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Ringtail from scratch

By Chin Wong | May. 14, 2013 at 12:01am
BECAUSE I used the Software Updater to upgrade to Ubuntu 13.04 on my desktop PC, I didn’t have to set up my desktop and applications all over again.

This week, however, I did a clean install on my aging Acer AspireOne netbook to see how well the new OS, also known as Raring Ringtail, would perform on the kind of low-powered machine for which it was designed. The modest specs—1.6GHz Atom processor, 1GB of memory and a 40GB hard drive—seemed perfect for that purpose.

Like the last time I tried this, the Ubuntu installer does not play nice with a system that already has an existing partition, even though that partition is an older version of Ubuntu you wish to erase and overwrite. If you want to avoid boot problems later, make sure you first run Ubuntu 13.04 off the LiveCD or USB (select “Try Ubuntu” instead of “Install”) and run the Disks application (Click on the Ubuntu logo in the launcher and type “Disks”) and format your hard disk. After you’ve done this, you can click the “Install Ubuntu” icon in your launcher to put a clean installation of Raring on your machine.

To get your new system ready for prime time, here are 10 steps you can take:

1. Protect your privacy. If you don’t like the idea of Ubuntu sharing your search information with third-party vendors, go to Dash (click on the Ubuntu logo in the launcher), type Privacy and run the application. Turn off online search results and Record Activity.

2. Get proprietary goodies. As with any new version of Ubuntu, you’ll want to install some copyrighted goodies that will give you the core Microsoft Truetype fonts, Flash, Java and the ability to play the most common multimedia files (MP3s and AVIs, for example). To do this, simply go to the Ubuntu Software Center and search for Restricted Extras and install it.

3. Get Unity tweak tools. I’ve grown to like Ubuntu’s Unity interface and launcher, but only after I’ve tweaked them to my satisfaction. To install a tweak tool for Unity, type the following in a terminal window (Ctrl-Alt-T):

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

In the Dash (click on the Ubuntu logo in the launcher), type “Unity” to find and run Unity Tweak Tool. Use the tool to reduce the size of the launcher icons and set the launcher to auto-hide to reclaim some space on your desktop.

Another handyinterface tweak is Classic Menu Indicator, which I find makes it easier to find your applications. To install, type the following lines, one after the other, in a terminal window:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install python-gmenu classicmenu-indicator

You may need to log out and log in again to find the menu at the top right of your screen, next to the battery indicator.

4. Get cloud storage and synchronize files. To get my netbook to synchronize with my other computers, I installed Dropbox. Simply download the DEB file from the Web site (www.dropbox.com) and run it with Software Center. Although UbuntuOne, which already comes installed, offers the same functionality, I’ve found Dropbox to be generally more reliable and more efficient.

5. Get a better file manager. As we said last week, the new default file manager of Ubuntu 13.04 left out many nifty features (like two-pane mode) it had in its earlier release. Restore them by installing Nemo. In a terminal window, type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install nemo

6. Get a great image editing program. If you’re serious about manipulating photos and graphics, Go to Software Center and install Gimp, the most powerful open source image editing program. Once upon a time, Gimp was installed along with the operating system. This is no longer the case, but that’s easy enough to fix.

7. Get a more versatile media player. Go to Software Center and install VLC, which will play most multimedia files without a hitch.

8. Gain control of your eye candy. Ubuntu uses Compiz to create many of the cool screen effects and animations. You can get better control of these by installing a settings manager for Compiz. In a terminal window, type:

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra

Exercise caution when playing with the Compiz settings. Some of them might crash Unity.

9. Get faster updates. Sometimes, the default server that Ubuntu chooses for you isn’t the fastest one available. Click on the Settings icon (the wrench and wheel), choose Software and Updates, then choose “Other” in the Download from window. Click on Select Best Server, which will perform a number of tests on existing servers to find the best one for you.

10. If you’re using Ubuntu on a laptop, get better battery life. In a terminal window, type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw

This will install TLP, an advanced power management tool for Linux systems. TLP will run whenever you start up your system. Chin Wong

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com
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