The first problem I had was that I have an NVIDIA Geforce 9600 graphics card, at the time of writing still pretty new and leading edge.
This means that it is not yet supported by Ubuntu standard drivers. i.e. I only had basic graphics straight out of the box (which are still a lot less basic than Windows basic graphics – I had to go and fiddle with the graphical ‘extras’ to find out my graphics weren’t working properly).
I went to the NVIDIA website to download the drivers, but realised I didn’t have the slightest idea what to do with them once I’d done that.
Enter the #ubuntu IRC chat room. This place averages over 1000 ‘hangers out’ at all times, and can get pretty chaotic. It’s not a place to go for an idle chat. However, the upshot is there’s usually some helpful volunteer active, who can guide panicking newbies towards Linux enlightenment. You can find it on the ‘Freenode’ network.
Guided by one of these great sages, I learned that, if your card is not supported ‘out of the box’, then you have to install the maker’s ‘restricted’ drivers. There are, apparently, two ways of doing this; you can do it manually, by downloading the drivers off the website and performing lots of esoteric ‘terminal’ commands on them, or you can install a program called ‘Envy’ which will do it all for you.
The problem is, at the mention of ‘Envy’ there was a resounding chorus of ‘don’t do it!’, I guess the program hadn’t been perfected yet; so I found myself being gently guided through the daunting steps of a manual install.
I will post a proper step-by-step how to elsewhere, but for now I will just say that I followed the steps blindly, without understanding what I was doing or why. Once it was done, I had graphics, and was able to set my monitors to ‘twin view’, the NVIDIA Linux equivalent of dual screen.
However, when I rebooted, the whole thing was gone again! After several attempts at this, I gave up and rebooted Envy. Don’t worry, I learned what went wrong later, and the how-to will give the proper process! (Subject to later lessons, learning is an on-going process, after all!).
Unfortunately, by then I’d lost my mentor, and had to find a new one; a common problem on Ubuntu. He advised me to just go with Envy, and assured me the new version (EnvyNG) was a lot better, honest.
That seemed to work, so feeling happy, I set about the next item on the agenda: playing (and therefore installing) games.