You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains!
By Gerry Patterson
I have heard so much about Ubuntu in the last
couple of years, that I resolved to one day download a copy and evaluate.
Eventually it became a matter of necessity. My Suse workstation had been
fried, due to lack of attention from other members of my family, who persisted
in closing the cupboard door when the machine was going. I had another machine
which was a good candidate for a testbed, so I finally bit the bullet,
downloaded an ISO and burnt a boot CD.
What I found was a well integrated suite of Open Source Software, that just
First impressions were good. The startup screen is slick and simple. Ubuntu found my sound card and seemed to recognise all of the devices in my computer. It found my NFS server, my samba network, the DHCP server and assigned itself an IP address. All very smart and easy to use. At the risk of sounding cliche, I can say that the install was seamless. I was rather worried about one of the disks on the workstation. It had a Redhat 7.3. partition with Oracle on it. I did not want to lose any of the data on that partition. Ubuntu left the disk alone. It also recognised that there was Redhat 7,3 partition there and told me that it had added an option to grub configuration to boot from the 2nd hard disk. I still haven't managed to find out where the grub configuration is kept (I was expecting /etc/grub.conf). But I am sure it is around somewhere.
Ubuntu has been configured for GUI users. I usually find this annoying, especially when things don't work. However Ubuntu seems to have plain, well designed menus, that are easy to use and uncluttered. And most pleasing of all, everything seemed to work!
Of course, after playing with the menus for a while, I opened a terminal and started to use the computer as I have always done. Most of the configuration settings seemed OK. The arrows in vi seemed to behave in a odd manner when I was in "input" mode. Look all the other Linux distributions I have evaluated, vi is actually a link to vim. No doubt I will be able to fix that when I create my .vimrc file (and possibly update to a more recent version of vim.
I started configuring the computer. I am used to logging in as root and changing various configuration files. There were a number of changes I intended to make and I wanted to get it done quickly. The system had been setup so that the root password was secret After a bit of experimentation, worked out how to alter the root password so that I could login as root.
I started to make changes to the various files, when it occurred to me that I should approach the system as the average user might. I decided to go back to my user account and use the menus, which would give me the typical user experienced that the designers of Ubuntu intended.
I was a little amused that after using the Network administration tool to configure the network to use a static IP address rather than DHCP, I had to re-boot in order for this to take effect ... and flow on to the changes I had made to fstab ... I thought that was carrying the Windows compatibility a bit far! OK maybe that is a bit unfair, since I had installed the desktop version. And a lot 0,1,0 of the things I was doing were really server type operations. Also I had changed the network but not restarted it.
Ubuntu has been designed so that users can run configuration and administration menus using sudo At this stage I indulged in some RTFM, which I should have done first. I should also say that if you are unsure about the pros and cons of logging in as root then you should definitely NOT not do it. I have used "sudo", however, in a medium to large multi-user environment, there is a a certain amount of administrative overhead. A little googling found a page on ubuntu.com about RootSudo, which explained The Ubuntu Way in more detail. After I got the hang of it, I decided to use sudo always in Ubuntu, rather than su If you are an experienced Unix user, I urge you to read the SudoRoot page (above), rather than spending time working out how to alter the root password, as I had just done. For those of you who want to alter the root password, you'll find it quickly enough how to do it. However, I urge you to take the time to read the article after which you should be convinced that there is no need to know the root password in Ubuntu.
The owner of the computer (i.e the person who installs the software is made an administrator. Before carrying out an administrative function he/she is prompted for his password. This is in order to pass it along to the sudo command (which uses passwords to validate you are who you say you are). A list of users who have access to sudo, is kept in the file /etc/sudoers
Exploring the command prompt, I was pleased to find things like w3m, my favourite browser, and aspell as part of the standard install. But for the GUI users, there was Firefox 18.104.22.168. By clicking on Applications->Add/Remove, I could add most of the plugins found with any modern GUI browser. I was still not sure about "flash" however, I recalled that there might have been a produced for Linux that fixed a well known vulnerability in flash I decided not to enable flash. But this decision was soon overturned by my children (see later).
Navigating The Desktop
Next I tried the file browser, which on the Feisty Fawn distribution is Nautilus 2.18.1. The menus were simply laid out, and easy to use. I don't like icon view, so I quickly found the Edit->Preferences and changed the default view to List View. Then when I pressed the refresh button it changed and remained thus. I copied some files from an NFS drive. This all seemed to work very similar to the windows panels, except that it was fast and didn't waste time trying to fool me about the speed, by showing pictures of "flying documents". The Nautilus copy, like the MS-Windows copy, preserves the timestamp in the target, which IMHO is a good idea.
Furthermore Nautilus integrates with other Gnome applications. It has a bookmarks toolbar, which is convenient when navigate across multiple hosts or in a networked environment.
Clicking on zip archives, gzipped tarballs or bzipped tarballs launches the GUI Archive Management Application called File Roller On this machine it was version 2.18.1. It displays a list of the files in the archive and in many ways it behaves similarly to Nautilius. Files can be deleted, renamed or extracted to folders. The help document for File Roller describes some handy features. Conversion between different archive formats (e.g. .tar.gz to zip, .tar to .tar.bz2 etc). Files inside the archive can be viewed (but no modified). Creating archives Clicking on zip file contained inside a gzipped tarball opened the zip archive in File Roller. Very Neat!
Clicking on documents and spreadsheets, while in Nautilius started Open Office 2.2. And clicking on text files would open them in gedit. Clicking on an mp3 file did not work, at first. Instead a download was invoked ... I was asked would I like to download the codecs to play this file?. I responded in the affirmative and some codecs were installed and the mp3 file then started to play. How easy was that? This was user-friendly territory As user friendly as any windows distribution.
Next I tried burning ISO images in order to evaluate the software Ubuntu uses to control the CD burner. Clicking on an ISO in Ubuntu opens it as if it was a disk. Neat! Right clicking on it brought up the option to burn it. I chose the option and away it went and burnt at maximum speed. With many previous Linux distributions, the GUI to the CD-burner has often been one of the less reliable packages in the collection. Too often, programmers who write GUI wrap-arounds spent more time on making them look "cool" then on making them work. This is why I have eschewed these in favour of the Unix command line utilities, which always burn quickly, reliably and without buffer over-runs, under-runs or any other glitches. Unreliable GUI CD burners are not confined only to previous versions of Unix. I have been "burnt" with similar buggy software on Windows. The Ubuntu CD/DVD Creator worked perfectly and quickly. It was easy to use and the menus were simple and well laid out.
At this stage, I was ready to declare Ubuntu Feisty Fawn the smoothest most well-integrated Linux Distribution ever. You could give this one to your grandma, and pretty soon she'd be teaching you how to suck eggs. Ubuntu is really impressive! I was seriously considering changing my work habits. Finally in the 2007, I was contemplating changing my principal work-station to be a GUI. Yes folks, I still work at a character-based terminal, because I consider GUIs to be rubbish.
Now I may have been very fortunate. Perhaps my hardware was a configuration that was well suited to Ubuntu. For the record this is the hardware configuration:
Gigabyte 7VT600 1394 SocA MB 2 x WD 80GB 7200rpm 2M HDD (10/100 Base Lan Integrated) Origo 56K Internal PCI Modem MSI 16X DVD ROM ADATA 512M DDR 400 RAM Lite On 851S 8X DVD RW 1.44M Floppy Drive Sapphire 128M Radeon 9200 TV
And after making many less than complementary remarks about the GUI paradigm, I will have to admit that there is some software that requires a GUI. Applications like Graphics design, CAD, photo editing and storage, video and animation, etc. Until recently, When I wanted to use such software I would switch to a Suse workstation, which was now defunct. So after installing Ubuntu, I tried looking at some photos, then had a quick look at GIMP.
MP3 And Music
The default configuration in Ubuntu will launch mp3 files in Totem movie which behaves a lot like Windows media player. This is OK for playing a few songs and listening to occasional podcasts. But if you are half serious about music you could do worse than install the Amarok audio player, which is as good an MP3 player that I have every encountered. In the default configuration it uses SQLite for the database. The installation wizard claims that it is possible to use postgres, which is a very serious RDBMS. And Amarok is a serious audio player.
Apart from extensive play lists, and the ability to sort on Title, Artist, Year, Album and Location, Amarok also offers queue management, an Equaliser with a large number of pre-sets, repeat (album and track), random, the ability to connect to a store to purchase titles, and to communicate with other users. As each track plays, a small translucent box flashes briefly on the screen with the Title, year, album, location and duration. Assuming of course that you have stored this information in the standard MP3 tags when you constructed them Don't worry if you didn't If you click and edit a tag Amarok will write it back to the file.
And if you are more than half serious about music you really have to check it out. And if you are really serious about music, then this little package would be reason enough on its' own to go and get yourself an Open Source system.
Next, I tried to use Ubuntu to check out some videos. And this is where I took a wrong fork in the road. Up until this stage I had been cruising down the Ubuntu highway, on auto-pilot. Here is where I turned off the main road onto a little path that quickly turned into dangerous, winding, slippery, mountain goat-track, over-grown with weeds, blackberries, littered with boulders and peppered with land-mines lain by the US Senate (which is responsible for that reprehensible legislation known as the DMCA).
And if I could go off on a little tangent (rant?), it seems that generally members of the Open Source community have a high standard of ethics. After all most of them are concerned about free speech, the commonwealth of ideas, learning, open standards etc. All of which are fairly lofty ideals. And so most Open Source developers and advocates would not encourage anyone to break the law, even if the law is daft, which is the case for the DMCA. Sadly Australia has also signed up to emulate this stupid American legislation, which attempts to prevent the dissemination of knowledge about digital video technology in order that media oligopolies can maintain their privileged position in the marketplace, and thus continue to extract unreasonable profits from consumers.
And so, I suspect that the reason why the support for this technology in Ubuntu is so poor, is because of the legal minefield that surrounds any work on digital video. Meanwhile back at the ranch, billions of Windows users are downloading software which is technically illegal. Many systems have been and still are being sold by smaller computer shops (and sometimes the larger ones), with such software pre-loaded. If it is not pre-loaded it is quite easy to obtain from the Internet. Much of it was made possible by research carried out by people in the late nineties (often using open source systems). It has now migrated to Windows and there are millions of downloads offering free Windows software for ripping, burning, duplicating etc. All of which had contributed to the ever increasing popularity of Microsoft computer systems. Lately it seems that Microsoft have cuddled up to the media giants, and offered them a solution which will put a stop to all of that naughty (technically) illegal copying. I say "technical", because the amount of copying that people do these days, on an individual basis is probably proportional to what was done in the days of the video tape and the audio cassette, two technologies which the media oligopolies tried unsuccessfully to suppress. And with the exception of professional and semi-professional pirates, a lot of the copying activity today would constitute what used to be deemed "Fair Use" ... i.e. making copies of the material you have purchased, copying movies from a broadcast because you are not at home to see them, creating copies because the originals in your household are in danger of being destroyed or lost, creating copies because you are student of "media studies" etc.
The size of the black market for Microsoft is one of the main reasons for the popularity of the platform. Reading between the lines of all the disclaimers on the Ubuntu site, the reason why the average user can't just click and smoothly download some software tools for copying and authoring video DVD (as Windows users can) is because it is "technically" illegal in countries like the USA and Australia.
The DRM for Vista will potentially end such activity in the Windows world, If it is as successful as previous Microsoft distributions it could lock users permanently into an oligopolistic vertical distribution model. Which just might be the end of the computer age as we know it. If consumers are just a flock of dumb bleating sheep who will follow blindly and stupidly as the are herded into the DRM slaughterhouse, then it will be the end of competition, democracy and free speech. The average CEO's annual salary will eventually rise beyond the level that ordinary mathematics can measure, and us working folk will be selling our children into slavery in order to pay our mortgages. So we won't even notice.
On the other hand there is an element of risk (for Microsoft) in the Vista DRM gambit. Many of those billions of Windows user might be less than impressed when the Vista Gollem takes its' mask off and they finally get to meet the new boss! It could even trigger the long overdue consumer backlash, which the Teflon-coated Microsoft has avoided so far. Vista could turn out to be Microsoft's OS/2. But I won't predict anything.
Also the media oligopolies may find that their new friend Microsoft is not an entirely trustworthy ally. If the MS DRM gambit pays off, they may suffer a fate similar to that which befell many of Microsoft Business Partners in the nineties --- that is they could wind up being hung out to dry and left to swing in the breeze. Microsoft is big enough and ugly enough to take on the biggest and baddest media monopoly these days, and have them on toast. But like I said I don't want to make any predictions.
OK, enough ranting ... When my video didn't work, I opened a terminal and started to use apt-search, apt-get, dpkg etc to download packages. I also started to modify, and generally fiddle with various settings etc. Much of which, I now believe, disabled all that beautiful automated, slick, user-friendly updating. Ahh well C'est la vie ... Thank you so much! American Senate (and Australian Senate who so obligingly rolled over for them)
I did discover a few things that I really needed to know. As ever I used the command line. And here they are:
- My DVD player had not had the region code set. The disk that came with
it was a Window disk. I did not have windows on the machine. However there
is a very good utility that I found with apt-search, called
regionset. It can be downloaded with the following command:
sudo apt-get install regionset
Then run the command "regionset" and choose your region. There is a maximum of 5 region changes for most DVD players.
- I found many links which recommended Automatix. The Automatix site is listed below in the bibliography I installed the Automatix suite, using the command line they recommended on their site.
- It is possible to copy disks in Linux, however I must urge that all
readers respect the law of the land. For those of you for whom it
is legal to copy disks here is how you might do it. For the others, you
can read it.
In Ubuntu, the disks are auto-mounted. On the system I had installed these would be mounted as /dev/hdc. The following command:
dd if=/dev/hdc of=dvd_tmp.iso bs=2048Which will make an ISO image of the disk. And in theory this could be burnt to DVDRW. however you may find that the resulting disk can only be played on a Linux computer. The utilities vobcopy and dvdrtools can be downloaded with these commands:
sudo apt-get install vobcopy
sudo apt-get install dvdrtools
Next, if you are using an ATAPI drive, found out the ID of your drive with this command:
dvdrecord -dev=ATAPI -scanbus
I found that these commands would make a backup copy of a DVD5 (4GB or single layer) disk:
vobcopy -m # This will make a directory in the current folder # with the same name as the label on the disk # So, if the name is FOLDER_NAME, enter these commands: genisoimage -udf -o dvd_tmp.iso -dvd-video FOLDER_NAME # this will create the ISO image: dvd_tmp.iso # now try to discover your (pseudo) SCSI address: dvdrecord -dev=/dev/hdd -scanbus # if this is the first time you have burnt a disk, use something like this: dvdrecord -v -dao -dummy speed=8 dev=/dev/hdd dvd_tmp.isoYou won't need the dummy run once you get it working. (You may have to find out your device address). I could not get the copy process to work with a Dual Layer Disk. Eventually I worked out that the problem was the burner. None of the error messages hinted that there was a problem with the hardware. I bought a Pioneer DVR-112D dual-layer DVD burner from a local computer shop for the princely sum of $38 (amazing how the price on these has dropped). I replaced the Lite On 851S with this new acquisition and all of the software that came with Ubuntu worked out of the box, or with a little tweaking.
# that will have done a dummy run (laser off), if all was ok then do this: dvdrecord -v -eject -dao speed=8 dev=/dev/hdd dvd_tmp.iso
- There are several utilities that are useful for reducing those
over-blown DVD+R DL disks down to fit on a single (dirt cheap) DVD-R disk.
Some of the ones I found with apt-cache search were:
dvd95 - DVD9 to DVD5 converter vamps - Tool to re-compress and modify the structure of a DVD k9copy - DVD backup tool for KDE dvdshrink - DVD Copier/Archiver k3b - A sophisticated KDE CD burning application - Medibuntu package
- I tried DVDShrink, which appears to be a bash script. I
had a little difficulty with it at first, until I figured out that in order
to get it to work, it must have a console (typical bash script!). In
Ubuntu it is necessary to configure DVDShrink (choose
configure on the main menu) to use "gnome-terminal" as the "console
to use" (this was not the default when it was installed). Also, the
linked devices would not work. With my system setup it was necessary
to set the reader device to /dev/hdc (it would not work with the
linked device name of /dev/dvd), and similarly I set the burner
device to /dev/hdd (NB: This will vary according to your system
configuration -- if in doubt consult an experienced user). The script
gave good results when it worked. However it was a sensitive little
possum. When I attempted to back DVDs, it would often stop working at
a certain point with a message like this:
**ERROR: [mplex] Can't find next AC3 frame: @ 6415872 we have a448 - broken bit-stream?The exact message would vary (since each DVD had different sizes etc). The dvdshrink script calls some common Linux programs (like tcprobe, tccat, tcextract, mplex etc). I decided to read the script and see if I could figure out how make transcoding process and skip over the broken frame. I wasn't able to, but I did discover the following interesting facts:
- There is some documentation for dvdshrink in
/usr/share/doc/dvdshrink. It makes a good starting point (always
a good idea to RTFM). Some of it may not match what the script
actually does. So the next step should be to read the script. It
is a bash script, so if you are familiar with the shell, it will
be easy to understand.
- /usr/bin/dvdsfunctions is a bash script that is "sourced" by
dvdshrink. It is worth reading also. This will give further
insights into the inner workings of dvdshrink (without going too
deeply into the actual internal workings of the DVD encoding).
- PID of dvdshrink process is contained in the ~/.dvdshrink.pid (or
you could just use the command ps -ef | grep dvdshrink.
- It seems that dvdshrink was designed to be run in a "terminal
window", possibly a KDE Konsole. It can be run from the command
prompt inside a terminal window (provided the SHELL is
bash). In fact (IMHO) dvdshrink should always be run from
a terminal window. The dvdshrink script is more reliable when
called from the command prompt. The error message from mplex does
not occur. It may even be a little faster.
- The GUI interface still has some use. It is easier to use when
configuring the dvdshrink script. It is possible to configure it
using dvdshrink --configure but this initialises
everything to the default setting and then asks you to enter the
variables one at a time (see the function sconfigure in
the "sourced" code in /usr/bin/dvdsfunctions). The GUI remembers
the previously entered settings and you only need to alter the
one you want to change.
- Leave the workstation alone while dvdshrink is ripping and/or
burning. Otherwise you might end up with some expensive "drink
- There is some documentation for dvdshrink in /usr/share/doc/dvdshrink. It makes a good starting point (always a good idea to RTFM). Some of it may not match what the script actually does. So the next step should be to read the script. It is a bash script, so if you are familiar with the shell, it will be easy to understand.
- The dvd95 utility seemed promising. It was much quicker than
DVDShrink, (because it was a binary). It seems to have a more
integrated GUI. However, it had problems with the many disks while
copying. These problems seem to occur with the same disks that had
"problems" with the dvdshrink (GUI version). It makes me suspicious
that some of these problems might be due to some subtle gnome/KDE
migration bugs. Dvd95 did not leave a logfile either. Or if it did, I
could not find it. So it may be more difficult to fix this
- The k9copy also had problems similar to dvd95 and (the
GUI version) of dvdshrink. However it made some very compact
- The k3b application was the easiest to use. However it does
require libmad and its' own library, libk3b2.
- As it turned out the most useful utility was dvdrip. This offered the
ability to rip to the hard disk, and to automatically transcode to
.avi Since what I really wanted was some means to RIP DVDs and then
store them safely where they would not be ruined by sticky little
fingers. This was very very handy. dvdrip would copy a DVD to its'
own folder on the hard drive as .vob globs. These could then be
assembled into a .avi with the transcode option. The only problem I
found was that sometimes the audio track might get out of sync with
the video. This was remedied with the -D option. For example. I found
that a DVD had been ripped and the audio started 6.5 seconds before
the video. I looked in the avi folder and found a rip file with the
same name as the project. e.g. if the the project was called my video
the file would be called myvideo.rip in the avi/001 folder. In this
folder was the number of frames per second. In this case it was 25.
So in the transcode screen I added "-d -163" and the audio was synced
with the video
- I tried DVDShrink, which appears to be a bash script. I had a little difficulty with it at first, until I figured out that in order to get it to work, it must have a console (typical bash script!). In Ubuntu it is necessary to configure DVDShrink (choose configure on the main menu) to use "gnome-terminal" as the "console to use" (this was not the default when it was installed). Also, the linked devices would not work. With my system setup it was necessary to set the reader device to /dev/hdc (it would not work with the linked device name of /dev/dvd), and similarly I set the burner device to /dev/hdd (NB: This will vary according to your system configuration -- if in doubt consult an experienced user). The script gave good results when it worked. However it was a sensitive little possum. When I attempted to back DVDs, it would often stop working at a certain point with a message like this:
Probably all these programs will improve rapidly with age. This is usually the case with open source programs.
One problem I discovered was that the default UID started at 1000. The
UIDs had started at 500 when I had setup my original account. I needed to have
the same number (500), otherwise I would not have write permission to my NFS
folders. I had encountered this problem in previous Linux distributions, and
it is easy enough to fix. All that is required is to change the values in
/etc/passwd and /etc/group and then use the following 2 commands:
find / -uid 1000 -exec chown 500 \;
find / -gid 1000 -exec chgrp 500 \;
However, I was fearful about doing this Ubuntu, because I was uncertain about the consequences for "sudo". I was afraid of breaking my own account and being left stranded without a path back to master administrator account.
I used "sudo -i" to do all of the above changes as "root", and re-booted with my fingers crossed. This seemed to work ok, However Ubuntu appears to have been configured to recognise UIDs greater than 1000 as regular or desktop user IDs. UIDs less than this seem to be considered special accounts (for daemons and dedicated application accounts). The remapped UIDs will no longer appear in the Administration->Users and Groups menu. This might be configurable (i.e. the cutoff for regular users), however I was not able to find where it is configured.
Would You Care For Some Wine With That Ubuntu
One of the main reasons I keep a Microsoft laptop is the accounting package that I use. The MYOB accounting package was recommended by the ATO (Australian Tax Office) and they even offered a rebate to customers who purchased the software at the time the GST legislation was brought in. This caused an almost universal roll-out of MYOB in Australia. My accountant uses and recommends MYOB, like many accountants in this country. Although there are several very good Open Source accounting packages, the amount of work involved in conversion is considerable.
So I tried the WINE Windows emulation package. The package installed ok. I then copied the MYOB folder to my home folder. I discovered later that the installation process changes the properties of files that end in .exe These files are classified in Nautilus as DOS/Windows Executables and the Open With property is set to WINE. Out of curiosity, I tried this:
ls -l /nfs/ > junk.exe
Then I checked the file with Nautilus. It had been designated as executable. However when I placed the cursor over the file, it changed to plain text document and stayed that way from then on (in the current session). Nautilius has a few smarts (maybe runs file or some equivalent utility on files before operating with them.
As it turned out MYOB was missing a DLL. When I started MYOB from the command line I discovered that the file MFCOLEUI.DLL was missing. I copied it from the Windows machine into the MYOB folder. There may be a way to put these into a general area, that can be shared by other applications. However, MYOB was the only application that I intended to run in WINE, so I did not delve to deeply into the setup. It seems that (by default) the root directory of the local host is assigned to Z:\. Also within the users HOME folder, a hidden folder called .wine is created. This can be inspected at the command prompt with
Or from within Nautilius by choosing Show Hidden Files, and then selecting .wine in the HOME folder. Within this folder are the dos devices, and there is also a drive_c folder, which contains Program Files and windows. I was not able to find a manual in that came with the installation, and had to rely on the Internet for information about WINE.
My version of MYOB is version 10. It is quite an old version, but I have no inclination to upgrade. I was pleased to discover that everything in MYOB seemed to work. There were a couple of idiosyncrasies that (at first) I did not think were serious. One of these was the navigation of the "Reports" menu. The reports menu in MYOB is selected with the mouse or by pressing Ctrl-I. This opens a menu with Tabs for the various report areas. I have setup MYOB to use the default configuration for selling Services. It has the following titles on each Tab
- General Ledger
- GST / Sales Tax
- Card File
At this point, I decided that despair was my only hope! Maybe I would have to hang on to at least one working version of Windows! Then by pure serendipity I stumbled on work around. The secret is to click with the mouse and then use the key-combination! So in order to get the "GST / Sales Tax" menu, one must click on "GST / Sales Tax" and then press Alt-X.
Hints, Tips etc
Unfortunately I lost a lot of these. However here is some of the things I encountered while using Ubuntu:
- Setup the floppy for formatting:
setfdprm -p /dev/fd0 1440/1440 fdformat /dev/fd0
- Problems with missing libraries when compiling C programs (e.g.
apt-get install build-essential
- Copying Amarok from one system to another. If the versions, file paths and data is preserved, just copy the contents of ~/.kde/share/apps/amarok. Alternatively, copy the data and let Amarok re-scan the files (many tags are kept in the individual songs). If you want to copy the collection, it is kept in collection.db (default SQLite installation).
The following are some of the links I discovered while testing out Ubuntu:
Ubuntu (Linux distribution). If you are totally new to Ubuntu, or you want a succinct summary of the history and pedigree of Ubuntu, this Wikipedia entry is regularly maintained and should be up-to-date with information regarding the current release.
Seven Post-Install Tips for Ubuntu 7.04 This is a regular online publication, so this link may not stay active for long. It is a simple list of things to do to tune Ubuntu. Several of these tips (esp eye-candy downloads) are IMHO a waste of time. Ubuntu's clean minimalist look and feel is the best I have every encountered. But at least one of the tips, namely download automatix is worth heeding. A much more thorough post-install list is the following ...
Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) How-To. Comprehensive list of post-install tips. Many of these are for dual boot setups however, and may not be necessary.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Read it and weep! Maybe you needed reminding about the DMCA and effect it could have on the dissemination of knowledge.
Installing Automatix with APT This just works. However, I could not get gxine to work. Although this might have been due to some of the other packages I downloaded while I was experimenting. There is also an easy installation which I did not try. Details can be found here.
DVD ripping and transcoding with Linux. A general article on ripping and transcoding.
Transcode Wiki. Home page of the well-known suite of Linux packages for transcoding video and audio codecs. This has a lot of capabilities and would make a good addition to the toolkit of any user who is serious about video and audio. However you need to be a seasoned command line veteran to derive full value from transcode.
HOWTO Backup a DVD. A very good article on reading and writing DVDs. Essential reading.
Amarok Home Page. A music player for Linux and Unix.