A Stable and Performant Ubuntu Linux Laptop or Desktop

Malcolm Carlock / http://malcolm.carlock.com

Useful Software Why I switched from XP to Ubuntu for my laptop


I have had Ubuntu 10 installed on my IBM T42 laptop since 2009.  It has been stable, performant and highly usable.

To run my favorite Windows apps (which were on this laptop when it formerly ran XP), I use
Crossover.  It works very well, and Windows apps are easy to install.

For printing, I have an HP C6280 Colorsmart which is reached wirelessly over my home network.  Printing is seamless from both native Linux, and Windows apps via Crossover.

The laptop firewall is UFW (Uncomplicated FIreWall), configured with, essentially, a simple set of "block all incoming, allow all outgoing" rules.

I connect to my Linux server using SSH for interactive connections, and via NFS for file-sharing.  The laptop automatically reconnects to the LInux NFS server in case that server reboots, using this script, which runs from CRON under the root account.

Automated backups are performed using rsync to a Linux server, which in turn does a daily copy of the laptop's and its own backups to a removable drive.

I don't have full-disk encryption set up yet, but I plan to, possibly using this method, but more likely using TrueCrypt.

On the desktop, I use the Gnome windowing system that comes with Ubuntu, with the top and bottom panel bars in auto-hide mode.  I keep no icons on the desktop, preferring to keep launchers in the top panel bar.  But that's just me.

My Unix shell windows (the "terminal" app by default, but I prefer xterm) are configured using the portable dot files from this page.  (I use most of the other utilities on that page in my home Linux environment, as well as in various Unix environments at work.)  The shell I use is bash.  The shell prompt displays an SSH-formatted path to the directory I'm currently in, making it simple to copy/paste that path as needed without having to run 'pwd', or to assemble SCP and SSH commands more quickly.

For websites that require Internet Explorer, I have installed Firefox for Windows under Crossover, then installed the IE Tab add-on into Windows Firefox.  This lets me browse IE-only sites within Firefox.  Within native Linux (or any) Firefox, it's also possible to use User Agent Switcher.

I use a German keymap on all my computers.  Because some of them (such as the T42) can't support a 105-key keymap, I have some custom X11 mappings for those.  These are run automatically per-host when I open terminal windows under X11, using this command called from my portable .profile.

For guests with Windows or Mac laptops who may visit and want to access my file shares, I still run Samba on the Linux server.

The Linux server is configured to shut itself down each weekday at 9AM, via CRON.  The PC BIOS on the server is configured to power up and reboot the machine again at 6PM each day, if not already running.


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