Archive for the ‘Learning Linux’ Category

Kick-Ass with Gnome 2

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Learning Linux

For our first tutorial I would like to talk a little bit about Linux desktop environments. There is a whole bunch of options and it all can get a little overwhelming for new comers. As a result of recent developments regarding Gnome 3 and Unity (Two major desktop environments being pushed on to the end user) I thought I would explain some of the beautiful eye candy and usability that these newer desktops are moving away from, and yet still can be achieved by installing the older, and in my opinion, prettier versions of popular Linux distributions. For this tutorial you will want to have installed either Ubuntu 10.04 or Linux Mint 9 or any other distro based on Ubuntu 10.04. The point is – these distro’s are still based on Gnome 2 and still have support until 2013!

In this tutorial I was using Ubuntu 11.04, I dusted it off from another blog because I was somewhat proud of it. It can all be applied to 10.04 and ditro’s based on 10.04 such as Mint 9 (My current OS of choice)- or anything preceding Gnome 3. Much of it may even be still applicable to KDE installs. I have since moved on to the greener pastures of Linux Mint. More about that in other posts to come.


O.K. Let’s get this party started with a nice how to for a fresh install Ubuntu or Linux Mint to get it all shiny and cool.


Attached is a video to show you the possibilities one can achieve with a little tweaking and patience. The video may be a little choppy, but that is due to the desktop recorder lagging things up a bit – it runs much smoother in reality on my little MSI Wind u100+ which has a measly 1.6ghz cpu, 2gb ram and 256mb Video.

Assuming you have a nice new install of the latest Ubuntu 11.04 Natty Narwhal – step one is this…

Upon booting up, click your user name, then on the bottom bar choose Ubuntu-Classic as your session.


– Because Unity sux!

I can understand if some people prefer this layout – and gnome 3 seems to be pretty similar with what I’ve played with it also – but it just feels wrong. I hated the netbook remixes and I hate this. With the way I set up my Gnome 2.x everything is a real easy click or gesture away anyway. I think it looks better too.

Booted into Ubuntu-Clasic? Good.

One thing I always do after a new install is create a keyboard shortcut for a gnome-terminal. Go to Preferences/Keyboard Shortcuts/Add put whatever you want in for the name (ie: Terminal/Konsole) and put gnome-terminal in as the command. Once you’ve done this, scroll down and find your new shortcut (it will be right at the bottom of the list). On the right you can click with a mouse and Ubuntu will ‘Grab’ your command. Now hold the Ctrl key and press ` (the little squiggle thing in front of 1 ~`). This combination is easy to do and won’t interfere with other commands that may already be defined or required for compiz later. Now your terminal is just a key combo away.

Now install GDebi – They’ve removed it in the latest Ubuntu. My theory is so you’re forced to check out the Ubuntu Software Centre – which I never use. GDebi is used to install .deb packages quick and easy, kind of like .exe or .msi packages in Windows. Just cut and paste the stuff in the black box and paste it to a terminal. Press Ctrl+` like we set up before, highlight and right click ‘copy’ the box below and then right click ‘paste’ into your terminal. It will prompt you for your root password after hitting enter.

sudo apt-get install gdebi

After that you can click the ubuntu-tweak logo below for a direct download of the .deb package. Save it, and then in your download folder give it a right click and ‘Open With’ GDebi. * ( I know I’m doing a lot of hand holding here but later I’ll just assume you know) *

Install Ubuntu Tweak


There are a lot of purists out there who would disagree with using Tweak and prefer the long way to go about things, but seriously – Tweak is just so damn easy. The guys over there are doing a great job. One of the first things your going to want to do is check out the software sources in Tweak and tick a whole bunch of boxes for the repos the Tweak gang have put in there for you. Particularly the AWN (avant-window-navigator), Medibuntu (to play DVD’s and stuff) and Cairo-Dock sources. In Natty the awn packages in synaptic are very current, but to be linked in to the newest stuff as it comes you’ll want to have the latest and greatest available from the dev teams.


Be carefull when your adding sources though – adding things like the Gnome PPA can mess up your system – you CAN fix it again, but it’s time consuming. Check out this post by Ajo Paul about removing Gnome 3 if you run into trouble.

Now we will modify Gnome to use AWN as the only panel and get rid of gnome-panel altogether.

NB: The AWN Testing PPA seems to be incomplete at the moment so we will install the regular version from the Ubuntu repository for now. You may want to run your Update Manager at this point also.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator avant-window-navigator-data
sudo apt-get install awn-applets-all

Have a play in AWN Settings to customize which apps, launchers and themes you prefer.
Time to decide if you want to have your AWN dock at the top or bottom of the screen. I recommend the top and minimal launchers, as I’ll be showing your how to install and customize glx-dock later for the bottom. You can also check a box in Awn Settings to get it to start up when you log in.


Reformed Musings has a handy post over here about configuring gconf-tool to see awn as the required panel. Personally, this didn’t work for me and I had to:

gksudo gedit /usr/share/gnome-session/sessions/classic-gnome.session

And then with gedit make the file look like:

[GNOME Session]
Name=Classic GNOME
IsRunnableHelper=/usr/lib/nux/unity_support_test –compiz

After that the next logout/login or reboot should have only awn as your panel and no more gnome-panels – you’ll want to make sure awn has the notification tray applet enabled from now on.

Once you have disabled the use of gnome-panel, however, the handy little alt+f2 app starter tool is gone. There is an extremely good replacement for this – once you start using it you’ll wonder why you ever bothered clicking ‘Start’ menu’s to begin with.

sudo apt-get install gnome-do

Gnome Do is AWESOMO!Awesomo

Once it is running you can use gnome-do simply by pressing Super+Space (super is the little ‘Windows’ Key between Ctrl and Alt). Just start typing the name of the program you want to run and it’ll fire it up for you – usually predicting what you want within the first three letters or so.
*Updating Soon!!