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Linux tips and tweaks

Upgrade your PC to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS

Ubuntu 10.04 has been out for about a month now, but if you haven't yet upgraded to this latest version then now is a good time to do so. It's never a good idea to be the first person to try new software because firstly there is always lots of other people trying to do the same and delays and queues are inevitable, and it might also contain bugs. The number of people trying to download Lucid Lynx as it is called, has now fallen, so you won't have any bandwidth problems and if there were any initial problems, then there has been time to fix them. It should therefore be a good time to upgrade your Linux distro (or even add it to your Windows PC).

Although it is called 10.04, this is not a minor point release of version 10. The 10 is the year and the 04 is the month, so this is Ubuntu 2010.April edition. You might also see LTS added to the version and this stands for Long Term Support. Basically, this means that it is a major release and there will be bug fixes and patches for a long time to come. This makes it a good one to install.

There are two ways to upgrade to Ubuntu 10.04 and you can perform a clean install or upgrade an existing Ubuntu system. A clean install is always the best because it wipes the system clean and starts with a fresh slate. Any problems with the previous installation are cleared and you have a fresh start.

Of course, wiping the disk to install a new copy of Ubuntu means that you will lose all the files on the disk, including documents, music, videos, software, and so on. You will need to copy everything to an external disk drive before you start and then copy everything back again afterwards. It's not that difficult. Software is the main problem and you'll need to download all your favourite applications again, which could take quite some time. They'll need to be installed, which isn't always quick and easy in Linux and may involve finding libraries, compiling software, and fiddling around with configuration files.

The other option is to uprade the existing Ubuntu installation. This is best with a recent version that is up to date with the latest patches and fixes. To upgrade Ubuntu you need a fast internet connection. Just go to the System menu, then Administration, Update Manager. It'll probably say that an upgrade is available, but if not, just click the Check button to check for updates. Click the Upgrade button to start the process. (For some strange reason a 9.04 installation said that an uprade to 9.10 was available, so maybe you need to upgrade to 9.10 first and then upgrade to 10.04 afterwards. That's probably a good idea.)

Upgrade UbuntuThe time taken depends on the computer and the internet connection, but it took two hours to upgrade my PC - one hour was spent downloading the files and then another hour installing them. Only one question was asked and that was whether to keep the existing Grub configuration or not and the default was to keep it. Eventually when everything has been downloaded and installed, you'll be prompted to restart the system and it'll come up with the new 10.04 desktop.

There were a few minor issues with the upgrade that are worth mentioning. It uninstalled the Screem HTML editor I was using to update this website. Apparently it's not supported in 10.04, so it appear that you may lose some software in the upgrade depending on what you have installed. I've installed Bluefish, but it doesn't suit me as well and I'll probably install Komodo Edit instead.

Another problem was that windows didn't have title bars, so they could not be resized or moved. They were stuck wherever they opened. The solution was to go to System, Preferences, Appearance and then the Visual Effects tab. It was set to None (which doesn't mean no window title bars, by the way), and changing it to Normal restored the interface to normallity.

The third issue was with VirtualBox. This breaks whenever there is a kernel update and it's not specifically a 10.04 issue. A message box pops up that tells you to type a command into the Terminal and when you've done this, VirtualBox runs fine again.

One final problem was with the Grub boot menu that appears when the PC is switched on. An new kernel is installed and this means an extra entry on the Grub menu and the default OS was changed to Ubuntu. I have it set to Windows, so the default OS had to be changed back. It's straightforward to prune the Grub menu and remove unwanted kernels and to set the default OS to start.

Overall, the upgrade worked OK and there were only minor issues that were easily rectified. As always, if you have a problem with your Linux installation, don't think that an upgrade will fix it. Upgrades are for systems that are working correctly. If you have any sort of problem then a clean install is recommended.

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