Breezy Badger is Out!

The day we (well, at least I) have been waiting for is here! The next version (the third-ever release) of Ubuntu, version 5.10, codenamed Breezy Badger has been released. Download it, try out the live version, install it, pass the cds on, spread the luv!

I can already download the cd image, using a torrent. I suppose some of the slower mirrors wordlwide are still in the process of syncing, but for all practical reason, the badger is out the door!

Use a Mirror close to you for best speed.

Use a torrent, and keep the torrent running, if you will! It helps a little, and every little bit counts.

The main releases page has Breezy Badger Ubuntu v 5.10 too, which would be a round-robin setup, I suppose.

Once you install Breezy, be sure to spread the good will, and the word!

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Tuning the Filesystem Check at Bootup

Ubuntu forces drives to be checked once for every 30 times the filesystem is mounted. This means that on an average, once every 30 times you bootup your computer, the filesystem integrity is checked. This is very reasonable for a desktop, which is seldom rebooted. However, for a laptop, this means pain, since you may be planning on making a presentation, and Ubuntu may start a filesystem check just when you hook up your laptop to the projector and bootup! Today we will see how to disable (or force) the checking temporarily, and also how to adjust the period and frequency of the check.

To disable filesystem integrity check for the next bootup, create a file called /fastboot. So a
$sudo touch /fastboot
will disable filesystem check for the next time you bootup. Since the /fastboot file is removed during bootup, this will disable filesystem check only once - for the one time you bootup after you create the /fastboot file (which need not have anything in it — hence the touch, which only creates the file)
On the contrary to force a filesystem check the next time you bootup, create a file called /forcefsck by doing
$sudo touch forcefsck

Now, on to the more interesting business of how to change the number of bootups between filesystem checks, and modifying the period with which the filesystem is checked. The following applies to ext2 and ext3 filesystems.

tune2fs is an utility that you can use to change both the number of bootups between filesystem checks, and the number of days/weeks/months between filesystem checks.

For example to have the filesystem checked once every 60 bootups use
$sudo tune2fs -c 60

To have the filesystem check run periodically, say once a week, use
$sudo tune2fs -i 1w
changing the “w” to “d” or “m” will have the check run once daily and once monthly - you get the idea.

As always, you can read
$man tune2fs
for more detailed information and examples.

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Ubuntu - OEM Mode

An OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) installation mode is now available for Ubuntu. This will help OEMs (like, say, hp, dell, or even your local computer store) to pre-install Ubuntu on a computer and sell it to you. Once you buy the computer, the first time you power up, you will be asked to set your time zone, create a new user and basically customize the computer for your use.

With the OEM installation mode, it is hoped that more and more vendors will pre-install Ubuntu on the computers they sell. As with everything else Ubuntu, the oem installation is free, and one can use a regular install disc to install in the OEM mode. Here’s how:

While the OEM mode is part of Ubuntu 5.10, it is not yet documented in full. Fortunately, the basic OEM mode install consists of only 7 steps:

1. Place the Ubuntu 5.10 Install CD in the CD-ROM Drive and power on the computer.
2.

At boot:, type oem and press Enter.
3.

The Ubuntu 5.10 installer will run. Follow the on-screen instructions to start the installation.
4.

Once the installation is complete, you will be informed that Ubuntu 5.10 has been fully installed and the computer is ready for shipping.
5.

You can also run a system test to check if the installation of Ubuntu 5.10 OEM mode went smoothly. The system test will run the Ubuntu Hardware Database and will check if the hardware is configured correctly.
6.

Sell the Computer…Profit! =) (The next step is for the potential buyer…)
7. Power on your new Ubuntu-powered computer (or laptop!). You will be asked to select your language, keyboard layout, time zone configuration, and create your first user account. The first user account created has administrative rights via sudo. Since Ubuntu 5.10 is a multi-user system, you can create more user accounts as needed.

From Jerome.

For users like you and me, who are used to installing their own OS on their machines, this means little, but this might be good to promote the adoption of Ubuntu. Expect to see a lot more computers with Ubuntu pre-installed for sale on ebay, for one!

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Xubuntu - XFCE + Ubuntu

Recently the development of a new flavor of Ubuntu powered by the XFCE desktop environment, instead of gnome/metacity was announced.

For those of you who want to try out the new Xubuntu, read the wiki page on Xubuntu, and install the xubuntu-desktop package, only in breezy. If you are using Hoary now you will have to wait till Breezy is released and you upgrade. After installing xubuntu-desktop, you can use XFCE by selecting it when you login using the graphical login, from under “sessions”.

If you are interested in contributing to, or following, the development of Xubuntu, join the Xubuntu mailing list.

Again, Xubuntu is just like Kubuntu, plain old Ubuntu, with a different desktop environment. The objective behind making Kubuntu and Xubuntu available to make it a smoother process for those who want to use alternative desktop environs.

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Watch outputs as they change

This is another “trick” that might seem trivial to the gurus out there, but is something I discovered recently.

Use the command watch to regularly update and refresh the output of some command. If you want to see the “running output” then watch is the program for you.

Using it is simple, by default it updates the output once every two seconds. So
$watch “your-command”

will update the output of “your-command” every two seconds.

To make it refresh more frequently, try
$watch -n1 “your-command”

and to make it highlight differences as and when they occur, try the -d option.

As an example, the command
$watch -d -n1 “netstat -t tcp”
will show you a list of the IP connections heading out from your computer, and update the output every second. It will also highlight new items/changes as they happen.

Another little gem from teh ubuntu-users mailing list archives!

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Find duplicate copies of files

fdupes is a command-line program for finding duplicate files within specified directories.

I have quite a few mp3s and ebooks and I suspected that at least a few of them were copies - you know - as your collection grows by leaps and bounds, thanks to friends, it becomes difficult to individually check each file to see if it is already there on your computer. So I started looking for a script that checks for duplicate files in an intelligent fashion. I didn’t find the script but I did find fdupes.

fdupes calculates the md5 hash of the files to compare them, and since each file will have a unique hash, the program identifies duplicates correctly. I let it run in the directory which contains my files recursively (which makes it check for duplicates across different directories within the specified directory, and saved the output to a file by doing:
$fdupes -r ./stuff > dupes.txt

Then, deleting the duplicates was as easy as checking dupes.txt and deleting the offending directories. fdupes also can prompt you to delete the duplicates as you go along, but I had way too many files, and wanted to do the deleting at my own pace. The deletion function is useful if you are only checking for duplicates in a given directory with a few files in it.

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Memory, Swap Management

A lot of Linux newbies, myself included are often astonished at the amount (%) of memory used by Linux as opposed to, say, Windows on comparable systems. If you look at the System Monitor (Applications -> System Tools -> System Monitor), you can find the amount of memory used by your system. If you leave your computer on for a long period (say more than a day) then the memory usage seems to keep going up. This is a “good thing”. Let me explain why.

Linux actively uses free available memory to improve your system’s performance. Let’s say you have 1 GB of main memory (don’t we all wish!). Now, suppose all the programs you are running together require only 200 MB of memory. What happens to the other 800 MB of the available memory?

On a linux system, the memory is used to “cache” data that is used by the CPU. The idea behind caching is that it takes longer for your CPU to access data on the hard drive than it does to access data that is present in the main memory. So caching using the main memory effectively speeds up the system. On a windows system, there is no such optimization, so free memory is wasted as it does not get used.

Now when an application really needs all the memory that is used for caching, Linux pops out the cached data and makes the required memory available. As a last option, if all of the main memory is used up, then the memory you set aside in your swap partition is used too.

Try the command:
$free -m

to see what your memory usage is. The first line of results is fairly obvious. The second line tells you what the applications “see”, and should tell you how much memory is actually being used by the applications themselves.

Another used command is “top” which gives you a look at the memory/cpu usage and other details about the processes that are running on your computer - all at the terminal. I much prefer it to the GUI-based System Monitor myself.

Knowing that all the memory I paid for is being used to the max makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. For a moment earlier today, I thought there was something wrong, since almost all of my memory was being used, and I was hardly running anything intensive - now I am at ease - there was something wrong earlier, when the memory was not being used by Windows - now I know!!

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Bug #1

Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace. This is a bug, which Ubuntu is designed to fix.

Ever wondered what the first Ubuntu bug is?

I like an Operating System with a sense of humor. :)

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Mark Shuttleworth on Ubuntu

Our Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life (sabdfl), Mark Shuttleworth, tries to clear some of the fog around the “Is Ubuntu a Debian derivative or fork?” issue by answering a few questions.

In fact, the questions include things like why ubuntu’s default theme color is brown, how they came up with “Warty Warthog” as a name, and how they picked the Ubuntu name, even. So go ahead and have fun reading Mark’s Why and Whither for Ubuntu.

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Better Management of Packages while Uninstalling

Have you ever noticed how, when you install a required package using apt-get or synaptic, and lot of associated “required” packages such as library packages and documentation packages are also installed due to the dependencies between packages? There are some “meta-packages” like kubuntu-desktop, for example, which in and of themselves do not install any files on your system, but have a long list of dependencies, which, together assume a cetain function. I installed kubuntu-desktop to try KDE, and later removed it, and was surprised to see that all the dependencies that were installed we not removed! That is where this story began.

What I don’t like is that when I later remove the package I installed earlier, the packages that were installed because they were dpendencies don’t get removed. So, when I installed the package, 30 MB was used, say. Now after unistalling the package, only 5 MB is freed, since the other 25 MB was used up by the dependencies. Over a period of time, this leads to a number of “orphaned” packages remaining on your system. The package or application that used this package has long-since been removed, but apt “ignored” removing these dependency packages.

Now I like my system lean, and more importantly, clean. I use debfoster to keep my system clean over a longish period of time.

Debian uses the main programs apt and dpkg to manage packages. These programs do not make a distinction between packages that got installed because some other program happened to need it and packages you really asked for. Debfoster will help you get rid of packages (libraries for example) get left behind on your system when the program that required it was removed or upgraded to a version that doesn’t have the dependency.

In the above, what is said of Debian is also true of Ubuntu.

Install debfoster, read it’s man page, and take it out on a ride by running it. The first time, it will ask you a few questions. Later, periodically running it will keep your system clean of aliened packages that are no longer needed. If you make a mistake with the answers, you can always edit the file /var/lib/debfosterkeepers which defines the packages you want to remain on your system.

An alternative to debfoster is aptitude (instead of apt-get) but the catch is that one has to always use aptitude instead of apt-get from the very beginning, and if you like me, realized the orphaned packages problem late, then aptitude won’t work.

Of course, I should add that besides occupying some space on your hard drive, and a few extra installed applications, the extra orphaned packages cause no harm.

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