Sunday, 31 July 2011

Installing Ubuntu 11.04 on Packard Bell Imedia S1800

I have recently installed Ubuntu 11.04 onto a Packard Bell Imedia S1800 with a Pentium Dual-Core E5800 (@3.20 GHz), 3GB Ram, 1TB HDD and an AOC e2043Fs Series 20" LED monitor. For the most part everything is running as expected with only one bug cropping up, which I will get to below, but for now I will briefly go through the steps I took to get my desktop up and running as I like it.
I always follow the same procedure for every fresh/new install when it comes to partitioning the HDD (all in ext4 format):
  • 10-15 GB for / (root)
  • x2 the installed RAM for swap (so 3GB x 2 = 6GB swap)
  • The remaining is left for the /home

Other users may not bother with this, others might install several partitions, but the main advantage of having a /home partition is that your personal data is separate from the operating system. In the future should you perform a fresh install of Ubuntu, which I usually do instead of an upgrade when each new release comes out, you just keep the above partitions but DO NOT format the /home. Once the install is complete all your files and folders are sitting there, as well as all your preferences. In cases were something has gone horribly wrong with your install, maybe due to an unintended terminal command, your personal data is often left perfectly safe as you use a Live CD to recover. Of course this is no excuse for not having a safe backup, which I also highly recommend.

The above is the most complex stage of any Ubuntu install should you decide to partition. The rest now is adding personal settings. First things first, turn on your repos for updates. The easiest way to do this is press the 'super' (windows) key and then start typing 'synaptic', then click 'synaptic package manager' when it appears. In synaptic select 'setting - repositories', here I usually select all except the 'source code' option. In the next tab, 'other software' I make sure the repos are all selected, in the 'updates' tab I select all the options and set the auto updates to daily, then in the final 'statistics' tab I always choose to submit information. Once all that is done I reload the repo's, mark all upgrades and apply!


Turning on the software sources in Synaptic Package Manager

The next step is to download the latest version of Ubuntu Tweak. There does seem to be a love/hate divide when it comes to this software, but I just find that it makes life with Ubuntu that bit more convenient, it is also a really useful tool for adding popular software and adding further personal tweaks. Anything that Ubuntu Tweak does can be done via synaptic, or a few terminal commands, but this is nicely packaged in an user-friendly GUI. Personally I find that Ubuntu Tweak bridges the divide between synaptic (function before form) and the Ubuntu Software Center (form before function). Here you can go through picking all your favourite software and adding any repo's you would like to try out. Do not dismiss the warning about enabling repo's lightly!

Tweaking with Ubuntu Tweak

The next step can potenttially get you into bother so I just mention it to make you aware! You may notice that if you try to watch a DVD that it probably will not work, in the Ubuntu Software Center you will find the option to purchase the Fluendo Complete Playback Pack, which is what you are supposed to do.

Ubuntu Software Center and the Fluendo media pack

Others use Medibuntu as an alternative to this option, after following the instructions to add the Medibuntu repo on their website the following two terminal commands would be required to fulfil all your multimedia needs:
  • sudo apt-get install non-free-codecs 
  • sudo apt-get install libdvdcss2


    DVD playing as normal, and one of my favorite detectives too!

    By this stage almost everything I need is up and running but some really useful applications are (via synaptic):
    • compizconfig-settings-manager (for adjusting your various desktop effects)
    • gufw (for managing your firewall settings)
    • banshee-community-extensions (loads of useful extras for Banshee media player)
    • boinc-manager (if you like helping with world community grid or SETI)
    • calibre (manage your ebook collection and ereader, like my Kindle)
    • deja-dup (backup tool, encrypts and can store in the cloud or locally)
    • gimp (powerful image manipulation program, think Photoshop!)
    • postr (or Flickr Uploader, shotwell is good, but this is better at some things)
    • skype (very useful voip service)

      Lots of option in the Compiz settings manager

      Via Ubuntu Tweak you can add PPA's for:
      • Google Chrome (web browser)
      • Shutter (a great screen capture tool, lots of options)
      • Faenza Icons/Theme (they are just plain cool!)
      • Weather Indicator (if you want some useful info in the top panel)

        The Weather Indicator in use

        But all those are just little things I do, there are just too many to mention and you can tweak to your hearts content. Really helps that they are all free, but donations are always welcome of course! You can also find Google Earth out there and for those that like to converse via Chrome you will need the Google Voice and Chat Plugin. Another useful tweak is to add a quicklist, for more on those you can check this blog post for more information.

        The only bug that I have to mention with the Packard Bell Imedia S1800 is to do with the headphone jack, normally the speakers should auto-mute when you plug in the headphone jack, but this does not happen here. The sound continues to be played from both the headphones and speakers! You can follow the bug report here.

        Hopefully you found something up there useful and most will apply to any Ubuntu install, though 11.10 is supposed to do away with synaptic, which is probably another Empathy-esque mistake as they implement stylish replacements for solid applications with the promise of future feature implementation.

        Peace
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