Ubuntu 8.10 installation

Some notes on making it all happen without problems.

1 Check the PC before starting

Check BIOS (typically F2 or 'Del' key during booting) to enable SMART reporting for HDD, and to disable any anti‑virus style protection against writing the Master Boot Record (MBR) during installation. You might also want to check the boot sequence goes to your CD/DVD drive first then to the HDD.

If setting up dual-boot machine with Windows, then boot in to Windows and do a check of the disk by right-clicking on the C: drive in Explorer, selecting the “Properties” option, then the Tools tab, then click on the “Check Now” button and tick the “Automatically fix file system errors” and (depending on your PC's age, patience and degree of paranoia / experience) tick the option to “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors”. Then click on the “Start” button and it will tell you it cannot be performed just now and do you want it scheduled for next boot time. Click on the “Yes” button and then restart your PC.

When windows reboots, it will give you 10 seconds to cancel, then start disk checking. The file-system check typically takes a few minutes, the surface scan for bad sectors typically a few hours. Eventually it will be done and have booted in to windows as usual. Then you can check for the results of the activity by going to the control panel and then “Administrative Tools” then “Event Viewer” and look in the log file for Applications to find the output of chkdsk (possibly listed as “Winlogon”). Usually there are some minor thing that needed correction...

2 Get the Ubuntu CD and test it

Download the Ubuntu CD image (ISO file) from http://www.ubuntu.com/ and burn that on to a CD using whatever program you have (e.g. Nero for windows), ideally doing a verify after writing it. This allows you to boot as a “Live CD” where you can try out the system before doing anything to the installed software.

Once you have the CD, boot up and when the CD starts select the option to test the CD first. This is another ten minutes or so of largely wasted time, but a wise precaution as you want to know the software you are about to try/install is not corrupted!

Then boot to the option to run/try the software and see if your basic PC hardware is supported OK (video, sound, wi-fi, network card, etc). Generally the “win modem” dial-up cards won't work, maybe not some types of USB modems, but if you have broadband with an Ethernet connection it should be just fine.

Printer support is variable, check out http://www.linuxfoundation.org/en/OpenPrinting for their database of which printers work and to what degree. If you are lucky enough to have a PostScript printer (usually the better laser printers) they normally work perfectly. I found the moderately priced OKI colour laser C3600 worked perfectly for text and graphics, though not terribly good colour rendering for photographic work (a common issue for laser printers).

3 Proceeding to install Ubuntu

If all goes well, the Live CD allows you to install Ubuntu and gives you the choice of using the whole disk (wiping windows and all other data) or re-partitioning the disk to dual boot.

The dual-boot option is probably the best until you are sure you are happy, and if you want to play any games that need full windows access (rather than a virtual machine running windows under Linux). Again, just allow this to go on and take a break as it will take an hour or more depending on the size of disk to be re‑partitioned. When asked during installing, usually say 'no' the testing the keyboard and just select a standard UK keyboard layout.

The user name you use for installing Ubuntu will become the first account, and has administrative ('sudo') privileges. Once you are happy with everything at the end you can create new accounts for other users. By default they won't have admin rights so can't install most software, which is a good idea for accounts to be used by children and any "technically challenged" users.

When completed, you can boot into Ubuntu and then allow the update manager to patch you system first. With 8.10 this is quite a lot of stuff now, with 9.04 much less, but allow it to go on and do the lot. You may also want to install the 'non-free' driver for your graphics card (System → Administration → Graphics Drivers), this is needed for best performance. Then probably restart the PC as the kernel and/or graphics driver may be changed.

You might want to boot in to Windows at this point if you are doing a dual-boot system as following a re-size of the NTFS partition that Windows lives on it will be marked as 'dirty' and so Windows should be allowed to do its disk check stuff again, then reboot (no doubt!) and see if Windows has come up happy finally. Then reboot yet again and go back to Ubuntu to continue configuring stuff...

4 Configuring Ubuntu for common stuff

Finally, you have the basic installation and can customise it with the sensible options. First change the clock to use NTP by going to it (System → Administration → Time and Date), unlocking and then change the configuration to “Keep synchronised to internet servers”. This will prompt the installation of the NTP package. Afterwards, go back to this clock menu (now only showing NTP stuff) and use the option to add more time servers. Add the following:

They won't actually be used until the next restart of the PC, or you manually restart the NTP daemon. For more details on the NTP 'pool' try here: http://www.pool.ntp.org/use.html

You will probably want to install Adobe flash player in spite of its poor security record, as such a number of web sites depend upon it to be usable (such as YouTube). Best route is to enable the 3rd party software in the package manager (System → Administration → Software Sources, select third party) and then start the System → Administration → Synaptic Package Manager and find “adobe-flashplugin” and mark it for installation.

While there, consider marking the following for installation:

Finally you can use the 'Apply' button in the package manager to install this stuff.

For non-free codecs (such as de-css for playing commercial DVDs) and mplayer install see  https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Medibuntu

Once all main installation done, you can edit this account's settings (irritatingly has to be done for each account you create):

Start FireFox and set you preferences (Edit → Preferences) for home page, etc. I install the UK English dictionary (also for Thunderbird). I also change FireFox not to remember passwords, and to clear all cookies on exit (Edit → Preferences → Privacy tab & Security tab).

Set the power button to shut the PC down (System → Preferences → Power Management → General tab), maybe choose a screen saver you like (System → Preferences → Screensaver), and I prefer the visual effects turned off (System → Preferences → Appearance 'visual effects' tab).

Disabled software autorun on LINUX (Places → Computer → Edit → Preferences → Media)

If you plan on using the command prompt (Applications → Accessories → Terminal) to any degree, then it is a good idea to make things a bit safer by editing your home directory '.bashrc' file (start terminal and enter gedit .bashrc) to add the following aliases lower in that file:
    alias rm='rm -i'
    alias mv='mv -i'
    alias cp='cp -i --preserve=timestamps'
    alias l='ls -ho'
I did the same to the /root/.bashrc file so wide ranging super-user actions are prompted as well.

If you have a floppy drive, 8.10 did not see this by default so you would need to edit the file /etc/modules to add 'floppy' in to list. Can use the command gksudo gedit /etc/modules as it is root owned.

I prefer the Opera web browser for a lot of things, but you have to download the Debian package version of that from www.opera.com then open the package with the package manager (typically double-click on the transferred will do). After it is installed, I changed the preferences (also a tedious per-account step) using Tools → Preferences and then:
    General tab (set home page)
    Wand tab (un-tick the remember password option)
    Search tab (select Google, Edit → Details change google.com to google.co.uk)
    Advanced tab (content → un-tick all but javascript, cookies → tick delete new cookies when exiting)
As for FireFox, I prefer Opera to delete all advert/tracking cookies each day I quit browsing, but for children's accounts it may be preferable not to so you can set Google's "safe search" mode and it is remembered.

5 Special mount options

You might want to have an existing Windows partition mounted 'normally' in LINUX, or maybe a network file share from a Windows or LINUX type of PC or NAS. Some suggestions are:

First use the blkid program to get the UUID (unique identifiers) of each partition. This is much more reliable than using /dev/sda1 and so on!

Then edit the /etc/fstab file and add something like this for a Windows mount:

# mount Windows C: drive as /mnt/c for paul
UUID=8EF0BFB5F0BFA1BF    /mnt/c    ntfs    uid=paul,gid=paul,umask=133,dmask=022    0    0

Here it is assumed I have already used mkdir to create /mnt/c for this, and that I want the Windows drive to be read/write for myself (paul) but read-only for others. If you want some others to have more access, change the umask/dmask values to 113/002 and add those other chosen users to your group (i.e. to 'paul' in this example). After adding this you can try mounting it (all automatic mounts, in fact) with the command:

sudo mount -a

For an example added to fstab for using the NFS export of my Thecus N5200 NAS box:

# Mount the Thecus on-request.    /mnt/thecus    nfs    users,exec,noauto,nosuid    0    0

Here the parameters "users" and "noauto" means that it won't waste time trying to automatically mount on booting (as the box may be switched off), but that if I do want to use the Thecus N5200 I can mount and un-mount it as a normal user (i.e. no need for sudo) with the command:

mount /mnt/thecus
umount /mnt/thecus

Finally an example using a CIFS (Windows SMB export) which is more complicated:

# Mount SWDEV as user 'psc'
//wbox/sdv    /mnt/swdev    cifs   uid=paul,gid=paul,credentials=/home/paul/.smbcredentials,dir_mode=0755,file_mode=0644  0  0

This mounts the share 'sdv' from the macing 'wbox' as user 'paul' for file permissions (at least what the LINUX users sees, the actual share has its own user/permission stuff separate from here). The log-in details are in the file /home/paul/.smbcredentials which must be root-owned and readable only by root for security!

6 Security & Other Stuff

Check the router's DNS choice, UPnP settings, etc (usually on address You should set a decent password so it can't be fiddled with from web page / flash player flaws.

The pan newsreader has a known flaw, you can build a fixed version as covered here: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/pan/+bug/374097

If using XP (dual boot and/or is a virtual machine) suggest you configure XP to disable autorun on all drives http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953252

GoogleEarth is less easy to install than most, they have it kind of working. Here is some info:
It installs for one user only, and some video cards don't work well and/or you have to disable atmosphere in GoogleEarth to get usable speed. Sometimes its text on graphic display is broken.

If you disabled any BIOS protection for the MBR to install things, you can re-enable it after installation is done.

(c) Paul Crawford, 6th October 2009