Ubuntu Made Easy

The latest edition of Ubuntu Made Easy preserves all the best characteristics of the earlier edition I liked so much, but updates it substantially to cover the next-generation graphic interface Unity, and the cutting edge features that have been added since those days. Written by a member of the GNOME documentation project (Phil Bull) and a veteran computer writer (Rickford Grant), it is a clear, well-organized reference to the free operating system I use exclusively.


  1. Does it cover alternatives for people who can’t use Unity or just don’t want to use Unity?

    I know that due to my arm injuries and poor coordination I can’t use Unity, and due to other accessibility problems many other people can’t use Unity either. I would like to see a clear description of the strengths and weaknesses, especially the ergonomic ones, of Classic emulation, of Mint, of Kubuntu, of Xubuntu, etc.

    Does it cover techniques for reintroducing working scrollbars? For fixing buggy trackpads [I was able to do that in Ubuntu, not in Xubuntu]? For enabling joysticks as an ergonomic alternative to mice?

    1. I feel your pain with the dislike of unity. Fortunately you can fairly easily install gnome over unity, which makes (in my opinion) ubuntu much more enjoyable. Also, the latest edition of gnome is very attractive and and has a few useful additional features

    2. Using Amazon’s search inside feature, I found that chapter 9 has sections on customizing Unity, installing the Gnome desktop environment, and switching from Unity to Cinnamon (whatever that is). Searching for “KDE” found one mention that there are additional Ubuntu variants. “ergonomic,” “disability,” and “accessibility” are not mentioned in this book (neither are “mobility,” “impairment,” or “blind”). “mouse” seems to be the only pointing device mentioned.

      The table of contents and index are also viewable online.

      I know almost nothing about Linux GUIs, do they not have something equivalent to the generic USB human interface device drivers found in Windows and OS X so the OS doesn’t have to “know” it’s a joystick, not a mouse?

      1. There are some bugs with the generic human interface drivers. The system defaults to treating unidentified touchpads as mice, and unidentified joysticks as nothing at all.

        I have an Alps touchpad on this machine. Alps doesn’t release open-source drivers, and until I installed a patch, the system treated the touchpad as a PS/2 mouse and anything – a tap, a hand moving half an inch above the touchpad, etc. – as a mouse click. The patch works in Ubuntu 11.04, in Classic anyway, and I also restored the scrollbars and some other stuff. The patch doesn’t work in Xubuntu 11.04, because it has no touchpad settings. That’s the sort of thing that can make the difference between a usable operating system and a useless one.

        I understand that the scrollbar fix for 11.04 doesn’t work in 12.04 and can break the interface. So it’s important to know things like a working scrollbar fix for 12.04, especially for those of us who can’t use scrollwheels or touchpad gestures [the first causes tendonitis, the second requires a reliable touchpad and good coordination].

  2. First step to using Unity Ubuntu: Drop Unity, switch to MATE. It’s super nice, just the old-school super usable Gnome2 polished and presented beautifully. Caja file manager is beautiful, it’s nautilus unfucktified.

    Then install compiz, and awn. Still no better OS UI out there, even thought it’s more than five years old. 

    In 12.04, Just enter this line-by-line (except the last):
    sudo add-apt-repository “deb http://packages.mate-desktop.org/repo/ubuntu precise main”
    sudo apt-get install mate-archive-keyring
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install mate-core
    sudo apt-get install mate-desktop-environment chromium-browser avant-window-navigator compiz ubuntu-restricted-extras libreoffice gnumeric

    a just a few good programs off the top of my head, not a very complete list.


    Then log out and click the gear to select MATE when you log back in. Simply yet fully customizable. It’s such a nice desktop.

    1. Unity was the killer for me with 12.04. I know some folks love it, but I’m in the opposite camp… glad to hear there’s an alternate route.
      BIG second on Compiz. I feel like I’ve lost an arm when I switch back to a Windows environment. There is no better way to keep mad numbers of windows open and easily accessible.

      Cory, I remember when you were talking about the switch to Ubuntu years ago… I don’t think I ever managed to catch your “official” write-up on the switch. Anyone thinking about moving to a free OS will find Ubuntu “windows-like” enough to get over the learning curve, and once you start to tackle the fear of the command line you really start to find out what you can do with a PC… many of my friends over the years have been amazed that the vast majority of my photography image development is done via command line in Linux instead of Mac or Windows and Photoshop. I don’t know that I would have ever gotten back into scripting (something I hadn’t done since the DOS days) were I still in a Windows environment.

  3. Cool, I switched a few months ago. The thing I enjoy is that it’s like half-windows half-mac but more flexible and I’m finally dipping my toes into the terminal after some trepidation. One odd thing I noticed is that the software center seems to have uninstalled itself and I’ll take care of that … eventually. 

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