Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ubuntu Remixed

I upgraded to Jaunty Jackalope (9.04) over the weekend. Technically it wasn't an upgrade, rather a clean install. My setup makes it convenient to do this... I have three partitions - Windows, Ubuntu and DATA which contains all my docs/pics/music/movies. I tend to skip every other release and when I do want to "upgrade", I just back up my home directory (which is on the Ubuntu partition) to DATA and do a clean install.

Way back in Oct 2006, I wrote about my first foray into the Ubuntu universe. Two and a half years and five releases later it's thrilling to see how far its come and how much better the experience has gotten on that same machine. All issues listed in that post are virtually non-existent. One of Jaunty's specific goals was improving startup time and they delivered superbly... < 25 seconds on my laptop. I like the consistent new notification system as well. With every new release, it gets more and more polished.

Anyway, I thought I'd list the steps I take to get my setup going after every clean install...
  • backup home directory: cp -R /home/mohnish /media/data/mohnish
  • clean install
  • install updates
  • restore home directory: cp -R /media/data/mohnish /home/mohnish
  • create sym links in home directory to media on DATA:
    - ln -s /media/data/Docs Docs
    - ln -s /media/data/Music Music
    - ln -s /media/data/Pics Pics
  • install apps
    - media codecs (audio/video playback, java, flash): apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
    - gnome do ('crazy delicious' once you're used to it): apt-get install gnome-do gnome-do-plugins
    - listen (music during setup is essential): apt-get install listen
    - opera (small, wicked fast and built-in mouse gestures... the best browser out there): grab .deb package from
    - skype (convenient, saves money for cheapies like me): grab .deb package from
    - vlc (the 'everything' media player): apt-get install vlc
    - picasa (organize pics with nice web album integration): grab .deb package from goog
    - googleearth (spy on your neighbourhood) - grab .bin file from goog
    - gnomad2 (organize music on creative nomads/zens): apt-get install gnomad2
    - sopcast-player (for those 5am Liverpool footy matches (with chinese commentary)): grab .deb package from goog code
    - miro (get some gyan): apt-get install miro
All this noise about "apps stores" lately... the linux distro repos are the orignial and ultimate app store aren't they? Moreover, all the app settings are in my restored home directory. So they start up like nothing's changed... firefox/opera with their last sessions, miro with the same feed list, skype with my account.

I happened to have access to an Asus Eee 700 netbook. It comes with Xandros linux with a weird Windows XP like look and limited functionality ("basic mode" with no access to the terminal/can't install any app (only certain pre-selected ones)/etc...). Ubuntu Remix targets these types of netbooks. It's a full ubuntu system with added packages for the UI specifically tuned for small screen sizes.

With no cd/dvd drive, the way to install it is via a bootable usb drive which can easily be created using usb-imagewriter. The installation process is the same good ol ubuntu wizard. It ended up sucking up ~2.5 gb of the 4gb harddisk. There are things to tune/optimize which should reclaim some of that space as well as speed things up. For now, I'm just happy to get a chance to play around with it :)