Top 10 Tweaks to Ubuntu 11.10 For Old Ubuntu Hands


I’ve been using Linux as daily as a server and workstation since I first installed SLS from a pile of floppies back in ~1993. Since using Ubuntu for a long while I’ve become used to the UI, and so this is my quick to-do list for workstations and servers to be set up on my intranet with Ubuntu 11.10.

1. Enable universe Software Sources

This wasn’t enabled in my pen-drive install, perhaps it is on all normal HDD installs, anyway, check it’s on System Settings->Software Sources->Community-maintained Open Source Software (universe) (check).

2. Get Rid of Unity

Ubuntu 11.x introduced some weird stuff for the new desktop called ‘unity’ – can’t be doing with that.  Here’s how to get back to sanity. I chose Gnome Classic. It’s not going to be exactly the same as you were used to in previous Ubuntu versions since this is Gnome 3 now, not Gnome 2.  Your System menu that you usually would have expected to be presented in the menu panel is not there.  To do stuff that you used to do from the System menu, look under Applications->System Tools.  You may also want to get rid of the pesky app menu that’s cluttering your dekstop and other places:

sudo apt-get purge appmenu-gtk appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-qt indicator-appmenu

Tip: If you want to have your panel / system tray (sorry, Windows-95-speak!) at the bottom of your screen and for other similar tweaks to the Gnome Classic setup, you need to hold down the Alt key while right-clicking the panel.

Alternatively, dump Gnome altogether and go for a real lightweight window manager environment:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop 

Next time you log in, pick xubuntu.

3. Enable VNC for Remote GUI on Other Machines on Your Intranet

Install the VNC server software package:

sudo apt-get install x11vnc
sudo x11vnc -storepasswd shh_its_a_secret /etc/x11vnc.pass

Then create a /etc/init/x11vnc.conf file (as root, e.g. sudo vi /etc/init/x11vnc.conf):

start on login-session-start
/usr/bin/x11vnc -auth /var/run/lightdm/root/:0 -noxrecord -noxfixes -noxdamage -rfbauth /etc/x11vnc.pass -forever -bg -rfbport 5900 -o /tmp/x11vnc.log
end script

Reboot and the machine should be listening on the standard VNC port which is 5900. Note that this isn’t the most secure setup – only do this if you are running on a cosy and safe on a home / small office LAN. For other scenarios you will want to tunnel port 5900 traffic through SSH.

4. Install Webmin

I have managed GNU/Linux systems with Webmin for just about forever.  Sure, there are some things that don’t work 100% smoothly out-of-the-box on Ubuntu 11.10 (e.g. firewall admin), but for most things, most of the time, webmins’s my comfy pair of slippers for sysadmin.

Go to and download the Debian Package which you can open to install with Ubuntu Software Centre once downloaded.

5. Fix Window Title Bars

Windows have Menu/Max/Min/Close icons in the same place for ever.  Until Ubuntu 10.04 or so.  Why, oh, why, oh why move them all to the left?  Do they really want MS Windows fanbois to continue to eschew GNU/Linux?  If this change was to appeal to OSX users, that’s hitting a bunch of users who are going to be pretty hard to please – usually you’ll only manage to prise Apple products from their cold, dead fingers.
Here’s how to fix it.

sudo apt-get install gconf-editor

Hit Alt-F2 and run gconf-editor.  Then go to apps -> metacity -> general and select button_layout field (Double click on the row) and change the default value to:


The effect is immediate and persistent for the logged-in user running Gnome Classic.  You’ll need to repeat for other users. For Unity, if you still have it:

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

6. Add Some Desktop Launcher Icons

Install some control software to enable desktop launcher icons:

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends gnome-panel

Then, for each new desktop launcher icon:#

gnome-desktop-item-edit ~/Desktop/ --create-new

7. That’s It

Sorry, if you were expecting it to be more complicated – stop listening to the FUD from the people that made that other OS that came pre-installed on your PC.