What to do with Ubuntu and Ibook...
April 9, 2007 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Ibook + New Ubuntu Install...what now?

I was bitten by the Linux bug, so I decided to put Ubuntu on an Ibook G3. The install went...flawlessly. No problems whatsoever. Everything works. I didn't learn a damn thing.

But I want a few projects to teach myself linux - the ins and outs and things. Want to become a command-line-jedi-master and learn what I can do with it.

Note: I am not a programmer, but I am a fairly smart guy.

So - what projects might you recommend for fun and interesting things to do with Ubuntu Linux? I'm open to all kinds of suggestions.
posted by TeamBilly to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Here are my appropriately enthusiastic suggestions!

Learn how to install packages using apt-get instead of Synaptic! For that matter, try doing everything in the command line!

Compile stuff! Install stow and then go looking through sourceforge for projects. Getting prerequisites for compiling things can be veeeeeery educational.

Learn programming! Bash scripting! Perhaps Ruby or Python!

Poke around the filesystem! /etc in particular can be educational. Learn rgrep! Get your head around man pages!

If your laptop is purely for learning and won't kill you if something goes wrong, try purposefully breaking things! Remove your kernel! Cat /dev/random to your hard drive! Personally, I find that in unix systems I tend to learn a lot when things go spectacularly wrong. And hey, you can always reinstall, right?

Good luck and have fun!
posted by the dief at 7:52 AM on April 9, 2007

Unfortunately, there is very little available to you in the nitty-gritty-but-not-writing-code-niche that is on that Ubuntu machine that is not also available on an OS X machine. In my experience (as you seem to understand) it was the pain in the ass install that got me understanding more under the hood stuff.

That said, I would work on launching applications while ssh'd from another machine - One practical application is using the iBook as a picture frame that you control remotely. You want to explore how to pop up a window on that machine or on the one you are in front of. Or try using the iBook as a torrent client without sitting in front of it. Or get it going as a media server using samba.
posted by mzurer at 7:58 AM on April 9, 2007

Response by poster: Great suggestions!

Any others?

posted by TeamBilly at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2007

The possibilities are fairly endless here...

off the top of my head.

Bash scripting is a great start. A bash script is nothing more than a file full of command-line commands with (optionally) a bit of looping logic to do complicated tasks.

Perl may have fallen somewhat out of vogue, but it's still a great language, esp. in a Linux environment. Everything Bash scripting can do, Perl does better, and then some.

Start mucking around with all of the possibilities of configuring and running an apache webserver.

Start mucking around with all of the possibilities of configuring and running an MySQL server.

Start mucking around with all of the possibilities of running webpages that make use of the MySQL server.

I don't think Ubuntu comes with the KDE libs, but Amarok (written for KDE), is a fantastic audio player. So, a nice exercise would be to install Amarok plus all KDE dependencies. In other words, do something to get yourself familiar with Ubuntu's synaptic package manager.

If you are committed to learning command-line judo, get yourself acquainted with a console editor. My choice is vim, others will roll their eyes and say emacs. YMMV, but after getting through the learning curve of either, you'll be happy to be proficient in it.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2007

Browse the Tips & Tricks forum at ubuntuforums.org!
posted by CKZ at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2007

all of the above are great suggestions. i'm also firmly in line with mcstayinskool on the subject of vim--if nothing else, it gets you really used to command-line text editing and using keybindings.

if you're really new to this, i'd recommend picking up some books. o'reilly's publications are great--very comprehensive (if somewhat out-of-date by the time they get published). hit a bookstore and flip through stuff like ubuntu hacks or what to do when you can't find your system administrator if you're easing in, or things like essential system administration or learning perl if you really want to toss your cap over the wall.
(or the sendmail book, if you're literally and figuratively looking to kill someone.)

"Why are we running from the police, Dad?"
"Because they use Emacs, son, and we use vi."

posted by the luke parker fiasco at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I agree with mzurer that Linux on a Mac is really diminishing returns. All the command-line stuff is there on your Mac, minus all the aggravating incompatibilities.

There are, IMO, two worthwhile things to do in Linux:

- Learn the API's for various things, and understand how the kernel works. If you're not a developer, this is kind of a waste.

- Set up an X server to dish out windows to other networked computers. You need a second computer for this.

Bear in mind that it's possible to install other windowing systems on top of Mac OS X via their X11 implementation. I installed Gnome on my G5 a couple year ago because I wanted to check out Enlightenment. Come to think of it, that may be a good route for you to take- setting up a second WM takes work, and will require you to get under the hood a bit, but you'll still have your fully-functional OS X while you're doing it.
posted by mkultra at 8:42 AM on April 9, 2007

Response by poster: Heh. I blew out OSX totally when I installed Ubuntu. Figured it wasn't that big of a deal since I had the OSX discs anyway.

I have access to another Mac as well as a Windows box, so we'll see what happens.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:51 AM on April 9, 2007

Skip vi and emacs and just use nano/pico. I saved massive amounts of time once I stopped messing around with trying to memorise the vi and emacs keystrokes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:07 AM on April 9, 2007

Previous question of closely related interest.

On the Editor Wars front, I must humbly recommend the One True Editor.

The install went...flawlessly. No problems whatsoever. Everything works. I didn't learn a damn thing. Gosh darn that Ubuntu and its smooth installation!
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:27 AM on April 9, 2007

Start with ubuntuguide.org, and install a bunch of cool software and functionality. Learn to use it well. Hang out on the Ubuntu Forums and help newbies with their problems. Odds are, you'll learn a lot in the process.

Learn some bash scripting. Set up scripts that automate some of your tasks. Set up a cronjob that syncs your google calendar to your ipod every night. Pull down your todo list from the web with wget, parse it into text, and stick it in your ipod's notes folder. etc, etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:36 AM on April 9, 2007

if you speak more than one language, maybe you could help translating?

or try out experimental stuff like Compiz?

or try out Specto (hopefully fixing the crappy code? :P) ~ I know you're not a programmer, but if you are interested in learning Python (which is pretty friendly and interesting), that could be a fun way to do it!

design some Tango icons?

play Tremulous?
posted by a007r at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2007

Compile your own Kernel!!!!!!
posted by Freen at 11:42 AM on April 9, 2007

It's hard to learn anything for the sake of learning without having some kind of project or goal to work at and make work. E.g. I learned all of my scripting languages via having a task I needed to accomplish and then figuring out how to do it in the language. That said, pick a project or something you want to do and keep plugging away, learning everything that you need to know to get it working. Like was suggested, try to get a web server running and make your own local web page or blog or whatever.
posted by mikshir at 8:46 AM on April 10, 2007

When I was feeling bored with everything, I put Ubuntu on my home PC and set it up as a LAMP server. I then picked up a PHP book and made some simple web pages to track stuff in my daily life like calories, miles run, etc. It was fun and not exceedingly difficult.
posted by m3thod4 at 2:35 AM on April 11, 2007

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