Month: October 2017

A is for Aardvark: First Impressions of 17.10

My usual way to test the water with a new release of Ubuntu is to install it on a spare computer. I keep one old PC around the place for just that purpose. I was doubly cautious this time because there were big changes in the latest build. The Unity interface was gone. The return of Gnome was upon us.

I might be in a minority of one, but I liked Unity. I know opinion varies greatly, but for me it was neat to have my most often used apps and tools held in an auto-hiding dock at the side of the desktop. Right-clicking the icons in the dock gave access to a menu of related options. Right click the file browser icon, for example, and any folder favourites that you’d made in Nautilus were presented in a context menu. So to go to any of your frequent folders you just had to move the mouse over to the left hand edge of the display, right-click the file browser icon and choose the folder from the menu that appeared. Simple, and fast. It suited me, and it is now ingrained into my muscle memory.

So, I wasn’t looking forward to making the change to Gnome. There’s nothing wrong with Gnome. It’s a great desktop. In fact, it is what I used before Canonical swapped to Unity. My worry was I could foresee a lot of frustration as my hands moved on auto-pilot to access functionality that was no longer available.

Despite my misgivings, the transition from Unity to Gnome has been more or less painless. The interface is clean and sharp, and fast. Everything seems faster. There is a dock on the left hand side of the screen, much like its predecessor. It auto-hides, but only if it is going to be obscured. The Unity dock could be set to auto-hide once you’d finished with it. But, as long as the new one gets out of the way of the desktop when the real estate is required, I can live with that.

The first difficulty I ran into was due to Wayland, the new display graphics server. This replaces the venerable Xorg. Sometimes I could log in. I would enter my credentials at the log in screen and then be returned to the same log in prompt. A reboot sometimes did the trick and would let me back in, other times it wouldn’t. Luckily you can swap back to the Xorg system (there’s a cogged wheel on the log in screen that allows you to revert to Xorg). That sorted that issue out. I could log back in.

I made a note of that trick, so that I could repeat it when (and if) I put 17.10 on my main machine.

I installed my usual toolset (I have a script that installs all of the software I use) and checked that they still operated under 17.10 and that my workflow wouldn’t be broken if I put 17.10 on my main machine. All of the tools and packages I use worked just fine. I’d expected to have to make a few a few tweaks in order to get things running as I like them to, but no, the packages were happy. All my compile and build tests worked flawlessly.

I did have to adjust a few things within Ubuntu itself though. Some to provide fixes, some because of personal preferences.

I access a share on a NAS via Samba. I had to add Vers=1.0 to the options in the line in my fstab file that auto-mounted the share on the NAS. If I didn’t do this it didn’t mount. When I tried to access it I got an error message saying that only Root could mount the share. This little addition to my options list fixed that issue.

//ip_address/Backup path_to_NAS/NAS cifs credentials=/etc/samba/user,noexec,vers=1.0,sec=ntlm 0 0

That was the only big issue I hit, so I installed 17.10 on my main machine. I always do a backup, a complete new install, then restore my data and .folders. I bit the bullet and blitzed the laptop. Post install I reverted to Xorg, and sorted out the issue with Samba. After that there were a few little tweaks for my personal preferences.

Gnome has the window min, max and close buttons on the right of the menu bar. I am so used to them being on the left I had to change them over. Installing Gnome Tweaks allowed me to do that.

I used Settings to make the dock auto-hide, and made the icon size smaller.

Dock Settings in Settings
Dock Settings in Settings

I added a UK keyboard to the list of Input Sources in the Region and Language tab of the Settings tool. (My laptop keyboard is US layout, my Cherry Keyboard is UK layout. I need to switch between the two.)

Adding UK Keyboard Layout in Settings
Adding UK Keyboard Layout in Settings

I used the Tweaks tool to move the window buttons to the left.

Windows Buttons in Tweaks
Windows Buttons in Tweaks

I used the Additional Drivers tab in Software and Updates to select the NVidia binary driver.

Additional Drivers in Software and Updates
Additional Drivers in Software and Updates

So far so good. No major issues, and the desktop switch from Unity to Gnome has been painless. It’s early days, let’s see how we go.

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