10 things to do first in Lubuntu 16.04.x


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Congratulations, you have installed a brand new Lubuntu 16.04.x Xenial Xerus! What's best for you to do first of all?

I have divided the actions into two categories:
- the absolutely essential ones (part 1);
- the recommended ones (not essential, part 2).

It's quite a list, but it'll give you a polished, nearly maintenance-free operating system that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come! Plus it's also a crash course in the use of Lubuntu.

Note: you'll find only relatively safe tips and tweaks here, because I think that the stability and reliability of your operating system should never be endangered. This website is serious about Lubuntu, so my approach is conservative.

I try to mention it whenever some risk is unavoidable, so that you can always make a balanced decision.

Note: this list is only meant for Lubuntu; the corresponding list for Ubuntu is here and the list for Xubuntu is here.

Do the following things, in this order:


Tip: you can download a checklist here, which you can print on paper. Then you can strike the items that you've done.

Are you unsure what Lubuntu version you have? You can check that as follows:

Launch a terminal window:
Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste in order to avoid typing errors):
lsb_release -a

Press Enter.

Note: in the output you see then, Lubuntu might be wrongly identified as Ubuntu, but that's not important: it's the version number that counts.



TEN ESSENTIAL ACTIONS:


First the updates, then the rest

1.1. Before you do anything else: check for available updates and install them all:

Menu button - System Tools - Software Updater

Note: are you installing the updates as prompted by the automated notification of available updates? Then be aware that downloading and installing the updates happens entirely "invisible"; you won't even be notified when the job is completed.

This is rather confusing, but it's very important that you don't interrupt the update process.

Install missing drivers

1.2. Installing drivers is usually not necessary, because they are already present in the Linux kernel. Exceptions are printer drivers and proprietary restricted drivers for (among others) Nvidia graphics cards.

a. Install your printer and scanner in this way (*Click*).

b. For optimal performance of your Nvidia graphics card, or your Broadcom wireless card, you'll want to install the closed source restricted driver (the proprietary non-free driver). Like this:

Menu button - System Tools - Software Updater

Click Settings... and then click the tab Additional Drivers

When available for your system, you'll be shown one or more installable non-free drivers. Select them.

The required drivers are then automatically downloaded from the internet, from the software repositories of Lubuntu, and (also automatically) installed. Afterwards you will have to do a full reboot of your computer.

Note: Sometimes you're being offered several versions of the restricted driver for your video card. The order of preference is as follows:

1. nvidia-(from highest number to lowest number)
2. nvidia-(from highest number to lowest number)-updates
3. nvidia-experimental

Only choose from the versions that you're being offered, because only those support your video card! Start with the preferred number one, and only work your way down when it doesn't perform well.

Do you have a brand-new graphics card from Nvidia? Then it might be too new for the version of the proprietary restricted driver in the software repositories of Ubuntu. In that case you won't be offered any proprietary driver by Driver Manager.

If this happens, then you can look for another solution for your Nvidia card on this page.


For an AMD/ATI video card you have to stick to the default open source driver. Because the closed AMD Catalyst (fglrx) drivers are not compatible with Ubuntu 16.04.x.

These closed fglrx drivers are proprietary and so their code is not available. AMD indicated they no longer wanted to support them and urged their customers to use open-source drivers instead.

If you're using an AMD or ATI GPU in Lubuntu 16.04.x, the operating system will automatically select either the radeon or the amdgpu driver for you, and both of these open-source drivers are installed by default.

Install some extra software

1.3. In order to complete Lubuntu, you'll definitely want to install some extra software. You can do that as follows.

a. First you'll want to have the package lubuntu-restricted-extras, which contains vital multimedia support:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install lubuntu-restricted-extras

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

Now you'll be confronted by a license agreement from Microsoft (sigh), because you're installing some Microsoft fonts.

See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/first-lubuntu/Screenshot-fonts-1.jpg?attredirects=0


Hit the Tab key to activate <Ok> (which then turns red), and press Enter.

In the next window you'll be given the chance to say Yes to the agreement: hit the Tab key to activate <Yes> (which then turns red) and press Enter.

b. Furthermore, you'll want to have support for playing encrypted DVD's:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Use copy/paste to transfer the following magical incantation to the terminal:
sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg

Press Enter. When asked, type your password and press Enter again. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

Now you'll be presented a couple of times with confirmation requests. Accept all requests.

c. Then copy and paste this green text into the terminal:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg

Press Enter. When asked, type your password and press Enter again. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

Again, you'll be presented a couple of times with confirmation requests. Accept them all. Note: this may take a while, especially on weak hardware. Wait patiently until it has finished.

d. Then, install Chromium as second web browser. Always handy to have, even if it's only for troubleshooting purposes. You can use Synaptic Package Manager to install it.

e. Lastly, it's advisable to install screenshooter gnome-screenshot.

Strangely, the screenshooter of Gnome pulls less payload than Xfce's screenshooter, so Gnome's is the best choice. You can use Synaptic Package Manager to install it.

After installation you can find it in the menu:

Menu button - Accessories - Screenshot

Decrease the swap use (important!)

1.4. This is especially noticeable on computers with relatively low RAM memory (2 GB or less): they tend to be far too slow in Lubuntu, and Lubuntu accesses the hard disk too much. Luckily, this can be helped.

Note: does your computer have 4 GB RAM or more? Then you can skip this item, because with so much RAM you probably won't notice any benefits from applying it.

On the hard disk there's a separate partition for virtual memory, called the swap. When Lubuntu uses the swap too much, the computer slows down a lot.

Lubuntu's inclination to use the swap, is determined by a setting. The lower the setting number, the longer it takes before Lubuntu starts using the swap. On a scale of 0-100, the default setting is 60. Which is much too high for normal desktop use, and only fit for servers.

A detailed explanation can be found here (link dead? Then download this pdf file with the same content).

Now the how-to:

a. First make sure that you have installed the applications gksu and leafpad:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install gksu leafpad

Press Enter and submit your password. Please note that the password will remain invisible, not even asterisks will show, which is normal.

b. Now check your current swappiness setting. Type in the terminal (use copy/paste):
cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

The result will probably be 60.

c. To change the swappiness into a more sensible setting, type in the terminal (use copy/paste):
gksudo leafpad /etc/sysctl.conf

Press Enter.

Scroll to the bottom of the text file and add your swappiness parameter to override the default. Copy/paste the following green lines:

# Decrease swap usage to a more reasonable level
vm.swappiness=10

d. Close the text file and reboot your computer.

e. After the reboot, check the new swappiness setting:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste):
cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

Now it should be 10.

Note: if your hard disk is an SSD, your machine will benefit from an even bigger decrease in swappiness. That's because too many write actions, like frequent swapping, reduce the lifespan of an SSD. For an SSD I advise a swappiness of 1. Also check these tips for optimizing an SSD for your Linux.

Turn on the firewall

1.5. It's advisable to turn on the firewall (it's disabled by default):

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Copy/paste this command into the terminal:
sudo ufw enable

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal. Press Enter again.

Now check the firewall status. Copy/paste into the terminal:
sudo ufw status verbose

Press Enter.

Optimize your Solid State Drive (SSD)

1.6. Do you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a conventional spinning hard disk? Then optimize it for Lubuntu.

Disable the upgrade button

1.7. Some months after a new Lubuntu LTS version has arrived, you'll receive a notification of that in the window of Update Manager. That window then contains a button that you can use to upgrade your current Lubuntu LTS version (e.g. 16.04) to a newer LTS version (e.g. 18.04).

That looks easy, but I advise against using this button. So it's better to disable this notification entirely. You can disable it as follows:

Menu button - System Tools - Software Updater

Click on Settings...

Tab Updates:

Notify me of a new Ubuntu version: set it to: Never

Note: on the tab Developer Options, do not enable "xenial-proposed"! Because that would make your system unstable and buggy.

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes!

1.8. There are 10 mistakes that you definitely want to avoid, for the sake of the health of your system.

Solve some known bugs

1.9. If you have a problem: look at the solutions for 17 bugs in Ubuntu and its family members like Lubuntu. Don't skip this, when you have some problem! There's a big chance that you'll benefit from at least one of the workarounds presented at that page.....

(Continued in the column on the right)

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For little RAM: enable zRam

1.10. When your computer has very little RAM (768 MB or less), the lack of memory will remain a problem. This will cause your system to slow down from time to time. Even when the swappiness has been decreased to 5.

In that case, you might try to achieve better results by enabling the experimental kernel module zRam. zRam creates a compressed swap file in your RAM. The compression factor is the gain: with that, you "increase" your RAM.

Note: this hack might make your system unstable! So do not apply it on important computers.

The price you pay for this, is threefold:

- Your processor (CPU) is being taxed more heavily, because it'll have to compress and decompress all the time;

- When the system has filled the RAM swap, it'll start swapping on the hard drive as well. With a heavy burden: the chunk of memory that has been sacrificed for the RAM swap.

- For the time being it's still an experimental module, so this extra layer of complexity might cause instability.

That's why, for the time being, I advise zRam only for computers with very little RAM, and even then only in combination with a swappiness that has been reduced to 5. Furthermore, zRam isn't suitable yet for production computers, but only for test machines and other, non-essential computers.

You can install it as follows:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install zram-config

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

Reboot your computer.


Check

Now check whether it works, like this:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

cat /proc/swaps

Press Enter.

If all has gone well, you should receive a report about one or more/dev/zram "partitions". zRam is active then; no need for further action.


Removal

When you want to remove zRam, it can't be done by the simple terminal command "apt-get remove". So:

a. Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:
sudo apt-get purge zram-config

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

b. Reboot your computer.

c. Now check whether the removal has succeeded, like this:

Menu - System Tools - LXTerminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

cat /proc/swaps

Press Enter.

If all has gone well, you should receive no report anymore about one or more /dev/zram "partitions".

ELEVEN RECOMMENDED ACTIONS (NOT ESSENTIAL):


Improve the settings of the updates

2.1. You can improve the configuration of the updates as follows.

Menu button - System Tools - Software Updater

Click on Settings...

Click on the tab Updates

When there are security updates: change it into: Display immediately

Reason: it's always better when updates don't get installed automatically. Even when they're security updates. Because there's always the risk that an update might cause a problem (regression).

If you always install updates consciously, then you'll know immediately when a regression hits your system. So you can act rightaway to fix that problem.

Note: on the tab Developer Options, do not enable "xenial-proposed"! Because that would make your system unstable and buggy.

Optimize Firefox

2.2. With a couple of changes in the settings, you can improve the performance of Firefox in Lubuntu. These tweaks will make this fine web browser leaner and cleaner.

Change the default document format in Abiword

2.3. In Lubuntu, Abiword is the default word processor. Abiword has its own document format, called .abw. That's Abiword's default. However, it's easier to have .rtf, .odt or .doc as default format, because of compatibility with other word processors. You can only change the default by means of a genuine hack, like this:

- First change something else in the preferences of Abiword (you can revert that later on, if you want): 

Launch Abiword. Abiword panel - Edit - Preferences... - tab Smart Quotes: remove the tick at: Enable smart (curly) quotes

With that action, you've created a certain section in the Abiword profile, and that's what you need for the real hack.

- Close Abiword.

Menu button - Accessories - File Manager PCManFM
panel file manager - View: tick Show Hidden

Double-click .config and then abiword

Right-click on profile and open it with Leafpad (don't just double-click it in the normal way, because then it might open in your web browser!).

Find the scheme called "_custom_" (there's more than one, but the right one contains a line about SmartQuotesEnable) and add a line about DefaultSaveFormat. Like this:

<Scheme
        name="_custom_"
        SmartQuotesEnable="0"
        layoutMode="2"
        ZoomPercentage="118"
        DefaultSaveFormat=".rtf"
        />

Tip: prevent typing errors and copy/paste the new line. In the example the new default is .rtf, but you can use .odt or .doc if you want to.

Note: user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Install and tune Libre Office

2.4. The default word processor of Lubuntu is Abiword, and the default spreadsheet application is Gnumeric. Both are nice applications, pleasantly lightweight. But simply not in the same league as a full-fledged office suite like Libre Office.

In order to install Libre Office without too much useless frills, you can do the following.

a. Menu button - System Tools - Lubuntu Software Center
query: libreoffice (no space between "libre" and "office")

b. At first, only install LibreOffice Writer. With that you also install all supporting files and all dependencies, but few superfluous things.

Then install LibreOffice Impress (for slide shows) and LibreOffice Calc (for spreadsheets).

c. Resizing an application window of LibreOffice may cause display corruption, so install an extra package to increase it's integration in your desktop environment, which should fix this problem:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install libreoffice-gtk

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal. Press Enter again.

d. Now tune the settings of Libre Office: click here for a how-to.

e. Finally, consider removing Abiword and Gnumeric. Because otherwise it could happen that documents are accidentally opened in Abiword or Gnumeric, when you want them to be opened by Libre Office.

Normally I'm opposed to removing applications that are part of the default installation, but removing Abiword and Gnumeric can do no harm.

Improve the clock

2.5. You can add the name of the weekday and the date to the digital clock on the right on the panel:

Right-click the clock

"Digital Clock" Settings

Clock Format: replace the existing code by the following code (use copy/paste in order to avoid errors):
%a %B %e %G %k:%M

Click somewhere else, for example the Tooltip Format box. Now the change should be activated.

The full list of clock display options is on this page.

Speed up your Lubuntu

2.6. You can probably speed up your Lubuntu noticeably, by applying these safe speed tweaks (written for Ubuntu, but mostly useful for Lubuntu as well).

Migrate your e-mail from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Lubuntu

2.7. It's easy to migrate your e-mails and e-mail settings from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Thunderbird in Lubuntu. Simply apply this how-to.

Increase the double-click interval

2.8. The double-click interval, or the maximum time between two clicks for them to be recognized as a double-click command, is far too short in Lubuntu. That makes it hard to perform a double-click.

You can increase the double-click interval to a more reasonable value like this:

Menu button - System Tools - LXTerminal

a. First create a hidden configuration file. Copy/paste the following command into the terminal:
touch ~/.gtkrc-2.0

Press Enter.

b. Open the newly created text file with Leafpad. Copy/paste this command into the terminal:
leafpad ~/.gtkrc-2.0

Press Enter.

c. Add the new interval setting to the empty text file. Copy/paste the following line into the text file:
gtk-double-click-time=400

d. Save the file and close it.

e. Reboot your computer (or log out and log in again). Double-clicking should have become a lot easier now.

Note: user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Move the window buttons

2.9. You can change the position of the window buttons as follows:

Menu button - Preferences - Openbox Configuration Manager - Appearance - section Window Titles: Button order.

My own favourite is the button order of Ubuntu, namely:
CIML

Consider to pin the kernel version

2.10. You can pin Lubuntu to a certain kernel version. That may be useful, e.g. when you've manually installed a driver which would become unusable in a newer kernel.

It can also be useful to prevent "disk pollution" because of older kernels, because in the course of time, you get a lot of kernel updates....

The risk of such a pinning of the kernel is limited, especially for desktop users (servers are another matter). Because although kernel updates may contain security fixes, those are almost never relevant for desktop users. Linux Mint doesn't get kernel updates by default, by the way.

If you want to pin the kernel, this is how to do it.

Multiple accounts: prevent other users from accessing the files in your account

2.11. Does your computer have multiple user accounts? Then you can easily prevent other users from accessing and seeing the files in your account, without taking radical measures like encryption. In the following way:

Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

Type (copy/paste):

chmod -v 700 $HOME

Press Enter.

Repeat this in each user account that needs the same protection.

Note: this doesn't protect you from someone with root permissions! It won't stop a determined and experienced snooper, but it's an effective measure to "keep the honest people out". If that's not enough for you: encryption of files or even of your entire home folder, is much more secure....

Should you ever wish to undo this (but why?), that's easy as well. For undoing you can use this command:
chmod -v 755 $HOME

Want more tips?

3. Do you want more tips and tweaks for Lubuntu? There's a lot more of them on this website! Like these:

Security in Ubuntu and Lubuntu

Four popular myths and 11 tips about wireless security (for wifi)

How to clean Ubuntu and Lubuntu

How to create a strong yet easy password (the answer might surprise you!)

Find help on the Ubuntu forums

4. Lubuntu is an officially recognised derivative of main version Ubuntu.

That's why the regular Ubuntu forums are also available for your help requests concerning Lubuntu. It's convenient though, when you write in your help request that you are using Lubuntu.


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