Ubuntu essentials

Ubuntu is great, but here are some essentials and tips to fix some issues that I regularly encounter.

Install essentials

  • Unity Tweak Tool is handy to change the look & feel of the desktop, exposing many settings that are normally buried deep in config files: sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool
  • Play MP3s: many common media codec are not free and open source, requiring complicated licensing. Thus Ubuntu does not ship with them. There is an option to add them during install, but I don’t since it complicates the process. Install manually using: sudo apt-get install restricted-extras
  • Play videos: VLC, get a better video player right away: sudo apt-get install vlc.
  • Play DVDs: DVDs can’t be played until you install some non-free stuff. The codecs are not ready to go in the main repositories, so the easiest way seems to be to build it yourself: sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg then sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg. You may also need to add these packages sudo apt-get install libdvdnav4 libdvdread4
  • Caffeine, turns off screen lock so that your screen doesn’t turn off while you are watching youtube! Look for caffeine-indicator in the Software center.
  • Text editor: tweak the settings of Gedit, and add Atom or Visual Studio Code.
  • Python: Ubuntu comes with a system Python version installed. If you want to work with Python, its a good idea to install a more up-to-date version for your user account. I suggest Anaconda, a scientific Python distribution with comes packages with everything you need, including iPython and Jupyter Notebook. Then set up Jupyter with Py 2, 3, and R.
  • Git: sudo apt-get install git do it!
  • Image editing: GIMP. If you use raw images, check out Darktable as well.
  • Vector drawing: Inkscape or Vectr.
  • Ebook manager: Calibre, if you have ebooks, this helps you manage them and connect with reading devices. It also has great built in editing and conversion tools.
  • KeePass2 or KeePassX for passwords.

Tweak settings

Open the Settings app:

  • Appearance > Behavior > set options to Show the menus in the window’s title bar and Always displayed.
  • Screen Display > set the Scale if everything looks tiny on your High DPI screen. Start with this setting before tweaking other scaling options.
  • Use Unity Tweak to customize everything else…

If you like the night time color shift, check out Redshift.

Mouse doesn’t seem quite right

If its a logitech mouse, install solaar with Unity/gnome extensions, sudo apt-get install solaar-gnome3. Then unplug the mouse and restart the system. Or try lomoco to manually configure.

gvfsd-smb-browse uses 100% of one CPU core

This is an odd bug that has effected people for a long time, but hasn’t been fixed, particularly on 16.04. If you notice your machine heating up, check you system monitor and stop gvsd-smb-browse process, don’t kill it. There is 100 fixes available online, but all are sort of sketchy and odd. The best option: install samaba, sudo apt-get install samba. It seems Ubuntu doesn’t have the full package, and once you install it, the bug seems to go away.