Linux Tips

Linux for Travelers Forums

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The Linux for Travelers forums are back online. You can now register for this site and ask questions about Linux in the forums.

There are also forums for topics like Windows security, and using Linux in Internet cafes...

Getting Skype for Linux


Skype is a popular VoIP program that some travelers use. It provides a way to make voice calls over the Internet. Skype runs well on Linux.

Installing Skype on Linux

If you are using Ubuntu Linux, then just use the free EasyUbuntu tool to get Skype.

If you are using another type of Linux, you can get Skype from the Skype for Linux download page. Downloads are available to install Skype on SuSE, Fedora Core, Mandriva, Xandros, MEPIS, and Debian Linux, as well as a generic "Dynamic binary" file. The easiest installation method is with Ubuntu, but if you are running a live CD with the KDE desktop you can probably use the file and download Skype into the computer's memory while the live CD is running.

Instructions for downloading Skype on-the-go are coming soon.

Using Ubuntu

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If you are using Ubuntu as a live CD, there are a couple of things to be aware of:

  1. DO NOT CLICK THE INSTALL BUTTON ON THE DESKTOP unless you want to erase the hard drive and install Ubuntu. If you do click that button, it will warn you first. It will also give you the option to shrink the Windows partition (section) of the hard drive and install Ubuntu next to it. But if you want to make a dual-boot system, only do it to your own personal computer, and be sure you follow dual-boot instructions carefully, backing up the files first and defragmenting the hard drive.

How to Switch to Ubuntu

| has a few good articles on how to make the switch to Ubuntu Linux.

How to Switch from Windows to Ubuntu Linux

The guide for Windows users explains some of the differences between Windows and Ubuntu Linux.

It recommends running an Ubuntu live CD first to make sure that Ubuntu works with your hardware.

If you are going to switch from Windows to Ubuntu, I recommend trying a dual boot system first. A dual boot system allows you to run Windows and Linux next to each other on the same computer. Ubuntu makes installing a dual boot system easy.

How to Switch from Mac to Ubuntu Linux

If you are switching from Mac to Ubuntu it is less of a leap than switching from Windows to Ubuntu. Mac OS X is also a Unix-based operating system and it is similar to Linux on the inside.

Mark Pilgrim lists some of his tips for switching from Mac to Ubuntu on his blog. It's an interesting discussion for anyone who is making the switch to Ubuntu.

How to Switch From Another Linux Distro to Ubuntu Linux

This is the easiest switch. Ubuntu is one of the easiest to use Linux distros and you shouldn't have any problems switching to Ubuntu.

Free Linux Programs

You can use a Linux live CD for security on public computers, but there is also another benefit: Linux has thousands of free programs that can replace many of the programs that run on Windows and Mac.

A comprehensive list can be found on the replacements for Windows software on Linux list. I'll highlight some of the best ones here:

Free Graphics Programs


A great replacement for Adobe Photoshop is the the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). There are many free GIMP tutorials online. There is also a version for Windows called Portable GIMP that you can download to any Windows computer for editing digital photos. The GIMP can do most of what Photoshop can do. Here is a screenshot of the GIMP tools:


If you like to work with vector graphics, try Inkscape. Vector graphics are good for clip art, illustrations, and any kind of image that needs to be resized. An advantage of vector graphics is that they can be resized without losing any image quality. Inkscape comes with a set of excellent tutorials that you can find in the help menu.
A map of the Czech Republic viewed in Inkscape


F-spot is similar to Google's Picasa (which also runs on Linux). It is a good program for simple editing and organization of your digital photos. Check out the features list for more information.

Web Browsers

There are many Web browsers for Linux. Firefox is the most common one. Another one that you may come across is Konqueror. I prefer Firefox, but Konqueror is a good secure browser that can also be used as an FTP client. Parts of Konqueror were used for Apple's Safari browser.

Office Programs

The most advanced free office suite for Linux is OpenOffice. It is compatible with MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. OpenOffice comes on many Linux live CDs. You might also find alternatives like Abiword and K-office.

Instant Messengers

The most popular instant messenger program for Linux is Gaim. It is found on most Linux live CDs. Gaim allows you to log into Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ, IRC, and others all at the same time. Another popular instant messenger for Linux with similar features is Kopete.

Email Clients

A great email program that can replace Outlook Express and that runs under Linux is Mozilla Thunderbird. It allows you to check your POP and IMAP email accounts.

Media Players

There are many media players for Linux. My favorite music player is called Amarok. Other options include Juk, Rhythmbox, XMMS, and others.

For video files, I like VLC media player. Other popular movie players are Mplayer, Kaffiene, and Totem, among others.


Programs for synching your Palm with a Linux computer include Gnome Pilot and K-Pilot.

Linux Programs

This post is intended to be only an introduction. A more complete list of Linux software can be found here.

Create a Secure Wireless Internet Access Point With Linux

| has an article on how to create a secure Linux-based wireless access point.

"Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2 (WPA2) is becoming the de facto standard for securing wireless networks, and a mandatory feature for all new Wi-Fi products certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. We all know the security weaknesses of its predecessor, WEP; this time they got it right. Here's how to implement the WPA2 protocol on a Linux host and create a secure wireless access point (WAP) for your network."

How to Install Linux on a Bootable USB Thumb Drive


A few people have asked me how to install Linux to a bootable thumb drive. I carry around Damn Small Linux on my thumb drive and it works great. It only takes up 50MB on my 256MB thumb drive, which leaves me about 200MB free for my other files.

With Damn Small Linux, you just download it and burn the Linux file to a CD. Then boot the computer from the CD drive and use the menu option to install Damn Small Linux to the thumb drive.

I just found this great resource on how to install Linux to thumb drives: I haven't installed Linux to a thumb drive with any distro except for Damn Small Linux, and I'm looking forward to trying some of the methods mentioned on

Ubuntu Live CD: Save Settings to Thumb Drive

| has a tutorial on how to save your settings and data to a USB device on the Ubuntu live CD.

The tutorial involves use of the terminal. If you want to save your settings to a thumb drive without having to set things up with the terminal, there are other distros that have this feature built in. Examples of distros that include this feature are PCLinuxOS, Slax, Knoppix, and Puppy Linux.

After I try this technique with the Ubuntu live CD, I'll post my results here and see if I can explain it in simpler terms.

How to Install Software on Ubuntu

| has a great tutorial called How to Install Anything in Ubuntu. Ubuntu has thousands of free programs available for download, and that tutorial shows you how to get them.

If you haven't already tried Ubuntu, download the free Ubuntu live CD and then check out the MonkeyBlog Ubuntu tutorial.

KDE Kiosk Admin Tool

| | | has an article about how to install and configure KDE Kiosk Admin Tool. The Kiosk Admin Tool is a great feature that lets you easily limit access to only some computer functions. More details about the KDE Kiosk Admin Tool can be found on, including an interview with the creator of the tool.

If you are not technically-minded and don't want to build the software from source code, you can use a Linux distro like Kubuntu, a KDE version of Ubuntu, to install the KDE Kiosk Admin Tool with just a few click in Synaptic Package Manager. You can find Synaptic in the menu by going to System —> Administration —> Synaptic Package Manager.

This is the Synaptic Package Manager screen on Ubuntu. You should be able to install KDE Kiosk Admin Tool on Ubuntu like this. You should also download KDE with Synaptic and on your next login choose the KDE desktop instead of GNOME. Using KDE on Ubuntu basically turns Ubuntu into Kubuntu. If you are already using Kubuntu, Synaptic will look similar to the image below and you will already be in KDE when you login.

Using Synaptic Tool to get KDE Kiosk Admin Tool

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