Clean install of Ubuntu 10.10

I’ve been upgrading my Ubuntu installation since 8.04, and it’s collected a fair amount of cruft. So I decided on a clean install of Ubuntu 10.10. I suppose that this post may be of interest to people planning something similar.

Step 1: Backup

To be honest, I usually ignore this step (and just trust that I won’t overwrite the wrong partition, and that the installer won’t accidentally corrupt files).

Anyhow, this time I decided to backup my entire home directory. Since there are always a bunch of temporary files, I first ran BleachBit to remove unnecessary files. I then used grsync to backup to an external USB HDD. The great thing about rsync is that you can easily (and quickly) verify that everything copied properly by just running it again.

Step 2: Sync

I figured that it would be easier to return all my application settings to normal if I synced my data with an external resource (so that I could later sync the new install).

I considered using Ubuntu One, but it wasn’t really the one-click secure process I had hoped for. It looked like I would need to setup sync for Evolution, Tomboy, and Empathy separately. Also, I hasn’t too happy about sending my data to a third party.

In the end I decided that I just needed to copy my KeePassX passwords database, Evolution contacts, and Tomboy Notes to some storage media. So I copied the KeePass database, synced Tomboy to a folder, and dumped a vCard file with all contacts to the USB HDD.

I also copied the KeePass database to my new Android phone so that I would have the wifi network settings handy immediately after installation (since I wouldn’t be able to install KeePassX before the wifi was setup).

Step 3: Installation

Installation went without a hitch. Rather than burn a CD, I used a 2GB USB stick to create a startup disk (using the handy Startup Disk Creator program included with Ubuntu). Incidentally, the USB drive created is also setup with Wubi for installation under Windows.

Since this is a desktop machine, I decided not to encrypt my home directory. My passwords and such are already encrypted and I’ll use an encrypted partition for other confidential data.

After the initial installation, I had two more reboots in store for me before I had a base setup. The first reboot was to install security updates and the second was to install the NVIDIA proprietary accelerated graphics driver. All reasonable stuff I suppose.

Step 4: Basking in the Glory of a Clean Installation

Sniff. It’s so beautiful.

I had already been using 10.10, but as I mentioned earlier it had collected a lot of cruft (unnecessary programs and files). The new default installation boots quickly, presents a clean login screen, and then loads an empty desktop with Firefox ready to go. Even the shut-down graphics and terminal appear to be native resolution now (1920×1080) rather than low resolution (80 character wide) screens. Ahhh.

Step 6: (re)Sync

I synced some data before overwriting my previous Ubuntu installation, so that I could easily and quickly sync it back into the new installation:

  1. Startup Tomboy and set the sync directory to the folder on the USB HDD
  2. Load the KeePass database so that I can configure my other accounts

Since I have Windows 7 installed on another hard drive, I might move these sync files from the USB HDD to a new shared partition so that I can access them from either Ubuntu or Windows.

Step 5: User Interface Changes

I’m generally pretty happy with the default Ubuntu 10.10 user interface, but I like to make a few minor tweaks.

  1. Install “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings (ccsm)” via the Ubuntu Software Centre
  2. Install “compiz-fusion-plugins-extra” via Synaptic Package Manager
  3. Launch “System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager”
  4. Enable “Window Previews” under “Effects”
  5. Enable “Grid” under “Window Management”

Incidentally, Grid is the best window management plugin ever. If you use Ubuntu, you should definitely install and use it. It will change your life. Guaranteed.

Step 5: Software Installation

As much as I love the minimalism of a new installation, I need to install a few programs in order to be productive. I won’t go into this in too much detail other than to provide a list:

  1. Ubuntu restricted extras (Java, Flash, Codecs)
  2. KeePassX (Password management)
  3. Inkscape (Vector drawing/illustration program)

Actually, I’ll probably just stop there for now and only install other programs as I run into a need for them. I expect that I may end up installing most of the following (in no particular order):

  1. Gnome Partition Editor
  2. GIMP
  3. MyPaint
  4. ScribusNG
  5. QuickSynergy
  6. VirtualBox OSE
  7. Blender
  8. Getting Things Gnome
  9. Miro
  10. Chromium
  11. Wine
  12. Skype

Step 6: Things Left to do

I still need to setup mail, instant messaging, and social broadcasting services. I also want to put some decent fonts into my .fonts directory and setup by bookmarks toolbar with a handful of my frequently visited sites.

Then I’ll get onto importing photos and videos from the backup. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a photo-and-video manager under Ubuntu. So I’ll still have to manage videos manually and import them into Shotwell at a later date. I’m also a little bummed that Shotwell doesn’t handle hierarchical tags or tag icons (which I used in F-Spot). Oh well.

Finally, I’ll probably selectively copy other files (documents etc.) as required. Hopefully this install will last another couple of years!

Update: Turns out Evolution can export all its settings (and tasks, events, email presumably) for import into another instance. I probably should have done that.