Ubuntu 11.04 - General Overview (1/6)

Introduction
This is the result of personal research through community and official documentation about GNU/Linux and Ubuntu. References used are provided also. It will be presented in 6 posts as listed below:
General Information.
UBUNTU Linux 11.04 (with code name natty narwhal) is a GNU/LINUX stable distribution provided by Canonical Ltd. and released on April 2011. It supports Intel x86 (IBM-compatible PC), AMD64 (Hammer) and PowerPC (Apple iBook and Powerbook, G4 and G5) architectures. It is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. It is based on 2.6.38.2. kernel release (https://wiki.ubuntu.com/NattyNarwhal/ReleaseNotes) and comes with UNITY graphical user interface. (www.help.ubuntu.com)
UNITY has come to “unite” into one, all the previous UBUNTU distribution editions. The user interface for server and desktop editions (the notebook and desktop editions are now one) is now the same. This provide one solid platform for users, making it easier for them to navigate across different editions. Except of the UNITY GUI, command line (CLI) user interface, also know as terminal, is also available.
Hardware Requirements
The recommended by Canonical Ltd. minimum hardware requirements are shown below:
  • 1 GHz x86 processor
  • 1GB of system memory (RAM)
  • 15GB of hard-drive space (although this can be split onto 2 drives, a 5Gb / and a 10Gb /home fairly easily)
  • Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024 by 768
  • Either a CD/DVD Drive or a USB port (or both)
  • Internet access is helpful
(www.help.ubuntu.com)Canonical provides a list of certified hardware for the version at http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/release/11.04.
Features against competition - Target group.
UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop edition, is a free Operating System committed to  the principles of open source software development. It is and will always be free of charge, including updates. The release will be supported for 18 months. (https://help.ubuntu.com/11.04/installation-guide/i386/what-is-ubuntu.html) But this is not all. Through “UBUNTU software Center”, it provides a database for easy and fast access to free, compatible, open source applications that fit almost all needs.
Canonical is the enterprise that sponsors and provides the official and professional development of UBUNTU. However, ubuntuforums.com is the official forum where the UBUNTU community contributes to troubleshooting.
In UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop edition, “support for all types of hardware is built into the central kernel program.” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 19) This means that no additional drivers are needed for hardware to be functional (even though proprietary drivers may be required for additional effects). This this the reason of the expression, “UBUNTU simply works” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 19).
Moreover, it provides almost a ‘computer virus’ free environment, because of the way user accounts and groups are used.  During installation, two login accounts are created. “A standard user and the root user. “The root user is a special account gifted with the ability to do anything, such as delete system files, or install software.” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 54).  
“Althought the rot account is there in the backround, the user is discouraged from directly logging in as root. Instead, the user “borrows” root powers to administer the system when necessary. Usually this is done by simply entering your login password when prompted. When working at the command-line any command needing administrative powers must be preceded by sudo” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 54).
“Although the root user account has a back seat in UBUNTU, its influence is felt everywhere. Most operating system files are “owned” by the root user, and have eprmissions so that only root can edit them.” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 54).  “This simple mechanism of protecting operating system files though root user ownership is how Linux enforces security and system protection.” (Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, p. 55). 
According to Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, Canonical aims to “win over casual Windows users” with 11.04. (www.zdnet.com). UNITY provides a stable standard graphical interface with cosmetic additions that aims to provide more visual space and reduce the time required to access applications. (https://help.ubuntu.com/11.04/ubuntu-help/unity-introduction.html). Although, a casual Microsoft Windows User will need to spend a lot of time in order to understand the way UBUNTU works and how important the terminal is, in order to fully use the OS capabilities.
The concluding great asset of UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop Edition, is the opportunity it offers to its users to customize the OS literally according to one’s needs. From windows colors to cleaning cache memory, everything is available though the terminal. Summarizing, UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop edition:1. is Open Source based GNU/LINUX OS2. is free of charge3. is supported both professionally and by a wide community4. it simply works (real plug and play hardware functionality)5. provides free/open source applications access6. virus free environment7. is fully customizable 8. requires considerable time to adapt and requires fundamental knowledge of terminal commands to overcome issues that will arise
Available UIs in depth
As mentioned in the beginning, there are two UIs available by default in Natty Narwhal. The Graphical UI is UNITY and the other is the command line, or terminal.
UNITY
By default there is a panel in the top of the screen. This panel acts as a title bar for applications as well as menu bar for the application where mouseover. This way two lines are merged into one, providing more space in screen. 
In the right side of the top panel, there are several icons for network, sound , user and system settings shortcuts.
A second sliding launcher is on the left where minimized and pinned programs can by found. The windows start button alternative is the UBUNTU trademark in the top left. If clicked, it provides panel with pinned and mostly used applications as well as a search bar for software installed, either by name or by extension.
Nautilus is used as file browsing program. The window, which is handled as in other OS, uses the top panel as title and menu bar. It is also consisted of a tool bar, an address bar, a side bar and the main browsing space containing folders and files. Tabs are available by Ctrl+T.
Paths and Files
“There are no drive letters under UBUNTU. Instead, the root of the file system, know as C:\ under windows, is identified simply by a forward slash (/). Additionally, whereas Windows uses a backslash (\) to indicate the root of the filesystem, and to separate folders in a path listing, UBUNTU uses a forward slash.” (UBUNTU Pocket Guide and References, p. 49)
NO drive letters means no problem for CD/DVD drives. Instead of letters, when inserting a disk in the drive, an image is “mounted” and is shown under the /media/ folder.
File and folder names can contain spaces and any letter, number and symbol, with the exception of the forward slash, but they are case sensitive. Document.doc is different than document.doc file.
             File extensions
“Generally speaking, the trend in Linux is not to use file extensions for systems files.” (UBUNTU Pocket Guide and References, p. 53). However, in personal folders, extensions are as important as in Windows. Executable programs under UBUNTU dont' have a .exe file extension. Instead, they executable attribute indicates that they are programs and not ordinary data files. This attibute can be checked in the the right click menu of the file under the label “Allow executing file as program”.
Hidden files and folders
Hidden files in UBUNTU are determined by a dot in front of the filename. “.document.doc” is hidden form the folder list, unless all files of the folder are requested. The tide (~) symbol at the end of the file name makes the file hidden in file listing provided by nautilus file manager.
Important filesystem locations
Location
Details
/bin
Essential software, typically needed to get the system running
/boot
Files related to the boot menu/loader
/dev
Virtual files representing hardware devices
/etc
System (global) configuration files
/home
User's personal folders
/lib
Support (library) files required by software
/media
Contains subfolders where storage devices can be mounted
/proc
Virtual folder containing files representing stats and settings
/root
Personal folder of the root user
/sbin
Essential software for system maintenance, usually used only by the root user
/tmp
Temporary files/folders
/usr
Essentially, subfolders containing most software used on the system, including system libraries and documentation
/var
Data that is vital to the running of the system and that is constantly being updated
Table 1. Key locations in the UBUNTU filesystem. (UBUNTU Pocket Guide and References, p.53)
UBUNTU software center
UBUNTU Software Center provides a fast and easy way to search for open source programs UBUNTU compatible. One can provide the search terms and the results will appear on screen.
Synaptic package manager
Synaptic is a package manager providing list of available and installed packages. It also provides information about available updates and the repository configuration information. Repositories can be considered as libraries of available software.
Gedit
Gedit is the notepad equivalent. It is a plain text graphical editor, that is heavily used in UBUNTU. As mentioned before, system files, in general, do not use extensions. They are plain text files that can be viewed and modified using the appropriate program. Gedit is the one for the graphical environment.
System Settings
Control Center provides a graphical overview of the system settings. They are categorized in groups as seen below:
  • Personal. Settings to personalize the appearance of windows, desktop, personal user information and accounts, preferred programs and shortcuts.
  • Internet and Network. Settings about bluetooth, network connections, proxies, remote access and file sharing.
  • Hardware. Settings about hardware information, drivers, video and sound configuration, peripherals, and power management.
  • System. Settings about networking tools and utilities, system monitor, packages information and system logging.
  • Other. Settings about Cloud settings, keyboard layouts, passwords and encryption.
Terminal UI – Non graphical environment
Command line is a powerful tool in UBUNTU 11.04. The same file and folder rules about paths and names described above apply here too.
General view
When thte terminal appears, it starts with something like this:
paladin@paladin-Ubuntu:
paladin is the user currently logged and used. paladin-Ubuntu is the computer name that the user is logged into.
The dollar symbol indicates that the user logged is an ordinary user. A root user is indicated by the hash symbol
Using terminal to navigate – Basic commands
Arguments
Some commands work on their own. Most need to be told what files or folders to work with. They are called arguments.
Command options
Most commands also have options. Options follow the command with a preceded hyphen.
Useful everyday commands and symbols
Command
Description
ls
List files and folders. Example: ls -l. Shows all files in folder, including hidden ones.
cd
Change folder. Example: 'cd ~/Documents' will move to Documents folder in the /home/”current user” folder
cp
Copy file or folder. Example: cp file.doc Desktop/, will copy file.doc from current path to /home/”current user”/desktop
mv
Move files or folders. If no destination path is provided, renames current file/folder
rm
Deletes files
nano and vi
Non graphical editors, Gedit equievelant
man
View the manual for a specified command
locate
Finds a specified file. It used a database which can be updated manually using ”sudo updatedb”
rmdir
Deletes folder
mkdir
Creates folder
wget
Powerful download program
apt-get
(Advanced Packaging Tool)
>
Redirects the output of a command to a specified location/file
|
Pipe. Uses the output of one command as input for another

Since ternimal is actuals written commands, the administration offered in the graphical UI cannot been fully explained here. Moreover, the configuration files are different for each hardware device that is to be modified. In most cases the command that is to be used to edit a .conf file look look like this,
sudo vi /etc/00_grub.d, where /etc/00_grub.d will be the file to be edited.
Basic Administration Commands
Command
Description
ps
Shows the processes running and their pid
chown
Changes the owner of a file / folder
chgrp
Changes the owner group of a file
chmod
Changes file and directory permissions
mount
Mounts storage device from specified path in /media folder
unmount
Unmounts specified device
du
Shows a summary of free space in a partition
fsck
Finds and repairs filesystem corruption
alsamixer
Shows the alsamixer sound properties in terminal
--help
Shows available help information about current command
at
Runs a command at periodical intervals

Alternative GUIs
UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop edition comes with UNITY as default graphical UI. However, there are alternatives such as KDE, GNOME, LxDE and Xfce. Although they are based in the kernel, these GUIs require different tools and utilities for administration, even thought the same basic rules apply. They vary from more customizable interface to lighter ones, so they result in different versions and they are outside the scope of this paper. They can be found as seen below.
KDE
KUBUNTU
LxDE
LUBUNTU
Xfce
XUBUNTU

References
1. help.ubuntu.com as found at https://help.ubuntu.com/11.04/installation-guide/i386/what-is-ubuntu.html on May 2nd 2011.
8. Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference, Keir Thomas, MacFreda Publishing, 2009
9. UBUNTU 11.04 Desktop edition desktop preview pic as found at https://help.ubuntu.com/11.04/ubuntu-help/unity-introduction.html on May 2nd 2011.

Comments

  1. One of the few sources I could find online with this information. It was super helpful. Thank you so much.

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