Big thanks to Michael Otto for creating an Ubuntu Indicator Panel applet! It has a drop-down menu that lets you directly launch any VirtualBox VM you have configured on your machine. Also props to the several kindly bloggers who gave instructions for installing this slick utility.

It’s not part of the official Ubuntu repository (yet, I’m sure) so you need to add the correct repository and install it using apt. The command-line commands are:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:michael-astrapi/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-virtualbox

You can have it start automatically on log-in by adding it to the list of Startup Applications (System -> Preferences -> Startup Applications). The command to start it is:


This is so helpful it’s bound to end up in the primary Ubuntu repository in the next release or two. Thanks again, Michael!

I found these icons for Dropbox that match the Ubuntu mono dark (ambiance) theme. The link includes instructions for installing the icons for Dropbox 0.8, but Dropbox is up to 1.0 now and the path and filenames have changed. The new path is:


and the filenames have all been prefixed with “dropboxstatus-“. With these minor tweaks, my Dropbox indicator now matches nicely with the rest of the Ambiance theme.

Surprisingly, I’ve never done this before, but I needed to enable DVD playback on my wife’s new netbook which she uses for her work. While I was at it, I also enabled it on my new laptop. We’re both running Ubuntu 10.10 and loving it.

Because of Ubuntu’s commitment to free / open-source software (and because of some licensing concerns), Ubuntu doesn’t ship with the libraries to play mp3s, DVDs, or some other media formats. They are, however, freely (as in beer) available through the package manager / Software Center. Here’s what I did to enable DVD playback:

  1. Installed Ubuntu Restricted Extras from the Software Center (ubuntu-restricted-extras if installing using apt or Synaptic).
  2. Verified in the Software Center that ‘libdvdread4’ was installed (it was for me, but you should install it if it’s not).
  3. Ran the following command from a terminal to install the restricted DVD decryption codec (thanks to the Ubuntu Help site for this): sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/
  4. Installed ‘VLC Media Player’ via the Software Center. This may not be required, but Totem (Movie Player) crashed a few seconds into playing a dvd before doing this. After installing VLC, both VLC and Totem played the DVD fine. There are probably some codecs installed along with VLC that fixed the problem.

There it is. Both laptops are playing DVDs without any errors.

When installing Ubuntu on my wife’s new netbook, the installation crashed mid-way through… after it reworked the partition table and added the ext3 and swap partitions. Some trial and error showed that Ubuntu had trouble recognizing the intended partitions when choosing to install alongside Windows again (it tried to cram everything into the space held by the shrunken Windows partition). So in order to get the partitions back to where they were, I tried to delete the new ext3 and swap partitions. Unfortunately, when booting to the Ubuntu Live USB stick, it mounted the swap partition on the main hard drive and prevented me from deleting it! Some googling showed me that I could force-disable all swap partitions via the command-line:

sudo swapoff -a

When running as the Live disk’s default ‘ubuntu’ user, there is no password so there’s no password prompt.

The Ubuntu 10.10 install on my new laptop turns on the Bluetooth adapter by default, which is a minor battery drain. Since I rarely (if ever) use any Bluetooth devices, I’d rather turn off the adapter by default. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as changing an option in the Bluetooth panel application and requires some minor command-line tweakage.

Per this helpful post on the Ubuntu forums, I just had to edit the file /etc/init.d/rc.local:

sudo vim /etc/init.d/rc.local

And add the following line:

rfkill block bluetooth

Although the post suggests putting the line at the end of rc.local, that didn’t seem to work for me. So I added it near the beginning and all is well. Now, after booting up and logging in, the Bluetooth panel icon is happily grayed-out to show that the adapter is deactivated.