Sunday, March 16, 2014

Some Useful Tips and Applications for Ubuntu

I have been using Ubuntu since 06.06 and during these years I have found out that there are certain things in Ubuntu (or any Linux) that will come to you by experience only. Here I am sharing some useful tips and softwares that might help new Ubuntu users. 
  1. Home Partition: I will begin with the installation. The most helpful thing I guess will be creating a separate home partition. You can create a home partition of Ext4 format and mount it under /home. This is recommended because this will help you to reinstall Ubuntu again without losing any files or settings as you will not need to format the home partition every time. The partitioning can be done using the Ubuntu installer or Gparted available in the Ubuntu installation media. If you use the same home partition across multiple installations with same username it will work.  
  1. Installation on EFI systems: The detailed explanation on how to do this can be seen in my previous post here. 
  1. Archive Managers: The major packages that are helpful in creating or opening archives included unzip, unrar, p7zip-full, cabextract, etc. The packages needed for tar baz2 are preinstalled on Ubuntu. All these packages can be installed from a terminal using apt-get, aptitude or apt-fast. 
  1. Tweaking and Adjusting : Unity tweak tool is very good tools for tweaking the GUI. It can be used to activate hot corners, window spread, window snapping, launcher, panel, etc. There are many other features that can be tweaked with this tool. Other pretty advanced tools are compiz-config-settings-manager and dconf-editor. These two tools have large number of options tweaking which might lead to trouble also.  
  1. Download management: Most of the windows users are used to IDM or DAP for download accelaration and management. Downloads can be managed on a command line level using tools like wget, aria2, curl, etc. Flareget is a pretty good download accelerator and manager. The free version of the software doesn’t have browser integration and supports only up to 2 connections per download for files bigger than 25 MB. The browser integration can be achieved in Firefox using the flashgot add-on.  
  1. Power and temperature management: Heating and power management are two other issues in Ubuntu. The problems are interlinked and can be solved simultaneously. The detailed discussion on this problem is addressed in  one of my previous posts. 
  1. Intel-AMD dual graphics : This is a serious headache and I don’t know any method to make them work (If anyone knows a method please inform me through comments. I will add it to the text). The AMD-AMD dual graphics works without any problem with fglrx. This can cause a lot of heating up of system and the only  practical solution I know is to switch off the AMD cards and work with the Intel cards. The AMD cards can be turned of using the command: 
    echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
    This can be made permanent by editing the rc.local file in /etc or /etc/rc.d/ folder. Then add the following text to the file before the line 'exit 0'  
    chown /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch 
    echo OFF > /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch 
    If you have receive a ‘No such file or directory’ when running  the following command:
    cat /sys/kernel/debug/vgaswitcheroo/switch
    then open /etc/fstab and add the following line: 
    none          /sys/kernel/debug      debugfs        defaults    0      0 
  1. Bash History : The bash history can be accessed by using the history command. But the default Ubuntu settings has a limit up to which the history is saved. This can be changed by editing the .bashrc file in home folder. (The file is hidden and can be unhide by pressing Ctrl+H). The values of following two lines must be kept empty 
    HISTSIZE= 
    HISTFILESIZE= 
  1. Bleachbit :This is a tool similar to Ccleaner in windows. This a very powerful tool which can be run as sudo to clean the caches of APT, X11 etc. The normal user can clean the browser and other application caches. Please be sure to tick only those things you want to clear. There is option to clean bash history also which may be bad for many people who use history in terminal. 
  1. Open in terminal : The open in terminal extension available for nautilus is a  very useful tool. This helps to add a open in terminal option to the right click menu and can start a terminal from any location. The package can be installed by using the command : 
    sudo apt-get install nautilus-open-terminal 
    nautilus -q
    The nautilus -q command will restart nautilus closing all nautilus windows. 
  1. Creating a launcher : Certain applications installed doesn’t have a launcher by default. This problem can be solved by creating a launcher by yourself. The launcher is created as a file something.desktop and is to be placed under ~/.local/share/applications and need to be marked as executable. The following is an example content of a launcher. The Name will be displayed in dash with the Icon mentioned. The Exec will have the command to be excecuted
    [Desktop Entry] 
    Name=Name of Application
    Type=Application 
    Icon=path to icon
    Exec=path to executable with arguments if any 
  1. Microsoft Office : MS-Office can be installed and used with Ubuntu under wine. This is explained in detail in my previous posts (MS Office 2007 in 12.04/12.10, MS Office 2007 in 11.10, MS Office 2010 in 12.10/13.04/13.10)
  1. Movie and Music : The codecs can be installed to play all audio and video from the default movie player. The codecs can be found in synaptic package manager by searching the keyword gstreamer. The players like VLC can also be installed. For playing music I prefer clementine which offers music library, file browsing and playlist features. For audio editing softwares like audacity can be used. 
  1. Mounting NTFS filesystems permenantly : This can be done by editing the fstab file in /etc. By adding a line like this you can mount them during boot. The UUID can be found from gparted or running the command 'sudo blkid'.
    UUID=xxxxxxxxxxx mount path ntfs defults,umask=007,gid=46 0 0 
  1. Apt-fast : Apt-fast is an alternative to apt-get which can download the packages using multiple connections by using download managers like aria2. 
  1. Kernel Parameters: Installation of Ubuntu in  a system with Graphics card (mostly when you have dual graphics card) many times it fails to boot into GUI. The system will boot up to a low graphics mode or tty. In this case the system can be booted into GUI using the parameter 'nomodset'. If the system fails to boot into GUI and instead it boots to tty the problem can be solved using the parameter 'vt.handoff=7'.  
  1. Brightness Control: If the brightness control is not working then it can be solved by adding boot parameters.This can be done by editing the file /etc/default/grub. There will be something like:
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash" 
    Change it to
    GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_backlight=vendor"
    Save the file and run the command sudo update-grub and reboot. 
If you want anything else to be added to this post please inform me by comments. I will incorporate them if I know how to do it

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