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This chapter is from the book

System Administration

As with any computer application or system, Kubuntu will occasionally need administrative support. Do not be afraid of personally administrating your Kubuntu system. While system administration is not completely foolproof, a lot changes have been made to help make things easier. Knowledge of the command line will go a long way in configuring the system, but the developers have made sure to provide graphical interfaces wherever it made sense to do so. In fact, in the current release (7.04), there are more graphical administration tools available than before. Everything from changing the IP address (e.g., from DHCP to a static address) to installing packages can all be done without having to drop down to the command line. This section will focus exclusively on system administration performed through the graphical interface.

Installing New Packages

As mentioned earlier, Kubuntu is built around some of the same applications and systems as Ubuntu. All applications are installable through packages. Like Ubuntu, Kubuntu uses the Advanced Package Tool (APT), and also like Ubuntu, Kubuntu has a wonderful graphical interface called Adept. This program was sponsored by Canonical Ltd. to help further the project of Kubuntu and other Linux distributions. The old package manager, Kynatpic, was lacking many features and was not user-friendly. Adept seeks to solve this problem. In the current version of Kubuntu (7.04), a lot of changes have been made to increase the usability and to solve some other problems.

Adept is composed of four parts: the installer (Add/Remove Programs), the main program (Adept), adept update-notifier, and adept-updater. These programs will help you install packages and keep your system up to date with the latest and greatest changes.

To start Adept and begin installing new applications, open up the KMenu, and click on Add/Remove Programs or simply type Add/Remove in Katapult. Figure 7-13 shows the screen that will be displayed.

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Figure 7-13 Add/Remove Programs main window

Add/Remove Programs breaks programs into three groups: packages that can be installed with KDE, applications that can be installed with GNOME, and applications that can be installed on either desktop environment. Searching for that needed application is very simple. Just type in the application you are looking for, click on it, and select Install. Figure 7-14 shows an application being installed.

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Figure 7-14 Installing an application with Add/Remove Programs

Once you click on Apply Changes, Add/Remove Programs will download the information from the repository and install the application. Easy and painless. Add/Remove programs will also download any dependencies to prevent any conflicts or broken programs.

To start Adept and being to install new applications, open up the KMenu, and move through the System folder to Adept (Manage Packages). Figure 7-15 shows the different sections of Adept.

Adept has an easy-to-use search feature that allows you to quickly locate the application that needs to be installed. Simply locate the name of the application, click the drop-down arrow, and select Install.

This will queue the package to be installed; simply clicking on Apply Changes will set up the application on the system. Unlike Microsoft Windows, Kubuntu is great about not forcing a system restart in order for the new application to work correctly.

Packages are organized into four different groups or repositories: main, restricted, universe, and multiverse. A standard installation will set up the system to install packages from the main repository. This repository contains applications that are free software, programs that allow for complete distribution and are supported by the Kubuntu team. When the user installs something from the main repository, he or she is guaranteed to receive security updates and support through the various venues. A change to Adept in this version of Kubuntu (7.04) is that applications that are in the main repository have a Kubuntu icon next to them, as Figure 7-16 demonstrates.

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Figure 7-16 Kubuntu icon next to supported packages

The restricted group of software is reserved for software that is commonly used and is supported by the Kubuntu team, even though the team may not be able to change or update it. An example of software included here are the binary video drivers that some vendors publish.

Software in the universe repository is where almost every other known open source software application can be found. Software here comes with a variety of licenses, and some might have restricted use in various countries. Users should take care to ensure that they do not violate these restrictions. Items built and maintained in this group are put together by the Masters of the Universe (MOTUs). However, there is no support from the core developers for these items.

Anything from the multiverse repository contains software that is not free, which is defined by the Kubuntu Main Component License Policy. Software here is used at the user's own risk.

Managing Repositories

With Adept, you do not need to know how to manually edit the sources.list text file to change repositories. Adept can guide you through making these changes. From the File menu, simply select Manage Repositories, and you will see a window that looks like the display shown in Figure 7-17.

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Figure 7-17 Editing your repositories in Adept

A lot of work has been done to ease the configuration of different repositories in the current release, 7.04. In the previous release, there were five steps; this has been simplified down to just clicking on the correct configuration and selecting Close. Also, you can now more easily change the location from which the software is downloaded, by clicking on the drop-down and selecting the country closest to you.

Another large change in repository management is the ability to add third-party repositories. An important note is that software from these locations is not supported by the Kubuntu developers and may not have been given the same quality of testing and debugging as supported applications. Figure 7-18 shows the tab to use for adding a third-party repository.

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Figure 7-18 Adding third-party repositories in Adept

Adept can also be easily customized as to when Adept Updater checks for updates, which types of updates to check for, and how to handle new updates. Depending on how you are administrating your system, you may even have Adept download and install these security updates for you. Figure 7-19 shows the default settings for dealing with updates.

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Figure 7-19 Customizing updates with Adept

The fourth tab under repository management deals with authentication. By default, the signed key for the Ubuntu repositories is installed. It is important when using third-party repositories to make sure they provide a valid GPG key, which verifies that the packages you are installing are indeed what you requested.

The final tab enables reporting of usage statistics for various applications installed on your system. This works the same as the popcon package does in Debian (another Linux distribution that you may have used). The Web site http://popcon.ubuntu.com displays the results and also has more information on what exactly is collected. From the FAQ on privacy concerns:

  1. What information is reported by popularity-contest?

    Popularity-contest reports the system architecture you use, the version of popularity-contest you use and the list of packages installed on your system. For each package, popularity-contest looks at the most recently used (based on atime) files, and reports the filename, its last access time (atime) and last change time (ctime). However, some files are not considered, because they have unreliable atime.

The Web site is updated daily with the latest information based on what the users send.

Installing a Package

The easiest way to find the package you need to install on your system is to use the search function built into Adept. After opening up Adept and typing in the password, you will be presented with the main Adept screen. Just type the name of the package you are looking for, and Adept will display a listing of every package that fits the criteria you entered (Figure 7-20).

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Figure 7-20 Using the search bar in Adept to find packages

Through the use of filters, Adept will help limit the package listing you are searching for. These filters allow you to, for example, show packages that are not installed, show packages that are installed, and show packages that are upgradable.

Once the package has been found, click on the name or the drop-down arrow, and Adept will display the description of the program and current version along with other information (Figure 7-21).

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Figure 7-21 Expanded information regarding a specific package

At this time you will be presented with two options: to install the package and to view the details of the package. Details will show more information, including dependent packages and where the files will be installed.

Once an application is marked for installation, Adept will also mark all of the dependent files and applications for installation as well. This will prevent what is referred to as "dependency hell," in which not all of the required files are installed to get an application to function correctly. Notice that the requested action will change from "no change" to "install." Figure 7-22 shows mysql-server (an open source database server) marked for installation.

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Figure 7-22 Installing mysql-server with Adept

A very important part of installing packages through Adept is to make sure you always preview the changes by clicking on Preview Changes at the top before clicking Apply Changes. Any changes marked can be undone up to the point of applying them simply by clicking Undo. Figure 7-23 shows a preview of the additional packages that will be installed along with the main package.

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Figure 7-23 Previewing changes with Adept

Upgrading Kubuntu

New to the 7.04 version of Kubuntu is an upgrade manager that will help you upgrade your system from 6.10 to 7.04 seamlessly. The upgrade manager works in conjunction with Adept-Update-Notifier, discussed soon, to check whether a new version of Kubuntu is available. If so, the upgrade manager will ask you whether you want to upgrade. Simply follow the instructions to upgrade your version from 6.10 to 7.04. Figures 7-24 through 7-27 demonstrate how to use the upgrade manager.

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Figure 7-24 Notification that a new version of Kubuntu is available

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Figure 7-25 Confirming that you are ready to upgrade by clicking Next to continue

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Figure 7-26 Downloading the updates

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Figure 7-27 Installing the updates

How to Keep the System Up to Date

Two parts of Adept, Adept Updater and Adept-Updater-Notifier, will help keep the system current with the latest fixes and updates. Like any software package, there are updates. However, Adept Updater will help keep you current with the latest and greatest. In the earlier Managing Repositories subsection, we mentioned how to customize the way the update applications function. Just as when you install new packages, you will rarely have to restart the system for these changes to take effect. Examples of an update requiring a restart would be a kernel update or an update to KDE.

The Adept-Update-Notifier will periodically check for updates (by default, daily, but that can be changed) and will then allow you to launch Adept Updater and install the fixes. The application functions very much like the Windows Update icon in Microsoft Windows systems.

When there are updates available for your system, a red triangle will appear in the taskbar, as Figure 7-28 shows.

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Figure 7-28 Adept-Update-Notifier in action

After entering your password, click on Fetch Updates to grab all the available updates. Click on Apply Changes for the updates to take place.

System Settings

In version 7.04, another large batch of updates took place to help make System Settings (Figure 7-29) better and simpler to use. This program allows users to make many changes to the system, including settings for sound, user accounts, mouse behavior, and networks. If you're familiar with KDE, you may recognize that System Settings replaces the K Control Center. However, that application is still available and can be run by hitting Alt-F2 for the run command and typing in KControl.

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Figure 7-29 System Settings application

You can find System Settings in the KMenu, or type System Settings in Katapult to bring it up. When making changes, you will be prompted at times to enter your password. These changes are systemwide and will affect all users of the Kubuntu system and can be made only by entering administrative mode.

System Settings is divided into two tabs, General and Advanced, and then each tab is further divided into sections based on tasks. (In the last version of Kubuntu, General and Advanced were action sections and have since been changed to tabs to help improve usability.) Under the General tab are the following sections: Personal, Look & Feel, Computer Administration, and Network & Connectivity. The Advanced tab contains two sections: System Administration and Advanced User Settings.

When moving through the different options, to return to the main screen be sure to select Overview to return to the main screen of System Settings instead of trying to close the current window by clicking on the X (which will close the application). This is a common mistake, and it may take some getting used to using the Overview button to return to the main System Settings window.

The Personal Section

In the Personal section, you can change information about yourself, including your password, as well as settings for your region and language, accessibility, and the default applications running on your system.

The Look & Feel Section

Under this section, you can really customize and personalize your Kubuntu system. Included here is the ability to customize your desktop, as discussed earlier in this chapter. Another option in this section is to customize the splash screen displayed after you log in, known as the ksplash (Figure 7-30).

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Figure 7-30 Customizing the splash screen

The Computer Administration Section

The Computer Administration section allows you to change settings such as the current date and time and the behavior of the keyboard and mouse. The ability to add and share printers has been simplified, and more work continues in that area. An addition to Kubuntu 7.04 is the HP Device Manager, which eases configuration of HP Multifunction Devices (MFDs), printers that function as copiers and scanners, and other HP printers. You can find the HP Device Manager in the KMenu under the System folder. After you launch the application for the first time, the HP Device Manager will attempt to connect to any currently installed devices and, if there are none, will open a new window to help you set up a new device. Figure 7-31 shows an example.

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Figure 7-31 Setting up a new device with the HP Device Manager

The HP Device Manager has the ability to automatically detect any attached devices and to scan your network for any compatible devices. To set up a new device, simply click on the Setup Device button, and you will be prompted for your password. A new window (Figure 7-32) will open up that will allow you to determine how your device is connected. Once your device is discovered, the HP Device Manager provides an easy way to set up and configure your printer.

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Figure 7-32 Wizard to help you set up your printer

After you select the Printers icon in the General tab of System Settings, the Common UNIX Print System (CUPS) will initialize and enable control of the printing subsystem. Figure 7-33 shows the Printers window.

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Figure 7-33 Printers window

To add a printer, select Add, and follow the guide for configuring the printer. CUPS can print to a locally attached printer, a network attached printer, or even a printer shared through a Windows print server. For some of the changes made at this level, you will need to use your password to enter administrative mode.

Work has continued in version 7.04 of Kubuntu on the ability to configure how the graphical system displays. Kubuntu provides an easy-to-use graphical tool (Display) to help manage the X Window configuration. Now it is no longer a painful process to change your screen size or resolution; you can easily do so through the System Settings window. Changes made here often require administrative mode, so you'll have to enter your password; sometimes you'll even need to restart the graphical subsystem. To do this, from the login window, choose Restart the X System.

The process of adding and changing user accounts has been simplified in the Computer Administration section of System Settings. Figure 7-34 shows the screen used for this process.

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Figure 7-34 Adding and modifying user accounts

The Network & Connectivity Section

In this section of System Settings, you can make changes that affect how the system operates on a network, including configuring a service called Zeroconf. Wireless networking support has increased in Kubuntu 7.04.

Zeroconf Discovery gives the ability for computers to communicate on a network without any kind of configuration and is enabled by default. The beauty of this is that you can discover computers and other services without having to figure out how to customize or change anything. Figure 7-35 shows an example of Zeroconf in action.

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Figure 7-35 Using Zeroconf to play a game of KBattleship against a friend

You can set up Kubuntu 7.04 to share files and sessions across the network. When you select Sharing, a new window will open up, allowing you to manage desktop sharing, file sharing, and even local network browsing. If a user enables desktop sharing, others can connect to the first user's Kubuntu session and see what is happening on that desktop. This is a great utility for those trying to support and troubleshoot other computers. File sharing and local network browsing enable the system to act as a mini file server and provide outside access to files on the system.

A lot of information can be modified under the Network Settings item, but be careful. Users can drastically change how the system functions and may accidentally make a change that will prevent Internet access; however, such changes require administrative mode and the user's password. See Figure 7-36 for an example of the Network Settings window.

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Figure 7-36 The Network Settings window

When you installed Kubuntu, the installer asked some questions that set up basic networking, including whether or not the IP address would be static or dynamic and other necessary information. You can change all of these options here, but you need to enter your password. In this section you can make changes to network interfaces, the routes, and how Domain Name System (DNS) is set up; you can also create additional network profiles.

The Routes tab allows you to make changes to the default routes and which interface to use. Under the Domain Name System tab, instead of having to manually edit a host file, you can set up different static hosts and entries (Figure 7-37).

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Figure 7-37 Adding a new DNS server

Setting up and changing how your system works used to require knowledge of text files and the command line, scaring people away from using Linux. With the advent of different graphical tools and the intuitive grouping of programs, system administration has become a lot easier.

The Advanced Tab

Making changes for items included in the Advanced tab will require that you enter your password. Items that can be changed in this section include settings for disks and filesystems, audio encoding, services, and other options, as shown in Figure 7-38.

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Figure 7-38 Advanced tab

Under the System Administration section, the Disk & Filesystems item allows you to make changes to your hard disks, floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and other disks connected to your system. By using administrative mode, you can also configure your system to automatically connect network drives as well.

Is your newly installed Web server not starting automatically? Are you having problems setting up a service to run correctly? The System Services item will guide you through the different run levels and help you set up when a service will start. Figure 7-39 shows an example of making such a change.

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Figure 7-39 Configuring services

Windows Applications

New to Kubuntu 7.04 is the ability to configure and install Wine to run some Windows applications in the System Settings application. When you open the Windows Applications item, System Settings will check to see if Wine is installed. If it is not, you will be asked whether you want to install this application (Figure 7-40); your password will be required to complete this task (Figure 7-41).

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Figure 7-40 Checking for the presence of Wine

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Figure 7-41 Installing Wine through System Settings

In order for Wine to emulate Windows and install applications correctly, the system needs to set up a virtual hard drive. After installing Wine, you will be prompted to allow the system to configure this for you (Figure 7-42).

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Figure 7-42 Setting up your Windows drive for the first time

After everything is installed, the Windows Applications window is displayed (Figure 7-43), and you can customize how things are handled.

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Figure 7-43 Windows Applications window

Setting up and changing how your system works used to require knowledge of text files and the command line, scaring people away from using Linux. With the advent of different graphical tools and the intuitive grouping of programs, system administration has become a lot easier.

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