My Workarounds in Ubuntu and Getting Weaned Off Windows.

However, there are alternatives to the key programs I’m missing such as Microsoft Office Outlook which is being replaced by Evolution Mail. I’m getting used to Evolution‘s email interface and finding out that it’s not so bad. I imported my contacts and while it wasn’t smooth (i.e. mis-identifying imported items), it’s doing the job of checking my email for me. 🙂 So here goes (it’s an evolving list):

1. On my Vista laptop, I found 7zip indispensable because it was fast and integrated itself into the Windows explorer environment. On Ubuntu, my alternative to 7zip is the built-in Archive Manager, which can also be accessed by typing “file-roller” into a terminal window. In fact, after a couple of uses, I’m growing to appreciate the speed of this utility. I’m sure there is a way make an entry into the context-menu, but until then, I’m settling for managing file archives via Archive Manager.

2. When I was using Windows, Cyberlink Youcam was rather terrific for making silly videos as well as for video chat because it had a wealth of fun additions like the whiteboard, effects, etc The closest I have come to on Ubuntu is the Cheese Webcam booth. Currently, the videos it takes are just as high-quality as Cyberlink Youcam’s, to my uneducated eyes. 🙂 The effects are cheesy and there’s really not much to it beyond taking webcam snapshots and videos. Editing the webcam and videos will have to happen a different program, but Cheese Webcam Booth is free and demonstrably works. Check out the two items under “Preferences”.
Ubuntu Cheese Webcam preferences

3) Microsoft Office 2007 is a thing of beauty and I particularly enjoyed creating documents with it. Now, being on Ubuntu has forced me to consider alternatives such as AbiWord and the Open Office suite of products. The user interface for Open Office is really archaic (in my view) and a little confusing for me. However, I’ve gotten the basic commands I need to survive and I’ll keep adding more skills to my repertoire. The preferences menu in Open Office is really scatterbrained and I hope Open Office 3.0 will bring some sort of order/sense into it. Maybe I’m severely biased (after 7 years of Microsoft Office), but I am willing to put Open Office through its paces and make sense out of it. 🙂 Wish me luck!

4. Security on Linux: This is the biggest scare for me because I was reasonably adept at staying secure on my laptop when it had Vista on it. Now, I’m learning things like the Linux filesystem does not need defragmentation, there aren’t very many dedicated security suites for Ubuntu/Linux or those available are for server-grade protection, etc. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated, but I’m doing my due diligence by reading up on ways to keep my computer protected from intruders. For instance, I’ve enabled the built-in Ubuntu firewall (ufw) and I currently use Firestarter to observe the kind of traffic that’s leaving and entering my computer. I haven’t created any custom rules because I dread accidentally locking myself out one of these days.

5. Secure remote access: This is the downside (for now) of switching to Linux. On my Vista installation, I had installed Logmein Pro and I had a dooms-day plan hatched out whereby I would be able to take pictures of any criminal using my laptop to get online or even wipe my data. Now, I’m kinda stuck with messing around with finicky VNC clients, etc. Hopefully, my online scourings will turn up a useful utility like Logmein that I can use to remotely access my computer. A name that keeps popping up as a robust remote access solution is NoMachine’s NX Free Edition. I gave it a whirl, but was unable to get it to work on my Linux laptop. There are other Virtual Network Computing solutions out there (RealVNC, UltraVNC, TightVNC, etc), but they are all way over my head at this point. I’m settling for doing a whole lot of reading and simply learning to fortify my computer against computer varmints. 🙂 In that respect, I’ve enabled OpenSSH server on my laptop and changed the default port (22) to something else. That action probably threw a monkey wrench in to my NXServer configuration, but I’m a little tired. lol.

6. Secure online surfing: My method of staying under the radar while surfing was through SSH tunneling. To be able to perform “SSH tunneling”, you need access to an SSH server and there are a few free SSH servers out there. On Ubuntu/Linux, I installed the Gnome SSH tunnel manager (search for ‘gstm’ using the Synaptic Package Manager which is like the Windows “add and remove” programs feature with awesomeness added. lol) and because I have Firefox, I’ve got the Foxyproxy plugin to toggle the tunneling session on or off!

That’s about it for now. More to come! Cheers.

Wiping off Windows and installing Ubuntu

Welcome back to part 3 of my foray into the Ubuntu/Linux system. To recap:

  1. I installed Ubuntu/Linux as a virtual machine on my Windows Vista Ultimate Laptop using Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. Things worked really well on it that I decided to give the Ubuntu/Linux operating system a more thorough look.
  2. I decided to partition my hard disk (cue pain and suffering) and I fell even more in love with the Ubuntu/Linux operating system’s ease of use and ‘quickness’, for lack of a better word.
  3. Now, I decided it was time for a complete switch-over to Ubuntu.

This was actually the easiest thing to do. I popped in the Ubuntu Live CD and restarted my laptop. Your computer’s BIOS should (by default) boot from a  CD/DVD if present and that is what my laptop did. I booted into the operating system and once I had an internet connection going, I began the installation process by clicking the “Install” icon which was on the desktop (default behaviour).

After answering standard questions about the user name, time zone, etc, the time came to select what partition to install Ubuntu to and this time, I selected “Guided partion – use the entire disk”. Again, be very aware that this will wipe off everything that was on the disk before. As I’ve said so many times:

  1. I have, at least, 2 current disk images of my previous Windows Vista installation, thanks to Acronis Disk Image. I also created an Acronis Recovery Media Disk which I can use to restore my disk images (this is part of the Acronis True Image home product).
  2. I have copies of the actual exe or msi files that I can use to reinstall all my prized Windows programs so that I don’t have to cough up any more money.
  3. If my Disk Image restore failed or got corrupted, I’ve got file backups of my documents so that I can simply restore Windows via my computer’s recovery CD/DVDs and then, copy over my files.
  4. I did all of this before I started tinkering with my windows partition, etc so I’m reasonably assured that the files aren’t corrupt.
  5. That out of the way, i confidently hit “Start” and in less than 2 hrs (could be less), I had a working installation of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Wireless connection

The first thing I did was to install all security updates that were presented to me. Clearly, to do this, I had to get my internet connection going and it was as simple as clicking (left click) on the network connection sign (a series of bars) by the clock (top-right corner of the screen). I identified my home network’s SSID and clicked on it. Bam! I was live on the intarwebs. 🙂 Installing the updates was a breeze and I simply restarted the computer when it was done.

Next, I set up the bluetooth pair between my laptop and my hp bluetooth mouse. The key to this was performing the pairing operation after all updates had been installed on the laptop so that the system had the most up-to-date information. Thus, when I hit “setup a new device” after right-clicking the bluetooth icon, my mouse was detected and I set it to be always visible.

I’m still working on trying to get some sort of functionality out of pairing my Palm Treo 750 with Ubuntu. I already have my contacts pulled off the phone, but I would like to be able to access my palm treo as a virtual filesystem, perhaps. It’s confusing, but I’m willing to learn. 🙂 I’m still working on not missing a bunch of my prized Windows utilities like TechSmith‘s products (Camtasia Studio 6 which I used for producing short videos and Snagit for screen captures), Acronis True Image (for set-it-and-forget-it file and whole disk backups), Microsoft Office Outlook (for managing my email, appointments and my phone contacts), etc.

Up next, an overview of programs I’m getting used to in Ubuntu as replacements for my Microsoft Windows staples and difficulties I have encountered with the Ubuntu system. 🙂 Cheers!