Optimum Ubuntuise

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You know what it's like when you install a virgin operating system, you need to spend a good hour tailoring it to your tastes. I've just installed Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid) onto a Toshiba Satellite Pro A300D which means there is a lot of brown and a default desktop background that looks like a coffee stain. Here is my list of things to configure to get the look just right for my tastes....

... and once finished, it should look as below:

My desktop

So, lets go to work...

Remove Bookmarks toolbar, import Bookmarks from saved file.

Samanata Font
For some reason I like Samanata however it disappeared a couple of releases ago. This means I have to download it and reinstall it on new builds (or just pick another font but then I do like to stick with what I know). It can be downloaded from here:

...and installation consists of extracting the TrueType Font (.ttf) file and placing it into ~/.fonts (which may need to be created if it doesn't already exist).

Appearance Prefs

Theme: Glider customised with ThinIce controls, Mist icons and DMZ (Black) pointer (I know it's white in the screenshot - I took that before doing this step!).
Fonts: Window title Samanata 9pt, Desktop Sans 8pt
Visual Effects: Whatever you can get away with using your graphics chipset! The more the merrier I think.

Desktop picture

Always nice to replace the brown desktops with something pretty from the likes of Desktop Nexus: If you're using Firefox you can simply right-click the picture you like and select Set As Desktop Background.

Gnome has an upper and lower panel by default which, in my opinion, eats up too much screen space. I like to cram the stuff I need into a single upper panel to maximise my application acres so....

Right click and delete lower panel;
Delete Help icon (the thing that looks like a rubber ring) from upper panel;
Add application launchers for tasks I commonly use - i.e. Terminal, Terminal Server Client, Deleted Items, Window List and Workspace Switcher;
Switch user name to user icon (next to Exit symbol) or remove exit symbol altogether and replace with lock screen and shutdown icons;
Set upper panel to semi-transparent;
Set five desktops in Workspace Switcher (I like to keep my apps separated - one desktop for mail, one for the web, one for files and office, one for remote desktop connections and one for IRC/Skype).

Yeah yeah. Anal I know.

Yuk - black text on white background. Bad for the eyes I reckon, I much prefer the retro Dumb Terminal CRT look so I change my default Terminal profile to the Green on Black built in scheme with semi transparent background and Monospace 9pt font.

I find I sometimes have DNS issues unless the following change is made (as root) to /etc/nsswitch.conf
change: files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns4
to: files dns mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] mdns4

Extras to install
I'm probably going to need these sooner or later so I may as well install them and their dependencies from the start using Synaptic:
build-essential, streamtuner, xmms2, xscreensaver-data-extra, irssi, conky, sun-java6-plugin, flashplugin-nonfree, vpnc, compizconfig-settings-manager, msttcorefonts

With compiz-config-settings-manager installed, open it from System / Preferences and set up Compiz according to tastes. For me that's wobbly windows and Desktop Cube enabled with Rotation.

I like BSOD (only available if you've installed xscreensaver-data-extra), although I'm currently using Memscroller which is set to kick in after ten minutes.

Mouse Prefs
I need to turn down the pointer sensitivity on this machine or I accidentally end up switching Desktops while moving my mouse.

Not strictly necessary - but very cool. A full guide on how I use conky is available from this page.

If only there was one single web browser that actually worked with all web sites. Some of the sites I need to visit during my working life refuse to work correctly with Firefox, the customer account administration sites of Vodafone and Ricoh being the main culprits for me as well as VNC access via Java. Fortunately Opera works with this stuff - although Opera doesn't work with some other sites (such as our Sharepoint intranet) so I end up having to run two web browsers. Opera isn't available in the Ubuntu repo's but it can be downloaded and installed with a couple of clicks. I also add the Opera launcher to the top panel and import my bookmarks

Like it or loathe it, I have to run Outlook 2007. Actually, I quite like Outlook and although Evolution makes a valiant attempt at being the WebDAV mail app of choice in Ubuntu, I just find it infuriatingly clunky and horribly ugly. My workplace uses Exchange and if I want all the functionality then I need to run the proper software. Fortunately I can do so for I have purchased a Crossover licence. Installation of Crossover and Office 2007 is next on the list for my standard laptop setup.

I don't know why I install this, I never use it.