An Ubuntu administration crash course

There's a time when all of us sit down in front of Ubuntu for the first time. The African drum beats of the login sound fade away and we're greeted by the orange and browns of the desktop wallpaper. (Orange and brown? What were they thinking?)

What goes through your mind following this probably depends on how busy you are. To quote from Peter Pan, Ubuntu can be an "awfully big adventure." But for that to be true you have to be the kind of person who enjoys adventures. I suspect most people simply want to know what's what, and how things work.

That's what this chapter is about. It's a crash course in basic Ubuntu skills and knowledge. It's the mechanic's guide that tells you which end of a screwdriver is the useful one, and how to use it. It's necessary because you'll have to get your hands dirty under the hood of Ubuntu, not only to follow the tips in this book, but as part of day-to-day life with the operating system.

There are certainly more comprehensive introductory guides to Ubuntu (I recommend Beginning Ubuntu Linux, Third Edition, written by myself and Jaime Sicam). However, if you have little time to spare, or just a brief attention span, this chapter will give you enough know-how to get by. You might have to read it more than once, and maybe come back to it later. That's fine. It isn't going anywhere.

Even if you're an experienced Ubuntu user it might be worth skimming through this chapter to ensure you know enough to proceed to the tips ahead. I'd ask that you pay particular attention to the section that describes how to use gconf-editor, which is used extensively in some of the tips. This is a lesser-known but very useful configuration tool.

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