“Ubuntu Budgie”


The man himself – Mark Shuttleworth says he will support a budgie-desktop based community spin of Ubuntu.

ubuntu xenial (before library install) [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_108

That was a surprise I just had to throw onto Reddit.  Thinking that it would be one of those blink and miss it Reddit’s – to my surprise it gathered much comments and votes.

Even some people said they would help.

Do we need another distro?

A linux distro needs to have something unique.  Ubuntu has “flavours” – spins of well established Desktop Environments – LXDE, Mate, GNOME, KDE, XFCE plus Canonicals own Unity.  Heck it has spins of spins … Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu Studio, EdUbuntu, Mythbuntu – all created because there is a community around them that have shouted “I need”.  Have I forgotten any?

Budgie is brand-new … sort of.  It was first created a few years back but sort of lost traction.  Over the last year its been  refreshed and released v10.2 at Christmas 2015 as part of a brand-new – literally from ground up – distro called Solus Operating System.

ubuntu xenial (before library install) [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_107SparkyLinux were quick to spin out a Debian Testing version of the desktop environment.  Arch, Manjaro, Fedora, OpenSuse quickly followed.

Strangely enough – nobody from the massive Ubuntu community has stepped up.  So maybe it is not so surprising to see Mark taking an interest himself – trying to encourage ‘buntu folks to come-up with a spin on the great Ubuntu foundations.

Anybody up-for it?

Well such a project needs a plan … think that’s something for a post tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

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Launchpad PPA Download Statistics … almost 6 million and counting


One of the more hidden parts of using Launchpad to host your PPA is actually knowing how popular – if at all – your hard work is benefiting the wider ‘buntu and derivates.

It is so hidden in-fact, that you need to use the Launchpad API to find out.

… and there is a brilliant PPA so solve that!

From the wonderful Jean-Philippe Orsini is an easy to use command line tool that gives you the raw statistics.  Even better, you can output the results in HTML format and this allows you to drill down to individual packages.

saucy ubuntu [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_085

One of my favourite PPA’s I maintain is the Rhythmbox Plugins – from the stats I can easily see that since mid-2012 there has been almost 6 million downloads.  All I can say is wow!  Three cheers for all the support – I’m just astounded how popular the PPA has really been.

How to install

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jfi/ppastats
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ppastats

The OP doesnt backport the latest stuff – so its best to use the latest distro available – 13.10 Saucy at the time of writing this.

How to use

Create a folder and change to it – for example

mkdir stats
cd stats

Run the following to create the statistics for your PPA – lets assume your username is myname and the ppa is called myppa

ppastats -o . myname myppa

Wait until it has completed and then point firefox at the index.html file that was created

firefox index.html

N.B. if you see 503 errors in the terminal – that is Launchpad not playing ball.  Just rerun ppastats and few times and examine if you get the same or similar results.

How to calculate totals

On the left-hand side copy packages and their totals.

Open Libreoffice Calc.  Paste the text copied.  This will prompt you with an import dialog – just use the other delimiter and choose “:” as the delimiter to split the package name with the download statistic.

Raw Stats for rhythmbox-plugins

rhythmbox-plugin-coverart-browser 352382
rhythmbox-plugin-coverart-search 294666
rhythmbox-plugin-llyrics 285711
rhythmbox-plugin-equalizer 240169
rhythmbox-plugin-radio-browser 233333
rhythmbox-plugin-rhythmweb 233074
rhythmbox-plugin-opencontainingfolder 229156
rhythmbox-plugin-countdown-playlist 208035
rhythmbox-plugin-randomalbumplayer 199757
rhythmbox-plugin-complete 199183
rhythmbox-plugin-suspend 196925
rhythmbox-plugin-remembertherhythm 188952
rhythmbox-plugin-send-first 183734
rhythmbox-plugin-smallwindow 176064
rhythmbox-plugin-hide 174170
rhythmbox-plugin-desktopart 172961
rhythmbox-plugin-fullscreen 170756
rhythmbox-plugin-artdisplay 150943
rhythmbox-plugin-wikipedia 148492
rhythmbox-plugin-android-remote 144504
rhythmbox-plugin-screensaver 139713
rhythmbox-plugin-jumptowindow 125488
rhythmbox-plugin-microblogger 123194
rhythmbox-plugin-lastfm-queue 119197
rhythmbox-plugin-lastfm-extension 118629
rhythmbox-plugin-albumartsearch 114165
rhythmbox-plugin-tray-icon 110132
rhythmbox-plugin-rhythmremote 109492
rhythmbox-plugin-jumptoplaying 109252
rhythmbox-plugin-webmenu 108188
rhythmbox-plugin-repeat-one-song 108159
rhythmbox-plugin-tabguitar 108066
rhythmbox-plugin-stopafter 108035
rhythmbox-plugin-fileorganizer 101529
rhythmbox-plugin-rating-filters 96941
rhythmbox-plugin-seek 39360
python-pylastfp 36089
rhythmbox-plugin-looper 20625
python3-mutagenx 666
rhythmbox-plugin-playlist-import-export 24
5979911

 

Installing the lightweight LXDE-QT desktop


EDIT: Instructions updated 09 May 2014 to fix the 14.04 installation instructions and also update the minimal install instructions.

Following on from my recent article about installing a minimal XFCE based desktop I thought I would take LXDE a spin.  For an extra challenge I’m interested for this article the next generation LXDE called LXDE-QT.

The LXDE team have now merged with Razor-QT – both teams have a similar goal of producing a very lightweight desktop and they have chosen QT as the toolset rather than something like GTK3.

As this is very experimental at this stage, my recommendation is to use something like Virtualbox to play-around with this brand-new but still developing desktop interface – you can easily snapshot various check-points and use the rollbacks to back out of stuff.

Lets begin.

The challenge here is to take the already lightweight LXDE-QT desktop and slim it down to its core components … and yes … lightweight LXDE (lightweight X11 desktop environment) is one lightweight too far but describing it as lightweight XDE-QT just looks too weird 🙂

N.B. – if you are just interested in playing with the desktop as designed by the LXDE & Razor-QT development teams then the following will work in a standard Ubuntu install:


sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubuntu-dev/lubuntu-daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxqt-metapackage openbox
sudo apt-get install lxqt-panel

IMPORTANT NOTE: 14.04 users (as of 08 May 2014) the packaging is still buggy but will install if you follow the above. Installing lxqt-metapackage openbox will appear to crash out with a lxqt-config package failure. However, after installing lxqt-panel again, the rest of the setup for the desktop will complete successfully.

trusty (Snapshot 1) [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_005

Note the desktop shown has been installed on-top of Unity and thus you can see both Gnome applications as well as LXQT applications.


Below, the intent here is to pick apart the desktop to look at its core components.

First download the minimal ISO.  This is a tiny basic installer containing very little itself.  Everything is downloaded from the internet.  So make sure you are using a wired connection – no wireless at this stage.

Write this to a CD using your favourite burning software such as brasero.  Alternatively use unetbootin to write it to a USB stick – or if using Virtualbox, attach the ISO to a new virtual machine.

On boot you will receive a screen like this:

Image

Press Enter and just answer each of the questions posed.

When you get to this screen you have a choice  of choosing one of the standard desktop environments or just continuing to a basic text only interface.  Lets choose the latter:

Image

Let the wizard complete and install the remaining basic packages.

Reboot – remove the CD/USB/virtual CD drive and login using your username and password you defined during the text wizard stage above.

Next – make sure the repositories are up-to-date:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Lets ensure we configure our system to not install suggested packages or recommended packages:

cd /etc/apt
sudo nano apt.conf

Type in the following:

APT::Install-Recommends "0";
APT::Install-Suggests "0";

Save and quit nano – CTRL+O, CTRL+X

Quick Tip: when typing package names, type the first few characters and press TAB. This will either autocomplete the package name or display the matching package names allowing you to narrow down the correct full package-name.

Lets now install the basic graphics stack:


sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xfonts-base xinit x11-xserver-utils x11-apps x11-session-utils x11-utils xinput xorg

Now we need to add a PPA where the development LXDE libraries and QT stuff can be found.


sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lubuntu-dev/lubuntu-daily
sudo apt-get update

Now lets install the basic LXDE-QT packages such as the file-manager (pcmanfm-qt), session, panel


sudo apt-get install lxqt-metapackage lxqt-policykit  lxqt-runner lxqt-config lxrandr-qt obconf-qt lxqt-session pcmanfm-qt lxqt-powermanagement openbox

Finally lets install a basic graphical login manager – lets stick with lightdm:


sudo apt-get install lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter

Reboot and login graphically:

sudo reboot --

That is the basics. Everything else that follows is your customization requirements.

Lets make the desktop aesthetically beautiful

sudo apt-get install oxygen-icon-theme

These will install some very nice icons for the menus and panel and also allow you to change the appearance of the desktop.

Next, lets give the menu’s less of a windows 95 look…

sudo apt-get install kde-style-qtcurve

Remember to reboot for these to take effect.

Next install your chosen browser – in my case the lightweight QT based Qupzilla.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nowrep/qupzilla
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install qupzilla

Logically you’ll also need sound… so lets install the QT sound mixer (qasmixer) plus standard alsa libraries used for various applications:

sudo apt-get install qasmixer gstreamer0.10-alsa gstreamer0.10-plugins-base gstreamer0.10-plugins-good

Use qasmixer and ensure that the master channel and the appropriate channel for your soundcard is 100% and not muted

ubuntu minimal (Snapshot 4) [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_082

If you love youtube you’ll need adobe flash.

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg

Finally lets add a QT based media-player for our music – lets download sayonara from google-code

sudo apt-get install libcurl3 libnotify4 libtag1-vanilla
sudo dpkg -i sayonara*.deb

I want some nice automatic recognition of inserted USB sticks and disks by pcmanfm (reboot afterwards)

sudo apt-get install gvfs gvfs-backends policykit-1 udisks2

Remember to reboot to for these changes to take effect.

For Virtualbox you should also install dkms before installing the guest-additions:

sudo apt-get install dkms

Remember to add the permissions for your user:

sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf <username>

Final Result

ubuntu minimal (Snapshot 3) [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_066
 

This desktop runs well with 256Mb – and brilliantly smooth at 512Mb

How to install a minimal (XFCE based) ubuntu desktop


If you are feeling fairly adventurous or just simply want a change to get a simple but fast booting desktop you might want to consider installing a minimal desktop environment  – that is, install the basic packages & software that YOU want rather what a distribution such as ubuntu/xubuntu/lubuntu/ubuntu gnome would present to you.

Its not particularly difficult – you just need to be fairly comfortable with a small bit of terminal work.  Its actually great fun – you learn lots by tweaking stuff – installing your own themes and wallpapers etc.

Before you begin you need to have a plan – just a basic plan.  Ask yourself the following:

  1. What desktop environment do you want – xfce / lxde/ unity/ gnome-shell ?
  2. Where are you in the world – i.e. what locale are you – you need to understand what two letter or four letter code applies to you
  3. You want graphics – what graphics card do you have and what drivers if any do you need?
  4. You want sound – what sound driver and configuration do you need?
  5. What web-browser do you want to use?
  6. What is your favourite file-manager?
  7. What extra software do you need to use?

Look at your current desktop – try to answer the above.  You need to figure out what key debian package names for each of the above.

Quick Tip: – if you don’t know the package name, you can search through the descriptions quickly via the following:

apt-cache search

e.g.
apt-cache search greybird

This example reveals that the greybird theme that comes with xubuntu is installed via the package shimmer-themes.

My recommendation is to use something like Virtualbox to play-around with minimal installs – you can easily snapshot various check-points and use the rollbacks to back out of stuff.

Lets begin.

Lets be up-front, this article is inspired by this article but with a focus on ‘buntu.

First download the minimal ISO.  This is a tiny basic installer containing very little itself.  Everything is downloaded from the internet.  So make sure you are using a wired connection – no wireless at this stage.

Write this to a CD using your favourite burning software such as brasero.  Alternatively use unetbootin to write it to a USB stick – or if using Virtualbox, attach the ISO to a new virtual machine.

On boot you will receive a screen like this:

Image

Press Enter and just answer each of the questions posed.

When you get to this screen you have a choice  of choosing one of the standard desktop environments or just continuing to a basic text only interface.  Lets choose the latter:

Image

Let the wizard complete and install the remaining basic packages.

Reboot – remove the CD/USB/virtual CD drive and login using your username and password you defined during the text wizard stage above.

Next – make sure the repositories are up-to-date:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

Lets ensure we configure our system to not install suggested packages or recommended packages:

cd /etc/apt
sudo nano apt.conf

Type in the following:


APT::Install-Recommends "0";
APT::Install-Suggests "0";

Save and quit nano – CTRL+O, CTRL+X

Quick Tip: when typing package names, type the first few characters and press TAB. This will either autocomplete the package name or display the matching package names allowing you to narrow down the correct full package-name.

Lets now install the basic graphics stack:


sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xfonts-base xinit x11-xserver-utils

Now lets install our chosen window manager and desktop environment + basic packages such as a terminal to type in. Here I’ve chosen XFCE – the window manager is xfwm4 and you must install a session i.e. xfce4-session:


sudo apt-get install xfwm4 xfce4-panel xfce4-settings xfce4-session xfce4-terminal xfdesktop4 xfce4-taskmanager tango-icon-theme

Finally lets install a basic graphical login manager – lets stick with lightdm but you could use something heavyweight such as GDM or MDM:


sudo apt-get install lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter

Reboot and login graphically:


sudo reboot --

ubuntu minimal [Running] - Oracle VM VirtualBox_055

That is the basics. Everything else that follows is your customisation requirements.

Ok, I want to stick with thunar – you could use nautilus etc.

sudo apt-get install thunar

I want some nice automatic recognition of inserted USB sticks and disks by thunar

sudo apt-get install gvfs gvfs-backends policykit-1 udisks2

I also want sound – I like pulseaudio:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-plugins-base gstreamer0.10-plugins-good gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad pulseaudio gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio pavucontrol

Reboot for the sound packages to take effect.

Launch the pulseaudo volume control and check that the sound is configured correctly – check if the sound is muted. Obviously unmute if necessary

Next install your chosen browser – in this case firefox. Remember to install the associated locale – mine is english


sudo apt-get install firefox
sudo apt-get install firefox-locale-en

Smarten stuff up – choose your theme, add a compositor, opacity settings etc.

I want to browse YouTube – so I need Flash:

sudo apt-get install flashplugin-installer

For Virtualbox you should also install dkms before installing the guest-additions:

sudo apt-get install dkms

Remember to add the permissions for your user:

sudo usermod -a -G vboxsf <username>

Finally my media player is rhythmbox:

sudo apt-get install rhythmbox rhythmbox-plugins