This is one of four related posts:
Some Linux/Ubuntu related books:
Ubuntu Unleashed 2016 Edition: Covering 15.10 and 16.04 (11th Edition)
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop: Applications and Administration
The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction
If you have already considered your options for installing Linux, done the installation, and learned your way around the Unity Desktop, then you are ready to tweak your system. This will be easiest if you use the terminal for several of the steps. Just copy and paste the lines I give you here. Note that in Linux, unless you change it, to paste into a terminal you hit shift-control-v, not just control-v.
Most of these commands start with the word “sudo.” This is because these tweaks change the software or the operating system, and Linux needs to know that the person in charge of the computer is doing that. Start a command with “sudo” and after you enter the command, you will be asked for your password. Enter the password, hit Enter, and you are good to go. If the next time you use “sudo” is soon enough, you won’t be asked for your password.
There is one other thing you might want to know so the rest of this makes sense.
Software, applications, apps (three words for the same thing) typically come in “packages.” A package is a bunch of stuff that includes information on what needs to be installed to make a piece of software work, what needs to be done to let the system know it is there, etc.
Packages live in repositories, and they live on the internet. (They can also live on a DVD but that is rarely done for the average user … there were in fact packages on your installation DVD but that’s the last time you’ll probably use DVD or USB stick based packages.)
Your computer, after installation, is set up to know about certain repositories. This is the great advantage of using Ubuntu or many of the other major distributions. You get that distribution’s repository, and the packages stored there are carefully maintained and secured. Installing off a major repository like this means no viruses, malware, “freeware” or other junk will get onto your computer. It also means that when you issue a general update command, your computer visits the repository and updates all of your installed software based on whatever is new or changed in the repository.
During the following process, you will likely add some new repositories to your computer’s database of repositories. Just follow the instructions. But note, in order for an added repository to be known about, you add it, then you update the package system. Again, just follow the instructions.
It is also possible to install software using a downloaded package. In the case of Ubuntu (or any debian based Linux distribution), these are files with the “deb” extention. If you have the right software installed, you should be able to just double click on a deb file and pick an option to install it. I include an example or two of that process in with the tweaks below.
Finally, as you will see, there are several different software interfaces to this installation system. For the most part, you can install anything from the available repositories using the Ubuntu software center. But the Ubuntu software center is one crappy piece of software, in my opinion. It looks slick, but is slow and clunky and frustrating.
There is a system that works better (it is more responsive) but harder to use (because it does not hold your hand much) called synaptic.
But generally, the smoothest, quickest, easiest way to install most software from the repositories that your computer is aware of is with the command line, using the command “sudo apt-get install bla-bla-bla.” As shown below many times.
So, now, on to the tweaking.
1. Make the terminal program handy
First, open a terminal. You may have already placed an icon for the terminal on the Task Panel; if so, click that. If not, hit the “super” key (the Key Formerly Known as the Windows Key) to bring up the Unity dash. Then, type in “terminal” and choose the icon for the terminal program.
Now that the terminal program is running, you’ll see it in the Task Panel. If you’ve not already locked the terminal icon to the Task Panel, right click on that icon, and opt to have the terminal icon always be in “the launcher” even if it is not running.
2. Update the software and operating system you just installed
Even if the system was updating while installing (that was an option you had during the install), there are probably still some things that need updating. If you have not done so yet, type or copy/paste this into the terminal (shift-ctrl-v to paste in a terminal) and hit enter:
sudo apt-get update
You will be asked for your password. Type it in and hit “enter.”
If you are asked a question with a “Y/n” answer, type in “y” and otherwise follow any obvious instructions.
The updated command is a quick and dirty way of making sure that the software you have installed is updated. Chances are that when you do this after install, almost nothing will happen because little or no software will be ready for an upgrade.
When all the gobbledygook is done in the terminal, type in:
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
The dist-upgrade command will, in short, do a more thorough job of updating the things that are installed on your sy stem (it does not upgrade you to a new distribution, it just updates the software with more awareness of what the distribution specifies in terms of packages and interrelations between packages). The details are not too important. What you need to know is that "apt-get update" is quick and useful, and "apt-get dist-upgrade" will take much longer to run, but do a much better job of updating things and cleaning up after itself, and should be done now and then.
If you are asked a question with a “Y/n” answer, type in “y” and otherwise follow any obvious instructions.
These steps can be fast or slow, depending.
3. Make installing software easier
First, enable the Canonical Partners’ Repository. This will allow you easier access to some software. A repository is where software lives, and your installation programs know about only certain repositories, and ignore others.
Open System Settings (on the Task Panel, the gear and wrench icon)
Click on "Software and Updates"
Go to Other Software tab.
Click the check box for "Canonical Partners"
You may be asked for your password.
You will be asked to "reload" the repository info. Do that.
There are a couple of applications for installing and updating software, and you can have fun with them, but two tools that are really helpful that Ubuntu mysteriously does not install by default should be installed now. One is called “synaptic” and it is a menu drive graphical interface to your repositories, the other is gdebi, which allows you to install software that comes to you via download in a “deb” package.
sudo apt install synaptic
sudo apt install gdebi
If asked to choose Y/n at any point, choose Y
4. Install Linux graphics drivers
This may not be important, or it may be, depending on your hardware. So just do it and see what happens!
Unity Dash >>> Software & Updates >>> Additional Drivers
Do whatever it says there to install any graphics drivers that may be available.
5. Allow Workspaces To Work
I have no idea why a Linux distribution would not have work spaces right there in your face by default, but Unity seems not to. Workspaces is one of those desktop things that makes non-Linux users go “wow, that’s cool, now I want Linux!”
A workspace is a desktop, and multiple workspaces are multiple desktops, on which one or more applications are running. Macs have something like this now (stolen from Linux, but implemented poorly). The Linux implementation is better. You smoothly sail between desktops with Ctrl Alt Arrow Keys, and Linux does not randomly make new desktops for you like a Mac does.
System Settings >>> Appearance >>> Behavior
Check the box to enable workspaces, and the box to Add show desktop icon to the launcher.
6. Install Java
Java is required for running many application’s on Linux platform, So should install java using these three commands in sequence (one at a time).
sudo apt-get install default-jre
7. Fix app menu problem
One of the bad things about Unity was to cause application menus to become invisible and to not be on the application. If you want to see the menus where they belong, you can fix that.
System Settings >>> Appearance >>> Behavior tab >> ‘Show the Menus for a Window’
Check ‘In the window’s title bar’
Check ‘Always displayed’
8. Classic Menu
One of the things I miss most from an old fashioned Gnome 2.0 style desktop is a simple menu, with submenus, that includes all the software installed on my system. To me, this is really important.
And, solvable. We can add a Gnome 2.0 style menu thingie to the app panel in Unity.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator
You will have to log out and back in again for the menu to show up. Use the gear icon in the far upper right of the screen to log out/shut down, etc.
9. Show Your User Name On The Top Menu Bar
It may be useful to show your user name on the Top Menu Bar (the strip along the top of your screen). Here is one way to do that, using the terminal.
gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel true
If you want to turn this back off, do this:
gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel false
10. What about Adobe Flash? And Therefore, Chrome?
This is complicated. Flash turns out to be something of a nightmare. Perhaps it was a good idea at the time, but increasingly developers and such are avoiding using it. But you probably need Flash now and then, but almost always in a browser window. So, the way to handle this is to use Google Chrome as your browser. Not Chromium.
The Firefox browser is installed by default in most Linux distributions. This is cultural, maybe even political. Firefox as a piece of software, and an organization, has been central to the development of OpenSource software, so it is sort of worshiped. I recommend ignoring it. So, when you get to the part below about installing Chrome, do that.
If you google “how to install Google Chrome on Linux” you get this:
- Click Download Chrome. Go here to do that.
- Choose either 32 bit .deb (for 32bit Ubuntu) or 64 bit .deb (for 64bit Ubuntu)
- Click Accept and Install.
- Download .deb file to a folder (Downloads is the default folder)
- Open up your Downloads folder.
- Double-click the .deb file you just downloaded.
- This should launch Ubuntu Software Centre.
NOTE: Google often updates its method of installing. I just installed Chrome and it took fewer steps than indicate above. If you've already installed gdebi (as suggested above) this will be very quick and automatic.
You will be asked if you want to make Chrome your default browser. I recommend doing this. Then, run Chrome and lock the icon to the Task Panel, because you will probably be using it a lot.
11. Install Dropbox…
… if you use Dropbox.
sudo apt install nautilus-dropbox
Then simply launch Dropbox from Unity Dash and follow the instructions.
An alternative method for installing Dropbox:
This uses the wget command to go on the internet and download a part of a web site, in this case, a file on the web site. This may not work if they changed the name of the file, but this is currently the correct name.
After downloading the package, install it using the previously installed deb package application:
sudo dpkg -i dropbox_2015.10.28_amd64.deb
12. Install VLC
Linux, and in this case, Ubuntu, comes with various multimedia playing software, but generally not with VLC, which is a very good piece of software. If you want, you can install it this way:
sudo apt-get install vlc browser-plugin-vlc
13. Install Gimp Image Editor
GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.” It is an OpenSource pixel-based image manipulation program for photographs, drawings, etc. In the old days, it was included in most Linux distributions but no longer is. If you want to install it:
sudo apt-get install gimp gimp-data gimp-plugin-registry gimp-data-extras
14. Install A Junk Cleaner (Bleachbit):
I’ve not used Bleachbit. But everyone seems to like it, and you might want to try it out. It cleans up internet histories, destroys temporary files, and other junk that tends to accumulate on your system. Linux is not like Windows (or at least, like Windows was in the days I used it). It does not accumulate a lot of junk to the point where it slows down and stops. But it can accumulate some junk, and apparently, Bleachbit helps take care of this.
I've decided to remove the recommendation to install bleachbit. As I already suggested, Linux is designed in such a way that the things a clean-up program like bleachbit does are unnecessary. I suspect bleachbit is a bit like Linux based ant-virus software, something that former Windows users want to see, because such kludges are necessary in Windows.
So skip this step (I deleted the code for installing it anyway).
15. Install Skype…
… if you use it.
sudo apt-get install skype
16. Install the Unity Tweak Tool
You can configure, tweak, and generally mess around with your Unity Desktop using the installed System Settings and various esoteric bits of software, but if you install the Unity Tweak Tool you will probably find most of what you want to do, and more, there.
sudo apt install unity-tweak-tool
In the unlikely event that you end up messing up Unity with all your crazy tweaking….
…you can reset unity like this:
sudo apt-get install dconf-tools
dconf reset -f /org/compiz/
Now, you know how to install software in Ubuntu, and generally, in debian based distributions, and you have some experience with the command line.
What you can do now is explore all the software that was automatically installed on your system, such as Libra Office (which stands in for Word, Excel, Power Point, etc) and all sorts of other cool stuff. If you installed the traditional style menu applet as described above, that is a good way to explore around among the available software offerings.
From now on, every now and then, run
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
Also, on the standard Ubuntu distribution, there is a semi-automatic software updater that will remind you to update software now and then, or that can be set to do it automatically. I don’t like setting it for automatic on a laptop, but maybe on a desktop.
No, "apt-get update" will only fetch new information about available packages/updates to your system. It will not change installed software at all.
Changes to your system are made if you run "apt-get upgrade". This basically includes both your operating system and installed programs (though in a nutshell, this is not the same as distribution upgrade).
I also do not recommend using deb packages to install software for beginners. You won't get notifications of updates if you don't install software available a repository with apt-get.
Correct, as I implied, but I should probably be more clear.
The key points: update us faster, useful, easy. Upgrade takes longer, should be done now and then, but make sure your laptop is plugged in.
I agree on the deb packages. Often, the user does not have a choice.
Chrome takes care of its own upgrades, and Dropbox can only be installed this way.
I'm thinking of doing a separate post on packages and related matters, but I want to play around with the new software center first. So far it seems even more sucky than the earlier version.
In general, you're better off using "apt-get dist-upgrade" instead of "apt-get upgrade".
"apt-get dist-upgrade", in addition to performing the function of "apt-get upgrade", also intelligently handles changing dependencies with new versions of packages. "apt-get" has a "smart" conflict resolution system, and it will attempt to upgrade the most important packages at the expense of less important ones if necessary. The "apt-get dist-upgrade" command may therefore remove some [no longer needed] packages.
"apt-get upgrade", by contrast, will leave packages at their current version if a new version of an installed package cannot be upgraded without changing the install status of another package.
Contrary to what the (unfortunate) name implies, "apt-get dist-upgrade" will not upgrade your Ubuntu distribution to a later version! It only upgrades your installed software packages in your current distro version. (If you run this command in 14.04, you will remain with 14.04.)
I've upgraded the text related to update and upgrade to reflect these excellent suggestions. I had originally thought my recommendations would need to be modified, but just had so much other stuff to do on this post that I didn't get to it. Much improved now, thanks.
The folks at Canonical admit that the "Ubuntu Software Center" in 16.04 is not "fully baked" (yet), but they had to ship on schedule...
The big reason why it sucks in 16.04 is because USC, which hadn't been getting much maintenance attention in the last few releases, was significantly changed for this version. Mainly by finally killing it: USC has had its internals replaced with the app "GNOME Software", basically the same thing, but based on the GNOME desktop environment, not Unity.
Part of the reason for doing this (other than to relieve themselves of the need to spend developer time maintaining their own software center) is that Canonical's new "universal Linux package install system", Snap Packages, was apparently easier to integrate with GNOME's software center app.
Eventually (as it sucks right now), this will give the Unity desktop on Ubuntu 16.04 a stable software center that will finally have other people working on it and maintaining it. (Canonical got way too busy with migrating Unity 7 to Unity 8, which is way behind schedule...)
Just keep updating your 16.04 system and you'll eventually get improved USC versions. Until then, "synaptic" is a reasonable alternative -- especially if you combine it with using web searches to locate and read about software packages you might be interested in. Google to find out about software, then use "synaptic" to install it. Soon enough, you'll be able to go back to doing both steps in the new USC.
11. sudo apt install nautilus-dropbox
sudo apt-get install -y nautilus-dropbox
Libra Office should read LibreOffice
I've been having probs with Ubuntu Software center, and even after installing Gdebi and downloading packages and double clicking them, it opens software center and just keeps loading. Sometimes the ubuntu software center works fine and real fast cpmpared to 14.04, but today it just keeps loading...
BigZ, don't use the Ubuntu Software Center in 16.04. It's not ready for prime time (but had to be shipped on schedule anyway). Until it's fixed, use Synaptic.
Keep in mind that your '.deb' packages are associated with USC, not with Gdebi. So installing Gdebi and double-clicking a '.deb' file will still open USC.
Instead, right-click on a '.deb' file, select "Open With >", and select "Gdebi Package Installer". The same menu's "Properties" item allows you to make Gdebi the default instead of USC.
Great thanks. I have Synaptic so ill give it a try
thank a lot
> In general, you’re better off using “apt-get dist-upgrade” instead of “apt-get upgrade”.
When I did this the Linux kernel was also upgraded. My Mediatek wifi adapter had not yet been upgraded to support that kernel and broke. Use dist-upgrade with caution.
Darrell makes an important point. For most people using run of the mill standard software, it is hard to break the software. But if you have something fairly specialized, esp. hardware with a non OS driver, etc. you may have problems.
In the case of the Mediatek wifi adapter, maybe update the driver here:
For those like Darrell who have a need to keep the kernel -- or any other package -- from updating with apt-get (using either 'dist-upgrade' or just 'upgrade'), there is a command specifically for that purpose:
sudo apt-mark hold linux-images
which, in this example, will tell the package updating system "do not update the linux kernel or its associated packages".
The corresponding command, for when you're ready to resume kernel updates is
sudo apt-mark unhold linux-images
With this command, you can continue using
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
safely, and still reap the additional benefits that 'dist-upgrade' provides over 'upgrade'.
(Apologies to Darrell for not thinking to add this caveat in my earlier post. I ran into this same problem myself with a system co-booting two different Linux distros, with the second install sharing the first distro's kernel in a 'chroot' -- and so I, too, needed to block any attempts for the second distro to try to update the kernel packages.)
I got a problem installing skype.
michael@michael-shop:~$ sudo apt install skype
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
E: Unable to locate package skype
I thank you very match for your grade article, and grade help.
For Skype, Google "skype linux" and follow the links.
Microsoft now owns Skype; it's proprietary software, not open source.
And because of that, Microsoft will not allow it to be distributed through any Linux software repositories. You have go to their website and download it. (They'll tell you how to install it. It's straightforward.)
Brainstorms, not fully true. I just installed Skype on my newly installed Linux Mate flavor.
I think a better way of describing the skype situation, which has always been true, and also, is somewhat true for Dropbox and some other apps, is this:
The method used to install this software is not fixed to the standard method for Linux, because the company or organization that puts it out choses not to do so. Therefore, the version available and how to install it, and how to update it, needs to be assessed by the user for each installation, like software was handled in the old days.
This applies to Chrome as well, by the way (but not Chromium).
Greg, true, but I was not wanting to make things look more complex, or, well, as complex as they actually are.
So, this is true of Skype, and Chrome, and also FlashPlayer. And others...
One thing that has helped the situation for many of these cases is that someone gets fed up and creates a "meta-package" or a "downloader package" (I'm not sure of the terminology) so that it looks as though the app is there in the repository. What the meta-package actually does is download a simple script that goes to the owner's website and downloads the necessary files, then installs them.
But this is just the complex details... More that what most people care to know. They just want to install their app.
Thanks for your post. I am new on Linux and you help me a lot,
Unfortunately, my desktop is still 32 bit and Chrome does not have this kind of option. That's why I am using Chromium, that you do not recommend. Why? And how to add Flash for this browser?
hello bro, thanks for this guide. it really helped me to fix many issues.
Updates for Ubuntu 16.04 and now won't recognise my login password any help please.
Is it 'sudo apt-get update' or 'sudo apt update' for 16.04
Charlie, Yash, google. Charlie, you can enter single user recovery mode which doesn't need a password, there is a command line associated with it, so you can easily copy the command needed to reset passwords. Yash, ffs, man, you can RTFM. "man apt" and "man apt-get" will find out which is a command you use.
Learn how to help yourselves.
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
You said that earlier, though, and Yash never read it.
Teach a man a command, and he will use that command. Teach a man to use man, and he will know about every command.
And be sure to heap lots of insults upon him as you "teach" him. Right.
Might as well add a beating or two while you're at it.
NAh, I safe that for morons. And some morons I don't even have to insult, since they'll "see" them even when they don't exist!
A huge saving on the use of insults, I'm sure you'd agree!
Ubuntu 16.04 is very much impressive but now installing softwares for programming is giving me a hard time, help me please
nice work. well written. helpful. well done. appreciated. top regards.
Thank very much sir for your helpful and simple article but I've had a problem with displaying my username on the toolbar because when I write the com.canonical.indicator.session line the terminal can't find it what should I do about that?
It's worthwhile installing Mint Linux on a machine at some point and noting the differences. Mint comes with both Synaptic and Gdebi, and synaptic is essential, so thank you, Greg, for showing the newbies how to install it! It's also an idea to point out to the newbies that when you type your password into a terminal, nothing shows, not even asterisks! That got me the first time!
So, having got Synaptic installed, now go to System Settings>Software & Updates>Additional Drivers>Processor Microcode. In Mint you find that if you have an AMD or Intel processor, the option 'Using AMD/Intel microcode is ticked. In Ubuntu, the option 'Do not use this device' is ticked. To enable the microcode in Ubuntu, open Synaptic and type AMD or Intel into the search box. The AMD/Intel-microcode will be amongst the search results. Mark for installation and apply, and you will find the 'Using processor microcode' option is now ticked. You won't notice any difference. Is there a difference? It's there and Mint has it, so now you've got it in Ubuntu!
"Open as Administrator" -- Add this to the right-click context menu in Nautilus. It can be necessary when copying files from or to a USB stick, when you get the message that you can't do this 'because you are not the owner'. Mint has this as 'Open as Root'. To add it to Ubuntu, open Synaptic and type 'Nautilus' into the search. We find 'nautilus-admin' in the search results. Mark for installation and apply. Once installed, you will be prompted that the File Manager needs to be re-started. Click the button to re-start it.
Also in the 'Nautilus' search results, we find 'nautilus-wipe', a secure delete option. I've installed that a well.
In reply to Yash Pal (#24 above) - if you've done a 'sudo apt-get update', then 'sudo apt install' will work as well as 'sudo apt-get install'.
Thank you Greg for your suggestions. Just two things:
Your recipe about Java mentions three commands, but only one is written.
Chrome?! No. I see no good reason for all my online, in the best case, activity being stored on somebody else's disks. No serious advantages over Firefox, either.
PS: I see three options under the Submit Comment button below, but the first and third sound as if they do the same thing. I suspect one of them is really about new non-follow-up comments.
Hi Greg, after installing the latest Skype Beta for Linux, I now have the normal green Skype launcher icon in the top panel of my Ubuntu 16.04 Unity system, but it has added a second icon to the launcher on the left hand side of the screen. I have tried to get rid of this superfluous icon, but to no avail. If I right-click on the icon, I get a "quit" option which does not work. I have installed Ezame, that app also does not seem to have any effect. If I drag and drop the icon to trash, it just jumps back into place. Is there any way to get rid of this icon except by uninstalling Skype?