Five Worst Mistakes in Ubuntu

When I first got started with Ubuntu, I could not have been less familiar with the idea of eye-candy.  Compiz-fusion had me, my processor and my on-board graphics floored.  I knew so little about this brave new world that I actually gave up and re-installed Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) in order to un-freeze my screen.  This was only one of several egregious errors I have committed over the last year.  So, here goes my top 5 list of things NOT to do:

1.  Do NOT under any conditions delete (rm -r) software you installed with Add/Remove or the Synaptic Package Manager.

I came from SuSE 10.0, using the RPM package manager that simply installs one package and doesn’t check for dependencies, and a year’s break when I moved to my new home.  In that time, SuSE became OpenSuSE, YUM (Yellow-dog Update Manager) replaced RPM as a safe way to keep track of dependent packages, and – well, I switched to Ubuntu.

Since I thought I knew what I was doing, I deleted an incorrectly installed version of the AVG anti-virus.  When I tried to re-install, I got nasty error messages that a status file was missing.  I finally had to install a tar.gz bundle in order to con apt-get into recognizing that a full version of AVG was on the system (and could be deleted, properly this time.

Lesson #1: If you installed software using a package manager, UNinstall using a package manager.  sudo apt-get remove packagename works wonders.

2.  Do NOT freak out and blow away all of your hard installing work if Compiz Fusion causes your screen to freeze.

I won’t say there will never be times that you might have to re-install.  I have been testing Intrepid Ibex since it was an alpha – and alphas aren’t for wusses.  😉

The first time I turned on Compiz Fusion, it caused my screen to freeze.  I could not figure out how to get back to an unfrozen screen, since successive reboots started up Compiz Fusion, which, etc.  I got so frustrated I reinstalled Ubuntu.  On my next go-round, I finally read the Options and Sessions menus at the bottom of the login screen (these may be different on different login screens).  I discovered how to login in safe mode.  Once there, you can make changes so your next reboot will be more successful.  (If all else fails you can uninstall compiz, then reinstall and immediately turn it OFF.)

I do not recommend running Compiz Fusion unless you have a decent graphics card.  It is on by default, so going to Appearances – Preferences and turning it off before you try to do anything else is a very good option.  Compiz Fusion provides beautiful eye-candy, but only IF your computer can run it.  (There is a tool called compiz-check that will tell you in advance.)

Lesson #2: Don’t let Compiz get you down.  It can be turned off.

3.  Do NOT blindly attach to just any repository out there.

Repositories are a thing of beauty.  They can be added easily enough through Administration>Software Sources.  In my experience, sites that have a repository for their software will tell you how to add it to your sources.list so you can enjoy the contents.

Problem:  Many repositories contain, along with that brand new beta you want to download, beta libraries and other items that may clobber your dependencies in another unrelated program and cause it not to work.  I went for weeks without my favorite RSS feed readers because I linked – totally innocently – to a Firefox repository that contained the wrong version of software needed to make my feed readers work.  Since I read to live and live to read, this was a dreadful predicament until I found out exactly what the problem was and went back to the standard Ubuntu repository for my Firefox.

Some repositories do not mess with your libraries.  Google has a magnificent repository containing Google Desktop and Picasa, for instance.  Medibuntu is another option – one which I heartily recommend.

Lesson #3: Don’t add just any old repository to your sources.list.  Being careful can save you a world of aggravation.

4.  Do NOT run too many programs at once.

This especially affects those of us who do not have the most up-to-date software.  You may think it would be a good idea to turn on Compiz Fusion, have two screenlets up and running, install checkgmail and have it in your system tray, crank up Firefox, and play something on Rhythmbox while you are waiting for something to download.  And then you might want to start up a favorite game.  Don’t do too much of this at once without testing to see what your system can handle.  Otherwise, you will be back to a situation like #2, having to figure out what to kill so you can get your system back.

Lesson #4: Don’t do everything at once.  There are consequences.

And, finally …

5.  Do NOT give up and go running back to W$ndows.

If you can make it past the learning curve, Ubuntu and other Linux distributions have many new joys in store.  There is a magnificent help system just one click away, to help you get there.

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