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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Using Your Applications

Now that you have gotten used to the desktop, let's explore some of the many applications included on your new system. By default, Ubuntu comes with a wide range of popular and established applications to listen to music, watch videos, create documents, browse the Web, manage your appointments, read your e-mail, create images, and much more. These applications have been vetted by the developers to ensure they are the best-of-breed Linux applications available.

Although Ubuntu includes a range of different software applications, it is likely you will want to install extra applications and explore other software that is available. Fortunately, the Ubuntu system is built on a powerful foundation which makes software installation as simple as pointing and clicking. Click Applications > Add Applications and a dialog box appears that you can use to install new applications. Just browse through the different categories and check the applications to install. Click the Apply button and the application is downloaded and installed for you.

This tool provides a simple way of accessing a limited core set of popular applications, but there are actually more than 16,000 packages available to your Ubuntu system. Software installation is discussed in detail in Chapter 4.

Browsing the Web with Firefox

Firefox is the default Ubuntu Web browser and provides you with a simple, safe, and powerful browsing experience. Firefox has become one of the most successful Open Source projects in the world and continues to garner huge popularity. With more than 150 million downloads and rapidly increasing browser share, Firefox has been an unparalleled success. It really is that cool.

Fire up Firefox by clicking the blue earth shortcut icon on the panel or by selecting Applications > Internet > Firefox Web Browser. After a few seconds you are presented with the main Firefox window (See Figure 3-6).

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Figure 3-6 The Firefox interface is sleek but extensible.

The Firefox window looks similar to most Web browsers and includes the staple back, forward, reload, and stop buttons, an address bar, and some menus. These familiar-looking elements help you become familiar with Firefox, and if you have used Internet Explorer, Opera, Netscape, or Safari before, you are sure to pick it up in no time.

Navigating your way around the Internet is no different in Firefox than any other browser—just type the Web address into the address bar, and hit Enter. Firefox also has a few nice features that make it easy to access your favorite sites. As an example, if you want to visit the Ubuntu Web site, you can just enter www.ubuntu.com (leaving off all that http:// nonsense). Alternatively, you can just type in "Ubuntu," and Firefox will go off to Google, enter "Ubuntu" as the search term and take you to the first result in the search. This feature is incredibly handy for popular sites that are likely to be at the top of the search results page.

Tabbed Browsing

If you are anything like any of the authors behind this book, you look at a number of different Web sites each time you use the Internet. It is not uncommon to have your Webmail open as well as eBay, some discussion forums, news sites, blogs, and more. Before long, your desktop is littered with browser windows, and your taskbar is full to the brim.

Firefox has a nimble solution to this problem in the form of tabbed browsing. If you are looking at your friend's Web site about raccoons and decide you want to check out your favorite sports player's Web site, just click File > New Tab or press Ctrl-T and—ta-da!—a new tab is unveiled in your browser window. You can now load another page inside this tab.

The tabbed browsing fun doesn't stop though—oh no! When you are reading the Web and you see a link that you are interested in viewing, right-click the link, and select Open Link in New Tab. The page will load in the new tab, and you can continue reading the article and view the link afterward.

Bookmarking Your Favorite Sites

To bookmark the page you are viewing, click Bookmarks > Bookmark This Page. In the dialog box that pops up, use the combo box to select the folder to store the bookmark in. If you want to create a new folder, click the small arrow button on the right side of the box, and the box will expand. To create a main folder, select the bookmarks folder, and click New Folder. You can also create subfolders by clicking an existing folder and again clicking New Folder. When you have finished selecting or creating a new folder, click Add to add the bookmark.

Save Time with Live Bookmarks

Firefox also includes a special feature called live bookmarks that automatically grabs content from a Web site without your needing to visit it. As an example, go to http://fridge. ubuntu.com/ (a popular Ubuntu news site), and you will see a small orange icon on the right side of the address bar. Click this orange square, and a dialog box pops up to select where to store your bookmark. Use the default option (the toolbar folder), and click Add. A new toolbar button is added, and when you click on it a list of the items from the Web site are displayed. Each time you start Firefox, it will quietly go away and update this list so that you don't need to visit the site yourself.

Bolt It On, Make It Cool

Although Firefox is already a powerful and flexible Web browser, it can be extended even further using special plug-in extensions. These extensions not only cover typical browsing needs such as the Macromedia Flash plug-in but also cover other more specialized extras that extend the browser itself.

To install normal Web plug-ins, just visit a site that requires the plug-in. A yellow bar will appear indicating that you are missing a plug-in. Click the Install Missing Plug-ins button to grab the required plug-in. By default, Ubuntu does not come with the Macromedia Flash plug-in, so you will need to install this separately.

To extend the browser itself with additional features, go to https://addons.mozilla.org/, and browse for an extension that you are interested in. When you find something you would like to install, click the Install link. A dialog box will pop up asking you to confirm the installation. Click Install Now. Your new extension will now download and install automatically. Typically this requires a restart of Firefox, and then your extension is available.

Creating Documents with OpenOffice.org

Included with Ubuntu is a full office suite called OpenOffice.org. This comprehensive collection of applications includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, database, drawing editor, and math editor. The suite provides an extensive range of functionality, reads and writes Microsoft Office file formats, and can also export documents as Web pages, PDF files, and Macromedia Flash animations.

Let's give OpenOffice.org a whirl by creating a letter with it. Start Open Office.org Writer by selecting it from the Applications > Office menu. When it has loaded, you will be presented with the interface shown in Figure 3-7.

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Figure 3-7 OpenOffice.org looks similar to Microsoft Office and is therefore quite simple to migrate to.

If you have used a word processing program before, much of the common interface elements such as the font type and size, bold, italic, underline, and alignment buttons look and behave the same. The OpenOffice.org developers have designed the suite to be easy to migrate to if you have used something such as Microsoft Office before. After a few hours playing with Open Office.org you are sure to know how to do what you need.

Start your letter by first choosing a nice font. In the font combo box you should see Nimbus Roman selected by default. Click the box and instead choose the lovely Bitstream Vera Sans font. Change the font size by clicking the combo box to the right of the font box and select 10 as the size. With the cursor currently on the left side of the page, add your home address to the letter.

Now press Enter to leave a blank line under the address and click the Align Right toolbar button (the icon looks like some lines aligned to the right). If you are unsure of what each button does, hover your mouse over it, and a tool tip pops up. Now add the address of the recipient.

Press enter again to leave a blank line, and type the main body of the letter. Feel free to use the bold, italic, and underline buttons to add emphasis to your words. You can also use other toolbar buttons to add items such as bullet points and numbered lists and change the color of the font. If you want to add features such as graphics, tables, special characters, and frames, click the Insert menu and select the relevant item. Each item that is added to the page can be customized by right-clicking it and using the items in the context menu.

When your letter is complete you can now save it by selecting File > Save, clicking the floppy disk toolbar icon or by pressing Ctrl-S. The default file format used by OpenOffice.org is the OpenDocument Format. This open standard file format is an official open standard and is used across the world. The file format is slightly different for the different types of application (.odt for word processor files, .ods for spreadsheets, etc.), but each format provides an open standard free from vendor lock-in. You can also save in a variety of other formats, including Microsoft Office.

Another useful feature wedged into OpenOffice.org is the capability to save your documents in the Adobe PDF format. PDF files have been increasingly used in the last few years and are useful for sending people documents that they should not change (such as invoices). PDF files provide a high-quality copy of the document and are well supported across all OS. This makes PDFs ideal for creating catalogs, leaflets, and flyers. To save as a PDF file, click the PDF button on the main toolbar (next to the printer icon). Click the button, enter a filename, and you are done. Simple.

Managing Your E-Mail and Calendars with Evolution

Evolution has been modeled around the all-in-one personal information management tool. Within Evolution you can read your e-mail, manage your schedule, store contact details, organize to-do lists, and more in a single place. This makes evolution particularly useful for businesspeople who want easy access to this information.

Setting Up Your E-Mail Account

To use evolution to read your e-mail you need to find out the following settings for connecting to your e-mail server (you can get these details from your ISP or system administrator):

  • Your type of e-mail server (such as POP or IMAP)
  • Your mail server name (such as mail.chin.com)
  • Your mail account's username and password
  • Authentication type (typically "password")
  • Your outgoing mail server type (typically SMTP)
  • Your outgoing mail server name

Load Evolution by clicking the envelope and clock shortcut icon from the panel (hover your mouse over the shortcuts to see what they are) or by clicking Applications > Internet > Evolution Mail. When the application loads you are taken through a wizard to set up your e-mail server (as shown in Figure 3-8).

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Figure 3-8 Setting up Evolution is simple so long as you know the details for your mail server.

Click Forward to continue the setup, and you will then be asked for your identity. Fill in your e-mail address in the E-Mail Address box, and add the optional information if you want to. The additional details are not essential for using Evolution. Click Forward to continue.

You are next asked to choose what kind of e-mail server you have from the drop-down box. When you make your selection, some additional settings are displayed. Fill in the server name and the username. You may need to adjust the Security and Authentication Type settings, but for most accounts the default settings should be fine. Click Forward to continue.

The next page configures some options for receiving your e-mail. None of these options are essential, although you may want to check the first box to automatically check for new mail. Click Forward to continue. The next screen configures sending e-mail. In the combo box select the Server Type (typically SMTP) and add the server name to the Server box. Click Forward to continue.

In the next screen enter a name to describe the account. The default entry (your e-mail address) is fine, but you may want to add something more meaningful such as "Work E-Mail" or "Home E-Mail." When you have added this, click Forward to continue. Finally, select your location from the map. If you click on your area of the world, the map will zoom in. Once you have done this, click Apply to complete the process and close the wizard.

With the wizard completed, the main Evolution interface will appear as shown in Figure 3-9.

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Figure 3-9 Those of you who have used Microsoft Outlook should find the interface very similar.

On the left sidebar you can see a number of buttons to access the mail, contacts, calendars, memos, and tasks components in Evolution. When you click each button, the interface adjusts to show you the relevant information about that component.

Working with Your E-Mail

Inside the e-mail component you can see the e-mail folders in the left panel and the list of messages in the top pane. When you click on a message, it is displayed in the bottom pane where you can read it. With your new account set up you will first want to go and grab the e-mail from your mail server. Click Send/Receive, and the mail is retrieved from your server and any unsent mail is sent.

With you messages loaded, new e-mails are shown in bold in the top pane. Move through the different e-mails using the up and down arrow keys, and each message will be displayed. You can reply to a message by clicking the Reply or Reply To All toolbar buttons. New e-mails can be sent by clicking the New toolbar button. By default, new e-mails and replies are sent automatically when you click the Send button in the compose window. This way you don't need to click the Send/Receive button to deliver them.

Managing Your Calendar

Inside calendar mode, Evolution provides a convenient way of managing your schedule, adding new events, and viewing your calendar in different ways. When you click the Calendar button to enable this mode, you can see the timetable for today as well as the month view. The month view shows a couple of months in which the bold dates have events.

There are two types of events you can add to your calendar.

  • Meetings: These are events with a specific group of people.
  • Appointments: These are general events.

To add a new appointment, find the date for the event in the month view, right-click the Today view, and select New Appointment. In the box that pops up, fill in the Summary, Location, Time, and Description boxes. You can also use the Calendar combo box to select which calendar the event appears on.

To add a new meeting, again find the date, right-click the Today view, and select New Meeting. Inside the dialog box that pops up, you need to add the participants who are attending the meeting. You can add participants in two ways: Use the Add button if they are not in your address book, or use the Attendees button if they are in your address book.

When you click Attendees, a new dialog pops up with a list of attendees down the left, and you can use the Add and Remove buttons to select a contact and add them to the different categories of Chairpersons, Required Participants, Optional Participants, and Resources. Now, you probably don't have any contacts in there as you are just starting to use Evolution, so use the main Contacts button on the left side of the main Evolution window to add some.

You can view your calendar in lots of different ways by clicking the different toolbar buttons such as Week, Month, and List. Play with them and see which ones are most useful to you.

Create Graphics with the GIMP

The GNU Image Manipulation Package, affectionately known as the GIMP to its friends, is a powerful graphics package. The GIMP provides a comprehensive range of functionality for creating different types of graphics. It includes tools for selections, drawing, creating paths, masks, filters, effects, and more. It also includes a range of templates for different types of media such as Web banners, different paper sizes, video frames, CD covers, floppy disk labels, and even toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper. You can load the GIMP by clicking Applications > Graphics > GIMP Image Editor.

Unlike Adobe Photoshop, the GIMP does not place all of its windows inside a single large window, and instead has a number of separate child windows. This can be a little confusing at first for new users. To get you started, let us run through a simple session in the GIMP.

An Example

Start the GIMP by clicking Applications > Graphics > GIMP Image Editor.

When the GIMP loads you will see a collection of different windows as shown in Figure 3-10.

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Figure 3-10 The GIMP does not put everything in one window like Adobe Photoshop.

Close the Tip of the Day window, and you are left with two other windows. The one on the left in the screenshot is the main tool palette. This window provides you with a range of different tools that can be used to create your images. The window on the right provides details of layers, brushes, and other information. The GIMP provides a huge range of different windows that are used for different things, and this is just one of them.

To create a new image click File > New. The window shown in Figure 3-11 will appear.

3_11.jpg

Figure 3-11 There are lots of templates available, including one for toilet paper!

The easiest way to get started is to select one of the many templates. Click the Template combo box and select 640¥480. If you click the Advanced Options expander you can also select the type of color used in the image with the Colorspace box and how the background is filled. The Fill combo box is useful for either selecting a fill color or having a transparent background.

Click OK, and you will see your new image (Figure 3-12).

3_12.jpg

Figure 3-12 Use the right mouse button on the image to access lots of GIMP options and features.

To work on your image, use the tool palette to select which tool you want to use on the new image window. Each time you click on a tool in the palette, you see options for the tool appear at the bottom of the palette window.

When you click the T button in the palette, it selects the text tool. At the bottom of the palette you see the different options. Click the Font button, and select the Sans Bold font. Now click the up arrow on the Size box, and select the size as 45. Move your mouse over to the empty image, and you will see the mouse pointer changes to a text carat. Click in the image, and a box pops up in which you can enter the text to add to the image. Type in "Ubuntu." With the text entry still open, click the up arrow on the Size box so the text fills most of the window. As you can see, you can adjust the text while it is in the image. When you are happy with the formatting click Close on the text entry box. Your image should look a little like Figure 3-13.

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Figure 3-13 Ubuntu comes with a range of attractive fonts for use in your images.

Now click the button in the palette with four arrows on it. You can use this to move the text around. Click the black text, and move the mouse.

Let's now add an effect filter. The GIMP comes with a range of different filters built in. You can access these by right-clicking the image and selecting the Filters submenu. The GIMP also allows you to create scripts that combine filters together to create interesting combinations. Again, a number of these scripts are included, and you can access them by right-clicking the image and selecting the Python-Fu and Script-Fu submenus.

For our image, right-click the image and select Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the Horizontal and Vertical boxes select 20 as the value. Click OK to apply the effect. After a few seconds the blur is applied to your text. Anything in the GIMP can be undone by clicking Edit > Undo or typing Ctrl-Z. Your image should now look like Figure 3-14.

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Figure 3-14 There are lots of filters and effects bundled with the GIMP on your computer.

Now we are going to create another layer and put some text over our blurred text to create an interesting effect. In your image window, click Dialogues > Layers. The layers window now appears (Figure 3-15).

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Figure 3-15 Layers are essential when creating complex images with lots of parts.

Layers are like clear plastic sheets that can be stacked on top of each other. They allow you to create some imagery on one layer and then create another layer on top with some other imagery. When combined, layers can create complex-looking images that are easily editable by only editing the layer you want. Currently, our blurred text is on a layer. Add a new layer by clicking the paper icon in the layers dialog box. Another window appears to configure the layer. The defaults are fine (a transparent layer the size of your image), so click OK.

Now double-click the black color chip in the palette window and select a light color. You can do this by moving the mouse in the color range and then clicking OK when you find a color you are happy with. Now click the text button from the palette and again add the Ubuntu text. When the text is added it will be the same size as before. Now use the move tool and position it over the blurred text. Now you have the word "Ubuntu" with a healthy glow as shown in Figure 3-16!

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Figure 3-16 Combining steps as we have done can result in interesting effects such as this.

The final step is to crop the image to remove the unused space in the image. Click Tools > Transform Tools > Crop > Resize and use the mouse to draw around the Ubuntu word. You can use the black pins on the outside of the selection to move it more precisely. Click Crop, and the image is now cropped. To save your work, click File > Save, and enter a filename. You can use the Select File Type expander to select from one of the many different file formats.

Communicate with Gaim

With the Internet steamrolling its way across the world, the ubiquitous global network has become a part of everyday life and something that you can reasonably assume people have access to. This has in turn spawned a range of Web-based services and interestingly, a variety of methods of communicating with each other.

Included with Ubuntu is Gaim, a cornucopia of different methods of instantly messaging your friends from within a single program. Instead of having to install a separate client application to talk to your friends on MSN, AIM, ICQ, and Jabber, Gaim can do it all in one place.

Gaim is available by clicking Applications > Internet > Gaim Instant Messenger.

Setting Up Your Accounts

When you start Gaim, the first step is to create an account for each different type of network you want to use. Click the Accounts button on the main screen and the Accounts dialog box will appear. Click the Add button to add a new account, and the Add Account box appears (Figure 3-17).

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Figure 3-17 Many different types of account (MSN, AIM, Jabber, ICQ, IRC, etc.) are supported in Gaim.

This window adjusts which text boxes are available depending on the protocol chosen. The different networks available are listed as options in the Protocol box. To create an account you will need to have an existing account on one of the networks. Gaim allows you to have different accounts on different networks running together—you just create a new account for each protocol.

When you have selected a protocol, fill in the remaining boxes. The Screen Name box needs to contain your registered username (or e-mail address for MSN), and the password box needs the respective password to be added. You can also use the Alias box to add an interesting name that is displayed when other people see you online. If you want to configure any other options, click the Show More Options expander.

Using Instant Messaging

With your account(s) set up, click Sign On to log on. When you are logged in, your friends list (known as buddies in Gaim) are displayed (Figure 3-18).

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Figure 3-18 Gaim provides quick and easy access to your buddies—just click them to talk!

You can use the Buddies menu option to add more buddies to the list with the Add Buddy option. To speak to a buddy, double-click the name, and a window will pop up.

Using IRC

Included in Gaim is support for IRC channels, and it has a very nice interface for IRC discussion. To use the IRC feature, first create an account. Next, sign on, and then click Buddies > Add Chat and enter the IRC channel name in the Channel box. Finally, double-click on the channel name to go to it.

Cutting-Edge Voice Over IP with Ekiga

Included with Ubuntu is a simple-to-use yet powerful Internet phone called Ekiga. Formally known as GNOME Meeting, Ekiga lets you make voice and video calls with other people across the Internet. In addition to the traditional Microsoft Netmeeting support, Ekiga now supports SIP, a protocol that is commonly used to allow people with software phones such as Ekiga to communicate with people using hardware Voice Over IP phones. SIP is an industry standard that many hardware phones, software phones, services, and providers support.

If you choose to use SIP, calls from one phone to another across the Internet are free. In addition to this, many providers allow you to make calls to normal landline phones for very little. Ekiga offers you the possibility to call anyone in the world directly from your computer with little fuss.

You can access Ekiga by clicking Applications > Internet > Ekiga Softphone.

Setting Up

When you first start Ekiga, you are guided through a setup wizard (Figure 3-19).

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Figure 3-19 Setting up Ekiga is simple with the setup wizard.

Click Forward to get started, and you see the next page (Figure 3-20).

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Figure 3-20 Adding your name makes it easier for people to find you online.

In this box, enter your first and last name (such as Susan Curtis). Click Forward to continue.

You can now configure an Ekiga.net account (Figure 3-21).

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Figure 3-21 Ekiga.net offer a free SIP service.

At Ekiga.net, a free SIP service is offered. If you don't have an account (which is likely if this is the first time you have used Ekiga), click the Get an Ekiga.net SIP account button. Firefox is then loaded, and you can use the online form to sign up. If you don't want an account, just select the checkbox in the wizard saying you don't want to sign up. If you do sign up, add your username and password, and then click Forward.

Now you can configure your connection speed (Figure 3-22).

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Figure 3-22 Be honest here—selecting a faster speed won't make it any quicker!

Just select the type of connection you have, and then click Forward.

Traditionally, one of the problems in the past with Internet phones has been that you need to modify your firewall (if you are running one) to get it working. This typically involved configuring your Network Address Translation (NAT) settings. Luckily, Ekiga can detect the type of NAT settings that you need (Figure 3-23).

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Figure 3-23 Traditionally, setting up NAT with Internet phones was a pain—until now.

After a few seconds of detecting your type of NAT it will propose an option. Click Yes to continue, and then click Forward.

Next, configure your audio (Figure 3-24).

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Figure 3-24 Ubuntu supports different types of audio frameworks, but the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) is the most common.

Select ALSA from the box and click Forward to continue.

You can now select the audio input and output devices (Figure 3-25).

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Figure 3-25 Make sure you get these settings right, or you won't hear anything.

These settings are used to ensure that you can hear and record the audio. To test your settings, click Test Settings. If all is fine, click Forward to continue.

Next select the type of video manager (Figure 3-26).

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Figure 3-26 Ubuntu supports different types of video, but V4L is the most common.

The video manager ensures that video is displayed correctly on your screen. Select V4L from the list, and click Forward to continue.

The final setting to configure is your Web camera (Figure 3-27).

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Figure 3-27 Remember to look your best online!

Ensure your camera is plugged in, and select a device from the combo box. If you can't see any options, you will need to configure your camera driver first. When you have selected a device, click Test Settings to verify that it works.

Finally, a summary of your options is displayed (Figure 3-28).

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Figure 3-28 Now you are all set to make calls.

Ekiga is now configured.

Making a Call

With the configuration wizard complete, the main Ekiga window is displayed (Figure 3-29).

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Figure 3-29 The Ekiga window is simple and sleek.

You are now ready to make a call. To do this, simply enter the phone number or SIP address of the person you want to call, and click the Connect button next to the address bar. The call is then connected, and you can begin talking.

On the left side of the window are a number of icons that do different things.

  • Text Chat: When in a chat, click this icon to open the text chat window. You can use this to send text messages to the user.
  • View Mode: Click this icon to select which view mode Ekiga is in. You typically need this when in a video chat with someone.
  • Address Book: Click this icon to access the address book. Here you can save your contacts and you can also access the ekiga.net online white pages to see who else is online.
  • View Webcam: This icon switches on the Webcam so that you can see the person you are speaking to.

In addition to these icons, there are some tabs located below the numeric keypad. Click these tabs to configure the audio and video settings for Ekiga.

Exploring the Ubuntu Landscape

Unlike many other OS, Ubuntu includes a comprehensive suite of applications right inside the system. This range of tools has been selected to allow you to install Ubuntu and get your work done, communicate with other people, read and create documents, watch and/or listen to media, and more. Unfortunately, due to space restrictions this book can only skim over the surface of available applications.

To help remedy this a bit, here is a quick summary of many of the applications included on the Applications menu in Ubuntu, including how to find the applications and a brief description

  • Text Editor

    Applications > Accessories > Text Editor

    This simple, yet powerful, text editor is ideal for editing documents, making quick notes, and for programming. Included is a range of plug-ins for spell checking, statistics, file listings, and more.

  • Calculator

    Applications > Accessories > Calculator

    For those times when you need to figure out a percentage or calculate whether you are getting a raw deal from your employer, the calculator is there. It provides a range of functionality for simple and scientific calculations.

  • Terminal

    Applications > Accessories > Terminal

    Underpinning the desktop is an incredibly powerful command line core. This application puts a window around a command line interface and allows you configure transparency, fonts, behavior, and more. Essential for the command line junkies among you.

  • Dictionary

    Applications > Accessories > Dictionary

    The dictionary provides a great way to find out how to spell a word or discover what the meaning is. The dictionary uses the latest definitions from an online dictionary. For those of you who spent hours as a child looking up rude words in the dictionary, hours of fun are guaranteed.

  • Gnometris

    Applications > Games > Gnometris

    If you have too much time on your hands, a sure-fire way of wasting it is to play this version of Tetris. If you decide that single-player Tetris is not enough, go and download gtetrinet.

  • Nibbles

    Applications > Games > Nibbles

    The classic worm game comes to Ubuntu. Another surefire way of whiling away an afternoon.

  • Mahjongg

    Applications > Games > Mahjongg

    For those of you who actually understand the rules of Mahjongg, this application provides a great implementation of the game.

  • FreeCell Patience

    Applications > Games > FreeCell Patience

    There is a body of thinking that suggests that FreeCell may be responsible for untold hours of lost productivity. If you are impatient about playing Patience, select FreeCell Patience.

  • Internet Phone

    Applications > Internet > Ekiga Softphone

    Formally known as GNOME Meeting, Ekiga has experienced a raft of new features and been rebranded. You can use Ekiga for Voice Over IP and talk to your friends for virtually no cost across the Internet. With most Voice Over IP services and phones using the SIP protocol, the recent SIP integration in Ekiga means that you can join in on the fun. If you then roll in the video calling support, you are sure to spend hours with this great application.

  • Internet Relay Chat

    Applications > Internet > XChat-GNOME IRC Chat

    Internet Relay Chat (IRC) provides a way of talking to other people on the Internet by typing text into discussion channels. There are literally thousands of users online and thousands of channels available. IRC has proven to be a truly useful tool for getting help about Ubuntu and Linux, too. Be sure to log onto the Freenode network, and visit #ubuntu.

  • Terminal Server Client

    Applications > Internet > Terminal Server Client

    If you need to connect to a remote terminal server, this is how you do it.

  • Movie Player

    Applications > Sound & Video > Movie Player

    Although listed as a movie player, this application actually plays a range of different types of media, including both video and audio.

  • Sound Recorder

    Applications > Sound & Video > Sound Recorder

    If you need to record something, such as your voice for a podcast or audio message, you can use this simple tool.

  • Audio CD Creator

    Applications > Sound & Video > Serpentine Audio-CD Creator

    If you have a collection of sound files that you would like to convert to an audio CD, this is the tool for you. This is particularly handy if you have a long drive and want to burn a CD with some music or podcasts to listen to.

  • CD Ripper

    Applications > Sound & Video > Sound Juicer CD Extractor

    This application is the reverse of the previous one, allowing you to convert songs on a CD into songs that live on your hard disk or portable music player.

  • System Administrator Terminal

    Applications > System Tools > Root Terminal

    If you want to run a number of commands as the system administrator, load this terminal, and you won't need to constantly use sudo.

  • System Monitor

    System > Administration > System Monitor

    To get an idea of the current performance of your computer, click on this tool. The System Monitor lets you know which applications are running and how much memory/processing power they are using, and it also allows you to kill or restart processes that are hogging the resources.

Other Applications to Try

There are literally thousands of available packages that can be installed on your Ubuntu computer. These packages span a range of different areas, and this section covers some of the popular ones. Coverage of software installation appears in Chapter 4. Try these useful applications:

  • Blender

    Package to install: Blender

    Blender (see Figure 3-30) is an incredibly powerful 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and production studio. Blender amasses an impressive range of functionality for creating photorealistic scenes, animations, and real-time virtual walkthroughs. Blender is also fully scriptable in Python.

    3_30_1.jpg

    Figure 3-30 Blender.

  • Inkscape

    Package to install: Inkscape

    Inkscape (see Figure 3-31) is a drawing package for creating Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Ever since the SVG format was introduced, it has taken the design world by storm and allows the creation of graphics that can scale to any size. Inkscape is a hugely flexible tool for creating such graphics, and a huge range of icons and artwork in Open Source projects are made in Inkscape.

    3_31_1.jpg

    Figure 3-31 Inkscape.

  • Beagle

    Package to install: Beagle

    Beagle (see Figure 3-32) is a search system that indexes virtually everything. When you install Beagle, you can search for "campfire," and it would return documents, images, Web pages, blog entries, instant messaging conversations, and more that contain that term. Beagle is still very much in development but is an incredibly useful tool.

    3_32_1.jpg

    Figure 3-32 Beagle.

  • F-Spot

    Package to install: F-Spot

    F-Spot (see Figure 3-33) is a complete photo management application. With it you can import photos from your digital camera or USB stick, tag them with familiar terms, do touch-ups, and edit them in different ways. In addition to this, F-Spot can upload photos easily to Flickr and other online photo galleries. F-Spot is particularly useful for those of you who are trigger happy with a digital camera.

    3_33.jpg

    Figure 3-33 F-Spot.

  • NVU

    Package to install: NVU

    NVU (see Figure 3-34) is a complete What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Web page editor. NVU is ideal if you want to create Web pages visually without having to learn HTML and CSS code. NVU lets you create your pages and upload them easily.

  • Bluefish

    Package to install: Bluefish

    For those of you who want to create Web pages but prefer to write code, Bluefish (see Figure 3-35) is an excellent Web editor. Bluefish is a lightweight but feature-rich editor with support for a range of languages as well as HTML and CSS.

    3_35.jpg

    Figure 3-35 Bluefish.

  • Eclipse

    Package to install: Eclipse

    If you are a developer and want an entire development environment, Eclipse (see Figure 3-36) is a good choice. Eclipse includes support for a huge range of languages by using plug-ins. This includes support for C, C++, Java, Python, Perl, Ruby, PHP, and more. Eclipse also has built-in support for source control (CVS or Subversion) and debugging, and automatically handles its own (and the plug-in's) software updates.

    3_36.jpg

    Figure 3-36 Eclipse.

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