How to read this book

In a nutshell, Ubuntu Kung Fu is a big book of tips. As such I don't recommend any particular way of reading it. You don't need to be sitting beside your computer to do so. The whole point of Ubuntu Kung Fu is that you can jump in anywhere. Start at the beginning or start in the middle. You could even start at the end and work your way to the front. Just start reading. If you find a tip you like then try it!

Ubuntu Kung Fu expects no prior Linux or Ubuntu experience from its readers. That doesn't mean all the tips are beginner-level. Some are more involved than others and a handful are written for experienced users. But in every tip I walk the reader through each step of the way. I've also provided a crash-course in Ubuntu administration skills in the second chapter of the book. This should get even the greenest of newbies up to speed quickly.

Before you dive into the tips I need to mention some caveats. Some of the tips affect your system in a profound way. Configuration files are edited, for example, and one wrong keystroke could mean disaster (although it's nearly always possible to fix things—this is discussed in Chapter 2, An Ubuntu administration crash course, on page 19). Be sure to read through a tip before attempting anything it says. Check what you type or click against what's written.

If you're unsure about what you're doing then skip that particular tip and perhaps come back to it later.

If you spot anything that doesn't seem to work, and you think it should, contact Provide as many details as possible. If possible, as well as correcting the tip in question, I'll thank you in a future edition of Ubuntu Kung Fu. Additionally, head over to the forums at and see if a member of the Ubuntu Kung Fu community can help you figure out what went wrong.

Secondly, please note that this book was written using Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS (Hardy Heron) as a base. As with all releases of Ubuntu, this brings a handful of small but important changes in the way system configuration is handled. If you haven't already, I strongly advise you upgrade to 8.04.1 if you're using an earlier version of Ubuntu. If you're using a later version of Ubuntu then you might have to occasionally apply some common-sense.

Lastly, please note that the tips concentrate on productivity, enhancements and doing cool stuff. I've deliberately steered-clear of providing work-arounds for bugs or gotchas. This is because the tips would become dated very quickly as the bugs are fixed or patched, or official work-arounds are introduced. If you run up against something in Ubuntu that doesn't work the way it should, you first port of call should be the official Ubuntu forums——where it's very likely somebody will have posted a solution.

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