Q&A with Ubuntu contributor Mike Basinger

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I picked up your magazine by sheer luck after installing Ubuntu.

After having used Windows all my life and finally walking out on Windows Vista, Ubuntu 9.10 shone a beautiful alternative path. I love this system but I need to make a couple of points. Karmic is being promoted as the "Human" system and the easiest Ubuntu to use.

It may be the easiest so far, but I have no background in it and no programming knowledge. I also don't know anyone who uses Ubuntu, so I have been by myself in setting this system up. I use the Ubuntu Forums a lot.

I think there are some serious issues that need to be addressed:

  • The firewalls I have tried to install don't make sense. What rules do I apply? I don't know what I'm doing and my home network is inaccessible. How do I know which rule to put in?
  • System Restore makes no sense to an inexperienced person. So I store the folders where? They are encrypted? And where do I find the "sticky notes" I accidentally deleted yesterday? How do I restore? I did do a back up of the Home Folder through Deja, but damned if I know where to look.
  • Command Terminal .. eeek! I have had to resort to using it (it's more like "nervously-pressing-each-button-expecting-the-thing-to-blow-up"). And why does it not copy and paste like everyone says it seems to do?
  • Installing software that isn't available through Synaptic/Software Centre. .deb ? I tried sometimes but not always successfully.

I have received a free Windows 7 Upgrade, but I wont use it. Karmic and I have been through pain and exhilaration together, so it would be like saying good-bye to a friend. …

By the way, thanks so much for the magazine. I have issue 2 and it has been a life saver. The pages are well crumpled due to use; it has been better than any other book I've tried to use.

Tash from Australia


Tash, I am glad you are enjoying Ubuntu Linux and finding the experience superior to Windows Vista. The questions you are asking are very common with new users.

Firewall: Ubuntu uses the Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) [5], which is a simple command-line interface to the Unix firewall program iptables. On an Ubuntu desktop, UFW is inactive by default. You can turn on UFW by using the enable command-line parameter as follows:

sudo ufw enable

To allow or deny a service though the firewall, use the allow or deny command-line parameters with either the port number or service name:

sudo ufw allow 22
sudo ufw deny 22


sudo ufw allow ssh
sudo ufw deny ssh

To detect whether or not UFW is enabled and to show which firewall rules are being enforced, use the following status command-line parameter:

sudo ufw status

Backup/Restore: Many backup and restore programs are available for Ubuntu. I like Déjà Dup because it is a good backup tool with a simple GUI interface, and it allows you to back up your home directory to a USB drive, an SSH server, or Amazon S3. To install Déjà Dup from the command line, enter:

sudo apt-get install deja-dup

The command-line program tar is a commonly used tool for creating quick backups. Run the following tar command in the root of your home directory to make a tarball (copy) of your home directory:

tar cvf home-backup.tar

To restore the tar file, use the x (extract) command-line parameter:

tar xvf home-backup.tar

For more information on tar, type man tar at a command prompt.

You may not want to back up your entire home directory, but I would suggest that you at least include the following directories in your backup:

  • Documents : Default save location for files created in OpenOffice and other programs
  • Pictures : Default save location for Pictures
  • Music : Default save location for Music
  • .mozilla : Configuration for Firefox
  • .ssh : Keys for ssh
  • .gnupg : GPG keys
  • .evolution : Evolution (or you can use the built-in utility in Evolution to back up and restore configuration settings, account information, and contacts)

The Command Line: The command line can be intimidating for new users. Although it is possible to delete your entire hard drive with one simple command, it is something you should not be able to do by accident. When using the command line remember to: always think about what you are doing, double-check the command before executing it, and use caution if you are copying a command you found online or from another source. Exercise even more caution if the command you are copying uses the sudo command.

I suggest visiting CommandLineFu [6], which is a great website for learning new command-line tricks and seeing examples of what you safely can do with the Unix command line.

Copy and paste should work similarly to Windows by using Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste between programs. You can also select text to copy and hit the third mouse to paste in most programs in Ubuntu.

Installing debs: You can install a .deb file by double-clicking on it in the Nautilus file manager or using dpkg from the command line:

sudo dpkg -i SomeProgram.deb

Be careful when installing .deb files from unknown third-party sources, because they will be of unknown quality and may contain malicious code.

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