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Thread: 12.04 LTS / Precise Classic (No effects) Tweaks and tricks

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    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    12.04 LTS / Precise Classic (No effects) Tweaks and tricks

    This is written only for Ubuntu Precise which is a 5 year LTS, meaning it’s supported until April 2017.

    While I recommend staying with Ubuntu Precise due to it being a 5 year LTS, I have added some brief notes about Quantal here, brief Raring notes are here, and brief Saucy notes are here. I've additionally begun some Trusty LTS notes here.

    Important note about 14.04: Trusty, which is also an LTS release, is due for release on April 17th but I highly recommend that all but the bravest and more advanced users stick with Precise until at least the first point release of Trusty in July or August! One of my greatest concerns is that I've yet to find a reliable way to restore broken configurations! In fact the Release Announcement says:

    Users of Ubuntu 12.10 and 13.10 will be offered an automatic upgrade to
    14.04 LTS via Update Manager shortly. Users of 12.04 LTS will be
    offered the automatic upgrade when 14.04.1 LTS is released, which is
    scheduled for July 24th
    End of 14.04 Trusty note - the rest of this applies only to Precise!

    Update #1: I added a bit about restoring, backing up, and managing configuration files here:

    Update #2: I added a bit about expediting the conversion process here:

    Update #3: This guide has now been added to the community documentation:

    But you can still feel free to ask questions here and I’ll try my best to reply ASAP.

    Just as with my Oneiric classic guide I'd ask that everyone do their best to keep this thread on track. My only intent is to share what little I've learned, not to express an opinion regarding any specific desktop environment or distro. Opinions and general chit-chat belong at the Community Cafe or Testimonials & Experiences. I will not hesitate to ask the mods to move off-topic or inflammatory posts!


    Important note: This guide is almost totally reliant on copy-n-pasting commands into gnome-terminal. Why? Quite simply not ALL of this can be completed using GUI tools like Ubuntu Tweak or 'gnome-tweak-tool', and installing 'gnome-tweak-tool' results in installing a great deal of unneeded packages including 'gnome-shell', and my only concern is getting a "classic w/o effects" DE running efficiently. Should someone care to use either Ubuntu Tweak or 'gnome-tweak-tool' I have no problem with that, I just prefer the CLI.

    But copying and pasting commands that are "wrapped" in code tags couldn't be simpler as I explained here:

    Also, if I didn't include "sudo" in the command then it's not needed, and in rare instances may result in changed permissions, so please just copy-n-paste! If something appears to fail please copy the full output from the terminal and paste it into a reply here along with an explanation and I'll try my best to help you.


    For those who find it just too difficult to use the Unity desktop it's actually quite simple to get a classic look and feel in Ubuntu Precise. My focus has been on Classic (No effects) only, which uses Metacity, because I've never really cared for compiz anyway and from what I've seen it seems to be difficult to get it to run well in a classic DE. So, if you want compiz you'll likely encounter problems that I'm simply unable to help you with, sorry.

    Here's a screenshot of my Precise classic DE:


    You'll notice that I prefer only one panel at the bottom. I realize some may want two panels, or one at the top only, it's purely a matter of preference. Be patient and I'll do my best to explain things. Just FYI my panel layout (beginning from the left) consists of:

    Hide button/Main Menu/Terminal/Workspace Switcher/Screenshot/Firefox/Window List/________/Indicator Applet/Clock/Trash/Hide button

    And the Indicator Applet displays: /Update notifier/Caffeine/Network widget/Mail widget/Volume widget

    And this is as good a time as any to pause and discuss changes to the menu(s) and panel(s). You'll notice that the menu(s) have changed, but I think you'll likely find what you want if you just spend a couple of minutes familiarizing yourself with the new menu layout, be sure to check the System Tools > Administration, Preferences, and System Settings categories.

    You also need to know that you must now hold down either Alt key while right-clicking on a panel or applet to be able to edit panel preferences or to add/edit/move/remove more applets. That was an intentional move by the Gnome devs to prevent people from unintentionally breaking things. And you also can't just add application applets by right-clicking them and selecting "add to panel" anymore. You must now open the "add-to-panel" window and select Application Launcher > Forward, then the window changes and you can click on the "bullet" to the left of each category to display and add any app in the menu to the panel:


    But lets also look at my Panel Properties settings:


    Note: While this isn't written with Compiz in mind you should know if you're using 'gnome-panel' in a standard Gnome classic session you'll need to press both the Alt & Super keys at the same time while right-clicking on the panel/applet you wish to edit, move, or remove. (The Super key is typically the one with the Windows logo).

    To be perfectly honest I now almost forget I'm even using Gnome 3 while running a classic (no effects) DE most of the time, but now it's time to move on to how I got there, one step at a time.

    Step #1:

    sudo apt-get install gnome-panel
    Note: This does exactly the same as installing 'gnome-session-fallback' but why not keep it simple.

    When that is complete it's time to take your first look at the new "classic" DE by simply logging out, then clicking on the Ubuntu emblem to the right of your user name on the login screen, selecting GNOME Classic (No effects), entering your password, and logging back in as shown here:

    Remember I've already pointed out that the standard GNOME Classic session uses Compiz and I've found it to have a number of problems such as a borked panel appearance, garbled graphics, or even booting to a Unity DE.

    Step #2:

    I highly recommend installing these so they'll be available for placement in the panel (only 'indicator-applet-complete' is available by default):

    sudo apt-get install indicator-applet indicator-applet-session
    You can see the difference between the three indicator applets here:

    Now, before continuing, please understand that all of these additional steps are optional. No two people want the exact same look, feel, or function out of a DE! This is just what I wanted. Pick and choose to suit your own desires.

    Note: If you find the default terminal theme (white text on a purple background) as atrocious as I do just open the Terminal, click on Edit > Profile Preferences. Then click on the Colors tab and uncheck "Use colors from system theme", then select "Black on white" from the Built-in schemes.

    Step #3:

    I wanted to get the "Run Command Prompt" back by pressing Alt+F2 just as it was in Gnome 2. This can be quite useful if you should ever do something silly like remove both panels and need to launch the terminal or another application without being able to access the menu(s).

    It really couldn't be much simpler, just go to System Tools > System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > System and highlight the line that says "Show the run command prompt". Then just follow the instructions at the bottom of that window.

    This can also be done using the CLI:

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/global_keybindings/panel_run_dialog" --type string "<Alt>F2"
    To revert that to the default setting run:

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/global_keybindings/panel_run_dialog" --type string "disabled"
    Step #4:

    I found the screen lock thing very annoying, I live alone and don't like having to enter my password everytime the screen-"blanker" acivates. So you can just go to System Tools > System Settings > Brightness & Lock and select Lock = Off. (I call it a screen-"blanker" mostly as a joke because it hardly resembles a screensaver anymore).

    This can also be done using the CLI:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-enabled false
    To revert that to the default setting run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-enabled true
    Step #5:

    In Unity the update-notifications now show up in the Launcher but without the Launcher we now get no persistent update notifications. Still no worries, I got it to show up in either 'indicator-applet' or 'indicator-applet-complete' in gnome-panel by running the command:

    gsettings set com.ubuntu.update-notifier auto-launch false
    You can revert that by running:

    gsettings set com.ubuntu.update-notifier auto-launch true
    Step #6:

    At this point I decided the window-management buttons really needed to be back on the right so I ran:

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/general/button_layout" --type string ":minimize,maximize,close"
    Note: to restore the defaults run:

    gconftool-2 --set "/apps/metacity/general/button_layout" --type string "close,minimize,maximize:"
    Step #7:

    Even after moving the window-management buttons back to the right I wanted to improve the button appearance so I did the following:

    sudo apt-get install shiki-colors-metacity-theme
    gconftool-2 -s --type string /apps/metacity/general/theme Shiki-Colors-Metacity
    To restore the default theme just run:

    gconftool-2 -s --type string /apps/metacity/general/theme Ambiance
    Update: Having noticed some recent updates to webupd8's theming ppa I added a bit of info about some of the Zukitwo themes in post #70 and Ralph L added a comment about the Clearwaita theme in post #38, but I've not had time to test Clearwaita myself.

    Step #8:

    I found the overlay-scrollbars to be inconsistent and annoying in the classic DE and I'd previously recommended just removing them altogether but I believe I've found a much better way to disable them on a per-user basis. Simply run one command:

    echo export LIBOVERLAY_SCROLLBAR=0 >> ~/.xprofile
    Then just log out and log back in for that change to take effect.

    If you should later wish to revert that just run:

    sed -i 's/^export LIBOVERLAY_SCROLLBAR.*/#&/' ~/.xprofile
    Step #9:

    I also dislike the missing menu and button icons so I run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface menus-have-icons true
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface buttons-have-icons true
    Step #10:

    This one is the hardest for me to explain. By default the Precise desktop is set to NOT display any icons, but it's possible for the desktop to display any combination of these icons/"actors":

    Mounted volumes....(volumes-visible)
    But to do so you must first set the "stage" by running:

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.background show-desktop-icons true
    But that only sets the stage for the actors, now you must decide which actors you want on the stage. You're now the director.

    After running that command either reboot or log out and log back in. When you get back to a blank DE background decide what you want displayed. (Hint, the "true" or "false" at the end of these commands is the key):

    To show the Computer icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop computer-icon-visible true
    To hide the Computer icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop computer-icon-visible false
    To show the Home icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop home-icon-visible true
    To hide the Home icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop home-icon-visible false
    To show the Network icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop network-icon-visible true
    To hide the Network icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop network-icon-visible false
    To show the Trash icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop trash-icon-visible true
    To hide the Trash icon run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop trash-icon-visible false
    To show Mounted Volumes run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop volumes-visible true
    To hide Mounted Volumes run:

    gsettings set org.gnome.nautilus.desktop volumes-visible false
    Step #11:

    You may or may not find that you need to disable the Firefox and/or Thunderbird global menu add-ons. To do so in Firefox just go to Tools > Add-ons > Global Menu Bar integration and select Disable. You'll then be prompted to restart Firefox. I don't use Thunderbird so I can't be sure of the specific procedure with it, but I'd think it's similar.

    Note: The remainder of these steps require the installation of packages from PPA's!

    Step #12:

    Even having set Lock to Off I found it annoying to have the screen-"blanker" activate while trying to watch videos or such. In Gnome 2 I used to be able to use 'gnome-inhibit-applet' but it's not available in Gnome 3. No worries, I found a very good replacement, Caffeine:

    In my original screenshot the caffeine applet shows up in the indicator-applet. I find it to be a sweet replacement for the old 'gnome-inhibit-applet'. Once installed and set up it allows you to "inhibit" the screen-"blanking". I think a picture is worth a thousand words so here:


    Should you choose to install it you can setup Caffeine by going to System Tools > Preferences > Caffeine preferences. Installation is easy:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:caffeine-developers/ppa
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install caffeine
    Step #13:

    I really liked using either 'gnome-sensors-applet' or 'computertemp' to display system temps in the panel but again they're not available with Gnome 3. Again no worries, Hardware Sensors Indicator comes to the rescue:

    More about that here:

    To install just run these three commands:

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexmurray/indicator-sensors
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install indicator-sensors
    It then shows up in System Tools > Hardware Sensors Indicator. After launching it the first time you must click on the new "applet" which just says "No active sensors" and click on Preferences. From there you can select which sensors to display and other options.


    I decided not to provide any info about System Monitor Indicator ATM because it involves using Oneiric packages, just be patient. I'll keep checking and I'll update things when possible.
    Last edited by kansasnoob; July 28th, 2014 at 02:54 AM. Reason: as requested by kansasnoob


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