Ubuntu 14.04 for Productive People

Way back in 2011, I blogged about Ubuntu 11.10 for Productive People, which took the form of a mini tutorial on how to wrestle some of Ubuntu’s UI candy away and replace it with something better suited to being productive.

I’m still standing by my assertation that Ubuntu is too ‘pretty’ on the desktop now, and lacks a ‘power user’ mode, but I won’t argue with anyone who says it’s great. It’s not a false dichotomy – you can have a power mode and a pretty mode in a desktop operating system.

Updated for the current beta of Ubuntu 14.04LTS, here are the instructions on how to get the latest release of Ubuntu in to shape:

  • Install Ubuntu 14.04
  • Install Gnome using apt-get install gnome – use lightdm as the display manager
  • Remove the slightly obstructive overlay scrollbar with apt-get remove overlay-scrollbar
  • Log out, then log back in again but click the Ubuntu logo by your username and select ‘GNOME Flashback (Metacity)’
  • Run gnome-tweak-tool, select Fonts and set the text scaling factor to 0.9, then under Appearance, set the Icon theme to Gnome and Cursor theme to Adwaita. Under Top Bar, check ‘Show date’ and ‘Show seconds’

Refreshingly easy, isn’t it? I’m going to be updating to 14.04LTS when it’s released!

Ubuntu 11.10 for Productive People

Following on from my blog post, “Dumbed Down Ubuntu”, I’ve spent the past 24 hours trying other distributions with varying levels of success.

From reading Mark Shuttleworth’s blog, I’ve found strong feelings out there on Ubuntu’s default user interface. I agree with some of them – that the new Ubuntu UI is not aimed at a certain demographic of people who are power users. Having installed Ubuntu 11.04 for a friend of mine, she loved the Unity interface, and I left her to it.

I’ve played with Fedora 15 and Linux Mint 11, but neither quite worked the way I wanted them to. A specific show-stopper in Fedora’s case was Spotify’s lack of RPM. For Linux Mint, it felt like a reskinned Ubuntu. One really interesting thing I foudn is thatZalman have really cool SATA enclosure which can act as a CD-ROM drive for ISO files, and that’s on my shopping list.

After trying Ubuntu in VirtualBox, and deciding to persevere with taming the UI, I came across a handful of steps to get the interface back to something that people like me will use. Here’s how:

  1. Install Ubuntu 11.10
  2. Install Gnome using apt-get install gnome
  3. Remove the scrollbar eye-candy using apt-get remove overlay-scrollbar
  4. Log in, but select Gnome (Classic) from the gear icon next to your username
  5. Install the Gnome Tweak Tool using apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool, select Fonts and set the text scaling factor to 0.8, and Hinting to ‘slight’, then under Theme, set the GTK+ them to Ambiance, the Icon theme to Gnome and Cursor theme to Adwaita (if they aren’t already)
  6. Alt-Right Click on the bar at the top of the screen, select Properties, Background, and set a solid colour of opaque #3F3E39
  7. Alt-Right Click on the bar again, and select New Panel. Alt-Right Click on the bar at the bottom, then add a Workspace Switcher and a Window List in the bottom right and bottom left corners

Ta-da. That’s a user interface that I’m more than happy to use, and importantly, one I think lots of other non-novices will enjoy using.

Something I forgot in my original post is to say how much I value choice. I tried using Windows over a decade ago as a desktop machine, but quickly became irritated with the way it worked. Slackware served me fine, Debian was great, and I started to use Ubuntu several years after that. I’ve tried a beta of Ubuntu 11.10, and I didn’t like it, so went and tried – for free – two other distributions. Neither quite did it for me, so I came back to square one and found out how to mould Ubuntu’s interface to the way I like it.

I hope some of you find my experiences useful, particularly how to tame the UI.

Dumbed Down Ubuntu

Whilst I am in full support of making computers accessible to everyone, I don’t believe that everyone should have to use them in the same way.

I’ve been an Ubuntu user for, I reckon, three years, and Debian for years before that. In that time, it’s been great to use – install, get on with doing what I do, minimal fuss. But like Windows, the people behind Ubuntu just had to make the user interface ‘easier’ and ‘better’, but they’ve done it at the expense of power-user functionality.

I am a power-user, I know what I’m doing. I don’t think it’s elitist to want to have a UI that lets me get on with my work, one that doesn’t have graphical elements fading on and off the page gently whilst you’re trying to work. One where you can grab the bottom left or right hand corners of a window to resize it, or even one where the close, minimise and maximise windows are in the same place all the time. Ubuntu is no longer that.

I can’t quite put my finger on what’s changed, but it no longer feels efficient. One of the bigger gripes I have is the ‘thingy’ on the left with the large icons. I don’t know the name of it, but it has a set of hideously large icons which come on-screen when I hover near them, and disappear after. I don’t want that – I want to be able to throw a handful of icons in the bar at the top of the screen, and access anything else via a drop-down menu.

I want decent scrollbars back, like in Chrome – not a control that appears outside the window when I hover my mouse in a specific place. My Terminal window is easy to re-size using the top left and top right corners, but next to impossible to resize at the bottom left and right – that’s the way I want to re-size my windows.

Apparently, I can Install the ‘Classic’ desktop in Ubuntu 11.10, but with plenty of caveats. Having done that, my desktop looks even less usable.

Sorry, Ubuntu – I think I’ll revert back to Debian, at least until you’ve sorted yourself out.

Openfire 3.6.4 on Ubuntu 10.04LTS

After installing Ubuntu Server 10.04LTS on to one of my VMs, I found I couldn’t install Openfire due to a missing dependency on sun-java6-jre. The Sun JRE has been removed from Ubuntu 10.04LTS, and its replacement, openjdk-6-jre isn’t quite up to scratch.

As reported elsewhere, here’s how to install sun-java6-jre:

  • Modify /etc/apt/sources.list and add deb http://archive.canonical.com/ lucid partner
  • Update the package database by running apt-get update
  • Install the Java runtime environment using apt-get install sun-java6-jre

Simples.

Ubuntu 9.10

I took the plunge and upgraded from Ubuntu 9.04 to Ubuntu 9.10 on my work laptop. The process was incredibly smooth, and there’s not much to it apart from that.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping the dbus problems with 3G dongle PPP connections have gone away.

I am waiting for some free time at the weekend and a pair of 1Tb hard drives before I take the plunge and install the 64-bit version on my desktop at home.

Cisco IOS 15.0(1)M

I am never one to fear something new – except perhaps a new release of a JVM.

Some weeks ago, I decided it would be a good idea to upgrade one of my home routers to IOS 15.0(1)M – seeing as I paid enough for a maintenance contract, I’m entitled.  Ever since that day, I’ve been unable to ssh to the router with an access-class applied to the VTY lines.  Every time, it refuses my connection, but allows it without an access-class.

This morning, I stumbled upon the answer – put ‘vrf-also’ at the end of the access-class line: access-class 99 in vrf-also. This only matters if you’re running VRF Lite, as I am, because I have a separate firewall and ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ VRFs.

Never fear something that’s new – expect breakage, and expect to learn.