There is a new version of this tutorial available for Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn).

The Perfect Desktop - Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)

This tutorial shows how you can set up an Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot) desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge.

Ubuntu 11.10 will by default start the new Unity desktop which requires that your hardware supports 3D acceleration, however you can also switch to Unity 2D mode in the log on screen. If your hardware does not support 3D acceleration or you don't like Unity, you can still download the Ubuntu Classic GNOME desktop, what I will do later in this tutorial.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Ubuntu desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • Shotwell Photo Manager - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Chromium - Google's open-source browser
  • Flash Player 11
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client - Bittorrent client
  • Vuze - Java Bittorrent client
  • Empathy IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client
  • Gwibber Social Client - open-source microblogging client (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)


  • LibreOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • RealPlayer - media player (available for i386 systems only)
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs


  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Eclipse - Extensible Tool Platform and Java IDE


  • VirtualBox OSE - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions
  • GNOME Desktop


Lots of our desired applications are available in the Ubuntu repositories, and some of these applications have been contributed by the Ubuntu community.

As you might have noticed, a few applications are redundant, for example there are two CD/DVD burning applications in my list (Brasero, K3B). If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install both. The same goes for music players like Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, XMMS or browsers (Firefox, Opera, Chromium).

I will use the username howtoforge in this tutorial. Please replace it with your own username.


2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Ubuntu installer doesn't offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Ubuntu 11.10 desktop edition iso image from, burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it:

Select your language and click on the Install Ubuntu button to start the installation:

On the next screen you see a few requirements for the Ubuntu 11.10 installation (the system should have at least 4.5GB available drive space, should be plugged into a power source (to make sure that the system doesn't shut down during installation because of an empty battery), and should be connected to the Internet). Please check the Download updates while installing and Install this third-party software (this will install the software necessary to process Flash, MP3, and other media files) checkboxes and click on Continue:

Now we come to the partitioning of our hard disk. Usually Erase disk and install Ubuntu is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you're doing. Erase disk and install Ubuntu will create one big / partition for us:

Select the hard drive that you want to use for the Ubuntu installation:

Then choose your time zone:

Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

Type in your real name, your desired username along with a password, and click on Continue:

Afterwards, Ubuntu is being installed. This can take a few minutes, so be patient:

After the installation, you will be asked to reboot the system. Click on Restart Now:

At the end of the shutdown process, you are asked to remove the Ubuntu installation CD from the CD drive. Please do this now and press ENTER:

Your new Ubuntu system starts. Log into the desktop with the username and password you provided during the installation:

From the cog wheel icon, you can choose your desktop environment. By default, Unity 3D (Ubuntu) will be started. If you want to use Ubuntu 2D, please select it (the system will remember your choice, so the next time you log in, Ubuntu 2D will be started unless you make another selection) and login (If Ubuntu is selected, but you hardware does not support 3D acceleration, your desktop will have no effects).

This is how your new Ubuntu Unity desktop looks:

Now the base system is ready to be used.

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7 Comment(s)

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By: Anonymous

Why should I want to replace Windows with a Linux distro? Most people want to run certain software. In my case my favorite programs and games don't run on Linux. Also Linux has a bad user interface. The only time Linux is better is on the server. On the desktop Windows rules. I've have worked with Linux for over ten years and have yet to find it working well on the desktop.

When I talk about Windows I mean Windows 7, the best desktop operating system despite it's shortcomings.

The Linux distros I've used are Red Hat, Debian, Slackware, Puppy Linux, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mint, and perhaps some more.


By: Anonymous

Because some people value their freedom of choice and expression and wish to use that freedom to choose for themselves.

 Are you suggesting that your opinion is so valid that everyone in the world should abandon theirs and just do what you tell them to?

 Falko thankfully takes the time to produce these howto's to enable people to have a look at a different OS and some different apps.  He suggests loads of software that I don't like and won't use, but I'm not going to criticise him for providing instructions on how to install it.  It's all about choice.  You've made yours (and a perfectly acceptable choice that is), don't stop others from making theirs.



By: Anonymous

I think webuilder and conky should be part of the install.


Linux is a fringe OS that is less tested and works far less than Windows.  You will never convince the fringe linux user that windows is the way to go.   To the intelligent user, you want an OS that just works and doesn't break.  The OS is secondary to the software, and should be invisible.  It is a crying shame linux user need to spend so much time in the command line and reading to get things working.


Will a fringe OS, like pinguy or easenix, of a fringe OS, make a mark in the big picture?  No, not apparently.  But yes, in the long run.    


We would still be stuck in 1989 if mainstream build it yourself arguments won out.   It has been through demonstrated and adopted models that has pulled the community forward.


Just do it.--  You must idiot proof, to prove you are not the idiot.

By: Other Anonymous coward :)

Linux is the right platform to work, is not good for games, not even for HD multimedia. Why? Because such applications are plagued with patented software. AVCHD uses a patented compression algorithm, you can not install a totally free linux distribution to play that. If you keep buying such patented stuff, you are collaborating with developers against freedom, (patents are the main threat against free software). Unless you have lots of stock shares, or you are a direct partner of such companies. You are not receiving nothing in exchange for such collaboration, more over you are likely to pay a lot for such membership. Why do you not collaborate with free software developers by spending some time helping to design games, programming, or just support them with a donation. In this way one day the software you like will be available in a free platform. With more freedom to modify. The only reason to have Windows 7 in your computer is because you are forced to buy your computer with one license included, and many proprietary hardware manufacturers do not include drivers and software for linux. They do not hesitate to place software for MS-Windows and MacOS. Why? Because they want to own everything, so they place patents for that sake.

By: Anonymous

In my experience HD multimedia was far better on linux (unpaid experience). ffmpeg, x264 and such projects are making linux fun. Most media players run linux.(i have two:- my samsung tv inbuilt as well as asus o!play hd2) Infact most upcoming devices will run linux kernel in any form from vanilla to android. As you said my 1080p avchd videos from hd cam doesnt perform as good as 720p h264/mkv stuff provided that i have decent gpu(drivers does matter). Ati Catalyst drivers are most horrible thing i faced in linux world- Still doesnt work with gnome 3(open source driver does work but no acceleration). Nvidia way better.

By: roddo

Linux as a desktop can be very, very good (ubuntu).

How well any distribution performs, given the maturity of what they have to play with, is largely down to its creator.

Interface-wise, you have a variety to choose from, something windows doesn't offer.

You may well have a thing for windows, as many do, and it is pretty nice (as it should be, given what you pay for it) but in my experience windows is not inherently better on the desktop than any of the major linux distributions.

By: jonny rocket

DO NOT install any google software!  you will never get it off your hard drive.  google tracks you way too much.  other than that all the other stuff looks good.