Among all the great things about the Ubuntu 11.10 release, the selection of screensavers isn’t one of them. In fact, if you look a little more closely, there isn’t any selection at all. Instead, all you get is the “blank screen” screensaver, which does nothing more than, well, give you a blank screen.
Intuitively, there doesn’t seem to be a way to fix it, so you’ll need to use a back door way to get a nicer selection of screensavers. But why does this problem exist in the first place?
It’s All GNOME 3
In the latest changes, Ubuntu 11.10 finally switches over from GNOME 2 as its background framework of applications that Unity sits on top of, to GNOME 3. The latest version of GNOME 3, version 3.2, does have a wide range of system configuration options, but is still considered young in many aspects, including this one. One of the things GNOME 3 hasn’t yet expanded on is the selection of screensavers.
Although Ubuntu has the power to change out this part if the developers wanted to, I presume they left it as it is for uniformity. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t change it yourself.
Switching To Better Screensavers
Doing this isn’t as hard as it may sound. You’ll simply need to switch out some packages and the job will be done. Before you start, make sure that in Software Sources you have all possible sources selected so that Ubuntu will find the needed packages.
It will be faster if you copy and paste the following command into the terminal (
sudo apt-get remove gnome-screensaver && sudo apt-get install xscreensaver xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-data-extra
), or you can manually remove
via the Ubuntu Software Center.
Once that completes, you can then go ahead and launch XScreenSaver (which simply appears as “Screensaver” when searching for it in the Unity Dash). When you first open the configuration window, you’ll be warned that the GNOME screensaver daemon is still running, and you should stop it. Go ahead and do that, then allow the XScreenSaver daemon to run on the current display.
In the first tab called “Display Modes”, you can set what kind of screensaver you’d like to have. There are plenty of different options, and you can even change from one to the other, automatically, after a certain amount of time. You can even choose which screensavers it should regularly switch.
In the “Advanced” tab, you’ll get to do a heck of a lot of advanced stuff. A lot of it doesn’t make much sense to me, so if you’re like me you’ll be best served just leaving those options alone. However, for those that do know what this is talking about, you’re welcome to take a swing at it.
In case you’d like to go back to the simple blank screen, either because you know it’ll just work or because you have some other reason, this is easy to do as well. I recommend that you run this via the terminal as you need to do more than just install and remove packages, but if you choose to do it differently, that is up to you.
In order to revert to what you had before, run
sudo apt-get remove xscreensaver xscreensaver-gl-extra xscreensaver-data-extra && sudo rm /usr/bin/gnome-screensaver-command && sudo apt-get install gnome-screensaver
. This will uninstall and install the correct packages, as well as remove a file that is no longer needed and would otherwise cause issues.
Once again, the beauty of Linux‘s ability to be highly customizable shines brightly. Thankfully, this option to change the screensaver is available and easily accessible by any user. Hopefully in subsequent releases we will see Ubuntu (or the GNOME framework) include more screensaver options by default so that this becomes unnecessary. Until then, I believe this will be perfectly fine.
What other parts of Ubuntu seem to be missing something, like the screensavers mentioned in this article? What would you like to see be added next to the GNOME bundle? Let us know in the comments!