Tweaking Ubuntu’s desktop

I bailed on DesktopBSD a couple of weeks ago when the new Ubuntu Edgy Eft came out. Installed as the lone OS on my laptop it is now set-up and doing all the things I use it for.

Changing the video driver to use the official one (fglrx) from ATI rather than the open source (radeon) one was simple and effective, although it must be said that the open source radeon driver seems light years in front of the equivalent nv driver for Nvidia cards. With Nvidia cards you basicly have no choice but to use the proprietary one to get decent performance.

I still can’t seem to get Ubuntu to detect and use my wireless card, a dodgy Netgear PCMCIA WG511v2 that is made in China, using approved methods. Getting Ndiswrapper going was simple enough, but NetworkManager still doesn’t recognise that I have a working Internet connection, despite the fact Gnome itself is happy to.

I got DVD playback happening with Ogle as Totem didn’t want to play ball. Totem is happy playing back my DivX files and mp3’s though. I considered Amarok but it’s QT look jarred with the smooth GTK appearance of all my other programs. So instead Rhythmbox gets a start again as music jukebox and is working fine.

Gaim is set-up, working with my MSN, yahoo, ICQ and googletalk accounts. And pleasantly the weather is displayed in the task bar. My wallpaper is this shot from Canberra’s Telstra Tower that I found on Wikipedia.

Wallpaper thumbnail

One thing that was frustrating me was the placement of the tool bars. In Gnome, by default there is a bar across the top of the screen for start menu, quick launch bar and task bar. There is also a bar across the bottom of the screen that shows a window list, workspace switcher and minimize all. This arrangement works fine on my 1280×1024 CRT monitor, but takes up too much screen real estate on my 14 inch wide-screen laptop.

The solution I’ve come up with should look familiar to many Mac OS users. I have consolidated the two bars into the one at top of screen and removed the quick launch bar. This puts space at a bit of a premium, but I am coping. I installed gdesklets and have configured its starterbar which looks a lot like the Apple dock. It looks and works quite well now.

I’m still working on getting the PPTP VPN connection to my work going, but other than that I think the system is very usable and definitely able to replace XP for daily use.

One Reply to “Tweaking Ubuntu’s desktop”

  1. Intersting comment you make Dan about Ubuntu and a wireless card – my brother is having similar results (ergo: it don’t work!) with Ubuntu and a Minitar wireless card that I know works toot sweet with Windoze.

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