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Ubuntu-Hardy-Gnome: The Review

Thinking about giving the new Ubuntu-Hardy distribution of Linux a try? A. Lizard explains how it works and what it looks like. The article shows you how to install both native and Sun VirtualBox virtual machines. It walks you through setting up repositories, software installation, multimedia, and peripherals. Ever see a printer setup that Just Works without intervention by the user on any Linux distribution or non-Linux OS? The future is here, and it’s really cool.
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If you want KDE now, I provide an explanation for why Kubuntu-Hardy should be avoided and instructions on how to install the workable and usable KDE 3.5.x desktop later in this article.

The version of Ubuntu I'm reviewing is the liveCD-netinstall ubuntu-8.04.1-desktop-i386.iso.


Download the Ubuntu iso. Set your BIOS to boot to CD/DVD-ROM. Boot from the CD; you'll get to a desktop with a LiveCD icon. Open it to run the installer. Go through the wizard, reboot, and remove the CD when it says to. Nothing in the wizard will be a surprise if you have installed a Linux distro. Accept the defaults unless you are certain you have good reason to do otherwise.

VirtualBox Installation

I now review operating systems in Sun VirtualBox xVM. Once the guest VMs are properly set up, there's little difference for supported *nix operating systems between running on native hardware and in a guest virtual machine other than a minor performance hit. This also means I can install OSes for test and review purposes or to get access to applications not available on Debian “Lenny” without concern about impact on my regular workstation configuration.

See my Sun VirtualBox (xVM) article “A Virtualization Environment for Linux” Part 1 and Part 2 for details. The Guest VM setup for Ubuntu 7 described in Part 2 is good enough. Your main interest will be in what to enter in the Settings window to configure the HD, CD-ROM, USB, etc. sections. If you see anything in the article that conflicts with this one, go with this version. Ignore the instructions in that article about printing, unless you are one of the unfortunates whose printer isn't supported. Then go to the Turboprint site and see if your printer is on the supported list. You can also do a web search under your printer make/model to see if there are any Linux drivers for it that work with current CUPS.

Guest Additions (Gnome) Setup

To set up guest additions:

  1. Click Devices > Install Guest Additions.
  2. A disk icon appears on your desktop. Double-click it to open, and drag and drop VboxLinuxAdditions.run into your home directory (/home/username).
  3. Open a terminal window. You should be in your home directory:
    $ sudo ./VboxLinuxAdditions.run 
  4. Right-click the disk, select Eject, then reboot. You now have a shared clipboard with the host, which you can use to copy and paste commands from the article into your configuration files.
  5. Right-click the desktop, select Add Folder, and name it win-2.
  6. Open rc.local in a text editor:
    $ sudo nano /etc/rc.local 
  7. Add to that file below the line # by default this script does nothing:
    sudo mount -t vboxsf win /home/username/Desktop/win-2 -o uid=1000,gid=1000,exec,rw

    The above is a single line regardless of how the webpage shows the text wrapped. You can change the share name win both and in the Shared Folders setting in Ubuntu Guest VM Setup (must be the same) and change the host workstation folder to wherever you want it (/home/username to give access to one's entire personal filespace, or at some other directory you want Ubuntu to have access to).

  8. Save, then close. Reboot again. You now have access to whichever host workstation directory tree you pointed Shared Folders at in setup and can use Ubuntu applications freely on files in that tree, and your mouse can move freely between the host and guest desktops (see Figure 1).
Figure 1

Figure 1 Gnome desktop

The differences between the Ubuntu-Hardy version and the last one I saw on Ubuntu-Gutsy (or for that matter, OpenSolaris) are fairly trivial. It's a minimalist UI, and it works. Here’s one trick I learned by accident: You can drag/drop the taskbar to screen edges just like you can in Windows. Because I like mine on the bottom instead of the top where Gnome puts it by default, that's where I dragged it. I added a couple of apps to the taskbar—Opera and a terminal. The blue frame above and below the image is the VirtualBox guestVM window. If you aren't running VirtualBox, ignore it.

That down-pointing arrow indicates system updates; go ahead and click it.

If you are new to Gnome, instead of a single Start menu, there are three: Applications, Places, and System. Places refers to a local file directory or directories on other computers accessed by network. The other two are self-explanatory.

To open the Nautilus file manager, open the Places Menu. Each of the locations in the menu will open a file manager in the directory the menu entry points at. To open one pointed at the entire filesystem, open the Computer “place” entry.

Ubuntu has the usual application packages you'll see in most Linux desktop distros: the OpenOffice office productivity suite, Firefox, and a few graphics and multimedia apps. It’s enough for SOHO users to become productive immediately. If you want more, you can choose from one of thousands of packages.

Installing Backgrounds

One of the few things I don't like about Ubuntu/Gnome is the default backgrounds. You can install your own choice of images (jpg, png, whatever) by downloading an image you actually like. Choose System Menu > Preferences > Appearances > Background tab, then just find the image you downloaded and select it.

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