Saturday, April 22, 2006

Linux for Human Beings...

I've recently switched over from Windows XP Pro to Ubuntu Linux, and I'm loving every minute of it. It might be difficult to tackle the differences, and if you're willing to learn a few commands- with enough patience you can make the switch in about a week.

So I've decided to write a seven part series on how to make the switch, what follows is day one.


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Day one: Where you'll be in one week- and getting started.
The sceenshot above shows were I am after one week using ubuntu linux. I started off by installing my ancient Warty Warthog release (the versions of ubuntu go: Warty, Hoary, Breezy, Dapper [beta]). Since this version is almost 2 years old, I decided to upgrade my system- which you can do two ways. You can use the terminal to update your repositories (which is a list of ftp(file tree protocal) websites where all available software for ubuntu is kept. Updating your repositories simply gets the newest list of updates available for ubuntu to install. Then you can upgrade software according to the new ropository list that was created.

*Type into the terminal*
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

It will ask you for the root password to continue, but you could type "sudo su" to go into the root terminal if you plan on doing alot of stuff. Sometimes it's less bothersome, but it's all up to the user. Now that we've upgraded our system, we can not upgrade the distribution, which you must do in order. For example, when I wanted to upgrade from Warty to Breezy- I had to upgrade like this: (Warty -> Hoary -> Breezy). This process downloads about 1500 new software packages, some new and some that will upgrade old ones.

To update to Hoary type in: sudo apt-get dist-upgrade . Or you can go to your repositories list (system -> administration -> synaptic package manager). Once your in synaptic goto settings -> repositories.
Then goto edit, and change the distribution dialog to Hoary (or to whatever distribution you are going to). Always remember to upgrade in order, as I've found that if you don't it breaks systems. When you're done editing all the repositories (change any reference of your old distribution to the new one), you can reload your packages, and mark all updates. Ubuntu will download all new files from the repositories and install them automatically. Pretend we followed these steps 2 more times, and now we have a Ubuntu Dapper Drake Beta system.

So what's next? Let's familiarize ourselves with the desktop. By default, the gnome desktop has a panel at the top for the menu bar, and for little software programs- almost like widgets in OSX. To add a program to any panel, simply right click it- and add to panel. You'll notice that the menu bar has "Applications", "Places", and "system". It's a good idea to familiarlize yourself with these menus. On the bottom, you'll notice another gnome panel, which is extremely similar to Windows, except that it has "workspaces". Basically, you can use these virtual desktops all at once- effectively doubling the available space you have. You'll also notice that the program you are working in is highlighted, simply drag it to another workspace and it will move. You can also right click the menu bars of programs to see all available options.



Let's go ahead and install a program, let's say realplayer to watch a video feed. Download a realplayer.bin package and drag it into the terminal. If you run into an error, just right click the .bin file and click properties. Allow the owner to execute it, and drag it into the terminal again. It will automatically install it for you. .Bin files are the easiest programs to install (outside of the ubuntu universe and multiverse packages which I'll get into later), because they have a self installer. Tar.gz, Tar.gz2 and rpm packages require a bit more work (and sometimes you must compile them from scratch, although usually there are ready-made ubuntu packages to use.) Realplayer will be installed in your "home" directory automatically, goto places -> home and find realplayer ->realplay shell script file. Open the file and you'll see a notice, just run the file and voilla realplayer opens.
Next week I'll discuss alot more, stay tuned. Goto http://ubuntu.com to download Ubuntu today!

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Day 2: What do you want to do?

If you are going to completely move over to Linux, you'll going to want to get a few things working.

1) Multimedia files (this includes wmv, avi, mov, divx, xvid, dvds, vcds, and streaming video files such as asx)
2) Flash, java and other website supporting plugins
3) Figuring out wich multimedia engine works for you (Xine or Gstreamer)

In ubuntu all these things can be achieved rather simply, because packages be found in the DapperDrake repositories. In the screenshot above you can see that streaming wmv with mozilla-firefox and totem-xine works quite well, and is a fine alternitive to wmp on Windows. By default; however, Ubuntu ships with Totem-Gstreamer which in most cases works pretty horribly. Go into the synaptic package manager and search for "totem," you'll notice that a package called "totem-gstreamer" and the totem-gstreamer plugin for firefox are installed. You'll want to unistall them and install "totem-xine" and the totem-xine plugin for mozilla. That's really all there is to it. Totem-xine supports nearly every format imaginable, but if you want you can also install the vlc player, which is also in the repositories. There is also a firefox plugin for it, but you cannot use the totem plugin and the vlc plugin at the same time- you must choose the one that works best for you. A good xine based music player is Amarok, which again, is located in the repositories. At this point, you should be familiar with the sunaptic pakcage manager and the "add/remove" programs list.

Next week: setting up ubuntu just the way you like.

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