Your initial first few days or weeks with a new operating system can be a somewhat frustrating experience, and Ubuntu is no different in this respect. The following list should help to relieve some of the frustration that accompanies the transition to Ubuntu. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does answer several commonly asked questions by newcomers to Ubuntu who have no prior Linux experience.
1. What is the Terminal (or command line), and where is it located?
The Terminal allows you to perform various tasks from a command line. It is an incredibly powerful — and as a consequence, potentially dangerous — tool that enables you to quickly and effectively execute commands. Because users can simply copy and paste text into the Terminal, it is often the preferred method of problem resolution in online help forums or guides.
You can access the Terminal by clicking on ‘Applications’ at the top left of the screen, then holding your cursor over ‘Accessories’, then clicking on ‘Terminal’. You want to be careful when using the terminal, as even an extra space, or the wrong letter, can cause serious damage. In other words, accuracy is very important here!
2. How do I install files?
You may have heard horror stories about installing programs in Linux; worrisome tales of compiling from source, or even worse — dependency hell. Well, you can rest at ease, because Ubuntu utilizes a really neat one-stop source for nearly all of your installation/uninstallation needs: the Synaptic Package Manager. Synaptic manages dependencies for you, so you don’t have to hunt down various libraries to make programs run.
Here’s how it works. Click on ‘System’ at the top of the screen, hold your cursor over ‘Administration’, then click on ‘Synaptic Package Manager’. You’ll be asked for your password (the one you created when you installed Ubuntu), then you’ll be greeted by the package manager. It may look somewhat intimidating at first, but it’s really quite simple to use. To install a specific package, you can click the ‘Search’ button at the top of Synaptic, then enter the package name. If the package is available, it will appear in the upper right segment of the package manager. Just click on the box next to the package name, select ‘Mark for Installation’, then click apply and follow any prompts; Synaptic will take care of the rest. Simple. To uninstall a program that you installed through Synaptic, you can follow the same steps, but instead of selecting ‘Mark for Installation’, you would select ‘Mark for Removal’, or ‘Mark for Complete Removal’ if you want to remove all of the configuration files.
After you enter your password, Gedit, a text editor, will pop up with your sources.list file, which contains a list of all of your software repositories. Repositories determine what software will be available to you through the Synaptic Package Manager. Ubuntu, by default, enables only its own repositories, which protects you from potential problems. However, if you want to be able to listen to mp3 files, watch DVDs, or have access to more applications and games, you’ll want to enable the Universe and Multiverse repositories. If you really want to live on the wild side you can add other repositories, such as PLF.
Before you edit the file, make a backup by saving it with a different name, like sources.list.backup, into your Home directory. Then, to enable Universe and Multiverse repositories, just “uncomment” (remove the
# marks from) the lines of your current sources.list file that include
Multiverse, and save. Then, to sync your sources with Synaptic, enter the following into the Terminal:
Source-o-matic can tailor a sources.list for your specific needs, if you like. Once it has generated a list for you, back up your old sources.list by saving it with a different name in your Home directory, then replace the text in your current sources.list with the text generated by Source-o-matic and save. If you really hate the command line, you can go to System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager, then press the ‘Reload’ button at the top left, instead of typing
sudo apt-get update to refresh your sources.
4. Why am I being asked for my root password?
Your root password is your user password, the one you created when you installed Ubuntu. The system asks you for your root password when you’re about to go into potentially perilous territory; that is, when you could potentially screw up something. As such, it does several good things. Most notably, perhaps, it helps to prevent unwanted tampering with important system files, and it also reminds you to be careful.
5. How do I close a crashed application?
First, you access the Terminal, as was mentioned in in step 1, above. Then enter the following text into it:
Your cursor will then turn into a skull and crossbones, which, when clicked on an application, will close it instantly. If you decide you don’t want to kill the application, just right-click to get rid of the skull and crossbones.
6. Where is C:?
If you’ve been using Windows, you probably know that it uses a hierarchical file structure, and that C: is where it all starts. Like Windows, Linux uses a hierarchical file structure, only where you would normally see ‘C:’, you’ll instead see ‘/’. Slashes in Linux always go forward (/), whereas in Windows they go backward (\).
7. How can I get Ubuntu to play my mp3 files and DVDs?
DVD playback in Linux may be illegal in your country. However, if you don’t live one of the affected countries, you can go here, to the Ubuntu Documentation page on restricted formats, to learn how to enable playback of restricted formats. The linked page also explains why Ubuntu doesn’t automatically enable playback of such formats.
8. Where is the ‘My Documents’ directory?
If you’ve been using Windows, you’re probably familiar with, and anticipating, the ‘My Documents’ directory. In Ubuntu, ‘Home’ functions as the ‘My Documents’ directory, more or less. This is where you’ll save most of your work, and you’re free to create whatever directories you’d like within it. Your Home directory can be found by clicking on ‘Places’ in the top panel, then ‘Home Folder’.
9. How do I put the Trash bin onto my desktop?
The Trash bin is, by default, located in the lower right portion of the bottom panel. Many users prefer a larger Trash bin located on the desktop itself. In order to make the Trash bin visible on the desktop, open up the Terminal, then enter the following:
The Configuration Editor will then open. On the left, navigate to apps->nautilus->desktop. Then click on the empty box to the right of ‘trash_icon_visible’. While you’re there, feel free to add other icons to your desktop, such as your Home directory.
10. How can I access my Windows partition from Ubuntu?
Since you now know how to use the Terminal, you can follow these simple instructions at the Unofficial Ubuntu 6.06 Guide to access your Windows partition from Ubuntu. If your Windows file system is NTFS (and it probably is) then you’ll only be able to read files from it, although you can always copy files from your Windows partition into your Ubuntu partition, and then modify them.