The Ubuntu handbook - 22/05/21
Sometimes Linux for new users can seem uninviting, daunting and confusing. It looks really complicated from an outsiders perspective and so people may feel put off by it, however I am here to attempt to make Linux seem less daunting. I recommend that you use Ubuntu if you wish to follow this guide since the guide was written with new Ubuntu users in mind.
What is Linux?
The Linux Kernel, also known simply as "Linux", is an operating system kernel written in C. Every Linux-based operating system (known as a distribution) uses the Linux kernel, as well as a package manager, within its system. The Linux Kernel itself, as well as many distributions are Free and Open Source, meaning that anyone can contribute to the code, modify it, redistribute it and use it for free. There are thousands of different Linux distributions, which typically take other Free, Open Source Software components to create a fully functioning operating system. This can include applications, package managers and Desktop Environments.
What makes a Linux distribution?
Many different things can come bundled within a Linux Distribution, such as software, Desktop Environments, an installer, package managers and of course, the Linux kernel.
Typically a version of the Linux Kernel, as well as a package manager is enough to be classed as a Linux distribution. Depending on the Linux distribution, they may lack an installer, or come with programs for you to install the system yourself (such as Arch or Gentoo), whereas other Linux distributions may come bundled with an installer and a Desktop Environment (such as Ubuntu, Fedora or Manjaro).
What is a Desktop Environment?
A Desktop Environment contains an array of software pre-installed, such as themes, icons, other UI elements, applications, APIs and more to help give a full and consistent desktop experience on Linux. It provides a graphical desktop for you to be able to do your tasks on your computer. Each Desktop Environment has a distinct look and feel, with different methods of customization. Some well known desktop environments are GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXQt, Budgie and Pantheon.
- This guide will typically focus on GNOME, as it is written for Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based systems.
The Ubuntu Installer
The installer for Ubuntu is fairly straight-forward. It will typically present you with a series of options, where you will choose some simple things to help with getting started such as: Whether you want a minimal or full installation, keyboard layout, username and password, timezone and which drive you want to install Ubuntu on.
If you are new to Linux I highly recommend using third-party software, as you will likely require non-free drivers for your computer to operate smoothly.
After checking this button and pressing continue, I recommend you consistently check the status in the top-right hand corner until your WiFi button has appeared, then promptly connect. This should avoid any installation issues due to a lack of internet.
How to install/remove/update applications via APT
APT is the default package manager for Ubuntu. Updates, app installations and app deletions will typically be handled through apt (or a third party package manager if you choose, such as Flatpak).
- How to search for a package in the repositories:
apt search [package-name] - This will search for a package with this name. Example:
apt search firefox
- How to install a package:
sudo apt install [package-name] - This will install an application with this name. Example
sudo apt install firefox
- How to uninstall a package:
sudo apt remove [package-name] - This will remove an application with this name. Example
sudo apt remove firefox
Packages come with something called dependencies. Normally during installation of a package, dependencies are installed along with an application, however when you remove a package, you need to run an additional command,
sudo apt autoremove, to remove dependencies associated with that package.
How to update your repositories: (Important side-note, when you are ever installing applications, or updating your updates, you will need to update your repositories first so that you get the latest updates from them.)
sudo apt update - This will update your repositories
- How to upgrade packages:
sudo apt upgrade - This will update any packages which require updates.
There are many wonderful commands which we have not covered here, however I recommend using a search engine such as DuckDuckGo or Google to find your answers.
- I also recommend trying "apt moo"
How to add Flatpak, and the Flathub repository onto your system
Flatpak is a package-manager which works across almost every Linux Distribution, and sandboxes its applications, which helps aid security as it limits the permissions that applications have on your desktop. Flatpak primarily hold third-party software in their repositories, whereas Ubuntu repositories will not. Steam, Minecraft, Spotify and Discord are all available from the Flathub repository. Flathub is the best place to get Flatpak apps.
- Install Flatpak
sudo apt install flatpak - Installs flatpak.
- Add the Flathub repository
flatpak remote-add --if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo - Adds the Flathub repository to Flatpak.
How to install/remove/update Flatpak applications
Flatpak commands to install/remove/update software is similar to that of APT.
- How to search for applications:
flatpak search [app-name] - This will search for applications based on the app name you searched. Alternatively you can use this website.
- How to install applications:
flatpak install [app-name] - This will install an application from Flatpak.
- How to remove applications:
flatpak remove [app-name] - This will remove an application that was installed from Flatpak.
- How to update applications:
flatpak update - This will update applications from Flatpak.
Installing the default GNOME Desktop Environment
By default Ubuntu comes with a modified version of the GNOME Desktop Environment, however many people prefer the standard GNOME desktop environment as it looks more modern and fluid. To install this desktop environment you will need to enter into your terminal:
sudo apt install gnome-session && gnome-tweaks
This will install the gnome-session, as well as the "Tweak tool", which allows you to change between light and dark theme and enable/disable extensions].
Now after the installation you will need to reboot, then click on your name on the login manager.
- Before entering your password click on the gear icon in the bottom right corner and select "GNOME"
This will now install the default GNOME session on Ubuntu!
Despite being complicated at first, I personally feel like Linux - while initially seeming daunting - can be a very friendly and inviting operating system if newcomers are given the right guidance. This quick-start guide was intended to help people learn how to use Linux by starting them on a fairly simple Ubuntu installation, and teaching them how to install, remove, update packages as well as install desktop environments.
- Released post - (22/05/21)