So you have your shiny new installation of Ubuntu and I know your desperate to start playing around with it, but before you get started there are a few things that, in my opinion, every Ubuntu user should do after installing. These few tweaks and tips will ensure that your computer will run smoothly and be a fully up to date installation.
1. First things first, update! This should always be the very first thing you do, even if you clicked “Download Updates” during the installation. To update your computer in the quickest and simplest way, open up a Terminal (Cntrl+T) and type (or copy and paste if you’re lazy) the following command in, hit enter and follow the on-screen prompts:
This will ensure that you have all the necessary security updates, improvements and additions that are available for whatever release of Ubuntu you have installed.
2. The next thing that I always do is install a little app called preload. This program, over a short time will learn which programs you use on a regular basis and will fetch the programs and hold them in the memory, so when you start-up let’s say, your browser, you’ll see a remarkable improvement in how quick the program will start. Install it by entering the following command into the Terminal:
3. The next thing for me is to configure the start-up applications. This will be an entirely personal choice as to what services you disable for obvious reasons. But before you start-up the tool for this enter these following commands into the Terminal:
sudo sed -i 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop
These commands let us see any hidden start-up applications in the start-up manager. Now all you have to do is start up the program in the Dash as shown in the pic and deselect any services you don’t need. But a quick word of warning, don’t disable any programs you are not entirely sure about, if in doubt, leave it, or google it first if you feel you must. 4. Swappiness. This determines how Ubuntu will use the swap file on a scale of 1 – 100, the lower the number the longer it will wait till Ubuntu starts to use the swap file. By default this value is set to 60, which is ideal if you’re running a server, but is way to high for a desktop system, ideally we want this setting to be 10, and to do this we’ll need to edit a system config file. Enter the following command into the Terminal to open the file as Super User:
Now simple copy and paste the following text into the end of the file like in the screen shot. Save, then reboot:
5. Very occasionally you will find Ubuntu may freeze up, and in the old days we could hit Cntrl+Del+Backspace to get us out of these tight spots, but in recent releases of Ubuntu this option has been disabled, and sometimes our only option is to pull the plug, which is never good for any computer. But there is a way to get this feature back, giving us the option of a partial reboot with the above key combination. First of all enter this command into the Terminal:
Find the option that reads “XKBOPTIONS=” and copy/paste the following line in its place:
Save the file and reboot as before, give the key combination a test when you’ve logged back in, you should find that it will reboot the desktop and bring you back to the log-in screen.
6. Selecting the fastest Mirror for updates can be a real time saver, I’ve only recently done this and I wish I had looked into a long time ago. Open up “Software & Updates” from the Dash, select the Ubuntu Software tab and click on the drop down box marked “Download From” then select “Other” and “Select Best Server” as shown in the screenshots. What this will do is make the program test the speeds of all the servers local to your country and it will select the fastest server for all you updates and installations, and believe me, it will make a huge difference to you life using Ubuntu.
7. Install gdebi and Appgrid. Most software installations you’ll do will be done through the Terminal, but on occassion you will find yourself download an installation file (with the extension .deb), in a standard installation of Ubuntu the installation of these programs is normally handled by Ubuntus Software Centre, but this process can feel slow and cumbersome. That’s where gdebi comes in, this little app handles the installation quickly and with no fuss whatsoever. To install gdebi simply enter the following command into you Terminal and follow the on-screen prompts:
The next program, Appgrid, is a lighter, faster and more user-friendly version of the Ubuntu Software Centre, to install this just enter the following commands into a Terminal:
8. Add the “Privacy” and “Classic Menu” Indicators. Now these two indicators, which sit in the notification area of your top panel, are essential in making your life with Ubuntu that bit more private, and easier.
The first one, the “Privacy Indicator”, enables you to turn of services within Ubuntu that track your activities within it, now it doesn’t send these tracking logs off to the NSA or anything, it uses them to make certain programs easier to use. But, if you value your privacy then you can disable the services, and I’ve not really found any real difference in the functionality of Ubuntu, but in my opinon I feel a little less like Big Brother is watching. You can get the Privacy Indicator by downloading this Deb package and installing with gdebi (which you hopefully installed earlier)
The second Indicator is the Classic Menu Indicator. This little Indicator giving you an old Gnome 2 style menu for accessing all your settings and installed applications. That’s great for all the folks who have been using Ubuntu for a long time and got used to a menu structure like that, but for me it’s a huge time saver. Instead of clicking on the Dash and either typing in a search or manually scrolling through all my programs, I can instead just click on the Indicator icon on the top panel and have instant access to all my programs in a small, well organised menu as shown in the screen-shot. To install “Classic Menu” just download this Deb package and install with gdebi. If you want out find out more about these Indicators, and any other programs by the same author, then please feel free to visit the authors website:
Thanks to archerimagine pointing out that Classic Menu can also be installed by terminal with the folowing commands, this way you can be sure of getting the most up to date release possible:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator
9. Set up Back-ups. That old saying that we should always backup, and I bet most of us never do, but it really is a good habit to get into, and Ubuntu has a great little app that will do a perfect back-up for you every time. Open up the dash and type in backup, start up the little app, called Backups and set the back-up location and schedule as you see fit, you can add custom folders to save and ignore, but to be honest, for a typical Ubuntu installation the settings that are here are perfectly fine (when the app backs-up your home folder, it’ll also back-up all the hidden folders which contain settings, mail accounts etc).
10. A follow-up on the Back-up idea which can save you a huge amount of time in recovering from the ultimate disaster (ie, having to reinstall Ubuntu) is to install a little program called Aptik. What this program enables you to do is back-up all the programs you have installed, all the settings for those programs, all the ppa’s you’ve added, and the apt-cache that is on your system. To all install this little god-send enter the following commands one by one and follow the on-screen prompts as normal:
Once the program is installed, run it from the Dash by typing in “Aptik” and back-up your chosen apps, settings, and ppa information, and that together with step 7, will give you a perfect installation that can be reloaded on a fresh Ubuntu system with a few clicks of the mouse.