Free Agent: Ubuntu's missing batteries

Ripper and Tuner: Installs StreamTuner, a fantastic Internet radio tuner I've crowed about, as well as a means for recording any stream you listen to.

DVD Ripper: I imagine I don't have to spell this one out.

Mplayer with plugin: This option is a Holy Grail of sorts: If you've selected the AUD-DVD Codecs option listed above, pretty much any video you encounter on the Web will play in Firefox--including Apple's movie trailers and the newscasts at CNN's site. Huzzah! (Be sure to close and restart Firefox if you leave it open while Automatix does its work.)

Open Office: Upgrades from the prerelease version of OpenOffice.org 2.0 that shipped with the current Breezy Badger release of Ubuntu to the final version; also installs a whole bunch of clip art.

Sun Java 1.5 JRE: Select this to enable Java support in your browser or anywhere else you might need it.

Firestarter: Don't have a firewall? Here's one that's effective and friendly.

nVidia Cards: Installs the proprietary drivers that enable 3D graphics for your nVidia board. If you select this option, you will see an informational dialog box that provides a magic command-line incantation to use if the 3D driver fails. Be sure to write that command down on a sheet of paper. On your next reboot, if the X Window System (Linux's GUI layer that sits underneath Gnome or KDE) fails to load, you'll be presented with a text-only log-in prompt. After logging in, issue the command you wrote down, and then press Ctrl-Alt-Del to reboot. You won't have 3D support, but you'll have your display back.

Firefox 1.5: Upgrades to Firefox 1.5. This option also pops up an info dialog if you select it, letting you know that your bookmarks will not be inherited by the new version of Firefox unless you manually copy them over. You can do this from the command line or by using the Nautilus file manager; if you choose the latter, you'll need the View, Show Hidden Files command to complete your task. (In Linux, like all Unix systems, files and folders whose names begin with a dot are hidden.)

Also note that this option automatically installs the Adobe Acrobat Reader, a bloated little bugger that phones home to Adobe looking for updates and reporting goodness-knows-what. I prefer Gnome's built-in PDF and document viewer, Evince, which is installed by default on Breezy Badger machines. If you've upgraded to Firefox 1.5 and want to remove Acrobat Reader from your system, use Synaptic to remove the Acroread and Mozilla-Acroread packages.

What's Going On?

After you've selected all your options and clicked OK, Automatix springs into action, and you'll be able to watch everything it does in the terminal window it opened. First, Automatix makes your system aware of a few additional package repositories--the online locations for downloadable Ubuntu-specific software. Then Automatix downloads, installs, and configures all the software you've selected. Go grab lunch if you're not interested in watching the magic happen.

You can run Automatix as many times as you like to install additional features, but be aware that on subsequent uses you won't find check-boxes next to any options you've installed previously. Automatix doesn't keep track of what it has done in the past; its listing is simply a menu of actions you can take any time you run it.

The package repositories that Automatix adds to your system configuration contain thousands of programs. You can browse them all with Synaptic, Ubuntu's package management tool. Select System, Administration, Synaptic Package Manager. I'd suggest selecting Muine and F-Spot for installation; the former is a music player, the latter a photo management app. Both are fantastic. I am also partial to Galeon, an elegant Gnome-ish Web browser that uses the Firefox rendering engine. And if you'd like a couple of simple yet addictive puzzle games in the vein of Tetris, check out Frozen-Bubble and Pathological.

Automatix works wonders for the current Breezy Badger version of Ubuntu Linux, and I hope that its authors update it for the next release, the Dapper Drake, when it arrives this spring. Prerelease versions are already available for download; the "Flight 3" release can be thought of as "version 6.04 beta 3" and is coming along nicely.

If you install Flight 3, the Update Manager applet will inform you as updates become available and will download and install them for you. Keep up with the frequent updates, which become ever more frequent as the final release draws near. When the Dapper Drake is complete, your system will update all its packages to final versions and you'll be sitting pretty. This is probably only for geeks who really love being on the cutting edge, though. For now, an Automatixed Breezy Badger is such a delightful way to compute, I'm willing to wait and experience the next Ubuntu version when it's fully baked.

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Matthew Newton

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