Ubuntu is a pretty good Linux distribution to start out with, but there are some tweaks you might want to perform to get it to work and behave the way you want it to. This is especially true if you’re new to Ubuntu or Linux. If you’ve jumped over from Windows XP, you’ve made a good choice.
Here we’ll show you some great tweaks that can go a long way to achieving desktop zen.
Install Proprietary Drivers
The first thing you should do is install proprietary drivers, if available. These drivers are provided by the manufacturer and generally allow your hardware to function better than the open source drivers that come with Ubuntu.
Whether or not proprietary drivers are actually available for installation depends on your system’s hardware, as some hardware doesn’t have a proprietary driver or the open source driver performs best. As a reference, the most common types of hardware that have proprietary drivers available are for AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards, and Broadcom wireless chipsets.
You can check for proprietary drivers by going into the Software & Updates utility and clicking on the Additional Drivers tab.
Install Graphical Firewall Config Utility
Next, you’ll want to install a graphical firewall configuration utility, so that you can enable and configure a firewall for your system. Although Linux is known for being virtually immune to viruses, it’s still possible for hackers to remotely gain access to your system if there isn’t a firewall protecting your network ports.
To get this, run the command
sudo apt-get install gufw. With this you’ll have an easy way to configure your firewall.
Gain More Tweak Settings
In order to gain access to a large amount of tweak settings, you should install Gnome Tweak Tool and Ubuntu Tweak. Both of these applications allow you to perform a myriad of tasks and change various aspects of your desktop, especially Gnome Tweak Tool. Once you have them installed, take a moment to look through the settings – even if you don’t want to change anything right now, you might want to know that the possibility exists to change something later.
Gnome Tweak Tool can allow you to change related to the window, desktop, icons, font hinting, and much more. Ubuntu Tweak, on the other hand, can provide a few tweaks but also offers shortcuts for system-related tasks and various janitorial tools.
Install Codecs, Pipelight and Other Goodies
To get the most out of your computer, you’ll want to install some additional proprietary software. For instance, you should install Flash so you can get the best experience on all websites, Pipelight to gain Silverlight capabilities which is great for watching Netflix, Oracle’s version of Java for better compatibility over the open source implementation, “Ubuntu Restricted Extras” which, among other things, installs the Microsoft Core Fonts like Times New Roman, various codecs so you don’t have to worry about which media format you’re playing, and DVD playback libraries so you can enjoy DVDs on your computer (provided you have a DVD drive).
You can do this by running the command
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:pipelight/stable && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg libxine1-ffmpeg gxine mencoder libdvdread4 totem-mozilla icedax tagtool easytag id3tool lame nautilus-script-audio-convert libmad0 mpg321 pipelight-multi && sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh && sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight.
This command will install many different codecs, the needed DVD playback libraries, and Pipelight. It will also perform steps to complete the DVD playback and Pipelight installation. If a pop-up appears after opening your browser after running this command, that is normal.
CompizConfig Settings Manager and Extra Compiz Plugins
In years past, Linux was known for having “flashy” desktops that offered all sorts of eye candy. While that phase of Linux’s history has diminished, the software that powered all the eye candy is still there (and is used to run Unity!) To configure it, you’ll want to install the CompizConfig Settings Manager.
You can also install some extra plugins which provide more effects that you can configure to your liking. While this certainly allows you to make your desktop flashy, it can also be used to increase your productivity if you invoke the right plugins. For example, there’s one tweak that allows you to locate the pointer after pressing a predefined keyboard shortcut. Another tweak allows you to use the “desktop cube”, which can make switching between virtual desktops much easier to understand.
To get this, run the command
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra. This will install the configuration utility as well as some extra plugins for the framework.
Remove Amazon Results from Dash
Ubuntu added Amazon integration into the Unity Dash a few releases ago. While many people complained that their privacy was at risk since every search was being sent to Amazon’s servers, I personally just found the Amazon results unnecessary for my needs.
To remove the Amazon search results from the Dash, simply run the command
sudo apt-get autoremove unity-lens-shopping and restart. This will get rid of the Dash lens that is responsible for those results.
Alternatively, you can also go into the System Settings –> Privacy, and disable Online Search Results. Do note that this toggle will affect not just the Amazon search results, but also any other dash lenses that require the Internet to function.
Change Scroll Overlays to Scrollbars
Ubuntu added scroll overlays which were meant to be a touch-friendly and space saving feature. But not everyone likes the change, as some still prefer good ol’ scrollbars.
To change back to those, run the command
gsettings set com.canonical.desktop.interface scrollbar-mode normal. This changes a setting in GNOME’s “registry” to let it know that you want normal scrollbars back.
Display Name In Top-Right Corner
If you have multiple users on your computer, it might be nice to have your name displayed in the top right corner of your screen to verify that you’re logged in to the right account.
To enable this, run the command
gsettings set com.canonical.indicator.session show-real-name-on-panel true. This changes a setting in GNOME’s “registry” to enable the display of your name.
Remove White Dots From Login Screen
Speaking of logging in, do you like the grid of white dots on the login screen? If not, you can get rid of them! Run this command and it’s as if they were never there!
To get rid of them, run the following commands in order:
sudo xhost +SI:localuser:lightdm
sudo su lightdm -s /bin/bash
gsettings set com.canonical.unity-greeter draw-grid false
These commands will allow you to run commands in lightdm’s name (the program that runs the login screen) and run the command that changes a setting in GNOME’s “registry” to disable the dots.
Disable Guest Account
Guest accounts on a computer can be useful, but some people (myself included) see them as a waste of space.
To disable the guest account, run the command
sudo gedit /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf and add this line to the end of the file:
This is a simple configuration file modification which the system reads during each boot up.
I’m personally not sure when this happened, but apparently Ubuntu’s hibernation feature is now disabled by default. I used to hibernate my computer quite frequently, so I miss having the feature.
Thankfully, there’s yet another command that you can run to enable hibernation for your system. Just make sure that your system has a swap partition on the hard drive that is at least as big as the amount of installed RAM.
For good measure, you should make the swap partition 125% the size of the installed RAM. For example, that means that you should create a swap partition that is 5GB if you have 4GB of RAM installed. This will allow you to hibernate even if the RAM is completely used up and a small portion of the swap partition is used as well. If you’re working with a smaller hard drive, then you should at least try to make the swap partition 105% of the installed RAM for hibernation to be successful.
To enable hibernation, run the command
sudo gedit /var/lib/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/hibernate.pkla and copy and paste the following into that file:
This makes a configuration file modification which the system will read during each boot up.
This ist of tweaks should get you well on your way to a more suitable desktop for your tastes. Of course, this list doesn’t include any recommended applications for you to install. For that, you can take a look at our wonderful Best Linux Software page.
What other tweaks can you offer to fellow readers? What’s your favorite tweak of the bunch? Let us know in the comments!