Tips & tricks for Ubuntu

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Ubuntu 12.10: No Calling Home

If you enter the sudo lsof -i command, you will see, among other things, which servers your computer is currently communicating with. What's noteworthy here is that Ubuntu is quite often in contact with Canonical servers. Unity, for example, provides libraries that query servers for information.

What exactly are these services doing? For one thing, there's a service called ubuntu-geoip-provider that belongs to the libgeoclue library. This service provides applications that need to retrieve geolocation data over the D-Bus API. Desktop computers generally provide this via the IP address. Among the service users are the system clock and the new shopping filter that the localized version of Amazon provides.

For privacy concerns or other reasons (e.g., bandwidth) for which you might want to disallow unnecessary Internet connections, you can also disable the servers, with some resulting functionality losses.

If you don't need the GeoClue library, for example, you can get rid of it with remove, as follows:

$ sudo apt-get remove geoclue geoclue-ubuntu-geoip geoip-database

Be warned, however, that this step affects the computer's indicator-datetime, and you will lose the panel clock. You can always install alternative clock indicators (such as MacSlow's Cairo Clock), but these indicate the system time only and can't make any timeserver requests.

Even the video filter goes to the Internet to grab desired videos. To avoid this, you can uninstall the unity-scope-video-remote package. And, while you're at it, you can get rid of Unity Lens Shopping as follows:

$ sudo apt-get remove --purge unity-scope-video-remoteunity-lens-shopping

There you have the essential services that Ubuntu connects with. Once you restart, you'll still have the default ones (e.g., CUPS, dnsmasq, dhclient, and Avahi) running when you enter sudo lsof -i on the command line (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Undesirable services that connect to external servers can easily be deactivated.

Ubuntu 12.10: HUD Keyboard Access

Ubuntu provides a great innovation with its Head-Up Display (HUD). Using the command line, you get significantly faster access to nested menu items such as those in LibreOffice; however, if you seldom or never use this feature, you might be annoyed that it comes up automatically if you press key combinations that include Alt (for example, Alt+F4).

In this case, you can simply delete the keyboard shortcut for HUD or apply a seldom-used key combination instead.

On the right, click the System Settings and go to the Keyboard. A window opens in which you can click the Shortcuts tab and then click Launchers in the list on the left. Select the Key to display HUD entry on the right and choose another key, such as F12 (Figure 7). If you press Backspace on a shortcut entry, you can remove it entirely.

Figure 7: HUD is a great idea, if you use it. In some cases, however, the keyboard shortcut to invoke it might get in your way.

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