Making The Switch To Linux – Keep In Mind … (10 Ubuntu Tips)

WARNING: This post was originally published in 2008 and hasn't been updated since.
The tips, techniques and technology explained here may be outdated. If you spot any errors, please let me know in the comments so I can adjust the article. Thanks!

I've moved my desktop at home from a Windows XP to a Ubuntu Hardy Heron (8.04 -- and soon the new Intrepid Ibex), and have had to google a bit to find the answers to my following "problems".

Here are some of the issues I experienced, and some possible solutions (and as usual, there are several different solutions to each problem).

This list will get an update as soon as Ubuntu 8.10 goes live (which should be in a couple of days) -- perhaps they even fixed a few of these little things. :-)

Code Highlighting & WYSIWYG

These are some of the hints that came from the comments (thanks everyone!!), and are ment to assist in code highlighting & (non-) WYSIWYG editing of webpages.

Code highlighters

  • Kate Editor
    The Kate project develops two main products: KatePart, the advanced editor component which is used in numerous KDE applications requiring a text editing component, and Kate, a MDI text editor application. In addition, we provide KWrite, a simple SDI editor shell which allows the user to select his/her favourite editor component.
  • Open Komodo
    The Open Komodo Project, based on the award-winning Komodo IDE, is a new initiative by ActiveState to create an open source platform for building developer environments. ActiveState has open-sourced elements of Komodo Edit, a free multi-language editor for dynamic languages based on Komodo IDE, to create the Open Komodo code base.
  • Nedit
    NEdit is a multi-purpose text editor for the X Window System, which combines a standard, easy to use, graphical user interface with the thorough functionality and stability required by users who edit text eight hours a day. It provides intensive support for development in a wide variety of languages, text processors, and other tools, but at the same time can be used productively by just about anyone who needs to edit text.
  • Emacs
    GNU Emacs is an extensible, customizable text editor—and more. At its core is an interpreter for Emacs Lisp, a dialect of the Lisp programming language with extensions to support text editing. The features of GNU Emacs include content-sensitive editing modes, including syntax coloring, for a wide variety of file types including plain text, source code, and HTML.
  • SciTE
    SciTE is a SCIntilla based Text Editor. Originally built to demonstrate Scintilla, it has grown to be a generally useful editor with facilities for building and running programs. It is best used for jobs with simple configurations -- I use it for building test and demonstration programs as well as SciTE and Scintilla, themselves.

WYSIWYG editors

  • Quanta Plus
    Quanta Plus is a highly stable and feature rich web development environment. The vision with Quanta has always been to start with the best architectural foundations, design for efficient and natural use and enable maximal user extensibility. We recognize that we don't have the resources to do everything we would like to so our target is to make it easy for you to help make this the best community based desktop application anywhere.
  • KompoZer
    KompoZer is a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use WYSIWYG web page editing.

    KompoZer is designed to be extremely easy to use, making it ideal for non-technical computer users who want to create an attractive, professional-looking web site without needing to know HTML or web coding.

Non-WYSIWIG HTML editors

  • Bluefish
    Bluefish is a powerful editor targeted towards programmers and webdesigners, with many options to write websites, scripts and programming code. Bluefish supports many programming and markup languages, and it focuses on editing dynamic and interactive websites.
  • Screem
    SCREEM is a web development environment. It's purpose is to increase productivity when constructing a site, by providing quick access to commonly used features. While it is written for use with the GNOME desktop environment in mind it does not specifically require you to be running it, just have the libraries installed.

    Unlike most other web site / HTML editors SCREEM does not provide a WYSIWYG display of pages. Instead you are presented with the raw html source in its editor window.

Remote desktop to a Windows desktop/server

It's actually easily done through rDesktop. It comes pre-installed with Ubuntu, and can be started from the command line by typing: rdesktop <ip>. Or by going to the application menu > Internet > Terminal Server Client. This will include a graphical front-end for your connections.

This'll open a new window, with your Remote Desktop session started, connecting to your specified IP (over RDP). It has a strange issue with some keyboard-layout that matches mine when logging in, but suddenly changes once I'm logged in -- giving me a semi qwerty/semi azerty layout. Annoying, but it still works.

I also had an issue when pressing "WINLOGO + R" inside a Remote Desktop session, which would start the Magnifying Tool in Windows, but it would remain active, even when closing rDesktop.

Evolution has Exchange Mailbox support

The default mail client installed, Evolution, can interact with Microsoft's Exchange.

When you first start it, you should choose Microsoft Exchange as the server type in Evolution. The username you need to enter is "DOMAIN\User Name", which could be "mycompany\john" if "mycompany" is the domain name to which the user "john" belongs.

The OWA URL is the webmail-url for your exchange installation, without the "/exchange/"-suffix. So only the webmail address, like "https://exchange.company.com".

When you click "Authenticate", the Mailbox-name (the field right below it), will be entered automatically. If it doesn't, you can just add your username there (it's usually your mailbox name, too).

Accessing your SAMBA shares (Windows share, such as a NAS)

Go to "Places" > "Connect to a server" and select "Windows Share" from the list. The "server" is either the IP or hostname of the computer you're trying to reach.

The share is the share-name, defined in Windows. You can also access a specific folder, in that share, by entering a value for "Folder".

WINLOGO + D to return to the desktop

I'm used to pressing the shortcut "WINLOGO + D" to return my view to the desktop. You should use "CTRL + ALT + D" in Linux -- not a large adaption, so I can still live with this.

MP3, DVD & other proprietary software

Since the decoders for MP3 aren't licensed as "open source", the default Ubuntu install doesn't include support for it. Neither does it have Java Runtime Environment, LAME (audio codec), Flash Support and DVD playback. You can easily get this, by installing the following package (it's harmless, and it'll help you a long way!)

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

Or you can use the Add/Remove Programs tool to search for "restricted extras", and install it via there.

Install VLC

Again, this is personal taste, but I still feel VLC is one of the best media players out there. It supports a lot of audio/video codecs, such as MPEG(1/2/4), XViD, Divx, MP3s, DVDs, ... Install it by issuing the following command.

sudo apt-get install vlc

Using qBittorrent as your BitTorrent client

After trying numerous clients (Deluge, Azureus, kTorrent, ...) I founds qBittorrent to be the best. It's a lightweight and very fast download-client, perfect for your every day needs.

Run your Windows apps on Linux using Wine

While it's not a perfect solution, you can run a bunch of Windows apps (Office, Internet Explorer, some games, ...) using Wine on Linux. Wine works as an extra layer on your machine, that translates special Windows requests of your programs to commands that *NIX can understand. Here's a useful link on how to download & install Wine. If you're willing to spend a few bucks, there's a GUI on Wine as well, called Bordeaux (what's in a name).

Make sure to take a look at PlayOnLinux, if your only interest is running games on Linux.

Use the Add/Remove Applications tool

While Linux is very powerful through the command line with "apt-get", sometimes developers make it easier for you to use a nice graphical user interface. Through the Applications > Add/Remove ... tool you can easily install and uninstall new applications. You can search for any application that is in the repository of your distribution (a remote location where loads of applications can automatically be downloaded & installed from), it'll provide for dependencies, the download, installing & possible uninstalling of your tools.

Silence the internal beep

If you're used to working through the command line, you'll find tab-completion making extensive use of the internal beep of your computer. This is both highly annoying and stressful -- especially late in the evening, when others in your household are already sound a sleep.

Go to System > Preferences > Sound and continue to the System Beep-tab. Disable it by unchecking "Enable system beep". You can enable a "visual beep" (a small flash of your screen), to keep you alerted of events.

Don't panic

While it'll seem tempting from time to time, don't make the switch back to Windows from Linux. I have the luxury of having my desktop running Ubuntu, and having a laptop nearby with Windows XP on it -- just for the few inevitable things that require Windows. I'm slowly converting my working place entirely to a Linux environment, but it won't go easy and in 1-2-3. It takes time to find alternatives to popular Windows tools, and to get used to a new operating system. Hang in there, you'll manage ;-) .

There are still some things for which I'm searching an alround Linux variant:

  • Source-code highlighted editor (such as notepad++, or Zend Studio in Windows)
  • WYSIWIG HTML editor (like Dreamweaver -- which is godlike for quickly changing small layout items)
  • RSS reader (using FeedReader on Windows)

If you have alternatives ... please share :-)

*Update*: in case you're looking for internet TV on your Ubuntu, here's a good tip: Miro -- Internet TV for your Ubuntu.

24 comments on “Making The Switch To Linux – Keep In Mind … (10 Ubuntu Tips)
  1. ger says:

    Source-code highlighted editor:

    Kate -> http://kate-editor.org/
    Gedit + plugins -> only good with plugins
    komodo http://www.openkomodo.com/ -> very good!
    quanta

    WYSIWIG HTML editor
    http://quanta.kdewebdev.org

    RSS reader
    liferea
    akregator

    More software at:
    http://gnomefiles.org/

  2. Ben says:

    Most all editors in linux have some way of highlighting through either a plug in or option. Jedit was good when I started as it has a more windows feel – but vim is worth learning.

  3. Matti says:

    I’m familiar with vi and vim (and have my share of command-line experience through server management), but there’s still a great lack of auto-completion that one gets used to from editors such as Zend.

  4. Matti says:

    Hi Vadim, I fixed your apt://vlc link
    The mean blog can be nice, too ;-)

    Good hint though, I didn’t know it was possible!

  5. Piotr says:

    Other highlighting general purpose editors:
    – nedit (coming from windows, you should like it),
    – emacs (very powerful, but different key-bindings)

    HTML editors (non wysiwyg):
    – bluefish,
    – screem

  6. Phil says:

    Source code highlighting? Applications > Accessories > Text Editor. It highlights tons of languages.

  7. minuteman says:

    a rather good WYSIWYG Html editor

    http://www.kompozer.net/

    it’s a fork of the famous NVU and it uses Mozilla Gecko html engine.

  8. yena says:

    another good editor, available both on Windows and Linux, is SciTe.

  9. Zac says:

    Thanks for that. Two years with Ubuntu for me.

  10. Raghu says:

    Hey, thanks for the well written article. Have been a developer over debian and a big of Ubuntu

  11. LinuxCanuck says:

    There are many alternatives for Ubuntu to the repositories. Deviating from the repositories in many distros can break the package manager, but not so with Ubuntu.

    A good source of Ubuntu packages (and many will install in Debian as well) is getdeb.net. Just download the DEB and click on it to install. There is alos Playdeb from the same people for gamers. Also you can install Ultamtix which is Automatix reincarnated courtesy of the developers at Kubuntu.

    If that isn’t enough you can get even more packages with CNR from Xandros (formerly owned by the defunct Linspire). It has an Ubuntu client (at least for now).

    For Wine users, install Wine-doors from Getdeb.net instead of Wine. It is Wine with a menu of programs that give more compatibility. Also you can configure Wine to mimic XP. The default is Windows 2000. Just go to Wine | Configure Wine and click the down arrow at the bottom of the configuration screen.

  12. Eirik Hoem says:

    You know, Zend Studio and Zend Studio Eclipse are available for linux as well :)

  13. markux says:

    Editor: geany and gedit+plugins ( I use also pspad and notepad++ with wine)

  14. About WYSIWIG tools you can check JBoss Tools for Eclipse – http://www.jboss.org/tools/download/index.html I think commenters above have mentioned all major editors.

  15. Raghkiran says:

    Why dont you try Super Ubuntu (http://hacktolive.org/su) .I am using for past few days and loving it.

  16. Binny V A says:

    There are also the huge IDEs. Some examples include
    Eclipse
    NetBeans
    KDevelop
    etc.

  17. Tim Jones says:

    Very nice article. Thanks!

    Another nice tool for configuring Wine via GUI is the FREE Wine Doors application. It’s available as a Debian package, so it’s really easy to install in Ubuntu.

  18. web says:

    The tips listed are by no means be Ubuntu specific, I don’t get it, why every piece of text about Linux desktop is labeled “Ubuntu” these days.

  19. Matti says:

    @web: true, some of these are general Linux tips – but since I was migrating to a Ubuntu environment, and some of these are fairly ubuntu-specific (rdesktop pre-installed, internal beep, add/remove apps, …), so it made sense to go with a “ubuntu tips”-title.

    And why most pieces of linux desktop are labeled “ubuntu”? Do your math; it’s the most widely used Linux Desktop distributed (for non-tech, non-geek people), it’s only common sense that there are more ubuntu-desktop topics than others.

  20. Victor says:

    KDE users: you can use “kcontrol”, the KDE Control Center to set your ‘Show Desktop’ shortcut to Win+D, instead of having to get used to Ctrl+Alt+D. Navigate to ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ and find the ‘Show Desktop’ entry.

  21. Angelica Jankins says:

    Heya are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  22. Matti says:

    @Angelica; have a look at WordPress (http://wordpress.org/), it’s very easy to use.

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