Ubuntu Linux--the most popular Linux distribution on the planet--preserves the spirit embodied in the ancient African word ubuntu, which means both "humanity to others" and "I am what I am because of who we all are." Ubuntu won the Linux Journal Reader's Choice Award for best Linux distribution and is consistently the top-ranked Linux variant on DistroWatch.com. The reason this distribution is so widely popular is that Ubuntu is designed to be useful, usable, customizable, and always available for free worldwide.
Ubuntu Hacks is your one-stop source for all of the community knowledge you need to get the most out of Ubuntu: a collection of 100 tips and tools to help new and experienced Linux users install, configure, and customize Ubuntu. With this set of hacks, you can get Ubuntu Linux working exactly the way you need it to. Learn how to:
Install and test-drive Ubuntu Linux.
Keep your system running smoothly
Turn Ubuntu into a multimedia powerhouse: rip and burn discs, watch videos, listen to music, and more
Take Ubuntu on the road with Wi-Fi wireless networking, Bluetooth, etc.
Hook up multiple displays and enable your video card's 3-D acceleration
Run Ubuntu with virtualization technology such as Xen and VMware
Tighten your system's security
Set up an Ubuntu-powered server
Ubuntu Hacks will not only show you how to get everything working just right, you will also have a great time doing it as you explore the powerful features lurking within Ubuntu.
"Put in a nutshell, this book is a collection of around 100 tips and tricks which the authors choose to call hacks, which explain how to accomplish various tasks in Ubuntu Linux. The so called hacks range from down right ordinary to the other end of the spectrum of doing specialised things...More over, each and every tip in this book has been tested by the authors on the latest version of Ubuntu (Dapper Drake) and is guaranteed to work. In writing this book, it is clear that the authors have put in a lot of hard work in covering all facets of configuring this popular Linux distribution which makes this book a worth while buy."
-- Ravi Kumar, Slashdot.org
Chapter 1 Getting Started
Make Live CD Data Persistent
Customize the Ubuntu Live CD
Dual-Boot Ubuntu and Windows
Move Your Windows Data to Ubuntu
Install Ubuntu on a Mac
Set Up Your Printer
Install Ubuntu on an External Drive
Install from a Network Boot Server
Submit a Bug Report
Use the Command Line
Get Productive with Applications
Chapter 2 The Linux Desktop
Get Under the Hood of the GNOME Desktop
Tweak the KDE Desktop
Switch to a Lighter Window Manager
Search Your Computer
Access Remote Filesystems
Tweak Your Desktop Like a Pro
Sync Your Palm PDA
Sync Your Pocket PC
Customize the Right-Click Contextual Menu
Download and Share Files with the Best P2P Software
Jonathan Oxer is the founder and technical director of Internet Vision Technologies in Australia, as well as the past president of Linux Australia, the national organization for Linux users, developers, and vendors.
Kyle Rankin is a system administrator who enjoys troubleshooting, problem solving, and system recovery. He is also the author of Knoppix Hacks, Knoppix Pocket Reference, Linux Multimedia Hacks, and Ubuntu Hacks for O'Reilly Media. He has been using Linux in many different forms since 1998, and has used live CDs to demo Linux and troubleshoot machines -- from DemoLinux to the LinuxCare bootable toolbox to Knoppix.
The tool on the cover of Ubuntu Hacks is a tuning fork. This device, used primarily to tune musical instruments, is a two-tined, U-shaped metal bar that emits a pure tone of a specific pitch when struck against an object. It was invented in the early 18th century by British musician John Shore, a trumpeter in the employ of King George I. The "pitch fork," as Shore referred to it, has endured in modern times as an extremely useful tool for orchestral musicians. Its sonic properties have also been harnessed for sundry purposes, ranging from timekeeping in quartz watches to sonopuncture therapy.
The cover image is a stock photo from Photodisc Images. The cover font is Adobe ITC Garamond. The text font is Linotype Birka; the heading font is Adobe Helvetica Neue Condensed; and the code font is LucasFont's TheSans Mono Condensed.
A few months ago I wrote a detailed review of Ubuntu Hacks for the Tucson Computer Society. At this time, I thought there were several interesting tips and I rated the potential use of this book very highly. The tips I tried well written and worked ... a good combination!!
Since this time, I switched from Kubuntu to Ubuntu. I also began using Debian Etch seriously. I find the book very useful for both Ubuntu and Debian.
Most hacks applied to Linux in general so, besides becoming a Ubuntu reference, it is a general Linux reference. One thing I find helpful is the author's use and explanation of apt-get and the fact that, besides showing the command, he shows the on-screen results of the command.
From installation through downloading and installing packages from source through adding repositories, everything I've tried works. There isn't much more I can say about the book than that.
The sub-title of this book is "Tips & Tools for Exploring, Using, and Tuning Linux" which turns out to be appropriate on a number of fronts. Some of the initial "hacks", notably Hack #1 _ Test-Drive Ubuntu and Hack #5 _ Install Ubuntu, aren't hacks at all, but rather are straightforward instructions on getting started with (i.e. exploring and using) Ubuntu Linux. But, despite that minor quibble, the book does contain lots of good information and advice for Ubuntu users, and really does have some interesting hacks.
As with all the books in the "Hacks" series from O'Reilly, there are just too many individual items between the end covers - 100 hacks in all - to be able to do justice to them in a short review article. Consequently, I will have to settle for providing an outline of the available material, and reserve my detailed comments for a few favourite tips and techniques.
The book consists of ten chapters, commencing, as noted above, with tips on getting started with Ubuntu; moving rapidly to tweaking the desktop, using multi-media applications, configuring laptops and input/output devices; through package management, security issues and administrative functions; to the intricacies of running virtual machines and configuring a variety of Linux-based servers.
Even users with some prior familiarity with Ubuntu shouldn't discount the initial series of hacks for "getting started". These include instructions on how to customize the Ubuntu Live CD (Hack #4), moving Windows data and settings to Ubuntu (Hack #7), and installing Ubuntu on an external USB drive (Hack #10).
Hack #19 _ Search Your Computer looks interesting as it describes the use of a utility program called Beagle to index and search (a la Google Desktop) files, E-mail messages, and so forth for specified items of interest. The program is said to be a huge improvement on the Find File command in the Nautilus file manager and so should be a worthwhile addition to the base Ubuntu system. Similarly, the CUPS-PDF utility (Hack #26) provides the very useful feature of being able to create a PDF file from any application with a print command.
Should you need to rip tracks from an audio CD, you might find Grip (Hack #32) to be a useful tool. Did you know that you can burn CD's and DVD's using Nautilus? If not, check out Hack #33. Need to extend the time that you can run your laptop on battery power? Hack #40 will tell you how to throttle back the speed of your CPU, dim your display, and slow down your hard drive's rotation speed, all to save power. There are also lots of tips on wireless networking, keyboards, mice and touchpads, and even how to hook up multiple displays.
Chapter 6 covers the gamut of software installation using package managers and should be extremely useful for new Ubuntu users. If, like me, your modus operandi is to read instructions, help files, and manuals as a last resort, it may take a while before you discover the extensive world of applications software outside of the Ubuntu CD. So, take my advice - do yourself a favour, sit down and read this section of the book. All of the neat applications described so far, and a whole raft of other software products, are available through the judicious use of a package manager. You will learn how to use apt-get on the command line or, more likely, how to download and install applications through the use of the Synaptic (under Gnome) or Adept (under KDE) graphical package managers. Another useful tip (Hack #60) shows how to add software repositories, such as universe, to the list accessed by your preferred package manager.
One remarkable (to me) tip is buried as part of Hack #54 - Manage packages from the command line. While I am content to use the graphical interface provided by Synaptic for package management, the subject tip involves creating shortcuts for Linux commands by adding lines (i.e. individual commands) to ~/.bashrc. Now, the latter is not described any further, but the form of the commands listed (alias agi='sudo apt-get install') suggests that this is a means of storing a short text string that will be interpreted as the specified command. So, now all I need is a long command string that I will use frequently in a Terminal window.
Information on a number of security issues is available, including the use of sudo to run commands as root, modifying user permissions, the use of Firewall Builder to define firewall functionality, file encryption utilities to keep data secure, and ClamAV to fight viruses (in files shared with Windows of course!) Some useful administrative functions covered by the book include editing configuration files, mounting filesystems (e.g. disk partitions), and synchronizing files between two folders and/or devices using the Unison utility program.
My favourite technique in the whole book is Hack #45 - Make videos of your tech-support questions. This involves the use of a utility called Istanbul to record a series of actions, and their results, as a video file. The suggestion is that a new user (your "Uncle Gussy") could send such a video to a more experienced Ubuntu user (his nephew!) who would then troubleshoot a problem remotely and provide the correct operating procedure.
The final two chapters of the book are perhaps the most esoteric. Chapter 9 - Visualization and Emulation - provides tips on running Windows' applications under WINE. I wasn't sure why anyone would want to do this. It seems to me that there is an equivalent, more than adequate, open-source program for just about any Windows' software one cares to name. However, the book's author suggests that the main use may be to run Windows-based games on Linux boxes, which I suppose makes sense.
Actually, there is one tip that makes the whole book really worthwhile to me personally. Hack #88 - Play Windows Games includes a section titled "Run Blasts from the Past" and details how to run DOS programs using the DOSBox utility. I happen to have a custom database program that runs under DOS, an application that I use frequently, and find that it works flawlessly under DOSBox's shell.
The visualization section of the book will also help you to run Ubuntu inside Windows (hard to believe one can do so!) and to setup virtual machines. The final chapter - Small Office/Home Office Server - provides lots of advice on setting up Ubuntu-based file servers, web servers, mail servers, proxy servers, DHCP servers, and domain name servers - some of which I never knew existed!
So, don't get put off by the seemingly simplistic nature of the first few "hacks" on getting started with Ubuntu. The book has great tips and techniques that should appeal to just about every Ubuntu Linux user, whatever their level of knowledge and expertise with this operating system and its applications.
Ubuntu Hacks - Tips & Tools for Exploring, Using, and Tuning Linux
Jonathan Oxer, Kyle Rankin and Bill Childers
First Edition June 2006
About the reviewer:
Alan German is a member of the Board of Directors of the Ottawa PC User's Group, based in the capital of the Great White North. To read more of his personal trials and tribulations (mainly with conflicts between Windows and Linux), and a few successes with various flavours of Linux, including Ubuntu, see the series of articles "Exploring Linux" at:
I purchased this book as a rough-cuts version, and have been with it through the final release. Ubuntu Hacks is complete with some great information on how to give Windows the boot with a more than suitable alternative. The book is geared more toward desktop users than would-be server admins. The final chapter does walk one through setting up Samba as a BDC for a small network.
The only hang-up I found was in a section regarding installing software from source code. Generic instructions provided, do not cover the common errors that occur during this operation.
Ubuntu is a distro that is easy to obtain and install, but most of the hacks in this book can be applied to any GNU/Linux installation.
There are immediate fixes and solutions for the usual problems encountered by home and business users, whether they come from Windowsor Mac. For example, there are solutions for the use of wireless devices, input-output devices, PDA, 's (Palm or WindowsMobile), as well as sections on what to do if something goes wrong.
There is continuity between the chapters, which allows the user to learn gradually about "hacking" the system. It, 's not just a "list of tips from A to Z".
There are chapters devoted to security and the use of multimedia no only reproducing multimedia elements, but also creating and editing them.
In short, if your problem has happened to someone, this book has the solution.