Introduction

My name is David Hunter — sernaferna, when I'm online — and I'm a self-professed nerd. I have various blogs online, including sernaferna and the serna Bible Blog. I'm in the computer field, working as a consultant, and I've helped write a computer book, called Beginning XML. But one thing I haven't done is play around with Linux.

Ubuntu

So, when a colleague introduced me to Ubuntu, I couldn't help myself; I had to try working with the operating system that will one day, with any luck, replace Windows. My problem, unfortunately, was that I had a woeful lack of computers at home; just my one trusty desktop1, which I didn't want to break — if I installed a new operating system on it, even in dual-boot mode, and toasted the computer, I'd have no computers at home. (Like too many nerds, I don't back up my system, like I should.)

My First Taste

My opportunity came at work, when the IT department accidentally killed my laptop. (You can read the saga on my personal blog, here and here.) It got to the point where I could only boot up in Safe Mode, and wasn't able to drag and drop my files anywhere, so in order to save my data, I installed Ubuntu, and used it to copy the files off.

That one day working with the operating system was enough to convince me that Linux was now in the major leagues, and ready to take on Microsoft as a viable candidate in the operating system arena. Sure, the geeks and nerds had been using it for years, but with distros like Ubuntu, there was a real possibility that the average user could also use it, with less frustration than they had with Windows. (That is, once the operating system is up and running; when they're just trying to get it working, they might get frustrated indeed!)

After I got the data off my laptop, I brought it back to the IT department to have it re-imaged, and I was back to running Windows. But having whet my appetite for Linux, I really wanted to play around with it some more. I even went out, during the back-to-school sales, and bought myself a laptop, hoping to install Ubuntu on it. (That wasn't the only reason I bought the laptop; my “trusty desktop” seemed to be on its deathbed, and I knew I needed a new computer anyway.)

It had been such a breeze installing Ubuntu on my work laptop that I expected the same when it came to my personal machine, but I still did a bit of research on it anyway, just to make sure. And it turned out that the laptop I'd bought — an HP Pavilion dv5230ca — had a strange configuration, with multiple hard drive partitions, and a second, embedded, version of Windows, for a utility they included called QuickPlay2. So I decided to hold off, for a bit, until I could research the issue a bit more.

My Second Taste

And then came the final blow: I got a virus at work — which you can read about here — and was only able to get it partially cleaned off the system. With Windows acting strangely, I figured it was my chance to start working with the new operating system again. Sure, I could bring the laptop back to IT and have it re-imaged again, but who's to say the same thing wouldn't happen again? So I decided to install Ubuntu on my work laptop, again, and use it for work as much as possible. Any time I needed Windows — like if I needed a program that only runs on Windows, such as Visio — I'd boot into Windows, and otherwise, I'd boot into Ubuntu.

But, now that I'm getting into it, why not install it on my personal computers too, right? There's only one problem: I'm new to the whole Linux thing, and there are some aspects of working with Ubuntu/Linux that are non-obvious. If I really mess up my work computer, I can have it re-imaged again, but if I muck up my home computers, it might not be as easy to get up and running again.

That's the reason for this site. I want to try and document everything I have to do to get my computers up, running, and tweaked, with Ubuntu. If there are other users out there like me — and surely there must be — they may find this information helpful; I have found that the forums aren't always 100% useful, for the beginngers; if you search for help on a particular topic, you usually have to wade through a lot of information — much of it contradictory — before you find an answer.

It seems that the Linux/Ubuntu nerds have tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so the more common the question is, the more likely that you'll have to wade through a lot of forum posts before you find the answer. There will be a hundred posts of people asking the question, and getting no answer because the nerds are tired of answering it, before you get to a post from a couple of years ago, when someone did deem the question worthy of answering.

So if I can explain some things here concisely, all the better. Some of the information I include will be generic, and some will apply directly to the model of hardware I'm using for a particular issue, and some of it will probably just amount to blowing off steam, when I get frustrated.

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