The following is a list of some of the common setup and configuration changes that I make whenever I install Ubuntu.
- Watch for Updates! When updates are available for Ubuntu, you will see an icon in the top panel, and a pop-up message informing you how many there are. The color and shape of the icon give an indication of the importance of the updates, as well. Click the icon and the Update Manager opens, which will guide you through downloading and installing the updates, and will tell you when it is finished if a reboot is required. There are already a few updates for the 8.10 distribution, so you should see this notification shortly after you boot the installed system.
- Synaptic Package Manager: To find, download and install additional software on Ubuntu, you are most likely to use the Synaptic Package Manager, which you access via the System menu on the top panel, and then Administration. There are literally thousands of packages available, some of which are installed with the Ubuntu distribution. To install additional packages, you click on the box next to the package name, and select "Mark for Installation". It is not necessary to install packages individually, you can mark a number of them to be installed at once. When you have marked all that you want, click the "Apply" button to start the installation.
- Firefox: The base distribution does not include java or Adobe Flash video support, so if you want these you will have to download and install them. They can be found in the Synaptic Package Manager, as mentioned above; look for sun-java6-plugin and flashplugin-nonfree.
- Thunderbird: Ubuntu comes with the Evolution email and calendar manager program installed. It is very good, and a lot of people swear by it. But I still have to move back and forth between Windows and Linux, so I prefer to use the same email program on both. Once again, look for thunderbird in the Synaptic Package Manager. Once it has been installed, you will find it in the Applications panel menu, under Internet.
- Speaking of the Panels, I always set them to auto-hide, to free up the maximum screen space (I do the same with the Taskbar on Windows). To do this, right-click on the Panel, choose Properties, and then select Auto-Hide. You can also easily change what icons are on the Panel, for example removing Evolution by right-clicking on the icon and choose Remove From Panel, and add Thunderbird by going to Applications/Internet, right-click on its icon, and choose Add This Launcher to Panel.
- Desktop Background (Wallpaper): As with Windows, right-click on the desktop background, and choose Change Desktop Background.
- Screen Saver: On the Panel, go to System/Preferences/ScreenSaver to set the type and parameters of the screen saver.
- Power Management: Especially if you are using a laptop computer, but can also be useful for desktops; if you see a battery or power icon in the Panel, right-click on it and choose Preferences. If you don't see the icon, you can get to the same place via the Panel, System/Preferences/Power Management
- Networking: If you have a wired ethernet connection, you can simply plug in the cable and it will just work, assuming your local network is correctly set up for DHCP. If you have a wireless connection, click on the network icon in the Panel, and you will see a list of available network connections. Select the wireless connection you want, and if it requires a key or password, you will be prompted for it. If you have a 3G Wireless Broadband connection, Ubuntu should recognize the adapter when you connect it (usually USB or PCMCIA), and will prompt you to configure it.
- Other Software: One of the first things I always do is install Gizmo5. Go to their download web page, choose Linux, then the Debian Install Package. Once that is downloaded just double-click it to install. After installation it appears in the Panel menu under Applications/Internet. I also download and install the Opera web browser and the Citrix ICA Client.
This is, of course, only a start. You can spend endless time exploring the contents of the Synaptic Package Manager - it is mind-boggling how much software is in there. Likewise, there are many, many more configuration options and possibilities than I have mentioned here. Most of them can be found through the Panel menus under System/Preferences and System/Administration.