Ubuntu tips

I’ve been using Ubuntu linux for a nearly six months now…  As of last month, I’ve been using it exclusively while at home.  This is a small collection of the things I’ve learned.

This one I kinda stayed away from for my first couple weeks…  I have a tendency to be stubborn and try to do everything myself.  Boy was that a mistake!  Automatix has been rapidly improving since the release of Dapper Drake (the latest version of Ubuntu) and it’s definitely the easiest way to get all those not-quite-free programs and other things that most people don’t know exist.  Get it here.  The instructions are fairly detailed and right on the front page.  One thing though…  don’t install everything unless you’re sure what it is.  Trust me.  ;D

UPDATE: The methods listed here aren’t the best solution any more.  Check out this post for more details!

If you have a modern graphics card and you want your desktop to flow, you need XGL/Compiz.  There’s a great tutorial for setup here.  Compiz is NOT perfect.  Hell, it isn’t even close.  It’s alpha software in every sense of the word.  You will have video artifacting, you will have phantom windows, you will have issues out the wazoo if you try it now, but you know what?  I still had more problems with windows than I do with Compiz, and Compiz tells you it’s alpha software…  A little food for thought for you.  As a side note, I used Method B: Make Xgl Your Standard Display Server for my XGL and Method C: Toggle for my Compiz.  While there isn’t exactly an advantage to the Method B for Xgl (it’s just a bit simpler to use), there is a major advantage to using Method C for Compiz…  All you do is create the toggle-compiz.sh file, toss it in your /usr/bin folder, make it executable, and put toggle-compiz.sh in your System->Preferences->Sessions on the Startup tab.  Now any time you have some graphical issue that requires you to restart Compiz, just open a terminal and type toggle-compiz.sh twice.  Problem solved!  Plus, any user of the machine can execute the script and use Compiz!

Improve Performance
I’ve used a few of the tweaks on this page to speed things up a bit (not that it’s really necessary).  I’m afraid to try InitNG because it’s apparently not 100% stable yet.  Now, I’m all about screwing with my X server, because I know my way around a terminal…  Messing with the bootup options?  One mistake and the machine won’t boot!  I of course could just reinstall, but hey, better safe than sorry.  I reboot my machine maybe once every two weeks now?  Big deal.  The best tweak on this page is picking the right kernel.  If you’re running Ubuntu for 32 bit machines, pick k7 for AMD processors and i686 for Intels.  If you use the 64 bit version, you should already have the right kernel.

Keyboard Shortcuts
There are lots of keyboard shortcuts, but the ones I use most often are Alt+F2 to open a run dialog, and Ctrl+Alt+Left/Right to change desktops.  Of course many of the windows key commands work too, like Alt+Tab.  Try things til you figure out what you can do!  Doesn’t hurt to play around!

Automatic Login
If you’re the only one with physical access to your machine (or you just don’t care if other people get on), you can set up auto-login so you don’t have to type your password to get to the desktop.  This doesn’t exempt you from using a password to perform administrative tasks (like using sudo or gksudo), but it saves a hot second.  Go to System->Administration->Login Window and check the Security tab.  You’ll find it there.

Make AIM links work with GAIM
This one’s nice.  Make sure you didn’t install Gaim 2.0 Beta when you were using Automatix earlier, otherwise this tutorial won’t work for you.  If you didn’t, you’ll really enjoy the new functionality!

Setting up your MX1000 mouse
I have one of these and I was none too happy that the extra buttons didn’t work out of the box!  Luckily I found this entry that gave a very detailed account of how to get the mouse working perfectly.  Even sideways scrolling works!

No sound in Firefox?
I’ve heard of some people not having sound in Firefox.  No problem!  Check out this fix.

Using multiple sound cards
You might have more than one sound card.  Maybe one onboard and one pci or usb.  I often switch soundcards and it causes problems left and right.  I found that if you delete the .asoundrc file from your home directory, everything seems to resolve itself at the next login.  If you have issues, give it a shot.

Windows apps
If you absolutely need to play a game that’s only in windows, give wine a shot.  Use the info here to install and you should be fine.  Wine doesn’t always work, but you never know!  If you have sound issues in wine, try the audio fix above… it worked for me when I had no sound at all (multiple sound cards).

Using locate to find files
One thing I always have trouble with is trying to figure out where a certain config file is.  Next time you’re trying to find it…  try this:

sudo updatedb

locate filename

This is in no way secure (lets anyone see any filename, you might not want that), but its easy, and if you’re the only one with access to the machine?  Meh.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of right now.  If I remember any other problems I encountered while migrating, I’ll be sure to update this post or at least link to the new one.

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