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I am planning on installing Ubuntu from the minimal CD image so that I can install what I want to.

Any suggestions for must have packages that I should be installing? Like for example GNOME is one. I am looking for personal experiences.

Should GNOME be enough to get me up and running?

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Your question is highly subjective and depends on your specific needs, also installing gnome will bring most of the packages that you get from a regular Ubuntu gnome desktop install. –  João Pinto Feb 3 '11 at 18:11
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The real 'must have' packages are installed by default. All others are purely personal preference and need, and will be different for every user. –  Stefano Palazzo Feb 3 '11 at 19:07
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2 Answers

The minimal cd image is a misnomer. It does not mean it installs a minimal Ubuntu system; it means it is the smallest image you can download. This is so because it does not have packages on it. It only boots up and downloads everything over the network. It should be called the net install image, rather than minimal.

If you want more control over what packages are installed, use the alternate cd with the text mode installer.

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Depending on what you want to do with your computer, I'd say the main must-have package is the X server (and related packages). This will allow you to run any number of the available window managers and/or desktop environments, and is the base for most all GUI interaction you'll have with your computer.

If you're looking to utilize the sound hardware on your computer, I'd also highly recommend ALSA, and possibly PulseAudio. You'll have a very quiet computing experience without ALSA, as it runs your sound card and allows other programs to do so as well.

There are many other combinations of packages you might need, all depending on what you plan on doing with your system, but those two groups are pretty common to most desktop setups.

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