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Notes from my Unity -> Gnome3 migration 2017-04-07

Posted by claudio in Uncategorized.
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4 comments

Updated: 20170419: gnome-shell extension browser integration.
Updated: 20170420: natural scrolling on X instead of Wayland.
Updated: 20170512: better support for multi monitor setups.
Updated: 20170525: add “No TopLeft Hot Corner”, use upstream “Top Icons Plus” instead of the one in the repos.

Introduction

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, dropped a bombshell: Ubuntu drops Unity 8 and –by extension– also the Mir graphical server on the desktop. Starting from the 18.04 release, Ubuntu will use Gnome 3 as the default Desktop environment.

Sadly, the desktop environment used by millions of Ubuntu users –Unity 7– has no path forward now. Unity 7 runs on the X.org graphical stack, while the Linux world –including Ubuntu now– is slowly but surely moving to Wayland (it will be the default on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS). It’s clear that Unity has its detractors, and it’s true that the first releases (6 years ago!) were limited and buggy. However, today, Unity 7 is a beautiful and functional desktop environment. I happily use it at home and at work.

Soon-to-be-dead code is dead code, so even as a happy user I don’t see the interest in staying with Unity. I prefer to make the jump now instead of sticking a year with a desktop on life support. Among other environments, I have been a full time user of CDE, Window Maker, Gnome 1.*, KDE 2.*, Java Desktop System, OpenSolaris Desktop, LXDE and XFCE. I’ll survive :).

The idea of these lines is to collect changes I felt I needed to make to a vanilla Ubuntu Gnome 3 setup to make it work for me. I made the jump 1 week before the release of 17.04, so I’ll stick with 17.04 and skip the 16.10 instructions (in short: you’ll need to install gnome-shell-extension-dashtodock from an external source instead of the Ubuntu repos).

The easiest way to make the use Gnome on Ubuntu is, of course, installing the Ubuntu Gnome distribution. If you’re upgrading, you can do it manually. In case you want to remove Unity and install Gnome at the same time:
$ sudo apt-get remove --purge ubuntu-desktop lightdm && sudo apt-get install ubuntu-gnome-desktop && apt-get remove --purge $(dpkg -l |grep -i unity |awk '{print $2}') && sudo apt-get autoremove -y

Changes

Add Extensions:

  1. Install Gnome 3 extensions to customize the desktop experience:
    $ sudo apt-get install -y gnome-tweak-tool gnome-shell-extension-dashtodock gnome-shell-extension-better-volume gnome-shell-extension-refreshwifi gnome-shell-extension-disconnect-wifi
  2. Install the gnome-shell integration (the one on the main Ubuntu repos does not work):
    $ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ne0sight/chrome-gnome-shell && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install chrome-gnome-shell
  3. Install the “Multi-monitor add-on“, the “Top Icon Plus” (we use an upstream version op the previous two extensension because the ones on the Ubuntu repos are buggy), the “Not Topleft Hot Corner” (a must in a multi-monitor setup) and the “Refresh wifi” extensions. You’ll need to install a browser plugin. Refresh the page after installing the plugin.
  4. Log off in order to activate the extensions.
  5. Start gnome-tweak-tool and enable “Better volume indicator” (scroll wheel to change volume), “Dash to dock” (a more Unity-like Dock, configurable. I set the “Icon size limit” to 24 and “Behavior-Click Action” to “minimize”), “Disconnect wifi” (allow disconnection of network without setting Wifi to off), “Refresh Wifi connections” (auto refresh wifi list), “Multi monitors add-on” (add a top bar to other monitors) and “Topicons plus” (put non-Gnome icons like Dropbox and pidgin on the top menu).

Change window size and buttons:

  1. On the Windows tab, I enabled the Maximise and Minise Titlebar Buttons.
  2. Make the window top bars smaller if you wish. Just create ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css with these lines:
    /* From: http://blog.samalik.com/make-your-gnome-title-bar-smaller-fedora-24-update/ */
    window.ssd headerbar.titlebar {
    padding-top: 4px;
    padding-bottom: 4px;
    min-height: 0;
    }
    window.ssd headerbar.titlebar button.titlebutton {
    padding: 0px;
    min-height: 0;
    min-width: 0;
    }

Disable “natural scrolling” for mouse wheel:

While I like “natural scrolling” with the touchpad (enable it in the mouse preferences), I don’t like it on the mouse wheel. To disable it only on the mouse:
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.peripherals.mouse natural-scroll false

If you run Gnome on good old X instead of Wayland (e.g. for driver support of more stability while Wayland matures), you need to use libinput instead of the synaptic driver to make “natural scrolling” possible:

$ sudo mkdir -p /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d && sudo cp -rp /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/40-libinput.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/

Log out.

Enable Thunderbird notifications:

For Thunderbird new mail notification I installed the gnotifier Thunderbird add-on: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/thunderbird/addon/gnotifier/

Extensions that I tried, liked but ended not using:

  • gnome-shell-extension-pixelsaver: it feels unnatural on a 3 screen setup like I use at work, e.g. min-max-close windows buttons on the main screen for windows on other screens..
  • gnome-shell-extension-hide-activities: the top menu is already mostly empty, so it’s not saving much.
  • gnome-shell-extension-move-clock: although I prefer the clock on the right, the default middle position makes sense as it integrates with notifications.

That’s it (so far 🙂 ).

Thx to @sil, @adsamalik and Jonathan Carter.

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