How to Overcome Common Ubuntu Hassles Page 2: Page 2

These suggestions can make it easier to choose your hardware, find the software you need, extend the battery life for your laptop, and more.
Posted January 14, 2013

Matt Hartley

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Legacy Software

Any time you come from another platform, there are always going to be a few software applications that you really miss—whether it's Microsoft Office, iTunes, specific video editing software or something else. The key to easing this pain is in finding comparable alternatives that are easy to use and provide you with the same result. For example, LibreOffice helps many users looking for a decent Microsoft Office alternative. If however, one of the included programs (such as Outlook) isn't adequately substituted in a way that meets your needs, consider using WINE. It could help to run the legacy application without too much hassle.

WINE is useful for running select Windows applications in Ubuntu without relying on an actual Windows installation. For everything else, check out the Ubuntu software center and search for the task you are looking to achieve with your new Ubuntu installation.

Notebook Power Management

Out of the box, the power management for notebooks under Ubuntu is horrid. However, there is a great and easily installable application for anyone who is looking to run Ubuntu on a notebook. This excellent little app is called Laptop Mode Tools.

To fully appreciate just how bad power management is for notebooks out of the box, first install PowerTOP. This simple command line tool will allow you to see which resources are draining your notebook's battery. For the sake of testing, you can toggle many of these functions from "Bad" over to "Good" with just a few key presses.

Now that you have seen firsthand which features are hurting your power usage, go ahead and install Laptop Mode Tools from Synaptic. In Ubuntu, you won't need to adjust anything. As a matter of fact, with Laptop Mode Tools installed it's best that you don't touch the configuration file at all unless you're familiar with what it does. Right out of the box, this utility will detect when you've stopped using AC power and enact the changes you made using PowerTOP previously. Best of all, Laptop Mode Tools will do this for you automatically.

To check how well Laptop Mode Tools is working, unplug your notebook from AC power after Laptop Mode Tools has been installed and you've rebooted the computer. From the terminal, run PowerTOP again. Now, look to the "Tunables" section and note how many items are now set to "Good" instead of "Bad." With casual usage, you will notice how much longer your battery is lasting with Laptop Mode Tools installed.

Indicator Applets

The last suggestion I'll leave you with is using select indicator applets built for Unity. These applets aren't as critical as some of my other suggestions; however, I've found them to be extremely helpful in controlling my desktop experience.

  • Disable your touchpad without relying on your notebook's function keys. Many notebooks may not easily respond to the function keys. The touchpad indicator applet provides a visual cue as to the state of the touchpad, while also making it easy to disable it.
  • View your system monitor from your panel. Using the multiload indicator, you'll be able to see spikes in activity ranging from CPU usage to I/O activity on your hard drive. It's fully configurable and very simple to use.
  • Access Ubuntu's classic menu. Most Ubuntu users don't realize this option is available. Using the classic menu indicator provides you with a fantastic alternative to searching through the standard Unity interface for applications.

And there you have it, my top tips for avoiding common Ubuntu hassles and improving your desktop experience. Everything I've shared here is compatible with Ubuntu 12.04 and beyond.

However, remember that not every suggestion mentioned here is an exact fit for everyone. Some tips will resonate more than others, depending on your needs. In the end, consider each of them and apply those which alleviate any Ubuntu-specific hassle that has been bugging you.

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Tags: open source, Linux, software, Ubuntu, hardware, battery

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