Make Ubuntu 17.10 usable - Tutorial

Updated: December 15, 2017

Recently, I've tested Ubuntu Artful Aardvark, and I was not impressed. It's buggy, it's not visually impressive, and the underlying Gnome 3 framework makes things very difficult for the end user. So I thought, let's cobble together a guide that helps achieve the most from this Ubuntu release.

So, in a similar fashion to what we've done with openSUSE Leap 42.3, let's try to make Ubuntu better, nicer, smarter, more efficient, and more productive. I'll give you a handful of pointers and tips on how to achieve this without going over the top, or any extensive system hacking. Let's begin.

Teaser

Update the system

Sounds almost too trivial, but like pretty much any distro out there, Ubuntu is released way too frequently to retain quality between releases, and there's no decent QA done, otherwise so many "upstream" (read: blameshifting) regressions would not make way into the final cut. Anyway, run the update and let the system patch itself up. In my case, it did fix a few niggles, including the Samba connection slowness.

Updates

Basic Gnome tweaks

Since 17.10, Ubuntu no longer runs Unity, it runs Gnome. Well, Unity was also based on Gnome, but the differences are now much smaller, so it's proper Gnome games. You will need to make the desktop usable, similar to what I've shown you in my guide, if to a somewhat lesser extent, because Ubuntu tries to make itself more human. You have a dock, to begin with, as well as minimize and maximize buttons. Other mandatory changes include things like adding the Show desktop button. Yes, in 2017.

Show desktop

Dock is another thing - Ubuntu ships with Dash to Dock (D2D) in a modified form, and you can change its behavior through the settings menu. If you wish an even more granular control, you can install stock D2D, but more about extensions later. You cannot use the somewhat more flexible Dash to Panel (D2P) because Ubuntu Dock cannot be removed in a trivial fashion. You need to uninstall it and log out then log back in to be able to only use D2P if you want.

sudo apt remove gnome-shell-extension-ubuntu-dock

Extensions

Before you can manage Gnome extensions, you need to do two things 1) Install Gnome Tweak Tool 2) install the necessary engine that allows browsers like Firefox or Chrome communicate with the Gnome Shell and allow adding and removing extensions.

sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool chrome-gnome-shell

Extensions

Additional software

You should enable the Partner channel - available through Software & Updates, part of the Software GUI package manager. Software like Google Chrome and Skype require separate installations. The former will also configure a repo for you, so you get constant updates. Then, you may also want to install some popular programs that do not ship with Ubuntu by default.

Partner software

sudo apt-get install gimp steam vlc

Extra apps

Proprietary drivers

Ubuntu offers the Additional Drivers functionality inside Software. You can use it to install any third-party drivers for your hardware. This is fairly trivial and works well, as in most Ubuntu releases.

Additional drivers

New themes & icons

You can setup various PPA - like Moka or Faenza for example, or try cloning Git repositories, like Papirus or Numix. Gnome Tweak Tool allows you to configure new themes and icons easily, and it replaces Unity Tweak Tool as the configuration program for the desktop.

Apps menu

Suspend button

Ubuntu 17.10 does not have the suspend function properly configured out of the box. Open the settings menu, power, and then configure the action you want for when the power button is pressed. You can use it to suspend the system.

Suspend option

Trash icon

If you do not want to use a desktop Trash icon, there's a nice Gnome extension that does exactly that, and it will only show up in the system area when there are items inside your Trash. You can also add a shortcut to Ubuntu Dock, in a similar fashion to what we did with the Show desktop icon, but it won't have any indicator that it's either empty or full.

Trash extension

More reading

You may also find these rather interesting:

Essential pimping guide for Ubuntu

Fedora desktop tweaks

Conclusion

And that's about it. Short and sweet and to the point. It's possible to do myriad other things, but the ideas is to retain some semblance of Ubuntuness in the final product. Overall, Aardvark is a rather underwhelming release, so some changes are truly necessary, then again, push too much, and it will become something else entirely. Like Mint.

I hope you find this useful. Artful Aardvark does need some love, and it revolves around better looks, extensions fixes, additional software and drivers, suspend tweak, and having the trash icon in the right place. If there are other topics and ideas you'd like me to explore, or follow up with extra pimping, do tell. That's it for now. Take care.

Cheers.

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