get those packages.

Once you’ve installed Nautilus Terminal, fire up Nautilus. The embedded terminal will be open.

Customizing Nautilus Terminal

I don’t know about you, but I find having the terminal open all of the time a bit annoying. It takes up a lot of space and can be distracting. You can either click the Close button to hide the terminal, or you can change the settings by clicking the Preferences icon.

Setting preferences

In the Preferences window, click the Start Nautilus Terminal hidden checkbox.

Notice that you can also change:

  • The number of lines to display in the terminal window
  • Whether or not to show a scrollbar
  • The shape of the cursor in the terminal
  • The colors that you use with Nautilus Terminal
  • The font used in the terminal

Using Nautilus Terminal

Let’s assume you’ve set up Nautilus Terminal to hide until you need it. Whenever you need to use Nautilus Terminal, just click the Show button. From there, type the command(s) that you need to run and then press Enter.

Nautilus Terminal in action

Then, click the Close button and continue with what you’re doing.

While I don’t spend an enormous amount of time in Nautilus, I do quite a bit of work — file management, maintenance, and the like — with it every day. Having an embedded terminal window makes it easier on those frequent occasions when I need to use the command line.

Add Amazing Visual Effects to Ubuntu with Compiz

What Compiz Is

Compiz is a compositing window manager, a program that beautifies the desktop with unique animations and special effects. It can make windows wobble when they are moved, and either explode into pieces or burst into flame and disappear when they are closed. Compiz uses your computer’s video card to manage the behavior of windows and other desktop elements.

Compiz is in the stock Ubuntu repositories and comes pre-installed, so there is no need to download or install it. Rather, it needs only the proper video drivers to run, which we cover in a bit. But first, take a look at some of the great visual effects it can offer.

What Compiz Does

One great feature Compiz adds is the ability to view multiple desktops as a 3D cube. You can even view the cube while playing full-screen video.

compiz cube. fullscreen video
Compiz Cube

You can also add custom images to the tops and bottoms of the Compiz Cube.

Top:

Bottom:

You can also view multiple desktops as a set of 2D slides. The default action to start this is to hold the Ctrl + Alt keys and press the Down arrow key. Then, pressing the left or right arrow keys (while still holding Ctrl + Alt) scrolls among the 4 desktops.

It also has effects like drawing fire on the screen:

compiz draw fire on screen

Raindrops falling on the desktop:

compiz raindrops

How To Configure Compiz

3D hardware acceleration is required for desktop effects, so you need a decent video card with the correct drivers installed. To check, click Menu > Administration > Additional Drivers:

linux video driver options
Menu > Administration > Additional Drivers

If no driver is available, then your PC lacks a suitable video card. You can usually buy an older graphics card that can power Compiz for a low price.

After enabling a driver from the list, the computer must reboot for the changes to take effect.

The next step is to click Menu > Preferences > Compiz Config Settings Manager (CCSM) and play with the options:

Cube Deformation is a property worthy of mention. The cube can transform into a cylinder or sphere, depending on what you want. Click Cube Reflection and Deformation:

compiz deformation main screen
Compiz deformation, main screen

Click the “Deformation” tab and you are presented with 3 options: None, Cylinder, or Sphere:

Cube Reflection and Deformation.
CCSM Deformation Options: None (Cube), Cylinder and Sphere

Cylinder:

compiz deform cylinder

Sphere:

compiz deform sphere

Each option takes effect immediately, so there is no need to restart either the desktop or CCSM. Window events like resizing, opening, closing, minimizing and maximizing each have a selection of fun animations:

compiz animation options

Each animation is configurable to a greater or lesser degree. The animation Fire is a good example. It makes windows go up in flames when opened, closed, minimized or maximized (or all 4), with or without smoke:

compiz fire options

Compiz offers hundreds of options, so take some time to explore and in no time you’ll have a desktop environment tweaked to your liking.

Clean up your Linux computer with Bleach Bit

No matter how careful or fastidious you are, over time a lot of cruft builds up on your computer. Things like cached files, cookies, temporary files, packages, log files, and a whole lot more. All of this builds up and takes up a tens or hundreds of megabytes of disk space.

You can remove all of that cruft yourself, but that can take time. And you might not get everything. Or, you can clean up your computer in one sweep with a powerful and flexible, but easy to use, tool called Bleach Bit.

Available for Linux and Windows, Bleach Bit scours your computer — your home directory and your system folders — to find and remove any bits that get left behind. It can not only clean unneeded system files but also the files that come from about 90 applications including Web browsers, chat clients, PDF readers, databases, and more.

Getting started

The first step is, obviously, to install Bleach Bit. If you’re using Linux, check your distro’s package manager. I installed Bleach Bit in Ubuntu 10.10 using Synaptic. If Bleach Bit isn’t there, go to the download page and find the package for your distro.

If you’re using Windows, you can download installers too. But since I don’t do Windows, this post will look at using Bleach Bit under Linux.

As I mentioned, I installed Bleach Bit in Ubuntu 10.10. To run it, go to System > Administration. You’ll see two items in the menu: Bleach Bit and Bleach Bit as Administrator. One cleans your home directory, and the other cleans out system directories. Let’s take a look at both.

Cleaning your home directory

Of the two options, selecting Bleach Bit from the Administration menu is the safer of the two. You’ll only be able to get rid of cruft in your /home directory. And you’ll be amazed at what collects there!

The left side of the Bleach Bit window contains a list of cleaners (the types of applications and files that Bleach Bit works with). Click a check box beside a cleaner to activate it. When you do that, a little more information about what the cleaner does appears in the right side of the application’s window.

Bleach Bit main screen

After you’ve chosen the cleaners that you want to use, click the Preview button on the toolbar. This will create a list of files that Bleach Bit will delete. It will also tell you how much disk space will be freed up.

Bleach Bit preview screen

As you can see, I haven’t done a cleanup in a while …

When you’re ready, click the Delete button on the toolbar. Depending on the number of cleaners you’ve selected, and the number of files there are, it can take Bleach Bit anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes to do its work.

Go admin or stay at home

Running Bleach Bit as Administrator is a slightly different ball game. In Linux, you need to run it as root. And when you do, the application scans everything outside of your /home folder. Like what? Like the /usr directory and its subdirectories, the /tmp folder, and more.

Other than that, running Bleach Bit as Administrator works in the same way as running it in your /home directory. A few click, a preview, and you’re ready to clean up!

One cleaner that you should approach with caution, though, is Free disk space. This cleaner will overwrite any free disk space to hide hidden files. That’s not a bad thing in of itself, but the process is slow. It can take upwards of an hour to do the job. During that time, your system will bog down noticeably.

Final thoughts

Bleach Bit is a powerful and useful tool. It gives you a fast and easy way to get rid of everything you don’t need on your computer, while at the same time freeing up disk space and improving performance.

Photo credit: solrac_gi_2nd

How to Partition Your Hard Drive for Ubuntu and Windows

Let’s say that, hypothetically, someone read a Techerator article on the new features of Ubuntu 10.1 and decided that they wanted to try it out. After messing around with the Live CD, they opted to do the Ubuntu install inside Windows (Wubi) so that they could still play around with both operating systems without messing up their hard drive.

Now let us assume, hypothetically, that this person’s Windows OS decided to stop working altogether (not because of Wubi, but just because of the laws of computer nature), and now they want to throw caution into the wind and partition the heck out of their hard drive to run both Windows and Ubuntu at the same time.

What’s the best method? Programs like Partition Magic and EASEUS Partition Master do the job just fine and dandy, but is there an easier way? All hypothetical notions aside, let’s explore a few quick alternatives to hard drive partitioning for dual booting Windows and Ubuntu.

Important Note: Modifying your operating system partitions is inherently dangerous and can result in data loss if something goes wrong. Before following any steps in this guide, make sure you feel comfortable with the procedures detailed below, and above all – make a backup!

Modifying A Windows Volume for Free Space

If you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista (sorry XP users), Windows has an option for you under Disk Management that allows for the disk space of the hard drives to be shrunk. To do this, go to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Disk Management. Then just right click on the partition in question and select “Shrink Volume…” to free up disk space.

Right Click the Drive to Start Shrinking

Windows will let you know how much space can be trimmed from the partition (so that no data is chopped during the shrink process). After shrinking the Windows volume, one can then boot up the Ubuntu Live CD and format the free space for an Ubuntu install.

The GParted Method

If your situation is exactly like the hypothetical one mentioned in the beginning of this article, it would be in your best interest to look into a program called GParted that is located on the Ubuntu Live CD. Once the CD is running on your machine (using the Trial Version option), look for Gparted under System -> Administration.

Ubuntu's Partition Solution

This is what the program looks like when loaded up. As one can see, this hard drive has a few partitions on it already, with the main one being Windows (sda5). GParted allows the user to create, delete, and re-format any partition on their hard drive with just a few simple clicks, at their own risk of course.

Dual Booting with GParted

Here’s how our hypothetical person would go about fixing his computer for a dual boot situation. First things first: clearing the 80 GB abomination containing the corrupt and villainous Windows partition.

Heck yes I want to Apply the Pending Operations!

Next, we take that cleared 80 GB and split it into two parts, one for Ubuntu and one for Windows, noting that we can make them any size we want out of the free space.

Note that one of the partitions is in NTFS format (for Windows), and the other is in ext4 format (for Ubuntu). After allowing GParted to finish its splitting task, the hard drive in question looks parted this:

And there you have it: two partitions fully spaced and formatted for a dual boot situation. As always with extensive computer tweaking, be mindful of what you are doing and be sure to be fully understand the risks involved.

This method of creating two different partitions for dual booting is just one way to do it. In actuality, there are numerous ways to format the drive to allow for dual booting with Ubuntu. This website does a great job of giving all the options for a partitioned Ubuntu hard drive. A nice alternative from this site is to try creating small partitions for the base operating system data, and then creating a “Swap” partition to share all your personal data and media between Windows and Ubuntu. Ultimately, whichever method you choose, be mindful of the risks involved with partitioning and formatting and be sure to back up your data.

Final Note: OS Installation

Now that the hard drive is in a condition to allow installing, let me give one more tip for a clean dual boot situation. The main bootloader for Ubuntu 10.1 is called Grub2, and presents itself every time you boot up your computer. If you want to continue having Grub2 manage your operating systems in a dual boot scenario install Windows first on the machine, then Ubuntu. Windows also has a bootloader, and it does not like to show you that there is another OS on the computer. It is a jealous type.

If you make the mistake of installing Ubuntu first then Windows, there are some sites you can go to (here and most importantly here) to see how you can restore the Grub2 using the Ubuntu Live CD and a terminal.

So from one hypothetical computer user to another, join the next generation of users. Become a dual booter today.

Image courtesy: DeclanTM

Ubuntu Updated to 10.10; Can Now Solve the Ultimate Question to Life, The Universe, and Everything

As an exclusive Windows user (with two computers running Windows 7, one running XP, and a Vista boot disk just in case), I find myself in a comfort zone.  Windows has been the bread of my computing life; starting all the way back to good ol’ Windows 95.  But just because I feel safe in the arms of Microsoft, that doesn’t mean I am naïve.

To be frank, the Windows XP installation on my oldest machine has become a burden and a resource hog.  Nothing, even Windows Explorer, is fast anymore.  And this is even after re-installing the darned OS a few times (viruses may or may not have been involved in some of them).  The system just makes me want to shout expletives.

Who would like to stare at this for 20 minutes every morning?

So at 10pm on October 17th of 2010, I switched that machine to Ubuntu.  I had previously dabbled with 8.04 (Hardy Heron) by trying it out on a Live CD, but that was when Microsoft’s clutches still had a considerable hold on me.  Now that 10.10, also known as Maverick Meerkat, has been released, I fully expect myself to give Ubuntu the college try and hopefully show Windows XP the door.

So let’s take a tour of Ubuntu, shall we?

Installation

First off, downloading the ISO and installing Ubuntu was easier than brushing your teeth.  And look at all these options!  Ubuntu 10.10 lets you partition, un-partition, boot from the CD, and run right alongside Windows without any major disruptions in booting or partitioning (it’s known as Wubi, and it comes standard).  Furthermore, if you are already running Ubuntu you can just update using the Update Manager.

Updated Software Center

Hey look, they had exactly what I was looking for.

Since Ubuntu is the ultimate freeware OS, it is obvious that having a good Software Center is essential.  Ubuntu 10.10 creates a very user friendly option for searching and installing new applications, and has added “Featured” and “What’s New” sections on the main page to keep yourself with the “in” crowd.  For the most part, a simple search in this repository can find equivalent programs to do tasks and jobs that old software did in Windows or Mac.  And like the Android market, this Center keeps on growing and growing and growing…

Shotwell

Its a screenshot of Shotwell organizing screenshots of Shotwell. Whoa.

It's called art. Deal with it.

When it comes to images in Ubuntu 10.10, F-Spot is out and Shotwell is in.  Now I don’t necessarily know why Ubuntu made the switch for it’s default image program, but I can say that both have the same bells and whistles.  Both applications allow for importing and exporting images, editing images with tools like red-eye detection, cropping,  and color enhancements, and uploading the images to media outlets like Flickr and Facebook.  Also, if one is upgrading from F-Spot to Shotwell, there is an import button to ease one’s transitioning woes.  But ultimately if Shotwell doesn’t fit one’s fancy, it can always be uninstalled and replaced by F-Spot via the Software Center.

Quick Access to Email, Chat, Etc.

Information overload.

Were these features always in Ubuntu?  Oh, well they look new to me.  Right off the bat, Ubuntu makes it a cinch to chat and update yourself in real time.  The three main items Ubuntu brings to the table are Empathy for messaging, Gwibber for social updating, and Evolution for email.  Typing in all those account passwords into these programs might take a while, but it’s definitely worth it.  Lord knows we all like simplicity when it comes to getting information and sharing it, and these programs do the trick.

Ubuntu One

Welcome to the cloud.

Ubuntu One is all about cloud  computing.  Like Dropbox, Ubuntu One grabs your attention by giving you 2GB of free space in the cloud to sync, back-up, and stream your files anywhere you want.  But unlike Dropbox, Ubuntu One also syncs any contacts, bookmarks, and notes from Ubuntu that enter its domain.  And if one is feeling even more ambitious with their One account, they can get their Android or Apple mobile phone (with a monthly subscription fee) to stream music straight from their Rythmbox library.

Netbook Edition

Hey look, its Ubuntu...but SMALLER

So far so good, right?  Well Ubuntu took things a step further with 10.10.  Not only is there a desktop version and a server version, but now a netbook version as well.  Well okay, so the Netbook Edition is not a completely new thing for Ubuntu (See Ubuntu 8.04 and 9.04, filed under “Remix”), but this new netbook OS is considered new in most aspects.  Called Ubuntu Unity, the system boasts a clean user interface with quick access to preferred and commonly used applications.  Besides that, it runs exactly like Ubuntu 10.10 on the desktop.  Simple social networking, fast performance, and access to all the software you want.  What more could one ask for?

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.  Some new Ubuntu things, some old Ubuntu things, and a rookie Ubuntu user questions his place in the realm of Microsoft.  It is pretty clear that the open source giant Linux is getting things right on this one.  Fast access, free and comparable software, and simple interfacing makes this a solid replacement to XP, or any other OS for that matter.

Now it may not completely break me from my Microsoft habit, but it surely makes me reconsider.  I mean, let’s be honest here.  If Ubuntu keeps raising the bar like this, we may discover the mysteries of the universe sooner than expected.

How to Automatically Install the Newest Version of Firefox in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

firefox-logo-wordmark-verticalIt can take quite a while for updated versions of software to make it to Ubuntu’s illustrious software repository (the software must be customized and approved before it can be listed) – which has left Firefox users hanging for months waiting for it to be updated to version 3.5+.  Mozilla doesn’t offer the easy-to-use .deb installer for Firefox, so in this guide I’ll show you how to use Ubuntuzilla to update Firefox without Ubuntu’s repository.

Updating Firefox with Ubuntuzilla

Step 1: Download the correct version of the .deb installer from Ubuntuzilla’s download page.  Once downloaded, install it by double clicking the .deb file and follow the instructions.

Step 2: Close Firefox completely.  This may present some problems since you’re likely reading this guide from within Firefox, so write down the next steps or print this page.

Step 3: Start Ubuntuzilla by opening Terminal (typically under Applications –> Accessories –> Terminal or press ALT+F2 and type gnome-terminal.  Type the following command to start the program:

ubuntuzilla.py -a install -p firefox

Step 4: Ubuntuzilla will ask you to confirm the correct version of Firefox, choose a language (US English users will want to use option 14), confirm your language choice, and enter your password before installing.  Once you have completed those steps, Ubuntuzilla will backup your current settings and begin downloading and installing the newest version of Firefox.

Step 5: If everything went well, you should see The new Firefox version X.X.X (fill in the blanks) has been installed successfully. Before finishing, Ubuntuzilla will give you the option let it automatically check for updates to Firefox and notify when they are available.

The newest version of Firefox will now be installed – it can be launched from your Applications menu or by typing firefox in Terminal.

Manually Updating Firefox Later

If a new version of Firefox is released and you want to update without performing a full reinstallation, you can use Firefox’s built-in update feature to streamline the process.

Step 1: Close Firefox completely.

Step 2: Enter one of the following commands in Terminal to launch Firefox as a root user:

In Gnome:  gksudo firefox &
In KDE:  kdesu firefox &

Make sure to type gksudo and not just sudo! Sudo will mess up your profile permissions, according to Ubuntuzilla’s wiki page.

Step 3: In Firefox, click Help –> Check for Updates.  If an update is available, it will be downloaded.  Click Restart Firefox Now when prompted.  Firefox will restart as root again, so close and re-open it and you are finished.