Category Archives: Ubuntu

Return Customizations to Unity in Ubuntu 13.10

Possibly the greatest disappointment associated with the move from Gnome2 to Gnome3/Unity in Ubuntu has been the massive evisceration of user customization.  I am pleased to report there is now a tool which will return many of those old customizations (nearly everything I was lamenting) and which will add some new (and in my case predicted) feature enhancements.

You can get the Unity Tweak Tool by entering this line in your terminal (and then entering your password).

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

Alternatively, you can search for Unity Tweak Tool in either the Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic.  However you install it, let’s take a look at some of the stuff I like.

Open your Unity Tweak Tool and let’s take a look under the hood.

It’s divided into four sections: Unity, Window Manager, Appearance, and System.  Under each of those sections is a group of sub-sections which become tabs once you select one of them.  I’m not going through all of them, but feel free to explore them all at your leisure.

Under Unity –> Launcher –> Appearance you can adjust the opaqueness level and the opaque color of the launcher sidebar on the left of your desktop.

Likewise, under Unity –> Panel –> General you can adjust the opaqueness of the top panel.

You will well notice that some of the items you can adjust here also live in various locations in your System Settings.  You can adjust those particular settings in either location.  I’m only going to mention those unique settings found in the Unity Tweak Tool and which (as previously mentioned) I like.

Now, under Window Manager –> Workspace Settings –> General you can set your workspace color.  For the sake of uniformity, I set this to the same color as my launcher.  I also expanded my workspaces to 3 x 2 (from the default 2 x 2).

Under Window Manager –> Window Snapping –> General I make the same color change for the fill color (and change the outline color to an appropriate compliment).  Then under Behaviour I set them as follows starting with the upper-left corner (clockwise): Top Left Corner, Top Half, Top Right Corner, Right Half, Bottom Right Corner, Bottom Half, Bottom Left Corner, and Left Half.

This is something I’ve been anticipating.  This gives you left-right half and top-bottom half snapping for most windows (test it by dragging a terminal or browser window to the appropriate area of the screen), but it also gives you quadrant snapping (which you can test by dragging those same windows to any of the four corners).  I’m very pleased with this one.

Under Windows Manager –> Hotcorners I only set one thing.  At the top-right I set “Spread all Windows“.  If you throw your mouse to the appropriate location on the screen you see all of your open windows splayed out for you to select one.  If you do that by mistake you can merely throw your mouse to the same area and you are back to where you were.

Finally, one of my old favorites is back and accessible in an easy manner.  Under Windows Manager –> Additional –> Focus Behaviour I change “Focus mode:” to “Mouse“.  Try this out and see what you think.  It changes things so that wherever is your mouse hovering, the there-below window has focus.

(The one drawback of this feature is that it can be tricky to get to the application menus, since you may have to find a path to the top bar which does not cross another application—or those available menus will change to those of that passed-over application.)

Next you can bring back window shading.  That’s when you double-click the title bar of a window, the window rolls itself up leaving only the title bar visible.  Another double-click unrolls it.  You’ll find that under Windows Manager –> Additional –> Titlebar Actions –> Double click: and you’ll choose Toggle Shade.

Finally for Windows Manager –> Additional –> Resizing I again make the outline and fill colors uniform to what I’ve chosen for my color scheme.

If you want to move the buttons (close, minimize) on your windows, you can choose either left or right from Appearance –> Window Controls –> Layout –> Alignment.

That’s what I change.  Feel free to comment on your preferences.

I have noticed that once a change is made (like moving the buttons on the windows from left to right) the Tweak Tool may report the incorrect location after a reboot.  This seems innocuous since the buttons remain persistently in your chosen location; it’s merely that the tool reports the default location incorrectly.

Hope that helps you make your environment look good and be more efficient for your workflow.


Trillian Comes to Ubuntu

Technically “is coming” is more correct.  Currently the Linux version of Trillian is in beta.  If you are a Trillian Pro user (I am) you have free access to the beta, which is currently available as a .deb package.  They have assured me that a repository is coming.  I haven’t tried to use this .deb on my 64 bit machines yet, so I can’t say if it will work.

Nonetheless, this is very exciting news for fans of Trillian and users of Linux.  It has long been the best and most useful multi-protocol communications client out there.  They released a Mac client a few years back, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this announcement on their blog:

Trillian for Linux: Early access for Pro customers!

I’m looking forward to participating in the testing, of course, but I’m also looking forward to seeing this emerge from beta.

Thanks, Cerulean.


Gnome-Do and Unity, Harmoniously

Gnome-do is without a doubt the fastest application launcher I have used on any platform. Once I got into the -do groove I was hooked, utterly. I don’t want to go back.

Apple (either Launchpad or Spotlight), Windows (Metro Modern whatever), and Ubuntu (Unity Dash) all not only offer a slower experience, but each one takes you completely away from what you were doing and you thus lose continuity in your workflow making you wonder why you walked into the kitchen and so you walk back to the living room to see that you needed a fork and so you walk back into the kitchen and forget…

Gack!  Don’t do it!

By contrast gnome-do sneaks in almost unnoticed and let’s you get to the next step without hampering that tenacious continuity with an “oh, look!  squirrel!”.

Simple, small, and unobtrusive is great, but as if that were not enough it’s also exceptionally speedy.  Oh, and it learns from what you select (the stuff you use tends to come earlier and earlier as you type in subsequent searches).

The trouble is with the latest versions of Ubuntu you get Unity.  Unity uses the super key (Windows key or Command key or Apple key or…) to evoke the Dash (similar to how Windows uses the Windows key to evoke whatever they are calling that tile-oriented mess of an application launcher in Win8 now).  For whatever reason, that key binding supersedes any other attempts to use the super key in non-Unity key bindings (shortcuts).  (There is a bug report here for this particular behavior.)

Fortunately I found this fix.  (Which works only some times.  See notes in comments below.)

You’ll need to install the CCSM and (of course) gnome-do.  Enter these into your terminal (or find them in the Ubuntu Software Center):

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

sudo apt-get install gnome-do

Once these are installed open CCSM and navigate to the Ubuntu Unity Plugin (located under Desktop).  Do be careful in the CCSM; it’s powerful and you can really bug things up if you muck around without some due diligence.

For this fix we’ll just be changing one item and it’s a pretty safe one.  On the Launcher tab the first item is called “Key to show the Dash, Launcher and Help Overlay“.  Click the edit button (the one that looks like a pencil).  Put exactly this in that box:


Ok your way out of this and test it.  If you hit ctrl+windows you should see the Dash take over.  Great.  This change will allow other key bindings to make use of the super key.

Now open gnome-do (using the Dash if you’d like).  If you click on the small triangle in the upper-right of the gnome-do window you’ll see Preferences.  You can poke around in this preferences area with impunity, but for our purposes again we are just making one change.  On the Keyboard tab you are going to change the shortcut for Summon Do.

You are supposed to be able to double-click on the current shortcut (in this case likely just Disabled) and give your new shortcut.  I have had to quadruple-click in 13.04 and I don’t know why.  Regardless, change that shortcut to super+space.  Again, test this to ensure that when you hit super+space gnome-do is summoned.


Unfortunately there was a quirk: I would create the shortcut for super+space and it would revert to Disabled at every reboot.

If you find that the key binding for gnome-do is not persistent (and I found this to be the case on every 13.04 system I tested), there is a fix.  After persistence fails on reboot, return to the gnome-do preferences and set the shortcut for Summon Do to ctrl+space.  Reboot.  Now when you hit super+space (yes, super+space) it should work and it should remain persistent.

Enjoy your gnome-do.  I know I do.


Oh, My Darling! Musica!

Well, Clementine has been around for a little while by now.  It’s based on an earlier version of Amarok and it’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.  Since I advocate for Ubuntu I’ll give you the short version of how to install it for Ubuntu.  (Unless stated otherwise my instructions should function for all three platforms.)

For Mac and Windows users, head on over and download Clementine.

Ok, Ubunters, grab your terminal because you’ll enter a couple of commands to make this quick and painless installation.  (This works for at least 10.04 through 16.04.  Older versions use apt-get in place of apt which is used now.)

(As of 14.04 Clementine is included the repositories and you needn’t add David’s repository.  Thus you may skip the first command below.  However, if you want the most current version do  add the repository since the version in the standard repositories can be slightly stale.  The current standard version will not support the mobile remote control application as an example.  I add the respository below.)

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:me-davidsansome/clementine
sudo apt update
sudo apt install clementine

Once this repository is added and running, you’ll get your updates through your usual updates channel so this is my preferred method.  (The repository currently throws errors in 13.04 beta but they can be ignored. This has been fixed.)

It has a fairly comprehensive Preferences dialog so feel free to poke around in there, see what’s what, and try some of the features.

I don’t use Internet music sources, but it supports a good host of them for those of you who do (from Spotify to Last.FM and all points hither and yon).

This is also a great way to get simultaneous FLAC and library support on the Mac and on Windows.  (You can get limited FLAC support in iTunes on the Mac but it’s a bit of a pain in the ass.  Here is that article.  And you can get a FLAC plugin for Windows Media Player but why bother?)

One quirk with Clementine (and also previously with Amarok) is that it’s not obvious how to just play from all of your music.

Firstly, you open it and you have no content.  You’ll have to navigate to Tools —> Preferences —> General —> Music Library and click the “Add new folder…” button to add a folder location.  I just add my Music folder (and add shortcuts into my Music folder for any additional locations).  This page in Preferences also houses the word list for album cover art.  Separate each word with a comma.

Ok, so it will scan your collection now that you’ve added a folder location (and you can manually force a scan as well).  Once that finishes you will see a column of artists with sub-directories for albums. But how do you play everything?  If you open the Smart Playlists folder at the top you’ll see one called All tracks.  Not complicated but not necessarily obvious.

I use a black background with yellow lettering, and I have Clementine display the album art behind the semi-transparent playlist.  It’s pretty cool looking.  Both of these settings can be found at Tools —> Preferences —> User Interface —> Appearance.

(If your version of Clementine on Ubuntu doesn’t have an Appearance tab—and I think that is limited to 12.04—you can make adjustments using qtconfig after installing the package qt4-qtconfig.  You can install this by issuing the command sudo apt-get install qt4-config.  You can run it from your terminal by typing qtconfig.)

It’s really well integrated into the latest Ubuntu.  Clementine (and Rhythmbox) are located conveniently in the Volume drop-down.  Very clean and very quick to respond (for both of them).

While Clementine is running it will change the color of it’s icon as the song progresses (this may need to be enabled to take effect).

The folks over at OMG!Ubuntu! have many articles covering Clementine for those interested in such things.

There is a lot more that could be said about Clementine but this ought to be enough to get you started.

Have fun with that.


You Want Netflix, LOVEFiLM, or Redbox on Ubuntu?

Apparently it’s no problem.  It’s no problem not because Microsoft has finally pulled their giant collective head out of their minuscule collective ass; it’s no problem because it represented a challenge worthy of hacking in the open-source community.

You may already be running WiNE on your system.  That’s fine but you’ll need to swap it out for this specially modified version from a guy named Erich Hoover.  He has also built a set of packages for each of those services.

You can find the full instructions over at OMGUbuntu:

[How To] Watch LOVEFiLM, Redbox Instant or Netflix on Ubuntu

Love to hear your success stories or interesting related hacks.

Go get ’em, tigers.


Using YUMI to Create Multi-Boot Thumbdrives

Lately I’ve had good cause to use bootable thumbdrives.  To the point where I am now finding use for having a single 16 GB thumbdrive which contains various different bootable utilities and installation discs.

Over at PenDriveLinux I was able to download a program called YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Installer) for creating multi-boot environments on a single partition (of a thumbdrive).  It’s pretty basic to use but I wanted to take a moment to mention some quirks which might throw off a first-time user.

You can use it to create boot options for nearly anything you might imagine.  I haven’t found anything as yet which would not work (though they may exist).

First of all, you might get an error at boot time that the files (within the ISO you are booting) must be contiguous.  I ran into this problem when I built a Windows 8 preview on my thumbdrive.  You can see my article here for how I defragmented the contents of the ISO.

Another oddity that might trip you is the file names of the ISO’s you download.  YUMI has expectations about what those files will be named.  You choose what you are going to attempt to install, then you seek the file, and you might find that YUMI ignores the file you think is the correct file.

Look near the bottom of YUMI where is listed “Step 3: “.  You will see YUMI specifies a file name for which it is seeking (the file name may include a wildcard).  You just want to rename your ISO so that it matches the name YUMI specifies in that step.  (It will not display the name until you click the “Browse” button and then click the “Cancel” button to return to the main application window.)

That was about it.  If I notice any other quirks I’ll post them here.

Have fun with that.


Use the Latest Skype on Ubuntu

I have been using this method for keeping Skype up to date on my Ubuntu systems (I’m currently using 10.04 all  around but this ought to be flexible enough to work on other versions).  Here is my condensed version for your copy and paste joy.

You’ll want to have a terminal open for a couple of lines of code. You can open a terminal by navigating to Applications —> Accessories —> Terminal.

Ok, let’s ask Synaptic to manage any new updates that come down for Skype. Open Synaptic (System —> Administration —> Synaptic Package Manager). You will be asked for your password.

Navigate to Settings —> Repositories —> Third-Party Software and click the “Add” button. Enter this line in the “APT Line:” text box:

deb stable non-free

Then click the “Add Source” button and the “Close” button twice. (The second dialog is just letting you know that you have made a repository change.)

This tells Synaptic where to seek out updates for Skype.

Let’s import the public key so your system knows it is really communicating with the Skype repository when you run your updates.

Hop back over to your Terminal; it’s a single line of code:

sudo apt-key adv –keyserver –recv-keys 0xd66b746e

Now, when you click the “Reload” button in the Synaptic Package Manger you will not get a key verification error.

Installing Skype is a one line command operation or you can just locate it in Synaptic and install it from there:

sudo apt-get install skype

(You will be asked for your password.)

From now on, when you run your updates by navigating to System —> Administration —> Update Manager it should seek out any new updates for Skype in addition to any updates otherwise ready for your system.

Have fun with that.


Repairing Grub after Windows Breaks It

Recently I built my dad a dual boot system with Ubuntu 10.04 and Windows XP. He likes his games so he wanted to keep a Windows installation for gaming. Fine. Built, tested, delivered.

However, he had a bad video card (and some other issues) and he had a friend help him at various stages. He lives on the other side of the state with a mountain range in between us so I understand.

Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter and to emphasize my confusion, I received the machine in the following condition. First, Windows 7 had been installed. This of course broke all that I had done with my dual boot. My Ubuntu installation, which had been controlling boot loading with Grub, was borked and the Windows 7 installation was on what appeared to be a failing hard drive. Instructions? Make it work.

First thing I did was just to reinstall Ubuntu so as to take control of boot loading again and since it was a fresh installation anyway, why not? Then I used GParted to move the partitions around to make room for the Windows 7 installation on the same drive where the other installations were. This fixed Ubuntu and Windows XP, but Windows 7 (whether the original or the copy) would not boot. (Sometime around here I removed the old 7 drive from the machine which I believe to be failing.)

I tried all the usual shit. Various Grub configurations, various Windows boot configurations, moving around the boot flag, updating Grub at various moments. Bah! Nothing would improve matters if I chose 7: the basic black screen and quickly flashing cursor that meant the machine was waiting for an operating system to take over.

Using Grub to point to XP and then trying to use the Windows boot menu to choose between 7 and XP brought in a host of its own problems. Fuck it. I threw in the towel and rebuilt the 7 partition(s).

Now Windows 7 was working great but this of course broke my Grub again. So once again I went back in with chroot and updated Grub. This wasn’t enough, but while looking up the commands for doing this I noticed a utility called boot-repair. It can be downloaded as a stand-alone ISO or it can be used within Ubuntu.

If you run the Ubuntu Live CD you can simply run these two commands to install and run boot-repair:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:yannubuntu/boot-repair && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y boot-repair && boot-repair

You can read more about its usage here. I ran it with the normal settings (after perusing the Advanced options) and it fixed my boot problem. Now all three operating systems boot from the Grub menu.

This boot-repair has some pretty cool options (like selecting which boot option is default). Definitely worth adding to your toolbox.


Attach Ubuntu to Windows Domain via Active Directory (+ sudo)

There may not be too many advantages to adding your Ubuntu machines to your Windows domain, but if you think of them this will allow you to work toward them.  It’s actually pretty easy to add a Linux box to Active Directory.  This is true because AD started out life as an LDAP server and it still retains its LDAP genes somewhere deep inside its withered exterior.

First thing you will want to do is add this utility to your Ubuntu machine:

sudo apt-get install likewise-open

It will allow you to authenticate against AD using Kerberos.  If you don’t know what that means it’s not important at this stage; it’s enough to understand that it’s a secure method for assuring identity between your client machine and your AD server.

I then added the machine to the domain.  Again this is a simple operation.  Before you do anything on the Ubuntu machine, hop into Active Directory and create a machine account in the name of the Ubuntu machine.  Then back on the Ubuntu machine it’s one line of code:

sudo domainjoin-cli join [] [username]

Easy enough.

Further I added a domain group to the local sudo group by adding these lines to the /etc/sudoers file.  You can also add a domain user.  Just note the different formats below:

# Active Directory group [groupname] given sudo privs
%[]\\[group^name] ALL=(ALL) ALL

If you don’t know how to edit a protected file like /etc/sudoers I recommend using Gedit:

gksudo gedit /etc/sudoers

(If you manage to break your sudoers file, you can always use pkexec visudo -f /etc/sudoers to fix it.)

Just add those two lines to the end of the file.  The first line is just a comment line and could say something different.  Replace those items in the square brackets with the appropriate information to your network.  Groups, as you can see, are preceded by a percent sign while users are not.  Any spaces should be replaced by carets.

For the group I created in Active Directory to grant these sudo privileges (called Ubuntu Sudoers) I included Domain Administrators and a couple of individuals who would likely be using the Ubuntu box and need sudo rights.  The combinations available should make this pretty flexible.

Anyway, that’s about it.  Not too exciting but sure it’s useful for something.  Have fun with it.

For newer versions of Ubuntu you will need to enable a login space on the login screen.  There are a number of ways, but this is nice and simple.  Again open GEdit to edit a file.

gksudo gedit /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

Then add this line to that file.


You may be able to get the domain assumed (at login) using this method but there is more discussion here.

gksudo gedit /etc/samba/lwiauthd.conf

Then add this line to that file.

winbind use default domain = yes

If that does not work, you can just use the domain@username format at the login screen.

Have fun with that.