Ubuntu - Configuring For Programming

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This is a checklist and a set of tips on setting up a complete ubuntu installation suitable for software development and scientific research.

These instructions were tested on Ubuntu 15.04 but are almost the same for 12.04, 11.10, down to 11.04.

Partitioning for Programming

For programming, I use the following partition guidelines

  • / : from 20 to 100GB (usually a full-fledged Ubuntu install for multimedia development will consume 16GB, from my experience)
  • /linux2 : I place another Linux partition here, so that I can have 2 linux distros. The size is the same guidelines as I mentioned above for '/'.
  • /home : your files that are visible to all linux distros and remain untouched between reinstalls.
  • Swap: if you do heavy simulations, double your RAM is a good rule of thumb here; otherwise, you'll do fine with just a couple GB here.

File system: choose ext4, it performs very well on most circumstances.

In the case of a laptop with a small internal SSD and a large slow HD, I've successfully used the following sheme

  • /: goes into the SSD, minus /var
  • /var: goes into the slow HD. 20GB should be more than enough here.

In the case of most modern UEFI firmware (replacing BIOS), you need to make sure there's an EFI partition.

Installing Packages

Be resourceful. Install most of the stuff you'll ever need so you don't have to worry about it later. After this, your system will consume about 15GB total

apt-get install kdenlive kino texlive-full blender konqueror konq-plugins  glade gtk-gnutella freemind emacs scilab octave ipython ddd xmaxima gap r-base r-base-dev r-recommended gnuplot imagemagick inkscape gimp digikam compizconfig-settings-manager pitivi python-kiwi apache2 ssh recordmydesktop mplayer gxine vlc ffmpeg puredata puredata-import git-core git-svn git-cvs kubuntu-full amarok cmake cmake-curses-gui autoconf automake libtool ekiga chromium-browser konsole  gitk gitg irssi xfig gv amule amule-emc qbittorrent nicotine gtk-gnutella kubuntu-full kubuntu-desktop vim-gnome mesa-utils dconf-tools sshfs pdftk libmagick++-dev gimp-data-extras gimp-plugin-registry gnome-tweak-tool v4l-utils synaptic libv4l-dev swig tcllib ardour audacity audacious jackd qjackctl unrar unison-gtk php5 libproc-processtable-perl guvcview exuberant-ctags gthumb xzgv

Getting back to Ubuntu / Unity (for 13.10 users)

The above commands installs kubuntu-full to get programs and libs from ubuntu. But if you want to go back to unity just do this:

  • edit the file /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf
  • change the line user-session to be
  • change the line greeter-session to be

Remove the unified menu feature

apt-get remove indicator-appmenu 

Clipboard history manager

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diodon-team/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install diodon

System usage indicator

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:indicator-multiload/stable-daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-multiload

Dev libs

Get dev libs indirectly through build-dep:

apt-get build-dep scilab evince okular firefox empathy kino vlc gxine puredata lmms

Dev utilities


Apt-file to search for packages containing a specified file (useful for compiling)

apt-get install apt-file

sample usage:

# one-time: 
apt-file update    
# all other times:
apt-file find arquivo_exemplo.h


Apt-rdepends to search for packages depending on a specified package (useful for compiling)

apt-get install apt-rdepends

sample usage:

apt-rdepends --reverse (packagename)


No Ubuntu 11.10, Gnome shell:

apt-get install gnome-shell

Other Configs

  • capslock -> additional control
  • nvidia-drivers
  • wish 8.5 (see listamacambira email) - nice tcl/tk GUI
  • Explore o gnome-tweak-tool

You might want to change UID to same as the UID of your other computers or external hard drives (same with GID)

usermod -u UID username
groupmod -g GID username

This will take care of everything inside /home/username, /etc/passwd and the like. Remember to edit /etc/login.defs if your UID is below 1000


The following steps makes CUDA (for NVidia cards) work with software such as Blender [1] [2]

  • Install the proprietary NVIDIA drivers.
    • Go to System Settings -> Software Updates -> Additional Drivers Tab and select the latest stable.
    • Install some cuda-specific packages:
sudo apt-get install nvidia-modprobe nvidia-cuda-toolkit

Other Instructions

You can try to follow this:


Automation Script

The latest instructions on this page are automated inside an install script that is shipped as part of the Lab Macambira utils Git repository:


You can download it using Git (for easily downloading later updates) like this:

   $ git clone git://labmacambira.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/labmacambira/utils

Or, if you are a Lab Macambira comitter or if you have a sourceforge user:

   $ git clone ssh://<usuario>@labmacambira.git.sourceforge.net/gitroot/labmacambira/utils

The above script is pretty much like achieving a developer's distro on top of a raw ubuntu installation.

See also