Basic Software For Ubuntu-based Linux OS


Post Written by Olive Dove

One of the best things about Linux OS is availability of free software in the vast depository for customized user experience.  However, searching for the right software is a daunting task for most Ubuntu-based Linux OS novices.  Based on my experience in salvaging old computers for family and friends, user’s needs, software functionality, hardware limitations, processor capability and hard drive capacity must be part of the consideration in choosing the right Linux OS distro and software.  Older computer is best loaded with lightweight distro like Lubuntu and software e.g. AbiWord.

To download free software for Ubuntu-based Linux OS , access either one of the following (Internet connection is required):

  • Ubuntu Software Center:  Very user-friendly graphical interface for Linux novice.
  • Synaptic Package Manager:  Software are listed based on category.  Use ‘Search’ function to look for software.  

Based on my experience, here are the basic software for optimum functionality:

  • Internet browser:  My considerations are software stability and cloud computing capacity.  The best lightweight stable browser is Opera with Opera Link function that synchronizes bookmarks across platforms (Opera Mobile and Opera Mini on mobile devices).   The sleek Google Chrome or Chromium (unbranded version of Chrome) browser provides seamless supports for Google-based cloud computing e.g. Google Docs.
  • Office productivity suite: Look for OpenOffice or LibreOffice complete set or individual text document, spreadsheet or presentation package.  For lightweight distro like Lubuntu and Peppermint OS, I would install AbiWord (word processor) and Gnumeric (spreadsheet), especially on older computers and netbook.
  • E-mail client:  With add-ons, Evolution or Thunderbird works almost like MS Outlook.  The lightweight alternative is Sylpheed.
  • Graphics:  GIMP is the best option for professional graphical editing.  GIMP’s lightweight alternative is mtPaint.  GNU Paint works quite well for basic editing.
  • Sound & video: The best all-in-one player is VLC Media Player that plays almost every media format.  With its extended functions via plug-ins, VLC is the must-have media player.  The simple Totem Movie Player is suffice as everyday media player.  My favorite is lightweight Aqualung music player that plays MP3 and equivalents as well as MP4 (minus the visual).  For easy file format conversions e.g. from MP4 to MP3, SoundConverter converts file format with just a few clicks.
  • Games: Search for Gnome Games for timeless basic games e.g. AisleRiot Solitaire, Mahjongg and Suduko. For children, I would install Pingus.  Classic arcade shooting games like Frozen-Bubble and Zaz are quite addictive for adults and children alike.  The best educational game is Childsplay.
  • Webcam:  Cheese takes pictures and video clips with webcam.  
  • VoIP:  For cheap or free calls over Internet, Skype is the best choice.
  • Cloud storage:  Ubuntu One is the essential software for auto sync-enabled cloud storage.  Once filed are uploaded and stored in the cloud, they are accessisable from any computers or mobile device.  The basic account is free with 5 GB of free storage.  Additional storage and music streaming are available for some fees.

Picture: By Canonical Ltd (Ubuntu Visual Identity) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Quick Guide to Linux OS

Post written by Olive Dove

Linux logo

If you have just read my post on Ubuntu 11.04 launch and wonder what Linux is, you might not be alone.  Linux operating system (OS) for personal computer remains a niche product though Linux OS for server has long reigned the server market segment.  It took an old computer to induce me to to discover and try Linux.  With some trial-and-error process and frustrations, I managed to prolong the life of the old computer.  I am glad Linux works well on the old computer and has saved the environment from electronic trash.  
As non-technical introduction, Linux is:

  • Alternative computer operating system to Windows and Mac OS X.
  • Open-source (read as ‘free’!) OS.   
  • Available for personal computer, server, tablet computer, smartphone (Android OS is based on modified Linux kernel).
  • Small, secure and stable all-in-one OS (like a complete set lunch!) for surfing the Internet, office productivity and games.  Standard distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora are around 690 MB.  Though not all distributions include proprietary third party software, additional drivers and Adobe Flash can be easily download and set up after installation.
  • Free to use, share, customize, and redistribute.  Linux is a great alternative OS for students, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  • International collaboration project.  Yes, people do care to share expertise to produce a quality product!
  • Old computer-friendly as it uses less CPU memory and system resources.
  • Multilingual, end user-friendly and highly customizable based on needs and technical level.
  • Supported by huge repository (software center) of free and good quality software from games to education to office productivity.  You can find any imaginable software here!
  • Available in many distributions.  Some are sponsored by notable IT leaders like Canonical Ltd. (Ubuntu) and Red Hat, Inc. (Fedora).  Popular mainstream distributions are Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSuse and Linux Mint.  There are other highly specialized distributions like cloud computing-centric Peppermint and small modular Slax (pick and build your desired OS like you would at a supermarket).
  • Available in many official and unofficial derivatives (customized versions) catered for different needs like Fedora Design Suite is packed with open-source multimedia production and publishing tools.  Whereas, lightweight Lubuntu is optimized for netbook and older computer

How to get started? 

  • Identify personal computing needs and technical level.  
  • For easy transition from Windows:  The most use-friendly distributions are Linux Mint (with its Windows-like interface) and Lubuntu or Linux Mint LXDE (simple elegant lightweight OS with Windows-like side panel and very resource-friendly for old computers).
  • For long-term support:  Choose a reputable Linux OS preferably with LTS (long-term supports) like Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (scroll down the ‘Download Options’ list) that provides regular updates for three years from launch date.   
  • Choose a computer.  Customizing Linux OS on an old computer as secondary household computer to surf Internet is a good idea. 

Simple steps for setup (the following video is a good guide though it’s in German):

  1. Download the free Linux software.  
  2. Burn Linux software as bootable ISO image to a CD or download Unetbootin to create a bootable USB stick.
  3. Boot the computer and hit ‘F12’ function key to choose to boot from CD or USB stick.
  4. Check for software integrity for potential defects (one of the options on log in screen).
  5. Setup or trial.  There are several options (always back up important files before proceeding to any option): 
  • Test the Linux OS without installing it.
  • Install it to co-exist with existing Windows.
  • Install it to the entire hard drive.

Like Wikipedia, Linux is an example of successful international community collaboration that has improved quality of life.  As part of Linux community, we can contribute to Linux project via donation, personal expertise e.g. programming and translation for future release, or participation in forums (where Q&A promote product improvements).  Refurnishing old computers with lightweight Lubuntu or Linux Mint LXDE for charities and individuals in need is also a great way to help our community and save the environment from electronic trash. 

Everyone will need some time to get familiar with the free and versatile Linux OS but it will worth the efforts.  We will help ourselves, our community and the environment in the process.

Photo credit: Linux logo by Larry Ewing, via Wikimedia Commons

Video credit:  Ubuntu 10.04: Installation by SemperVideo, via YouTube

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