Fresh ubuntu installation changes.

I’ve had the pleasure of installing many new ubuntus (10.10) in the last few weeks, having had a new computer myself, an old one break, installing it on a friends computer, and getting a new computer in the robotics department at uni. I thought I’d record the things I do with a new installation for posterity.

Firstly, to install, I find a USB stick by far the easiest way. I make this either using ‘unetbootin’ on windows, or the ‘startup disk creator’ on linux (System>Administration). Having the iso already downloaded makes it a little faster. On the victim pc, I put the stick in, boot straight into the bios to make sure that USB boot is at the top, it often isn’t, then restart into ubuntu. The install process is so simple nowadays, anyone could do it.

Once installed, I install chromium from the software centre (open source version of google chrome browser). It is my favourite browser by far, and I sync them all across my computers, so my preferences are kept the same wherever I’m browsing, and given that it seems 90% of computer use now is online or cloud based, this is the logical first step for me! I replace the firefox icon at the top with the Chromium icon.

Next, Docky. This is my new favourite application launcher, and is very mac-esque. A few customizations make it better, such as removing the docky anchor icon, making the background 3d, and removing icons I don’t like by dragging them to the bin. Removing the lower bar is the next obvious step to avoid feature duplication.

I install the propriety drivers for a graphics card if I have one, ubuntu should prompt about this if you try to use nice effects like compiz fusion which has some really nice features I love, like workspaces on a cube, and wobbly windows. Other non opensource things worth adding are java and flash.

Next, I change the minimize, maximise, close icons to the windows way round, ubuntu changed this recently, and I don’t like it. To fix, alt-f2, type gconf-editor, apps>metacity>general, and change ‘button layout’ to ‘menu:minimize,maximize,close’ (no quote marks).

Dropbox is always a gudden, for users of that, and spotify is another essential for me, but you’ll have to install ‘wine’ first, as there’s not an official linux version (one is in beta, but only for premium users, because ads aren’t figured out yet properly). The spotify team have instructions on running it under wine, ( a windows emulator), and you’ll have to fiddle with some settings like hardware acceleration. VLC is probably the best for playing local files, although it isn’t great on features (but it does play everything!).

I remove the chat bar from the top right, which for some reason also loses the shutdown icon, so you need to right click > add to panel, and add a shutdown icon, and also a log-out button if you’ll need to do that. I also add a force quit icon.

I add a simpler shortcut for the terminal, like ctrl+space, and make terminal work with standard copy paste shortcuts, rather than ctrl+shift+x, but this is only really for power users.

There’s skype, and filezilla, if you use them. There’s also the standard things like changing the personal options like wallpaper, screensaver, power options, and docky has some nice extras you can add like a gmail checker, and a weather icon. That’s all I can think of for now, it’s probably worth browsing the ‘featured apps’ in the software centre, and see if anything takes your fancy!


Boot problems on ubuntu

I forced a shutdown at an inconvenient time on my kernal, and the mounting process was slightly ruined. I couldn’t find this solution anywhere, but when I tried to boot into linux (ubuntu 10.10) it froze at the busybox region of the boot process, said something about initfram, and that the partition didn’t unmount correctly. I tried ^d, no joy, it just froze a little later.

I booted with a live ubuntu disk, but it wouldn’t let me do anything with the partition, saying it was exclusively in-use by another application, or mounted (which it wasn’t), and fsck wouldn’t work, even on force.

The solution was to boot with a live ‘systemrescue cd’ available as an option on the universal usb installer and worked my way through that, ran fsck (not root/sudo required, I think it’s an auto root), and fsck could fix the problem from there. Voila.

Hope this helps someone else in the same predicament searching for the solution!

Computer Anti-virus Solutions

Even though I’m super busy with work at the moment, I though I’d take a break to write some things about  software I use for different purposes. A few things have made me think a lot about this in the last couple of days.

Firstly, I’m back home from uni for Easter, so got the usual request from the parents (and friends!) to look at their computers in the office. One was being extremely slow, and the internet wasn’t working on it, further investigation showed that the device manager was completely blank. After a lot of searching, I found that this can be a symptom of spyware called MSMGT, which we certainly had! After removing that by hand, with the help of the program ‘hijack this’ (only recommended for ‘advanced’ users) I set to work removing the inevitable onslaught of other spyware on the machine. I downloaded spybot S&D. It tooks a few hours, but came back with nearly 200 different problems. Wow. They had a copy of Norton running, which expired over a year ago, and had turned Windows update off. They wondered why they had these problems!

After sorting all that out, I wondered what the best anti-virus program would be to live on the machine. I’ve toyed with a lot in my time, starting with AVG, moving to Avira, and Avast. I can’t use AVG anymore, when it runs the scans it bogs the system down so much I end up just cancelling them, making it useless. They also all seem to be getting pushier and pushier with upgrading! Adverts, flashing upgrade boxes, and making it harder and harder to find the free version to download. That’s the problem with these programs, they all have another agenda – to make money. The only open-source program I know of (ClamWin) only does scan on demand, and doesn’t have a resident scanner, so that’s no good! I thought I’d try out Microsoft’s latest offering, Microsoft Security Essentials, being out for around 6 months or so.

I must admit, it did impress me. I’m not usually much of a Microsoft fan-boy. Mostly because I really don’t like paying for anything, being young and poor, so open-source (and Google) suits me fine. Their other free thing, that browser, is rubbish (more in another post possibly), and I tend to use LaTeX rather than office, because it suits the content I have to write about better (maybe more on my experiences with that too!). I use the Ubuntu distro of Linux most of the time, only dipping back to Windows when I have to, but the rest of the world lives in it, so I reluctantly do it more than I’d like! Anyway, it downloaded easily, you have to have a genuine Windows (not many people have fake windows really anyway…), and the best thing for me is that it has no premium option! No constant persuading to fork out cash, it runs nicely in the background, only bugging me for the important things (like – ‘do you want to get rid of this?’) and when it’s scanning, it doesn’t take over, I didn’t notice it. It has enough advanced options to keep the advancer user happy, whilst being simple on the face of it for the basic user.

Reading around the internet, it didn’t quite get the highest rating for security, (A rather than A+ which only Avira got), which I guess is what I expected from MS, but as uptake increases for it, user feedback on discovered malware should push it to be better and better. I think the trade-off to not get bugged is worth it. This is now my new favourite, but of course I’ll keep trying new versions of others periodically. I’m sure lifehacker will tell me if something big happens!

I hope I’ve managed to justify my reasoning, this was partly to convince myself I’m doing the right thing by recommending this from now on to friends and family (I get asked this question a lot).

This blog will really be a mixed back probably from my random mix of hobbies and passions; from rock climbing to programming, with some engineering and robots in between, and I run my computer very efficiently, small inbox, few desktop icons, only the required processes in the background, I kinda have to do this because my PC’s so old, if I didn’t it would die on me, so I’m sure I may share hints and tips periodically. I also keep myself massively occupied, and generally don’t enjoy writing, having only ever really written when forced to by the powers that be, so this will only have new posts once in a blue moon probably (an astronomical event that is 1.16 × 10-8 hertz, or every 2.7 years for most people)  I might start to enjoy it here, you never know!

Hello world!

First post. I just thought it was about time I had a place to post random stuff I discover, and anything I think. When it take me ages to find something useful online, I get annoyed, so for things I need that are hard to find, I’ll put them here, so people can find them faster in future. At least in theory.

JC 🙂