Canonical has managed to provide users with an easy-to-install operating system, but Ubuntu could be a lot better with just a few extra steps.
The following tutorial covers the latest Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) release, but it's also generally valid for Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin).
Ubuntu 12.10 is a good operating system and it can used right after its installation, but it can be enhanced in a few simple ways. Most of the advices are about installing new software, so get your terminal ready.
The first thing a user must install is a package called ubuntu-restricted-extras. It's a series of libraries and other stuff that doesn't fit into the GPL license that accompanies the distribution, such as support for mp3 playback, Microsoft fonts, Java runtime environment, the Flash plugin, Lame, and DVD playback (not if the DVD is encrypted).
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras
The second step is to install a proper package manager. Ubuntu Software Center is nice and good looking, but it lacks the transparency of a good manager. This command will install Synaptic Package Manager:
sudo apt-get install synaptic
The third and final mandatory installation only applies to Nvidia users. The official repositories of Ubuntu don't provide the latest Nvidia drivers. You will need to install a PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
There are also a few tweaks that can improve the overall experience. When first booting Ubuntu 12.10, you will notice a lot of icons in Unity. Don't be afraid to remove them.
Also, Unity can be shrunk easily. Right click on the desktop, open Change Desktop Background and press the Appearance tab. A slider that controls the size of Unity can be found at the bottom of the window.
Canonical has introduced a new entry in System Settings called Privacy. Check out our comprehensive coverage of the Privacy feature.