My first experience with Ubuntu


I just got a laptop loaded with Lucid Lynx and have had a bit of a mixed experience adjusting.  I’ve actually used Ubuntu a bit in the past, but only minimally and never as my primary computer until now.

First reactions

  • I like the default background.
  • Have the fonts improved?  Fonts have always looked bad on Linux distros I’ve used in the past, but the Ubuntu font seems to be pretty clear.
  • Why is the window close button in the top left?  Every computer I’ve ever used it’s been in the top right.  I hate that its anywhere else in Ubuntu.  It’s annoying because it goes against convention.  It’s also frustrating because it’s not uniform.  E.g. when closing tabs or windows in Chrome, the x is still in the top right.
  • OMG.  Why is it so hard to change anything on the menu bar?  To move anything I have to right click every single icon on the menu bar and uncheck “Lock to Panel”.  Then I need to specifically select the Move option to be able to move the icon.  It’s very annoying that this is so difficult.  A much better UI would be a global lock/unlock for the panel instead of the per-icon mechanism and drag and drop support without having to first go into move mode.
  • Finally!!!  You fixed the menus!!  The menus in every other Linux distro I’ve ever used have been super cluttered and unorganized.  I LOVE that they don’t suck anymore.  Do not underestimate how important this is.
  • The menus themselves are even harder to change than the menu bar.  I had to do a Google search to figure it out.  Who was the genius that decided you need to go to System > Preferences > Main Menu?  Why the hell can’t I just drag icons and around and right click icons to edit their properties?

Nice surprises

  • The pop up that appears when you change the volume or connect to Wi-Fi is beautiful and super friendly.  This is the one place where usability is hands down better than XP!  The volume bars in XP were really ugly.  And I hated having to x out of the Wi-Fi connection pop-up in XP.  The Ubuntu one nicely fades out after a second or so.  Kudos to that UI designer.  Can he be in charge of the rest of the UI?
  • Wow does the Wi-Fi connect fast after startup
  • Making Windows+L lock the screen on my computer was surprisingly easy.  The Keyboard Shortcuts window itself was really difficult to use, but I was really happy how easy it was to find.
  • Hulu Desktop is a savior.  It kept me from defenestrating my computer when the website was totally broken in Linux.
  • I was able to use KeePass 2.x eventhough it’s a Windows program.  I just needed to install libmono-system-runtime2.0-cil, libmono-winforms2.0-cil, and xdotool.  No I can type “mono KeyPass.exe” to run the program.  Awesome!


  • Why does the volume control come with so much other crap?!!! It was on a panel that had a ton of garbage on it, so I took it off and it’s very difficult to get it back without a all the other junk.
  • Can’t play DVDs after first installing.  I understand there are license restrictions, so it might not be feasible to install by default, but they should make it easier for people who want to utilize the full functionality of their machines.  E.g. on first run there should be a wizard asking if you want to install the ability to play DVDs.  And if you try to play a DVD, instead of just giving up it should tell you that you need to install libdvdcss2.
  • The active window is shown as being lighter in the bottom panel than the others.  This is confusing as all hell, so I recommend using the Radiance theme.
  • Using NX shadowing requires disabling Compiz.
  • It seems that by default there is no GUI installed for controlling the firewall in Ubuntu?  Can that really be true?
  • There are completely different panel buttons for logging out and shutting down.  These two buttons/menus should be merged into one.
  • It’d be nice if I didn’t have to install an extension to make backspace work in Chrome.
  • I wanted to see what Kubuntu was like so I installed KDE.  I’ve always preferred KDE in the past, but it was just awful on Ubuntu.  The menus were so cluttered I didn’t know where to go for anything.  When I switched back to Gnome now all of my menus were now cluttered there too with a bunch of KDE crap!  I uninstalled the KDE Plasma Desktop library that I checked to install KDE, but it left all of it’s dependencies (i.e. everything).  It was quite an ordeal to uninstall.  I uninstalled a couple of the base libraries and that got most the garbage off my system.

Nagging throw my chair through the window frustrations

  • Please, please, please make Ctrl+Y redo in gedit.  Redo is Ctrl+Y in every other program I use in Ubuntu (Eclipse, Gimp, Chrome, Firefox, Open Office, Scribes, Geany, etc).  If you want to keep Ctrl+Shift+Z as redo that’s fine, just add a second key binding for Ctrl+Y.  I might have to finally plunk down the money to try the new Linux version of UltraEdit.
  • The battery life stinks compared to Windows.  I’m using a Lenovo T400, which had XP on it previously and the battery life was phenomenal.  Now’s it’s abysmal.  If I leave my machine in my bad in hibernate mode for a day the battery will have died.
  • Ubuntu has managed to take Flash on Linux to a whole new low.  It works worse than on any other Linux distribution I’ve ever used, which is saying a lot.  I realize it’s not totally their fault and hope that this will become a non issue with WebM, but right now it’s an enormous frustration.

Necessary fixes

  • Put the x, minimize, and maximize buttons back in the top right corner of the windows.  Big thanks to gdi2k for pointing out a solution in the comments.  I first tried to fix this by changing to a different theme, which solved the problem, but made everything super ugly.
  • Get rid of the pointless envelope in the top right corner. Run sudo apt-get purge indicator-messages, right click the envelope and choose “Remove From Panel”, and then “Add to Pannel…” followed by “Indicator Applet”
  • Get a text editor where Ctrl+Y works.  Download scribes or run sudo apt-get install geany and then change the default text editor.
  • Install libdvdcss2 so that you can watch DVDs.
  • Install nautilus-open-terminal so that you can open a terminal from Nautilus (the file explorer)

Optional customizations

  • Install the Conky system monitor: sudo apt-get install conky and put a configuration in ~/.conkyrc
  • Install Java: sudo apt-get install openjdk-6-jdk
  • Remove the games: sudo apt-get purge gnome-games-common

Stay current

  • Optional.  If you’d like the latest stable software instead of the long term support version then select: System > Administration > Software Sources > Updates > Release upgrade > Normal releases.

Installing Google products

  • sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
  • Add “deb stable non-free main” and “deb testing non-free main”
  • sudo apt-get update
  • Install picasa, googleearth, google-chrome-stable, or google-desktop-linux via the Ubuntu Software Center

Security and remote desktop

Overall I rather like Ubuntu.  OpenSUSE 11.2 left me feeling rather frustrated, so I’ve now switched to Ubuntu on my home machine as well.

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