Using Ubuntu for my work laptop – applications and configurations

I recently fubar'd my work laptop, and had the delightful benefit of choosing my operating system for the Dell Latitude E6500 Laptop. Needless to say, I have switched from Windows XP to a Linux distro. We use CentOS on our servers, and I was inclined to go with a Fedora distribution for consistency. However, I ran into a lot of driver issues, and while most were surmountable with a little ducking, I decided to go for the convenience of out-of-the-box driver support. As the title shows, I ended up with Ubuntu, and I'm sticking with the default Gnome (at least for now).

The point of this is to highlight the software that I needed to load to be able to function comfortably in a work environment. I should disclose that I work in the tech group, and things are pretty laid back. However, this is not a machine I use for independent consulting, nor am I employed by an organization that is entirely 'techie', or using Linux as a standard.

Some additional disclosure: I use Linux daily on one of my personal machines (currently an Ubuntu distro, also due to driver issues - it's a 10 year old, hand-me-down, Sony Vaio laptop). For reference, I am officially a DBA, but I dabble in System Administration, Java, and Web development (mostly PHP). With that in mind, here is what I added/updated after the OS install. I am not going to list aesthetics (themes/backgrounds/etc.), but I did change my theme to something with window controls on the top right. I can't explain why I like this better, but I do.

The short list:

Pre-installed and necessary for my work machine:

  1. Empathy
  2. Evolution
  3. Firefox
  4. OpenOffice
  5. Terminal (although I use both Terminal and Terminator)

Apps I installed:

  1. Sun JDK
  2. Chromium
  3. MySQL
  4. PostgreSQL
  5. BlueFish (probably will shell out the cash for the recently ported UltraEdit very soon)
  6. Eclipse
  7. Git
  8. GIMP
  9. Apache HTTP Server
  10. Apache Tomcat
  11. PHP
  12. KeepassX
  13. Terminator
  14. Gnome Do

Configuration changes:

  1. Sounds off.
  2. Startup/Login sounds off.
  3. OpenOffice – Change default save file types to be Microsoft-friendly.
  4. Chromium – Default launch should be incognito
  5. Install flash plugins
  6. Chromium/Firefox – Default search engine should be

So far, all is well. I am up and running, and getting projects imported and making successful edits. There are several bugs that are annoying in MySQL GUI Tools and PGAdmin3 for Linux, but those are minor in comparison to all the issues I dealt with in XP.

Since I am already using a unique distribution, as compared to our servers, I did not go through the trouble of installing apache and tomcat in a custom location. I think I will regret this, and probably will end up manually installing those at a later time. The only really frustrating behavior I encountered to date, is that when I use my laptop's volume keys (these are dedicated volume keys on the Dell Latitude E6500) my monitor configuration changes to mirrored 1280x960. My usual set up is 1920x1200 on the laptop, with a 1920x1080 external monitor (22” Dell). Closing the laptop for long enough to logout and then reopening fixes the resolutions and reverts the mirrored setting, but doesn't reset the monitor's relative positions. I haven't spent a lot of time investigating solutions for this, and I will probably resolve this issue with the old Dr's recommendation for painful activities - “Don't do that”.

Ubuntu screen

A clean, simple work space.

I'll check back in a few weeks with any changes I ended up making, and additional feedback about the move. And for the lazy, here are the actual installation steps I used (note that there is a hyphen-hyphen-config and a hyphen-hyphen-incognito that shows as dash-config and dash-incognito below. Use hyphen-hyphen.):

First, add the partner source for software (necessary for Sun JDK):

  1. System – Administration – Software Sources:
  2. Other Software tab – check the “[distro version url] partner” option

Install some stuff (Terminal):

  • sudo aptitude update
    sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jdk
    #if multiple jdks or jdes exist, use the following to select the sun version.
    #sudo update-alternatives –config java
    #mysql will automatically ask for a root password entry
    sudo apt-get install mysql-server
    sudo apt-get install mysql-query-browser
    sudo apt-get install postgresql
    sudo apt-get install pgadmin3
    sudo apt-get install eclipse
    sudo apt-get install git-core
    #Apache HTTP Server
    sudo apt-get install apache2
    #Apache Tomcat6
    sudo apt-get install tomcat6
    #PHP support in apache http server
    sudo apt-get install php5
    #Restart the apache server with php support.
    sudo /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Install some more stuff (Ubuntu Software Center):

  1. Bluefish
  2. KeepassX
  3. Terminator
  4. GIMP
  5. Gnome Do

Finishing Touches:

  1. Gnome Do was throwing a few strange errors – disabling the Tomboy plugin 'fixed' these.
  2. Firefox (pre-installed) – change default search engine to
  3. Firefox/Chromium - install flash plugins. Must be a non-incognito Chromium window.
  4. Chromium - change default search engine to (take that google).
  5. Chromium – make incognito the default launch window. Right click the Ubuntu logo in the top left, Select “Edit Menus”. Choose “Internet” in the “Menus” list, then select “Chromium Web Browser” in the “Items” list. Select properties and add “--incognito” to the command. Note that you can't install plugins from an incognito window.
  6. Change your default Postgres password:

    #postgresql - update the postgres user password
    sudo -u postgres psql postgres
    \password postgres

I hope others find this list useful, feel free to add your Ubuntu (or linux) must haves for the workplace in the comments.

UPDATE: I noted that I was not covering aesthetics, but since I included a screenshot with the background, I thought I would highlight it's from lethal2 and available here.

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