Linux is one of the more configurable operating systems available. Unfortunately for new members, a great many of these options are buried in configuration files. Instead of being able to simply open up a program and say, “I’d like this option, this option and this other option,” the user needs to either go into the Terminal and type esoteric commands, or else go to the configuration editor, which can at times be just as uncomfortable for the beginner. For new Linux users, there is a fantastic program called Ailurus. It’s directly aimed at “the newcomer to linux, e.g., the people who uses Linux for not more than one month.”
Unlike other programs which offer many of the same options, such as Ubuntu Tweak, Ailurus is not distribution specific. In fact, right on the Ailurus home page you’ll find installers for not only Ubuntu, but Fedora as well, along with a source code package that should work with any Linux distribution.
What kind of features does Ailurus offer to make beginning Linux users feel more at home? With Ailurus, users can install applications, enable third-party repositories (on Ubuntu or Fedora), which allow for third-party or updated applications, display hardware information, clean out the package manager cache of downloaded installers, and finally change some GNOME settings which would otherwise be hard to access for beginners.
The following is not an exhaustive list of the options Ailurus offers, by any means, but a sampling of what you can do with it.
You can set your compression strategy from being all about speed (with little compression) to being all about high compression (which slows things down), to somewhere in the middle. You can tweak how Firefox behaves behind the scenes, including when it starts rendering the page, how certain elements (animated GIF files and other style elements) are dealt with, as well as how large an offline cache Firefox keeps for better performance.
You can choose which items (Trash, Home Folder, Mounted Volumes) are showed on the Desktop (or not), and tweak for font settings across the board to be smaller or larger. Certain programs, such as the GEdit text editor and GNOME Panel can also be configured. You can completely lock down the GNOME Panel so that no changes can be made by certain users, and if you want to change up the login sound of the GNOME login window (and choose a new background image), Ailurus can do that as well.
You can restart your network device and even reset GNOME completely, to revert back to “factory settings” in case something goes wrong.
Ailurus also offers up a minimal selection of software (less than 100 applications, according to the developer). While this is tiny compared to the overall Fedora or Ubuntu offerings, the applications Ailurus highlights are some of the more popular options, and Ailurus makes it simple to find them. Better yet, the options presented are (when possible) the default applications from the standard repositories, so you don’t run the risk of messing something up by trying to install third-party options that might not be compatible with the rest of your system.
Ailurus also offers a “computer doctor” which offers suggestions to improve how your computer runs, or to make things quicker for you. Currently, my suggestion list offers to fix my sources.list, create a shortcut for an installed program that doesn’t appear in my menus, remove the ubuntu-docs package, as well as other tweaks. There is also an option called “Study Linux” which currently offers a half dozen or so skills I might find useful, along with a Tip Of The Day.
Using Ailurus is simple: just click the change you want and if necessary, Ailurus will ask you for your password to authorize the change. What’s nice about Ailurus is its simplicity, as well as how it conforms to Linux standards. It isn’t reinventing the wheel by implementing its own security settings. Intead it uses the built-in PolicyKit, and instead of having its own set of configuration files, it uses the GConf API, so any changes you make are made to the actual system configuration files, and so any changes you make don’t disappear if you should delete Ailurus.
And you probably will delete it after a while. Most of the “stuff” Ailurus can switch up is likely something you’ll learn how to do “the Linux way” eventually. From using gconf-editor to change some settings to getting to understand how Terminal commands work, there’s nothing Ailurus provides that can’t be done another way. Where it really shines, and why I’d recommend it for any new Linux user, is how it takes tasks that could otherwise be a bit challenging and a little bit difficult and makes them point-and-click-simple.