Stranger Fruit

Needing software recommendation

It’s been a few years (2002, probably) since I used a Linux box regularly. Yesterday I dual-booted my laptop with Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron” and everything works flawlessly. So now I’m asking – what are the essential software packages I should install? Utilities, games, whatever … make a recommendation. I’d be particularly interested in hearing about a good blogging client.


  1. #1 Jim Lund
    May 15, 2008

    I think you need to provide more detail–what do you do with your computer? What do you want to do? Games, graphing, or drawing fractals ( Do you want to run Blender? Write text or math? Or program in BASIC?

  2. #2 pough
    May 16, 2008

    Does xtartan still exist?

  3. #3 Tom
    May 16, 2008

    I would suggest either openoffice or staroffice – I think there’s a wiki for good opensource software somewhere out there.

  4. #4 Joseph Hewitt
    May 16, 2008

    I use OpenOffice for just about everything. I’d recommend GearHead for games, but then again I pretty much have to say that.

  5. #5 John Lynch
    May 16, 2008

    I guess I should clarify … I’m looking for stuff beyond the standard install (OO, Firefox, etc). Surprise me with something that’s cool and has no (or exceeds the) Windows equivalent.

    @ Pough

    Xtartan! I laughed.

  6. #6 Hank
    May 16, 2008

    Subversion. Useful for way more than source code.

  7. #7 hdh
    May 16, 2008

    Not software at all, but you can install the fortunes-* packages, and waste some time with

    $ fortune


    $ fortune -a

    for all (non-offensive and offensive) fortunes. It can also pick fortunes from certain topic.

    gnome-panel has a widget named Wanda the Fish that runs fortune by default, if you don’t like a terminal interface.

    I also find gucharmap a fine time-killer, with its reference between characters (“see also”), and Unicode usage notes.

    Filelight (I think it’s part of out-of-the-box Ubuntu) is nice for inspecting disk usage. Konqueror has a view mode that show all files/subdirectories as rectangulars based on file size, the bonus is that it is a file-browser, you don’t have to hunt for stuffs in two windows. It can split window into multiple views.

    Pidgin (IM multi-client) is pluggable, many of the plugins are hosted on

    Picard is a musicbrainz-backed music tagger.

    Amarok is an awesome music player.

  8. #8 Roman Werpachowski
    May 16, 2008

    Don’t run OpenSSH server on it until this is patched:

  9. #9 Ale
    May 16, 2008

    OpenOffice is nice, but as most of my work is latex-based I use Kile (some colleagues prefer LyX). Agree with Hank: SVN is very good for collaborative development (not only for code – we use it for papers as well). Octave is a useful Matlab alternative. If you are into statistics, R might be the thing for you. I use GAP for computational group theory, but that might be just too specialized :D.

    For audio I use rythmbox, for pics I use Picasa. For coolness, try celestia:

  10. #10 Matt Platte
    May 16, 2008

    System -> Preferences -> Advanced Desktop Effects Settings

    Be sure to give Tomboy Notes a few minutes’ attention; it’s much improved since you last visited.

  11. #11 andy
    May 16, 2008

    gparted (actually, get the LiveCD version, its more useful when run without mounting any partitions)
    amarok (ok its a KDE application but its the best music player out there IMHO), plus get the MP3 support etc. from Medibuntu)
    mplayer – I’ve never got the default Totem media player to work very well.
    firefox-2 (for some reason Ubuntu Hardy comes with a beta webbrowser by default!)

  12. #12 Selva
    May 16, 2008

    Great for video podcasts and internet video in general.

  13. #13 Shirakawasuna
    May 16, 2008

    Games: TeeWorlds, FunnyBoat, and Armagetron (Tron, yeah!)

    Media apps: all the video players. VLC, mplayer, something that uses xine.

    Burning CDs: K3B

    I’m not sure what else I’d recommend, since I use KDE and don’t know if you want to use K* apps… I play ksirtet (tetris) constantly, kmail, konqueror, amarok, konversation, koffice, etc…

  14. #14 Lassi Hippeläinen
    May 16, 2008 (former Newsforge) has some software reviews:

  15. #15 CC
    May 16, 2008

    I’ve been using a combination of Lyx to write and JabRef to reference lately (as well as custom-bib to make reference styles). Definitely beats the Oo Writer/Bibus combo I was using before. R is evil, but that’s most likely my lack of experience with it.

    Otherwise there’s Hugin to stitch together photos.

  16. #16 Thomas
    May 16, 2008

    I’m a visualization geek, so these are the packages I like:
    Gnuplot – A bit limited, but it can produce very customizable 2d and 3d data plots. If you learn all of the switches, your plots can be very well done. There is also a Python plug-in that allows you to use scripts to create plots. I used this tool to create ice thickness/velocity maps of Antarctica.
    GMT(Generic Mapping Tools) – An excellent, but unfriendly, mapping utility. Harder to master then a GIS, but I think the results can be superior. This can also create very good 2d and 3d plots.
    Grass GIS – A very good mapping tool. I use it to create maps from USFS data for personal use.
    OpenDX – A quirky, but interesting, viz software that allows creation of content using plugable GUI components. The resulting visualization can be interactive. This is not as good as a custom programmed simulation, but I still think it is excellent and a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.
    In the non-viz stuff:
    XMMS – a mp3/ogg player that is similar to several mp3 players in windows. It is skinable and has a few visualization plug-ins.
    AWK, SED, and Emacs – If I could marry software, I would marry all three. I guess that makes me a polygamist.
    The GIMP and the Blender – Both can be a hoot.
    All of those wonderful terminal utilities and scripting.

  17. #17 Bryn
    May 16, 2008

    KStars astronomy program. Even if you’re not into astronomy, you’ll like it anyway. gFTP for data exchange is nice and one I use a lot. And need I say the word, “NetHack” or is that a given? 😉

  18. #18 phisrow
    May 17, 2008

    I’m using KDE(which I would recommend), so these might not suit your GNOME desktop; but Kontact is a pretty good email/PIM suit. yakuake is really handy if you use a desktop environment but like to have a shell always at hand. If you are interested in network admin and/or evil, Wireshark and nmap are well worth your attention.

    If you don’t mind a little learning curve, LateX is seriously good stuff. It can be a bit baroque, especially once you dig into it; but typesetting systems are about a million times better than word processors.
    Although they are a KDE thing, I’d seriously recommend looking into KIOslaves. Nothing too flashy; but enormously useful. DCOP/DBUS scripting is also a really cute feature.

  19. #19 Scott M.
    May 19, 2008 before it’s deprecated. Installs some nice stuff like Picasa, Google Earth, Crossover and allows you to watch encrypted DVD’s, the kind you rent.

  20. #20 Michael White
    May 20, 2008

    Some random ones:

    xaos (interactive fractal generator)
    Liferea (feed reader)
    gutenpy (gutenberg ebook downloader/reader)
    Knowit or notecase for notetaking
    qalculate calculator

  21. #21 Rick
    May 26, 2008

    Amarok for music.

    Instead of automatix be sure to look at installing “ubuntu-restricted-extras” for all your mp3/dvd/codec/java needs.

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