Gaining Greater Proficiency - The Official Ubuntu Book (2011)

The Official Ubuntu Book (2011)

Chapter 4. Gaining Greater Proficiency

Adding and Removing Programs and Packages

Keeping Your Computer Updated

Adding Additional Users

Using and Abusing Devices and Media

Configuring a Printer in Ubuntu

How Linux Stores and Organizes Files

The Terminal

Backup Strategies

Working with Windows Programs


As you’ve seen so far, Ubuntu is relatively straightforward to set up and use for the common day-to-day tasks. With time, though, most users want to change their software, add and experiment with other software options available in Ubuntu, install and use hardware devices like printers, access remote files, use the famous (and sometimes feared) terminal, and maybe even run some Windows programs. Ubuntu provides many ways to do each of these things. While they are a little more complex than the material covered in previous chapters, the Ubuntu community has worked hard to make them as easy as possible, and this chapter gets you started with each of them and more.

Adding and Removing Programs and Packages

While Ubuntu already includes the things most people need, sometimes you want or need something extra, such as a desktop publishing application for school or a game to pass the time. The easiest way to add these is with Ubuntu Software Center, which is extremely simple to use but has a few limitations. This section also highlights a couple of other options. Work done using one tool to add or remove software is recognized by the related tools, so it is okay to mix and match which ones you use.

Using Ubuntu Software Center

Like other tools discussed later in this chapter, Ubuntu Software Center installs software from the online Ubuntu software repositories.

To launch Ubuntu Software Center, click the Applications icon in the launcher at the left of the desktop. In the search box at the top of the menu that appears, type Ubuntu and the search will begin automatically. Click the Ubuntu Software Center icon that appears in the box. When it is run for the first time, and occasionally afterward, it will take a few moments to initialize itself and the list of available and installed applications. Once this is complete, you will see the main screen shown in Figure 4-1.

Figure 4-1 Ubuntu Software Center main screen


The interface is divided into two parts. On the left are options to see what software is already installed or to get new software. If you highlight the Get Software option, the right panel provides you with a list of software categories to explore, including a Featured category that includes some of the more popular choices for software available from the Ubuntu repositories but not installed by default, as in Figure 4-2. To get more information or to install an item, click on the appropriate option. It really is that easy. To navigate back to the main menu, simply click the previous option from the hierarchy at the top of the pane or Get Software from the list in the left pane.

Figure 4-2 Featured applications in Ubuntu Software Center


By default, Ubuntu Software Center shows all applications that are supported by Ubuntu, including those supported by community volunteers called MOTUs (more on them in Chapter 7). While using Ubuntu Software Center to install new applications from both the officially supported Ubuntu-provided repositories as well as the community repositories is perfect for most users, there are times when a more conservative approach to software choices may be appropriate. In this case, you may limit the number of applications shown from the View menu by selecting Canonical-Maintained Applications in order to see only those pieces of software that are actively watched over and updated by Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. This is sometimes preferred in corporate environments that desire or require a stronger guarantee of support.


You might want to know a few terms before we continue. These are words used to describe how the software gets installed on your machine as well as how the system works.

APT: Advanced Package Tool, or APT, describes the entire system of online repositories and the parts that download them and install them. This is not highly visible when using graphic interface–based systems like Ubuntu Software Center but very clear when using command-line tools like apt-get or aptitude. Either way, APT is at work.

Repositories or software channels: In the Ubuntu world, these giant online warehouses of software are divided between official Ubuntu repositories and unofficial ones.

Packages: Applications are stored in packages that not only describe the program you want to install but also tell your package manager what the program needs to run and how to safely install and uninstall it. This makes the process of dealing with software dependencies smooth and easy for end users.

Dependencies: Dependencies comprise the software that is needed as a foundation for other software to run. For example, APT is needed for Ubuntu Software Center to run because APT takes care of many of the details behind the scenes.

Managing Software with Synaptic

Synaptic is a powerful graphical tool called a package manager. While Ubuntu Software Center deals with packages that contain applications, Synaptic deals with all packages, including applications, system libraries, and other pieces of software. Changing the system on this level is more complicated but also allows more detailed control. For instance, you can choose to install a specific library if you need it for a program that is not available in a package format.


What’s a Library?

In this context, a library is a collection of software functions that may be useful to more than one program. This collection is put into a separate package to save space by not forcing multiple programs to include the same code but instead simply refer to the library when a certain function the library contains is needed. It also makes updates easier, such as when a security issue is fixed, because the programming code may be changed in one place while benefiting all programs that use the function. Libraries streamline software support to be more efficient.

Synaptic may be found at System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager. Launch it and you will see the main window, as shown in Figure 4-3.

Figure 4-3 Synaptic main window



What’s in a Name?

Why the name Synaptic? Synaptic is a play on words, based on your brain’s synapses and the word APT.

Installing a Package

As with Ubuntu Software Center, installing packages with Synaptic is fairly easy. After you find the package you wish to install, click the checkbox to the right of the name of the package and select Mark for Installation. A dialog box may pop up (Figure 4-4) showing you what dependencies need to be installed—if any—which you can accept by clicking the Mark button. After you have selected all the package(s) you wish to install, click Apply on the Synaptic toolbar to begin installation.

Figure 4-4 Pop-up on Mark for Installation


Removing a Package

To remove a package, click on the green box, and choose Mark for Removal. As with installing a package, you may be asked to mark additional packages for removal (Figure 4-5). These are generally packages that depend on the presence of the main package you are marking for removal. If you wish to remove all the configuration files too, choose Mark for Complete Removal. After you have selected the packages you wish to remove, click Apply on the toolbar to start the actual process of removing the package.

Figure 4-5 Pop-up on Mark for Removal


Finding That Package

So you are looking for a package but don’t know where to start? The fastest and easiest way is to simply enter a word in the Quick Search box at the top center of the Synaptic window. You can also click the Search button on the toolbar or type Ctrl+F to launch a search dialog box. By default, the regular search looks at both the package name and the description, but it can also search just by name or a number of other fields.

If you know what section the package is in, select it in the left pane (you may need to go back to the Sections pane). Select the button in the lower left labeled Sections, and browse through the packages in that section.

In addition to Sections, there are other package listing and sorting options worth exploring that you may access using the buttons at the bottom left of the Synaptic window. Status lets you sort according to installation status. Origin sorts according to the repository from which the software was installed (or no repository for manually installed software, see the section later in this chapter on installing software that is not in a repository). You can even make custom filters to aid your search.

Keeping Your Computer Updated

No operating system or piece of software is perfect. Because of this, Ubuntu developers will release security and other updates as needed. These are placed into the Ubuntu repositories and are quite easy to install.

Most of the updates to your machine will be security related. This means that the developers have found a weakness in a particular program in Ubuntu and have released a fix for it. There will also be a small number of updates to fix some critical bugs. For a home user, there is generally no reason not to install these right away, as not installing them might leave your computer open to security breaches. While Ubuntu is significantly more secure from the main concerns of some operating systems, such as fears involving viruses and spyware, no computer is perfectly secure because no software is perfect. When problems are discovered that could lead to security issues, like buffer overflows or remote exploits, they are fixed and released as quickly as possible, even if the danger is quite remote. Ubuntu developers also have a very strict policy about not putting new release versions of programs with function changes or new features into stable versions of Ubuntu. This practice keeps your system more stable by not introducing new problems.

Installing Updates

Helpfully, Ubuntu checks the Ubuntu repositories once a day to see if there are any new versions of software you have installed, and it tells you when you need to update your machine.

Ubuntu 11.04 handles package updates by launching update-manager. Users are notified of security updates on a daily basis and are also notified when new Ubuntu versions are released. Because 10.04 is an LTS release, by default it will only notify of new LTS releases, meaning that it would likely be silent until April 2012. This behavior may be changed using System > Administration > Update Manager and clicking Settings.

Learning about What Was Updated

The update window, shown in Figure 4-6, will also show you specifically what is going to be fixed. In the details pane, it will show you what got fixed and how. It might also list a CVE number. The CVE number is a unique identifier for a security vulnerability. You can look it up on to see what the exact flaw was. However, most people don’t need to worry (and really don’t care) about these details.

Figure 4-6 The update window


I Want to Install an Application That Is Not in the Repositories

Although the repositories contain a huge selection of packages, sometimes the package you need is not included. The first thing you should check is that you have enabled the additional repositories such as universe and multiverse. You can do this from your menu at System > Administration > Software Sources. In the Ubuntu Software tab, ensure that the boxes are checked for main, universe, restricted, and multiverse. (See for more details.)


The Repository Run-Down

The universe repository contains the thousands of packages that are part of the Debian distribution upon which Ubuntu is based. All of these packages are entirely free and supported by a community of Ubuntu contributors.

The multiverse repository contains a number of packages that are freely available to download but are not fully open source. If you want to run only open source software, you may not want to use this repository.

If you have enabled these extra repositories and your package is still not there, have a quick hunt around with a search engine to see if you can find a repository (known as a Debian or APT repository) for your package. If you find one, use the Repositories dialog box you have just played with to add the new repository, and then use Synaptic to install the package.

One common type of extra repository you may encounter is called a PPA, or personal package archive. There is good information available for using PPAs at

If no repository is available, look for a Debian package (.deb) for the application, most likely available from the software company’s Web site, such as Adobe does with its Reader software or Skype with its VOIP software. If you find one, download it, and double-click it to install. If no Debian package exists, look for an Autopackage. (An upcoming subsection, “I Downloaded an Autopackage, but I Don’t Know How to Run It,” provides details about Autopackage installation.)

Finally, if all else fails, you may need to download the source code and compile it using instructions found at

Changing Your Launcher

The launcher at the left of the desktop comes prepopulated with a set of icons. You may want to customize what appears here by changing the order, not displaying certain items, and including programs that do not appear in the default setup.

To begin, open the Dash (a fancy name for a graphical menu) by clicking the Applications icon in the Launcher, as shown in Figure 4-7. From here you can choose to display all applications or search for a specific one.

Figure 4-7 Open the Dash to show installed applications.


Right click and hold to drag any Application icon from the Dash to the Launcher and release the mouse/touchpad button to add it, as seen in Figure 4-8. Drag items in the Launcher up and down to reorder them.

Figure 4-8 Feel free to add your own menu items.


Menu items can be applications (the default), applications running in terminals, or files. You can use the same process by using the Dash to search through Files & Folders or File Manager by clicking either icon to open, searching for the item you want to put in the Launcher, and dragging and dropping it into the desired location.

Adding Additional Users

Some computer systems end up being used by only one person, but many are shared among several people. When more than one person uses a computer system, it is always a good idea to create a unique account on the system for each person. This also gives everyone who uses the system the freedom to customize their experience without affecting the experience of other users (e.g., each user may choose her own desktop wallpaper or theme and it won’t change the preferences of others). This also means that you may create accounts with administrative privileges for people you trust to make changes to the entire system and less privileged accounts for people who do not need this power. This keeps your system more secure.

To add additional users, click the Applications icon in the Launcher and type User to search. Find and click the Users and Groups icon. In the box that appears, click the Add button in the lower left corner. In the Create New User dialog box, enter the new user’s name and a short name the user will use to login (e.g., Matthew Helmke and matt). You may also choose to have this user’s /home folder encrypted as it is created. After you click OK, you will have a chance to enter a password for this user or to generate a random password.

You can even click the option to not ask for a password from this user when he logs in, but we don’t recommend that unless this is going to be an account without administrative privileges and will be the default for booting in a very special case, such as a computer used primarily by children with a limited account but with an administrative account used by an adult for occasional maintenance.

Once you click OK on the password box, the account will be created and listed in the Users Settings window. By default, the account created is that of a normal user. If you want to give this new user the ability to administer the system, or other privileges, highlight the user’s name in the list on the left and then click Advanced Settings at the bottom right. You can change the user’s contact information, privileges, and more from here.

You may also delete users, change and manage user groups and memberships, and more from this location.

If you would prefer to do this from the terminal, use the adduser command while logged in to an account with administrative privileges:

matt@laptop:~$ sudo adduser corey

After you enter your password, this will add a new user named corey. You will be asked several questions in the process. Answer them, and at the end, the account will be created.

To delete a user from the command line, use the deluser command in place of adduser in the above example. You can learn more about dealing with users from the command line in the appendix.

Using and Abusing Devices and Media

Using devices like USB memory sticks or burning CDs in Ubuntu is simple and intuitive. In the vast majority of cases, you just plug them in and they work. Each device needs to be mounted before it can be used, but Ubuntu automatically mounts it for you. The main point to remember is to always unmount the device before you remove it. Unmounting a device ensures all data has been copied to it before you pull it out.


Problems Unmounting

If you have problems unmounting a device, make sure that you are not currently using it. As an example, if you have an open file manager window looking at the files on the device, it is currently being used and, as such, cannot be unmounted. As a general rule, just make sure you close every program that might be using the device and everything will work fine.

If at any time you are unsure which devices are plugged into your computer, click Places > Computer to see a list of the drives available.

Using USB Keyring Drives

In the last few years, USB keyrings, pens, and sticks have taken over as the common method for moving files between different computers. These cheap and often high-capacity little devices offer a simple and efficient way to carry your files with you. Although they come in many different shapes and forms, they all basically work the same way in Ubuntu.

Using USB storage devices in Ubuntu is a piece of cake. Just plug them in and a moment or two later, an icon representing the device appears on your desktop. A file manager window also appears to display the contents of the device. You can interact with the device and the files as you would with the files on your hard disk. With some types of files on the drive, a helpful dialog box may appear offering to start a specific program relating to that file type for you so that you may begin working with the file(s) quickly.

When you have finished using your USB device, right-click the device icon that appeared on your desktop and select Unmount. When the icon disappears from your desktop, you can safely remove it from the USB port.

Burning CDs

Burning files is simple in Ubuntu with its built-in support for CD writers. Simply place a writable CD into the drive, and an icon appears on the desktop. Double-click the icon, and an empty file manager window appears. Now drag the files to be burned into this window. When you are ready to burn the CD, click File > Write to Disk.

A dialog box appears, and you can configure a few items before the disk is burned. Enter a name for the disk in the Disk Name box, and use the Write Speed combo box to select the best write speed for your drive. If you have an old or unreliable CD writer, you may want to select a slower speed to prevent a burn error. Finally, click the Write Disk button to start the burn.

Quick Tip

You can also access the burner by clicking Places > CD/DVD Burner.

Burning a CD from an Image

With more and more people downloading open source software, installation disks are often released as downloadable .iso files. When you burn these files to a CD, the files from the disk image are restored and the resulting CD looks just like a normal CD.

To burn an .iso file to a CD, simply right-click it and select Write to Disk.


More Complex Burning

A very useful and capable program for working with CDs and DVDs, Brasero, has been installed by default. Click the Applications icon in the Launcher and type Brasero to find Brasero Disc Burner. Brasero is capable of creating audio CDs, data CDs and DVDs, video project DVDs and SVCDs, burning images to disks, and copying disks.

Using Floppy Disks

They aren’t seen much anymore, but you can use a floppy disk in Ubuntu. Just insert the disk in the drive. If a file manager window doesn’t come up automatically, you can select the File Manager icon in the Launcher and double-click on your floppy drive to mount it and display the files. When you have finished using the disk, right-click the floppy drive and select Unmount.

Using Digital Cameras

When you plug a digital camera into your computer, a device icon automatically appears on your desktop, and Ubuntu pops up a window asking if you want to view the photos from your camera. You can then view the photos and drag them from the photo viewer window over to a file manager window to save the photo.

The majority of digital cameras are actually just USB devices, and you can access the photos on them just like any other USB device, from within the file manager.


Ubuntu and Digital Photography

Ubuntu is a fantastic platform for digital photography and photo manipulation. F-Spot tool provides a complete solution for managing your photo collection and can be started by clicking on Applications > Graphics > F-Spot Photo Manager. Chapter 3 has more information on how to use F-spot.

For photo manipulation, GIMP provides a comprehensive tool and can be installed quickly from Ubuntu Software Center. Once installed, it can be found at Applications > Graphics > GIMP Image Editor.

Configuring a Printer in Ubuntu

In the Linux world, configuring a printer has traditionally been a challenge. For years, newcomers to Linux have been repeatedly challenged and even bludgeoned with scary terms, commands, and phrases that sound like a language from another planet. Users often had to edit fairly complex text files by hand and spend a good deal of time learning how to insert arcane instructions just to get a printer to work. However, things have changed with Ubuntu.

Most of the time, it is possible to add or configure a printer easily and quickly. The one caveat is that not all printer manufacturers provide Linux drivers for their devices. While the Linux community works very hard to write drivers, many times the newest printer models do not have adequate software to interact with Linux. Most printers that are older than 6 or 9 months seem to work quite well, though. You can also check before buying a printer to see what other people have experienced by looking at the list of models and the state of their drivers at The Linux Foundation maintains that list, which is a pretty good gauge for determining how well your model should work out of the box with Ubuntu, making this an excellent resource when shopping for new hardware as well as useful for troubleshooting when problems are encountered.

To get started installing your printer, click the Applications icon in the Launcher and search for Print to find the Printing icon (Figure 4-9).

Figure 4-9 Selecting the Printing application from the Application Dash


Selecting this option will bring up the Printers window, as shown in Figure 4-10.

Figure 4-10 The GNOME Printers dialog box


The Printer configuration application allows you to add printers as well as modify their settings. In the upcoming example, you will add a new printer and then view its settings.

Gathering Information

The most important thing to remember when configuring a printer is to not get ahead of yourself. Before you start clicking on icons and running anything, make sure that you have completed the following steps.

1. Note the make and model of the printer. This information is usually printed clearly on the hardware itself. In our example, we add a Brother MFC-7820N.

2. Plug the printer in to your computer or to the network, and turn it on.

Launching the Wizard

Once you have properly prepared to install your printer, click on the New Printer icon. The system will then automatically search for any new connected printers and will launch a New Printer wizard, shown in Figure 4-11.

Figure 4-11 Step 1, selecting a printer


In most cases, the wizards will be able to detect an attached printer automatically and will include it in a list of devices on the left. If your printer is plugged directly into a router, it is possible for the printer Wizard to find it by selecting Find Network Printer.

Select the device with your printer’s name, and then hit forward.

At this point, you will have to choose a printer manufacturer. If your printer has been automatically detected, the wizard will choose a manufacturer. Click forward.

In the next screen, you’ll be asked to choose both a model and a driver. For autodetected printers, both should be automatically selected, and the default driver should work. You can always change it later. If no driver is selected, scroll through the list of options by manufacturer. Figure 4-12 shows that a driver for the Brother MFC-7820N has been selected.

Figure 4-12 Step 2, selecting a driver


Sometimes you may not find the exact model or driver for your specific printer. Generally, if the driver does not exist for your exact model, choose the closest one, and then test it. If that doesn’t work, you can try other drivers intended for printers from the same manufacturer.

Click Forward to proceed with the installation. If you need to install a custom driver, click the Install Driver button. You can see this button in Figure 4-12.

Finally, you can enter a description and location for your printer, as shown in Figure 4-13. Click Apply to complete the process and set up your printer.

Figure 4-13 Step 3, entering printer location and description


Mission Accomplished!

After you click Apply, you will see your printer’s name under the Local Printers heading. You can click on it and then print out a test page. Do so, and make sure that the page prints correctly. If you find that the page prints well, you are finished. You can now print from the applications you have installed. For example, you can print from, Mozilla, or even the command line.

Remote Printing

You can also configure your Ubuntu system to send print jobs to a remote print server. If, for example, you have a Windows system with a printer attached on your network, simply choose the Network Printer radio button and specify the host name or IP address of the Windows system. You will then have to specify a connection protocol.

If your Windows system is sharing a printer, you will have to specify Samba, which is the standard way to get Linux and Windows systems to communicate with each other. You will still have to specify a print driver, as described earlier.

How Linux Stores and Organizes Files

If you have not used Linux before, the way that Linux stores and organizes files is likely to be new to you because the layout is quite different from Windows and Mac OS X.


Folders and Directories

When reading about file management, don’t get confused by the terms folders and directories—both words describe the same thing.

In the Windows world, each disk drive is labeled with an identifying letter such as C: for your hard disk and A: for the floppy drive. In the Linux world, however, everything is part of the same filesystem organization. As such, if you have two or three hard disks, a CD drive, and a USB stick all plugged in, they will all be part of the same folder structure.

The diagram shown in Figure 4-14 should give you an idea of how everything hangs together.

Figure 4-14 Linux filesystem organization


Right at the top of the tree is the root folder, referred to as /. Inside this folder are a number of special system folders, each with a specific use. As an example, the /home folder contains a number of home directories for each user on the system. As such, the mako user account has the home folder set to /home/mako.

Which Folder Does What?

The folder structure in a modern Linux distribution such as Ubuntu was largely inspired by the original UNIX foundations that were created by men with large beards. Although you don’t really need to know what these folders do, since Ubuntu looks after the housekeeping for you, some of you may be interested in the more important folders. For your pleasure, we present the Linux folder hit list in Table 4-1.

Table 4-1 Linux Folders


Configuration Files

In Table 4-1, /etc is described as storing systemwide configuration files for your computer. Aside from these files that affect everyone, there are also configuration files for each specific user. Earlier, when you customized Ubuntu’s look and feel, the settings were applied only to your current user account. So where are those settings stored?

Inside your home directory are a number of folders that begin with a dot (.), such as .gnome2 and These folders contain the configuration settings for user-specific applications. By default, these dot folders are hidden in Nautilus because you rarely need to access them. For future reference, you can view these hidden files and folders by clicking View > Show Hidden Files or by pressing Ctrl+H.

Using Windows Files on Another Partition

For those of you who spend a considerable amount of your life on Windows partitions, you may want to be able to access these partitions from Ubuntu. This is no problem, although you will need to edit a special configuration file to do this. Luckily, you need to edit this file only once, and then everything will be set up.

Ubuntu should automatically recognize any Windows partitions you have on your computer and set them up for you; however, you may need to modify them or add your own. You should first open System > Administration > Disk Utility and write down the partition numbers and filesystem for your Windows partitions. The partition number will look something like /dev/hdb1 or /dev/sdb1, and the filesystem will be either FAT, VFAT, or NTFS.

The next step is to create some mount points. When your Windows partitions are enabled, they are accessed via a particular folder in Ubuntu. This is called a mount point. As an example, if you have a mount point as /media/win1 and on your Windows partition you want to access your Work folder, you would access it from Ubuntu as /media/win1/work.

Mount points usually live in the /media folder. Create a different mount point for each Windows partition. As an example, if you have three Windows partitions, run the following commands:

foo@bar:~$ sudo mkdir /media/win1
foo@bar:~$ sudo mkdir /media/win2
foo@bar:~$ sudo mkdir /media/win3

Now open up the following configuration file:

foo@bar:~$ sudo gedit /etc/fstab

The /etc/fstab file maps partition numbers to mount points. At the bottom of the file, add a line like this for each mount point:

/dev/hdb1 media/win1 vfat users,rw,owner,umask=000 0 0

You will need to change the partition number (the first column), mount point (second column), and filesystem (third column) for your relevant partitions.

Now reload /etc/fstab to enable the partitions:

foo@bar:~$ sudo mount -a

Some hard disk icons for the new partitions now appear.


You can find more about fstab at

The Terminal

Although Ubuntu is a desktop-driven OS, the system is running on a powerful and incredibly flexible command-line core. Inspired by more than 30 years of UNIX heritage, the command-line environment present on Linux systems enables you to perform some incredibly powerful tasks by stringing together different commands in different ways.

The philosophy behind UNIX is to create a large number of small tools, each of which is designed to do one task but do it incredibly well. As a quick example to whet your appetite, there is a command called ls that does nothing more than list files in a folder. Although listing files is its singular function in life, it has every option imaginable for listing files.

Now, ls is limited by itself, but it can be combined with other commands that have equal levels of flexibility to create impressively powerful combinations. To do this, a pipeline is created using the | symbol to connect these different commands. Pipelines can be constructed in any number of different ways, and once the user has even a basic knowledge of what a few different commands do, stringing together a pipeline of commands can solve virtually any task you can imagine in quick and powerful ways.

It should be made 100 percent clear that using the command line is not an essential skill required to use Ubuntu, but it is a skill that can increase the flexibility of your computer for more advanced, customized tasks. Rather than cover the use of the terminal here, we have included an excellent introduction in the appendix.

Backup Strategies

Everyone who has used a computer for any length of time has heard the advice, “Backup, backup often, test the backups, repeat.” Few people actually do it. Ignoring this advice is dangerous and can cause the loss of important documents, files, pictures, and more.

To prevent this loss, prudent computer users, regardless of operating system, will pick a method of copying their files to a safe location for storage and will use that method on a regular basis. To help you devise a strategy that best suits you, we have come up with a few options to consider. This topic is a big one, and how you deal with it is a very personal decision. Rather than give step-by-step instructions, we mention a few options to consider and leave it to you to research them further and decide on one that looks appropriate and inviting.

Some users find that the easiest thing for them to do is copy all of their files to a CD-R or DVD-R every week or two. Others buy an external hard drive and do the same thing. Either of these methods is effective and easy enough for anyone to do.

Others will look at this and think to themselves, “There has to be a better way.” Perhaps they noticed that these methods require every single file to be copied every time, even if the file has not changed in ages. In these cases, an incremental backup is ideal, where the computer is told to compare the files in the original location with stored files in a backup location (like an external hard drive) and copy only new or changed files.

Several graphic user interface programs for backing up are available from the Ubuntu repositories. Each comes with a basic and useful graphic interface that is easy to figure out and use, and each is configurable to allow you to do full or incremental backups. The most commonly recommended one is Simple Backup Suite, available in Ubuntu Software Center in the System Tools section, with both a backup configuration and backup restore entry.

For those users who are a little more advanced (or a little braver) and who love the raw power available from learning a command-line program, the best two programs for backups are rar and rsync, which are both available from the Ubuntu repositories. Once they are installed, you can read the manual page and learn how to use them by typing man rar or man rsync from a terminal. They are complicated but are also fast and amazingly effective both at making the backups and restoring them.

Unfortunately, this quick mention in a small section of a very diverse chapter can only get you thinking about the need for good backups and help guide you in your search for the perfect method for you. However you decide to back up your data, we strongly encourage you not to ignore the need but to find a way to do it. If you have any questions about this or other topics, the Ubuntu community has a large number of very helpful people you can ask for help, and we recommend you start by searching or asking questions in the Ubuntu Forums at


You can find more backup ideas and information at

Working with Windows Programs

Although Linux offers an increasingly compelling platform for the desktop, some situations arise when there is just no alternative other than an application written for Windows. This is generally the case with specific business applications, some educational tools, and many games. Luckily, there is a way you can run many of these applications on your Ubuntu desktop.

For more than fifteen years, the Wine project team members have been working to create a free way to run Windows applications on Linux. While not every application works perfectly, and some don’t work at all, the number of programs that do work in Wine has dramatically increased and continues to do so. However, it is recommended that you thoroughly test the applications you want to run in Wine before you use them for important work, and if you run into trouble, try consulting help resources, use virtualization to run Windows on top of Ubuntu, or search for a different application to use.


You can find some useful help resources for Wine at, and you can learn more about alternatives to Wine at

Install the Wine package from the System Tools section of the Ubuntu Software Center or simply double-click an .exe file, and you will be prompted to install the package. You can configure Wine by searching for Wine Applications in the Applications Dash after clicking the Applications icon in the Launcher. Your C:\ Drive will appear in your Places menu for easy access, and you will be able to uninstall Wine from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Running Applications

To run an application, simply double-click on the install .exe file. Once installed, the program should appear in your menu under Applications > Wine.


You can find even more about Wine from the Ubuntu perspective at


In this chapter we looked at a variety of different advanced subjects related to running and managing your Ubuntu system. Installation, removal, and upgrade of software using the Ubuntu Software Center and other options were discussed. We also looked at the installation and use of several different types of hardware devices. We perused some of the methods of accessing remote files and mentioned the powerful Ubuntu terminal and the need for learning how to back up your data regularly. Finally, we looked at a possibility of running certain programs written for Microsoft Windows under Ubuntu.