A look at Ubuntu GNOME 13.10

With its final release being near at hand, I decided to have a look at the beta release of Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 to get a sense of what might be coming. A misstep along the way had me inadvertently download and install the 64-bit edition of 13.04 into a VirtualBox virtual machine. The intention to update that to its soon to be released successor was scuppered by instability so I never did get to try out an in situ upgrade to 13.10. What I had in mind was to issue the following command:

gksu update-manager -d

However, I found another one when considering how Ubuntu Server might be upgraded without the GUI application that is the Update Manager. To update to a development version, the following command is what you need:

sudo do-release-upgrade -d

To upgrade to a final release of of a new version of Ubuntu, drop the -d switch from the above to use the following:

sudo do-release-upgrade

There is one further option that isn’t recommended for moving between Ubuntu versions but I use it to get updates such as new kernel subversions that are released:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Rather than trying out the above, I downloaded the latest ISO image for the beta release of Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 and installed onto a VM that instead. Though it is the 32 bit version of the distro that is installed on my main home PC, it has been the 64 bit version that I have been trying. So far, that seems to be behaving itself even if it feels a little sluggish but that could be down to the four year old PC that hosts the virtual machine. For a while, I have been playing with the possibility of an upgrade involving an Intel Core i5 4670K CPU and 16 GB of RAM (useful for running multiple virtual machines at a time) along with any motherboard that supports those so looking at a 64 bit operating system has its uses.

The Linux kernel may be 3.11 but that is not my biggest concern. Neither is the fact that LibreOffice 4.1.2.3 was included and GIMP wasn’t, especially when that could be added easily anyway and it is version 2.8.6 that you get. The move to GNOME Shell 3.8 was what drew me to seeing what was coming because I have been depending on a number extensions. As with WordPress and plugins, GNOME Shell seems to have a tempestuous relationship with some of its extensions and I wanted to see which ones still worked. There also has been a change to the backstage application view in that you either get all installed applications displayed when you browse them or you have to start typing the name of the one you want to select it. Losing the categorical view that has been there until GNOME Shell 3.6 is a step backwards and I hope that version 3.10 has seen some sort of a reinstatement. There is a way to add these categories and the result is not as it once was either; also, it shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to dive into a systems innards to address things like this. With all the constant change, it is little wonder that Cinnamon has become a standalone entity with the release of its version 2.0 and that Debian’s toyed with not going with GNOME for its latest version (7.1 at the time of writing and it picked a good GNOME Shell version in 3.4).

Having had a look at other distribution that already have GNOME Shell 3.8, I knew that a few of my extensions worked with it. The list includes Frippery Bottom Panel, Frippery Move Clock, Places Status Indicator, Removable Drive Menu, Remove Rounded Corners (not really needed with the GNOME Shell theme that I use, Elementary Luna 3.4, but I retain it anyway), Show Desktop Button, User Themes and Ignore_Request_Hide_Titlebar. Because of the changes to the backstage view, I added Frippery Applications Menu in preference to Applications Menu because I have found that to be unstable. Useful new discoveries have included Curtains Up and GNOME Shell Open Terminal while Shell Restart User Menu Entry has made a return and found a use this time around too.

There have been some extensions that were not updated to work with GNOME Shell 3.8 that I have got working. In some cases, it was as simple as updating the metadata.json file for an extension with new version numbers of 3.8 and 3.84 to the list associated with the shell version property. All extensions are to be found in the .local/share/gnome-shell/extensions location in your home directory and each has a dedicated file containing the aforementioned file.

With others, it was a matter of looking in the Looking Glass (execute lg in the box that ALT + F2 brings up on your screen to access this) and seeing what error messages were to be found in there before attempting to correct these in either the extensions’ extension.js files or whatever JavaScript (*.js) file was causing the problem. With either or both of these remedies, I managed to port the four extensions below to GNOME Shell 3.8. In fact, you can download these zip files and install them yourself to see how you get on with them.

Advanced Settings in User Menu

Antisocial Menu

Remove App Menu

Restart Shell Entry

There is a Remove Panel App Menu that works with GNOME Shell 3.8 but I found that it got rid of the Places menu instead of the panel’s App Menu so I tried porting the older extension to see if it behaved itself and it does. With these in place, I have bent Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 to my will ahead of its final release next week and that includes customising Nautilus too. Other than a new version of GNOME Shell, it looks as if it will come with less in the way of drama and a breather like that is no bad thing given that personal computing continues to remain in a state of flux these days.

Another look at Drupal

Early on in the first year of this blog, I got to investigating the use of Drupal for creating an article-based subsite. In the end, the complexities of its HTML and CSS thwarted my attempts to harmonise the appearance of web pages with other parts of the same site and I discontinued my efforts. In the end, it was Textpattern that suited my needs and I have stuck with that for the aforementioned subsite. However, I recently spotted someone very obviously using Drupal in its out of the box state for a sort of blog (there is even an extension for importing WXR files containing content from a WordPress blog); they even hadn’t removed the Drupal logo. With my interest rekindled, I took another look for the sake of seeing where things have gone in the last few years. Well, first impressions are that it now looks like a blogging tool with greater menu control and the facility to define custom content types. There are plenty of nice themes around too though that highlights an idiosyncrasy in the sense that content editing is not fully integrated into the administration area where I’d expect it to be. The consequence of this situation is that pages, posts (or story as the content type is called) or any content types that you have defined yourself are created and edited with the front page theme controlling the appearance of the user interface. It is made even more striking when you use a different theme for the administration screens. That oddity aside, there is a lot to recommend Drupal though I’d try setting up a standalone site with it rather than attempting to shoehorn it as a part of an existing one like what I was trying when I last looked.

DePo Masthead

There is a place on WordPress.com where I share various odds and ends about public transport in the U.K. It’s called On Trains and Buses and I try not to go tinkering with the design side of things too much. You only have the ability to change the CSS and my previous experience of doing that with this edifice while it lived on there taught me not to expect too much even if there are sandbox themes for anyone to turn into something presentable, not that I really would want to go doing that in full view of everyone (doing if offline first and copying the CSS afterwards when it’s done is my preferred way of going about it). Besides, I wanted to see how WordPress.com fares these days anyway.

While my public transport blog just been around for a little over a year, it’s worn a few themes over that time, ranging from the minimalist The Journalist v1.9 and Vigilance through to Spring Reloaded. After the last of these, I am back to minimalist again with DePo Masthead, albeit with a spot of my own colouring to soften its feel a little. I must admit growing to like it but it came to my attention that it was a bespoke design from Derek Powazek that Automattic’s Noel Jackson turned into reality. The result would appear that you cannot get it anywhere but from the WordPress.com Subversion theme repository. For those not versed in the little bit of Subversion action that is needed to get it, I did it for you and put it all into a zip file without making any changes to the original, hoping that it might make life easier for someone.

Download DePo Masthead

Going mobile

Now that the mobile web is upon us, I have been wondering about making my various web presences more friendly for users of that platform and my interest has been piqued especially by the recent addition of such capability to WordPress.com. With that in mind, I grabbed the WordPress Mobile Edition plugin and set it to work, both on this blog and my outdoors one. Well, the results certainly seem to gain a seal of approval from mobiReady so that’s promising. It comes with a version of the Carrington Mobile theme but you need to pop that into the themes directory on your web server yourself for WordPress’ plugin installation routines won’t do that for you. It could be interesting to see how things go from here and the idea of creating my own theme while using the plugin for redirection honours sounds like a way forward;I have found the place where I can make any changes as needed. Home made variants of the methodology may find a use with my photo gallery and Textpattern sub-sites.