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Five Ubuntu power tips

Ubuntu is widely regarded as a distribution that's geared for Linux beginners, so most Ubuntu tips are aimed at the newbie crowd. Jack Wallen introduces some more sophisticated tricks to enhance your Ubuntu experience.

The masses seem to think that Ubuntu is reserved for the newer users. Although it is true that this Linux distribution is ideal for new users, that doesn't mean that's the only market for Ubuntu. In fact, Ubuntu is perfectly suited for all levels of users.

Since most tips you see for Ubuntu are geared toward new user, we're going to take it up a notch and offer some tips for the Ubuntu power users. These tips will vary in scope and level of expertise but all will improve your Ubuntu Linux experience.

1: Decrease your boot time

Did you know that you can profile your Ubuntu boot process to streamline it? This tool has been available since Ubuntu 6.04, and with the increased speed of 10.04, it can now bring your boot process to an incredibly low time. To do this all you need to do is edit your /etc/default/grub file and change the line:



GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash profile"

Now issue the command:

sudo update-grub2

and reboot your machine. This next boot will take a bit longer than the standard period because the profiling is occurring. After this boot, remove the "profile" option from your grub file (which you just added above), issue the update-grub2 command again, and you will notice much faster boot times.

2: Launch applications with keyboard shortcuts

Removing your fingers from the keyboard is inefficient computing. Any good programmer will tell you this. But to make this as efficient as possible, you need to create keyboard shortcuts. To do this in the GNOME desktop, you have to visit your old pal gconf-editor. When you have that open, navigate to apps > metacity > global_keybindings, where you can edit any of the 12 run_command_X (where X is a number between 1 and 12) to be used to launch your favorite application or command.

3: Update without an Internet connection

With the help of a one-time Internet connection, you can create a CD that will help you update all your other Ubuntu machines. The tool you need is called APTonCD. This tool creates a CD/DVD of all the necessary updates for your Ubuntu machine. You can then take that disc to each of your machines, insert it, and update with the help of dpkg. The APTonCD has an outstanding GUI that will walk you through the process of creating a usable CD/DVD.

4: Speed up your popup menus

If you're like me, the delay between clicking on a menu and the appearance of a menu can be annoying -- even though we're talking milliseconds. I prefer to remove that delay so that as soon as I click, the menu appears. This is a simple trick for the GNOME desktop. Open up the file ~/.gtkrc-2.0 and add the line:

gtk-menu-popup-delay = 0

to the bottom of that file. Save the file, log out, and log back in. Your menus should now appear as soon as the thought crosses your mind.

5: Create Nautilus actions

The ability to right-click a file and run an action makes the desktop life so much easier. The GNOME desktop, along with the Nautilus file manager, offers a great feature that many do not even know exists: the Nautilus Actions Configuration Tool. You will find this tool in System > Preferences > Nautilus Actions Configuration. From within this window, you can roll your own actions, which will then be added to the right-click context menu from within Nautilus. You will need to set up five tabs of information: Action, Command, Folders, Conditions, and Advanced Conditions. This tool also allows you to import actions that others have created. Say you want to create a mailto action using Thunderbird. This one is simple. The only challenging section will be the command. For the command section (in the Command tab) enter:

Path: /usr/bin/thunderbird
Parameters: -compose 'attachment=file://%f'

The rest of the options should be fairly obvious to complete. Issue the command killall nautilus. After Nautilus restarts, you should have a new right-click content menu entry for the mailto.

Tap into the power

These are just a few samples of what you can do with a Ubuntu desktop (and/or server, in some instances). Ubuntu is a user-friendly AND powerful operating system. We'll share more of these power tips in the future.

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.


There is no .gtkrc-2.0 in my home directory. Could this be because I'm running Ubuntu Netbook Remix? If so, how can I install .gtkrc-2.0 without screwing anything up?


I've been using Linux since 1998 and recently switched to Ubuntu for my desktop (servers still RHEL), I don't think it is fair to characterize it as "for beginners". But anyway, the singe action I took to increase speed was to disable the pointless desktop effects.


pushing that malware again are we Jack? your tips work for all distros using Gnome and apt-get you know, not just that malware you named.


I would consider myself a Windows Power User, and an Ubuntu newbie and power user wannabe. What I can't get past is how to edit a read-only document (the grub file). Can someone point me in the right direction here? (I feel stupid!)


is at the Grub How-To and Grub 2 pages in Ubuntu's on-line help. It sounds like you are forgetting that you don't have explicit admin privileges in Ubuntu. You will need to insert 'sudo' at the front of whatever command you are using to open the grub file if you want edit privileges. [pre]sudo nano /boot/grub/grub.cfg[/pre]


Another way of editing the grub file would be by typing gksudo gedit /boot/grub/grub.cfg on the terminal. That would result in seeing a dialog asking for your password and after you successfully enter it, GEdit will popup with the contents of the grub.cfg file. I hope this helps too.


Just a newbie problem, and I couldn't find the right search term to give me the answer. Got it now. Thanks to all.