Friday, November 25, 2011

I For One, Welcome Our New Canonical Overlords

I've just updated Hal to Ubuntu 11.10, Oneiric Ocelot.

I don't regret it — quite. It is however, going to take a long time to get it to where I want it to be, e.g., something that looks like my old Gnome 2 desktop.

Why not just change to a distribution that still uses Gnome 2? Because Gnome 2 is going away. openSUSE 12.1 is out now, and it uses Gnome 3. Fedora uses Gnome 3. You see where this is going.

So this post, and probably many more, will be rough notes on how to make Hal's desktop look like it did before. I'm not going to go cursing Mark Shuttleworth. (I've learned from the last ten years of cursing Dan Snyder — it just doesn't work.) Ubuntu is, for now, a useable distribution, and I can, eventually, tweak everything to get to where I want to go. That's the beauty of Linux.

Besides, it makes for a lot more blog posts.

Hal, I should point out, is just fine. He can still do fancy LAPW electronic structure calculations faster than the Cray XMP of my youth, and he still reads my email and browses the web with aplomb. He can still develop code with Emacs. He just doesn't look very good right now, but we're dealing with that.

Eventually I'm going to update the spouse's computer, Harlie. When I do that I hope to do one of those step-by-step guides, which will be more coherent. But for now, think of this as a set of Google Notebook entries. Oh, wait, Google pulled the plug on that and is now moving all my files to Google Docs.

Oh, well, let's just get on with it.

Oneiric comes with the brand-spanking new Unity desktop, which, as I said once before, is so like Mac OS X that it comes with a lawyer to deflect lawsuits from Cupertino.

I was wrong — it's worse than Mac OS.

Like OS X, Oneiric comes with a dock, or maybe it's called a Launcher. On the Mac the dock can be moved, it can change size, it can automatically hide if you don't want it on the screen, and it's quite easy to drag applications over to it. In Oneiric the dock is fixed on the left, you can't change its size, it only hides itself when a window pushes it away. You can drag applications onto the dock, but it seems harder, somehow, than on the Mac — that's my subjective point of view, of course.

So I quickly changed over to Gnome 3.2. Well, not quickly, because Gnome isn't installed in Oneiric. And since my 11.04 distribution used Gnome 2, the upgrade process ripped out all of that software as well. So one must install all things Gnome. I used to do this with Synaptic, but, guess what, Synaptic isn't installed either.

So first open up a terminal window. Can't find a terminal? Click on the Dash Home icon at the top of the dock, click More Apps, click to show all of the installed apps, scroll down and find the terminal, and click it. (First you might want to drag the icon over to the dock, for later use.)

With the terminal finally open, you can install Synaptic by typing

sudo apt-get install synaptic

You could then find synaptic in the Dash Home menu, but it's easier to just say:

sudo /usr/sbin/synaptic

and go from there.

Once in synaptic, search for Gnome and install it. You'll probably want to install some Gnome themes, etc. While you're there, also install the Gnome Tweak Tool as well.

Then log out. When the login screen appears, click on the little gear by your name and select Gnome Classic (no effects) or whatever other version of Gnome you desire.

It's OK to throw up your hands and go off to figure out Unity at this point. Really.

Because when you log in, you'll see something that looks only vaguely like your old Gnome desktop, sort of like the difference between Darrel Hammond and Bill Clinton. There's a menu on the top, but it only says Applications and Places. And the clock seems to be stuck to the middle of the upper panel, neither movable nor removable. Also the Theme will be hideous. You can fix that, sort of. Click Applications/Other/Advanced Settings, (that's the Gnome Tweak Tool), click Theme in the box that pops up, and play with the Window Theme and the GTK+ Theme until you get something you like. One of my missions is to figure out how to edit the theme colors, to create what used to be called a Custom Theme. No luck, so far, but if I find it I'll let you know.

You should have two toolbars, one at the top and one at the bottom of your window. You add things to these bars, change their properties, etc., as before, but instead of just right-clicking on the bar, you have to hold down the Alt key and right-click. That's easy enough.

You'll also have to search for some of your options. The old Gnome menu used to have a Preference section and an Administrative section. Those functions are now hidden in the Applications menu, under Other and System Settings, apparently with neither rhyme nor reason. Play around with that until you're comfortable in finding things.

Finally, for now, go to Things to Tweak After Installing Oneiric Ocelot 11.10, and see what's useful there. And don't forget 10 things to do after installing Ubuntu 11.10.

More as I find more stuff.