MHCC Ubuntu Linux FAQ

This is a brief Troubleshooting and FAQ guide for the Ubuntu (Linux) new user using “Grant Boxes” from Freegeek for students at Mt. Hood Community College.

Ubuntu is a popular “flavor” of Linux used by FreeGeek (and many others!). The version of Ubuntu used on the “Grant Boxes” is 8.04 (April 2008) also known as “Hardy Heron.”




Frequently Asked Questions about Ubuntu/Linux and etc.

How do I connect to the Internet?

There are four main ways to connect to the internet:

  • Broadband with cable (such as through the cable company Comcast)
  • Broadband with DSL (such as through the phone company Qwest)
  • Wireless (This requires a wireless access point (WAP) in your area. A WAP (such as the Linksys WAP54g) connects to the internet, usually through a broadband connection and allows anyone with a WiFi card to access the internet)
  • Dial-Up (through a plain old telephone landline with the phone company (such as Qwest))

Connecting to the Internet with Broadband (cable or DSL)

For most cable and dsl modems, once the modem is set up, your ubuntu box will be able to connect without any extra configuration. If you are not able to connect, then check the following:

  • The ethernet connection may need to be enabled. Go to System>Administration>Networking, highlight the ethernet connection and then click on properties. There should be a check mark in “Enable this connection”. The Configuration should be DHCP unless you know it should be otherwise.
  • The modem may need to be rebooted or reset.
  • If the cable (or DSL) modem has not been configured, try browsing to the web interface of the modem. This can be found by checking System>Administration>Network tools. Change the network device to show the ethernet connection. If the IPV4 IP address starts with 169, or is absent, you are not connected. Otherwise, click on the Netstat tab. and check the routing information. The gateway address is the address of the modem. Just put that address in to firefox and you should see the administrative interface for the modem.

Connecting to the Internet with Dial-Up

NOTE: This section is under construction!!

NOTE: If your Computer doesn’t already have a dial-up modem card installed, one will need to be added before proceeding!

Once your dial-up modem card is installed, the dial-up connection information will need to be configured, as follows…

  1. Go to System>Administration>Network.
    • Click “Unlock”
    • Enter your Password
    • Press “Enter”
  2. Click on “Point to Point Connection”
  3. Then Click “Properties”
  4. Put a check in “Enable this connection”.
  5. Set “Connection type” to “serial modem”.
  6. For Internet Service Provider data put in the information provided by your ISP.
    • Phone Number: Enter your internet service providers access number (such as 5039740040)
    • Dial prefix: Leave blank (?)
  7. For Account data put in the information provided by your ISP.
    • Username: Enter your internet service providers Username (note: This is the username to access your ISP, not the username to log into Ubuntu!)
    • Password: Enter your internet service providers password (note: This is the password to access your ISP, not the password to log into Ubuntu!)
  8. Click the Options tab
    • Put a check in “Set modem as default route to internet”
    • Put a check in “Use the internet service provider nameservers”
  9. Click the Modem tab
    • Modem Port: Enter the modem port value.
      • To find the modem port value do the following (this is a bit tricky):
        • Open a terminal window by clicking: Applications>Accessories>Terminal
        • Then type: wvdialconf
        • Then press Enter.
        • wvdialconf prints out a lot of information with each line beginning with the modem port value (such as ttyS0 or ttyS1) Find your modem and enter it as explained above.
  10. Click “OK”
  11. Click “Close”

Selecting a Dial-Up Internet Service Provider

Ubuntu will probably work with most ISPs. The following two have been verified to work.

Whiz to Coho, Inc.

This Internet service provider is local, Hillsboro OR, and offers a special discount for those with a computer provided by Free Geek.

Free Geek Dial-up Service 56k, $12.95 a month, or if you pay for the whole year in advance: $129.50 (=$10.79/mo)

Accounts can be established with Portland area-only access (these are our standard accounts) or nationwide access for those who travel and need telephone numbers in different cities/states. Our accounts are limited to 200 hours a month or apx 6 hours a day.

The standard dialup telephone numbers for the Portland metropolitan area are 503-974-0040.

12800 NW Bishop Rd. Hillsboro OR 97124
Call 503-647-5957 or 888-350-6270 to sign up.


Ubuntu has been verified to work with PeoplePc.

Note: If you call them up they will say “PeoplePC doesn’t work with Linux”. They are wrong, PeoplePC does. It’s
their dialer software that doesn’t work with Linux (it only works with windows). Instead you the Built-in Ubuntu Dialer, and configure your username, password, and access phone number as described above in the section: “Connecting to the Internet with Dial-up”.

Some Local Access numbers for PeoplePc: 5039140660, 5039060149, 5032134335, 5032134076, 5039728998

PeoplePC Unlimited, $5.47/month for 3 months, then $10.95/month
To register by phone, call toll free 1-877-947-3327 and mention Offer Code WEB6

Connecting to the Internet with Wireless

  • Step 1: Turn off the computer and install your wireless card. If you don’t have a wireless card see: “Which WiFi Cards Work With Ubuntu” below…
    • Important: Don’t try to do anything with any CDs that come with the card! They are for Windows, not Ubuntu. If you are using the D-Link WDA-1320 card, Ubuntu already comes installed with the correct driver software.
  • Step 2: The wireless connection may need to be enabled. Go to System>Administration>Networking, highlight the wireless connection and then click on properties. There should be a check mark in “Enable this connection”. The Configuration should be DHCP unless you know it should be otherwise.
    • under construction… setting: essid, keycod, wep, etc. (command line tools for debugging problems (hopefully not needed): lspci, ifconfig, iwconfig)
    • under construction… nameserver problems. there is a known problem (with a known fix!) for the DLS wireless router used by Qwest
  • Step 3: The computer may need to be rebooted or reset.
  • Step 4: If all goes well you should be ready to browse the internet. Click the ‘Firefox’ Web browser icon (round blue icon) on the toolbar to browse the Internet.

Which WiFi Cards Work With Ubuntu

Currently cards with the “Prism” or “Atheros” chipsets work with Ubuntu.
For example, the following Card has been verified to work with Ubuntu:

  • D-Link WDA-1320

As of this date it is available at Fry’s Electronics (Also

  • Frys DLink WDA1320, D-Link 54g PCI WDA-1320 Wireless-G 54Mbps PCI Adapter
  • #: 4774259, Price: $ 29.99
  • Wilsonville, OR, 29400 SW Town Center Loop West, 97070, (503) 570-6000

How do I save as a Microsoft Word Document?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 11a: Microsoft & Open Office Compatibility

Why didn’t my OpenOffice document save correctly when I saved as a Microsoft Word Document?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 11b: Other Microsoft & Open Office Compatibility Issues

How do I view multimedia such as DVDs?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 6: Getting Media Drivers (mp3, wmv, mpeg…)

What software is included?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Steps 7-11

How do I create new users?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 2: Setting Up the New User Account

How do I change my password?

Your password can be changed in System>Preferences>About Me.

Alternatively, all user passwords can be changed in System>Administration>Users

How come the fonts look bad?

I printed out a page and it doesn’t look as nice as when I print it from Windows.

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 14a: Printer Fonts

How do I change the name of my computer from “freekbox”?

Go to System>Administration>Networking and click on the General tab. After changing the computer name, you MUST reboot immediately.

My menu and icons are messed up. How can I fix it?

In Ubuntu the strips containing menus, icons and buttons on the top and bottom of the screen are called “Panels”. They are very easy to customize, and so are very easy to mess up. The following tips can help you recover them.

missing panel

It is easy to delete one of the panels. To replace it, right-click on the remaining panel, and choose “New Panel” from the menu. This will give you a new blank panel. You will need to replace the menus and other features of the panel.

missing menu or other feature

You can add most features of the panels by right-clicking on the panel and choosing “Add to Panel”. You will be presented with a large list of features to be added. Try them out. You can always delete them by right-clicking on the feature and selecting “Remove from Panel”. Note that the Menu which was there originally is “Menu Bar”, not “Main Menu”.

Application icons are added by clicking on the menu and then right-clicking on the application icon in the menu and selecting “Add this launcher to panel”

panel in the wrong place

Panels can be moved to different sides of the screen by clicking and dragging.

My Uploaded file didn’t appear on the Desktop

The default folder is in places>Homefolder (which is your username) rather than the desktop. You can always drag the file to the desktop if you want.

How do I add a printer?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 14: Adding the Printer

Can I run my favorite Windows Program on Ubuntu?

You might be able to using WINE (Windows Emulator) program. Some people have had success with it, others haven’t.

If you want to try WINE, here are some links to Wine information:

How do I open the CD Drive?

Q: I put a CD in the CD Drive, but when I push the button on the Drive to
open the door it won’t open!

A: If Ubuntu thinks the CD drive is in use it won’t let the door open. Right
Click on the CD Icon on the desktop and click Eject.

How do I shut down Ubuntu?

See: Mount Hood CC Ubuntu Linux Startup Guide, Step 15: Shutting down Ubuntu

I Can’t Remember My UserName and/or Password!!!


(UNVERIFIED!: select “Ubuntu Recovery Mode” in the bootup menu, it will boot you to a terminal with root access without prompting for a password. Then use the command “passwd userName” to set a new password for yourself. Obviously, userName is your username. If you have forgotten your username as well, then “ls /home” from the terminal will tell you the user directories on your system, which will job your memory. Alternatively “tail /etc/passwd” should help.) (Note to self: What’s the point of username/password if it’s so easy to bypass around it?!)


A few “hopefully” useful troubleshooting tips.

Fixing Screen Problems

When you first bring up Ubuntu for the first time, sometimes the screen may have a problem. This is due to the fact that Ubuntu was installed at FreeGeek using a different monitor than the one you are now using. This sometimes causes problems. To fix this do the following:

  1. Turn off the computer, then turn it back on.
  2. Just after the computer does its initial “power on self test” a screen that says “GNU GRUB”, in the upper left hand corner, will appear.
  3. QUICKLY press the ‘esc’ (escape) key! (otherwise the computer will continue on to loading Ubuntu Linux) If you see a screen that says UBUNTU then you didn’t hit the ‘esc’ key in time, so just turn off the computer and try again.
  4. Use the ‘down arrow’ key to select the line that says “Recovery Mode”. Then Press Enter.
  5. Wait for the Recover Menu and then select ‘Xfix’
  6. Hopefully this fixes the problem.
  7. Sadly, if this doesn’t fix the problem contact the Mt. Hood Community College Freegeek adoption teacher: Blog to ask additional MHCC Ubuntu/Linux Questions

See Also

External Links

Personal tools