Linux for the COMMON PERSON:
Last updated: June 10, 2012
Ubuntu Linux is a really great Operating System (OS)! It rivals Windows 7 or Mac OS-X in performance, ease of use, and the beautiful display. Installing or uninstalling programs is stone-simple and almost all applications are free – as is the OS. Yes, I said “free”! You can download the entire package – including a full suite of MS-Office compatible software – from the internet at http://www.ubuntu.com/. If you don’t have a broadband connection, they will send you the CD – free and postpaid! Has anyone told Bill Gates about this? 🙂
What is so great about Ubuntu (other than that it is free)? 1) Linux is primarily created & updated by a COMMUNITY of users who collaborate with associated business & professional organizations. That assures that the Operating System (OS) is centered on the needs and use of USERS – not some corporation & its stockholders. 2) The SECURITY of Ubuntu is better than any other public OS. Partly that is because it is an OPEN SOURCE OS. That means that ANYONE can review every line of code – there are NO BACKDOORS written into the OS. Before it is published, it is released for trial and review by any interested party. 3) It is UPDATED more frequently than any other OS. As soon as an update is created, it is released to the public. Also, there are regular upgrades twice a year (also free). That keeps the OS fresh AND secure. 4) There are many other advantages but that is my short list.
An “update” is a kind of a minor “patch” to some software. It can be issued quickly and may fix issues or stop security problems, etc. It may also include some bug fixes or new features. However, an “upgrade” is a MAJOR overhaul of the software. In the case of Ubuntu, these occur in April (04) and October (10) of each year. These upgrades are released with the year & month as the identifier (Ubuntu 12-04) was released in April of 2012.
I have been using Ubuntu EXCLUSIVELY for a several years now and I RARELY need to boot into Windows for anything. My next computer probably will not have a Windows boot partition. Many Windows programs will actually install in Ubuntu’s “WINE” Windows emulator.
Right now, there are only three things that I cannot do in Linux: I cannot stream Netflix, I cannot run iTunes, and I cannot use the TurboTax software. I understand that NetFlix will be available in a future release of Ubuntu. There are alternate programs to replace iTunes (except for updating iOS devices). For taxes, if you don’t have a complicated return, you should be able to use the online version of the software. So, there – all done!
The User Interface in Ubuntu. Since Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Norwahl) was released, it came with a new User Interface (UI) called “Unity.” Unity borrows from Mac OSX and is both unique and intuitive. Most things are very similar to how the same thing would be done on one of the other major operating systems. The good thing — This is FAST and FREE – and IT LOOKS FANTASTIC on almost any hardware!
Try or Fly
In either of the cases mentioned below (try or install), when you boot into Windows, it will operate EXACTLY the same as it does now. The only change is at boot time. If you choose to install Ubuntu, a small menu will appear at boot time offering you the option of which OS to boot. It will default to Ubuntu so if you want to boot into Windows, you need to arrow down to the Windows option. (I rarely need to do that.)
How to TRY Ubuntu without installing: You can create a USB Thumbdrive to use Ubuntu – live on your own computer – without installing it or modifying your Windows configuration. See my article here: How to create a LIVE Thumbdrive of Ubuntu – YouTube Video. After you create the Thumbdrive, put it in one of your computer’s USB ports, boot the computer and (if asked) select “boot from CD.” When the first screen comes up, select “TRY UBUNTU.” It will then display the normal Ubuntu desktop and allow you to run Linux programs or commands and even remember your settings the next time you boot it.
How to install Ubuntu: Use the USB “live” thumbdrive that you created in the previous step & boot in the same way. Only this time, select INSTALL Ubuntu. It will use the empty space on your disk and install Ubuntu there. If Windows owns all the disk, it will re-partition and divide the unused portion (you choose how much to each partition).
Help, I cannot….
In this section, I will list some of the simple hints and tweaks that you may want to use in order to personalize and simplify your everyday use of Ubuntu.
The single most NON-intuitive thing is how to restore minimized programs. If you hit the minimize button on a window, the window disappears but it is not apparent where it went or how to restore it. If you REMEMBER which programs are minimized, you can hit the appropriate icon in the Launcher (bar of icons on the left side of the desktop) and the window will be restored. But there is no application bar, or other obvious means of showing which windows are minimized. However, there IS an indicator: When you execute an icon, a small arrow presents on the left side of that icon. When the program is displayed on the desktop, a similar arrow presents on the right side of the icon. So, if the icon has the arrow on the left and the right, it is active and displayed on the desktop. In the screenshot above, the Chrome icon (a 3-color disk that is 2nd from top) has both arrows. If the icon only has the left arrow – such as Deluge (5th from the bottom) it is active but minimized. Just click the icon again to restore the window! ISSUE: Not all programs work this way. It appears that any manually added icon does NOT display the arrows. 🙁
How do I install new programs? There are several ways to install new applications. In this part, I will explain the “Ubuntu Software Center” (USC). It is the icon just below the spyglass in the Launcher. Just click on the icon, and in the window that displays, drill down the links to find the appropriate application, then click on “INSTALL.” There will be a dialog asking for your admin password (same as your logon password). When you answer that, the software will be downloaded, installed and ready for use. You will find it in the “Applications” menu (icon with the “+” plus sign). Applications downloaded from the USC are supported by Ubuntu so you are safe to download and use them.
Can I download programs/applications from the Internet? Be careful – only download programs from reputable providers. Also, be sure that you download the appropriate version of the program: You need the UBUNTU version is it is available. Otherwise, get the Linux version for “Debian” – it will have a .deb extension. One good example is the Picasa photo manager from Google. Just download the file, locate it on your computer, and then click on the file. The Ubuntu Installer will then install it as if it were included in the Ubuntu Software Center (above).
What kind of programs are available for Linux – and are they expensive? There are thousands & thousands of programs designed to run on the Linux operating system. For almost every type of program that supports Windows, there will be one or more linux-based programs that equal or exceed the functions of the Windows product. Whats more, practically every program written for Linux is FREE. So, how do they make money? Some organizations may allow you to download their software for free and charge for a physical disk. Others may charge for personal support. They also accept donations & other business models.
Can I install Windows software in Ubuntu? Not as you would in Windows. However, many (most?) Windows programs WILL install and run using the WINE (Windows emulator) program (installation instructions here). When Wine is operational, just insert the disk for your Windows program (or click on a downloaded executable) and select WINE to use with the program. Wine will then attempt to install it. If successful, the program will operate as if it were installed in Windows. Wine includes an emulation of Windows’ file system and its “C-Drive” where the program and its data is stored. If Wine fails…. Sorry. See the next section.
Can I use Windows INSIDE Linux? Yes! If you want, you can actually INSTALL a copy of Windows in a virtual computer running inside Ubuntu Linux. The VirtualBox program will create a Virtual Machine (VM) or computer-within-a-computer. When the VM is created, you can install YOUR copy of Windows. After Windows has been installed and executed, it looks and acts like a normal Windows installation – except it runs a bit faster. In that environment, you can install almost any Windows programs and use them within Ubuntu. Alternately, you can install Windows and Ubuntu in separate partitions on your hard drive – called “dual boot.”
How to defragment the hard drive in Ubuntu: Ubuntu uses an advanced file management system so there is no need to defragment the hard drive partitions that it uses. Note, if you have a dual-boot configuration that includes a Windows partition, then THAT partition will likely need to be defragmented.
How to change the wallpaper on your desktop: Right-click on an unused area of the desktop, click on “Change Desktop Background.” From the dialog, you can select one of the included wallpapers or hit the “Get more backgrounds online” link to download even more beautiful backgrounds.
In time, I will be adding more ideas, tips, tweaks for Ubuntu. Check back later to see what is available…
How do I get more help with using Ubuntu? You can get free support from the people who publish the Ubuntu Operating System at http://www.ubuntu.com/support. Perhaps a quicker way to find answers is just to search on Google (or your choice of search engine). Example if you wanted to know how to know how to defragment the hard drive in Ubuntu, just enter the following into the search bar… defrag in ubuntu. The results will link you to potential answers. I prefer answers from the forums at Ubuntu but many other sites (such as this one) offer simple answers also.