Archive for the 'Linux' Category

Turning That Old Laptop Into a Xubuntu Netbook (Part 2)

Now that we have the operating system all nice and loaded up (see part 1) it’s time for us to take a look at the different software available for turning your old laptop into an Xubuntu netbook.


The default Xubuntu install has a number of programs pre-loaded onto the OS to get you started. These include many of the average web users familiarities such as Firefox 3 and Thunderbird e-mail client. There are also a couple of other programs such as Abiword for word processing, GIMP for image editing and Pidgin for IM.

These are all very good programs, but lets take a look at some of the other software out there to do your various everyday tasks that new Linux users may not of heard of.

Installing Software

There are two different ways that any new Linux users should know about, one is Add/Remove applications and one is through the Terminal. Both are equally as good, but you should know both ways.

Add/Remove: this is the simplest option for many ex-windows users. Simply go to:

Applications –> System –> Add/Remove Programs

A window will pop-up giving you a whole library of applications that are ready to install on your computer. Simply search for the application you want, or look through the categories till you find what your looking for and then hit the big install button, it couldn’t be simpler.

Terminal: The terminal is a very new and strange thing to new Linux users, but sometimes it is the best way to get things done. It is my personal preference as the Add/Remove programs menu runs a bit slow on my old laptop and the terminal keeps it to a minimum.

To run the terminal simply go to:

Applications–> Accessories–> Terminal

You will then get a big black window open up with the text


to install any new program simply type:

sudo apt-get install nameofprogram

you will then be prompted to enter the administrator password, type it in and hit enter. And that’s all there is to it, the program your after will then be found and installed on your computer. Just look around in the relevant applications menu until you find it.

Now, as promised lets have a look at the sort of programs available to perform all the different jobs that you could want:

Web Browsing

As standard, Firefox 3 comes pre-installed with the operating system. This has always been one of may favorite browsers for a long time. But on the older laptop sometimes it can run just a little bit too slowly for my taste so i often find my self substituting it for Midori.

Midori is pretty much your average web browser. No special bells or whistles attached just simple browsing where you want to go. The reason i like it so much is not because of its simplicity, but because of the fact that it goes like a bullet, even on older machines.

Blog Editing

If like me you just so happen to be a blogger, you may want to try a desktop blog editor rather than online editing. This allows you to save posts directly to your desktop and can let the older technology run a bit faster due to not having to load up a editing interface such as WordPress has.

The best one that i have found (and regularly use) is BloGTK. Again not to much in the way of advanced features, but it gets the job done pretty well. It provides support for most modern blogging platforms (Blogger, WordPress, Movable type etc.). You can select which categories are relevant to your post, add tags, perform basic editing, import posts from online etc. Simple and well rounded.

Office Equipment

Xubuntu comes preloaded with just a basic word editor called Abiword. While this is all very good im much rather prefer the very popular Open Office suite.

Open Office provides most of the tools that you would expect to find in Microsoft’s Office suite. The Open Office includes a word processor, spreadsheet editor, presentation creator, database, drawing pad and calculator all rolled into one package. The best thing is for new users is that i looks very much like Microsoft Office but is only a small proportion of the file size and is free of course!

The other good thing about Open Office is that it is compatible with loads of different file types including just every version of Microsoft word. Just click “save as” and select the file type.


I’m not a big BitTorrent user, but if you are then i would recommend Azureus/Vuze. I haven’t used it too much on Linux, but on Windows it provides excellent support for finding, tracking and downloading content form various torrent sites.


This really depends on what type of language you are trying to program in but my preference has always been towards the Netbeans IDE from java. I provides some additional support for other languages also so check it out, but otherwise very functional and well rounded.

If web development is what your after then id certainly suggest the Bluefish editor. Its not exactly an extensive tool like Dreamweaver but i think its miles ahead of Frontpage, but make your own opinion.

And If You Still Really Need Something From Windows…

…use Wine. is an excellent little program that allows for compatibility with many different Windows programs. Of course its not possible to get every program from Windows on to Linux, as a lot of programs have different dependencies outside of Wines control. But hey, nothing perfect and it just gives you a few more options to work with. So please don’t say nothings compatible with Linux.

So there you have it, enjoy life on Linux with your new (or should i say old) Laptop updated to breath new life into it. It’s never going to be as good as actually going out and buying a netbook, but i found that if you have a small, old laptop it more than suffices for those on a budget. If you still need advice on more applications for Xubuntu i would suggest or have a browse through the library in Add/Remove.

And if your a new user and your having problems adjusting to Linux try one of these forums with your query, they helped me a lot in the beginning:


Turning that Old Laptop into a Xubuntu Netbook (Part 1)

As mentioned in my previous post, i recently received and new (or rather old) laptop just before Christmas and set about turning it from a very slow clunky XP machine into a tool i could actually use for my college work. And after a few weeks of fiddling around with it here’s what i suggest to get anyone started on Linux.

Firstly, take one old laptop (mine just happened to be a HP Pavillion of about 6 years old) and choose one of the many different Linux distros to install on it. I chose Xubuntu as this was free and was recommended for laptops running lower memory. The following instructions are hence for Xubuntu, but but if you want to run Ubuntu or any of its other derivatives the process should be pretty similar.

1 – Go to the Ubuntu website and go to download the Xubuntu desktop edition. Or just follow this link. I downloaded the Intrepid Ibex edition, but you can choose which ever is preferable.


2 – Once the OS is downloaded write it to a disk

3 – This is probably the MOST important step of all, make sure that you back up all the files/folders on the computer your going to install on to ensure that you don’t lose anything valuable. It shouldn’t happen, but occasionally things go wrong.

4 – After you have got the installer onto a disk you can then transfer the disk to your other PC load it up. At this point you will have a choice whether to install the OS along side the existing one, or to try the demo running off the CD and then fully install it as the lone operating system.

Xubuntu website also provides an alternate installer for older (mostly pre-2000) machines that may not be quite up to speed on there CD drives.

5 – Simply select the option you want and then follow the instructions through. I wanted to jump straight into the installation of Xubuntu for real so i ran the demo off the CD and went from there. Your PC should then reboot and Xubuntu should load up for the first time.

If you like what you see then run the installation (this is the last time you will be able to go back to the previous OS so choose carefully) and, again, follow the instructions through. The hard drive will then be partitioned and after all installation is complete then you will have Xubuntu as your brand new OS!

In part 2 i will discuss what i have found to be some of the best software available on Xubuntu for turning it into a very useful little psedo-netbook. In the mean time, familiarize yourself with the new OS and enjoy the wonderful world of Linux.

Why students (and everyone) should use Linux over Windows

I recently loaded up a version of Xubuntu on an old laptop that my girlfriend was planning to throw away and it got me thinking about how much of a benefit the Linux operating system and software can be to students like myself.

Firstly, many Linux distributions are free, the obvious one being Ubuntu, Debian being another. This is a great step down from the £100 versions of Windows and one I’m more than happy to take.

Of course a computer is hardly any use without and software with which to work with, but again here I’m convinced that Linux has the upper hand. With Windows you also need the office equipment to complement it. Linux on the other hand provides a library of different software that is free to download and install. Forget what people say about there “being no software for Linux”, there is, i haven’t found a job which i haven’t been able to find a program for.

Because both the operating system and the programs for Linux are primarily free, the only thing you really need to pay for is the actual computer hardware.

What people usually say after “there is no software for Linux” is that “Nothing is compatible”. Once again i have found this to not be true, programs such as the excellent Open Office, not only allow for work to be saved in Microsoft word format, but in just about any version. There are also a dozen other formats available.

However if you really feel the need to use something from Windows then there are programs such as Wine which allow the running of executable (.exe) files in Linux. So there are a few ways round it.

Safety and Security
In my experience Windows operating systems always end up being a lot more vulnerable to viruses and the like simply for being Windows. Most people use Windows, hence most viruses are made for Windows. This is why using Firefox is much safer than using Internet Explorer. Linux is mostly used by programmers and the like, so are usually a much harder audience for a hacker to target.

Size and Simplicity

Windows never seems to get any faster because every new operating system release they add lots of unnecessary extra features that the average user will never use (i have yet to find anyone who likes the latest release of Microsoft office), and pack it full of fancy graphics that slow the system down. Linux keeps it simple and gives up just the right tool for the job without any fancy graphics or features. (The whole Ubuntu operating system fits on one CD).

I personally think that Linux makes a great tool for a student computer. I use mine to take to college as it saves me from taking my larger, modern laptop (with all may major files) in lest it should ever be broken. So go on, separate yourself from Microsoft and give Linux a chance.

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