Ubuntu new user FAQ

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How do I get started?

The first time you use your Free Geek Computer, it will come up to a login screen for the oem account. The username for this account is oem and the password is freegeek. While this account will work, and is the one we use to test the machine, it is not very secure to have an account for which hundreds of people know the password, so one of the first jobs you will want to do is to create a new account and delete the oem account. Fortunately, there is a simple way of doing that, but be warned that this will destroy all files you have created or downloaded to the computer so far. From the oem account, go to System">"Administration">"Prepare for Shipping to end user". Then restart your computer. As it boots up, it will prompt you to create a new account. Be aware that usernames should not have any capital letters or spaces, and that some users (like "admin") are already used by the operating system.

My monitor is blank (or the wrong size)

There is a utility built into the boxes to probe for the video card and monitor and produce the correct settings. In the newer Hardy Heron boxes, reboot the computer. When you reach the point that you see a message about GRUB, press the "Esc" key. This will bring up the GRUB menu. Choose the highest "Recovery" option, then "xfix" when you get to the recovery menu. It will probe the hardware and then return to the menu. Choose "resume" and press enter.

How do I create additional user accounts?

New users are created by going to System>Administration>Users and Groups

The first user is set to have administrative privileges. This will not be true of additional accounts unless "Executing System Administration Tasks" is specifically set under User Privileges.

What software is included?

The Free Geek Ubuntu box has a full complement of useful software. The list below is not exhaustive.

  • The Gimp - Image processing software roughly equivalent to Adobe Photoshop
  • OpenOffice - Word Processing, Database, Spreadsheet, Drawing, Presentation Manager
  • Firefox - Internet browser
  • Evolution - Email, Calendar, Personal Information Manager
  • Nautilus - File Manager and CD/DVD creator
  • gThumb - Photo archive and Camera reader
  • XSane - Scanner Software
  • Lots of games
  • Many utilities such as a calculator, screenshot taker, dictionary

How do I change my password?

Your password can be changed in System>Preferences>About Me. Alternatively, all user passwords can be changed in System>Administration>Users and Groups

How do I change the name of my computer from "freekbox"?

Go to System>Administration>Networking and click on the General tab. After changing the computer name, many functions will not work correctly until you reboot, so reboot as soon as possible.

How do I add a printer?

USB printers should be automatically detected and configured. For printers that are not detected, or are on a network rather than attached to your computer, the configuration utility is in System>Administration>Printing.

How do I connect to the internet?


Dialup connections can be made using the Network Manager (System>Administration>Network). You will need to click the "Unlock" button and sign in with an administrative account in order to access the Network manager. Then click on Point to point connection and then Properties. Put a check in Enable this connection. Connection type is "serial modem". For Internet Service Provider data and Account data put in the information provided by your ISP. On the Options tab make sure "Set modem as default route to internet" and "Use the internet service provider nameservers" are both checked.

The modem will need to be enterd into the modem tab, but to get the right value, the modem will need to be detected. This can be done by opening the terminal window (Applications>Accessories>Terminal) and typing wvdialconf.

Broadband (cable or dsl)

For most cable and dsl modems, once the broadband modem is configured, your ubuntu box will be able to connect without any extra configuration. If you are not able to connect, then check the following:

  • The ethernet connection may need to be enabled. Go to System>Administration>Networking, highlight the ethernet connection and then click on properties. There should be a check mark in "Enable this connection". The Configuration should be DHCP unless you know it should be otherwise.
  • The modem may need to be rebooted or reset.
  • If the modem has not been configured, try browsing to the web interface of the modem. This can be found by checking System>Administration>Network tools. Change the network device to show the ethernet connection. If the IPV4 IP address starts with 169, or is absent, you are not connected. Otherwise, click on the Netstat tab. and check the routing information. The gateway address is the address of the modem. Just put that address in to firefox and you should see the administrative interface for the modem.


Many (but not all) wireless cards will work with Linux, but most of them require some special configuration. Internal (pci) cards are the best option for desktop computers. Details of which cards are supported and how to configure them can be found at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/WirelessCardsSupported. Free Geeks wiki has a page on tips for configuring wireless (http://wiki.freegeek.org/index.php/Wireless_Tips), plus our tech support department can help set up supported wireless cards for a fee.

Cellular Wireless Services and WiMax

Internet service from companies such as Cricket, Verizon, Sprint, and Clear may or may not work with Ubuntu. Please contact technical support before choosing to use one of these services.

My menu and icons are messed up. How can I fix it?

The gnome panels (the strips containing menus, icons and buttons on the top and bottom of the screen) are very easy to customize, and so are very easy to mess up. The following tips can help you recover them.

missing panel

It is easy to delete one of the panels. To replace it, right-click on the remaining panel, and choose "New Panel" from the menu. This will give you a new blank panel. You will need to replace the menus and other features of the panel.

missing menu or other feature

You can add most features of the panels by right-clicking on the panel and choosing "Add to Panel". You will be presented with a large list of features to be added. Try them out. You can always delete them by right-clicking on the feature and selecting "Remove from Panel". Note that the Menu which was there originally is "Menu Bar", not "Main Menu".

Application icons are added by clicking on the menu and then right-clicking on the application icon in the menu and selecting "Add this launcher to panel"

panel in the wrong place

Panels can be moved to different sides of the screen by clicking and dragging.

Adding Software

The first place to look for software to add is in the Add/Remove utility (Applications>Add/Remove). This gives you access to the Ubuntu supported applications plus many others. More packages, and finer control over them, can be found by going to System>Administration>Synaptic Package Manager.

Virus protection

Linux computers don't suffer from the same virus and spyware problems that Windows operating systems have. Average users will not need to worry about installing virus protection software on a Free Geek computer. Users who require a virus scanning program for removal of windows viruses or enterprise/server purposes should check out clamav, which is available from the Add/Remove program under the Ubuntu applications menu.


The Microsoft standard fonts are not installed by default, but can be installed with the msttcorefonts package, either through Synaptic or the following command line (you must be online at the time). However, first go to System>Administration>Software Sources and make sure the multiverse line is checked.:

sudo apt-get install msttcorefonts

DVD Playback

Most commercial DVDs are encrypted using a format known as Content Scramble System (CSS). For various reason FreeGeek does not distribute the software required to play this type of DVD. However you can add support for this by installing libdvdcss2 manually following these instructions:

Note: Check with your local laws to make sure usage of libdvdcss2 would be legal in your area.

First, go to system ---> administration ---> software sources. Under the tab labeled "Ubuntu Software" check the box next to "Software Restricted By Legal or Copyright Issues (multiverse)." Hit "Reload" when prompted.
Then open a terminal by going to the Aplications menu and selecting Accessories>Terminal, then enter the following commands in order:
sudo apt-get install vlc ubuntu-restricted-extras libdvdread3
sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread3/install-css.sh

This will install VLC (a media player) extra video decoding software, and the required DVD libraries. Once these packages are installed your system should be able to play any DVD media.

YouTube and other online media

To view youtube and many other online videos you will need to install the flash plugin. This package is included with "ubuntu-restricted-extras" (see above), but can also be manually installed from the terminal by visiting


and choosing ".deb for ubuntu 8.04+" in the box labeled "Select version to download"

Adding Hardware

Not all hardware works with all operating systems. This is especially true for wireless cards and modems. To ensure that the hardware that you would like to add to your computer will work, please make sure the device that you wish to add is on a list here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/HardwareSupport