Archive for the 'Ubuntu' Category

Xubuntu upgrade: from Heron to Ibex

Usually I install Xubuntu afresh when a new release arrives. This time along, though, I felt like upgrading from Xubuntu 8.04 to Xubuntu 8.10.

The first thing to consider is that Xubuntu 8.04 is a “Long Term Support” release, meaning that it’ll receive security updates for a longer period of time than normal releases. Thus, people using this version won’t need to upgrade Xubuntu every six months when a new version is released. The consequence is that you will not be notified of a new normal release when it arrives.

In order to be able to start the upgrade process, you’ll need to start the Software Sources application from Applications->System. In that application, under the Updates tab, you can select which new distribution releases you want to be notified of at the bottom. By default, this is set to Long term support releases only, but to upgrade to Xubuntu 8.10 you’ll want to set this to Normal releases.



With that set, when you start the Update Manager (Applications->System), you will be notified that a new distribution release is available. To start the upgrade process, just click the Upgrade button on top.



This will then pop up a screen containing the release notes of the new release, which unfortunately are Ubuntu-specific.



After confirming that you want to upgrade, Xubuntu will download an upgrade tool. It will start preparing the upgrade and will update your software sources to make sure you will be downloading software for the newer version. No need to worry though: if you press Cancel, the original configuration will be restored and any other edits the tool might have made will be reverted.





When information has been gathered about the upgrade, a new confirmation window will appear providing an overview of what is going to be done and giving you another chance to back off if you got scared. It also advises you to close all open applications to prevent loss of data – wise words indeed.

Of course, it is always recommended to make a backup of important documents and settings before you upgrade.



Before the upgrade could continue, a window popped up informing me that the (proprietary) driver for my graphics card was no longer available in the new version, giving me another chance to abort the upgrade. I opted to continue and take the risk of losing my shiny desktop effects (due to needing to use the open source driver), but was relieved to find that they still worked after the upgrade – I did not even need to redo the steps to install Compiz in Xubuntu. That said, this does not mean I recommend you to ignore the warning – I have too little knowledge of graphics cards and their drivers to be giving sensible advise on that.



The upgrade tool will then start downloading the packages of the new version. This will take a while (essentially it’s downloading new versions of most of your applications in their entirety) – the final stage in which you will still have the option to cancel the upgrade. Isn’t that great? 🙂



With the packages downloaded, the tool will start installing them – from this point on there’s no going back!





During the installation of the new packages, you might get some questions about newer configuration files overwriting older ones (I got most of these at the end of this process, so you can make yourself some coffee while it’s installing the bulk of new packages 😉 ). In most cases, you’ll probably want the new one unless you recognise the file and know that you need the alterations you made to that file. Going with the default options is often sensible as well.





When the new versions are installed, the upgrade tool will try to remove as much cruft as it can find.







Finally, the upgrade process is almost complete – all it needs you to do to finish it off is to restart your computer and cross your fingers that the upgrade went smoothly and your system is still usable.



As said, I had been warned that the driver for my graphics card was no longer available, but luckily the Hardware Drivers application (Applications->System) pointed out that another proprietary driver was available that allowed me to enable Compiz again.



All in all, the upgrade was a generally a pleasing experience to me, and I hope and expect you will feel the same.

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Ubuntu from your flash drive – easier than ever before

As you have probably noticed, new versions have arrived of Ubuntu, Xubuntu and other derivatives. One of the most exciting new features has received far less publicity than it deserves – the ability to “install” it onto your USB flash drive with just a few clicks.

The advantages are obvious: just plug your flash drive into a computer and run your favourite operating system. What’s more, everything you do — installing applications, saving documents, editing preferences — will be saved to your flash drive and will be available to you every time you run it!

The best news is that it’s astoundingly easy: all it takes is a few clicks.

Of course, there are a few requirements. First, you can only run it on computers that support booting from a USB flash drive – this is the case for most computers nowadays. Secondly, you must have a CD or a CD image. The latter can be downloaded free of charge – I, obviously, downloaded Xubuntu. Third, you’ll need to install usb-creator, the new application that is readily available in version 8.10 but which you can also download and install on version 8.04 (with Windows and Qt versions planned). And, last but not least, you’ll obviously need to have a USB flash drive.

Once installed, you can find it in your menu as Create a USB startup disk (on Xubuntu it is located under Applications->System, in Ubuntu this would be System->Administration, IIRC).



The first thing you’ll need to do is to insert the flash drive you’re planning to use. Usb-creator will then detect the drive – if multiple flash drives are inserted, you can pick from a list which one you want to use, and if the drive isn’t formatted yet usb-creator will give you the option to do so (note that this will destroy all files on it!).

The next step is inserting the appropriate CD into your CD drive, or loading the CD image you downloaded before by clicking Other….



Finally, you’ll need to configure whether you want all your documents, settings and applications to be discarded on shutdown (i.e. act as a regular LiveCD) or if you want to save them to your flash drive (this is called persistency, or persistent mode). If you pick the latter, you’ll also be able to select how much space you want to reserve for this.

Do note that usb-creator will not overwrite existing files on the drive – thus, if you want to use your entire drive, you’ll first have to delete all existing files.

Now, with everything configured, click Make Startup Disk, and sit back and relax while usb-creator prepares your flash drive.



You can do something entirely different now, like reading the rest of this blog, viewing all my screenshots of usb-creator, whatever you like. Once usb-creator is finished, it will notify you that it’s done. All that’s left now is to boot your computer from your flash drive and have fun 🙂



Troubleshooting

If persistency does not work, you might need to edit the file text.cfg in the syslinux folder on your flash drive. Just replace the line default livewith the following lines, adding a new Start Xubuntu option to the boot screen the next time you boot. Note that you might want to replace occurences of “Xubuntu” with the name of the distro you’re using. This has been tested with Xubuntu 8.10;

default persistent
label persistent
menu label ^Start Xubuntu
kernel /casper/vmlinuz
append file=/cdrom/preseed/xubuntu.seed boot=casper initrd=/casper/initrd.gz quiet splash persistent
--

Getting help with Xubuntu

Even though I’d very much like to say the opposite, most people will probably need help with Xubuntu at some point. Luckily, it is quite easy to find help – you just need to know where to look.

First of all, you need to determine what kind of problem you are having.

Getting started

If you are new to Xubuntu, you will want to read the excellent Xubuntu documentation, that is also shipped with Xubuntu (in version 8.04 it is located under /usr/share/xubuntu-docs/index.html). It should be your first stop when trying to figure out how to connect to the internet, how to install applications, and similar basic tasks. All this thanks to the huge, voluntary efforts of the Xubuntu Documentation Team (you can also help out with the Xubuntu documentation yourself!).

Of course, if you want to perform slightly more advanced tasks, such as setting up periodical backups on Xubuntu, the internet is your friend. There are a lot of great resources on the internet that can help you with anything from installing Xubuntu on the Eee PC to browsing Windows network shares with Thunar. However, be sure to double-check which version of Xubuntu the guide is written for. For example, the post on browsing Windows network shares I just linked to is, at the time of writing, a little outdated and contains unnecessary steps.

It is also safest to look for articles written specifically targeting Xubuntu – tutorials aiming at Ubuntu users will often work as well, articles targeting just “Linux” are less likely to result in success.

When you can’t find the answer

If you’ve spent time roaming the dark alleys of the internet, spit through every last bit of Xubuntu’s official documentation, but still don’t have an answer, there are a number of support options.

One requirement for all these options is that you specify as much information as possible. This includes, but needn’t be limited to, the fact that you’re running/wanting to run Xubuntu, which version of Xubuntu you’re running, what you’re problem is, what the expected result is, and perhaps how proficient you are with Xubuntu. This allows other people to help you in the best possible way.

The xubuntu-users mailinglist is, well, a mailinglist for Xubuntu users. All messages sent to a certain email address (xubuntu-users@lists.ubuntu.com in the case of xubuntu-users) will be delivered to everybody who has subscribed to that mailinglist. Thus, if you need help with Xubuntu, you can subscribe to that mailinglist, send an email to that address explaining your problem, and perhaps the next time you check your email, the answer is waiting for you.

You might not have the patience to wait for people to respond, however. If that is the case, fear no more, as IRC comes to the rescue! IRC is a way of being able to communicate in real time with other people – in other words, a chatbox. First you need an application to talk IRC – Xchat, DarkIRC, whatever, it shouldn’t really matter. Using your IRC client, you need to connect to a network – FreeNode (on irc.freenode.net) in this case. Once you’re connected to the network, you need to join the appropriate chatroom (how old-school is that?) – the Xubuntu support room (or channel in IRC lingo) is #xubuntu. You can join by typing /join #xubuntu.



Once you’re in – ask away! Be sure to be polite, not to spam the channel, and realize that, if nobody answers, probably nobody knows. Don’t ask the same question over and over again.

It is no secret, however, that the Xubuntu community is not quite the size of the Ubuntu community. Luckily, many people in the Ubuntu community can also help you with your Xubuntu problems if nobody in the Xubuntu community can. The place to get help from the Ubuntu community is the Ubuntu forums. With a very large amount of active members, your question is very likely to find an answer here.

Another place to get help is at Launchpad answers, which is part of Launchpad, a project management website where Ubuntu is managed. Here, you’ll be more likely to find developers, who are most likely to be able to help you.

When there is no answer

Even with this vast range of support options, some problems are just errors in the software – so called bugs. These can be reported at bugs.ubuntu.com, where a developer can look at it and, if you’re lucky, provide a fix for you and other users to enjoy.

Conclusion

Of course, there will still be times when no answer can be found. However, after having read this article, you’ll hopefully be able to better find help yourself. And of course, if you cannot find help, feel free to ask me – I may not be able to provide an answer, but I might be able to give you some pointers.

Sharing the love with BitTorrent

Xubuntu 8.04 is out! This release, along with those of Ubuntu, Kubuntu and whatnot, means that the Ubuntu servers are going to have a hard time with everybody and their stork downloading these new releases at the same time. Being the good open source citizen that you are, you are probably more than willing to take some of the load. Look no further, as BitTorrent is here to save the day!

In short, BitTorrent allows you to download files from other people, meanwhile sharing the parts you have already downloaded with other people who, just like you, are eager to try out the latest and greatest the open source community has to offer.

To download files using BitTorrent, you need a BitTorrent client. Since Xubuntu 8.04 includes Transmission, that is what we will be using. If you’re not using 8.04, make sure to install it.

The first thing we need, is a torrent file, a file with a name ending in .torrent that contains all the information Transmission needs to download the appropriate files. The Xubuntu 8.04 torrent can be downloaded from Ubuntu’s torrent website, where you can select the graphical Desktop CD (which is what most people want) or the text-based Alternate Install CD. We want the torrent files for Intel x86 architectures (most computers) or for AMD64 architectures (you’d probably know if you need this, using 64 Bit). A torrent file is not that big, so it should not take too long to download and does not place much of a burden on the servers.

After having downloaded the file to wherever you like, open up Transmission from Applications->Network->Transmission.



When newly installed, Transmission will download all files into the same directory as the torrent file. Instead of adapting to software (by remembering where it downloads files to), I make software adapt to me, so when I open a torrent file with Transmission, I want it to ask me where I want the files to be downloaded to.

Luckily, this is easy: simply open File->Preferences. While the preferences window is filled with cryptic terminology, the option I’m looking for is quickly found: all I need to do, is check the checkbox in front of Always prompt for download directory.



You can configure a whole host of additional options in the prefences window, such as the maximum download and upload speed. Be aware, though, that if you lower the maximum upload speed (i.e. the speed with which you are sharing the files with other people), the download speed will also decrease, so as to encourage everybody to share as much as they can.

When you’re done configuring Transmission, click Close in the Prefences window – it’s time to start downloading! Click File->Add and locate the torrent file you downloaded earlier. After you’ve opened the file and selected a target folder, Transmission will start downloading. While it will still be a long wait (the Xubuntu ISO image is a whopping 544 MB), if a lot of people are sharing the love then it’ll be faster than a direct download, and you’re helping other users at the same time.



Once you’re done downloading, you’ll want to verify that the file you downloaded is the correct one. After you’ve done that, the big moment is there: you can install Xubuntu!

Don’t close Transmission though! If you leave the window open after your download has completed, Transmission will continue sharing the downloaded file with other users – this is called seeding and is a good habit if you want to be a Nice Guy. You can also resume seeding after you’ve closed a torrent – simply re-open the torrent file and select the same download location.

All in all, while often associated with illegal downloading, there are plently of legit situations in which BitTorrent saves the day. Now spread the love!

Backups on Xubuntu with SBackup

The earth is orbited by many satellites, and every year, many more are sent up into space. Considering the amount of satellites, there is an enormous risk that one of those artificials moons suddenly decides to take a stroll and crashes into your home. I think you’ll agree with me that this would be disastrous – all your precious data would be lost! Your holiday pictures, important documents for school/work and your music collection – all gone!

Of course, you have to protect yourself against catastrophic situations like the one described above (and against hard drive failures). If you’re anything like me, you have no backup solution set up, and though you want to set it up, you keep postponing really taking that step. Well, now is the time. In order to write this guide, I set it up for myself, so now it’s your turn while reading this guide. And let me tell you, once you free up those minutes to set it up, you’ll be glad you did. Even if you’re never going to need it, it feels a lot better knowing that you’re prepared for eventual bad luck.

You need a place to store your backups though. If you create a backup on the same drive as the original files, a hard drive failure will affect that backup just as much as the original files. For out method, the destination can either be another hard drive or a remote directory (through SSH or FTP). If you don’t know what any of these mean, then you probably do not have access to it. Unfortunately, this means that you will not be able to create a backup. If you do possess one of these, read on 🙂 .

The destination I’ll be using is an internal hard drive that used to hold a secondary and lesser-known operating system. Its capacity is a mere 20 GB, so I’ll only be backing up my most important files. Of course, if you happen to have an external 160GB hard drive laying around, be sure to use it to the fullest.

Introducing… SBackup!

A quick search using Applications->System->Add/Remove... (with “All available applications” enabled in the top right-hand corner) for backup turns up a few backup solutions. The application we will be using, which also happens to be the most popular one, is Simple Backup, or SBackup. SBackup is a complete solution, able to automatically create backups at set intervals, keeping the backup size as low as possible. Listed are Simple Backup Config and Simple Backup Restore, which allow you to backup and restore your backup respectively.



Selecting one will also select the other because, obviously, we need to create backups in order to restore them.



With both selected, click Apply Changes and finish the installation as usual.

Once the installation has finished, you can find SBackup’s configuration utility under Applications->System->Simple Backup Config.



Setting it all up

By default, SBackup is set up to only perform backups when you tell it to. However, for maximum security, we want it to automatically create a new backup every so often, and now and then delete old backups in order to save space. To make sure the backups are created exactly the way you want it, select Use custom backup settings.

The first thing to do is selecting which files you want to be included in the backup. This can be done under the Include tab on top.



SBackup comes with a few useful defaults, however, considering the size of my backup drive, I decided to only backup the /home/ directory, which contains the documents and settings of every user on the system. Do include the defaults if you have enough room, though.

Next is deciding which files you do not want to be included in the backup, which can be done under the Exclude tab. You can use the preferences in this tab to exclude any files which you do not regard of enough value to justify the amount of space they’d consume in the backup.



The Exclude tab, in turn, contains four other tabs on the left-hand side.

The first one is the Paths tab, which allows you to exclude complete directories. I left it at the defaults since I had no specific directories I wanted to exclude, and I also felt no need to include the directories listed as excluded by default.

Moving on to the File types tab, though, there were certain files I could not afford to backup. A lot of multimedia files were already excluded, which was fine to me – I cannot afford to back up my (measly little) music collection. However, I often help testing new versions of Xubuntu. This involves downloading complete CD “images” (files that can be put on a CD) which can be up to 700 MB in size. The names of these images always end in .iso, and since there is no need for me to keep them that long, I clicked Add and opted to exclude files with the iso extension.





The Regex tab is not that interesting for this guide, since those who know what it does, are able to figure it out by themselves.

The Max size tab is very useful though, because it allows you to set a maximum size for files to be backed up, which comes in very handy in preventing your backup from growing too big.

We then move on to the Destination tab on top. This tab allows you to, as its name implies, set the destination for your backup. You can set up a remote directory at the bottom – I’ll be setting a custom local backup directory.



I located my external hard drive in the /media/ folder, by the name hda1. It is also listed in my left pane in Thunar (the file browser) as 20G Volume. In there, I created a new folder (/media/hda1/gay/, with gay being the name I gave my computer during installation, but feel free to use whatever you like) to hold my backups. Then I selected Other… in the drop-down menu and selected that folder.

Next up was configuring when the backup is to be ran in the Time tab.



Since I do not have that much space I opted for weekly backups, but of course, the best way to go would be daily. Since I do not leave my computer on 24/7 I cannot set it to create a backup in the middle of the night, so I opted for “simply”, which supposedly means “as soon as the computer is running, with the previous backup being made at least one week ago”.

The last tab, Purging, allows you to configure how long you want to keep old backups.



Mostly, you’ll want to select “Logarithmic”, being the most efficient and recommended method, but if you want to select an exact number of days to keep old backups, that’s possible to.

After finishing the configuration, click “Save” to, well, save your configuration.

Let’s back things up

Of course, I immediately wanted to make my first backup. For that, SBackup comes with the extremely handy “Backup Now!” button 🙂

Clicking that popped up a window, saying: A backup run is initiated in the background. The process ID is: 7986.



Well, that’s it really – now you can close Simple Backup Config. The backup is being created, and the next one will be created after the period you selected ends. Opening the folder you selected as the destination (/media/hda1/gay/ in my case) will show you that a new directory has been created which will contain the backup.



If you take a look at a later time (once the backup has been completed), you will see that that directory has been filled with files containing information about the backup, and files.tgz which contains the backed-up files.



Restoring a backup

Restoring the backup is very easy, too. Open up Applications->System->Simple Backup Restore, from where you can select the location of your backups.



A drop-down menu “Available backups” provides you a list of all available backups. Selecting one of them will present you with a list of files included in that backup, clicking “Restore” will restore those files in their original location, “Restore As…” allows you to select a different location.

Conclusion

It was about time you created yourself a backup, and tell me: doesn’t it feel wonderful? Simple Backup is an excellent tool that, despite not being as good-looking as Apple’s Time Machine, definitely provides a complete solution for backing up your documents.

And by the way, with this being my first post of 2008, let me wish you all the best for the coming year. 2007 was an magnificent year for this blog, having survived into 2008 since its conception in 2007. There’s no complaining about the number of visitors, too: at the time of writing, with just 24 posts (this being the 25th), I’ve received a total of 116 798 views, with about 500 to 600 views a day recently. Furthermore, I believe it’s also been useful to a few people, which was the reason for starting this blog in the first place.
On the personal level, it also was a fantastic year. My mother’s ex, who was a massive burden to me, finally left (he lived here since I was about thirteen years old), enabling me to develop tremendously as a person, which I expect to continue in 2008. My writing style has also improved – another trend which I hope will continue in 2008.
All in all, let’s make 2008 another awesome year, and of course, if you got any further suggestions, be sure to make it known 🙂 .

Software installation

What used to be one of the most troublesome aspects is nowadays one of the greatest advantages of almost every Linux distribution: software installation and updating. Xubuntu and Ubuntu are no different.

The problem used to be that, in order to install one application, you needed to install a lot of other software (dependencies) in order to get it to work, which meant a lot of work just to install that single application. On top of that, the installation of that application and its dependencies wasn’t a matter of double-clicking an icon – no, you had to open a terminal window, move to the location of the installation files, type ./configure, find out what software you were missing, then… Let’s just say it was a lot of work 😉

The developers of Debian, the Linux distribution on which Ubuntu is based (on which Xubuntu is based 😉 ), thought of a solution: they’d bundle the application in so-called packages in which they could store a lot of information about that software, such as which other packages it needed. They then created an application called apt (Advanced Packaging Tool) which could automatically download and install the package and all the packages marked as its dependencies! This is often referred to as package management.

Along with solving the problem of dependencies, this solution had a few other advantages. For one, since apt-get would by default download the packages from one location in control of the Debian developers, you could be quite sure that they were free of viruses. The biggest advantage, however, was that apt-get could check for updates to all packages at once, meaning it takes just one action to get the latest version available of every single application you had installed!

There were downsides too, though. For example, the Debian developers are unable to create a package for every piece of software that is available for Linux (According to Wikipedia, though, Debian has over 26 000 packages, so most of the popular applications are there 😉 ). Furthermore, Debian’s package management system wasn’t the only one: Red Hat‘s Red Hat Package Manager is an example of another popular packaging method. Ubuntu uses Debian’s method; however, since Ubuntu’s goals differ from Debian’s, they provide the packages from a different location, which means that you cannot just install the packages made for Debian (though often it is possible). However, as Ubuntu can often copy Debian’s packages with very little modification, they offer about 23 000 packages.

As a result of these different methods in different distributions, an application cannot just offer “a Linux version” – at most they will allow you to download “the source” which you can install in the old and painful way. You can see this on the download page of Wormux where they link to a special page with instructions on installing it on many different Linux distributions.

Though there are many efforts like Autopackage, PackageKit, klik, glick, Smart Package Manager, Zero install and OBLISK, the native tools are still preferable.

As for Debian’s method, a graphical tool called Synaptic was also developed, and if that wasn’t enough, the Ubuntu developers also created the tool Add/Remove… (or gnome-app-install) which made the installation of packages even easier. As per Will’s request I’ll guide you through the basic process of package installation on Xubuntu and Ubuntu, and of course, if you have any questions you can leave a comment.

Software sources

The central place for configuring your package management is in Applications->System->Software Sources. As the name says, this application lets you configure the software sources (repositories): the place where Xubuntu downloads all the packages from. By default only a small portion of all available software is enabled. For full access to all 23 000 packages from the Ubuntu repositories you will want to enable the community maintained open source software, proprietary drivers for devices (not open source) and software restricted by copyright and legal issues (this includes e.g. support for playing MPEG videos which Xubuntu is not allowed to ship by default worldwide).



Then there’s the Third Party Software tab, which allows you to enable non-official repositories such as the Personal Package Archives by members of the Ubuntu community. Such third-party repositories often give you a line like:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/jani/ubuntu gutsy main

By clicking Add you can enter such a line and then you have access to all the packages provided in that third-party repository. Note that it is recommended that you stick to the official Ubuntu repositories since these repositories might install newer versions of certain packages which can break other packages, or they might not support newer versions of Ubuntu and Xubuntu which might cause problems when you want to upgrade to a newer version.



These third-party repositories often provide you with their GPG-key, which you can add in the Authentication tab in order to confirm that you trust them. Whenever you update the list of packages from that repository, Xubuntu will check whether this key is still available so as to know it is still the same person that provides the packages.



In the Updates tab you can configure which updates you want and how often you want updates to be checked for. Obviously it is highly recommended that you enable the security updates, and you’ll most likely also want the recommended updates. The proposed updates are updates that haven’t yet been thoroughly checked. Unsupported updates can provide you with newer versions of applications that also provide new features, which were only packaged for newer versions of Xubuntu.



The last tab, Statistics, might not provide direct benefit to you, but it allows you to automatically submit anonymous information about which packages you have installed and how often you use your applications. Statistics are then made available at http://popcon.ubuntu.com/ where they can help the developers and packagers.



Add/Remove…

Ubuntu’s Add/Remove… tool is a great way for you to discover new software to install (Applications->System->Add/Remove...). Applications are sorted in categories and come with an extensive description about what it does. There are also plans to expand this tool’s capabilities to show screenshots, reviews and more, but for now, you’ll have to do with this 😉

In the top corner on the right-hand side, you’ll see a drop-down menu. This menu is a quick way to configure the software sources – again, to have access to the widest available range of software, you’ll want to select “All available applications” here. Clicking Preferences in the bottom left-hand side will take you to the Software Sources configuration window.

You can easily find new applications by searching using the input field at the top. For example, a search for “Firewall” will turn up a list of Firewalls. Installation and uninstallation of applications is easy too: just check or uncheck the checkbox in front of an application’s name, and when you’ve selected all desired changes you click Apply Changes in the bottom right-hand side.



Synaptic

A more advanced tool is Synaptic (Applications->System->Synaptic Package Manager). By clicking the Search button on top you can search for applications: if you already know a package’s name I recommend you to just search on Name as it is notably faster than Description and Name.



Once you have found the package you want to install or uninstall, you can click the checkbox in front of its name. You can then “mark” a package for a certain action, which won’t be performed until you click Apply on top.





If a package has dependencies you do not yet have installed, Synaptic will ask you whether you also want to mark those packages for installation.



Once you click Apply on top, Synaptic will give you an overview of all the package it will install and uninstall. Once you click Apply again it will take care of the installation and notify you when it’s done.



Gdebi

Unfortunately, sometimes a package is just not in the repository. However, an application might still provide you with a package that you might want to install by hand. Or perhaps you want to install an application from the popular site GetDeb.net which, for example, packages a lot of games not available in the Ubuntu repositories. Or perhaps you want to install a package you downloaded from packages.ubuntu.com, which provides all the packages from the Ubuntu repositories, after you transferred them to a computer without internet connection.

For this, Xubuntu comes with the Gdebi Package Installer. Gdebi will be opened when you double-click on a .deb file (the package). It can also download and install dependencies – all it takes is a click on the Install button on top.



Conclusion

Whenever a newer version of a package is available in one of your software sources, you will be notified that an update is available and asked whether you want to install it, or perhaps it will automatically install it in the background, depending on what you set.

As you can see, software installation in Xubuntu and Ubuntu is extremely user-friendly. After having used it for a while, you start to wonder how other people get by checking the websites of every application they want to install or update 😉

Installing Xubuntu

When I installed Xubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon“, I could not resist the urge to create a walkthrough for installing Xubuntu. It took me a while to write it up, but here it is. (Note: I have also written a review of Xubuntu 7.10)

Since Xubuntu uses the same installer as Ubuntu and Edubuntu, Ubiquity, this guide also applies to them, and Kubuntu’s installer is basically the same, so it also gives you an overview of what Kubuntu’s installation looks like. Also, the installer has not changed since the previous version, 7.04 “Feisty Fawn“, so it applies to that version too.

To start the installation, you just click the Install icon on the desktop once it is booted. However, I wanted to configure my internet connection first, because that way I would immediately be able to install language packs and whatnot. Note, though, that you can also complete the installation without internet connection.

In order to configure my wireless connection, I click the NetworkManager icon in the top right-hand side. It then pops up a list of detected wireless networks and has an entry listing my wired card.



Simply clicking the network I want to connect with, it prompts me for the passphrase. I can then click Login to Network and I am connected! It couldn’t be easier 🙂



Now that my network connection is all set, I can start Ubiquity (the installation application, remember?). The first screen allows you to select a language and links to Ubuntu’s release notes.



Clicking Forward brings us in the timezone selection screen, where we are presented with a map of the world.



Clicking the area on the map where you live zooms in the map making it easy to select your location.



Clicking Forward again presents us with a screen to select your keyboard layout. It includes many options, including many Dvorak ones (note to self: get to learn to type using Dvorak). An input field allows you to test the selected layout.



Yet again clicking Forward, a dialog box pops up telling the partitioner is being started.



When it has finished loading, you are presented with three partitioning options:

  1. Guided, resizing your main hard drive using the freed up space to install Xubuntu.
  2. Guided – use entire disk to wipe a whole hard drive and install Xubuntu on it.
  3. Manual



I opted for Manual.



The reason for me to select Manual was because I wanted a separate partition for /home, which allows me to keep all documents and settings for all user accounts were I to reinstall Xubuntu (i.e. when a new version is released). Adding the required root (/) and swap partition I ended up with a total of three partitions.



Then we need to provide Xubuntu with some user information for the first user account.



And finally, just before the actual installation will start, you are presented with an overview of everything you have selected so you can check it.



However, before you commence the installation, be sure to click the Advanced button in the bottom right-hand side. It allows you to set the location of the boot loader if you wish to, and enables you to opt in for the “Package usage survey”. If you check the checkbox, Xubuntu will send anonymous application usage data to a central Ubuntu server, so they can generate statistics about which applications are most popular. Not only does this enable the developers to improve the distribution in general, it also influences e.g. the ratings of applications you see in Add/Remove…



It will then start the installation, which will take a while.



Meanwhile, and this is an awesome feature, you can continue to use the system! You can browse the web using Firefox, heck, you can even install new applications for use during that session, all while the installation is progressing!



After a while you will be notified that the installation has finished, and that you should restart the computer to use it.



When you have restarted, with your internet connection configured, you will mostly be notified that updates are available.





I was also notified that I had the option to enable a restricted driver. This driver is not open source, but as I would like to try out Compiz Fusion (more on that in a later post) I wanted to install the driver.



Enabling the driver was very easy – just check the box and it will start the installation.



Once the installation completed, I was notified that I had to restart.



Clicking the notification gave me the option of deferring the restart to a later time, or to restart immediately.



That restart was the last restart I had to do since 🙂

All in all, Xubuntu’s installation process is a breeze. The partitioning part might be a bit scary (but hey, we’ve got Wubi if it’s too scary) but overall, it’s very easy and even comfortable. Being able to use the system while it is installing is a feature that blows away every other operating system I’m aware of, apart from other Linux distributions 🙂


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