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Victor is a full stack software engineer who loves travelling and building things. Most recently created Ewolo, a cross-platform workout logger.

Upgrading ubuntu to 17.10 from 17.04

Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark) brings with it quite a few changes, the biggest one being the switch to Gnome as the default desktop environment and the dropping of support for unity. I recently did the upgrade from 17.04 (Zesty Zapus) and there were a few issues but in general it has been a smooth experience. Gnome seems to take double the amount of RAM but in return delivers a much more responsive desktop environment so that is something that I can definitely live with. Surprisingly, quite a few of my configuration settings such as global shortcuts, icons and theme were seamlessly carried over from Unity over to Gnome.

Install the Gnome tweak tool
This is a must-have and I'm not sure why it is not installed by default. You can configure a lot of settings here including extensions, themes (I picked the dark theme), fonts, etc.
  sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool
Gnome Tweak tool.
Install Gnome extensions (locally)

One of the first items of business is the Gnome extensions. Fortunately, Ubuntu has already packaged a few useful extensions which can be installed via:

sudo apt install gnome-shell-extensions  

Note that to enable changes to extensions, you need to restart the Gnome session which can be done by bringing up the command window via Alt + F2 and typing in r. In some cases, a full log out and log back in is required. Once the session has been restarted, restart the Gnome tweak tool to then manage the installed extension.

The generally recommended way to install gnome extensions is via the extensions website using a pre-configured browser. I however, wanted to simply install them locally and these are the steps to do so:

  • Get the current shell version gnome-shell --version.
  • Head to the Gnome extensions website and find the extension that you wish to download. Select the appropriate shell version and extension version.
  • Open the downloaded archive and look for a metadata.json file. Note the value of the uuid field.
  • Extract the archive contents to ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions. Rename the extracted archive folder to the same value as what was provided in the uuid field.
  • Restart the Gnome session and enable the extension using the Gnome tweak tool.
Locally installed gnome shell extensions.

I personally have the following extensions installed:

  • AlternateTab: This extension substitutes the alt-tab functionality to not group by application, very useful.
  • Clipboard indicator: Keep a list of recently copied items in the top panel.
  • Icon hider: Hide unwanted items from the top panel.
  • Openweather: Show weather in the top panel.
  • Places status indicator: Add a dropdown to navigate to the file system in the top bar. This is provided by the ubuntu extensions package.
  • Refresh wifi connections: This extension adds a refresh button to the Wifi connection selection dialog to request for a network scan manually.
  • System-monitor: Display system informations in gnome shell status bar, such as memory usage, cpu usage, network rates, etc.
  • Ubuntu dock
  • Ubuntu appindicators
  • Top icons plus: This extension is supposed to allow moving the Gnome system tray icons over to the top, thereby enabling application icons such as those for Dropbox, Skype, Clementine etc. Unfortunately however, I found that I needed to restart my Gnome session for the icons to show up. I'm not sure if this due to the Ubuntu appindicators not playing well with Top icons plus but I have left them both enabled for the moment. Update 4 th January: As provided in the bug report here, the culprit is the indicator-application-service. Killing it seems to solve the problem but a more permanent solution would be to remove all indicator packages: sudo apt purge indicator-application indicator-appmenu indicator-bluetooth indicator-common indicator-datetime indicator-keyboard indicator-messages indicator-network indicator-power indicator-printers indicator-session indicator-sound indicator-transfer indicator-transfer-download-manager. Note that removing them results in the removal of unity as well. With this fix in place the Top Icons extension is not required anymore either.
  • Status area horizontal spacing: As the name suggests, this extensions allows reducing the space between the icons on the top bar.
  • Panel OSD: Configuring where on the (main) screen notifications will appear, instead of just above the message tray.
Gnome top bar with extensions.

Shell extensions can be disabled using the Gnome tweak tool or you can delete the extension folder to get rid of them completely. Make sure to restart the sessions for changes to take effect.

Black screen after login issues

After the upgrade I intermittently ran into a black screen after logging in. After some research, it seems like this is an issue with the Nvidia drivers not being suppored on Wayland with Ubuntu 17.10 as explained here.

I followed the procedure as described in the thread above and reinstalled the nvidia drivers and that seemed to have eased the pain a bit. I still however noticed a black screen once in a while. I usually just suspend my laptop so I'm hoping that I don't get it again. Steps followed:

sudo apt purge 'nvidia-*'
sudo apt install linux-headers-$(uname -r)
sudo apt install nvidia-384

Use the following to check what type of session is running: echo $XDG_SESSION_TYPE

Missing extended battery information

Another item of note is the missing extended battery information in the top bar such as the estimate of battery time left. This information can be gotten by clicking on the battery icon and then expanding the battery information section. If you find this annoying as well please add in your voice here.

Useful Gnome shortcuts
  • Super - show the activity overview
  • Alt + F2 - run commands
  • Alt + Tab - switch between running applications
  • Super + A - show a list of frequently used applications
  • Super + M - show the notification tray
  • Super + Page Up, Super + Page Down - switch between workspaces
  • Ctrl + Alt + Delete - power off
  • Super + L - lock the screen
  • Ctrl + Super + D - minimize all the windows and show desktop
Manually suspend a laptop

To be able to manually suspend the laptop, hold the Alt key when the mouse is over the power button in the top bar menu. This will flip the power off icon to a "pause" icon.

Conclusion

So far so good, I'll keep this article updated if I find any solutions to my problems or more problems :)


HackerNews submission / discussion

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