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

The Perfect Desktop - Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)

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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18 Comment(s)

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By: Nerdyjen

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


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!

By: Anonymous

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

By: withanhdammit

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.

By: Desktop_Ron

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.

By: Anonymous

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!

By: Anonymous

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...

By: Anonymous

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

By: Anonymous

I have the same problem any solution?

By: disappointed

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?

By: DaVince

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...

By: online games

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

By: Louigi Verona

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.

By: Anonymous

Since 8.04 Ubuntu is piece of crap...

By: Anonymous

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

By: Robin B

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.

By: xdetroiter

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.

By: Michael Andersson

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