Ubuntu installation

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Ubuntu is a popular Linux distribution, best suited for desktop computers. It is based on Debian, therefore the packaging (*.deb) works rather well.


  • This page so far is by no means a configuration and installation guide, but it contains some information that could be of use to some people. Daniel K. Schneider decided to put some of his installation notes in this wiki, so he won't loose them.
  • I am be no means a systems expert. As you can see from other entries in this wiki I deal with lots of stuff and lots of it I don't really master ...
  • Feel encouraged to add stuff :)

Identify your machine and system

Find out what distribution you already have:

more /etc/issue
uname -a

Find the serial number for your machine (e.g. a Dell service tag)

sudo dmidecode -s system-serial-number
However, this may not work. E.g. on my new Dell Precision tower, this fails (as of June 2017)

Installation documentation

Start with the official Ubuntu site (sometimes a bit lengthy):

Sometimes it is useful to hunt down short installation documentation on other sites than Ubuntu. If you are looking for an other practical, short and excellent installation guides (and that may include how to add non-free software):

After installing (Thanx a lot to you guys, the articles below really did help me to get a somewhat decent working environment - Daniel K. Schneider 22:06, 20 September 2012 (CEST))

Upgrading Ubuntu 18.04 to 20.04x LTS

Firstly upgrade to the latest 18.04

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Then do it

sudo do-release-upgrade

I did this on June 3 2021 and it worked without any extra work, including my double screen configuration. Maybe because I got an older PC, but I am still happy :) The whole procedure took about 90 minutes where I had to answer a few questions, using the default answer.

lsb_release -a

LSB Version:	core-11.1.0ubuntu2-noarch:security-11.1.0ubuntu2-noarch
Distributor ID:	Ubuntu
Description:	Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS
Release:	20.04
Codename:	focal

Upgrading Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04 LTS

For major update, I strongly suggest waiting until the official update path is cleared, i.e. wait until sudo do-release-update works. I once forced the install and it miserably failed. So I had to install a new system and that went well (I only to change my uid/gid and mount server partitions again and, of course, reinstall all the software, but that was extra work ....)

Firstly upgrade to the latest 16.04

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt dist-upgrade
sudo apt autoremove

Early adopters:

sudo do-release-upgrade -d


sudo do-release-upgrade

Upgrading a desktop

I tried before the official upgrade and it broke the system (the same as described for version 16.x below)

The process broke in the middle since some dependencies were not met.... For now I don't know if this can be fixed.

sudo apt install -f
Reading package lists...
Building dependency tree...
Reading state information...
Correcting dependencies... failed.
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
 glib-networking : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.55.0) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 glib-networking-services : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.55.0) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 gnupg : Depends: gnupg-l10n (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1) but it is not installed
         Depends: gnupg-utils (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Depends: gpg (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Depends: gpg-wks-client (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Depends: gpg-wks-server (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Depends: gpgsm (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Depends: gpgv (= 2.2.4-1ubuntu1.1)
         Breaks: python3-apt (<= 1.1.0~beta4) but 1.1.0~beta1ubuntu0.16.04.1 is installed
         Breaks: software-properties-common (<= but is installed
 libc6-dbg : Depends: libc6 (= 2.23-0ubuntu10) but 2.27-3ubuntu1 is installed
 libc6-i386 : Depends: libc6 (= 2.23-0ubuntu10) but 2.27-3ubuntu1 is installed
 libgail-3-0 : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.49.4) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 libglib2.0-bin : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (= 2.56.1-2ubuntu1) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 libgoa-1.0-0b : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.52) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 libgoa-backend-1.0-1 : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.52) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 libgtk-3-0 : Depends: libglib2.0-0 (>= 2.55.2) but 2.48.2-0ubuntu1 is installed
 python-apt : Depends: libapt-inst2.0 (>= 1.4~beta3) but 1.2.26 is installed
              Depends: libapt-pkg5.0 (>= 1.4~beta3) but 1.2.26 is installed
 python3 : PreDepends: python3-minimal (= 3.5.1-3) but 3.6.5-3 is installed
           Depends: libpython3-stdlib (= 3.5.1-3) but 3.6.5-3 is installed
 python3-minimal : Depends: python3.6-minimal (>= 3.6.5-2~) but it is not installed
 python3.6 : Depends: python3.6-minimal (= 3.6.5-3) but it is not installed

Probably I first should try removing packages installed from a PPA, e.g. Inkscape.


Anyhow, I just killed the machine and installed a new 18 version. Reinstalling can be justified if you need several new software, e.g. Inkscape and do not want to upgrade these via an external PPA. Before you do so, backup your home and maybe some other configuration files.

Upgrading Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04 LTS

This upgrade was available since July 21 2016 (16.04.1 LTS)

Upgrade to latest 14.04 (not sure that this is really needed)

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get autoremove

Upgrade to 16.04 LTS

sudo do-release-upgrade

If this doesn't work, try

sudo update-manager -d

Upgrading a DELL Precision tower

Even in April 2017, a high end DELL desktop workstation comes with Ubuntu 14LTS (pre-installed). I got a 5810 tower with a Xeon E5-1620 v3 (Four Core HT, 10MB Cache, 3.5GHz Turbo, a 500GB SSD and a NVIDIA® Quadro® M4000 8Go graphics card. That system does not want to upgrade, or at least mine would not.


  • Doing the steps above broke the GUI (Can't log in anymore). This is not related to upgrading to 16LTS but still a big hassle (see below)
  • From a terminal (hit CTL-ALT-F1), the do-release-upgrade command won't find any upgrades. It says:
No new release found

Someone (at DELL) decided that you should not update, so iff you believe that you should upgrade, then change this setting even before any upgrading / updating to newer 14LTS packages.

  • Edit /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades and set Prompt=lts

If your system is new (like mine), you could use the Nano editor, e.g. type:

sudo nano /etc/update-manager/release-upgrades


sudo do-release-upgrade

This went pretty well, except that the the GUI was still broken. Nvidia drivers are proprietary and even if you install new ones from the graphics repository (see below), I could not login.

To fix that:

  • Disable secure boot (sorry I was too fed up to take notes, but), the most important part is;
  • run a terminal: CTL-ALT-F1, then type:
sudo update-secureboot-policy
  • Then enter a password you can remember, e.g. yours, and then immediately reboot. It will then ask you to enter the password you just gave in a weird way, character by character.

Now I could log into the system, but the there was no desktop (i.e. compiz was broken). There was only the graphics layer. With that you can still open open a terminal (right click) but it cannot be moved since compiz did not work. In order to get the control center, you could type in terminal:

unity-control-center --overview

... but there is nothing in there that would fixing the problem. However, you can create a new user (see below)

Solution: Kill yourself and get a new better self. Do do so:

  • Create a new user with root privileges, e.g. call it admin (and so make sure that he/she got these privileges !!)
  • Kill your user
  • Create a new one. Also consider getting good uid and gid values, e.g. the same that you would have on other machines in your network.


  • This is not the first time I have trouble installing or upgrading a Linux desktop. Windows is so much easier. However once Ubuntu is up and running I feel more comfortable with it.
  • On the positive side, this DELL machine does seem to be fast, e.g. will load 3.5 Mio Meshes into Meshlab really fast. It even can play games through Steam. It also is very silent.

Ubuntu upgrades

Which version do I run


lsb_release -a

Minor upgrades

From the command line, to update the repository information:

sudo apt-get update

To upgrade

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
will do the upgrade fairly smartly (make sure that all dependencies work)
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
will upgrade the existing packages to the latest version

Hash Sum mismatch issues

If something like GPG error: http://mirror.switch.ch hardy-updates Release: The following signatures were invalid: BADSIG 40976EAF437D05B5 Ubuntu Archive Automatic Signing Key <ftpmaster@ubuntu.com> happens, you might change the server. Either,

  • Edit /etc/apt/sources.list


  • change with menu System->Administration->Software sources

Or get a new key (2) Identify the missing ones

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-key adv --recv-key --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com XXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXX is the missing key.

Major upgrades

  • You can upgrade from LTS to LTS (however that takes a little bit of waiting, e.g. 12.04 LTS will upgrade to 14.04.01
  • Upgrade first the existing installation
  • Clean repository information. I.e. remove those that don't work anymore (read this (command-line) or that (details, search for "removing").
apt-get dist-upgrade

To upgrade

do-release-upgrade -d

PHP/MySQL trouble with a 10.04 to 12.04 upgrade

  • Read this and similar. It helped. I had to force remove remove everything mysql before I could install a 5.5 version + all the other things that were remove (like php-mysql).
  • PHP can't find some extensions. Install these again, e.g.
apt-get install php5-gd php5-mcrypt php5-suhosin

Networking, file systems and users

Defining a fixed IP number

By default, a workstation will use numbers from DHCP and that should work without problems.

Alternatively, you also can, in some institutions, that DHCP always provides you with a fixed address. Ask. This solution works in our institution.

Finally, if you want to add manually a or several fixed IP numbers.

More simply, on a workstation, use the "Network" tool in the System settings. Click on Options, then the various tabs ...

Mounting external NFS partitions

Read more about this topic:

Installing mnt and mount points

It's a bad idea to keep your files on your personal PC. Since we have sun servers with daily backup I just mount partitions via NFS. NFS may not be included in your install

apt-get install nfs-common
mkdir /mnt/YYY

then edit /etc/fstab and enter line(s) like this

XXX.unige.ch:/export/home /mnt/YYY nfs defaults 0 0

Then mount these

mount -a

Changing your user id to make it compatible with the one that sits on the server

  • If you installed from the standard distribution, your user is is not compatible with the one you have on an other machine, so you have to change it. You can use the user management tool in the System menu (click on "unlock").
  • Create a new group first and use the gid from your server (type id- a on the server machine), e.g. to create a group "stars" with gid 6001:
groupadd -g 6001 stars
  • To change your user id is more tricky, can't do this while you are in the desktop. An easy method is to use the usermod tool (after logging out from the GUI and login in with another user !!), e.g.to change user dks to uid=6000
usermod -u 6001 dks

or if you want to change the uid too:

usermod -g 6000 -u 6001 dks


If the mount -a doesn't work there could be a firewall problem. You will have to open NFS communication channels. On the server machine, check the 2049 port.

grep nfs /etc/services

... might tell you what ports nfs needs, e.g.

nfs		2049/tcp			# Network File System
nfs		2049/udp			# Network File System

Now check if these ports are open

sudo ufw status

Change if necessary on the server machine (see below for more details)

ufw allow from your_client_ip to any port 2049 proto udp
ufw allow from your_client_ip to any port 2049 proto tcp
sudo ufw reload
replace your_client_ip by the ip (or domain) of your client machine

Exporting partitions with NFS

Become root, or add "sudo" in front of all commands ...

Either NFS or Samba allow to share a partition with other (client) machines. In order to use NFS:

1) Install NFS on your server machine

apt-get install nfs-kernel-server

2) Configure the directories to be exported by adding them to the /etc/exports file. For example:

/export/data mymachine.yourorg.org(rw,sync,no_subtree_check)

will export the directory /export/data/ for the host (computer) mymachine.yourorg.org with (with-permissions). Do not use something like:

/export/data *(rw,sync,no_root_squash)

I.e. only give specific machines access to your partition and do not let your client machine be root.

2b) If your client machine (e.g. a personal Linux computer) is not in the DNS, then you can either provide an Internet number or define your machine in the /etc/hosts file, e.g.

129.xx.y.z  mymachine

Then in the /etc/exports use something like

 /data mymachine(rw,sync,no_subtree_check)


 /data mymachine(rw,sync,no_subtree_check) mylaptop(rw,sync,no_subtree_check)



After doing so, type in the shell

exportfs -a

And check:


3) Mount the exported directory on your client machines, as already explained above. Firstly make sure that nfs-common is installed.

apt-get install nfs-common 
  • Create an empty directory, e.g.
mkdir /mnt/data
  • Edit file /etc/fstab on your client machine
 servermachine.x.y:/export/data /mnt/data nfs defaults 0 0
  • Then type on your client machine:
 mount -a (on your machine)

If it doesn't work, look at the log files of the server machine. Most likely you failed to give permission. Also, you should restart the NFS daemon on the server. Type:

/etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server restart

4) User id and group ids

If you want to write files in the server, then user and group id's must match on both machines....

Creating groups

To create an ordinary group of users:

groupadd -g GID_number group_name


sudo groupadd  -g 1200 toto

Creating users

  • On your desktop machine, you can use the system menus
    • Unlock (top right) in the user accounts tool, then click on the +.
  • On a server, you can use useradd. Make sure that user and group id's match those of other machines in case you plan to mount partitions (e.g. a web server directory on your desktop).
useradd -ggroup_name -uNNNNN -m -p XXXXX login_name
group_name = name of primary group
NNNNN = uid number, e.g. 160001
XXXXX = password
login_name = login + home directory name, e.g. dks

If you want to add the user to other groups, use the -G flag or use usermod. E.g.

usermod -Gadmin,adm dks
will add the user dks to the adm and the admin group.

A simpler way to make someone admin, is to use the GUI (User Accounts tool in the System tools)

id -a [login]
will display an id of a user

Using Samba

List verbously all users

  • sudo pdbedit -L -v

Add a user (Samba V3)

  • sudo smbpasswd -a sambausername
  • Depending on your setup you also may have to give permission to use shares. Otherwise, we suggest using a kind of group permission in your /etc/samba/smb.conf file, e.g.
              path = /pics
              comment = Data
              writeable = yes
              valid users = @tourists
              create mask = 0664
              directory mask = 0775

SFTP demon

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Read: OpenSSH server

Copying files from the old machine

Via scp

An easy way to copy files is to use the scp command which is installed by default.

Exemple - copy recursively a directory from old remote host to the current directory in new (local) machine. On your new, local machine, type something like:
cd ~/some
scp -r username@remote.host:/home/user/some/source_dir/ . 

Via rsync

The rsync program allows to synchronize files between two machines and also can be used to copy and can be recommended to distracted people...

Make sure to include either a trailing slash in the destination folder or go there ! dry-run does what it implies and you should use it first.

Copy to remote (dry run)
sudo rsync --dry-run -azvv -e ssh /home/path/folder2/ remoteuser@remotehost.remotedomain:/home/path/folder2
Get a directory from remote
cd target
rsync -avzh user@remote.host:/home/user/source_dir .
Synchronise Music from remote without displaying (wait for a few minutes or hours)
rsync -azh schneide@ .

Via Tar and ssh

  • Using tar archives is probably the fastest way, e.g. from the old machine do something like:
(cd /home/path && tar czf - . ) | ssh user@new.machine 'cd /home/path && tar xzf -'



Ubuntu 18 easily detects two high resolution monitors (probably under the condition that you did install the third party modules, i.e. an option when you install the system)

Most older Linux distribution's installers (at least the free ones) can't handle some slightly more fancy hardware automatically. Usually you have to do either of two things

  1. Configure the drivers from the ubuntu desktop (if your are lucky) and then use nvidia-settings
  2. Hand edit the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file to tweak things.

Also read:

  • Remember to save every version (preferably on an other machine or in a wiki) that worked.

High resolution monitors for Ubuntu 16.x and sound

I got

  • a DELL Precision T5810 with a Xeon E5-1620
  • a Quadro M4000 graphics card with two monitors
  • a DELL UP3216Q 32 (3840 X 2160) at 60Hz
  • a DELL U2715H 27 (1440 X 2560), i.e. rotated vertically, at 59.95 Hz

The card has four DisplayPort (DP) slots and the (combined) X Screen 0 has 5280x2560 pixels (1397x677 millimeters)

Connecting a high resolution (as of 2017, i.e. 4K) and a half-high resolution monitor does work for both Ubuntu 16 LTS and 18 LTS.

Main trouble when connecting the monitor was that I did not push in the DP connector enough on display side and the system would not detect the monitor. Only after switching the cable I figured it out. Also when you close the "door" at the back of the screen, the DP can become loose again...

Using DP seems to affect sound output, i.e. after connecting a DP monitor sound will be gone ...

  • Either install pavucontrol and use Line Out built-in Audio (the normal Sound controls will not detect this)
  • Or connect the loudspeakers directly to the monitor. In that case they will be detected as HDMI/Display Output in both. The normal "Sound" settings also will see the speaker now (HDMI/DisplayPort/GM204 High Definition Audio Controller). That is the solution I adopted.

Installation of Nvidia Drivers

This is not required usually. Only do it iff you run into trouble.

Some documentation

Firstly, you should know what drivers you have got. In a terminal, type:


The should you see something like the following, i.e. driver version and card model.

Fri Apr 28 18:02:59 2017       
| NVIDIA-SMI 381.09                 Driver Version: 381.09                    |
| GPU  Name        Persistence-M| Bus-Id        Disp.A | Volatile Uncorr. ECC |
| Fan  Temp  Perf  Pwr:Usage/Cap|         Memory-Usage | GPU-Util  Compute M. |
|   0  Quadro M4000        Off  | 0000:03:00.0      On |                  N/A |
| 46%   38C    P8    13W / 120W |    179MiB /  8111MiB |      0%      Default |

Alternatively, try


If you don't see anything, then there is no driver installed (or you may not have an Nvidia card).

To install or replace a drive, make sure that your machine allows installiong 3rd party drivers.

If you cannot see or use the desktop:

CTRL-ALT F1: To get a terminal

Get rid of old nvidia drivers

sudo apt-get purge nvidia-*

Install the repository (if not already done so)

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt-get update.

Figure out the name of the latest driver. There are several strategies:

  • Google
 sudo ubuntu-drivers devices

Install the latest driver

# sudo apt-get install nvidia-370 // Make sure to take the best driver you need. Best can be the latest, but not necessarily so...
sudo apt install nvidia-381

Adjust to high resolution screen in Ubuntu 16

Setting default fonts of all application is difficult in Ubuntu. You may have to change several settings using several tools. After an upgrade, settings may revert (so keep a note of what you did). Read more here (Adapt Ubuntu to a high-DPI resolution screen)

In Ubuntu 16, you easily can tune the size of menu bars. In the system settings go "Displays" and set the "Scale for menu and title bars", e.g. to 1.38 for a 3840x2160 32 screen and 1.2 for a 2560x1140 27

unity-control-center display

Fixing menu bars will not fix application fonts. You could change "universal access" fonts, but the applications that do respect this (e.g. terminal, thunderbird, ryhthmbox already do adjust font pixels. If you want to try nevertheless, type:

 unity-control-center universal-access 
Seeing --> Large Text; Slide to On


set layout.css.devPixelsPerPx to a value between 1.2 and 1.5 (I use 1.3 but I got good glasses)


  • Fonts are fine on the main screen but too big on the small 27 monitor that has a lower resolution
  • Best solution: Install font-size-changer plugin


  • Older Java applications are definitely the worst UI experience you can get. Not only you will have to cope with strange panel controls but also you won't be able to read anything. You can try Fix scaling of java-based applications for a high DPI screen who propose a python or a bash script to change resolution.

Adjust to high resolution screen in Ubuntu 18

Install unity tweak tools.

Upgrade the system first !

Installing only the tweak tool did not work ( schema com.canonical.notify-osd no installed). As of July 2018, do the following:

sudo apt-get install notify-osd
sudo apt-get install --reinstall overlay-scrollbar
sudo apt install unity-tweak-tool

The launch it and set Overview -> Fonts, Text scaling factor.

Firefox and Thunderbird: Do as explained in the previous section (Ubuntu 16). That being said, after changing the params in Firefox then ones in Thunderbird did change too. Rather freaky.

Lock Screen

You could set "turn off" and "sceen lock" through the standard GUI tool "Brightness and Lock". However, the max. amount you can input is 60 minutes for both.

to change in terminal to blacken after 1 hour and to lock after 2 hours:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.session idle-delay 3600
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-delay 7200

Check the settings:

gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-delay
gsettings get org.gnome.desktop.screensaver idle-delay


Cannot not see the desktop

You could try to deinstalling the current driver and replace by a new one. See above.

As of April 2017, you will get strange window decorations, fuzzy around the edges. Workaround: Restart the window manager

compiz --replace

Solution (maybe). Download the latest driver (see above)

sudo apt install nvidia-381

This will ask again to confirm that secure boot is disabled


... and answer the funny questions

After installing

sudo apt-get autoremove

System cannot wakeup after a longer suspend,

  • the screen remains black, using magic keys like CTL-ALT F4 won't work
  • You may see an "entering Power save mode"
Edit /etc/default/grub
Modify GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="" to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="nouveau.modeset=0"
sudo update-grub

You also can try hitting the SHIFT key a lot and then press CTRL-ALT-F1 (log in again)


Search System settings, then Displays. Ubuntu should autodetect your monitors. You then can change resolution, rotation and position for each.

For more advanced settings, search CompizConfig in the Dashboard, or type ccsm. You may have to install it and if you have a double monitor configuration, you must install the extras

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra
ccsm &
  • Click on Window Management
  • Tick "Put" (for double monitor)

In addition you could change the hot key for switching.

... Having to install an advanced configuration tool with advanced extras is totally ridiculous. Under Windows adding a second monitor is plug and play. Under Ubuntu this takes 1 hour ore more to figure out.

Ubuntu Nvidia Quadro FX + 2 digital monitors

Recent Ubuntu editions handle Quadro cards quite well (iff and after you managed to install the system, see above). Just use the display tool in the systems settings.

In case you are interested in older versions of Ubuntu, see the wiki history of this article.

Displaying remote programs with X11

According to this Stackexchange, If you are root on another machine and you get " X11 connection rejected because of wrong authentication." try the following (worked for me)

ssh remote_host -XY -luser
sudo su
xauth merge /home/user/.Xauthority

Install fonts

Most fonts one can download are zipped

Install with the font manager

  • extract the files
  • Most fonts are either in TTF (true type font) or OTF (Open Type Font)
  • In the file manager, double click on each file. In Ubuntu 16, fonts will be installed in the ~/.local/share/fonts directory. Since this can take time, see the next item.

Install by copying

  • Put them into the ~/.local/share/fonts directory or the /.fonts directory

Install system wide

apt install fontconfig
  • copy font files to /usr/local/share/fonts
  • sudo fc-cache -f -v

Sounds / Bell / beep

By default, Ubuntu disables the beep in terminals

To get it back (according to this)

  • Run gconf-editor and if the desktop | gnome | peripherals | keyboard | bell_mode setting is present then change it from off to on.
  • Add pactl upload-sample /usr/share/sounds/gnome/default/alerts/glass.ogg bell.ogg to the file ~/.xprofile
  • Add [ "$DISPLAY" ] && xset b 100 to the file ~/.bashrc

To get a bell in Emacs, read AlarmBell


Change window control buttons

By default the window control buttons are to the left in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS - the Lucid Lynx - released in April 2010 (annoying for older people like me who don't want to retrain procedures for no good reason).

To fix this, i.e. move the control buttons to the right as before: Press ALT-F2 or open a terminal and type gconf-editor. Navigate to /apps/metacity/general and change the button_layout to :minimize,maximize,close (the : must be in front).

Of course, you also could specify :maximize,minimize,close ....

Hot keys for the brave

So your GUI is stuck ....

To open a console terminal (no GUI), new login


Warning: In Ubuntu 16 one could use CTRL-ALT F1 etc. but that does no longer work !!

Then you can for instance restart the Window manager:

sudo restart lightdm

To go back to the desktop (Ubuntu 16)


To go back to the desktop (Ubuntu 16)


To see boot system messages


To restart the X server (your GUI)



Basically, an end-user can do most of this stuff with a GUI tool, i.e. the synaptic package administrator. However it is good to know a few command line things for 2 reasons:

  • You may have damaged your desktop when trying to install a new video driver
  • It's sometimes faster. In particular when you see on some website that this and this package should be installed in this and that order ...

A list of command-line stuff (you must be root or add "sudo" in front of each). Sometimes there are equivalent commands for abt-get and aptitude. See the apt howto at Debian.

Installing packages from a package archive

To fix the ubuntu archive mirrors

(if you can, you can also do this from the desktop package manager) Edit /etc/apt/sources.list

You should at least have:

deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy main universe multiverse restricted
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ hardy-updates main universe multiverse restricted

... but the it's better to use a nearby mirror, e.g. for Switzerland:

deb http://mirror.switch.ch/ftp/mirror/ubuntu/  (... same for the rest ...)

To check if there are any partially installed packages. It will try to complete these installations.

 dpkg --configure -a

To find a package XXX

 aptitude search XXX
apt-get install XXX

If this fails because of dependency issues, you then can try:

apt-get -f install
Cleaning and such

To detect and fix dependency problems

 aptitude -f install

To remove packages from the local cache

 apt-get clean

To update the package list

 aptitude update

To reinstall a package XXX that seems to be broken

 apt-get --reinstall install XXX

To upgrade conservatively

 aptitude safe-upgrade

To upgrade with a an message showing packages

 apt-get -u upgrade

To upgrade to a new release

 apt-get -u dist-upgrade

To really remove package XXXX

 apt-get --purge remove XXXX

If a package doesn't want to go (e.g. something went wrong during install, e.g. a decompression error and a crash in the middle of the install) and an installer (or you) wants it go, look for the package in /var/lib/dpkg/status and make it install ok installed Followed by:

 apt-get remove --purge XXXX
 apt-get update
 apt-get dist-upgrade (or whatever you planned to install)

Installing deb files

Sometimes, software is distributed as package for download, i.e. a *.deb file

To install it:

 dpkg -i XXX.deb

If you run into dependency error messages you'll have to add packages (no problem) or remove packages (avoid !).

Example (for the eXe eLearning authoring system):

 dpkg -i python2.5-exe_1.04.0.3532-ubuntu1_i386.deb

will give:

 Unpacking python2.5-exe (from python2.5-exe_1.04.0.3532-ubuntu1_i386.deb) ...
 dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of python2.5-exe:
 python2.5-exe depends on python-zopeinterface (>= 3.0.0-6); however:
 Package python-zopeinterface is not installed.
 dpkg: error processing python2.5-exe (--install):
 dependency problems - leaving unconfigured

First thing to do is to try something like:

 apt-get install python-zopeinterface

Information about packages

xxx is the package name or package file (*.deb) name

Getting information about a package
apt-cache search xxx
apt-cache showpkg xxx
apt-cache show xxx
To find a package on your system, if you know a file name
dpkg -S xxx_file_name


apt-file search filename
To list all packages and search for a name.
dpkg -l | grep xxx
To extract a deb file without really installing it
dpkg --unpack xxx.deb
To list the contents of a package file
dpkg -c xxx.deb

Holding packages

In theory:

apt-make hold packagename

However, this doesn't seem to work as expected, i.e. Ubuntu will try to update dependencies of a package that you not want to upgrade. For exemple if your package uses and old Java, it will try to update it, although it is gone from the repository.

Edit file /var/lib/dpkg/status

  • Remove unwanted old packages from Dependencies:

Boot files

Identify the kernel you currently use:

uname -r

List all installed images:

 dpkg -l linux-image-\* | grep ^ii

If the following does not work (e.g. because the file partition is full):

sudo apt-get purge linux-image-3.2.0-55


sudo dpkg --purge linux-image-3.2.0-55-generic
... etc.

Then, in order to complete a previous failed installation:

sudo apt-get -f install

Finally, now clean a whole lot of other old ones, eg.

sudo apt-get purge linux-image-3.2.0-58 linux-image-3.2.0-59 linux-image-3.2.0-60 linux-image-3.2.0-61

And remove other stuff you don't need

sudo apt-get autoremove

Other types of software packages

There exist several other distribution mechanisms, such as flatpack or appimages


App images contain all the libraries needed to run an application. It therefore should run on most Linux systems.

To use:

  • Download
  • Change permission to +x
  • Run it

For better integration, read this. In short, install AppImageLauncher. If you click on an appimage in the filemanager, it will copy it to a specific directory and integrate it in the system, e.g. you can dock the application later.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:appimagelauncher-team/stable
sudo apt update
sudo apt install appimagelauncher

This only will work with clean appimages. Those that are broken and need extra paramters do no seem to work. E.g. mendeley needs an extra --no-sandbox parameter.

./mendeley-reference-manager-2.84.0-beta.0-x86_64_cb2cce94615522bfd12079b8bad4cd8b.AppImage --no-sandbox &


Printers don't necessarily work automatically either:

Before connecting a network printer, it is likely that you need a a PPD file (a file that defines properties of your postscript printer). Get it from:

Example Infotec

(this needs to be verified)

Example for Infotec ISC 1032 (A low end color copy and printer machine)

Different Ubuntu user name ?

Read Use different username on CUPS remote printing

Summary (Quoted from above) According to the man page https://www.cups.org/doc/man-client.conf.html, a User directive could be placed in /etc/cups/client.conf or ~/.cups/client.conf

However, this didn't work for me in Kubuntu Trusty. What worked, was to export the CUPS_USER environment variable by adding the following line in ~/.profile:

export CUPS_USER=vangelis

X Windows

We run a few sun servers and I prefer to run emacs (GUI) on a remote machine instead of mounting all these file systems. Also I prefer to have a root terminal open instead of typing 'sudo' all the time. If you want allow for this:

Reconfigure the window manager (gdm)
  • Edit /etc/gdm/gdm.conf and change:


  • Then, you'll need to restart your X session (Ctrl + Alt + Backspace)
Allow remote hosts to connect
  • Then you can allow certain hosts to connect e.g. to allow root on your own machine type
xhost + localhost
  • To allow somebody on a different machine, type:
xhost + xxx.yyy.zzz
  • It's important not to to type 'xhost +'. Since anyone may then connect to your screen. However, type xhost + something is boring, so it's more practical to edit /etc/X0.hosts. Just put the names or IP numbers of authorized machines there.
If it doesn't work

You can install nmap to scan ports (X is on 6000).

  • If you don't have nmap:
sudo apt-get install nmap
  • Then type (as user):
nmap -v -A localhost

In some cases you may have to define the display of your machine on your client machine. On your client machine type something like:

export DISPLAY=xxx.yyy.zzz:0


setenv DISPLAY xxx.yyy.zzz:0

Or more practical, log into the the client machine like this:

ssh -XY


By default Ubuntu comes with some Java compatible version that is free. For some applications though, you need Java 7 or 8 from Oracle (Java formerly was made by Sun)

Java 11

(tested with Ubuntu 18 LTS)

There are several repositories from which you can get an installer. Alternatively, you could Java from Oracle and install it manually.

Read this:

 sudo apt update
 sudo apt upgrade


Java 8

(tested with Ubuntu 14.x LTS)

Read this:

Install it:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install oracle-java8-installer

Test it:

java -version

You should see something like

java version "1.8.0_77"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0_77-b03)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 25.77-b03, mixed mode)

Managing several version

Several java version can be managed through script, but at the system level there is a simpler solution

sudo update-alternatives --config java

Java in Firefox

Installing Java does not install a plugin in Firefox. Java is needed for many institutional applications and in addition there are many interesting applets for education. So let's go. Make sure that Java is installed on your machine (e.g. see above for Oracle Java).

For old Firefox version

The following will not work with a recent Firefox )> 53 I believe)

Install a a Firefox plugin that should enable a currently installed Open Java (did not work for me)

sudo apt-get install icedtea-plugin

Create a symbolic link to the Oracle plugin from the Firefox plugin directory (did not work for me)

cd /usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins
ln -s /usr/lib/jvm/java-8-oracle/jre/lib/amd64/libnpjp2.so

Install the Firefox ESR version (this works)

It seems that the only way to have Java under Linux is to install an old version of Firefox. The "ESR" version was made for just this purpose.

* Download firefox ESR
* Unpack the bz file somwhere, e.g. in  ~/bin/firefox
tar xjvf firefox-52.2.0esr.tar.bz2
mv firefox ~/bin/

Then launch it like so:

~/bin/firefox/firefox --new-instance -P ESR
this is important I believe. You should not mess with your default profile that you use with your regular new version of firefox. This version is just for messing with Java applets.

Sound and music

Since Ubuntu 16LTS, sound works rather well. The only problem is figure out how to hook up the external speakers (see the display section for that)

Music services

Music services through the browser may not work (google for solution).

E.g. to use Amazon cloud music, read this

Nuvola is available through flatpak, a kind of app distributor that works across various OSs.

sudo apt-get install flatpak xdg-desktop-portal-gtk gnome-software-plugin-flatpak
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://dl.flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists nuvola https://dl.tiliado.eu/flatpak/nuvola.flatpakrepo
flatpak update
flatpak install nuvola eu.tiliado.Nuvola

The launch flatpak and find the nuvola amazon cloud player. Click on install.

This worked for me (Ubuntu 18, using Amazon France from my workplace in Switzerland). Listening to Lazy Bird from John Coltrane while writing this.

Crackling sound in Ubuntu 18

After installing Ubuntu 18 it became impossible to listen to Music. Something that pulseaudio does seems to be the reason.

killall pulseaudio

Caveat: Needs to be repeated each time you reboot.

The next solution also seems to work (various forums give this solution)

1) Edit file


2) Change line

 load-module module-udev-detect 


load-module module-udev-detect tsched=0

3) Then restart

pulseaudio -k
pulseaudio --start

Notice: Removing pulseaudio from the system does not seem to be a great idea.

Tips of older Ubuntus

In older Ubuntu distributions (e.g. LTS 12) sound may not work either.

  • Install all the ALSA stuff (e.g. via the synaptic package manager)
  • Then test with Menu System->Preferences-Sound
  • Then set the right default volume with Menu Applications->Sound and Video->ALSA Mixer GUID (in particular PCM ! It may be as simple as that ...)

If sound doesn't work search the Ubuntu forums: http://ubuntuforums.org/. A particular good overview posting was:

To list you sound hardware, type:

  aplay -l

If there are none, type:

  lspci -v

... and search through the list until you find something like:

 00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller (rev 01)

This means that you do have a sound card, but that the drivers or something else is missing....

Anyhow it may take some time (between a few minutes and a few days) to find a solution. Often, the only thing you'd have to do is to add a line to /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base (needs root permissions). I have for my DELL/Sigmatel:

 options snd-hda-intel model=ref

Then, reboot !

Note: To list all drivers on your machine, type:


If I understand right, drivers are kernel modules.

Give permission to insecure web sites

Nearly no Java Web site will run once you enabled Java.

Give these sites permission (of course, only do that with your local administration or non-local friendly educational applications...)

jcontrol &
Security tab.

Application hints


To edit a playlist (i.e. reorder items), there are two options

  • You can drag items up and down (untick "browse" in the View menu, if you need more space)
  • You can edit the XML (better for very large lists, maybe do a save before you do this)

Also, it's a good idea to remember that you can copy this file, if you decide to re-install your machine and start with a clean/new setup

Who else has Linux nearby ?

sudo nmap -O xxx.yyy.zzz.1-255 | grep "Running: " | sort | uniq -c

Non-standard software

Some organization maintain their own Debian/Ubuntu package servers.


Most people did agree that Shutter was the best tool

 sudo apt install shutter
Shots can be edited and annotated with a built-in editor.
To install as default, read this, Before you can assign the PrtScreen button, you must reset the existing shortcut using backspace.
Tip: Double click when using selection.

Since Ubuntu 18, there is also Flameshot, but unless I missed something it cannot do text.

 sudo apt install flameshot
to launch it, type
 flameshot gui
The edit will directly appear in the shot.

Neither is as good as Greenshot for Windows IMHO, but both are OK. Since Flameshot is new, it might have bugs (I do not know)


Shotcut is a cross platform free video editor which has good rankings (also on Windows). Tested on oct. 2017 with Ubuntu 16x.

There are different ways to install it. I chose a PPA distribution that seems to be trustworthy. I also had to add a missing library after installing.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:haraldhv/shotcut
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install shotcut

First time, launch it in the terminal so you can spot errors if there are.


Install this one before if you do not have it.

sudo apt-get install libsdl2-2.0


Mendeley, the bibliography and article manager does have a Debian distribution.

Read Download Mendeley Desktop for Ubuntu.

  • Click on the download link
  • Install from the package manager that should open

Run it:

mendeleydesktop &

Also, install the libre office and web browser plugins if not already done so.


E.g. to install Skype, you could

  • Add the Skype repository like this in the Synaptic Package Manager (through settings->Repositories->Third-Party Software)

deb http://download.skype.com/linux/repos/debian/ stable non-free

  • Reload or update the package information and search for "skype"
  • Install the skype package.

Google Chrome

Read How to install Google Chrome (askubuntu)

wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | sudo apt-key add - 
sudo sh -c 'echo "deb [arch=amd64] http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list'
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable


SSH Keys


sudo ufw status
sudo ufw --help

To allow port 7777 for tcp for everyone:

sudo ufw allow 7777/tcp

To allow port 2049 for TCP and UDP for a given IP (replace your_ip_number with your IP number)

sudo ufw allow from your_ip_number to any port 2049 proto tcp 
sudo ufw allow from your_ip_number to any port 2049 proto udp 

To allow everything from a given IP

sudo ufw allow from ip_number_here

After that, reload the firewall:

sudo ufw reload

To disable / enable

sudo ufw disable
E.g. for testing purposes ....
sudo ufw enable

Opinions and alternatives

Add yours ...


  • Daniel K. Schneider uses Ubuntu since March 2007, because he got fed up with Mandriva updates not working correctly. I hate all OS's (Unix, Mac, Win) but prefer to work on Unix because it's fairly stable and appropriate for what I do. I also do have Windows machines for doing stuff that needs Win 7. (E.g. Flash, word processing with Framemaker, X3D, Games). Our servers (e.g. for this wiki) run mostly under Ubuntu too. Before we ran Solaris which is much more difficult to install and maintain but extra solid.
  • Indeed (it's now August 2007 and I went through a major upgrade) I find that Ubuntu and its packaging system is far more robust. Though I once failed with a non supported package, i.e. Cinelerra that I got from another site. It installed, but crashed on start. Have to try again at some point.
  • If your applications crash (e.g. Firefox) check your bloody RAM. It may be defective and you can loose 3 days of work trying to reinstall when there is absolutely no need. Ubuntu is solid, even if the installation can be messy !
  • I don't like the new 12.04 Desktop. Not very efficient for people who know what they are doing (see the installation notes on top)


  • Linux Mint, can be described as some kind of easier to use Ubuntu. There is also a Linux Mint Debian Edition that is directly based on Debian and it may be of interest to people who want to be closer to Debian. Both editions should behave in the same way. Read the Wikipedia article and Linux Mint 15 A better Ubuntu for the desktop (May 2013).
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
sudo apt-get update 
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

Then, log out and you will have the option to use Cinnamon. The normal Ubuntu Desktop will remain there and you can therefore switch back easily....


(there are many others)