Ubuntu desktop setup steps

From Nick Jenkins
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Ubuntu desktop setup steps for an AMD64 system. Most of these instructions will work on 8.04 LTS onwards through the current release, and it should almost all work on x86 systems too:


Pre-installation standard hardware test procedure

Before installing or configuring any software, it is imperative to test the hardware beforehand, to establish that it is not provably broken:

  • Download the ISOs for System Rescue CD and Ultimate Boot CD and burn these.
  • From either CD, run Memtest86+ on the machine overnight, to test that the CPU and memory are error-free.
  • From UBCD, run a CPU stress test for 5 to 10 minutes to check CPU is reliable and adequately cooled.
  • From Sys Rescue CD, check for bad blocks on the hard drive, before trusting it with any data: badblocks -v -s -w -c 4096 /dev/sda
    Note however that badblocks is quite a slow test - e.g. took 34 hours on a 500 GB SATA disk in an external USB enclosure, and 17 hours on a 250 GB IDE disk.
    It's also a destructive write test, and so will blank the disk, so make sure you have the right device (use fdisk -lu to confirm the device's size and name).
    Successful output will look something like this:
Checking for bad blocks in read-write mode
From block 0 to 244198583
Testing with pattern 0xaa: done                                
Reading and comparing: done                                
Testing with pattern 0x55: done                                
Reading and comparing: done                                
Testing with pattern 0xff: done                                
Reading and comparing: done                                
Testing with pattern 0x00: done                                
Reading and comparing: done                                
Pass completed, 0 bad blocks found.

If problems are found with any of the above, resolve these first before proceeding further.


  • Firstly, decide whether you want software RAID or not. Personally, I use RAID-1 mirroring of a single bootable partition, using 2 same-sized disks, from 2 different manufacturers, because:
    1. it's simple.
    2. it's redundant enough.
    3. it's cheap: the incremental cost is the cost of a single disk, which is less than $100.
    4. you can boot off of it.
    5. it's not a question of if a disk will fail, but when.
For software RAID, install from the Alternate Installation CD. You can always convert to RAID-1 later, but it's significantly more faffing about than setting it up this way from the get-go.
  • Once you've done the above, download and burn either the standard or alternate Ubuntu install CD, as appropriate.
  • Insert installation CD. Follow simple options, installs, ejects CD, reboots. Then login.
  • System -> Networking -> set up static IP address instead of dynamic IP address.
  • reboot to get network changes to apply (theoretically this should not be necessary, but in practice it was, at least for me on 8.04).
  • reboot, install system updates. Then reboot once updates are installed.
  • system -> hardware drivers -> enable the proprietary nvidia drivers.
  • reboot to enable the proprietary drivers.

Tweaks and Preferences

  • Ditch the annoying sounds: System -> Preferences -> sound -> sounds -> set all to "no sound", and untick "play system sounds", and on "system beep" tab untick all boxes.
  • Ditch the thrashing hard-disk: System -> Preferences -> Searching and indexing -> General -> tick "enable indexing" and "enable watching" and both of the power management boxes to disable stuff when on battery.
  • To get Subpixel Smoothing on LCDs, do this: System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Fonts -> Select "subpixel smoothing (LCDs)". Need to restart Firefox for this change to take effect in Firefox.
  • To get reasonable desktop visual effects: System -> Preferences -> Appearance -> Visual Effects -> Select "Normal".
  • To make the system remember running apps and window locations on logout, do this: System -> Preferences -> sessions -> session options -> tick "automatically remember running applications when logging out". In Ubuntu 9.04 / gnome 2.26 & up, this setting has moved, and is now under: System -> Preferences -> Startup Application Preferences -> options -> tick "automatically remember running applications when logging out".
  • Power saving: Turn off blinking cursor by going: System -> Preferences -> Keyboard -> untick "Cursor blinks in text fields".
  • Add terminal icon to gnome panel: Right-click panel -> Add to Panel -> Application Launcher... -> Accessories -> Terminal -> Add -> Close.
  • Gedit -> Edit -> Preferences -> "Editor" tab -> tick "autosave" files every 2 minutes.
  • Gedit -> Edit -> Preferences -> "Plugins" tab -> tick "Sort" to enable the sort plugin -> Close. Can now highlight text and go Edit -> Sort to get it alphabetically sorted.

Firefox configuration steps

Firefox configuration steps

Firefox Add-ons

Go Tools -> Add-ons -> Get Add-ons -> then search for and install these add-ons:

cd  ~/.mozilla/firefox/5rtqb3dy.default-1347599554683/extensions/keefox@chris.tomlinson/deps
sudo cp KeePassRPC.plgx /usr/lib/keepass2/
Close Firefox, close KeePass (note: MUST restart keepass as it compiles the add-on modules on restart), restart Firefox.

Note: if you then get an error on starting keepass that says "the plugin cannot be loaded a new Keepass version is required to open this file", then you need to update Keepass. The ones included with the distro can be out of date (e.g. 2.32 when 2.35 is available). For example, to update Ubuntu or Mint, use this PPA with the current version:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jtaylor/keepass
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Firefox Tweaks

  • Don't want Firefox to close when pressing ctrl-w on the last tab: Tools -> tab mix plus options -> events -> tab closing -> tick "do not close window when closing last tab by hotkey".
  • Tab mix plus -> Events -> New Tabs -> Tick "Open new tabs next to current one".
  • Tab mix plus -> Events -> Tab Features -> Untick "Ctrl-Tab navigates tabs in most recently used order".
  • Tab mix plus -> Display -> Tab Bar -> When tabs don't fit width: Multi-row; Set number of rows to 2 or 3.
  • Stop animated GIFs in Firefox: about:config -> image.animation_mode -> change to "none"
  • Firefox: Fix the stupid behavior of overwriting current tabs when opening new tabs: about:config -> browser.tabs.loadFolderAndReplace -> toggle to "true". [Have to re-apply this setting when upgrading Linux distro]
  • To get autocomplete for the web address, go: about:config -> browser.urlbar.autoFill -> toggle to "true" -> restart FF.
  • Stop the full screen mode-switch animation: about:config -> browser.fullscreen.animateUp -> change to "0".
  • Perform a sync using Foxmarks wizard, and for the initial setup keep the bookmarks on the server, and overwrite those on this computer.
  • File -> Page setup ... -> Paper size = "A4", and orientation = "Portrait".
  • Edit -> Preferences -> Main tab -> tick to close the download window when all downloads are finished.
  • Laptops only: Add a delay to the bookmark menu collapsing (only really useful on laptops when navigating with a trackpad or button, which tends to be fairly inaccurate) - about:config -> right-click -> New -> Integer -> name is: ui.submenuDelay -> value is: 800
  • Prevent JavaScript from messing with browser window: Edit -> Preferences -> Content tab -> Advanced ... -> untick everything.
  • Make the "Backspace" key be like pressing the "Back" button: about:config -> browser.backspace_action -> change to "0".
  • Stop blocky graphics: View -> Zoom -> Tick "Zoom Text Only".
  • About:config -> dom.max_script_run_time -> chnage from 10 to 20 to increase timeout on slow scripts.
  • Set search bar to use Australian Google rather than US Google: Open this list of search plugins -> click "Google Australia - the web" -> tick the "Start using it straight away" box -> click "Ok".
  • To make streetview work: Tools -> Addons -> Flash-block -> preferences -> whitelist -> add "maps.google.com.au" and "maps.google.com".
  • Firefox 4, to limit excessive memory usage: about:config -> browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers -> set to "0".
  • To stop old tabs using memory when the browser is restarted: Edit -> Preferences -> Tabs -> tick "Don't load tabs until selected". * If install noscript, then add a whitelisting for xmarks.com
  • To increase mouse scroll speeed: About:config -> mousewheel.withnokey.sysnumlines -> toggle to false. Then make sure that mousewheel.withnokey.numlines is set to 6.

Installation of extra software

Go system -> admin -> synaptic package manager -> then Install the following (my brief descriptions of what some packages do are also shown) :

  • inkscape # Vector drawing package
  • hugin # Create panoramas from an image set.
  • dia # Draw diagrams & flow charts, somewhat like "visio" on Windows.
  • googleearth-package
  • xchat # IRC client.
  • ttf-mscorefonts-installer ttf-linux-libertine ttf-inconsolata # The most useful font sets. See also the "Install the Tahoma fonts" section below.
  • audacious # Like XMMS or Winamp
  • nmap # Check for open ports.
  • filezilla # GUI FTP client.
  • wireshark # Packet sniffer
  • powertop iotop htop # Show power hogs, I/O hogs, and an more visual command-line version of top.
  • nautilus-open-terminal # adds ability to right click on a folder and get a command prompt there.
  • php5-cli php5-gd php5-curl # Only useful if you want to write scripts in PHP.
  • traceroute # How packets get from here to there over the network.
  • curl # Command line HTTP client, includes form-submitting capacity
  • tofrodos # Convert line endings from dos to UNIX or vice-versa.
  • openssh-server
  • libxml2-dev libmysqlclient-dev # Optional: Only used for compiling PHP snapshots
  • eclipse sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin libmysql-java junit junit-doc # Optional: Java development using Eclipse + java plugins for Firefox
  • sysinfo # Kind of like device manager on Windows. Shows CPU / memory / hard disk installed, some hardware that has been detected, etc.
  • autofs smbfs smbclient
  • gisomount
  • gtk-recordmydesktop # Record videos of what you're doing on your desktop.
  • gworldclock # Want to simultaneously see the time in Tokyo, LA, London, and Rio? Use this.
  • ffmpeg2theora # Convert videos into format suitable for uploading to Wikimedia commons.
  • rar p7zip-full # needed for extracting .7z and RAR archives
  • gnome-do # Run apps or commands from a keyboard launcher.
  • pinfo # Much nicer UI than man or info for reading documentation.
  • vlc mozilla-plugin-vlc
  • avidemux # Useful for replacing audio tracks in video files.
  • indent # Useful for auto-indenting code.
  • smartmontools smart-notifier # S.M.A.R.T. hard disk monitoring tools.
  • tidy
  • ddrescue # Useful for recovering data from failing hard disks.
  • gimp-resynthesizer # A nifty plugin for gimp for repairing images or filling in content intelligently. Ignore if you don't use gimp.
  • qpdf # Useful for removing password from PDF files, as per this guide.
  • hardinfo # Generates a hardware report and benchmark for the system; can also run in command line mode by doing: hardinfo -r -f html > report.html
  • gtkvncviewer # Nice VNC client.
  • renameutils # Useful for bulk renaming of files. Example for renaming all .JPG files in a directory to .jpg (lowercase) is: rename s/JPG$/jpg/ *
  • meld # Good GUI for comparing two files, e.g. two log files.
  • asciio # Good for drawing ASCII graphs; only available in Ubuntu 10.10 and up.
  • spamassassin # Email filtering, used by Evolution.

Configure "Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard"

To get the back / forward keyboard keys working in Firefox, when using the "Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard", go System -> Preferences -> Keyboard -> Layout -> click the model button -> Choose Microsoft -> set model to "Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro USB" -> click "close".

Custom Key Bindings, aimed at "Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 Keyboard"

Note: the steps keep changing in each Ubuntu release (the menus move around, the keycodes change), unfortunately. This is what works for me using 14.04.

Go: System settings -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts -> custom shortcuts.

Personally I then add the following custom shortcuts:

Label Command HotKey
Terminal gnome-terminal 1
Files /usr/bin/nemo 2
Screenshot gnome-screenshot --window --interactive 3
Text editor gedit --new-document 4
KeePass /usr/bin/keepass2 5

Install Skype

From the command line, run "software-center" -> Skype -> More Info -> Install.

Then to make the right-click menus legible with Ubuntu's dark theme, do as follows:

  1. Applications -> Internet -> Skype -> single-click on the skype icon in the top right to open skype -> Ctrl-O to open options -> "general" -> Choose Style: "Desktop settings" -> close.
  2. Single click on skype icon to open skype again -> Ctrl-Q to close.
  3. Now restart skype by going Applications -> Internet -> Skype, and the right-click menus will be readable.

Install the Tahoma fonts

Source of instructions.

Once the msttcorefonts package is installed you will notice that Tahoma and Tahoma Bold is missing. You will need to extract Tahoma and Tahoma Bold from the zip file. Tahoma is used for Microsoft desktop, title bars and menu fonts so if you are trying to get that XP look you will need the Tahoma regular and Tahoma Bold fonts. Install Tahoma by doing the following in a terminal.

cd ~
wget http://www.stchman.com/tools/MS_fonts/tahoma.zip
sudo unzip -d /usr/share/fonts/truetype/msttcorefonts ~/tahoma.zip
sudo fc-cache -f -v
rm -f ~/tahoma.zip

Install Flash

  • Install the "flash-aid" extension in Firefox, which fixes up or installs flash for Ubuntu and Debian systems.
  • Restart the browser.
  • Go to: Tools -> Flash-Aid -> Wizard Mode, go with all the defaults.
  • It removes any old flash plugins and downloads and installs the latest Adobe one.
  • For AMD64 systems, can use the flash 64 bit beta.

If flash videos have a blue tint after the installation, then repeat the above steps, which may fix it. If it doesn't, then right click on a flash video with a blue tint -> Settings -> Untick "enable HW acceleration". Source.

Install Google Earth

Follow these instructions for installing google earth.

Install Acrobat reader

From the command line, run "software-center", or go Applications -> Ubuntu Software Center, and then go: -> Canonical Partners -> Adobe Acrobat reader -> Install.

Then to tweak the display preferences of Acrobat Reader: Edit -> Preferences -> Page Display -> set "Zoom" to "Fit Page" -> Click "Ok".

To change the default file handling for PDF's all I had to do was find a PDF, right click, select Properties, click the Open With tab and select Adobe Acrobat Reader from the options.

Install Opera

To install and configure opera (since it's useful for testing web pages to be able to check behaviour, and it's useful to have another browser around sometimes), do the following:

sudo editor /etc/apt/sources.list

... and add these two lines:

# For latest stable opera:
deb http://deb.opera.com/opera/ stable non-free
  • Then do:
sudo wget -O - http://deb.opera.com/archive.key | sudo apt-key add -
sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install opera
  • Then run opera - Applications -> Internet -> Opera
  • Right-click on the tab bar, select Customise -> Toolbars tab -> change the "wrapping" setting to "Wrap to multiple lines".

Enable Apport for crash bug reporting

Enable apport so that crash bugs will be reported and logged:

sudo editor /etc/default/apport

change enabled from "0" to "1".

Crashes will then be logged to /var/crash/

Configure Open Office to work in MS Office 2000 compatibility mode

Source of instructions. Only do this if you are testing a migration to Ubuntu. Once you have already switched, then use the native ODF for new files, as they generally save formatting better.

  • Start OpenOffice Word Process: Applications -> Office -> OpenOffice.org Word Processor -> tools -> options -> expand "Load/Save" -> select "general" -> For document type = "Text document", set Always save as "Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP" (instead of "ODF text document"); For Document type = "Spreadsheet", set Always save as "Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP"; For Document type = "Presentation", set Always save as "Microsoft PowerPoint 97/2000/XP" -> then click "OK".
  • Then tools -> options -> OpenOffice.org Writer -> compatibility -> tick "Use printer metrics for document formatting", tick "Do not add leading (extra space) between lines of text", and tick "Consider wrapping style when positioning objects". Then go: Use as Default -> Yes -> OK.

Note: When you upgrade between Ubuntu releases, you will probably need to repeat the first step, otherwise it will default back to saving in OpenOffice's formats by default.

Evolution configuration

  • Turn off new email notifications: Evolution -> Edit -> Plugins -> Uncheck "Mail Notification" plugin.
  • Edit -> Preferences -> 'Calendar and Tasks' -> 'Display' tab -> Disable the 'Compress weekends in month view' option.
  • Customize the default mail folder view. Get one folder looking right (personal preference: Columns: From / Subject / Received, with threads off, sorted by date received with most recent first). Then go View -> Current view -> Save Custom View... -> Replace existing view -> Messages -> Save. "Messages" is a special view, which is used by default on all folders, although you can override it on a folder-by-folder basis, but customizing that folder's view.

Set up SSH keys and KeepAlive Interval

For each machine you want to have password-less SSH login to, do:

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_dsa.pub machine1

Also on some connections the SSH shell can close after a short timeout period. To keep connections option for longer, on the client side do, sudo editor /etc/ssh/ssh_config and then add this line to send a keep-alive heartbeat every 60 seconds:

ServerAliveInterval 60

... there is also a corresponding "ClientAliveInterval 60" setting that can be added to /etc/ssh/sshd_config - although sometimes you only control the client side of the link, and so this is not possible.

Also set up connection sharing, makes secondary connections to SSH hosts much faster. sudo editor /etc/ssh/ssh_config and add this:

# from: "OpenSSH tip: connection sharing"
# http://tanguy.ortolo.eu/blog/article42/ssh-connection-sharing
ControlPath ~/.ssh/control-%r@%h:%p
ControlMaster auto
ControlPersist 1

Automounting remote file systems using SSHFS

For a remote Linux system, can automount with autofs + sshfs. Follow the guides here and here.

Debug any problems with:

tail --lines=0 -f /var/log/*

right before and right after each upgrade

Remove unneeded cruft, by doing:

sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get clean

Check first that no important packages are about to be removed, then do:

sudo apt-get remove --purge $(deborphan)

Purge old configuration files, first command shows what will be purged:

sudo aptitude search ~c 
sudo aptitude purge ~c

Fix broken packages:

  • sudo aptitude
  • fix any broken packages (ctrl-t -> resolver -> examine -> g -> g).
  • also clean up cache and obsolete files (ctrl-t -> actions -> "clean package cache" and "clean obsolete files").

Ubuntu 9.04 tweaks

These tweaks are only required for 9.04:

(Source) To enable daily notification of non-security updates, which is especially useful if you enable Apport for crash bug reporting, then do this:

gconftool -s --type bool /apps/update-notifier/auto_launch false

(Source) To remove the 60 second delay on shutdown or logout, do this:

  • Right-click on the panel power button icon on top-right of the screen -> Preferences -> Untick "Show confirm dialog for logout, shutdown and restart".

Only in Ubuntu 9.04:

sudo aptitude install firefox-3.5 firefox-3.5-gnome-support

Ubuntu 9.10 tweaks

Tweaks to Ubuntu 9.10 that I had to apply to get stuff working again, or configured how I like it:

1: Remove the 60 second delay on shutdown or logout. (Source).

2: For seeing details of SMART reporting for hard disks:

sudo aptitude install gsmartcontrol

3: system -> preferences -> appearance -> theme -> select "Dust".

4: Alt-F2, run gconf-editor , then toogle the GConf key /apps/eog/ui/disable_trash_confirmation to be ticked, to disable prompting for image deleting though Eye of Gnome (source).

5: Some third party entries in your sources.list were disabled. You can re-enable them after the upgrade with the 'software-properties' tool or your package manager.

sudo editor /etc/apt/sources.lst

.. then re-enable dropbox, chrome daily builds, etc, and apply those updates:

sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude upgrade

6: Setting MySQL back to utf8 mode:

sudo editor /etc/mysql/my.cnf 

add under the "[mysqld]" section:


7: Blue tint to video files in VLC, Mplayer, and Totem. Example video file. Bug is in the Nvidia closed source driver. Workaround is:

  • open totem via Applications -> Sound & Video -> Movie Player
  • open the preferences window via Edit -> Preferences
  • select the Display tab
  • click the Reset to Defaults button

8: Problem: Mplayer crashing regularly when changing video output mode, and also giving a "couldn't resolve name for AF_INET6:" error on URL playback. Workaround: ditch mplayer, as totem and VLC are suitable replacements:

sudo aptitude remove --purge mplayer

9: Flash applets don't work in firefox or chrome on AMD64 (example: playing this Daily Show video) .... solution: redo the Flash installation steps.

Ubuntu 10.04 tweaks

  1. system -> preferences -> appearance -> theme -> select "Ambiance".
  2. If images don't display in office documents: Start OpenOffice writer, and then go: Tools -> Options -> OpenOffice.org Writer -> View -> tick "Graphics and objects" -> click "Ok".

Ubuntu 10.10 tweaks

  1. sudo aptitude remove tracker

Ubuntu 11.04 tweaks

sudo aptitude install unity-2d

Ubuntu 11.10 tweaks

The 11.10 release had more problems than most releases.

Nautilus default view: go to Places -> Home folder -> Edit -> Preferences -> "View new folders using": select "List View".

Restore classic Gnome desktop

To get gnome classic desktop back, as per this blog post.

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback


  • Install weather applet
  • System monitor applet
  • Add application icons for Firefox, chrome, terminal, and gedit.

sudo aptitude install alarm-clock-applet

  • Add an application icon for the alarm clock applet.
  • Put a trash applet back on the bottom right of the screen.
  • Put a show desktop applet back on the bottom left of the screen.

SSH menu is gone, use SSH plus instead

Follow these installation instructions. Then do sudo aptitude install putty
To add to startup apps: Applications -> System Tools -> Preferences -> startup applications -> add SSHplus by full path.

blurry image viewer

Images look blurry because the default Gnome Image viewer (eog/eye of gnome) is set to "Best Fit" instead of "Normal view", which resizes images slightly, making them appear blurry. Unfortunately, there seems to be no preference or setting that allows changing this permanently. Instead just install another image viewing app, and make it the default: sudo aptitude install gthumb
It can be customized to view images 1:1 by going Edit -> Preferences -> Viewer -> Set to actual size. Then go View -> unselect "Thumbnail pane" (with this on, it seems to interfere with 1:1 viewing). Test it, then if so make it the default app by going ubuntu "System Settings" (top right corner of your desktop) -> System info -> Default applications -> Photos -> gThumb.

usb automounting was broken

Inserted USB drives would no longer automatically mount and open a file manager window. Solved by installing, and then removing, the usbmount package.

Flash broken

After upgrading from 11.04 to 11.10, flash applets either did not work, or worked partial (such as the sound being distorted, like the person was underwater). Fixed by installing the "flash-aid" extension in Firefox, which fixes up broken flash for Ubuntu and Debian systems. Installed the extension, restarted the browser, then went Tools -> Flash-Aid -> Wizard Mode, just went with all the defaults, it removed the old flash plugins (I had 2) and downloaded and installed the latest adobe one, and then it was as good as new and working flawlessly.

Ubuntu 12.04 tweaks

Multiple monitors broken, screen orientation broken

run Synaptic, remove all the nvidia drivers, and install the nouveau firmware, then reboot, then systems settings -> displays, and can change the monitor setup so that multi-montior works again and so the orientations are in portrait instead of landscape.

From the command line to remove nvidia drivers, can do:

sudo apt-get purge nvidia-settings nvidia-current

Customised keyboard shortcuts lost

All my customized keyboard shortcuts for the extra buttons on my keyboard are lost. Had to redo the keyboard config to get these back.

alt-tab no longer works

To fix (from this source) :

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
  • Go to Applications -> system tools -> preferences -> compizconfig settings manager
  • Go at the very bottom where it says "Window Management"
  • Put a checkmark in "application switcher"
  • That should fix it.

Workplace switching is broken (gives a blank desktop with no menus or items)

Install compiz settings manager as above, and that will fix it. To get switching to be 4 horizontal desktops:

  • Go to Applications -> system tools -> preferences -> compizconfig settings manager
  • "general" -> General options -> Desktop size -> horizontal virtual size = 4, vertical virtual size = 1

Also turn off "effects" -> "animations" in compiz too, whilst we are there.

Gnome menus look ugly

The bug is here. To fix ambiance themes, follow these steps.

Printing was broken

Jobs sent to the network printer just sat in the queue and were never printed, even though the printer hardware was fine and the same queue worked perfectly in 11.10. Easiest solution was to cancel all print jobs, delete the printer, add a new printer with the same settings, and reboot (because the printer setup locked up whilst doing these things).

Printing was excessively slow from Firefox

Even after doing the above, printing was very slow from Firefox to the HP LaserJet 2100 TN. For example, it was taking up to 4 minutes to print a page, whereas it would take 15 seconds before. To fix:

  • Run "system-config-printer" from the command line.
  • Change the printer driver. Instead of the recommended driver, use "HP LaserJet 2100 - CUPS+Gutenprint v5.2.8-pre1".
  • Print a test page, once works okay, click "OK", and close the printer config applet.

Volume applet indicator disappeared

Source. Run gnome-sound-applet from the command line to check that it is installed and working.

To start the sound applet automatically, go to System Tools -> Preferences -> Startup Applications, and add Command gnome-sound-applet

Ubuntu 13.04 tweaks

To be able to play videos again:

sudo aptitude install ubuntu-restricted-extras

To stop using Nautilus, following the unfortuate decision to remove all of its most useful features, and switch to Nemo instead. Source Source.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nemo nemo-fileroller
xdg-mime default nemo.desktop inode/directory application/x-gnome-saved-search

Ubuntu 13.10 tweaks

Changed video driver from nouveau open source driver to nvidia's binary driver, to fix intermittent crashing of gnome-shell once or more per day: Applications -> System tools -> Software & updates -> Additional drivers -> nvidia-319-updates.

  • Problem: guest session broken, wallpaper all black, desktop icons broken, and screensaver unlock sometimes not working
  • Cause: All due to a conflict between Ubuntu 13.10 and cinnamon.
  • Solution: remove cinnamon and nemo. Source.
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove cinnamon
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo apt-get update -f
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get remove .*cinnamon.*
sudo apt-get remove .*nemo.*

Then install nemo from the Ubuntu repos - part of the repos now.

Ubuntu 14.04 tweaks

Only needed on a Gnome desktop, will cause icons to not appear on a Unity desktop and so should be skipped under Unity: To fix missing notifier icons (network, dropbox, sshplus, ksplice) under Gnome :

  • How to fix the missing network icon - follow these steps.
  • For the others: System tools -> preferences -> startup applications -> then open the item whose notifier icon is not appearing.
  • add "dbus-launch " to start of the command lines for Ksplice and SSHPlus and Dropbox, and any others that are not working.


first time VirtualBox install only

From the VirtualBox Installation instructions:

sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list 

add this line: deb http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian oneiric contrib . Do not add a deb-src line.

wget -q http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian/oracle_vbox.asc -O- | sudo apt-key add -
sudo aptitude install dkms

The first time that you install, make sure that you are a member of vboxusers group (needed for USB disks to work correctly) :

sudo usermod -a -G vboxusers `whoami`
sudo usermod -a -G disk `whoami`

Then reboot the computer.

All VirtualBox upgrades and installs

sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install virtualbox-5.0

To update/get the extension pack, go File -> "Check for Updates...", and this will check you have the latest virtualbox and also install/update the extensions. Enter password if prompted.

After upgrading from a previous version, to update each guest's VirtualBox drivers, do this after the Guest has started:

  • VirtualBox -> start Guest -> "Devices" menu -> Install Guest Additions.

And in a Debian or Ubuntu guest machine after doing an upgrade, to install the vbox additions, do this:

  • Devices -> install guest additions...
mount /dev/cdrom 
aptitude install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r)
sh /cdrom/VBoxLinuxAdditions.run

To check if things aren't working as expected

Before starting the Guest machine, make sure USB functionality is enabled by going:

  • Settings -> USB -> Make sure both the USB checkboxes are ticked -> Click the "Add Empty Filter" button (the top button on the right) -> click OK to close dialog box.

Rebuild the virtualbox modules after upgrading from a previous version:

sudo service vboxdrv setup

Then plug in a USB device after the guest machine has started. Then make it visible to the Guest by going:

  • Devices -> USB devices -> and select the USB device to make visible.

When doing a major version upgrade, use apt-get and not aptitude. For example:

sudo apt-get install virtualbox-5.0

... and then start VirtualBox, and then install the latest extension pack, using the steps above. The link will be on the VirtualBox downloads page.

If you get an "Error! Could not locate dkms.conf file" message, then you probably have old directories left over from an old version of virtualbox under /var/lib/dkms/ . E.g. I had some directories left over from 3.2.6, and the fix was:

sudo rm -r /var/lib/dkms/vboxnetadp /var/lib/dkms/vboxdrv /var/lib/dkms/vboxnetflt

Newsgroup bin client

sudo aptitude install sabnzbdplus

Then configure as per the steps on their wiki.

Steps for making the Benq Acer S2W 3300U work

  • Plug in power and USB cable to the scanner, and connect it to your computer.
  • Check SANE is installed, then run sane-find-scanner , and it should list your scanner.
  • From Benq's page get the Mirascan ZIP file. Note that Benq's webservers are crap, and they cut out mid-download, so save yourself frustration by using wget to take care of the downloading/resuming/retrying, by doing:


wget http://benq.co.uk/support/downloads/download.cfm?file=scanner/drivers/usb/mirascanv403u10_bqa.zip
  • Check the ZIP file downloaded okay by doing:
unzip -t mirascanv403u10_bqa.zip

... and making sure it says there were "no errors detected" at the end.

  • Extract just the u176v046.bin file (which is firmware blob that this scanner needs to operate) into the current directory:
unzip -j mirascanv403u10_bqa.zip "MiraScan v4.03u10_BQA/BIN/u176v046.bin"
  • Set up Sane to use this firmware blob:
sudo mkdir /usr/share/sane/snapscan
sudo cp u176v046.bin /usr/share/sane/snapscan/
sudo editor /etc/sane.d/snapscan.conf

... and change the first line from:

firmware /usr/share/sane/snapscan/your-firmwarefile.bin


firmware /usr/share/sane/snapscan/u176v046.bin

... then save and close the file.

  • Then under the Applications -> Graphics menu, run Xsane, or (my preference) Simple Scan.


Unfortunately dropbox does not seem to automatically install updates for old versions. Given this, need to manually install updates on old versions, and easiest way to install dropbox updates on Linux is, open a terminal and do:

dropbox stop
dropbox status # Should report "not running"
rm -r ~/.dropbox-dist/
dropbox start -i


Handbrake is a media converter, and is especially useful for converting files for portable devices, like Android tablets or iPhones. To install the snapshot releases (which seems to be the easiest way, if you want the GUI) :

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-snapshots
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install handbrake-gtk handbrake-cli

Install Chromium dev builds

Firefox is currently slightly better as a daily browser, but Chromium is improving rapidly. If you want to play with the native alpha port of Google's Chrome browser just to see how it's going, you can install the dev builds of Chromium quite easily by doing:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chromium-daily/dev
sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install chromium-browser chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-nonfree chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra

Chrome Extensions to install:

Still waiting for these Chrome extensions as at July 2010:

  • The equivalent of Tab Mix Plus. (still looking for this).

Things that aren't working quite right yet in Chromium on Linux:

  • The backspace key should go back, or should be configurable for this. There is an extension that allows this, but it should probably be a preference in the base browser.
  • Auto-updating of extensions. There is a way to do this from the extensions UI, but in Chromium it doesn't seem to do anything.
  • Audio playback not working correctly - e.g. on this slide, get no audio after selecting a national anthem other than US (US works, other's don't). Possibly this issue or this issue.
  • WebGL does not work on an old laptop, but does on a modern desktop. Could be that the laptop's hardware is just too old (or just not supported in 3D).

To enable most of the new features of Chromium, change the command line for starting chromium to be like this:

chromium-browser --enable-plugins --enable-greasemonkey --enable-user-scripts --enable-internal-flash --enable-extensions --enable-webgl %U

Configuration settings:

  • To make streetview work: Try to open streetview -> nothing happens -> press Ctrl-Shift-F (which permanently unblock flashblock on that site) -> then streetview will pop up and work thereafter.

Updating the flash plugin if you get a warning that "the flash plugin was blocked because it is out of date", or just installing the flash plugin.

  • First check where the plugin is installed, by opening chrome://plugins/ in chromium, and expanding the "details" link.
  • For me, it said "Location: /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so".
  • Note this directory, and update the flashplugin variable below if you have a different path:
cd ~/tmp
sudo mv $flashplugin ./libflashplayer.so.old
wget http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplayer10/flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz
tar zfvx flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz 
sudo cp ./libflashplayer.so $flashplugin
cd /usr/lib/chromium-browser/plugins
sudo ln -s $flashplugin

Now restart chromium and the warning should be fixed & flash should work.

Android ADB commands

Only useful if you have an android phone and sometimes want to flash custom ROMs or recovery images:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:phablet-team/tools && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot

Read SD cards

To be able to read SD cards, source:

sudo apt-get install exfat-fuse exfat-utils