Seven post-install tips for Ubuntu 7.04

Fixes, extras, and eye candy: Here are seven steps to take just after installing Feisty Fawn

So, you've just installed Ubuntu 7.04, otherwise known as the "Feisty Fawn" release of everyone's favorite (for now) flavor of Linux. You booted the installation disc , looked around the test environment to discover that your hardware was working, and double-clicked the Install icon on the desktop. The Ubuntu installer helped you make room for Linux on your hard drive, and even copied over some of your documents and settings from Windows.

Half an hour ago, you had only Windows on your PC, but now you have a choice at boot time, and a whole new world to explore. Congratulations!

But wait -- before you dive in too deeply, here are seven steps you can take right away to prevent common headaches and help yourself enjoy your new surroundings.

1. Fix your right Alt key

U.S. users may notice before too long that the right-hand Alt key on their keyboard doesn't work in Ubuntu. This will drive you nuts if you frequently use that key. (I use mine constantly for the Alt-F2 Run command in Gnome.)

By default Ubuntu assigns the right Alt key (but not the left one) to "third level" character input -- that is, the key is reserved for entering extended and international symbols. This is good for our Ubuntu-using friends in places where third-level characters are in use, but the Gnome Keyboard Indicator applet shows that the U.S. English keyboard layout contains no third-level symbols. So for us statesiders, our right Alt key has been mapped to a function that we cannot use in the first place.

To get the right Alt key to behave like the left Alt key, select System, Preferences, Keyboard. On the Layout Options tab, open the 'Third level choosers' branch, and reassign the third-level chooser to another key. (I prefer the right Windows key -- my laptop doesn't even have one of these, so I am actually assigning a useless function to a nonexistent key!)

2. Fix your screen resolution

You've booted into Ubuntu and your expensive high-res display is running at a paltry 1024 by 768 resolution instead of the 1280 by 1024 or 1600 by 1200 you're accustomed to. So you click System, Preferences, Screen Resolution, only to find that the higher resolutions you know your display can support are not offered in the drop-down list. What the heck?

This is usually an indication that Ubuntu has failed to suss out the characteristics of your monitor. (Graphics card woes are also possible in this case, but in my experience monitor trouble is more common.) Luckily, a helpful Fix Video Resolution Howto in the Ubuntu wiki has solved this issue every time I've encountered it. The instructions there should be enough to get your display in gear.

3. Install Automatix

Automatix is a gem that I've discussed before: It's the easiest way to add certain components to your system that are not included in a default Ubuntu installation for legal reasons. Automatix makes enabling DVD support, for example, a very simple point-and-click process.

Head to the Automatix installation page and follow the download and installation instructions for Feisty.

Once that's done, you'll find Automatix under Applications, System Tools, Automatix.

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