The Perfect Desktop - Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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Last edited 11/02/2009

This tutorial shows how you can set up an Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) 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.

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
  • F-Spot - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Flash Player 10
  • 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
  • Azureus/Vuze - Java Bittorrent client
  • Empathy IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client


  • OpenOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice 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)
  • Helix Player - media player, similar to the Real Player
  • 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
  • Quanta Plus - web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor


  • 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

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).

I will use the username falko 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 9.10 desktop edition iso image from, burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it. Select your language:

Select Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer to start the Ubuntu live system:

The system boots and starts a desktop that is run entirely in the RAM of your system (the Ubuntu installation CD is also a Live-CD) without changing anything on your hard disk. This has the advantage that you can test how Ubuntu works on your hardware before you finally install it.

Double-click the Install Ubuntu 9.10 icon on the desktop to start the installation to the hard drive:

The installer starts. First, select your language:

Then choose your time zone:

Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

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

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

The next screen shows us a summary of the installation settings. Click on Install to start the installation:

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:

Remove the Ubuntu CD and press ENTER to boot into your new Ubuntu system:

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

This is how your new desktop looks:

Now the base system is ready to be used.

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31 Comment(s)

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From: Nerdyjen at: 2009-11-20 23:55:52

Karmic Koala took a dump in my computer and now all I have is koala crap.

From: at: 2009-11-16 13:28:58

Your tutorials are clear, concise. Personally I feel these "Perfect Desktop's" should be considered suggestions for picking and chosing software to add to the standard Ubuntu install. Good stuff, thanks!

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-10 21:30:16

falko..followed your instructions to the letter as I have for about six previous distro. never a problem with your tutorials and guides. keep up the great work. thanks

From: withanhdammit at: 2009-11-11 19:32:05

Hi Falko,

Another nice how-to, thanks!  I have followed this one a couple of times building machines and every time I have had to manually download the into /tmp and chown them to root:root. The file is located at, scroll down to additional resources and download the doc's.  You'll have to answer a couple of questions re: language etc.

You might want to add this to your how-to.

From: Desktop_Ron at: 2009-11-12 10:09:58

I have installed this on an older Shuttle-fx box, and on a Lenovo Atom based netbook (installed the netbook remix.) Both have worked fine. I had no network issues, and can manage my router from either.
I don't understand the DSL complaint. When I had to set up DSL for my father, I got it running, then cloned into place a router and never had to touch the DSL again. Thereafter, all boxes that I had to connect were just connected to a private network. I didn't try that hard to make sure I had known working hardware, but the first place I would look would be that I didn't have known problem hardware.
I do agree with the comment regarding WINE, sort of. If the goal is a complete break from Windows, then maybe not, but if I wanted to deliver a box that worked for a friend or client, then WINE should be installed for the software that has no close enough replacement. IrfanView springs to mind immediately.

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-13 16:37:31

Couldn't agree more! I tried every Ubuntu release since Feisty and since Gutsy there is always something to destroy a possibly positive experience with ubuntu. This release this is broken, that release that is broken and the next release this and that and the other is broken. Quite a shame!

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-15 08:32:42

With almost all of my computers Karmic works great out of the box. I have troubles only with an Intel G41 based motherboard. I think it's always like this with Linux: you have to wait some months before the kernel supports the newest hardware...

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-06 22:14:49

Yeah i agree!!!! no DSL connection in network manager.... Crap

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-06 23:10:11

I have the same problem any solution?

From: disappointed at: 2009-11-05 13:18:55

I just spent 2 full days trying all the applications you mentioned would work with an iPod.   My Nano would not show up in any of them but RythymBox... but even that doesn't work right.   I can drop music in there but the iPod itself shows 0 songs.

Did you  just copy and paste off some report they gave you as to what each application was suppose to do without trying them yourself?

From: DaVince at: 2009-11-03 20:43:12

You're saying this is how you fully replace a Windows desktop, but in that case I'm missing one important piece of software that does something Linux can't do by itself:

Wine - to be able to run other miscellaneous, legacy or unported software the user might run. This doesn't mean Photoshop or anything, just those things that don't have a Linux equivalent - possibly a game, or some special application, or...

From: online games at: 2010-02-02 12:37:28

I was also searching for some games for my linux, because most of the games doesn`t support on linux which I used to play on my XP. I think now I got some guidance from here. Thanks for sharing

From: Louigi Verona at: 2009-11-04 13:13:18

Perfect OS... yeah, right.

 After upgrade - no sound, no screen brightness control (so dim, I could hardly see anything), no DSL connection.

Sitting for hours before the computer and dual booting into Windows to get to the Internet, I finally could get sound back and eventually found a hack (note, not a normal solution, which should've been coded in there years ago, but a hack) to fix the screen brightness.

The DSL connection is NOT solved to this day. My network manager app does not work and after trying to apply suggested fixes it simply deleted all of my connections and stopped recognizing any network at all.

 This happens to all systems, but in this exact case I would say Karmic release was definitely rushed, creating lots of problems for its users and producing very bad publicity.

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-05 08:46:34

Since 8.04 Ubuntu is piece of crap...

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-02 23:21:47

Hi falko, nice tutorial. ;) I was waiting for this. Thx a lot and keep up the good work.

From: Robin B at: 2010-01-12 04:36:18

For my personal needs, Ubuntu lacks one thing to convince me to leave Windows forever: an automatic form filler like Roboform. Give me that, and my XP cd gets thrown away.

From: xdetroiter at: 2010-02-18 13:45:04

I switched from RoboForm to LastPass ( a few months ago.  I think LastPass might be a better choice from a functional perspective and it has good platform support.  I use it on FF 3.6 on Ubuntu 9.10 64b regularly.  I also run XP (IE, FF) and W7-64 (IE,FF) all with LastPass.  So far I've been pleased.  I haven't tried the iPhone app which costs $1/mo.  Everything else listed above is free.

From: Michael Andersson at: 2010-01-18 13:41:55

Thanks for a very well-written and understandable guide for installing the Ubuntu for the first time.

Unfortunate i cannot get past the section with 'preparing diskspace' as the Ubuntu installer cannot find the harddrive. I used the gparted in an attempt to create hardrive partitions manually, without any succes, i used google as an attempt to seek new knowledge and solutions but unfortunate i got even more confused, mainly due to lacking knowledge  i guess. The installer's 'prepare new disk space¨is empty.

 I am using a new harddrive for a clean install, not upgrading any existing installations of Linus or Windows

Michael Andersson


From: Joe at: 2009-12-12 17:47:35

Thank you for the comments.  I think you are correct about the package manager being more new user friendly.  I was just following the instructions in the tutorial when I got into trouble.  The instruction was to uncomment two files, but I couldn't really see a specific instruction about how to do that.  I am going to the /////  I was about to say I was going to the package manager and see if I couldn't fix it, but then realized that is the problem I am having.  Thanks for the comment anyway.  I'll try sticking with the package manager when I get this fixed.


From: Gérald at: 2009-11-04 08:58:47

Based on this line: "... and enable the karmic partner repository:"

 Why would you not show, instead of the command line, the Software Source manager, in Administration?

In some way, this could be more user friendly. You can always find the command line needed for any operation, but if there is a GUI, let's show how it works to new users.

Same for the key, go the web page of the repository to get the key as a text file, and import it via Software Source application.

 Just my 2 cents...


From: Marcos at: 2010-07-10 00:18:25

I really like this "Perfect Desktop Series" from HTF, but at the page 2 seems like you copied and pasted from other versions and forgot to say that GIMP isn't included in Ubuntu anymore.


From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-04 00:30:43

I did not have the package 'googleearth' there.

so what I had to do was the following:

$ sudo apt-get install googleearth-package
$ make-googleearth-package --force
$ sudo dpkg -i googleearth*.deb

From: Stomfi at: 2009-11-04 04:56:26

These articles are a good starting point, but I think a Windows user needs their apps to be at least as good as if not better.

I've found that adding the Antbar to Firefox make Youtube downloaders happy. Adding FX-Foundry and extra paintbrushes to the GIMP pleases Photoshop users.

Multimedia is video as well as music and DeVeDe is an ease of use way to burn all those Youtube flash clips onto a DVD. Although the experts can use the shell to extract music from video, one can't go past pytube for ease of use in this area. It can make ring tones as well.

Why is wine missing from the list. I regularly use SpinItAgain to convert second hand LPs and tapes to CDs. Another ease of use application. Who needs the overhead of a VM especially as it might not talk to the real hardware cards. Actually there is a lot of Windows freeware and shareware that will run quite happily under wine.

Apart from a non-programmer GUI builder like runrev, running free and shared software is the main problem I get with Windows users. I have my own short list, but someone out in the greater web could do the community a service by running a compatibility list for all the great tools the Windows community has written for its users.

From: Anonymous at: 2009-11-25 21:26:34

As a relative newbie I thought the article was very well written and presented - very useful.

Thank you!

From: tranquilpenguin at: 2009-12-08 18:20:49

The only problem I have is I cannot watch ANY .wmv files in Firefox. It asks me to download the video. If I download, I can watch fine.

 I can stream .avi & .mpg no problems.

 What do I need to do for .wmv streaming???



From: oesgur at: 2009-11-12 06:16:44

i was not sure too. and i selected 9.10 karmic koala. it worked fine for me

From: RapMan at: 2009-11-10 06:09:20

Nice, but it is not necessary to use terminal anymore. Just download Ubuntu Tweak, select the repositories you need and install the software you need. Works fine for me and I have the same result even faster.

From: at: 2009-11-03 13:32:20

Just curious, Why install the version of Opera for Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope when you could have selected to install Opera for this version of Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala?

From: Gérald at: 2009-11-04 09:02:40

Opera has a repository and a key to be used in Ubuntu, offering to install it via Synaptic or Software Center.

From: tdw at: 2010-03-24 17:21:28

Ok, so putting the 'perfect' adverb aside as there's clearly no way for everyone to come to an agreement on what constitutes 'perfect', you really can't fault this article as you have.

The author's assumptions were clearly laid out off the top, then the remainder showed how to achieve it. That's the whole point of the article - define 'perfect desktop' from the author's perspective then illustrate how to build it. You did get an article on what software to install. If you want to install different software, then do your research to decide what will work best for you and follow the template outlined in this article to install it.

Why are you griping about how to make it look like windows? If you want a windows desktop, then buy a windows machine and load windows software on to it. Windows seems to be your standard for perfect as implied by your comments so why are you even here complaining about a linux installation?

While I may not agree with the author's definition of what constitutes a perfect desktop, I think he's done a good job showing how to install all the software for those of us new to linux (this is my first forray into the linux world having been a dos/windows user for over 20 years). Thanks Falko! Well done.

From: Becker at: 2010-03-24 00:36:40

I'm sorry but I thought these articles were a joke. All they do is tell you to install a bunch of software, most of which is duplicated and how can someone choose if they've never used linux before??

I expected a tutorial on what software to install, how to configure that software if required and then what changes to make to the default install to have it behaving/looking like a "Real" Windows desktop.

For example removing the top panel in Ubuntu and configuring the bottom panel to mimic Windows, adding icons on the desktop for My_Computer, Home & the Trash can and program icons like Firefox, Evolution and Empathy. What app do I open when I want MS_Paint?? I want to watch a movie (DVD) what is the Windows Media Player replacement? Vlc?, Totem?, RealPlayer? I'm confused.

I'm sorry but this is just so wide of the mark. I can't recommend it to any of my Windows friends to help them transition from Windows to Linux