Friday, 30 May 2014

Geek Post: Getting Kubuntu 14.04 to Work for Me

An Apology:  This is a Geek Post

I have both an inner and outer geek, the result is this post.  Normal service shall be resumed next time, unless I see some really cool code.

I'm not here to praise Linux or bury Microsoft.  I use Linux on my laptops.  I have for years, I up-date rarely, wanting to get on with work, not fuss over the OS (Take note MS: XP to Vista to 7 to 8 to 8.1).  Recently I up-dated to the  latest version of Ubuntu (the most popular version of desktop linux) with the 'K' Desktop Environment or KDE, hence Kubuntu 14.04 (released in April 2014).

This is a record of my installation and what I needed to do to get it working how I like it.  It's a mix of a record of my experience and an aide memoir for me.  To those you can still cope with reading this entry I hope you'll find it useful.

A Very Brief Discussion about Linux

Kubuntu: Linux looking like Windows

Linux is the less well known of the major operating systems out there after Microsoft and Apple's offering.  You may not even have heard of it, if you're using and Android phone, you're using it, may be to read this on it.  It works on laptops and desktops too.  Linux is also big in the world of servers and some games consoles too.

Linux has a few powerful advantages over Microsoft's operating systems and even those of Apple and a few weaknesses, which can set one's teeth on edge.

I won't knock Microsoft Operating Systems too hard.   For the most part they work on almost any hardware, straight out of the box and are ubiquitous, so much so, everyone can work out how to use a computer running it.  If you're a PC gamer it has been the foundation and driver of hardware for decades.  I have been using them for years and will continue to do so.

I use Linux because:
  1. It's free meaning OS money can be spent on hardware (oooh, hardware) instead.
  2. It's utterly configurable, both visually and operating system wise, to be exactly what I want, how I want it, and that includes making it very lightweight so my average power laptop runs very fast.
  3. The BIG ONE:  It doesn't need a reboot for an up-date.
That last one is critical.  I do creative stuff.  I write, I draw and paint, I stare at the screen and think a lot.  Nothing breaks the creative thought like the computer demanding I reboot or it simply doing it.  On more than one occasion I have left a piece of prose or a half-complete picture to come back later to discover my PC had rebooted.  End of creativity for the day.

Why Linux can be painful:
  1. It doesn't always work 'straight out of the box' especially on cutting edge hardware.  Finding the right driver can be a long, long search.  Some drivers have been reverse engineered by enthusiasts and don't work as solidly. 
  2. Sometimes you have to brave the command line to get some things done.
  3. The BIG ONE:  Not all of the the software you're used in the Microsoft Universe works in Linux.
That's very true for games, or Office Products (alternatives are available see Am I cheap? - Free software I use.) or things I use heavily like, Adobe Photoshop, Evernote and Netflix

There is a huge amount of support out there from really knowledgeable people so if you want to learn more about Linux there are links below that will help you.

Back to the point of this Blog

My previous OS Kubuntu 12.04 can do an install to 14.04 as if it was a general software up-date; however, I like a fresh install so I burnt an installation disc and used to it to wipe my computer and install the latest OS version.  I use a wired Internet connection, but it will work with WiFi, to up-date things that weren't on the disc.

The basic stuff works, I had my Word Processor Libre Office and Firefox web browser that were installed by default, but I have particular needs and not everything works, so here, finally are the problems and how I solved them.

Programs Installed

Not everything comes on the installation disc so here are the ones I added.
On many linux distributions there is a software centre where you can find useful stuff and download it knowing it is compatible for your operating system.  For the current Kubuntu version it's known as the 'Muon Discovery Centre'.  Set it going, type in what you're looking for and install - that's a feature I'd love in MS products.

Muon Discovery Software Centre - pick a category or type in the search box.


  1. Opera Web Browser - download the appropriate '.deb' file opera's site and let the installer do the rest.  Signed in so it would sync with all my other devices.
  2. Dropbox - downloaded directly from Muon Discovery centre, entered my details and it works fine. 
  3. Inkscape Vector Drawing Software - downloaded from Muon Discovery centre.
  4. Skype - Visited their download page picked linux and then the Ubuntu 12.04 (multiarch) version.  Downloaded the '.deb' file and installed.  Entered my details and I'm connected again.
  5. VLC - downloaded what I think is the best Video/Music player there is (I use it on my Microsoft machines too).
  6. Wine - Downloaded the latest version of Wine (1.7.1) from Wine HQ.  This is the tool that will help you run MS Windows programs on Linux.
  7. Photoshop 7.0 - installed via Wine. It has worked for the last two months without fault.  Yes, it is a very old version, newer versions work too, but I am cheap and it does what I need.
  8. Evernote - installed, a bit hit and miss, then there was an up-date to Wine and it's worked very nicely since.  There is a native linux version called 'Everpad' that can be downloaded, but I like the Window's version.  Details of alternatives here
  9. Netflix had to follow the guide provided by +Nixie Pixel on her YouTube Channel.  View it here
  10. KeePass - A powerful password manager, Windows-based, setting it to work via Wine as if it is on XP means it works fine.  That sounds complicated, but its a couple of pull-downs in the Wine Configuration settings for the software.  I use the free portable version available from  Keepass website.
  11. GIMP installed via Muon Discovery Centre.  Then I added the GIMP Paint Studio 'expansion'.  Take a look at their code home to learn more here.


Photoshop V7.0 Running on Linux via Win 1.7


Problems

DVDs wouldn't play.

Usually you have to download some third party stuff to get DVDs to work in Ubuntu.  It does this during the install, but the DVDs still didn't play.  Turns out I was missing a reference in the /dev directory.  I said you had to brave the command line.  I had to enter the following command after navigating to /dev.


sudo ln -s sr0 dvd

I found this fix on the why-does-dvd-playback-still-not-work-after-installing-libdvdcss2 page of askubuntu.com 

Wacom Tablet Pressure Sensitivity Not Functioning

Wacom Tablet was recognised and was moving the cursor around, but pressure sensitivity wasn't working in either GIMP or Photoshop.  Discovered, I need to activate it in the GIMP preferences then it worked for both programs.

No Driver For My Epson XP-750 Printer

I use an EPSON XP-750 networked to my router via an Ethernet cable.  It's driver did not appear on the list for installation.  Found the driver 'epson-201209w' and downloaded/installed the 32-bit .deb version.  Printer works a treat.

WiFi Slow

I have a fast Broadband Connection that Laptops running Windows access blisteringly fast.  My Linux laptop crawls.  It is all about finding the right driver.

I found help here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/Driver/bcm43xx and here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/Driver/bcm43xx

There's no getting away from it, the WiFi bit is tech heavy, but it is what I had to fiddle about with to solve my issues.

I followed the guide here.  It is still not as good as I think it can be and so I'll be tinkering for awhile.



Prettifying KDE is one of the really wonderful things about it and can be done from all sorts of settings menus including downloading of new icon sets and window decoration.  If you want to check out what can be done, take a look at kde-look.org.

I hope you found this useful, if only as a new way to cure insomnia.


Update 14th June 2014

Evernote was a bit flakey after a few weeks, not sure why, but then I up-dated the kernel (the core of the operating system) and it has been a lot more stable.
How to do this can be found here.

For completeness, I changed from 3.13.0-29-generic to 3.15.

Useful Links

DistroWatch - Every Linux distribution, what they're like and where to get them.
Kubuntu.org - Home of Kubuntu, the Ubuntu Linx version with the KDE front end.
Opera.com - Home of the Opera Web Browser, a nice alternative to the 'Big Three'
Wine HQ - You want to run Microsoft Programs on Linux, start here.  Their forums are very good.
It's FOSS - A great Open Source/Linux resource.
Ask Ubuntu - Great problem solving Forum for all things Ubuntu.
KDE Look - As they claim, eye-candy for your Desktop.
Nixie Pixel's You Tube Channel -er...the YouTube channel of  +Nixie Pixel

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