Upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04

I’ve finally gotten around to upgrading my Lenovo/IBM Thinkpad X60s to Ubuntu version 10.04 (from version 9.04). A few hours into the upgrade and all is well.

If you’re thinking about upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04, here are some suggestions based on my experience. Before you start, though, be prepared for a process that will take several hours. You’ll only be busy for a few minutes over that time, but once you start, you’re more or less committing to the whole thing and it does take a while.

1. First thing, back up your system.

For most people, this will mean copying the contents of the /home directory to another location (I used a Lacie USB external hard disk). If you have any other data not stored in your /home directory be sure to back that up, too (I have a /data directory with raw data from large household surveys that I don’t like to keep in my /home directory).

2. Consider uninstalling any software that you don’t use. This will save space on your hard disk, but it will also accelerate the upgrading process since Ubuntu won’t update software you aren’t using anyway.

3. If you haven’t done it already, plug your laptop in. The upgrading process can take hours and you don’t want your computer to shut down in the middle of it.

4. Run “Update Manager” (System –> Administration –> Update Manager). Click on the button marked “Upgrade” near the top of the window.

The Update Manager will now “set new software channels” (repositories where software is stored); then, get new software packages (depending on your connection speed and how many applications you have this will likely take several hours); then, install the upgrades (again, this can take hours, depending on how fast your computer is and how much software you’re running); and finally cleanup any now unneeded software.

This process is almost completely automated, but check periodically because Update Manager may ask you to respond to a few questions along the way. Depending on your installation, there might not be any questions at all; more likely, though, there will be a few. My view here is that unless you really know what you’re doing, choose the default setting or follow the advice offered.

5. Restart your computer. (Once everything is installed and cleaned up, the Update Manager will tell you that you need to reboot.)

6. After rebooting, do some post-installation configuration.

A quick Google search will turn up many post-installation guides to configuring Ubuntu. One that I’ve found to be particularly helpful is TheSilentNumber. Read through the suggestions there and take any advice that sounds appealing.

7. If you don’t like the new Mac window style, which put buttons on the left, you can switch the buttons to the traditional right-hand side by typing the following code (all one line) at the command line and hitting return:

gconftool-2 --set /apps/metacity/general/button_layout --type string menu:minimize,maximize,close

(Hat tip: Jun Auza.)

(You can get a command line several different ways, one is: Applications –> Accesories –> Terminal.)

8. After I upgraded, Flash wouldn’t work in the Firefox web browser. (Flash is the proprietary software used to play YouTube videos and a lot of other video content on the web.) If you have the same problem, enter the following commands, one line at a time, into the command line.

sudo apt-get purge lightspark

sudo apt-get purge swfdec-mozilla

sudo apt-get purge mozilla-plugin-gnash

sudo apt-get purge adobe-flashplugin

sudo apt-get purge flashplugin-nonfree

sudo apt-get purge flashplugin-installer

rm -f /home/**/.mozilla/plugins/*flash*so

rm -rf /home/**/.wine/dosdevices/c:/windows/system3/Macromed/Flash

sudo rm -f /usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins/libflashplayer.so

sudo rm -f /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/flashplugin-alternative.so /usr/lib/firefox-addons/plugins/libflashplayer.so

Restart Firefox and Flash should work now.

As I said, so far, so good, with 10.04. The most obvious improvement is that I can now use “New Twitter” (which only generated an inert, blank page in 9.04). I hear that all the Desktop eye candy is particularly nice in 10.04 (the new Gnome shell, for example), but I don’t run anything fancy like that.

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