Home Pauline's Pages Howto Articles Uniquely NZ Small Firms Search
Height Padding
Fun with Ubuntu Linux - Dapper Drake

Ubuntu Linux - Introduction | LiveCD Trials, Wubi and Installing | Multiple Booting and Grub | Networking | Applications | Media | Email and Contacts - transfers | IMAP v POP and Software considerations| WINE | Encryption | Web Authoring | Simple Backup| Hardware Support |A Legacy Laptop - Toshiba Portege 3440 | Disabling Suspend and Hibernate | Looking Forwards | Hardware Support Table | Software Requirements Table | Reader Feedback || Ubuntu Linux on the Move | Communications Requirements Table || Ubuntu Linux on the Take (Photo Support) || Open Source, Free and Cross-Platform Software

This details my original experiences with the version of Ubuntu 6.06 called Dapper Drake which was a Long Term Support version which was fully supported and maintained for 3 years. The support period is now over and this page is no longer updated.

The replacement which has all the up to date content is Fun with Ubuntu Linux


I have been experimenting with Linux because I have got so tired of the continual updates to Microsoft Windows XP and the associated Virus checkers, Firewalls and Malware detectors. It is almost impossible to prevent a large data flow when one first connects and many programs seek information on updates etc. I have noticed that there are dozens of processes running in the background under Windows XP and the hard drive is now in continuous use even minutes after the last user activity has finished. This all makes Windows XP difficult to use securely whilst traveling and on a costly mobile connection rather than Broadband.

Linux has come a long way since I last looked at it and many of the main Linux distributions had what are called LiveCD versions where you have bootable CD which allows you to trial the system without having to load anything onto your machine. The next stage is to install a dual (or multiple boot system) and the install programs will automatically partition your disk and put in a boot loader to allow you to choose when the machine starts up.

I did some research and the best seemed to be a Linux distribution called Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) which promised a 3 year support (updates, fixes etc.) for the desktop version and has a LiveCD and a simple install from the LiveCD. For those with some prior knowledge Ubuntu is based on the Debian implementation of Linux with the GNOME desktop interface - Kubunto is a variation with the KDE interface. It is directed towards the desktop and is arguably the most popular version for home use, a position it has achieved in less than 2 years from the first release. A good background introduction to Ubuntu is given in the Ubuntu Wikipedia Entry. The name comes from the African concept of ubuntu one part of which loosely translates as "humanity towards others".

Before we go any further I should point out one important difference between Ubuntu and many Linux implementations - you do not need to be a root user (administrator) to do system work but can use the terminal command sudo (SuperUser Do) to temporarily carry out root activities after entering a password which 'sticks' for 15 minutes - a big security and safety feature. This is one factor in my choice of Ubuntu along with the extensive and growing support for it in the community and by software providers. You will find that Ubuntu Linux system work is still more terminal oriented than Windows although it is fair to remember that it is virtually impossible to avoid the Run Command completely even in XP.

This page has become a record of my progress with details of all the changes I have made (and how) to the systems so I can repeat them in the future. It is in a sort of chronological order although I have done some re-ordering to avoid swapping back and forwards between different aspects. I have also included many of the links I found useful at the time. I hope it will be useful to others and perhaps avoid yet more reinventions of the wheel - in due course it may become refined enough to became a 'guide'. The content has been tested by using it to set up a classic legacy laptop - the slimline Toshiba Portege which has led to one correction and some clarifications making the page even longer - I am trying to work out how to split it up further without losing continuity.

I have extracted the majority of the mobile aspects to a new page - Ubuntu Linux on the Move and have started another new page covering what is perhaps the second most important activity after communications for inveterate travelers like ourselves, that is handling all the photographs we take with digital cameras, viewing them and ultimately putting them into a form that can be used on our web site. Retaining the fun approach I have called it Ubuntu Linux on the Take. Logically the third should be "Ubuntu Linux on the Make" covering Web Authoring!

It is now two years on from the issue of version 6.06 Dapper Drake and I have so far upgraded two of my four machines, without too many tears, to the next Long Term Support version 8.04 Hardy Heron. Hardy Heron is more refined and even easier for the beginner making some of the following sections redundant. Where I find significant changes in Hardy Heron I will updated the sections and mark the differences as in this paragraph.

The proof of a lot of what I have written here will be how we get on with the MSI Wind U100 Netbook which is more powerful than a Toshiba Satellite yet only weighs in at 1.1 Kgs - this is going to be entirely used with Linux and I am fully covering the transition to Ubuntu on the MSI Wind U100 so far it is all looking very good and Wifi and Mobile internet via Bluetooth and Mobile with a 3G phone seem to be fully operational - the only lack is a built in modem for landline.

LiveCD Trials

The first step is to try out the Ubuntu "Dapper Drake" LiveCD on any machines or are thinking of using and deciding if Ubuntu Linux, or any Linux is for you. My first impressions were very favourable. The LiveCD version ran immediately on both my AMD 2500 based desktop with 512 mbytes RAM and on my new Toshiba L20 laptop with 752 Mbytes RAM. It even recognised the WiFi card in the laptop and it was a simple matter to input the WEP code to give WiFi access. In a few hours with a LiveCD version I had learned enough to have access to Windows shared folders over the network. As a real test I plugged in by Bluetooth dongle and that was recognised and I could find my phone. The LiveCD distribution includes Open Office (compatible with Microsoft Office), Firefox and Evolution which is an email, contacts, tasks etc. package which is close in power to the earlier versions of Microsoft Outlook. The actual desktop and windows are cleaner and better thought out than in Windows and there is a useful workspace switching allowing one to do multitask very efficiently. I was very impressed even when running from CD and for simple tasks a LiveCD offers a safe way to work on any available machine. The trials gave confidence to proceed to first install on the desktop then on the laptop as well as a general understanding of Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular.

How to download the LiveCD and burn it

The LiveCD is available at http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and instructions and programs for checking the download and burning the CD are available at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BurningIsoHowto.


Starting from Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, there is another option, Wubi which stands for Windows-based Ubuntu Installer) which is another way of accessing and using Ubuntu for an extended period of time by running it in the Windows environment. Wubi installs Ubuntu within a single file in the Windows file system as opposed to being installed within its own partition. This file is mounted as a virtual file system and looks to Ubuntu Linux just like a real hard disk. Wubi also creates a swap file in the Windows file system which is seen by Ubuntu as additional RAM. The standard Windows mechanism is used to add an entry to the Windows boot menu to provide a choice of system to boot into when the machine is started up. It can be uninstalled (including the boot-up option) just like any other Windows program

The Wubi Installer for Windows can be downloaded from the internet and is also on the LiveCD. It can either use the Hardy Heron LiveCD for the data 'image' for installing or download it directly (900Mbytes so you need broadband). This gives a way of testing Ubuntu on machines which do not have CD reader such as many of the new ultra portable laptops often known as subnotebooks or 'Netbooks'. The only real requirement to try out Ubuntu with Wubi is that you have 4 Gbytes of disk space empty - ideally you need 8 if you are going to do an extended trial.

If you want to change to a fully installed system in its own partition(s) using Linux file systems you can use LVPM (Loopmounted Virtual Partition Manager) program to set up partitions and transfer the Wubi-generated Ubuntu installation to dedicated partition(s). The advantage of this route is that users can test the operating system and install any drivers before they install it to a dedicated partition. This is ideal for Netbooks and other machines without a CD/DVD drive.

So what are the disadvantages and reasons not to use this as a permanent solution if you are using Ubuntu for most of the time.

I have installed a Wubi system on my otherwise Windows only machine for Video editing etc for very occasional use.

The host drive (the Windows drive on which WUBI is installed) is accessible by Places -> host

I see Wubi as an ideal solution for mobile use by those who do not want to change but can not tolerate the security and data cost implications of Windows over a GSM/3G network. They can collect email and browse the web in safety then boot back into Windows. Others should review usage every month or so and transfer to a dedicated or dual boot system as soon as you are confident you intend to continue using Ubuntu.

Preparing the system and Installing

Having convinced myself that most of the software I needed was available and that the main hardware would work I decided to firstly install on my AMD Athlon 2500 based machine. This machine has two hard drives and already had the ability to boot both Windows SE and Windows XP with hidden copies of both operating systems on the second drive as well as a variety of partitions with FAT32 shared drives and NSTC drives. I squeezed down the size of a number of the partitions and made room for an unallocated space of 13.5 Gigabytes long so the Ubuntu Installer would have room to make a primary partition for itself and an extra swap drive which all Linux systems seem to use. The existing partitioning and dual boot was done using Partition Magic 8.0 which has never given any trouble in the past. The Ubuntu Install was allowed to use its defaults and used the unallocated space I had provided for the main Linux ext3 primary partition and stole some space from the existing extended partition for the swap file. Unfortunately the partitioning and booting program used by Ubuntu during the setting up conflict with that from Partition Magic which reported partition errors although the Linux tools shoed no errors and everything works fine. In the end I added some unallocated space between the Windows and Linux partitions just in case.

The Toshiba Satellite L20 Pro laptop had one extra NTFS partition for data which I reduced in size to allow 12 Gbytes for Ubuntu and made space in the extended partition for the swap file using Partition magic. I also used Partition Magic to set up the Linux partitions. When Installing Ubuntu it made a sensible looking default choice but I wanted to avoid problems with changing partition sizes so I used the option to set up partitions manually which ran Gparted. I left them as they were and then set the existing ext3 partition I had created to be root "/" , the swap was already set up. I ticked the box to reformat both. The install then proceeded from the CD, the time taken to coming alive being 25 minutes. I then checked set up the Wifi Access point name (case sensitive) and WEP key to get Internet access at elapsed time 30 minutes. I downloaded all the updates from System -> Administration -> Update manager - there were 194 Mbytes so that was all complete set up and rebooted by elapsed time 65 minutes. Interestingly on this installation I have icons for the Windows disks on the desktop and an icon for the network on the top panel which is the equivalent of the tooltray. At a latter stage I used Partition Magic to change the format of the shared drive from NTFS to FAT32 for better compatibility which I would recommend for a basic dual boot system.

Since setting up the two machines for dual booting I have read that it is very desirable if not essential to defragment the disk drives first - I think I did so on the desktop but had not realised the importance.

If you are using Vista it is best to shrink the Vista partition using the built in Vista tool Start -> Run : diskmgmt.msc

Multiple Booting to Linux, Windows 98 SE and Windows XP

The multiple booting on the Desktop showed up a problem I should have expected - I already had two versions of Windows being dual booted by the Partition Magic PQBoot program before loading another multiple booting program. This is almost certainly the reason why Partition Magic shows errors as some of its boot configuration has been undone by the extra partitioning so beware if you already have multiple bootable systems. I found I had switch with PQBoot before changing between Windows 98 SE and Windows XP as well as in the Linux boot manager which is called GRUB. This should not be a problem for normal users who did not have a very complex system allowing multiple boots already.

I tidied up the boot order and reduced the options (by commenting them out) in /boot/grub/menu.lst having backed up the original by:

sudo cp /boot/grub/menu.lst /boot/grub/menu.lst_bak
sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

You should read the instructions in the file and you may find that you have to redo some of the commenting out if you have a kernel update.

It was much easier on the Toshiba Laptop as I knew what I was doing and the system was much less complex - I backed up the file as above and then commented out everything but Ubuntu and Windows XP options and set it to save the last option although I have since put back so of the other options whilst i am still developing the systems. By the time I had run tests of rebooting to Windows and Ubuntu the elapsed time from starting the install was only 90 minutes and I had reached the point where somebody just using Windows XP would probably not notice that a multiple boot option had briefly appeared!

Grub Boot Enhancements

At a much latter stage I discovered how to add a nice background to the boot screen (for example see schultz-net.dk - Grub boot screens) and created a directory under /boot/grub/ with a collection of images including my current image. One only then needs to add a single line to the /boot/grub/menu.lst file which, assuming a dual boot system so boot partition is hd0,2 is


Uninstalling Grub

Grub modifies the Master Boot Record which can be replaced using either an old Windows boot disk (cd or floppy) with fdisk on it, then run fdisk /mbr . Alternatively you can boot from the Windows XP CD and run the recovery consul.

A quick and easy way to re-enable or install Grub

You can restore GRUB after a Windows installation by following the steps below which are an amalgamation of information from the Ubuntu site and other places:

This is all you need to do if you had initially installed Ubuntu into a Windows system. If you are adding Windows then Ubuntu will not have anything in the grub configuration for Windows and you’ll have to edit the grub boot menu file.

Open the file /boot/grub/menu.lst with the following command having backed up the original by:

  sudo cp /boot/grub/menu.lst /boot/grub/menu.lst_bak_1
  sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

You’ll see a sample section for Windows, which you’ll want to un-comment and add to the boot menu list in whatever position you want it in. (un-comment by removing the #’s) so, for example:

title Windows XP
root (hd0,0)
chainloader +1

The (hd0,0) assumes that Windows is installed on the primary drive and the first partition. If you had installed Windows somewhere different then it should reflect that.

Removing Grub to return to Windows XP - replacing the Master Boot Record (MBR)

You can not just uninstall Grub as the machine will not boot - the MBR has to replaced with one for the Windows system.

Ther Windows XP setup CDROMs has a tool called the Recovery Console, which is designed to help you repair a damaged master boot record or boot sector. In the case of XP, to start the Recovery Console and replace the MBR:

This did not work for me as the whole recovery consule was unavailable as the program told me it could not find the disk perhaps because Grub was on a ext3 partition. Instead I used a little program called MBRFix (Details and Download) which did the job and works for both XP and Vista. One to add to my utilities disk.

In the case of Vista I understand that one can use the Bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to troubleshoot and repair startup issues in Windows Vista including a missing MBR.


Accessing Files on Windows Machines over the Windows Network

This was an important step and the order of difficulty was not what I expected - I could access files on Windows machines over the Network immediately using Places -> Network Servers although files the creation date is only displayed correctly for files on NTFS partitions. I have not found a workaround yet or any reference to it despite extensive web searches. You will be asked for a password the first time.

Accessing Windows Shared Drives on the same machine.

Initially I could see but not mount Windows Drives on the same machine. This is a security issue in Dapper Drake which can be fooled by adding them to the list of demountable drives by:

sudo cp /etc/pmount.allow /etc/pmount_backup.allow

sudo gedit /etc/pmount.allow

and appended the following line at the end of file

/dev/hda6 # it may not be 6 in your case The drives appear in the files system in the /media directory along with the CDs, DVDs such as USB drives and other such devices. The same trick is needed if you use a Compact Flash to PCMCIA converter to allow it to be mounted as a drive by adding /dev/hdc1. Find out what to use by looking at the error message when you try to mount it!

A better way to mount Windows Drives under Dapper Drake is to modify the system files to mount the drives at start-up - FAT32 partitions can be mounted for read-write but NTFS partitions should be read only under dapper Drake due to inconsistencies in the NTFS advanced file system - Read the Details here first

To mount my FAT32 Partition (Windows E: Drive) which mounts as hda6 on the laptop , I modified the /etc/fstab file as follows:

sudo cp /etc/fstab /etc/fstab_backup
sudo gedit /etc/fstab

and appended the following line at the end of file

/dev/hda6 /media/hda6 vfat iocharset=utf8,umask=000 0 0

Interestingly the Laptop installation had mounted them in /media with linking icons for the drives on the desktop from the start by entries in fstab. This was not the case with the desktop install.

Accessing Windows Shared Drives under Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron has even better built in support which now includes support for NTFS partitions for Read and Write which is a major step towards compatibility on a dual boot system. There are now icons created for all the drives it finds during installation which are by default read/write enabled.

The entries in /etc/fstab look slightly different under Ubuntu 8.04 as there is a further change in that UUIDs are used to identify each partition. There are more details on UUIDs and how to find out what they are in the section below on Permanently Mounting a shared drive in Ubuntu 8.04

Accessing Files on the Linux machines from Windows

This needs a file server to be installed on the Linux machine called Samba (Using Add/Remove as usual) and sharing the files by System -> Administration -> Shared Folders. Highlight one of the shares and click properties which will give access to a screen where you set up the name of the share which will be visible on the network and then click again on General Windows settings to set the workgroup name which should be the same as on the Windows Network. Finally restart Samba by:

sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

You the need to set up a username and password to use on the Windows machines when you log into the Ubuntu Linux machines by:

sudo smbpasswd -a username
and then restart Samba by
sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

The sharing worked fine on the desktop and laptop at this point

On Hardy Heron right clicking on any folder gives Share Folder as an option. The first time you try to share brings up a box with the option to intall sharing and Samba and associated programs are then installed ready for you. Samba then appears in System -> Administration rather than Shared Folders. The Workgroup can be set by System -> Administration -> Samba -> Preferences -> Server Settings -> Basic tab.

the first time but after the machine has been restarted one can see all the shares but not access those on the Linux machines until after another samba restart has been done. Googling produced a known fault Bug #9208 in gnome-system-tools (Ubuntu) The cause seems to be a system bug in this version as a couple of links which start up the Samba Daemon are incorrect and when they are corrected Samba is started and it is much better. The timing in the start-up sequence on the two machines was different and everything worked when the daemon start was delayed to be the same as on the desktop. I am describing the fix for my own sake in case I forget - it should be fixed by the time anyone finds this although I have had to repeat the fix after a new Kernel was installed and once again a few days later so it may take a while!

lscd /etc/rc2.d

check for a broken link to /samba (it displays in a different colour)

and replace with a slightly different link to /etc/init.d/samba

sudo rm K09samba

sudo ln -s /etc/init.d/samba /etc/rc2.d/S91samba

repeat in /etc/rc3.d

Windows Network Printer

This was much easier than I expected. Use System -> Administration -> Printing -> New printer -> Network Printer:Windows Printer which takes one on to identify the printer on the network and has a selection procedure which has a huge range of printers with drivers available including the members of the Epson Stylus series - I have a C66.


Many of the important applications and programs are installed automatically including OpenOffice (which is also available Open Source for Windows) and Evolution which provides email, contacts, calendar and other services similar to Microshaft Outlook - a prototype (beta) version of Evolution is available for Windows.

There is also a vast collection of supported and automatically updated Open Source programs access via Application -> Add/Remove -> Search and then tick the relevant box(es). If you do not find the program then tick the boxes to show unsupported and commercial programs. If this does not find the program you want then you will need to use the Synaptic package manager which can be accessed by the Advanced Button and again doing searches. In some cases you may nee to add extra areas to be searched but that will be covered under the program itself. See also below for the Medibuntu Repository to incorporate proprietory programs

Checking my Applications lists I find I have added:

Several of these are from the 'Unsupported List' in the Add/Remove facility or using the 'Advanced' to get to the Synaptic Package Manager . They involve large downloads but note that you can also enable use of the CD if you have a slow link. Skype Truecrypt and Wine need specially procedures. See also the list of Windows programs running under Wine. Several of the utilities can and have been be added to the top panel.

There is an assessment of ease of installation, set up and functionality in the conclusions.

I have now written a new page covering Open Source, Free and Cross Platform Software

Adding Fonts in Linux (Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04) so they are accessible from Open Office

I wanted to install some extra Fonts in Hardy Heron, namely the Nadianne True Type font I use for Invitations, Wine Labels etc. and the various Windings fonts which provide ticks and other symbols used by Paline for marking Open University eTMA scripts. Nadianne is not a standard Windows font and originally I think came with a printer but the others are common to Windows hence the need to import them for marking. You can find the the Windings fonts in c:\windows\fonts. I eventually found a web reference at http://www.vitalbodies.com/blog/2008/07/20/vitalbodies-guides-the-how-tos-of-fonts-in-ubuntu-hardy-heron/ where I discovered that True Type fonts which are available to all users are stored in folders under /usr/share/fonts/truetype in Ubuntu Linux so type in a terminal:

gksudo nautilus /usr/share/fonts/truetype

Next I created a new folder for your extra fonts which I called ttf-extra by a right click -> create folder etc.

Drag the extra fonts into the ttf-extra folder from where they were stored

Then alert Ubuntu that you added the fonts by typing the following in a terminal

sudo fc-cache -f -v

This rebuilds the font cache - the options are verbose and to force complete regeneration of the cache (neither may be necessary but I followed the instructions before reading the manual page)

It is possible from something else I read that creating a folder .fonts in your home directory and copying the font into it may be sufficient for a single user - I have not tried it. Other Linux systems may store fonts in a different place so you can try a search for truetype or fonts.


Playing and organizing music files.

Ubuntu comes with Rhythmbox Music Player to play and organize your music. Applications -> Sound & Video -> Rhythmbox Music Player.

When you first use Rhythmbox, it will scan your home folder or folder(s) you specify for any supported music files you have and will make them available to be searched for and played automatically.

Playing and and Ripping Audio CDs

The Sound Juicer CD player opens automatically when you insert an audio CD . Sound Juicer will display the CD artist, album and track names if you are connected to the Internet. To play the CD, click the Play button or press Ctrl+P. To play a particular track, double-click on the track or select the track and click Play.

It is possible to extract the music onto your computer (rip) if you prefer to keep a copy of an audio CD on your computer without needing to insert the CD to listen to it. Sound Juicer CD Extractor is able to rip CDs. To start Sound Juicer manually, choose Applications -> Sound & Video -> Audio CD Extractor. Alternatively, it should start automatically when you insert a CD. Follow the instructions in the Sound Juicer manual on how to rip audio CDs.

The Rhythmbox Music Player is also able to play CDs. Simply insert a CD, ignore or close Sound Juicer, start Rhythmbox and double-click the audio CD item in the Devices list.

Record sounds and music

If you have appropriate audio hardware (such as a microphone), you can record sounds onto your computer. Choose Applications -> Sound & Video -> Sound Recorder to start the Sound Recorder.

Edit sounds and music

To edit audio, install Jokosher or Audacity. Jokosher is able to record audio as well as edit it, and Audacity provides many powerful sound-editing features.

Burning CDs and DVDs

Another of the critical functions I checked at an early stage was burning CDs and DVDs. Initially I did not realise that there was a simple mechanism built into the Nautilus file browser accessible via Places -> CD/DVD creator which gives you a folder into which you drag and drop the files for the CD/DVD. If you want to make Audio CDs then there is a program called Serpentine (Applications -> Sound and Video -> Serpentine).

K3b is a very sophisticated CD/DVD burner similar to Nero in its professional feel. A trial using K3b successfully burnt a full data CD and verified it - it selected speeds etc. to match the burner and disk. It looks as if it rates as highly as Nero for these jobs. The only slight downside is that it is designed for the KDE interface so it runs with a different look which gives an interesting insight into the differences between GNOME and KDE. I added MP3 burning support to K3b by opening a terminal window and installing a support package:

sudo apt-get install libk3b2-mp3 

Hardy Heron a CD/DVD burner built in called Brasero which seems to work very well for normal purposes and I have not yet installed K3b

Setting up for Playing and Ripping media Files with Proprietary and Restricted Formats using the Medibuntu Repository in Hardy Heron

I used EasyUbuntu to add the ability to handle many of the proprietory formats and programs in Dapper Drake. This has been superceeded and for Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron you should add the Medibuntu Repository - this third-party repository contains many useful programs which are not true open source, aloows one to enable DVD playback and to add the codecs for MP3 playing and ripping etc. It can be included by way of a few quick commands in a terminal:

sudo wget http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/hardy.list -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update

This will add the Medibuntu repository, import the Medibuntu GPG key and make the new packages available for installing using System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager.

Using the Synaptic Package Manager to add programs including those from the Medibuntu Repository

Open theSynaptic Package Manager by System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manage.

When the Synaptic Package Manager has opened use Search to find the package/program you want, click the box and click Mark for Installation each one. When they are all marked, click Apply.

If you want to play commercial encrypted DVDs using the Totem Movie Player there is more information in Ubuntu documentation on Movies, DVDs and Videos

Installing proprietary Programs using the Medibuntu Repository in Hardy Heron

Medibuntu can not only be used to add music and video codecs but also to load commercial/proprietary programs which can not be made available directly in Ubuntu due to legal restrictions in some countries. Use the Synaptic Package Manager and Search for the program you want. The list of items includes:

In most cases they will be added to your “Applications” menu.

If you load GoogleEarth its performance may be improved if one disables the atmosphere rendering by: View -> Atmosphere -> untick

Email and Contacts

Transfers from Outlook to Thunderbird and Evolution

This has proved to be possible but a complex and time consuming process. Outlook uses a proprietary format with mail, contacts, tasks, calendar items etc all in a single .pst file and at this time the only access is via a Windows .dll . Outlook will export the contacts list as comma and tab delimited files (I used the DOS Comma Delimited format) which one can import using the Outlook Format into Evolution directly. My contact list had 602 entries and I checked the number was the same and as far as I can tell all the fields were transferred correctly.

There is no similar Export for Email messages within Outlook so one has to have an intermediate stage. Various email programs have facilities to import mail from Outlook and the most obvious to use is Thunderbird as it runs under both Windows and Linux. Note the import has to be done under Windows because of the proprietary Dynamic Link Library (DLL) required. Thunderbird can import Outlook .pst files when run under Windows and uses the same mail box type as Evolution - the Mbox type where each directory has an individual file containing all the messages in that folder. Evolution has an Import command with an option of Berkeley Mailboxes (Mbox) but unfortunately only one at a time! This is fine if you only have an Inbox, Outbox and Sent Items but more tedious if you have filing system like mine with nearly one hundred nested folders and thousands of emails giving several years of audit trail!

To set up Thunderbird under Windows takes only minutes including move accounts, contacts and email:
That is - it is very similar in feel to Outlook and Firefox as far as menus goes. If you are not satisfied with Thunderbird and were just in the process of transferring emails from Outlook to Evolution the full procedure is:
  1. Tidy up the emails under Outlook and minimise the number of folders (<20) and make sure that none of them have the same names even if they are nested in different parts of the directory tree.
  2. Open Thunderbird and import the folders - note the first time Thunderbird is run it gives the option to import all the emails and contacts etc.
  3. Note where in the files are stored and copy the files without extension (mbox files) to a folder somewhere where they can be accessed by Evolution under Linux - on a CD or in a shared/networked folder.
  4. Reboot into the Ubuntu Linux system and open Evolution and do File -> Import -> Import Single File -> Browse for file and select Berkeley Mailbox (Mbox) -> Select the destination or create the folder by clicking on the folder button ->... and the folder will be imported
  5. Repeat for each folder
  6. Check they are all present - it is easy to copy everything into an existing folder by mistake rather than create a new one.
  7. Rebuild the folder structure if the nesting is not correct.

I transferred 600 contacts and 20 folders of emails without problems.

More recently I have seen documents which indicate that you do not need to import but just copy folders into the correct place which would save a lot of work - it is certainly that is the way to do it between versions of Thunderbird - see the next section for a full procedure

Transfers from Windows Thunderbird to Ubuntu Thunderbird

The first step in moving from Outlook to Thunderbird on Linux is again to transfer everything to Thunderbird on the Windows machine. The move from Thunderbird to Thunderbird is much easier especially for contacts where one can export in LDIF format by -> Address Book -> Tools -> Export -Save as type LDIF and Import the same way by -> Address Book -> Tools -> Import as type LDIF. You can also use a Windows program Outpod to save Contacts and Calendar items as files of vCards and iCal files which can be read by many programs including Thunderbird - it was written for iPods.

Email takes a little more work as you have to identify your profile folder and move the appropriate files and folders into the matching profile on the other machine. On the Linux machine the mail is in .mozilla-thunderbird/sillyname.default/mail/Local Folders/ . Remember files starting in . are hidden in gedit so use View -> Show hidden files. On Windoz it is likely to be in C/Documents and Settings/Username/Application Data/Thunderbird/profile/silyname.default/Mail/Local Folders/ I have found that folders have to be transferred in groups comprising a folder called say Outlook Mail.sbd and two files called Outlook Mail and Outlook Mail.msf . This should give you everything from Outlook - if you want other mail from Thunderbird you can identify it and do the same trick transferring each set of two or three files/folders you want.

Making Thunderbird your Default Mail Client in Ubuntu

System -> Preferences -> Preferred Applications -> Internet
and select Thunderbird from the dropdown box beside Mail Reader

This is required to be able to send emails from Firefox using Thunderbird

Transfers from Evolution to Outlook

I hope keep the contacts up to date by keeping new or changed contacts in separate contacts lists on the laptop/desktop and then Sending them as Vcards via Bluetooth to my XDA Exec (A sophisticated PDA) thus keeping that in step and then synchronising it with the Desktop/Laptop.

Their seems to be few ways for email other than a tool available within a Freeware package called IMAPSize . The tool in this package called mbox2eml converts Mbox folders to individual .eml files which can be dropped into Outlook Express and thence imported into Outlook. I tried this out with a few email from the copy of Evolution I have running under Windows and it seems to work fine - one should note that there is no control over which messages you import from Outlook Express to Outlook - you get everything so clean up first!

Mail System Considerations - IMAP versus POP

This is a new section covering the advantages of using an IMAP mail system whilst one is mobile over the more conventional POP mail.

POP Mail: Most people understand how POP (Post Office Protocol) mail works, the incoming mail is delivered and held on a server at your ISP and, in the simplest case, you download it to your machine on demand (usually called a Send/Receive activity in your email package) and it is deleted from the server. This was fine when a user had only one machine in one place. Nowadays many people access email from home, their office, from a mobile and perhaps a PDA and Phone. This leaves ones incoming mail fragmented in many places. Most email packages therefore allow you to collect your email whilst leaving a copy on the server and many allow one to just download the headers or a restricted amount of data in each email. This is a much better way of working as the download and deletion from the server is done on one machine. It does not help with outgoing mail which has to be copied to another account or some other method to allow an audit trail. If one uses different email packages which can not interchange saved emails it all becomes a bit of a nightmare.

IMAP: There is an alternative to POP mail called IMAP which stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. In this case the email is stored on the server and not downloaded automatically and one can create addition folders on the server so one can have a complete filing system on the server and available whilst one is online, on corporate systems there may be shared folders accessible by many users. Email stored on an IMAP server can be accessed and manipulated from a desktop computer at home, a workstation at the office, and a notebook computer while traveling as well as ones phone/PDA, without the need to transfer messages or files back and forth between these computers. In the simplest case data is only transferred as required - when you select your inbox or a remote folder the headers are transfer - when you select an email the message body is transferred and only when you open an attachment is the attachment transferred You can of course copy anything to a local folder on your machine to work on it and when you finally send a reply (whilst online) it is saved on the server and accessible from any other machine. IMAP is at its best when you are on a corporate LAN or a Broadband always on internet connection - a GPRS/3G connection charged on data transfers is acceptable. There is more comprehensive analysis at The IMAP Connection -- Comparing Two Approaches to Remote Mailbox Access: IMAP vs. POP.

Implementation: Many ISPs including Freezone offer the choice of a mix of POP or IMAP mailboxes and in some cases such as the Horde IMP system used by Freezone they are identical other than the access protocols and port number used. Most IMAP mailboxes are also accessible via a webmail interface in an internet cafe or on any friends machine. Even if you do not want to change completely without extensive trials it is worth setting up a single IMAP mailbox when you are traveling so you can transfer mail from your 'mobile' machines via an IMAP mailbox to you home machines filing system via the IMAP mailbox without worries about the incompatible local mailbox and folder formats. You can also tidy up whilst traveling whenever you get a fast WiFi data link in an internet cafe. I do not feel comfortable solely depending on a remote server to store my emails long term but for a few months between archives it seems a very sensible way to proceed. With a GPRS/3G connection where one pays for data transfers rather than time online, it seems a very economical way to operate and most email packages allow one to download selected local copies for offline working as well as remote copies. So far I have set up one IMAP box for archive and transfer purposes whilst continuing to use POP mailboxes set up to only download copies to my machines for my main accounts whilst traveling but I suspect that will change shortly when I have developed data flow efficient procedures.

Some cautions: Both POP and IMAP protocols are define by RFCs but the implementation by email packages may not be rigorous when it comes to some of the more advanced features. Note that the folders you create in an IMAP environment may not be where you would expect - the RFCs imply they should be under the IMAP Inbox folder and that only shared folders are at the same level. The display may be different between Webmail and different MAPI email systems. It is possible that POP implementations of features such as leaving emails on the server for a fixed time differ between email packages and may be implemented locally or on the server so if you have different settings or ways those features are implemented between packages you may have a problem. The same may go for subscriptions to folders (whether they are visible on the client automatically) and I have noticed that if I unsubscribe for a high level folder with a subfolder still visible on Thunderbird then Outlook produces some inconsistent error messages. I suggest keeping it simple initially if you are using different email clients and machines and experiment at each step if you decide on a fancy way to work. A good way to start investigation is to see if the same mailbox can be accessed by POP, IMAP and Webmail without problems.

There is a useful free Windows program called IMAPSize which does far more than its name implies and has associated utilities which can be very useful in transferring email between Outlook and Thunderbird - I have found that it will run well enough to be useful under Wine 1.0 and Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

A Comparison of Outlook 2003, Evolution and Thunderbird on the Move

Firstly note that I have not even mentioned Outlook Express as the only thing in its favour is that it is free, familiar and built into all versions of Windows. For use at home on a machine XP and with unlimited bandwidth and money to throw at virus and malware checkers and hiding behind hardware and software firewalls there is little doubt that Outlook 2003 has the high ground. Outlook 2003 also allows synchronisation with my O2 XDA Exec and provides the backup of contacts, appointments, tasks etc. Until I give up Windows completely I will keep to Outlook 2003. The comparison for mobile use is less clear both under Windows where the choice is Outlook 2003 versus Thunderbird and on Linux where it is Evolution versus Thunderbird. In the first case it all depends how much you use the functionality over and above email and address books ad if you need to sync/backup a Windows Mobile Pocket PC. Thunderbird is faster and more secure in what it does but it does less - on email both offer downloading of headers or limiting size and both have good spam checks although the Outlook 2003 checker does need regular internet updates. Outlook has always had a superb archiving system and I have an audit trail back to 1996 and it is also easy to back up the single .pst file with everything in it. I will keep at least a dual booted system at home and continue to use Outlook 2003 because it provides a backup for the XDA.

Here we are really considering the Linux case for Mobile operation which is convincing. Evolution offers more basic functionality in calendars, appointments, but seems very outdated - it is comparable to the earlier versions of Outlook patched to offer some modern functionality. In contrast Thunderbird has very much the same feel as Firefox and allows one much more control over how one downloads mail and various extensions add most of the fuctionality in Evolution. Whilst on the move I either download headers only or limit the download to the first few Kbytes - easy in Thunderbird and set for each account by Edit -> Account Settings -> Server Settings and Disk Space for each account). Downloading seems extremely fast compared to Outlook or Evolution. You have no such choice currently over headers headers and download limits in Evolution. Span checking is very poor in Evolution and slows the downloading to a crawl, several seconds per email because the spam checking needs to do internet checking to be in the least effective. In contrast Thunderbird has been quickly trained and after a few hundred mails seems to work very well. See Open Source Articles - Thunderbird 5 for details and setting up. I have been deliberately accessing a few old and spam ridden accounts for training and the last download identified 48 spams, missed 2 and had one real email identified as spam which was a routine domain report from Freezone which did show all the spam attributes. That was better than Outlook 2003 did with monthly updates of its data base! For periods of a few weeks away I leave all copies of all the mail on the server and then collect into the master system. I have therefore chosen Thunderbird over Evolution for email on the move and look forwards to when the suite gains the missing items such as tasks and appointments although I do have on the XDA Exec anyway.

Evolution Junk Mail Filter - Enabling SpamAssassin

Although I no longer use Evolution I thought I ought to still include some of the information I discovered during trialling it.

I initially had difficulty in getting the junk mail filter in Evolution to work and eventually realised that it automatically used a SpamAssassin plugin which is not installed automatically by Ubuntu. You can load it using Applications Add/Remove -> Advanced and search for spamassassin. The source of information I found also recommended making sure that:


has the line

so that spamassassin does not run as a daemon but is invoked by Evolution for junk filtering. That was true after I had installed spamassassin.

Junk Filtering then needs to be turned on by Edit -> Preferences -> Mail -> Junk and I also found that I needed to do an extra configuration by Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor -> applications -> evolution -> mail -> sa and tick the local_only box and untick use-daemon box. Evolution is now checking for junk mail for me.

SpamAssassin uses trainable Bayesian filters to perform the spam check. When the software detects mail that appears to be junk mail, it will flag it and hide it from your view. Messages that are flagged as junk mail are displayed only in the Junk folder. The junk mail filter needs to learn which kinds of mail are legitimate and which are not by your training it. When you first start using junk mail blocking, check the Junk folder to be sure that legitimate mail doesn't get flagged as junk mail. If good mail, is incorrectly flagged, remove it from the Junk folder by right-clicking it and selecting Mark as Not Junk. If Evolution misses junk mail, right-click the message, then click Mark as Junk. The filter can recognize similar messages in the future, and becomes more accurate as time goes on.

There is another option in Evolution for Include Remote Tests which I suspect also needs a plug-in to enable it to check blacklists [on the server?] when you have your internet connection open.

Sharing data on on a Dual Boot machine.

I have set up all my Dual Boot machines to have at least one common Drive/Partition which can accessed from Windows or Ubuntu. I have made this a FAT32 partition because there were some concerns over the reliability of writing from Ubuntu to the proprietary format NTFS which Microsoft has developed. This has been overcome I understand and Hardy heron should be OK with an NTFS common drive.This FAT32 common partition has to be created before starting to install Ubuntu or created at the same time in an unused part of the drive using the Linux partitioning tools – do not try to modify a Windows Partition especially one used by Vista from outside of Windows. Vista allows one to shrink its partition to make unallocated space. Under XP I use an old copy of Partition Magic 8 to create and resize partitions.

Once one has the common partition and made it permanently mounted under Ubuntu we can start to set up a shared system. Up to recently I had a DATA drive which had all my Documents etc. I had a set of folders for My Documents, My Backups, My Pictures, My Music etc. I also had a folder with the Outlook data files to make backing up easy. I can also run Truecrypt on the same encrypted Vaults from both Windows and Linux and obviously I have Open Office on both for document writing, spreadsheets and presentations. Backing up become very easy as both are in synchronisation at all times.


Hibernation works by writing the contents of memory to the disk and then retrieving it again when you turn back on. If you have been working on the same data or even access the same directories then the 'hibernated' data can and usually will overwrite it. It is possible to hibernate provided you go back to the same system but I have forgotten too many times so I turn off hibernation on both systems.

In Windows: Start -> Control Panel -> Power Saving.
I have covered it for for Ubuntu under Disabling Suspend and Hibernate in Ubuntu .

Mozilla program profiles

All the configuration and data for Monzilla programs are held in what is called a profile and the profile folders for all the main Mozilla programs look very similar. The profiles have what is called a salted name – that means it is randomly generated and 8 characters long so it is difficult for a hacker to identify. However the first default profile is in standard place and has an extension of .default and new profiles are reached by pointers in an .ini file one level up in a folder often called profiles. The easy way to find your profiles is to do a search for files with a *.default search. Ubunty Hardy has a file search under Places. This all opens up some very interesting opportunities as I recently realised. If one is running Thunderbird, Sunbird and Firefox under both Ubuntu and Windows then it should be possible to put their internal and configuration data (which is all in the 'Profile' folder) on the common drive and access my emails, address books, calendars, browser favourites, cookies and history etc from both machines. This is a big step forwards and so far has worked well.

The only problem, other than hibernation, I have found in sharing the profiles for Firefox is with Extensions. In Windows AVG forces in a couple of extensions which are not available under Linux and there is an extension for Ubuntu when running in Linux which is clearly not available in Windows. I find that when I swap I get a popup saying extensions are being installed when I swap from one system to the other - this is to be expected but it would be nice if the messages could be suppressed. In general Extensions are likely to be a problem unless they are available and compatible in both Windows and Ubuntu.

I have been putting off making a final break from Outlook 2003 for our master email archive and address books because it is so easy to synchronise with the XDA and Palm 750 PDAs. FinchSync is viable for Calendars but falls over on large address books as I have described in the 'Diary' but there is another option under Windows called Birdie sync which uses Microsoft ActiveSync to link Thunderbird and Sunbird to a PDA using Windows Mobile - this obviously only runs under Windows. If one could share everything between Windows and Ubuntu then one would however only need to boot into Windows to sync the PDAs and would not need a live internet connection so should be safe even if one has not been able to keep Windows updated. There is a 21day free trial before purchase which is 19 Euros – this looks the way to go whilst FinchSync is completing development.

I have however found that it difficult to share the Thunderbird profiles between Windows and Ubuntu. The synchronisation is done by an extension in Thunderbird and Sunbird and the Thunderbird breaks if you access Thunderbird in Ubuntu - it must use Windows specific code and I have not found a way to disable it totaly in Ubuntu. Sunbird can however be shared safely so the all important calendars and events are available in both and can be synchronised to the PDAs. Address books will just have to periodically updated as is the case currently. The two main address books, the Personal Address Book and the Collected Address Book can both be updated by copying single files so this is possible. I intend to write more about the files within the profiles in the future and I will also cover the importance of compacting folders of messages occassionally to recover storage space.

Permanently Mounting a shared drive in Ubuntu 8.04

If we are going to use a shared drive for data and settings used by programs such as the Mozilla program Profiles then we must ensure that it is permanently mounted. The mounting points in all major flavours of Linux are defined in /etc/fstab and and the convention is that the mount points are in /media. We therefore need to set modify /etc/fstab to set up to mount points in /media and we must also create the directories for them using sudo to make them owned by root and set the permissions so they are accessible to all users – I cheat and use gksudo natilus to allow be to use a GUI to create the directories and set permissions.. It is best to make these directories identical to those created by mounting from 'Places' which is derived from the partition label if it is set – see below. The procedure for modifying /etc/fstab is the same as it was for Dapper except that it is now recommended to use the drives UUID rather than the device's location ie append lines to /etc/fstab looking like:

# /dev/sda1
UUID=F006-E8EA /media/SYSTEM vfat iocharset=utf8,umask=000 0 0
# /dev/sda5
UUID=706B-4EE3 /media/DATA vfat iocharset=utf8,umask=000 0 0
# /dev/sdb7
UUID=EEC0-FA2D /media/SHARED vfat iocharset=utf8,umask=000 0 0

Note – these strings are for FAT32 partitions and differ for NTFS partitions for which two examples follow, the first of which I have used:

# /dev/sda7
UUID=ABCD-EFGH /media/VIDEO ntfs nls=utf8,umask=0222 0 0
# /dev/hda8
UUID=ABEF-CDGH /media/VIDEO2 ntfs defaults,locale=en_GB.utf8 0 0

The UUID can be found by typing sudo blkid in a terminal – typical output looks like:

pcurtis@dimension-ubuntu:~$ sudo blkid
/dev/sda1: LABEL="SYSTEM" UUID="F006-E8EA" TYPE="vfat"
/dev/sda5: LABEL="DATA" UUID="706B-4EE3" TYPE="vfat"
/dev/sdb5: TYPE="swap" UUID="b7c865a1-e4b6-447f-a89b-0b4deb3ba302"
/dev/sdb6: UUID="731adef2-0cdf-44c0-b6e1-006a90a14949" TYPE="ext3"
/dev/sdb7: UUID="EEC0-FA2D" TYPE="vfat" LABEL="SHARED"

After modifying /etc/fstab and rebooting the three Windows Drives are mounted and appear on the desktop in addition to being in 'Places' - they can not be unmounted without root privileges which is just what we want.

Creating a common partition when installing Ubuntu 8.04

I have been experimenting and reinstalled Ubuntu Hardy Heron a couple of times whilst experimenting with making changes to the partitioning using the built in partion manager in the installer. First BACKUP everything. Then start the install from the LiveCD and when you get to partitioning select custom. You can now edit the partition layout on the disk(s). If you are using Vista you must shrink the Vista drive (partition) using Windows tools to make space. It seems to be safe to shrink FAT32 partitions without losing data using the tool and I am not sure about NTFS partitions. You can have to use the free space to create:

If you specify a mount point for the FAT32 partition it should be /media/LABEL where LABEL is the name you will want to end up using – I suggest SHARED.

Note that you will still have to do some setting up to achieve that including labelling the file-system you have created!

Labelling a new FAT 32 file-system (partition) in Ubuntu Linux

New partitions which you create when installing Ubuntu Hardy Heron will not have a label and will show up as a size when mounted on the desktop. The easy way is to do it under Windows by right clicking on the disk in My Computer → Properties and entering a label. Labelling in Linux is a black art and it took a lot of searching to find the way below which I have have used on principle rather than do it in Windows! The article referenced below also covers labelling file-systems in other formats and is very useful for USB sticks so they have a meaningful name and mount point.

Reference information: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RenameUSBDrive

Install the tools required

sudo apt-get install mtools
Find out device corresponding to the partition:

sudo blkid
Unmount device which we have found is /dev/sdb7 :

sudo umount /dev/sdb7
Check existing label:

sudo mlabel -i <device> -s ::
Change label to SHARED

sudo mlabel -i /dev/sdb7 ::SHARED
and that's it

We are now set up so programs can reliably share their data and settings between Windows and Linux.


Using Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator) to run Windows programs

Wine enables one to run many Windows programs in Linux. It is under continuous development and the number of applications it can handle has increased dramatically including a number of the most demanding games. Because it is under continuous development one needs the latest version and that has obvious risks. I have used Wine to run two well behaved Windows applications Paintshop Pro and Irfanview, for which there is no GUI replacement for some of the batch functions I use. I got the information from Ubuntu Hacks (See the book list below) and their website at Wine HQ. To loosely quote "Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Microsoft Windows API on top of the X windows system and Unix. Wine is a compatibility layer for running Windows programs and does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100% non-Microsoft code"

There is version of Wine available packaged in Ubuntu but the latest versions can be utilised by adding a new repository to Synaptic Package Manager accessed via Applications Add/Remove by go to Advanced and selecting Settings->Repositories. Then click add, select custom, and For Ubuntu Dapper (6.06): enter the following:

deb http://wine.budgetdedicated.com/apt dapper main

Then, simply click reload and search for the package 'wine' for installation. If you already have a 'wine' package installed, selecting mark all upgrades should update Wine to the newest version.

Before leaving the Synaptic Package Manager you should also load the Windows truetype fonts which many applications use so search for, mark and load


This will also load the Windows cab extractor and the cabextractor
We can now configure Wine for the version of Windows which defaults to Windows 2000 by


The other tabs can be left as the defaults for now

wine path/windows.exe

runs a windows program and is first used on the windows program install then to run it. This can be used in a launcher after the program has been installed and found within ~/.wine.

Remember that addresses have to be entered in full in a Launcher ~/ is not recognised, you must put /home/yourusername/etc.exe . If you use the browse button to get there you will not make mistakes.

There is also a GUI interface


wine uninstall

will uninstall your windows program

wine control

lets you deal with control panel applets launched by some windows programs.

I successfully loaded Paintshop Pro 4.14 and Irfanview which even gave me an Icon to run it on the Ubuntu Desktop. Not surprisingly I could not use Hotdog 6.6 which uses Internet Explorer to display the web pages. There are rumours that some versions of Macomedia Dreamweaver will run under wine - I got Dreamweaver MX 2004 to load but not run.

If you want to use a port you need to create a symbolic link in ~/.wine/dosdevices with the name of the device. Windows serial ports are called com1, com2, etc. Similarly, parallel ports use "lpt" followed by a number, such as lpt1. You should link these directly to the corresponding Unix devices, such as /dev/ttyS0 and /dev/lp0. I added a serial port with the following command in the ~/.wine/dosdevices folder:
 ln -s /dev/ttyS0 com1

so I could access my GPS with the GPSU program which ran fine when loaded with Wine and again created a link on the desktop.

I also added a link to my USB-Serial cable which shows up as /dev/ttyUSB0 (see below) by

 ln -s /dev/ttyUSB0 com2

In this case I could not access my GPS with the GPSU program although there were indications it knew the port existed.

Overall this has got 3 out 4 of the programs I missed running with Linux.

Update on Wine on Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

Dreamweaver MX 2004

The implementation of Wine is much improved in Ubuntu Hardy Heron. The version installed is 1.0 and it is now fully integrated into the Ubuntu Linux system. It appears on the Applications menu with a slide out menu giving Programs, Browse C:\ Drive, Configure Wine and Uninstall Wine Software. The Programs then slides out to give the programs as they would have appeared in the Start Menu. All very well integrated. The extension .exe is now linked to Wine so you just double click the install .exe or .msi file to set it all going. The following is a screenshot showing how it now looks when one is opening Dreamweaver MX 2004

I installed Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 without any problems by double clicking the install .exe file - it complained that it would require mdac 2.6 to be loaded for all its facilities but it all seems to work anyway. It also automatically downloaded and installed the Ghecko Rendering engine. The only thing for me to install were some fonts using System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager so I could load the Windows truetype fonts which many applications use - search for, mark and load.


This will also load the Windows cab extractor and the cabextractor . I had already installed medibuntu so I am not sure if msttcorefonts is part of the medibuntu repository or is a package in the basic Ubuntu system.

I have not used Dreamweaver extensively but I have tried out many of the facilities without any problems - the only anomalies I have seen have been to do with use of drives on Windows partitions especially those that had not been mounted in advance. The file -> Open route seems to be better and one can also set up a Site on a Windows partition and have all the files accesible. Dreamweaver has been one of the biggest demands for installing under Wine (No 3 on the wishlist) and success has been ellusive up till now so overall this is a huge step forwards. I have read that Dreamweaver 8.0 also now installs without problems.

I have looked up about Mdac 2.6 (Microsoft Database Access Components) and it is needed to provide database connectivity which will probably not be required for many pages. I understand it can be downloaded from the Microsoft site and installed using Wine by double clicking on the downloaded mdac_typ.exe but I have not tried to do so.

Some Programs Tested under Wine 1.0 and Ubuntu 8.04

I have loaded a number of programs by the simple expedient of clicking on the downloaded .exe file without any major problems including:

Enhancements to WINE to open native Linux programs such as OpenOffice

This section is not for the total newcomer to either Linux or Windows and is not totaly wthout risk, although the worst would probably be you would have to remove WINE and Add it back as a fresh copy. When you are running a Windows program under WINE there are few built in programs so if you wanted to run an Office application you would have to do the same as on a real Windows machine and install Microsoft Office or OpenOffice. What you actually want to be able to do is to access programs which are available in the Native Linux machine so that if you right click on a document file attachment which is in FirstClass or the eTMA File Handler then it will open up the File using the copy of OpenOffice that comes installed with Ubuntu Linux. This seemes a fairly normal requirement to me and I was surprised that no such facility was built in to make set up such associations and even more surprising that there was no proceedure easily found by Googling. I eventually came on a set of postings which gave a suitable way forwards.

There are several stages.

  1. You need to make the associations for the file types you want to open in native linux - this has to be within the WINE windows registry so is not something to be undertaken lightly.
  2. One needs a mechanism to open a native linux program and pass the parameters, or better still pass the selected files to a utility which can work look at the associations and open the appropriate program. This exists as part of the gnome desktop and is called gnome-open but is not well documented.
  3. You need a script to convert the path to the file from a format such as C:\documents\file.doc to /home/username/.wine/drive_c/documents/file.doc

In practice:

The names used above follow those of the originator of the idea, Tres Finocchiaro, which I found under the unlikely heading of [Wine] Fun Wine Project -- Configure Some Default Registry Entries. The contents of the two files word.reg and winenative on my system are:


"Content Type"="application/linuxnative"

"Content Type"="application/linuxnative"

"Content Type"="application/linuxnative"

"Content Type"="application/linuxnative"




@="/usr/bin/winenative %1"

# /usr/bin/winenative
# License: GPL >= V3
# Author: A. Tres Finocchiaro
# Modified: May 2008 Hilary BH Wright
# Used to call on the native linux OS to launch a filetype in Wine.
# For example, if you have a Microsoft Word document, but want to
# use the Linux version of OpenOffice Writer to open it, simply call:
# @="/usr/bin/winenative "%1""
# in
# HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\linuxnative\shell\open\command
# This assumes you've already added:
# @="linuxnative"
# to
# HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.doc --> "Content Type"

# The native command to open the file. This can be changed to $1, $2
# if you'd like to set up input variables, or you can type "openoffice"
# or something similar if you'd like to statically map it.
# If you don't use gnome, change it to your desktop's equivelant, and
# update this comment!

# The url of the file. Change to $2, etc if you want to take the 2nd
# input variable in your call.


# Transform the windows path to the linux path with the 'winpath' command
# (i.e. C:\Windows\Temp\1.doc to /home/tfino/.wine/drive_c/etc)
# NOTE1: The ticks are (` = tilde key) NOT (' = quote key).
# NOTE2: You need the "" here in order to allow for spaces in the path and file names.
# NOTE3: the -u parameter is there just to be sure that you are chnaging from windows paths to linux paths: it is the default.

lin_file=`winepath -u "$win_file"`;

# Call the native command passing the linux path enclosed in ""

$cmd_open "$lin_file";

# Exit status 1? Manipulate this value to work with errors.
exit 1;

The proceedure is to first save the files word.reg to your desktop and do an import into the wine registry by executing in a terminal:

regedit Desktop/word.reg

The second file is the " winenative " shell script. Save it to your desktop, copy it to /usr/bin, and make it executable by:

sudo cp Desktop/winenative /usr/bin/
sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/winenative

You should now be able to open the common word processor files formats in OpenOffice and PDF files in the Linux viewer. You can add .zip .xls .ppt .ods, .odp etc to the list if you want.

Many thanks to Tres Finocchiaro for the original idea and Hilary BH Wright for the improvements to winenative.



I was told about Picasa in feedback on my web page as a replacement for IrfanView. Irfanview is a picture editor which I like because it has batch conversion and renaming which allow me to create different size pictures for the web site differing in name eg xxxxxxxxi.jpg xxxxxxxw.jpg and xxxxxxxxb.jpg for my dual size popups. Picasa is a Google program which does a superb job of handling pictures and runs both under Windows and now Linux. It runs Windows code via Wine which they have put extensive work into developing for the Open Source movement. I have it installed on the Linux laptop and desktop and on a Windows Desktop. The two are almost identical in interface and it is one of the smoothest GUIs I have met on either. Purists may feel that a native Open Source version would be better but regardless of that Google have ported it to Linux rather than Apple and with Debian/ubuntu one of the specific flavours. It is a tremendous step forwards in acceptance of Linux in general and confirmation that Ubuntu is the way forwards in the future.

Picasa allows you to make a series of reversible changes to a picture in a very easy way - the GUI interface makes a rotation and colour balance almost trivial whilst keeping he original files completely intact. You can then 'star' (high level select) many files in multiple folders and then export them (with changes permanently applied) to a folder for making a CD etc. The export allows them to be resized - ideal for my purposes but does not provide the renaming although a single simple command line can do that in a terminal. I will now export each size to a separate directory then rename and merge them. Overall Picasa largely replaces Canon Zoombrowser, Irfanview and Paintshop Pro for dealing with pictures efficiently and without messing up the EXIF parameters.

Batch renaming is well explained in How to Bulk Rename Files in Linux and the command I use to add an i to the filename before the extension is:

rename -v 's/\.jpg/i\.jpg/' *.jpg

Note the bit in ' ' quotes is a perl regular expression and I am not going to explain those here! It however shows the power of Linux to do almost anything quickly in a command line.


We require encryption to protect any sensitive information whilst we are travelling. Linux has OpenPGP which offers a superset of the usual PGP standard but defaults to be compatible with the encryption levels available in PGP 8 which we are using. It is accessed by the gpg program which operates in terminal mode.

gpg --encrypt ~/Desktop/homewine.htm > ~/Desktop/homewine.htm.pgp
gpg --decrypt ~/Desktop/homewine.htm.pgp > ~/Desktop/homewine.htm

There is also a GUI interface called Seahorse which can be installed by Add/Remove which handles the creation and management of keys much easier than using gpg directly. It is also supposed to add facilities into the text editor and file browser. The right click encryption of a file and encryption/decryption in the text editor work fine as does the GUI program to create and manage keys. In theory double clicking on a PGP file ought to bring up the screens to open it but there seems to be a problem in Seahorse 8.1 or Ubuntu Dapper Drake which prevent that. After a bit of searching and playing about I realised that it worked if the .gpg extension was used so it was a simple job to add the same program as an option for opening .pgp files namely seahorse --decrypt using the right click menu on a .pgp file -> Open with other application -> Use a Custom Command and filling in the box with seahorse --decrypt .

Evolution has built in encryption and signing for emails using keys created in terminal mode or managed by Seahorse. Full details of how to set it up and use it are in the Evolution help files.

Thunderbird does not have secure encryption in the main program however it is added by an extension which can be downloaded by the usual Applications -> Add/Remove _> Advanced and search for monzilla-thunderbird-enigmail. This adds inline style pgp encryption and also provides a key manager interface. It found my existing keys etc set up by seahorse and gnupg and works well.

Secure deletion of data - shred

The other feature which is required for looking after data securely is a way to erase files without traces. It is no good being able to encrypt a file if you can not delete the original or working copies. Linux has a built in command shred which does a multiple pass write of data selected to make a read based on residual information at the edges of the magnetic tracks almost impossible before the file is deleted. This is not foolproof for all file systems and programs as temporary copies made be made and modern file systems do not always write data in the same place however on an ext2 or ext3 system with the default settings in Ubuntu Linux it is acceptable. Do a man shred to find out more.

Scripting Example - Secure Delete

There is no GUI interface for shred so I wrote a simple script. This took a few days to get up the learning curve of programming in bash and how the system was set up which will pay off handsomely in the future. A good place to start is LinuxCommand.org: Learning the shell. The important piece of information is that the addition of a path to a /bin directory is set in ubuntu linux in .bashrc not .bash_profile as is described in some places. Also note that files starting with a . are hidden - use View -> Hidden Files in the File browser to find them. The lines I added were:

# Additions to the standard ~/.bashrc file to set up path to
# /bin directory in home folder

I then had a folder in which to put script files which could be accessed from any directory. My first script to shred a file follows - if you want to follow it in detail remember that man any_command gives a summary of what it does and its options:

# script to shred a file
echo "This will Shred - overwrite many times - and"
echo "delete a file in a secure manner"
echo "The filename should include the path"
echo "from your home directory"
echo "eg /Desktop/filetoshred.doc or /Safe/filetoshred)"
echo -n "Enter Filename to Shred ? "
read filename
if [ -f ~/$filename ]
echo "File $temp will be deleted"
echo "File $temp does not exist"
echo "Hit Enter to exit ? "
echo "About to Shred" $temp "!!!"
echo -n "This is irrevocable - y to continue or n to Abort ? "
read t1
if [ "$t1" = "y" ]
shred -n 50 -u -z -v $temp
echo -n "Aborted- hit any key to exit ? "
echo -n "File shredded - hit any key to exit ? "

The reads at the end of each part are necessary to prevent the Terminal Window closing before you have seen what happens.

The script files must be given the correct permissions by

chmod 755 scriptname

The last step is to create a launcher on the desktop which can also be dragged onto the bars. Right click anywhere on the desktop -> Create Launcher Fill in a name; browse to the ~/bin directory and script name; tick run in terminal; add an icon if required and that is it. The Launcher can also be dragged onto the panel.

It all sounds very simple but it took me a while to get scripting together the first time despite having done some programming in my time.


Whilst looking into encryption I came across some references to TrueCrypt - Free Open-Source On-The-Fly Disk Encryption Software for Windows XP/2000 and Linux which attracted me because it:

It does very much what PGPDisk does - it creates a Virtual Disk with the contents encrypted into a single file or onto a disk partition or removable media such as a USB stick. In fact it does it rather better than PGPDisk in many ways and in the Windows version it has all the same automatic demount etc options. The encryption is all on the fly so you have a file, you mount it as a disk and from then on it is used just like a real disk and everything is decrypted and re-encrypted invisibly in real time. The virtual Drive is unmounted automatically at close down and one should have closed all the open documents using the Virtual Drive by that point just like when you shut down normally. The advantage is that you never have the files copied onto a real disk so there are no shadows or temporary files left behind and one does not have to do a secure delete. I have loaded it onto two of my Windows systems.

Truecrypt obviously installs deep into the operating system in order to encrypt decrypt invisibly on the fly. This has meant in the past that it was specific to a Linux Kernel and had to be recompiled/installed every time a Kernel was updated. In fact the early versions demanded a rebuild of the Kernel itself which was beyond what I wanted to do. A procedure has now been developed which makes the installation much easier which is fully described at Installing Truecrypt 4.2 on Ubuntu 6.06 - Ubuntu Forums One needs to check carefully in the forums and have the latest version of the Kernel but for me it only involved:

Downloading the TrueCrypt 4.2a debian (.deb) installer from http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads.php to my home directory.
#Assuming a 32-bit Kernel
tar -xvf truecrypt-4.2a-ubuntu-6.06-x86.tar.gz
cd truecrypt-4.2a
# Note instructions in the forum recipe are wrong and the -i below is needed
sudo dpkg -i truecrypt_4.2a-0_i386.deb
# Set permissions for all users
sudo chmod u+s /usr/bin/truecrypt

And that is it. The command line interface is simplistic but one one has the encrypted file already made on a Windows system then only two commands are essential

# Mount the cryptfile to mountpoint, a folder you have previously created
# The -u option is needed to set the permissions to the user otherwise you can not write back to the Virtual Disk unless Root
truecrypt -u containerfile mountpoint
# eg truecrypt -u ~/Safe/tc01092006.tc ~/Safe/vd where an empty vd directory exists under ~/Safe
# Unmount all Virtual Disks
truecrypt -d
# If you want to create a container the following command takes you through the steps interactively
truecrypt -c

These are going to be much repeated commands and make an excellent example of the use of aliases which are added to the end of the ~.bashrc file

# Additions to the standard ~/.bashrc file to set up path to
# /bin directory in home folder to hold scripts
# Additions to the standard ~/.bashrc file to set up aliases
alias openvault='truecrypt -u ~/.Vault.tc ~/Vault'
alias closevault='truecrypt -d'

In my case I have created script files which are Launched from the desktop (Right Click -> Create Launcher).

# Example script (stored in ~/bin) to open a truecrypt vault file and display the folder.
truecrypt -u ~/.Vault.tc ~/Vault
nautilus --no-desktop ~/Vault

TrueCrypt 6.0

TrueCrypt has now reached version 6 which can be downloaded as a .deb file for both 32 and 64 bit versions of Ubuntu – make sure you get the correct version. The .deb is packed into a compressed file .tar.gz just double click truecrypt-6.0a-ubuntu-x86.tar.gz to open the archive and drag the folder to the desktop, open it and double click the .deb to install.

It now gas a GUI interface like Windows and it can be run by just typeing truecrypt in a terminal or from a launcher.

It opens virtual disks which are placed on the desktop. Making new volumes (encrypted containers) is now trivial – just use the wizard. Old files can be opened but it is best to create a new volume and copy the contents across. This is now a very refined product under Linux

Web Authoring

Nvu and Tidy

Nvu has proved to be a very adequate WYSIWYG editor which I have entirely use to produce the Ubuntu Web pages and the uploaded them with gFTP. I have noticed that the HTML source is a bit untidy and tends to gain a lot of extra lines. Tools ->Preferences -> General -> Reformat Source Code helps. Nvu is OpenSource and available for Windows.

I discovered there is a HTML syntax checker and re-formatter called Tidy which corrects mark-up in a way compliant with the latest standards, and is optimal for the popular browsers. Tidy is a product of the World Wide Web Consortium and will tidy up the source and indent it etc for easy viewing. It can be installed using Add/Remove -> Advanced and search for Tidy. It is a command line package but fairly intuitive (man tidy or tidy -h will give you the information to run it) Errors are reported. Useful options are -m to modify the source file, -i to indent output and - w nn to wrap at line nn . A typical call is:

tidy -m -i -w 99 ubuntu-mobile.htm

Also Note that Nvu also has built in tools for mark-up clean-up and checking via the W3C on-line HTML validator so there are no excuses for bad code and every page can display the validated symbol at the bottom.

FireFTP for Firefox 3 in Hardy Heron

I have been looking through the Firefox extensions and came upon FireFTP which is an addon to Firefox 3 which transforms it into an FTP program. I will have to try this out but the hope is that it will be possible to again work seamlessly between Windoz and Ubuntu on a dual boot system. The facilities look as comprehensive as the WS_FTP LE program I use under Windoz and gFTp under Linux. If I am using Komposer which is once more Mozilla based I should be able to again move to a common profile and keep all my settings although that is not a serious problem in any case.


Arachnophilia is another web editor which I used to use a lot. It has recently been updated and the latest versions run under Sun Java 1.4 or higher and are both cross-platform and true Freeware. In fact I use the author's definitions of what freeware is elsewhere. Before running Arachnophilia you need to load the correct version of Sun Java in Ubuntu - the some versions of the free package which may already be loaded are not suitable and you should install the Sun Java and also make a change so it is used by default.

First check for which version you are using by

java -version

GNU libgcj is the one that does not work although it is version 1.4

Now see if any others are present, I found the correct one was loaded but not the default so try:

update-java-alternatives -l

If you have a Sun Java higher than 1.4 then select it by, for example

sudo update-java-alternatives -s java-1.5.0-sun

If you do not have then you have to use Applications -> Add/Remove -> Advanced -> Search for sun-java and Mark the sun-java5-bin sun-java5-jre and sun-java5-plugin for installation (right click) -> Apply then go back through the two lines above to check it is there and select it.

Hardy Heron has Sun Java 6 already loaded

Now you can download the Arachnophilia.jar and put it somewhere safe as you will use it every time you start Arachnophilia - I put it in my home directory but hid it by renaming it to .Arachnophilia.run . Now install by
It is rerun by he same invocation but it does not have to waste time setting up and comes up immediately in it's saved state. There is an old write up at Arachnophilia which I am in the process of updating.

Apache Server and PHP

I have been using the PHP (PHP Hypertext Processor) scripting language for writing scripts to process the output from forms - this is all written up as How to Handle the Output from Forms . PHP is a server side scripting language which means that everything has to be tested on a web server with PHP support which results in every change having to be uploaded and tested on ones web site. After a near escape from writing all over the wrong areas of the server at Freezone I realised that testing a powerful language with the ability to write files and call raw Linux commands might not be a very bright thing to do and loaded the Apache web server and the associated libraries for PHP support onto my desktop. I expected it to be complicated but it was very quick and easy and the server is now accessed from a browser as http://localhost on the local machine or by IP address such as http://192.168.1.n from other machines on the local network. The home directory is, by default, in the /var/www directory.

Loading Apache can be done by Applications -> Add/Remove -> Advanced -> Search for apache2 then mark apache2 and mark libapache2-mod-php5 You will be informed that some other packages are being included and you just -> Apply and apache is installed and set up to run every time the machine starts.

The only thing you will need to do before you can use it is to change the permissions on the /var/www folder so you can copy your web site files into it. I find the easy way to do this is to run nautilus (the GUI file browser) with root privileges by starting it from the command line with sudo

sudo nautilus

this means I can just right click to properties on any file or folder and use the permissions tab. The command line alternative is

chmod 766 /var/www

You may also wish to create an addition folder with the same permissions so scripts can read and write files and/or set the permissions on your private folders (those requiring a login). PHP is run as user www-data on my local set-up and apache on the Freezone server. The versions recommended for ubuntu are Apache2 and PHP 5 (version 5.1.2) - I was tempted to load version 4 as that is what is on the Freezone Server and some commands are new in version 5.

PHP Test Script fragments including File handling and Encryption

These have all been moved to a new page PHP Scripts and Ubuntu


I am not going to extol the virtues of Linux, in particular the Ubuntu Distribution here, but I need to explain a little about the ways that file systems and disks differ in Windows and Linux when talking abouut backing up. In Windows, Physical Disk drives and the 'virtual' Partitions they are divided up into show up in the top level of the File System as Drives with names such as C: , A floppy disk is almost always A: and the system drive is C: . This sort of division does not appear at all in Linux where you have a single file system starting from root which is where the operating system is booted. Any additional disk drives which are present or are 'mounted' at a latter time such as a USB disk drive will by default in most distributions appear in the file tree in /media and the naming will depend on several things but expect to entries such as /media/cdrom , /media/floppy and /media/disk. If you create a special partition for a different part of the filesystem such as /home where all the users live then it can be 'mounted' at /home. In theory you could mount partitions for all sorts of other parts of the file system. If, for example, you add a new disk and choose to mount a partition to just contain your home directory it is only the addition of a single line in a file although you need to exactly copy the old contents to the new partition first which means mounting it temporarily somewhere else first, the mounting it as /home and finally deleting the old inaccessible folder. I cover that elsewhere.

There is a nearly perfect separation of the kernel, installed programs and users in Linux. The users each have a folder within the home folder which has all the coniguration of the programs they use which is specific to them - it is set up the first time they run a program. A users folder only contains a few tens of kbytes until programs are used and all the program settings are hidden (hidden files and folders start with a . (dot). There are usually a number of folders generated by default including /Desktop /Documents /Music /Pictures /Videos /Templates and /Public which are used by program as their defaults. This makes backing up very easy - an exact copy of the home folder allows the system to be restored after a complete reload of the operating system. Note the words exact as the 'copy' has to preserve Symbolic Links and the Permissions of all the files - permissions are key to the security of Linux so special archiving utilities are best employed.

Simple Backup (sbackup). There are a number of backup utilitieses available for Ubuntu Linux but I am using Simple Backup which is a simple backup solution intended for desktop use created within Google Summer of Code 2005 for Ubuntu with the mentoring of the Ubuntu team. It is a tiny download and seems very comprehensive in the ways you can chose to include and exclude files based on location, size, type etc. It can run automatically and will do periodic full backups with incremental backups of changed files. By default it saves the backup as a compressed file in /var/backup and the file seems very small at under 400 Mbytes with default settings. You can restore individual files etc and in theory they can be restored to a different location although that feature has not worked for me. You can also access the various levels of archive folders and use archive manager to extract directly from the .tar archives in the folders.

It is all very easy with a good GUI interface and is found in Systems ->Administration -> Simple Backup. Simple Backup is downloaded by Add/Remove and seach for Simple Backup or Synaptic package manager and search for sbackup.

Tar Archives There is also a very powerful command line archiving tool round which many of the GUI tools are based which should work on most Linux Distributions. In many circumstances it is best to access this directly to backup your system. The resulting files can also be accessed (or created) by the archive manager accessed by right clicking on a .tzr or .trz file. To show the power the following commands will back up your entire file system but can easily be adapted to just back up your home folder by starting there instead of in the root directory:

In a terminal.

sudo su
cd /

Uses the sudo tool to access the privileges of the root user and change to the root directory.

tar cvpzf mybackup.tgz / --exclude=/mybackup.tgz --exclude=/proc --exclude=/lost+found --exclude=/media --exclude=/sys --exclude=/mnt

This is a single line if you cut and paste. The options cvpzf are: create archive, verbose mode, retain permissions, gzip archive and file output. Then follows the name of the file to be created, mybackup.tgz which should use the date for easy reference. Next is the directory to back up, in this case / the root so everything will be stored. (Another common possibility would be /home). Next are the objects which need to be excluded - the most important of these is our back up file or it would be recursive! It also excludes directories which are recreated dynamically.

The backup process is slow (15 mins plus) and the file over a gbyte for the simplest system. After it is complete the file should be moved to a safe location, preferably a DVD or external device. If you want to do a higher compression method the command "tar cvpjf mybackup.tar.bz2" can be used in place of "tar cvpzf mybackup.tgz". This will use bzip2 to do the compressing - j option. This method will take longer but gives a smaller file.

You can access parts of the archive using the GUI Archive Manager by right clicking on the .tgz file - again slow on such a large archive. A full system backup is most useful if you can effectively restore your entire system or data. This can be again done by a few commands but do not try this for fun as it will overwrite the entire Ubuntu file system, thus restoring the older image that we took. I have not yet had problems so large I have had to try this! The following assumes the backup image is still in the root directory or has been replaced there from DVD:

sudo su
cd /
tar xvpfz mybackup.tgz -C /

The restoration uses the options - extract, verbose, retain permissions, from file and gzip. This will take a while because all your files will be overwritten with the versions from the image you previously backed up. The "-C /" ensures that the file is restore to the root directory /.

If this has been done onto an empty drive from a LiveCD one needs to replace any excluded directories before rebooting the system.

mkdir proc
mkdir lost+found
mkdir sys

If the old system is still present note that it only overwrites files, it does not deleted files from the old version which are no longer needed.
This is one of the simplest and fastest methods for backing up. It may take some customizing and tweaking for your purposes but it is powerful, versatile, and free.

Skype under Dapper Drake

Skype was installed following the instructions in the Unofficial Ubuntu Guide - How to install Messenger (Skype)

* In a terminal window

sudo gedit /etc./apt/sources.list

* Add the following lines at the end of file

## Repository for Skype
deb http://download.skype.com/linux/repos/debian/ stable non-free

* Save the edited file

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install skype

It is run by Applications -> Internet -> Skype

Microphone Levels for Skype

The microphone levels could not be adjusted sufficiently using the volume control panel and the procedure suggested in Fixing the Errant Microphone was followed. This opens a simple but effective GUI to adjust all the facilities offered by the audio interface including a 20 dB boost.

Run alsamixer in a terminal window

Unmute all the outputs by hitting “m”

Hit tab to go the capture settings

Highlight the “Mic” setting using the arrow keys.
Hit space to enable the microphone.

Highlight the “Capture” setting using the arrow keys.
Hit space to enable capture (note that just because you have
volume bar here doesn’t mean it is enabled).

If you need the microphone boost use the arrow keys to get
across and highlight the boost setting and hit m to toggle it

Hit escape to exit

I have not found any documentation for alsamixer and although the above works it does not seem a very consistent in when to chose m and space.

Having set up the levels I have found Skype works well although I have had to restart it a couple of times when making a series of calls as it has told me I had an Audio problem - perhaps too high a level as Skype documentation advises against using the 20 dB boost I need.

Skype under Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

Skype can now be installed from the Medibuntu repository, see above on how to install it.

I have also found that there are options in the volume control on the panel to see more options including the Microphone boost tick box. Double click the icon to open the volume control and adjust as required for Skype.

Hardware Support

Motherboard and SATA drives (initramfs and busybox error running LiveCD or booting)

It is possible that one can not even start up with a Hardy Heron LiveCD with some motherboards, BIOS and SATA drive configurations. At an early stage one is dumped into a terminal with a statement about busybox and initramfs. This is unlikely and has only happened to me once and all is not lost as there are various options at GRUB boot time which can be appended to the startup string. There has been much discussion and it still comes down to trial and error but the most likely string is:

all_generic_ide floppy=off irqpoll

Some other options mentioned are:


Timer/acpi errors may respond to:


The proceedure is:

When you boot the LiveCD and it askes what to do, press F6 and add the chosen option string(s) after quiet splash, so for example it looks like

quiet splash all_generic_ide floppy=off irqpoll

After you have installed Ubuntu you may have the same problems when Grub runs. If that is the case on rebooting wait until you get to the GRUB menu, hit esc and then hit the "e" key and arrow down to the kernel line and hit "e" again, then enter all_generic_ide floppy=off irqpoll then hit enter, and then "b" that should get you booted, once booted open a terminal and

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.list

find this line:

# defoptions=quiet splash

edit it to look like this

# defoptions=quiet splash all_generic_ide floppy=off irqpoll

save your changes and exit gedit,

then in the terminal do:

sudo update-grub

and it should all be sorted at the next boot!


Up to now we have been considering systems with broadband access through a Ethernet or Wifi connection from an ADSL/ Modem/Router/Firewall box. My section covering Modem support for when you have no broadband access and are on the move has got far too large and has been moved to a new page - Ubuntu Linux on the Move.

For completeness here it is worth noting that support for some types of modem is poor in all versions of Linux. The type of modem which is used in many machines and built into many recent cards are often referred to as Winmodems or soft modems because they use Windows and the processor to do much of the hard work in software rather than do it on the chip or card. This includes not only internal modems but many external USB modems and includes ADSL modems. This software is often proprietary and Linux is poorly supported by most manufacturers. I therefore got out my old but very trusty US Robotics V90 external serial interface Fax Modem for the desktop with instant success.

The laptop has a soft modem and again I took the easy way out when I then remembered that I had a Xircom PCMCIA modem and Ethernet card. I plugged it in and it was recognised immediately and I had a telephone connect working a few minutes later during my initial LiveCD tests.

Turning off a Synaptic's touchpad tap-to-click feature.

I am not sure where this should logically come so I have put it towards the end of the hardware aspects. My notebook, like many has a Synaptic's touchpad which interprets a tap as a mouse click. I tend to use a separate mouse or the buttons and find that the tap is too sensitive and activated accidentally whilst typing. To turn off tap-to-click, open /etc/X11/xorg.conf and look for the section headed "Driver "synaptics" and add the line Option "MaxTapTime" "0". Save the file and re-start. The file contains most of the configuration settings for the X Window system which provides the hardware support and interface to graphical desktops such as GNOME and KDE .

In Hardy Heron there is also a program called gsynaptics which allows you to control the touch pad via a GUI interface which can be installed via the Synaptic Package Manager and search for gsynaptics. It is accessed via System -> Preferences -> Touchpad.

USB 2.0 to Serial RS232 Hardware Installation (FTDI Chip)

I have put this at the end as it males an interesting comparison of Linux and Windows XP on which to finish. The background is that I had to obtain a RS232 to USB converter because the new laptop has no serial connector and I needed to download and upload waypoints to my Garmin GPS. I did a bit of Googling and I chose a device which used a FTDI chip because I found their chips were supported in Linux - others may be but it seemed best to play safe.

It was purchased from Tronisoft for £11.42 ref 2446 as USB 2.0 - RS232 cable with 25 way adapter and delivered the following day. I spoke with them before ordering and they were very helpful but had no Linux machines so said they would be glad for feedback. The disk provided has drivers for Linux, Mac and Windows 98/2000 and XP. I thought it would make an interesting comparison so I kept notes.

Windows: I first tried to install under Windows XP by turning the machine on and then plugging in the cable - it detected new hardware and started the install wizard. It found the two drivers only when it could check the web. A small CD with drivers was also provided. Total time about 5 minutes and another 10 or so to connect my serial modem and check it worked. It installed it as Serial port 4. I repeated it on the laptop taking a bit less time although I had to change the allocated port (13 which was beyond what the GPS software could handle) by Control Panel -> System -> Hardware -> Device Handlers and Properties of the device -> Port Settings -> Advanced - fortunately ports 1 and 2 were free although all higher ports had been allocated already.

Ubuntu Linux: I plugged in the cable and nothing seemed to happen and I then had to find out a way of deciding if it had installed - which I did not really believe - it was too easy! I looked in the Device Manager and there was evidence that it had done something as there was new 8-bit FIFO so a quick look on the Internet provided a couple of commands which could be run to find out more namely lsusb and dmesg. The first produced a few lines which showed that the device had been identified and the second produced far more output, most of which I could not understand, but repeat runs with and without the device plugged in convinced me it was worth fetching my serial modem to use as a test. The output also indicated the device was detected as an FT232BM made by FTDI and installed as /dev/ttyUSB0 and watching the /dev directory showed it coming and going as one plugged in and out. The modem was also detected and I set up Networking to use ttyUSB0 and worked fine on a short trial. If I had been more confident and known where it would be installed it would have been easier and much quicker than Windows XP.

Although Ubuntu came out ahead for ease and speed I must admit that I had chosen a device with a FTDI chip knowing that they were more likely to be supported. Time was taken going up a learning curve as there was ten years to one week difference in experience, even so the complete investigations and trials on two machines to working solutions on both were completed in only just over an hour after delivery - this write up has taken longer!

Installing on a Legacy Laptop - Toshiba Portege 3440

Having had so much success, I spent some time working out how to install Ubuntu on my old but much loved Toshiba Portege 3440CT. It has been upgraded to a 30 Gbyte drive and 192 Mbytes of Ram with a 500 Mhz processor but it is below the recommended specifications. Despite that it ran the Dapper Drake LiveCD at a reasonable speed especially after I had created a Linux Swap File - the LiveCd will use any Linux Swap files it locates - an undocumented facility.

When running the Live CD the first time I enabled a Swap partition and set it up after that it seemed to find it anyway.

sudo fdisk -l # List all partitions - look for the one marked as a Linux Swap
sudo mkswap /dev/hdxn # Create swap file system on disk x partition n (deletes contents)
sudo swapon /dev/hdxn # Add to running system
sudo swapon -s # Make sure it is live

This makes the LiveCd run much faster ready for an install. When I came to the install it ran fast up to disk partitioning at which point it seemed to only used real memory and locked up.

So the procedure in detail was:

The first action was to make a disk partitioning plan. The drive has two partitions, one for the system and another for data. I increased the Windows system to 8 Gbytes as it had got increasingly greedy and was once more giving problems with space for system restores. I allocated 8 Gbytes for the Ubuntu Linux Root partition and another 500 Mbytes for a Swap partition which should be at least twice the size of the available memory. I used partition Magic but there are plenty of Open Source tools such as the LiveCD versions of GTparted. However do not make changes to Linux partitions with Partition Magic after initial creation - it screwed mine up so what follows is actually a second time through. I got everything going then used Partition Magic to refine the partition sizes and ended up with an unbootable system as it changed the type of the Linux partition. Next time I will use one of the Linux based LiveCD partition tools. I was very glad I had a Boot Floppy and a PCMCIA Floppy drive so I could do an fdisk /mbr to reset the Master Boot Record and get Windows back but faced many elapsed hours to reinstall.

I tried the LiveCd install several times but finally resorted to downloading the Alternative CD which needs less RAM for the installation. The 691 Mbytes took an hour and a half to download and another 30 minutes to turn the iso image onto a bootable CD using Nero although the Ubuntu site tells you about OpenSource software.

The install is very tedious as it is the interactive version for OEMs and asks many questions during the initial phase. The easiest way is to have a large empty space for partitioning and tell it to get on with it. I did it the hard way and regretted it as I had to stop to think many times. You need to have the root partition called just / on your new ext3 file system and the Swap on the Swap - it should find that. The processor and CD were very slow and the overall install time was about 105 minutes before the first boot. I immediately swapped to the WiFi card and set up the encryption and started to download about 175 Mbytes of updates. I achieve a steady 121 Kbytes/sec on my Tiscali broadband and the download took the time to 120 mins plus installing taking a further 15 minutes to install and reboot.

The first and major problem I came up with the first time was that when I undocked the machine from the CD dock all the drives changed so the Grub boot did not work - I edited the string in situ using the e option and then set it up for boots with and without the machine docked in /boot/grub/menu.lst having backed up the original by:

sudo cp /boot/grub/menu.lst /boot/grub/menu.lst_bak
sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

WARNING: When you edit this file read about the Automagic set up options and make changes there as well otherwise when you next upgrade the kernel it will set back to the unbootable drive - this happened and for I while I thought I had lost the system until the penny dropped. A nasty feeling.

I also went into I modified the /etc/fstab file as follows:

sudo cp /etc/fstab /etc/fstab_backup
sudo gedit /etc/fstab

where I modified the mount points for the various drives and Swap and commented out the CD drive and the Windows XP partition which I did not want mounted.

I then halted the machine, undocked and rebooted with the new settings. I checked using system monitor that Swap seemed to be working but rest it up above just in case although looked as if system had worked it out in the reboot.

I set up myself as user using System -> Administration -> Users and on the second tab to chose to be an administrator - essential to avoid lockout when oem is deleted and to be able to sudo. I again restarted to check all OK at 3 hour mark and hopefully where I would have been from a LiveCD install with updates.

I set up File sharing and printers as per the sections above.

I then started to load all the applications in the lists above having enabled some of the repositories and also used EasyUbuntu. I set up to use the Sun Java as above for Arachnophilia. I only left out the CD writer and Skype.

Once I had GNOME-PP loaded I checked for modems and both the internal soft modem and that on Xircom card worked although I had to do a dmesg to find out where they had been allocated. The Ethernet connection on the Xircom card did not work but a 3Com 3CRWE154G72 WiFi card had been immediately detected and only needed the WEP key set. Audio worked as soon as I remembered to turn up the volume on the physical volume control on the front of the laptop many months latter!

I tried it plugged into the simple port replicator rather than the dock with the CD reader and that did not seem to cause the change in drive designations and the ethernet port and extra USB port were recognised and worked - I assume that is the same for the PS1, serial and parallel ports. Hot docking did not seem to work. I have always avoided hibernating and suspending laptops and I can not vouch for whether that works.

At the end of the day I have a very useable slim line laptop with Ubuntu. It is a bit slow opening Open Office otherwise quite fast enough for normal use. It needed the modification to have bigger drive for dual booting but would have been usable with a full suite of software. In contrast a protected Windows XP will barely run on a 6 Gbyte Drive with a sensible set of software loaded. Booting time is 135 seconds to a useable desktop and shutdown is 47 seconds from the desktop. In contrast Windows XP with McAfee and Zonealarm took 320 seconds before I could open My Computer, over twice as long on the same machine. The shut down time is also close to twice as long at 92 seconds. Even more surprising was that my 2.5 Ghz desktop also took over 5 minutes to become usable at the start of the day, presumably because of checks and downloading software updates etc. With Ubuntu 6.04 being a Long Term version with 3 to 5 years support I hope to keep running till the machine finally dies rather than be forced into change by being microshafted by Bill!

Disabling Suspend and Hibernate for Laptops in Ubuntu Linux

I had problems when testing suspend and hibernate on the Portege which resulted in some very peculiar happenings and my having to recreate a swop file. The following terminal commands re-created the swap file.

fdisk -l # List all partitions - look for the one marked as a Linux Swap
sudo mkswap /dev/hdxn # Create swap file system on disk x partition n (deletes contents)
sudo swapon /dev/hdxn # Add to running system
sudo swapon -s # Make sure it is live

I therefore looked for a way to prevent them being activated. GNOME contains a database for storing your preferences called 'gconf, which is a similar database to the Windows registry. There is a Configuration Editor Program for Gnome which can be accessed via Applications -> System Tools -> Configuration Editor to easily make changes for the current user. To make global changes it is best called in a terminal by:

sudo gconf-editor

Navigate through the left hand tree to apps -> gnome-power-manager. Find the options named 'can_hibernate' and 'can_suspend' and uncheck them both.

Right-click on each in turn and click Set as Mandatory to make sure that it applies to all users then exit the Configuration Editor. Changes will not appear until after a reboot.

Some further useful Configuration Tips

Put a Trash Can on the desktop:

Ubuntu has an option for adding a Trash Can icon to the desktop. Open a run dialog by Alt+F2 and open the Gnome Configuration Editor by typing:


Now browse down to the apps \ nautilus \ desktop key amd on the right hand side, you'll see an entry called trash_icon_visible. Just check the box - you can also change the trash_icon_name to Recycle Bin if you have a Windows background! You can also add your Home Folder and there are many other useful changes you can make using gconf-editor which are not accessible in the programs but without having to edit configuration files if you explore - try searching for a program name using Edit -> Find

Distribution Upgrades to Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

The latest Long Term Support version of Ubuntu came out at the end of April 2008 so after 2 years of use I have upgraded three of the four machines I have running Ubuntu to the new version, the Libretto does not have sufficient memory to run Hardy Heron. Firstly a distribution upgrade is serious - it is not just like a service pack, it is more like a change from Windows 98 to XP as it involves an update of every piece of software in the distribution including Open Office, Firefox, Thunderbird and most of the utilities. The incremental changes are probably not so bad but I was changing from one LTS distribution to the next in two cases so Open Office went from 2.0 to 2.4. Firefox from 1.5 to 3 and Thunderbird from 1.5 to 2.0 etc.

The Homebuilt Desktop Computer had the previous LTC version Dapper Drake so I expected that would be a big problem but it all went very smoothly - I have lost some of the launchers for script files off the desktop although the scripts are still present where I had saved them. The Wifi card was detected and just needed the WEP key rather than all the hastle when even a minor kernel change took place - hopefully Wifi Radar is now redundant as such good facilities seemed to be built in. NVu is no longer supported and I found it had been replaced by Kompozer which is the version now being looked after by a new support group. The only major problem I have not sorted is that Google Earth does not work any more - I will have to uninstall it and reinstall I suspect. I also note that GPSU which runs under Wine has some problems I have yet to check although the other programs under Wine such as Paintshop Pro and IrfanVu seem OK. I have also lost the Google toolbar which is not supported yet in Firefox 3 which is a beta version. Open Office is up from 2.0 to 2.4. Picassa is fine. Overall well worthwhile and keeps me in business for another 3 years.

The old Dell XPS 700 was running version 7.10 and also upgraded smoothly but slowly. The new version is supposed to need 384 Mbytes memory for a new install but upgraded with the 320 Mbytes available to my relief. Again everything seems to still work but it had little on it and it looks good for another three years. It detected a 3Com 3CRUSB10075 USB Wifi adapter so it is also now wireless. I will not be able to upgrade the old Portege as it only has 192 Mbytes memory. In the end I chose to reload the old Dell XPS 700 to see if there were differences - overall it was a slight improvement with cleaner menus etc and probably quicker.

The Toshiba laptop was the only upgrade which possed any problems and they were of my own making. As one proceeds through the upgrade process the upgraded identifies where you have made changes in system files and asks if you want to replace them or keep your modification. For the most part I said to have the new one as I knew the changes made and had copies to check off against. However I rashly said to keep the grub configuration where I had taken some trouble to customise it, including background images. The only problem was that it was kept as it was rather than with the automatic changes to match each new kernel - you always have the option to run a new kernel or at least one previous version. This meant it tried to boot to a none existent kernel as I have also told it to tidy up and delete all the old stuff. Grub has an editor so I could change its command line to the new kernel and then edit /boot/grub/menu.list. An easier but slower way would have been to run from the LiveCD and edit /boot/grub/menu.list and that would have also meant I could find the kernel name rather than copying from one of my other machines when I edited it. Once that ''silly' was fixed everything was fine and the new Wifi connection was set up.

After the distribution upgrade I also found that hcitools and other utilities did not work and I did not get a Bluetooth icon in the notification area when I plugged in the bluetooth dongle. This was the same on both the machines I had done distribution upgrades on. I eventually found that I had to uninstall bluez-utils using System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager and use the option to completely remove all the associated files. This however meant I had to recreate /etc/bluetooth/rfcomm.conf . Once that was done I got the bluetooth icon immediately I plugged in the Dongle and could do an hcitool scan whilst before the bluetooth device was not recognised. I later found that one of my two Bluetooth Dongles now has problems with connecting to the modem in the phone but the other is fine.

My suggestion is too back up your home directory and to keep a note of all files you have configured and back them up before an upgrade. A change of LTS distribution is a two year job and may be better done with a complete new install rather than a Distribution Upgrade.

Where I have found significant changes in Hardy Heron I have updated the sections and marked the differences as in this paragraph with sidebars as above.

Looking Forwards

Reference Books

I did virtually everything that I have covered above without purchasing any new reference books or even buying any magazines - everything came from the documentation on the Ubuntu web sites, forums and other internet sources plus a very old book on Red Hat Linux 7.2 - a weekend crash course which cost a couple of pounds in an an 'end of line' bookshop many years ago. I have very few books because the only ones worth getting cost to much and even then rarely go into the depth one really needs. Once I was sure I was hooked on Linux and Ubuntu in particular I kept an eye open as some of my web searches ended up pointing to books. I had a look in the huge Waterstones in London at one which had caught my eye on the internet and it seemed to cover a lot, as you would expect in 800 pages, and not be too specific to ubuntu whilst covering the differences. At £35.99 I procrastinated and looked at others including the '100 Hacks' series from O'Reilly. When I got home I checked on Amazon who were offering 40% off Ubuntu Unleashed and above it in the sales popularity list was 'Ubuntu Hacks' I had not seen in the shop - I broke and bought Ubuntu Unleashed and invested the savings into Ubuntu Hacks giving me 1300 pages total of reference material and coverage of problem areas/tweaks. So far I am very pleased with both and they are joining my Special Edition using JavaScript by McFerdries as prime reference material in the 'replace if lost class'. I also had a bargain already on the shelf. The full references are:

Ubuntu Unleashed by Andrew Hudson and Paul Hudson published by Sams (31 July 2006) ISBN: 0672329093 900 pages paperback £35.99 (Amazon £23.75) - solid reference book covering much more than Ubuntu

Ubuntu Hacks by Jonathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin and Bill Childers published by O'Reilly Media (June 2006) ISBN 0-596-52720-9 425 pages £20.99 (Amazon £13.85) - full of useful stuff, both general and specific.

Red Hat Linux 7.2 Weekend Crash Course in 15 hours, Naba Barkakati and Kurt wall published by Hungry Minds (2002) ISBN 0-7645-3642-7 350 pages (£2.00 in el cheapo books) - actually quite useful for non specific background and version comparisons.


A Roadmap for your future transition to Linux.

I hope that this page has persuaded you that Linux is now a real alternative to Windows - a desirable and arguably essential change if you are going to use use a laptop 'mobile'. Try out Ubuntu Linux with a LiveCD, there is little to lose. It may even work on a machine which no longer runs Windows effectively as long as you can fit 256 Mbytes memory and preferably 384 Mbytes for Hardy Heron. I even got Dapper Drake running in 192 Mbytes

Even if you do not change immediately there are some things you can do which will make both your existing computing safer and the transition easier. Avoiding the use of Outlook Express and Internet Explorer and the replacement of a USB ADSL modem by a ADSL/Firewall/Router reduces risks by 4 fold even with good security software. So my beliefs and recommendations are:

  1. Reduce your dependence and use of Microsoft Software and proprietary software and instead use Open Source equivalents available for multiple operating systems.
    • Firefox is better and more secure than Internet Explorer
    • Thunderbird is better and more secure than Outlook Express
    • Open Office is equivalent to a Microsoft Office Suite and uses compatible file formats
    • The Lighting extension to Thunderbird adds calendars and task management making it is equivalent to Microsoft Outlook
    • Kompozer is an adequate WSYWYG HTML Editor
    • GParted is an alternate to Partition Magic
    • TrueCrypt is an excellent Encryption package which can be used under Linux
  2. Change to an ADSL Modem/Firewall/Router/Wifi unit for your connection to broadband - many are under £50 and often have a free Wifi card with them. I use ones from 3Com. This combined interface will allow you to connect many machines by cable and Wifi and, more importantly, give valuable protection to you under Windows and be easy to use with Linux. In contrast the USB modems which you got free from your Broadband provider are soft-modems and will not work easily with Linux.
  3. Avoid buying hardware which you know is Windows dependent such as soft-modems which include most internal landline, USB landline and ADSL modems. Wifi connections are also going the same way.
    • I you have or find an old fashioned serial external V90 or V92 modem buy or keep it even if you need a USB to Serial converter.
    • Keep any PCMCIA modems such as those from Xircom
  4. Do some checks before you buy your next Laptop, Wifi card/dongle or other hardware. My Toshiba with an Atheros chip WiFi chip was autodetected and set up from the Live CD whilst some WiFi chips such as those from Broadcom are less well supported at the time. A Google search for the hardware including Ubuntu may help.
  5. Think ahead and check other hardware. I deliberately got a USB to serial adapter which I knew was supported under Linux, others are not. Most Printers are supported but combintion Printer-Scanners are less well supported.


The more time goes on the more I believe that Linux distributions such as Ubuntu have now reached the point that they are a practical alternative to Microsoft Windows and offer considerable advantages. This was brought home to me when two of my friends, both extremely careful and professional, contacted me the same day saying they were infected with Viruses on their Windows machines.

I have recently given some lectures on the QE2 looking at the options for the normal home user who is wondering if change is desirable and feasible with the title:

Linux and Open Source
A Real alternative to Windows ?

Or, why settle for Windows when you
can have the whole house for free ?

I am now in the process of writing a guide book to go with my lectures which will give a real possibility for an unsophisticated computer user without programming experience to make the transition to Linux with no more hassle than the change from Microsoft Windows XP to Vista. It is still in Draft and currently titled The Road to Freedom -A progressive migration from Windows to Ubuntu for Safety, Security and Savings in Computing


The following tables show how Ubuntu Dapper Drake matches up to Microsoft Windows XP for normal applications and utilisation on a desktop and for Mobile use on a Laptop. The sections on the darker background are those which are desirable or essential somewhere on our machines especially on the 'Power User' desktop which have not or can not be met using Linux. It looks as if we will only need to keep one dual boot system at home and probably keep the laptop as a dual boot because we have a TV dongle for boating in the UK. The optimum system configuration of our machines will be addressed when we have gained a little more experience and investigated Linux networking more fully but we are now committed to Linux almost certainly Ubuntu, whilst on the move, and very much more open source software everywhere. It has been a fascinating and enlightening investigation. The bottom line is that after a week I rarely switched back to Windows but from the start I thought the final step would be to convert Pauline which might need a new laptop for her! In the event the continual updates and problems with Windows ment that her time under Ubuntu increased and after less than two years she was also fully converted without a new laptop.

Before you Leave

I would be very pleased if visitors could spare a little time to give me some feedback - it is the only way I know who has visited, if it is useful and how I should develop it's content and the techniques used. I would be delighted if you could send comments or just let me know you have visited by sending a quick Message to me.

Requirements and Support Tables

Hardware Support

Hardware Windows XP Score
Ubuntu Linux Score
CD and DVD writers Plug and Play 10 Plug and Play 10
Ethernet cards
Desktop and Laptop
Plug and Play 10 Plug and Play plus activation in Networking 9
Internal WiFi Card (Laptop) Drivers installed
WEP Code setting easy
9 Installed automatically
WEP Code setting easy in Networking
Xircom PCMCIA Modem (laptop) Not required as internal modem
(Plug and Play without driver)
10 Plug and Play
Port can be automatically identified in Networking
US Robotics External Serial Modem (Desktop) Plug and Play without driver loading 10 Plug and Play
Port can be automatically identified in Networking
USB 2.0 Hub Plug and Play without driver loading 10 Plug and Play
Links appear on desktop
USB Disk Drive (250 Gbyte with FAT32 and NTFS partitions) Plug and Play without driver loading 10 Plug and Play -
Links appears on desktop
USB - SD card reader Plug and Play without driver loading 10 Plug and Play
Links appears on desktop
USB Multi-Card Reader Plug and Play without driver loading 10 Plug and Play
Links appears on desktop when cards inserted
USB Bluetooth Dongle Software suite has to be installed plus some configuration 7

Detected but some configuration in system files needed. Some utilities available. Two Dongles tried.
Much more support in Hardy Heron






USB Floppy Plug and Play 10 Plug and Play
Link appears on desktop
PCMCIA Compact Flash Converter Plug and Play 10 Plug and Play but device needs to be added to pmount.allow and it then appears in /media 9
Vodafone Connect Card Install CD provided by Vodafone 9 Plug and Play
Installed as two USB ports
Accessible via GNOME-PPP
Internal Modem (laptop)
Soft HSF type modem by ATI based on Conexant Chip.
Pre-installed 9 Very easy if you pay the licence fee of $19.99 or accept restrictions to 14 kbaud. 5
USB WiFi 3Com dongle 3CRUSB10075 Install Proprietary Software 7 Detected in 8.04 hardy Heron and just WEP key needed 10
WiFi Card (Desktop)
Belkin PCI
Install Proprietary Software 6

Identified but full driver not loaded as it has proprietary parts. I had to run a script at startup to make it work with WEP.

In Hardy Heron it all worked immediately and just WEP key needed








PCI WinModem Card (Desktop) Had to Search out and Install Proprietary Drivers 5 May be possible but very difficult - not followed up as external serial modem available. ?
Pinnacle Firewire DV In/Out and Analog Video Input Install Proprietary Software 6 Not checked yet but may be possible to use the FireWire inputs ?
Pinnacle USB TV Tuner Install Proprietary Software 6 Not possible No

Software Requirements

Description Windows XP Score
Ubuntu Linux Score
Web Browser Firefox
Free download
10 Firefox
Open Source and pre-installed with system
Communication and Information Manager
  • Email
  • Contacts,
  • Calendar,
  • Tasks and
  • Notes
Outlook 2003
  • Email
  • Contacts,
  • Calendar,
  • Tasks and
  • Notes
~£85 stand alone
10+ Evolution Suite
  • Email
  • Contacts,
  • Calendar,
  • Tasks and
  • Notes

Thunderbird with Lightning extension

  • Email
  • Contacts,
  • Calendar,
  • Tasks

Free and pre-installed with system







Office Suite
  • Word processor
  • Spreadsheet
  • Presentation Graphics
  • Database
  • DTP
Student Microsoft Office 2003.
  • Word,
  • Excel
  • Powerpoint
£105 - £150
(Much more if not pre-installed on machine or bought as Student version)
9 Open Office
  • Word Processor
  • Spreadsheet,
  • Presentations,
  • Graphics,
  • DTP and
  • Database
File and functionally compatible with Microsoft Office
Free and pre-installed with system
Web Editor (HTML)

Hotdog 6.6
Code View

Kompozer WYSIWYG and Code view


Dreamweaver MX 2004
current versions ~£400








Nvu now called Kompozer
Free and installed on demand by Add/Remove
Used for much of this page

Arachnophilia runs under Java on most platforms

Dreamweaver 7 (MX 2004) now runs under Wine 1.00 in Hardy Heron






Free Download

gFTP Free and Installed on demand by Add/Remove

FireFTP extension to Firefox 3




CD and DVD Writer Nero
Free OEM
£50 Full
9 Serpentine for Audio CDs

K3b which uses the K interface seems very similar in power to the basic free OEM version of Nero and wrote a full CD and verified it first time.






Graphics Editors, Viewers and Batch Converters Paintshop Pro 4.1
Current version ~£80

Irfanview (free) viewer and batch image converter




Paintshop Pro 4.1 and Irfanview versions up to 3.93 run under Wine

GIMP - very comprehensive but opaque - also available under Windows

Picasa from Google - available free but not OpenSource under Windows and Linux. Excellent Viewer, editor and organiser.





Encryption and Secure Deletion


The optional PGPDisk package we have brings the cost up but makes using secure files easier. (~£80 for PGP 9)

Secure Deletion supported

TrueCrypt 6.0 - Opensource






Linux has built in support for OpenPGP which defaults to be compatible with PGP.
gpg provides command the line support in Ubuntu and
seahorse (unsupported) can be add/removed to provide GUI support
Shred provides secure deletion via a terminal interface.
Evolution has built in Encryption support.

TrueCrypt 6.0 - Opensource Xplatform







IP Telephone Skype 9 Skype installed but very low volume on microphone until alsamixer was run in a terminal to boost the microphone level by 20dB for both desktop and laptop
(Note: alsamixer crude and virtually undocumented)

Google Earth - easy to install from Google site



GoogleEarth - runs under its own version of Wine under Linux. moderately difficult to install under dapper Drake.

Much easier under Hardy Heron.





CD, DVD and MP3 Player Media Player 9
Nero 6 package

Various to be tested fully but all seem acceptable 6
CD Ripper (MP3) Audiograbber 8 Sound Juicer 7
Disk Partition Utility Partition Magic 8
Simple version on Bootable CD and good installed version
£45 per machine if installed


QTParted and Gparted Free and installed on demand by Add/Remove
GParted downloaded and put on LiveCD

Photo Organiser Canon ZoomBrowser
Included in camera package

Picasa - see also above

F-Spot - does most of what ZoomBrowser does and perhaps better



GPS Utility to download/upload and organise waypoints via a serial cable to a Garmin GPS 12 GPSU
7 GPSU Runs under Wine with some limitations on USB/Serial input converters 6.5
Open University Conferencing System FirstClass 7.0 or higher 10

FirstClass 7.0 works online and offline running under Wine
First Class 8.3 runs online under Linux but there is no offline native version
FirstClass 8.3 works perfectly online and with a quirk offline running under Wine

Video and DVD Editor Pinnacle Studio
£65 with hardware
7 Some available but not investigated. ?

Before You Leave

I would be very pleased if visitors could spare a little time to give me some feedback - it is the only way I know who has visited, if it is useful and how I should develop it's content and the techniques used. I would be delighted if you could send comments or just let me know you have visited by sending a quick Message to me.

Ubuntu Linux - Introduction | LiveCD Trials, Wubi and Installing | Multiple Booting and Grub | Networking | Applications | Media | Email and Contacts - transfers | IMAP v POP and Software considerations| WINE | Encryption | Web Authoring | Simple Backup| Hardware Support |A Legacy Laptop - Toshiba Portege 3440 | Disabling Suspend and Hibernate | Looking Forwards | Hardware Support Table | Software Requirements Table | Reader Feedback || Ubuntu Linux on the Move | Communications Requirements Table || Ubuntu Linux on the Take (Photo Support) || Open Source, Free and Cross-Platform Software

Home page | Pauline's Pages | Howto Articles | Uniquely NZ | Small Firms | Search

Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 13 th May, 2009
Valid HTML 4.01!