22 Aug 2013

4 favourite C's in Ubuntu setup

The introduction of Unity in Ubuntu was a great disappointment. For newcomers it would be an easy to use environment; in fact an ideal "granny" system. But for the serious tweaker it was a big step backwards.

Then came a little ray of hope with the MATE desktop. But even that wasn't perfect with the two configurations, MATE and GNOME, running side by side and confusing things. The advantage of MATE was the file browser which was better than Nautilus, because also at that time Nautilus lost important features like the "up to parent folder" button gone.

Then came a double break-through with the new GNOME session fallback desktop imitating Gnome 2 within Gnome 3 and thanks to Mr Kirby with his nautiluspatch which brought back the missing functions in nautilus....and I was over the moon.

So back to the familiar Gnome 2 appearance. Again I was able to tweak the desktop the way I liked it.

I have the main gnome panel at the top. This serves as an instrumentation panel like the one in a cockpit. I can see the date and time, CPU temperature and fan-speed, CPU usage graph monitor, net-speed and net-activity bars, keyboard switcher with flags, mixer and volume control, notifications, terminal, menu, home-folder and killx.

I was able to install packets from Lucid, like knetload and kkbswitch, that had disappeared in the repositories since then and they still worked. I can also tweak the colour scheme somewhat; also with the help of a still maintained emerald window decorator via compiz. And keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+Alt+Backspace worked again to logout/login.

As an extra monitor I use conky and conky forecast which was made workable again recently (after being useless for a couple of years) with the use of the http://xml.weather.com/weather/local/ site replacing the redundant xoap site. So not all is lost thanks to the persistence of fellow Linux users who remember
the good stuff and keep it alive apart from the big Ubuntu and Canonical repositories.

The favourites within my Ubuntu 12.04 set-up are the 4 C's:

  • Classic Gnome,
  • Compiz,
  • Cairo-Dock, and 
  • Conky.

Instead of the bottom gnome panel I use Cairo-dock. This works 100% when using the Nvidia driver. In fact there is hardly any issues with this desktop.

The clock is a modified screenlet clock: plain-black no-back with the colour of the hands changed. The theme is The Prophet with the colours changed to a purple and gold theme. Conky theme is heavily changed from original. Below the conky windows is NetWorx, a windows app running on wine counting my limited net quota.

I can share the config files with anyone interested.

Next favourite desktop would be XFCE, which is nearly as highly tweak-able.

This article by Rolf Sommerhalder won the first prize in the Desktop Environment articles contest which Linux notes from DarkDuck ran together with BuyLinuxCDs.co.uk site.


  1. Personally I am torn because firstly I really like XFCE which is fully customisable but I also really like Unity. I find Unity really easy to navigate and I find it a pain now when using other distributions that make it more difficult to find things. In the main I use Ubuntu on the laptop and Xubuntu on a netbook. Best of both worlds.

  2. Thank you - love the great article.

    Would love to know more about "clock is a modified screenlet clock" so did a search, downloaded & about to start exploring... Also had never seen/heard of Conky - so its downloaded next for exploration.

    Thanks, Chris.

  3. I got over the Unity/Ubuntu issue by switching to Debian.

    1. Yep. Luckily I had been using Debian on work servers for years. Switched to Debian testing with E16 then E17 when the first rumors of Unity hit the net.

  4. That is one garish, overloaded desktop you've got there. I'll stick with my favorite: Unity.