Setting up new Ubuntu computers

I’ve had to set up a few Ubuntu desktop machines recently, and I thought it was worth documenting what I install on each one, and how I automate those installations as much as possible. I wrote about this a few years ago but so much has changed with my setup that I thought it was worth revisiting these instructions.

Generally I’ll always install from USB, and from the latest desktop version. I make my installer in Ubuntu, using Disk Image Writer and boot the computer from that. From 18.04 onwards I’ll be using the minimal installation feature (which I love), but for now assume that I just go with the defaults for everything.

Once it has finished installing, I’ll go through the process of getting everything I want on to the machine.

Install dropbox

I download the latest version from and then type:

sudo dpkg -i dropbox <hit the tab key>

I have a lot of files on Dropbox, so I let this sync while I’m doing the rest.

Add a script to make updating software easier

First all install something I’ll need to make the script work:

sudo apt install byobu

Then I’ll create a new file called updateall

echo "updateall v.1.2 for Ubuntu"
#Run this as a normal user. Your admin password will be asked for if required.
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade -y
sudo apt full-upgrade -y
sudo apt autoremove -y
sudo purge-old-kernels -y
echo "The script has now finished running."

I move it to /usr/local/bin/ then make it executable with sudo chmod -X update all.

Add some software from the Ubuntu repositories

sudo updateall
sudo apt install git gimp vlc ubuntu-restricted-extras build-essential hexchat openssh-server gnome-tweak-tool tilix testdrive tasksel gnome-session
sudo snap install --classic atom
sudo snap install spotify

Install tails-installer

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tails-team/tails-installer
sudo apt update
sudo apt install tails-installer   

Install pandoc

sudo dpkg -i pandoc-
sudo apt install texlive

See here for more on how I configure and use Pandoc.

Cosmetic tweaks

Reduce dock size to 24.

Change desktop wallpaper.

Log out, and choose a vanilla Gnome session from the chooser.

Browse to and install some extensions. The ones I go for are Alternate Tab, Gravatar, Places Status Indicator, windowNavigator and Workspace Indicator.

Go to Settings --> Security and Privacy and turn off all “phone home” functionality.