More from: Natty Narwhal

Practical Ubuntu — Part 2 of 2


In “Practical Ubuntu — Part 1 of 2” we installed Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot on an HP 6910p notebook alongside the existing Microsoft Windows Vista, set the administrator “root” login to a password we know, added openssh-server so we can work on it remotely instead of needing to stand right there beside the computer while updating it, and ran the automagic update routine “apt-get dist-upgrade” to update all the software to the current versions.

In this module we want to install the Google Chromium Web Browser, the Compiz Zoom feature so we can magnify any section of the screen in class for demonstration purposes, the GNOME Desktop in case Unity is not wanted for some reason, and the VMWare Player module so we can teach multiple OSs without needing to reboot every time. We will also create a simple Virtual Machine (VM) using an open source DOS-like Operating System: follow the same steps to install whatever system is needed on each VM. Pay attention to license terms if you use proprietary software.

Chromium Web Browser

Google Chrome (and the related Ubuntu version Chromium) are currently the leading competitor to Microsoft Internet Explorer. It has certain very nice features, such as all the most popular codecs and flash are included already thus you don’t need to install or maintain them as an extra step. This means that after installing Chromium you can simply browse to web sites that use flash and it will work and it will never need “a newer version of flash that is available”. Chromium also has a very nice method of protecting the user from cross-site scripting attacks by leaving javascript off for unknown sites and turning it on when desired by clicking a single icon that appears in the URL address bar.

The easiest way to install “Ubuntu supported” software is to just use the Ubuntu Software Center and click.

Click to see full picture

The other way to do this is to know in advance that the package name for the chromium browser is “chromium-browser” and install it from the command line with “apt-get install chromium-browser”. Either works.

root@dad:~# apt-get install chromium-browser
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
chromium-browser-l10n chromium-codecs-ffmpeg libnss3-1d libxss1
The following NEW packages will be installed:
chromium-browser chromium-browser-l10n chromium-codecs-ffmpeg libnss3-1d
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 21.7 MB of archives.
After this operation, 86.8 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

Install Compiz

One of the problems we reported after installing Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” is that the Zoom feature stopped working. We use zoom daily in teaching as it allows us to magnify content on the five foot monitors at the front of our classroom so that students can see the small items, such as menu selections, and follow what we are instructing them to do. The loss of the ability to zoom would mean the students would have to get up out of their seats and walk to the front of the room. We discussed this for Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal” in a previous article.

The easiest way to install compiz is to use the Ubuntu Software Center, type compiz in the search box, and click the package when it comes up.

Click to see larger picture

Alternatively you can install from the command line with “apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager”

root@dad:~# apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-main python-central python-compizconfig
The following NEW packages will be installed:
compiz-plugins compiz-plugins-main compizconfig-settings-manager
python-central python-compizconfig
0 upgraded, 5 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 2,862 kB of archives.
After this operation, 12.2 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

To make this work, you must enter the command CCSM in terminal or in the little catchall area at the top of the launcher bar — the place where all the programs NOT on the launcher bar can be found. The settings I used are:

Zoom in: <Super>Button4
Zoom out: <Super>Button5
Zoom box: <Super>Button2

Click each image to see larger picture.

For more information on this feature you can browse the library at You can get most of the Zoom functionality in Unity. Go to the on/off symbol at top right, click System settings, then click CompizConfigSettings Manager. Under Accessibility find Enhanced Zoom Desktop, enable it, and set the Zoom In and Out as stated above. Zoom now works everywhere except the launcher bar on the left. Zoom will not work in the Unity 2D session — it must be a full Unity session.

I have seen cases where, even though this worked for us here, it still didn’t work. The best suggestion I can offer is to be sure you have updated all packages to their latest version as I also noted this did not work initially, and it magically started working after a few months (and updates).

Some notes on using the Unity launcher bar.

To put a program, such a Chromium, on it run the program, and while it is still running you will see an icon representing it in the Unity launcher bar. Right Click that icon and from the pop-up menu select “Keep in Launcher”. After that there will be a button in the launcher which you can click to start the program.

To re-arrange the order of icons on the launcher bar is easy but non-intuitive. Click and hold the icon that you want to move, then 1. drag it off the launcher bar to the right but don’t let go, 2. drag it up or down to where you want it, 3. drag it left back onto the launcher bar, and then 4. let go. You can’t just drag straight up or down — that moves the bar. Drag the icon off to the right, up to where you want it, and back onto the bar.

In Case Unity brings Division…

You can install the classical GNOME session interface if you so desire and select it at the time you are loging in. There is a gear or star icon next to the login name box: you click that gear and then click the kind of session that you want. To install the GNOME session run the command “apt-get install gnome-session-fallback”.

root@dad:~# apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
linux-headers-3.0.0-15 linux-headers-3.0.0-15-generic
Use ‘apt-get autoremove’ to remove them.
The following extra packages will be installed:
alacarte gir1.2-panelapplet-4.0 gnome-applets gnome-applets-data gnome-panel
gnome-panel-data libpanel-applet-4-0 python-gmenu
Suggested packages:
gnome-netstatus-applet deskbar-applet cpufrequtils evolution
epiphany-browser desktop-base
The following NEW packages will be installed:
alacarte gir1.2-panelapplet-4.0 gnome-applets gnome-applets-data gnome-panel
gnome-panel-data gnome-session-fallback libpanel-applet-4-0 python-gmenu
0 upgraded, 9 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 9,486 kB of archives.
After this operation, 40.3 MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

A reboot is required before it will take effect. You can also install “apt-get install gnome-shell” for another session format, which I personally feel is rather nice. Another good article on this is available at Another tip on the session interface: using the Gnome task bar at top of the screen you use ALT-right click now to move things.

 VMWare Player

The steps above solved most of our issues for Oneiric Oscelot. The only remaining significant issue is installing VMWare Player so that we can quickly demonstrate the same job skill / principal across several popular environments. In our case we buy volume licensing for several Microsoft products, including Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. We demonstrate using these in class together with Ubuntu Linux because any of these systems could be encountered by a job applicant seeking work. To do this effectively we install one of our licenses in each virtual machine and we can then use that VM  under Linux to demo the skill in Windows. This is not quite as nice as having three separate computers all hooked up to the projector, but it is a very good compromise, and together with the Zoom feature it seems to get the job done.

To get the VMWare Player software, you must go to the web site and log in. Player is free but they require you to agree to terms. On go to Products, then Desktop Virtualization Products, then on the right vertical nav bar click VMWare Player. At the top left, click the big blue DOWNLOAD button. There will be a table with the links to click to download: you may need to scroll down to see it. Click Download again, login to your VMWare account or create an account, and on the next page click on the link to download the binary for the VMWare Player version that fits your computer. The download on my notebook if a FiOS 5/2 (5MHz download, 2MHz upload) connection required on the order of ten (10) minutes.

In your download folder, find the file: it will be one big script. It was 129.7MB when I downloaded it. Make the file executable (right click, permissions, check the execute box). Open a terminal window with CTRL-ALT-T and shell to root. Run that script to install the VMWare Player.

Welcome to Ubuntu 11.10 (GNU/Linux 3.0.0-16-generic x86_64)

* Documentation:

Last login: Sat Feb 18 18:23:43 2012 from pops.local
jdnash@dad:~$ su –
root@dad:~# cd /home/jdnash/Downloads/
root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ls
root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ./VMware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt

You must agree to their EULA to install, so answer the prompts in terminal as they appear, and eventually it will be installed. Items in [brackets] at the prompts indicate that is the default answer — you just press ENTER to accept it. For the EULA you must type “yes” but otherwise ENTER will do. If you don’t know, you run a script such as this by typing “./” followed by the file name. You may press the tab key to help — if you start off the name of the file and press the TAB key, then Linux will try to figure out which file you want and type the rest of the file name for you. For example, in the terminal windows shown below I only needed to type “./VM” and then I pressed TAB: the system could see only one executable file which started with the letters “VM” so it typed the rest of the name for me “ware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt”. Very convenient.

root@dad:/home/jdnash/Downloads# ./VMware-Player-4.0.2-591240.x86_64.txt
Extracting VMware Installer…done.
You must accept the VMware OVF Tool component for Linux End User
License Agreement to continue. Press Enter to proceed.

Do you agree? [yes/no]: yes

Would you like to check for product updates on startup? [yes]:

Would you like to help make VMware software better by sending
anonymous system data and usage statistics to VMware? [yes]:

The product is ready to be installed. Press Enter to begin
installation or Ctrl-C to cancel.

Installing VMware Player 4.0.2
[######################################################################] 100%
Installation was successful.

To run VMWare Player, use the little black square at the top of the floating launcher bar (Dash Home) and type VM into the search box. You will see VMWare Player under the Installed Apps. Click it, accept the EULA (again), and the main VMWare Player screen is before you with no virtual machines in it (yet). Next we will create a VM. You can keep an icon for VMWare Player in the Unity launcher bar by right clicking its icon now and checking “Keep in Launcher”. In the old (GNOME) menu it used to be under Applications / System Tools.

Click image for larger picture

Making a Virtual Machine under VMWare Player

Before we make a VM, we need to install CD or DVD, or an .iso file which contains the install. In this document we will use the open source program Free DOS which is a Linux based DOS clone. You can download it from It is a small file, under 40MB and downloaded in 1-2 seconds. The filename when I downloaded it for this document was “fd11src.iso”. If you are installing VMs from other CDs, you can insert the CD or DVD into your Linux computer’s CD/DVD reader and when the drive opens up close the window, then right click on the associated icon on your desktop and select “Copy Disk”. Copy it to an image file instead of to another CD/DVD. You now have the necessary electronic .iso file to use for installation. You can install from a physical CD, but electronic is much faster. I made the statement before, but I will repeat it again here: be sure you have proper proof of the right to use the software if you are installing proprietary software. This is not a problem for Open Source.

There are many pre-made VMWare “appliances” available for download from the web site. To use one of them, download it, then in VMWare Player click File, Open Virtual Machine and browse to the VM Appliance. In the following exercise we will make our own Free DOS VM.

Start the VMWare Player. Click Create a New Virtual Machine. Click the Radio Button for Installer Disk Image File and browse to the file. Follow the rest of the prompts. Done.

Click image for larger picture

Click “Play virtual machine” to run the VM and watch it install your OS.

Click image to see larger picture.

Ubuntu 11.04 Is Now Available

What does it mean to business?

Unix and Linux have long been recognized as safer for business and individuals to use, due to the way they protect from virus and spyware infections. Microsoft Windows 7 emulates some of that now. An article on says:

Some people say that linux suffers less from malware because it has less than 1% of the desktop market compared to Windows 90% & suggest that if linux ever increases in popularity then it will suffer just as badly. This argument is deeply flawed & not just by the spurious statistics. Linux dominates server markets. Why struggle to write a virus that might knock out a few thousand desktops when knocking out a few thousand servers could knock out a continent? Yet it is the desktop machines that are commonly exploited.

Our web server stats 1Q2011 showed calling computers are using 30% Linux, 11% Mac, and under 60% Microsoft Windows of all flavors. Microsoft no longer has anywhere near the 90% market share they had a decade ago, hence the reason they priced Windows 7 at half the amount they were charging for the same level of Windows Vista and Windows XP. Still the author’s point is valid that zombie-fying servers would be what criminals did if they could pull it off — they zombify desktops because Microsoft is easier to infect than Linux or Unix. I am told, however, that organized crime is now beginning to target Mac users, and eventually also Linux users. An article in here: says:

One of the more notable developments of the Mac attracting cyber criminal attention is the emergence of what’s purportedly the world’s first do-it-yourself crimeware kit primed for Mac OS X. Recently announced in some closed underground forums, according to Danish IT security company CSIS Security Group, the tool enables users to build malware to turn victim Mac OS X machines into zombies with point-and-click simplicity.

The kit, called Weyland-Yutani Bot, comprises a builder that enables a user to create malware capable of Web injections and form grabbing, according to the kit’s creator. It also boasts an administration panel and supports encryption.

Presently the kit supports Firefox and Chrome; support for Safari will follow, according to CSIS. Additionally, the creator of the kit claims that similar kits for iPad and Linux will be forthcoming.

The kit, by the way, costs about $1,000 — payable only in virtual currencies such as WMZ.

So the only constant is still change. Some design reasons that Linux is fundamentally safer than Windows are expressed here: In summary:

  • Programs are run as normal user, not Root User
  • More eyeballs on the code, nowhere for malware to hide
  • Vast diversity makes it difficult to reproduce flaws in a system
  • All software and drivers are frequently updated by Package Managers
  • Software is generally installed from vast Repositories not from unfamiliar websites
  • Developers/programmers are recognised as Rock Gods rather than treated with contempt
  • Elegant, secure code is admired & aspired to. Hasty kludges are an embarrassment
  • Ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the workers
  • No-one profits from supplying anti-virus or security products

“A computer virus, like a biological virus, must have a reproduction rate that exceeds its death (eradication) rate in order to spread. Each of the above obstacles significantly reduces the reproduction rate of the Linux virus. If the reproduction rate falls below the threshold necessary to replace the existing population, the virus is doomed from the beginning — even before news reports start to raise the awareness level of potential victims.” by Ray of

I might add to this that the level of transparency — public inspection of the total work — prohibits under the table deals to sneak in spyware or add back doors that upload private information to outsiders without the owner’s knowledge or consent. In the Microsoft world no one really knows how many deals Microsoft has going with various data warehouses and government entities to deliver private information from their customers computers. It is also true that the main way malware sneaks onto computers is more often user gullibility than software errors, in particular with the current technique that relies on ‘drive by downloads’ where the user is persuaded to do some necessary action, such as clicking a link and approving the installation of the software. A friend being stranded in a foreign country needing cash to get home, an impossibly good business deal, or promises of pictures or videos of something of interest are examples of bait.

Free anti-virus software is available for Linux, even though it is much harder to infect a Linux system than it is to infect a Microsoft Windows system. The ClamAV software is available via the automatic software center in Linux (Applications / Ubuntu Software Center), but I understand it scans mostly for Microsoft viruses so that a Windows partition on the same computer can be safely cleaned from Linux: an infected Microsoft Windows system will normally not detect any viruses because the viruses themselves are made to disable the scanners so they avoid detection: scanning from Linux is the only reasonable way to find and remove Microsoft viruses. Still anti-virus software that also scans for Linux viruses should be installed, and there is a free download for personal use here: If you are using it for business use instead of personal use please be honest enough to give them the small fee they ask for a legit business license — it’s cheap compared to the McAfee and Norton Windows products.

We downloaded and are streaming (bit torrent) all six of the working torrents for the latest Ubuntu, Natty Narwhal, which was released this week. The main download page is here: and you can find alternate means of downloading here: Server versions are also available here: The peer-to-peer bit torrrents downloaded all six cd-roms for us in about an hour total, so we feel bit torrent is the most time-efficient download method right now (high interest, large number of peers available) but the older direct FTP or HTML downloads are still available. If you have not tried Ubuntu and would like to see it without changing your computer, download the appropriate file and burn it to CD-ROM to make a Live CD that you can try without altering your computer. You can make a USB boot drive once the CD is booted, which will run faster than the CD runs.

The links to the bit torrent downloads as shown on the Ubuntu download page are:

These torrents all seem to work except the netbook download which reports that the link is broken. Our spies tell us that the netbook version is the same as the notebook/desktop version, so it is possible that someone accidentally cut/pasted a link that doesn’t have a matching file.

We have ‘updated’ one computer with the new system. A discussion of changes is provided from the Ubuntu main site here: The salient points at this time are:

1. the Unity (mobile device) style desktop is the default. This is a collection of floating icons vertically on the left with a Mac style menu bar across the top. The menu bar content changes to match which ever window is active at the moment after the manner of the Apple Mac UI. The icons on the left replace the task bars like Android mobile devices. The workspace switcher is near the bottom of the list: the Home Folder is at the top. Right click icons and choose from the pop-up menu to delete them. The circular icon at screen top left is called APPS provides a list of apps — this is the major change which you should explore as it has the same functionality but it is expressed as a group of icons in a window instead of a list in a menu. Right click Apps to add them to the floaty list.

2. VMWare Player downloaded and ran first time — no compile errors. Usually takes a while before VMWare catches up to the new header files after a Linux release. Acts a little funky when you drag the VMWare window between workspaces in the workspace switcher.

3. We changed the number of workspaces available by logging in using the Ubuntu Classic session shell: in the past we would right click the workspace icon and select properties, then specify how many rows and columns we wanted. Right click on the current icon does not let us configure the workspaces. When we booted back with the Unity shell, it set the workspaces back to four on us. Psi.

4. When you log in you can select which kind of desktop you want.  It’s at the bottom- click to switch between Ubuntu, Ubuntu Classic, Gnome, KDE, or whatever on the login screen Session Menu.

Current Irritations:

1. Apps set to start at login in System / Preferences / Startup Applications have no way to control *in which* workspace they will start. Not a new problem.

2. No matter how many times or how many ways we specify that Chrome is our default browser, it keeps switching back to FireFox.