More from: oneiric ocelot

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 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot

The next release of Ubuntu, October 2011, is Oneiric Ocelot.

Reviews are here and here. Release notes are here. The Ubuntu home page is here. The conventional Download page is here.

The Unity (mobile phone) desktop is mandatory now with no alternatives. Thunderbird is now the default email client. ‘Dash Home’ is the circle at the top left of the screen: click it to open menus. There are additional drop-down menus activated by clicking your login name or the On / Off gear at the top right side of the screen.

The best way to install is to download the .torrent file which we got in about 10 minutes. Torrents are much faster than conventional download due to server load issues, especially the day of a new release. The .torrent and conventional .iso files can be found here. Burn it to a USB memory stick with System/Administration/Startup Disk Creator and when you insert it into a computer with Ubuntu already running the computer will announce that it has found media to upgrade and ask if you wish to so do.  Alternatively burn it to CD with a right click on the .iso file and select Write to Disk. When installing say ‘no’ to update from the Internet — we ran into some missing files when we let it do that — update later.

My first hack at it was to simply insert the USB drive while Natty Narwhal was running. It autodetected the availability of upgrade files and I let it start. Regrettably, I had to walk away for a bit as it was 3AM and I was falling over asleep, so I closed the laptop lid and went to bed. At 8:00AM the laptop was still running, but the screen was faint white and I couldn’t bring it out of sleep or whatever it was doing. So I did a clean install / format in the same partition as the original system. My thoughts as I configured that system after its first boot follow.

Install was painless — took about 20 minutes while I read the comics on-line. Login screen was kind of neat — a floating box with my login in it over an edit box for my password. Tried to see if filezilla is installed by typing a command line “apt-get install filezilla” in the search box at the top of the screen — click the round button at the top left corner of the screen to open up the menu. Nothing.

OK, so I have work to do, and I need a command line to get it done efficiently. Control-Alt-F2 to switch to a new login. Login there, then immediately “sudo passwd root” and set the password to something I know (Ubuntu always starts the root password as something random you don’t know so every command you have to put up with “sudo” and entering your password. Most people figure out rather quickly that they can “sudo passwd root” once and save a lot of messing around. “su -” and now that I have a command prompt and I can get some work done.

Install FileZilla “apt-get install filezilla”. Perfect, no problems, installed. Switched back to my GUI with CTL-ALT-F7. My gibberish in the search box is still at the top, but there is a seriously blurred out login box in the middle of the screen. I re-entered my password and it let me in. Need to kill that screensaver thing, or at least set the timeout to a reasonable time. The touch pad on my HP Compaq 6910p laptop no longer is working. The buttons by the touch pad that I use to click are also dead. I can move the cursor with the eraser in the middle of the keyboard but can’t get a response clicking with either set of buttons. The pop-up hint boxes show up when I point at things. Weird. Back to try more after I eat a bowl of chocolate pudding.

Killed XORG. Logged in again on the GUI. the touchpad now works. OK, so was this from switching to another terminal with the CTL-ALT-F2? Try it again. Switched out with CTL-ALT-F2 and back with CTL-ALT-F7. Nope. Everything is fine.

Now I need to grab my .thunderbird folder from my desktop to initialize my notebook. Got an error creating the folder on my notebook, which is to be expected as it already exists. I grabbed the .bluefish and .Skype folders and some documents and projects while I was in there too. The throughput is impressive even for being on a 100M network close to my desktop: everything under a gigabyte long is transferring in sub-second speeds while gigabyte size files are travelling at about a second a gigabyte. I know the NICs are 100MHz but I thought the switch was 10/100: must be 10/100/1000. It doesn’t take me long to eat a bowl of warm chocolate pudding, but the files almost were done before I finished it.

So the file transfers were awesome. Now to close FileZilla and see if I can connect using Nautilus to pull over the .filezilla folder. I might get away with it using FileZilla, but I want to know if there is still an equivalent to the “Connect to Server” we used to have. And there it is, at the top. The menu appears on the top task bar ONLY when you mouse over. File / Connect to Server.  Used ssh2 protocol. And no problem. Find .filezilla and copy it. Use CTRL-H to reveal the hidden dot files. CTRL-drag to copy, and it asks if I want to merge because there is already a .filezilla folder, I say yes. Blink. That was it? Open FileZilla: (upper left corner) Home circle, then Internet Apps, then FileZilla. Wow. All my customers are in there all right. Connect to a web site. Everything works: no problem. Try ThunderBird. Some thing, no problem, everything is there: mail, accounts, filters. Awesome. Truely awesome.

The menu bar that hides off the left side of the screen as if on a cell phone made itself annoying as I tried to use TBird: every time I got close to the left edge of TBird to change mail folders the stupid menu things would jump out and cover the folders up. It would be OK if it either stayed on the screen, on top, all the time or stayed out of the way unless I pressed the Window key, but the hide and seek behavior is annoying. Just noticed TBird was still running on my desktop when I copied that folder.

I decided that I didn’t need ten years worth of email on my notebook, so I right click Local Folders and pick Settings, then set TBird to delete messages older than 120 days. There was a bit of weirdness: the window OK and Cancel buttons were off the bottom of the screen and when I tried to drag the window up by its title bar it kept maximizing the window. Another annoyance, but so far the good is much more than the bad. I’ll see about changing some annoyances in CompizConfig Settings Manager later.

Need my code editor, so CTL-ALT-F2 again and install BlueFish. “apt-get install blusfish”. Perfect. Hmm. It’s no where to be found on the menu though.

Start FireFox, set my home page to,  and add the Web Developer plugin. No problem.

Add some accounts using the GUI. The System Settings icon is the wrench over a gear at the bottom of the hide-and-seek menu bar. Open User Accounts. That dialog box works a bit oddly — the right side of the box appears to be just text showing the Account Type, Language, and Password HOWEVER if you mouse over then the text becomes a drop down combo list box or edit box, as fits the item.

Now I need an antivirus program, so I tested the “Software Center” which is on the hide-and-go-seek menu at the left side of the screen. The Software Center looks like a shopping bag with bubbles foaming out of the top. Colorful “suggestions” of which programs I would like to install pop up, and I see right off that FileZilla is there but it is marked that we already installed it. that is as it should be. I also noticed GPartEd, VLC Media Player, The Gimp Image Editor, and Chromium (Google) Web Browser which I want,  so I installed them. Click, click. I also cruised down the Highest Rated list and installed some more tools that I normally use.

Now, getting the things I use constantly on the “hide-and-go-seek” Launcher bar. I use Chromium constantly, and FileZilla, and BlueFish, but I rarely use Software Center and never use Ubuntu One (cloud) because I really do not want any private data exposed, and I know a ‘cloud’ is just a sales name for  a file server. I right clicked on the ones I want to remove from the ‘hide-and-go-seek’ launcher bar and unchecked ‘Keep in Launcher’ to remove them. To add programs to the launcher simply start the program so that its icon appears in the launcher, then right click that icon and check “Keep in Launcher”. Done.

For the most part it looks like this can be made to work. We we see as I do web development. I’m not ready to erase my desktop and commit to it quite yet. We’ll add Skype and a camera later and add to this report. I tried the work around to restore the Zoom functionality to the desktop that I reported in but it no longer works. You can get something like the Gnome desktop back by installing it as “apt-get install gnome-panel”. Refer to TomBuntu at for details. I still need to research how to activate the fingerprint reader to authenticate.

If you have experiences with Ubuntu, feel free to register and leave a comment.

NOTES: Unity interface is Mostly Harmless. So far the only significant annoyances for me:

1. No Zoom functionality. There are web blogs that claim it, but I have not got one to work yet.

2. Hide and Seek launcher bar. Jumping in and out to cover up stuff is annoying. Either stay on the screen all the time or stay off the screen unless I press the Super button.

3. Lack of a long launcher bar to hold all my typical apps is annoying. The time needed to find each app in the menu system is wasted. The intent was no doubt to better organize programs, but it makes it awkward to locate and start anything not on the small launcher.