How I Back Up My Ubuntu Linux Laptop

I am an ardent believer of backups. My desktop computer is backed up nightly to an external usb drive using a program called Back In Time. It uses the famous rsync program to do the backups. The neat thing about rsync, is that it uses hard links to link to previously backedup files that have not changed. What this means, is that if a file does not change, it is not copied multiple times to the hard drive, but just once. This saves a very large amount of disk space, while preserving the original directory structure. Back In Time is started though a cron job, and as long as the desktop computer is on, it will be backed up. By the way, my computers run with the UBUNTU Linux operating system. These instructions are for Linux and will not work on Windows systems. My laptop us running Ubuntu 11.10, and my server is running Ubuntu 10.04.3 LTS. Check out Ubuntu Linux at

The setup for my desktop will not work for my laptop. My laptop is not always on, and is not always available around the home network to be backed up. I needed a system that would automatically backup my laptop whenever it is on, but only once a day. I have been doing manual backups, but that is a hassle. I may eventually employ this backup method to my desktop so I don’t have to keep it on all the time either.

Here are a couple of problems I needed to overcome. If I mounted a server drive from my laptop, and backup remotely to the server, rsync would not preserver the hard links. This not only takes up a lot of disk space, but every file would need to be sent over to the server during every backup. Over wifi, a typical backup would take longer than a day. Not ideal for a daily backup. I therefore, had to initiate the backup from the server. This meant, sshing into the server, mounting the laptop as a drive in the server, and starting the backup from the server end.

I searched for solutions to these problems, and came up with a multitude of answers that were not particularly ideal for me to impliment. One solution was to use NFS to mount the drives in fstab. I did not want to put it in fstab because, I did not want it to mount automatically when the server booted (or the laptop for that matter). Another solution was to continuously poll for the existance of the laptop, from the server, and when it ‘appeared on the network’, start a backup. I then would have to keep track of it to make sure it was only backed up once a day. None of these solutions suited me well.

What I did…

Through a bit of more studying and searching, I discovered that a remote script can be run by ssh. I use ssh all the time to connect to my server, and finding that I was able to start a script on the server just by initiating an ssh session was a revelation to me.

Another tool that I found was “anacron“. Anacron is kind of like cron, but enables you to run something x number of days, weeks or months. And, if the computer is not running at midnight, anacron will make sure the program will run sometime during that day as long as the computer is on sometime in that day. Unlike cron, anacron does not enable you to run a program multiple times a day, or at exact times. This is exactly what I was looking for and anacron was already installed on my laptop, and was already set up to run upon boot.

This is not exactly a step by step tutorial, as you need to know how to get around your system, and run things as root.

I wanted the backup process to be automatic, so I needed to set up ssh keys. I have never set up ssh keys before. There are a lot of tutorials on the net to help along; and I picked this one:

This is the command to generate the keys. I wanted unattended backups, so I did not enter a passphrase.

# ssh-keygen -t rsa

I also ran these commands to copy the files to the appropriate directories and files:

# scp .ssh/
# cd $HOME
# cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys

I also had to copy the keys from the .ssh directory in my home directory to the .ssh diretory in the /root directory.

*** EDIT 11/3/2012 ***  I updated my operating system, and neglected the above step.  The backups failed, and I really scratched my head wondering why.  Anacron (see below) is run as root, so it is imperative that the ssh keys be placed in the /root/.ssh/ folder.

Read over the ssh tutorial sited above, and when you are done you should be able to ssh into your server with:

# ssh

I like sshfs to mount my remote directories.
if it is not installed on your server, do it by running:

# sudo apt-get install sshfs

or find it in the Ubuntu Software Center.

You will also need a recent version of Back In Time. I have v1.0.8 installed. The difference between the newest version and older ones, is that the newer version can have multiple profiles. That is, you can have a different profile for each computer you want to back up from your common point (server).

I added the Back In Time stable repository ppa. This will give you the latest and greatest version of Back In Time. If you don’t need multiple profiles, you can install Back In Time from the Ubuntu Software Center and it will be fine. Do this command to add the repository:

# sudo apt-add-repository ppa:bit-team/stable

Then do:

# sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get install backintime-gnome

Some explaination is needed here that probably should have been mentioned sooner. My server has ubuntu-desktop installed on it (that is, a full gui interface). The Back In Time profile configuration is easily done with the gui. Then the actual backups can be done with the command line. This also means that if you don’t have a server, your desktop computer should work just fine to backup your laptop with these instructions. There is nothing really “servery” about the process.

OK, some preliminary work:

You need to make a mount point on your server where you want to mount your laptop drive. Create a blank directory where you want it mounted. I chose “/home/ubuntu-laptop” as my mount point.

Create directories on your laptop and on the server where you want the script files to go. On my laptop, I put my backup script in “/home/myhome/Scripts_and_Programs/server_backup”. You can put yours where ever you want. On my server I put the script in “/home/myhome/Scripts”.

I use static ip addresses for my home network devices. You can set up a static ip for your laptop and server in the network manager, but I chose to let the rounter do it. My router lets me pick a certain ip to be assigned by its DHCP. It is based off the mac address of my laptop wifi connection and my server eithernet card. My laptop is assigned and my server is By letting the rounter assign the addresses, I am free to take my laptop somewhere else, and some other wifi rounter will be free to assign my laptop any address it needs to.

Test your connections. ssh into your server. If your ssh keys were setup correctly, a command like:

# ssh -X myname@

should work, and no password is necessary. On your first connection, you may be asked to accept the key. Answer “yes” and proceede.

Now, try to mount your laptop drive from your server. My command to do this is:

# sshfs myname@ /home/ubuntu-laptop

If you go to “/home/ubuntu-laptop”, on your sever, you should now see your laptop files. Again, the first time you do this, you may be asked to accept the ssh keys. You will also be asked for your laptop password. You could set up another set of ssh keys for your server if you would like, but the sshfs command has an option to get your password from somewhere else and that is how I did it. That will be explained later.

If all is well up to this point, you can fire up the Back In Time gui to configure your backup. On the command line, the command to enter is “backintime-gnome”. You still should be ssh’ed into your server, or be at a server terminal. Notice that my ssh command from above has the option -X in it. This will allow X display forwarding so you can run a gui program from your terminal box.

in your ssh’ed terminal box, that is connected to your server, type:

# backintime-gnome

This should bring up the Back In Time gui, ready to configure.  Click the “settings” icon on the Back In Time gui. If you are using a newer version of Back In Time, you can select a “New” profile. Mine is called “ubuntu-laptop”. Then you need to decide where to put your backups. I have a usb drive mounted at /home/shared2. You need to traverse to the point where you want your backups to go using the folder icon to the right of “Where to save snapshots”. Leave “Schedule” disabled as this will be handled in one of the script files.

Click the “Include” tab and add the folders you want backed up. Remember that I have my laptop mounted at /home/myname/ubuntu-laptop on my server. This is where you need to go to include the included folders. Notice I have a seperate entry for my Thunderbird email folders. This is because I have any hidden files .* excluded from being backup up and my Thunderbird email folders are inside a hidden directory.

Click the “Exclude” tab. Add any files or folders you do not want backed up. As you can see, I added an entry to skip all my configuration files with .* . You need to decide what you want backed up. I also excluded my download directory, my virtual machines folder (large files for experimentation only), and any other directories where I might have other systems mounted in.

Click the “Auto-remove” tab and decide how many backups to want to retain.

Click the “Options” tab. I added one checkmark here that was not already checked. I checked “Continue on errors (Keep incomplete snapshots). I did this because I had a snapshot fail because of some protected .files. I suggest you click this box, at least at first. Then after you make backups, you can look at the log file to see what failed. Otherwise, you will never get a backup if there is an error somewhere.

I did not adjust any of the “Expert Options”.

Click “ok” and this should bring you back to the main “Back In Time” window. If you like, you can make your initial backup by pressing “take snapshot” icon. Your first backup may take a good amount of time, depending on your wifi connection, and the size of your backup. Mine included many video files, and took well over a day and a half. Subsequent backups are quite quick, depending on what new or changed files your need backed up.

If all is successful to this point, you can close the “Back In Time” gui. I suggest you wait until your initial backup is done, as the backup will continue even after you shut the gui, but this may cause problems when you try to setup the rest of the system.

Now the meat and potatoes:

This is the script “” that is run on the laptop side, to initiate the backup.

# Automated backup of laptop, that is not always on, to a server that is always on.
# By: John McDougall
# Aug. 11, 2011
# This is a script that is run on the laptop. It starts a script on the server named
# Is the server pingable?
# try three pings, wait maximum one sec for reply, be quiet
echo “Starting laptop side script”
echo “testing to see if server is accessable”
if ping -qc 3 -W 1 > /dev/null; then
echo “yes… Server is up. Will now attempt backup”
echo “Connecting to server.”
ssh -X john@ /home/john/Scripts/
echo “Server disconnected… Closing laptop side script”
echo “no… Server is down. No backup done now”

This is what this script does: First, I try to ping my server to see if is available. If it passes that test, I connect to the server over ssh and run the script “”. No password needed if the ssh keys are set up properly.

Here is the script on the server side called “”.

# Automated backup of laptop, that is not always on, to a server that is always on.
# By: John McDougall
# and
# Aug. 11, 2011
# This is a script that is run on the server. It is started from a script run through ssh from the laptop to be backed up.
# Connect to ubuntu-laptop from server.
echo “Successfully connected to server… Running server side script”
echo “Attempting to mount ubuntu-laptop to server”
sshfs -o password_stdin john@ubuntu-laptop:/home /home/ubuntu-laptop < /home/john/Scripts/ubuntu_pwd
echo $1
for i in `cat /proc/mounts | cut -d’ ‘ -f2`; do
if [ “x/home/ubuntu-laptop” = “x$i” ]; then
echo “laptop is mounted. ”
# Start Backintime
echo “Starting backintime”
# backintime –backup
backintime –profile ubuntu-laptop –backup
echo “Backup finished”
echo “Unmounting ubuntu-laptop”
fusermount -u /home/ubuntu-laptop
echo “ubuntu-laptop unmounted. Exiting backup script and disconnecting from server”
echo “laptop not mounted… Can not backup”

This script first mounts the laptop via sshfs. Notice the “-o password_stdin” option. This enables the password to be entered from another source. In this example, I have the password in a file called laptop_pwd in my Scripts directory on the server. As mentioned earlier, you could set up ssh keys for the server and eliminate the password in a file thing if you feel that is unsafe to do.

This script then confirms that the laptop is indeed mounted. It then initiates the backup with the command “backintime –profile ubuntu-laptop –backup”. After the backup is finished, the script unmounts the laptop and closes down.

To test all this, open a terminal window on your laptop and start the script “” and watch its progress. If all worked out, and you already made an initial backup, it should run relatively quick.

Now to automate it all with anacron:

You can find a little tutorial on anacron at ““.
To configure anacron, you must modify the file /etc/anacrontab on your laptop. I did this in a terminal window using the command:

# sudo nano /etc/anacrontab

I added one line to the bottom of the anacrontab file as shown above. The first parameter “1” means it should be run once a day. The second parameter “13” means it will start approximately 13 minutes after the machine is booted. You can change this to whatever you want. Set it at a time where it won’t interfere with the busy boot process, and anything else you might do as soon as you turn on your computer. The third paramater is a label you make up to identify this process. The fourth parameter is the command to execute. By placing “nice” before the command, if the system is very busy, the backup process will wait until the system is less busy. You can look up the manual page for “nice” by typing “man nice” in a terminal window.

That about does it. If everything worked so far, you are ready to reboot your computer. Anacron should run and a backup initiated. Anacron will only run once a day even if the laptop is turned on several times a day, or left on for days. You will still only have one backup per day. You can look at the files in /var/spool/anacron. ubuntu-laptop (or what ever label you used in the anacrontab file) should be listed there. Open it up with nano or gedit, and it should list the last date that line in the anacrontab file was executed.

I hope this post helps you in your laptop backup.  It might seem kind of complicated, but I enjoyed the process of learning and figuring it all out.  Have fun in exploring linux!

John – K7JM

Aquaria mouse pointer problem solved

I purchased the Humble Introversion Bundle for the Ubuntu Linux platform.  I have had a problem getting the game Aquaria working on my laptop computer.  The mouse pointer would automatically travel up and left.  In certain menus, selections were impossible to select.  It was very frustrating and made the game unusable.  After much searching, I came upon this page with the solution: “Aquaria mouse pointer problem solved” on the bit blot forums.  Thank you archmage for coming up with this easy solution.  The game is now playable, and my kids love it.

John – K7JM

I bought the Introversion Humble Bundle to play Aquaria on my 64-bit Ubuntu 11.04 system. Unfortunately the mouse did not work, to the point of making the game unplayable.

First of all it was not possible to change resolution, because the mouse pointer kept moving back to “no”. Far more seriously, while in game the character kept moving towards up and left.

A long search on the net provided no clear answer; it seems some people have the same problem on Windows and OSX too. On ubuntu some suggest to disable the package “unclutter” to solve the issues, but I did not have that installed at all.

My solution to the problem was to modify the ~/.Aquaria/preferences/usersettings.xml file. Using any text editor, change the line:

<JoystickEnabled on=”1″ />


<JoystickEnabled on=”0″ />

The game is now playable Cool

The Joy Of Ham Radio

Another Ham discovers Linux’s ham friendliness ARRL’s website has another nice story about a Ham using Ubuntu Linux and fldigi to renew his love for Amateur Radio.  Check out the post HERE.  Good going Steve (KØSRE)!  For more of Linux In The Ham Shack, check out “Linux In The Ham Shack” podcast.

– John, K7JM

Ambiance Blue Theme For Ubuntu

My computers run on the Ubuntu Operating System – Not Windows.  If you did not know there was a choice other than Windows and Macs, you need to check out the totally FREE operating system Ubuntu!  Besides the operating system being free, ALMOST ALL of the application programs are free.  There are thousands of them, doing almost anything you need to do on a Windows or Mac machine.  And, if that weren’t enough, most of those thousands of free programs are installable from inside Ubuntu itself.  You don’t have to go searching the Internet for them.  Usually just ONE CLICK, and boom, your program is installed.  Besides all that, there is very little worry about viruses as on Windows, and increasingly on the Mac.  It is really NICE!

Anyway, that is not really what this post is supposed to be about.  This post is about a nice theme that I came across for my Ubuntu desktop.  Ubuntu, besides being FREE with lots of FREE applications, it is very nice looking, and if you want to dig deeper, you can make it REALLY nice looking.

I usually have my Ubuntu Desktop all decked out with some sort of modified Emerald theme, with transparency, and glowing frames and pulsating buttons and such.  As I was searching around one of the many Ubuntu web sites, I came across a proposed theme for the next version of Ubuntu coded named Maverick Meerkat due to be released on 10/10/10.  I am sure this nice theme I found will not be a default theme, as purple and orange seem to be someones liking on the Ubuntu development teams.  I am personally not that thrilled about the purple/orange theme, and usually look for other options.

The theme I came across is a beautiful blue theme called Ambiance Blue.  It is not fancy, or full of glowing parts, or throbbing buttons, but is a very nice looking simple blue theme.  The Ambiance Blue Theme can be downloaded from HERE.  See the picture of my theme below, or click on the small screenshot to see a larger view of one of my desktops.  Yes, in Ubuntu, you have MULTIPLE VIRTUAL DESKTOPS.  Very Nice!

– John

Ubuntu and Ham Radio

The ARRL web site had a nice entry about Ubuntu for Ham Radio.  The article could have been four times as long and not cover all the aspects of why Ubuntu Linux is good for Ham Radio.  Also, several of the applications that the author mentioned in the ARRL article that he used with WINE, have alternates available for Linux, including PCB layout software, and Circuit analysis.  Almost ALL FREE.  Besides, Ubuntu’s super easy to install Ham Radio repository of applications, HERE is a page full of stuff, ranging from the latest and greatest to older Linux Ham Radio programs.  Ham Radio is about innovation, and experimentation.  It is sad to see so much of it is built up on a closed, unexperimentalable, unmodifiable, and costly solution like Windows.

John – K7JM

How To Display A Text Document On Your Web Page

A Corner of My Web Page
The corner of my web page with a link to view my Ham Radio log file.

Being a Ham Radio operator, I’ve wanted, for some time, to display my log file on my web site. I’ve been researching it for some time, and mostly ran into methods that require java or php, or some sort of web scripting. This is beyond me and I wanted something simpler; and this is what I have come up with.

My computers run on the Ubuntu Linux Operating System.  I came across a small command line utility program called txt2html.  The name pretty much explains what it does.  It has many features that include many formatting options; one being, that I can pre-append a file to the front of another file.  I tested this feature to apply a preformatted html heading to my log page.  I made a simple sample of a text log page listing contacts, and ran it through txt2html and it attached my header to the log page and spit it all out as an html file ready to display on my web page.

My sample log page was called log.txt and looks like this:

call            QTH
k7jm            Helena, MT
wa7vxm          Butte, MT

My sample heading was called ‘log_file_heading.html’ and looks like this:

K7JM’s Log File

I put it all through txt2html with a command like this:

txt2html --append_head ./log_file_heading.html ./log.txt >./log.html

And the output file ‘log.html’ looks like this and is ready to display on your web page:

K7JM’s Log File

call            QTH
k7jm            Helena, MT
wa7vxm          Butte, MT

I wanted to automate a way to put this file on my web site without getting too complicated.  The simple ftp command would work, but it takes a bit to automate it. After a bit of research, I came across ‘kermit‘.  ‘kermit’ is a simple program that takes data from a file and performs the commands listed in the file.  Perfect.  I put the following commands in a file called ‘log.kermit’:

ftp open /user:myusername /password:mypassword
put ./log.html /www/whereyou/wantit/log.html

I then called kermit like this:

kermit ./log.kermit

and it is done.

To make things a bit cleaner and more automatic, I created a script file called ‘’ that looks something like this:

txt2html –append_head /home/john/Desktop/log_file_heading.html /home/john/Desktop/cqrlog.html >/home/john/Desktop/log.html
kermit /home/john/Desktop/log.kermit

Now, to do the whole process, I just had to update my log file, save it, and run the script ‘’ and it would be on my web site.

A New Way – With cqrlog

After I put all this together, I remembered hearing about a Linux logging program called cqrlog, on the ‘Linux In The Ham Shack‘ (link updated 9/2010) podcast.  If you are a Ham Radio Operator or use Linux, I strongly suggest you give this great podcast a listen.  It is always entertaining, and they have covered some very useful stuff for the Ham that is running a Linux operating system.

Anyway, I downloaded and installed ‘cqrlog’ and started playing with it.  I was specifically looking for a way to export the log file so I could run it through ‘txt2html’.  Lo and behold, ‘cqrlog’ does one step better; it exports the log right into the ‘html’ format.  Wow! Perfect!.

I learned a lot by using txt2html, but now I can skip that step completely and just export the log file in html format and run a simpler script that runs ‘kermit’ to upload the file to my web site.  Click HERE to see the actual page on my web site.  As of when this was written, the file is a test one that was created by playing with ‘cqrlog’.  It will change once I start using ‘cqrlog’ for real.

John – K7JM

K7JM’s Log File

call            QTH
k7jm            Helena, MT
wa7vxm          Butte, MT

Jaunty Jackalope Revisited

Click to get Jaunty Jackalope

After I installed Ubuntu 9.04 – Jaunty Jackalope, I posted a lengthy list of problems I encountered during and after the process. You can read it by clicking HERE.

I received a great reply from Rob laying out some important facts about updating a major distribution of most any variety.  I encourage you to read Rob‘s reply

It seems, however, that my experience with Jaunty was not unique.  My blog post has been ready by many other users looking for solutions.  Here is a partial list of search entries that resulted in finding and reading my post.

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  • compiz buggy since upgrade to jaunty

  • kernel failed install when updating to 9

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  • nvidia picked up during live not after I

  • missing 9.04 from grub

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  • ubuntu jaunty auto detect sandisk sansa

  • ubuntu 9.04 vlc media player error

  • xbmc failed to detect distribution jaunt

  • upgrade ubuntu jaunty jackalope gui err

It is obvious that there were too many errors, many of the same ones I encountered, while installing Jaunty.  I (and others) would love to hear about your experience installing Jaunty.  Good or bad.

John – K7JM

My Experience Installing Ubuntu 9.04 – Jaunty Jackalope

Click to get Jaunty Jackalope

Ubuntu 9.04 – code named Jaunty Jackalope, was released on April 23. I am always (maybe too) eager to upgrade to the next version of Ubuntu as new features are always added, making it an even better operating system. Yes, for the uninformed, Ubuntu is a computer operating system. Your computer may run Windows or if it is a Mac, it may run OS X. My computer, along with millions of others runs the totally free and open Linux version called Ubuntu.

Typically, version updates are made right over the Internet. It will download a zillion files and update everything, taking, possibly, several hours to do. I read an article on some web site that I could download the distribution and update it from a burned CD. Since I had two computers to update, I decided this might be a time savings way to go.

Here is my experience:

I downloaded the Alternate Install disc over night. I popped the disk into my computer and it immediately detected that the disc had a distribution upgrade on it and asked if I wanted to “upgrade”. I said yes, and off we went. It then asked if I wanted to update any files that may be newer than on the disc, by connecting to the Internet and downloading them. If I selected “NO”, I could “simply” update my system later and it would pick up the needed files. I chose to do this as I figured it would get the system up an running the quickest.

Before I go into details, I must say that I have a co-worker that also runs Ubuntu. He chose to update from over the Internet. He said that he had to restart the process several times because it kept on stopping. It was probably because there were millions of others trying to do it at the same time. Also, it downloaded over a thousand files. It took a long time, but in the end, he said everything seemed to work ok.

Back to my update. As the update progressed, it asked several times about configuration files, and whether I wanted to keep the current ones or up date them. I had no idea what to do on these. One option was to merge them, which I did several times. I have no idea if that did anything. I kept getting an error saying the latest kernel version xx-xx-xx would not start. Oh, Oh. That is very not good. It came down to one of my choices in updating the grub menu.lst. After several errors, it came back and asked that question again. I chose “update to developers version” or some such thing. Yeah, the new kernel loaded.

The process finally finished and it was time to reboot. When it did, my 3D graphics did not work. Meaning Compiz was disabled. I tried to load a new Nvidia driver with not much luck. I decided maybe I needed to do that update that was mentioned earlier. I chose “update” and boom, it decided to download several hundred files. This was the part that I though I was avoiding. Once it downloaded them, I got a message saying that all the files weren’t downloaded, and suggested a “partial upgrade”. I chose to do that. I ran “update” again and it picked up more files, but this time the update process crashed when it was time to install them. After much head scratching and searching the Internet, and many hours passed, upon boot-up, I selected “recovery mode”, and selected a sub menu that said something about repairing packages. I chose that option. It recognized that there were updates, and it loaded them successfully. After that, my “update manager” seemed to work. There were many other users out there that were looking for the same answer.

My Nvidia drivers were still not loaded. It detected a new version of the driver, but when I tried to enable it, it gave me a message back that said it was previously enabled. So did I just disable it, or was it enabled? I went into the settings, and this time I was able to turn desktop effects on. But, the Compiz GUI was missing. I re-installed Compiz and I was able to turn everything back on. What a pain.

Somewhere in all of this, my screen locked up because the screen saver came on. When I tried to log back in with my password, it said my password was “invalid”. Oh, no. I clicked the “Switch user” button, reselected myself (which said I was already logged in) and it took my password correctly. After several more hours of Internet searching, I found that many other have had this problem even before the new version of Ubuntu. I eventually came up with the fix after digging into the depths of files that have never seen the light of day.

Before I started the upgrade process, I did a complete partition clone saved to an external drive. I also separately backup the home directory of my and my family’s accounts. I also went through and did screen shots of all the menus. I did this, because I had a past experience that failed and I had to reinstall the entire operating system, and I couldn’t remember all the different programs I had installed. This was a good idea, as I was soon in for a big surprise.

It seemed that everything finally came out ok, but I noticed that an icon on my menu bar was missing. It was for the search applet. I very much needed that. It indexed all of the files in my home directory, and could search for anything in a second. I have the “open clip art” collection on my drive which consists of thousands of pieces of clip art. There is no way to search this collection without the indexed search applet. The applet also categorized its results and actually displayed thumb nails of its results. A very handy thing for searching through clip art. The problem was, I did not even know what this little program was called. I could not even search for it on the Internet. It took another hour or so of time to finally figure that it is called “Tracker”. I reinstalled it. The configuration files were in place so it came back like it should – except, it kept saying there was an error and had to re-index. Oh no, maybe this is why it disappeared. It seems to be buggy. I don’t know what I will do without it.

Since this program was missing, I though I would check around and see if anything else was missing. Oh boy, was I in for a shock. I am very glad I took those screen shots. I printed them out and started comparing new menus with old ones. Here is what came of it. Almost all the old configuration files were still present, which made setup a lot easier.

  • Tracker – missing. When reinstalled, it appeared to be buggy.
  • Gnome Do – missing. Reinstalled. Old configuration files still intact.
  • Firestarter the firewall would not activate. Reinstalled and it started up ok.
  • Dropbox would not start up. I had to go to their web site and download and install a new version.
  • Brasero disc burner. This was my favorite disc burner. It was missing. Reinstalled.
  • VLC Media Player – missing, reinstalled.
  • Gdesklets – missing, reinstalled
  • BitPim – missing. Reinstalled. This program downloads and uploads pictures and info from our cell phone. It was a real pain to get it going originally. I have not been able to get it running yet.
  • Childsplay – missing. Reinstalled. This is an educational children’s program.
  • OpenOffice Database – missing. I selected the entire suite to be reinstalled. It found the pieces that were missing and only installed them.
  • PyCrust – missing. Reinstalled. This is a Python programming language front end GUI
  • DeVeDe – missing. Reinstalled. This is a DVD menu creator which I really like.
  • Kdenlive – missing. This is a video editing program. I have been using Kino and Open Movie Editor, so I did not reinstall this one.
  • XBMC – media player – missing. I didn’t use this much either so I didn’t reinstall it.
  • todisc GUI – missing. Reinstalled. This is another DVD menu creator.
  • My Sandisk Sansa MP3 player would not work. This took hours of research to figure out. When I plugged it in, it did not come up in “mass storage” mode that it should have. It also spit out an error message and apparently thought it was a camera. After pulling the last two hairs out of my head, I found a solution and deleted a file somewhere on the system and it corrected the problem. I’m sure that file was there for something though!

SO, so far I have been able to get everything back working except Tracker, and BitPim. What a very large head ache.

I love using Ubuntu, but with this experience, I can tell you it is definitely not ready for the masses. How would mom or dad ever deal with something like this? Also, many “Gurus” will tell you that you should always do a fresh install when there is a distribution upgrade. How ridiculous is that? I finally got my computers networked, sharing printers, and files. I’ve configured it to death to how I want it. How is the normal Joe ever supposed to wipe all of that out and start over? I can’t remember what I did yesterday, it would take months to get everything back to normal.

As I said before, my co-worker’s upgrade turned out fine. It just took a long time. But— not as long as mine did.


Create USB Boot Thumb Drive With Ubuntu Live CD – Revisited

I used the method, previously described, to make a bootable USB Ubuntu thumb drive for a co-worker. The process failed for his particular thumb drive, saying “Missing Operating System” when he tried to boot with the USB thumb drive.  After some research on the subject, it seems that a lot of thumb drives have this problem with Ubuntu.  I found the solution at .  Dominique’s step by step “How To” worked perfectly for me.  If you have problems with your Ubuntu USB boot thumb drive, give this “How To” a try and you might be pleasantly surprised.


Create USB Boot Thumb Drive With Ubuntu Live CD

The computers in my Radio Shack and home run on Ubuntu Linux. A great way to share this good experience with others is through the Ubuntu Live CD.  The downside of the Live CD, however, is that no changes are saved.  To get a more lifelike experience in the Ubuntu demo, a bootable Ubuntu system can be loaded onto a USB thumb drive.  With this method, any changes will be kept on the thumb drive.

With the USB bootable thumb drive, it also means that you can carry your operating system with you with all the files you like to use.  There certainly is a performance issue compared with a regular hard drive instalation, but having your e-mail, internet, audio/visual programs, ham radio programs, etc. with you all the time, available to use on any computer that can boot by USB, is an awesome thing.

Here are some detailed instructions to make a bootable USB thumb drive from the Ubuntu 8.10 live CD.

Download PDF of this page.



  • Insert Live Ubuntu CD and allow it to boot up completely

  • Insert Thumb Drive into a USB port and wait for system to recognize it

  • Click “System” on the TOP menu of the Desktop

Click "System"

  • Select  “Administration” under the “System” menu.


  • Click “Create a USB startup disk” under “Administration”

Click "Create a USB startup disk"

  • The “Make USB Startup Disk” program should start

  • CD info for the Live CD should appear at the top

Make USB Startup Disk

  • USB information should appear in the middle. If the USB thumb drive is not inserted, you can do it now and the information should appear.

USB Information Field

  • Make sure “Store in reserve extra space” is selected.

  • Move slider to the right to allocated additional memory on the thumb drive for the Ubuntu system. If you want a bit unused (eg. ½ GB) for other files, do not go all the way to the right. Note – This “unused” portion, or any files on the unused portion of the thumb drive WILL NOT be accessible when Ubuntu is booted from the thumb drive.

Storage Options

  • Click “Make Startup Disk”

Do it!

  • The system will begin to copy the Ubuntu Operating system to the thumb drive.

Progress Bar

  • It may take some time for the process to complete. When it is done, close the program and unmount the USB thumb drive by right clicking on the disk icon on the Desktop, and click “Unmount Volume”

  • This completes the installation of Ubuntu onto the thumb drive. Reboot the computer with the thumb drive in place and enjoy Ubuntu.