Installation Checklist

Since I don't know what I'm doing, and keep messing up my system, I install Ubuntu on a fairly regular basis. This is a checklist I put together, of common things I install or configure right away, to get myself up and running quickly.

Currently written for Ubuntu 8.04, Hardy Heron.


Of course, the first thing you have to do is actually install the operating system. There are instructions on the How To Install Ubuntu page.

First Steps

These are the first things you should do, once you've installed the operating system.


The first thing you should do, once you've installed Ubuntu, is download and install any available updates. You'll have to have a working internet connection to be able to do so. It's quite easy to do; simply go to System->Administration->Update Manager, and follow the steps. This will probably be done automatically, when you first run Ubuntu; a notification will come up, telling you that there are updates available.


If you have a wireless network card, and it doesn't work “out of the box,” then you'll need to install it. Follow the instructions at the wifi page.


At this point, I make the tweaks mentioned on the tweaks page.

Then, since I'm often running Ubuntu on a work laptop, on which I primarily use Microsoft Windows, I then change the GRUB settings, to set Windows to load by default.

Other Changes

Once those steps are done, I do the following:

Item Description Instructions
Desktop Tweaking By default, Ubuntu will run a couple of applets on your desktop, and have a couple of shortcuts to commonly used applications, but I remove some, and add a couple more.

This is, of course, very personal to the way that I choose to work, and won't necessarily help you.
Ubuntu puts a User Switcher applet, in the top bar. I don't use this, so I right-click it, and choose Remove From Panel.

I then Right-click the top panel, and choose Add to Panel.

Click the Application Launcher button, and navigate to Accessories->Terminal. This adds a shortcut to the terminal. Right-click the new icon, choose Move, and use the mouse to move it to the left, so that it's right beside the other launchers. (When you've got it where you want it, click the left mouse button, to stop moving.) Do the same to add a gedit launcher, too.

In the Add to Panel window, click the Back button, to go back to the list of “applets.”

Drag the applet for Tomboy Notes and the applet to lock the workstation to the right-hand end of the panel.

Finally, I move the different items around until I get them arranged as I want them. (You have to “unlock” some of the items in the toolbar, to be able to move them around as much as you want. Just right click each item you want to move — and potentially the items around it — and uncheck Lock to Panel.

I end up with an arrangement as in the following screenshot.
Item Description Instructions
Screensaver My laptop at work is pretty crappy, and not all of the Gnome screensavers work well for me — some of them take up 100% CPU, and grind my laptop to a halt. But I've found that the GLMatrix screensaver works very well, and doesn't kill my computer.

Not to mention that I like the way it looks.
Simply go to System->Preferences->Screensaver, and choose the GLMatrix screensaver.

While I'm here, I also change it to start after 5 minutes of inactivity, instead of 10, and set it to lock the machine, when it activates. (That means that when the screensaver activates, nobody will be able to use the computer until I re-enter my password.)

A nice feature of Ubuntu is that you don't have to press Ctrl+Alt+Del to unlock the computer; just type in the password, with no special key combination.
Codecs Then I go in and make sure I have all of the appropriate audio and video codecs, in case I want to watch movies, listen to music, play DVDs, etc. Follow the instructions at the Setting Up Audio / Video Codecs page.
Java Runtime Environment (JRE) Java's used by numerous applications, but for me, the most important is Open Office. Follow the instructions at the Java Installation Page.

You might find it odd that I prioritized installing codecs before installing Java, however, downloading the Ubuntu Restricted Extras will install the JRE, so I can sometimes skip this step. But if I haven't installed the codecs, or if I want the JVM and not just the JRE, then I have to follow this step.
Open Office Once the JRE is installed, I perform a couple of settings in Open Office, before I forget. Just follow the instructions in the page to make sure it's using the newly installed JRE, and to make sure that SmartQuotes are turned on properly.
Remove Games Ubuntu installs some games by default, which I don't use. So I remove them, to free up a bit of disk space.

It doesn't actually free up that much space at all, but it's the principle of the thing…
Open the Synaptic Package Manager and find the package gnome-games. Mark it for “complete removal,” and apply the changes.
IntelliMouse Since the Back and Forward buttons on my IntelliMouse don't work out of the box, i need to enable them. There are instructions on the Mouse page.
Compiz If everything is running well, and I'm feeling lucky, I'll also tweak my Visual Effects, to have a cooler desktop. I especially love showing this off to all of my friends who use Windows. There are instructions on the Compiz page.

Retrieve Backed Up Files

When a new version of Ubuntu comes out, I usually install the new version from scratch, rather than upgrading. (That is, I blow away my Ubuntu and swap partitions, and create new ones.) I do this partially for the purposes of this site, to make sure that my installation instructions are always accurate, but also because there are sometimes issues with the upgrade process, and it's usually safer to just do it from scratch.

But since I keep blowing away my Ubuntu installation, and starting over, there are certain things that need to be backed up, and then restored when I have my new installation up and running. Luckily, I only have two things I currently back up and restore, but you might have more:

  1. Anything that I've saved in my home directory. i.e. any documents I've created, or that type of thing.
  2. My custom changes for the Snippets plugin, for gedit (as specified on the gedit page).
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