After using Windows 7 for a long while, I got bored and wanted to give Ubuntu another go-around. For the uninitiated, Ubuntu is an operating system that is free for you to use and tinker with. It’s a GNU/Linux distribution and development is spearheaded by a for-profit company called Canonical (which is run by a South African billionaire, Mark Shuttleworth). Major updates to the operating system are pushed out every six month thus guaranteeing that things are always going to be kept fresh/updated. I went with Ubuntu primarily because I like how it looks out of the box. By accounts, Canonical/Ubuntu has done a lot to ensure that their Linux distribution is user friendly which has made Ubuntu, the recommended distro of choice for newbies. This post will talk about my experience with installing Ubuntu and applications that have made my transition from Windows to Ubuntu less jarring & worth the move.
If you’ve decided to make the switch, please make sure sure you have backups. I like to talk about backups because not having them is devastating when you need them. Here is a small
rehash review of things to think of backing up:
- Browser bookmarks: If you use Chrome, you should’ve enabled the Google “Backup” feature baked into Chrome. In Firefox, export your bookmarks by going to “Bookmarks” and selecting “Organize bookmarks”.
- Address book and/or Calendar appointments: Outlook can backup your calendar & addressbook in comma or tab separated values or in the proprietary .pst format. Pick your poison; Just make sure the email program you intend on using in Ubuntu can support import of the backed up file. To be on the safe side, I never use Post Office Protocol (POP) for accessing my emails through my email client; IMAP is the way to go. That way, you don’t have to worry about keeping your emails on disk.
- Music files (pay particular attention to backing up your Amazon MP3 files because you can only download them once or twice!), painstakingly handcrafted music playlists, important photographs or screencaptures, downloaded video files, free/paid downloaded programs, etc
- Above all, make sure those important items are on an external hard drive and not on the disk that you are about to wipe! Once you’ve done this step, it wouldn’t hurt to have a full disk backup which you can do via Windows 7’s built-in Backup Program or using Acronis True Image.
The Ubuntu Installation Process
- As of 02/27/2011, the current version of Ubuntu is 10.10 dubbed “Maverick Meerkat”. Make sure you have the right architecture type i.e. if your notebook is a 64-bit computer, download the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. Burn the .iso file to a DVD file using ImgBurn on Windows 7. Label this disk with the date and Ubuntu version. Insert the Ubuntu disk into your notebook’s CD/DVD tray and restart your computer. On HP notebooks, you may have to tell the computer to boot up from the CD/DVD drive. You can do that by pressing “Esc” (on the dv7-3080us notebook) once you see the HP logo appear about 1-2 seconds after the computer starts back up. If pressing the “Esc” key doesn’t work for you, make sure you know what that key is by closely observing any text that you see the next time your computer boots up. On my notebook, I have to press “F9” to navigate to the BIOS boot up options and tell the computer to look in my CD/DVD drive. Once you’ve done that, the computer restarts and boots up from the disk in your CD/DVD drive.
- The last version of Ubuntu I used was 9.04 so I noticed that the Ubuntu installer got tweaked and made the process of partitioning or wiping my hard disk easier. At some point, I do want to know more about my system, but this time, I was content with letting the Ubuntu installer be the smart one. In my case, I chose to wipe my entire hard disk. If you are interested in running both Ubuntu and Windows off the same disk, I’ve read that it’s best to install Windows first before installing whatever distro you have next.
- While the new installer is running, you’ll have to enter details like your first and last name, username for logging in, and whether or not you want to encrypt your home folder. I opted to encrypt my home folder to ensure my data would remain unreadable if someone decided to pop my hard disk out to read in a different computer.
After The Installation
- One of the first things that happened on the reboot was: Update manager popped up with almost 300 mb of updates. Whatever you do, it’s always a good thing to run Update Manager (or Windows Updates) after a fresh install first. While my updates were downloading, I took the opportunity to start copying my files from the external hard disk over to my /home folder. I tried to avoid doing any customization until I restarted the computer after this first set of updates.
- My notebook has an Nvidia graphics card and there is a proprietary driver available for it. Thankfully, Ubuntu detected this and I was able to download and install this as well. If you’re big on gaming, you’ll want to install this driver as it enabled 3D acceleration and unlocks some more functionality.
With Windows 7, I had 2 apps that I would *always* reinstall whenever I reformatted my notebook:
- Camtasia Studio: Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio always made the list because it made creating videos, of whatever I was doing on my computer, ridiculously easy.
- SnagIt: Another TechSmith production and a must-have because it made creating screen captures painless and annotating those screen captures even easier.
- Shutter: Shutter is written in Perl and stands heads-and-shoulders above the other screen capture contenders in the Ubuntu Software Center. Created by Shutter-Project.org, Shutter makes screen captures in Ubuntu as painless as SnagIt is. To be fair, Shutter is not as snappy as SnagIt, but for a free product, I was blown away. Check out my Min.us gallery of the options available with Shutter or look at this animated image (created in GIMP! :P)showing all the options available in Shutter.
- Min.us: is a photo-sharing site that I found out via HackerNews. Since my switch to Ubuntu, my use of the Min.us service has soared and allowed me to see just how useful this website is. You see, I didn’t realize that my method of sharing my files was archaic & painful until I used the Min.us desktop tool.Previously, TwitPic was the photosharing site I used and uploading pictures to the TwitPic service looked like this:
- Visit the TwitPic website
- Login with their horrendous Twitter authorization system; Caveat: If you’re logged into Twitter.com, you’ll automatically get logged into TwitPic. If not, you have to suffer through this image every.time.
- Click the link that takes me to the “File Upload” page
- Upload my file, have to annotate it right away. Also, remember to uncheck the “broadcast to Twitter” box; bad TwitPic.
- Highlight and copy the url for sharing.
In fact, it was *better* for me to use Tweetdeck to upload images to my TwitPic account!
Anyway, I needed a better means of dragging-and-dropping to share my screenshots from Ubuntu and Min.us has a very simple solution; On Ubuntu, download the .deb file and install it (which should bring up the Ubuntu Software Center).
With Min.us, your photo-sharing steps are reduced to this:
- Go to the Min.us website
- Drag and drop your file on to the Min.us webpage
- One-click sharing of the screenshot to: Twitter, Reddit, Digg, Facebook, StumbleUpon or good old-fashioned E-mail. Or copy the conveniently provided URL to your clipboard for sharing in IM chats or blog posts like this one. 🙂
Visit the TwitPic website. Login with their horrendous Twitter authorization system; Caveat: If you’re logged into Twitter.com, you’ll automatically get logged into TwitPic. If not, you have to suffer through this image every.time. Click the link that takes me to the “File Upload” page Upload my file, have to annotate it right away Highlight and copy the url for sharing.
The developers are connected to their growing base of user via the @mindotus twitter account, the Min.us Facebook page and the Min.us feedback forum. In my experience, they have been very responsive to issues I’ve had such as the problem installing the Min.us desktop tool on my 64-bit Ubuntu system. When installing the Min.us desktop tool on x64 Ubuntu, you will get this message:
- Fire up the terminal and type “sudo dpkg -i –force-architecture /path/to/minusubuntu.deb“. You’ll be prompted for your password; Enter it.
- You’ll get this warning:
dpkg: warning: overriding problem because –force enabled: package architecture (i386) does not match system (amd64)
and be alerted to more potential dependency problems:
Selecting previously deselected package minus-desktop-tool.
(Reading database … 164082 files and directories currently installed.)
Unpacking minus-desktop-tool (from …/jane/Downloads/minusubuntu.deb) …
dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of minus-desktop-tool:
minus-desktop-tool depends on libqt4-gui (>= 4.7); however:
Package libqt4-gui is not installed.
minus-desktop-tool depends on libqt4-core (>= 4.7); however:
Package libqt4-core is not installed.
dpkg: error processing minus-desktop-tool (–install):
dependency problems – leaving unconfigured
Processing triggers for desktop-file-utils …
Processing triggers for python-gmenu …
Processing triggers for python-support …
Errors were encountered while processing:
- The key takeaway from that glob of text is that: you need to install the following packages: libqt4-gui and libqt4-core. Do this by typing:
“apt-get install libqt4-gui libqt4-core” which should spit out this message:
The following extra packages will be installed: libqt4-designer libqt4-opengl libqt4-script libqt4-svg libqt4-test
The following NEW packages will be installed: libqt4-core libqt4-designer libqt4-gui libqt4-opengl libqt4-script libqt4-svg libqt4-test
- As for Camtasia Studio alternatives, I’ve currently working with Pitivi Video Editor (reviewed on LWN) and recently released OpenShot Video Editor. So far, I’m cautiously optimistic about OpenShot which was featured on LWN.net.