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How to get permalinks working in Ubuntu:

 Step 1. apache: Enable the rewrite module 

    You an see which modules are loaded:
    $ sudo apache2ctl -M
    If mod_rewrite isn't in the list do this:

      Make a symlink from the rewrite module in the directory
      mods-available to mods-enabled (details coming up)

      OR even easier, enable by a command:
        $ sudo a2enmod rewrite

  Step 2. apache: tell apache to read .htaccess file
     
     Find this code:
     <Directory /var/www/>
            Options Indexes FollowSymLinks MultiViews
            AllowOverride All 
            Order allow,deny
            allow from all 
      </Directory>

     In /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf

     If it's not there:
     Look in /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

     If you are using virtual hosts, you may have to change it in that file as well.

     Change AllowOverride None to AllowOverride All

  Step 3. restart apache:
      $ sudo apache2ctl restart

  Step 4. wordpress install: .htaccess file - need to make it, wp can't write it.
      Copy the code that WordPress gives you when you enable PermaLinks.

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resources:

https://httpd.apache.org/docs/current/mod/core.html#allowoverride
https://drupal.org/node/134439
http://philipoakley.org/2010/07/27/wordpress-2/wordpress-permalinks-not-working-on-ubuntu-10-04-mod_rewrite-issue-requires-a-symlink/
http://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/2011/05/wordpress-apache2-permalink-and-mod_rewrite-under-ubuntu/