Displaying items by tag: desktop
If you remember GNOME 2 fondly, the Mate Linux desktop will fulfill your need for nostalgia.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: When GNOME 3 was first released, many GNOME users were not ready to give up GNOME 2. The Mate (named after the yerba mate plant) project beganas an effort to continue the GNOME 2 desktop, at first using GTK 2 (the toolkit GNOME 2 was based upon) and later incorporating GTK 3. The desktop became wildly popular, due in no small partto Linux Mint's prompt adoption of it, and since then, it has become commonly available on Fedora, Ubuntu, Slackware, Arch, and many other Linux distributions. Today, Mate continues to deliver a traditional desktop environment that looks and feels exactly like GNOME 2 did, using the GTK 3 toolkit.
You may find Mate included in the software repository of your Linux distribution, or you can download and install a distribution that ships Mate as its default desktop. Before you do, though, be aware that it is meant to provide a full desktop experience, so many Mate apps are installed along with the desktop. If you're running a different desktop, you may find yourself with redundant applications (two PDF readers, two media players, two file managers, and so on). If you just want to try the Mate desktop, you can install a Mate-based distribution in a virtual machine, such as GNOME Boxes.
Mate desktop tour
The Mate project doesn't just evoke GNOME 2; it is GNOME 2. If you were a fan of the Linux desktop back in the mid-'00s, at the very least, you'll find Mate nostalgic. I was not a fan of GNOME 2 and tended to use KDE instead, but there's one place I can't imagine without GNOME 2: OpenSolaris. The OpenSolaris project didn't last long, coming to prominence when Ian Murdock joined Sun Microsystems just before it was subsumed by Oracle, but I was a low-level Solaris admin at the time and used OpenSolaris to teach myself more about that flavor of Unix. It was the only platform where I used GNOME 2 (because I didn't know how to change the desktop at first and then just got used to it), and today the OpenIndiana project, a community continuation of OpenSolaris, uses GNOME 2 by way of the Mate desktop.
Mate's layout consists of three menus in the top-left corner: Applications, Places, and System. The Applications menu provides quick access to all application launchers installed on the system. The Places menu provides quick access to common locations, such as your home directory, a network folder, and so on. The System menu contains global options, such as shutdown and suspend. In the upper-right corner is a system tray, and there's a taskbar and a virtual desktop pager at the bottom of the screen.
It's a slightly peculiar configuration, as far as desktop design goes. It borrows equal parts from earlier Linux desktops, the Mac Finder, and Windows, but creates a unique configuration that's intuitive and somehow familiar. Mate intentionally resists deviation from this model, and that's exactly the way its users prefer it.
Mate and open source
Mate is one of the most direct examples of how open source empowers developers to fight against a project's end of life. On paper, GNOME 2 was superseded by GNOME 3, yet it lives on because one developer forked the code and carried on. Momentum grew, more developers joined, and the desktop that users love is healthier than ever. Not all software gets a second chance at life, but the option is always there with open source, and it's always absent otherwise.
Using and supporting open source means supporting user and developer freedom. And the Mate desktop is a powerful example of what happens when it works.
Ubuntu or Debian in a chroot environment on any Chromebook model, without removing Chrome OS.
You can read more about Crouton and installing Ubuntu on a Chromebook using it in an article I posted a while back: Install Ubuntu Linux On Any Chromebook
Crouton used to have a target which allowed easy Cinnamon installation, but that's no longer available. Installing Cinnamon desktop on a Chromebook using Crouton is still possible, and this article guides you through this process.
Cinnamon installed on a Chromebook using Crouton (in Ubuntu 18.04)
Cinnamon is a desktop environment that's derived from Gnome 3 but using a traditional desktop layout, being the main desktop environment of the Linux Mint distribution. Since Crouton doesn't support Linux Mint, Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) will be used as the Linux distribution on top of which we'll install Cinnamon desktop.
Install Cinnamon on a Chromebook with Crouton (Ubuntu 18.04)
Note: if you close tab in which you run the commands below, remember to type shell after pressing Ctrl + Alt + T or else the commands won't work (you need to type shell if the prompt looks like this: crosh>).
This article assumes you've already switched your Chromebook to developer mode and you've downloaded Crouton in your Chromebook's Downloads folder.
1. Install some basic Crouton targets in a new Cinnamon chroot using bionic (Ubuntu 18.04) as the Ubuntu version.
In Chrome OS press Ctrl + Alt + T to open the crosh shell as a new tab in Chrome, then type:
Now use the following command to create a Cinnamon chroot and install the core, cli-extra, xorg, keyboard, audio and extension targets for Ubuntu 18.04 (bionic):
sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -n cinnamon -r bionic -t core,cli-extra,xorg,keyboard,audio,extension
You can skip the keyboard, audio and extension targets but you may need them in the future (you can add them later on though).
We're using bionic because it has a more up to date Cinnamon version. It's still not the latest version though, but you could use a PPA to install an even newer version. But for this guide we'll stick to the Cinnamon version provided by Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver. The default Crouton target uses Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial Xerus), which has Cinnamon 2.8.6, released back in 2015.
2. Install Cinnamon in the new "cinnamon" chroot
Use this command to enter the cinnamon chroot created in step 1:
sudo enter-chroot -n cinnamon
And now type the following command to install the Cinnamon desktop and dbus-x11:
sudo apt install cinnamon dbus-x11 xterm
It may take quite a while until Cinnamon is installed, so go grab a cup of coffee... or two. You could also install the complete Cinnamon desktop, as available in the Ubuntu 18.04 repositories (this does not work if you use a PPA), by installing the cinnamon-desktop-environment package, but that will result in a very long installation time and a lot of extra packages being installed.
It's important to mention that installing dbus-x11 is very important - without it, you'll see an error when trying to start Cinnamon, which says "Could not connect to session bus: usr/bin/dbus-launch terminated abnormally without any error message".
Also, the command installs XTerm because the Gnome Terminal app that's installed with Cinnamon doesn't start. So later on when you want to launch a terminal your Cinnamon desktop, launch XTerm instead of Gnome Terminal. You can also install Tilix or some other terminal emulator.
3. Setting up a script to start Cinnamon
Assuming you're still in the Cinnamon chroot (if not, type sudo enter-chroot -n cinnamon), type the following:
echo "exec cinnamon-session" > ~/.xinitrc
Next, while still being in the chroot, use this command to download a script that starts Cinnamon (you can inspect it here) in the Downloads folder, and make it executable:
chmod +x startcinnamon
And exit the chroot:
Now in Chrome OS, use this command to copy the startcinnamon script to /usr/local/bin:
sudo cp ~/Downloads/startcinnamon /usr/local/bin/
The Downloads folder is shared between Chrome OS and the chroot, that's why you can copy the startcinnamon script on Chrome OS, even though it was downloaded in the Cinnamon chroot. We've downloaded it by using the chroot so we cam use wget.
The Cinnamon start instructions are based on Tenn1518's crouton-cinnamon repo.
4. Starting Cinnamon
Now you can start Cinnamon by typing:
If you've closed the tab from your Chrome OS browser, open a new crosh tab by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T, type shell, followed by sudo startcinnamon on a new line. This is how you'll start Cinnamon from now on.
Switch between Chrome OS and Cinnamon by using Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Back and Ctrl + Alt + Shift + Forward. This way you switch between Ubuntu / Cinnamon and Chrome OS without exiting Ubuntu.
To exit Cinnamon / Ubuntu, log out from the menu present on the Cinnamon panel.
Tweaking Cinnamon running on a Chromebook with Crouton
1. Installing some basic applications
Cinnamon is pretty bare-bone when installed on a Chromebook. You get Nemo, the default Cinnamon file manager, but quite a few essential applications are missing.
Let's install some important applications. Start Cinnamon, open XTerm (or some other terminal emulator that you've installed, but not Gnome Terminal because, like I explained above, it doesn't start) and use this command to install Ubuntu Software Center (Gnome Software), a graphical text editor (Gedit), a command line text editor (nano), image viewer (Eye of Gnome), video player (VLC), Gnome System Monitor (for viewing CPU/memory usage, etc.) and software-properties-common (so you can add PPA repositories):
sudo apt install gnome-software gedit nano eog vlc gnome-system-monitor software-properties-common
It's worth noting that Cinnamon now uses its own fork of some Gnome applications, but those are not available in the Ubuntu repositories (except Nemo file manager).
You won't be able to launch the Software application, used to install additional software, from the Cinnamon menu. Instead, open a terminal and launch it using this command:
sudo -H gnome-software
If the application doesn't list applications, try to restart Cinnamon. On my Cinnamon Crouton installation, Gnome Software doesn't show any applications on its homepage, but the category pages do list applications, and the search works as well.
Gnome Software app
You can use Gnome Software to install "traditional" DEB packages from the Ubuntu repositories or from PPA repositories, but it can be used to install Snap or Flatpak packages. Such packages can't be currently installed if you're using Crouton.
There's also an alternative. You can use Synaptic as a graphical tool to install additional software. You can install it using:
sudo apt install synaptic
Synaptic too must be started from a terminal, like this:
sudo -H synaptic
2. Install and use some extra themes
Default theme used after a bare-bone Cinnamon installation in Ubuntu 18.04:
Cinnamon running on a Chromebook, using Numix GTK theme (for window borders and controls) and Moka icon theme:
If you don't like the default applications and icon theme, you can install some more. This commands installs a couple of Gtk as well as icon themes:
sudo apt install numix-gtk-theme greybird-gtk-theme suru-icon-theme moka-icon-theme
You can now use one of these themes by going to the menu > System Settings > Themes, and changing the Window borders, Controls and Icon themes.
How to uninstall (delete) Cinnamon from your Chromebook
Now you can use the command that follows to delete the Cinnamon chroot (assuming you used the "cinnamon" chroot name, as used in the instructions from this article):
sudo delete-chroot cinnamon
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