Fedora 15 a.k.a. Lovelock, just released, hosts a lot of innovations packaged with it. One of the innovations is GNOME 3 desktop environment. There was a lot of fuss and discussions about the usability of GNOME 3 ranging for people calling it a crap in usability design to the best ever interface ever seen. My personal thought is that GNOME 3 might not appeal for GNOME 2.x users as it’s a complete shift from the previous UI, but gradually you’ll get around it. I’ve been trying out Fedora 15 since a few weeks (including the beta version of F15), and had quite a experience of what I liked and what I wanted to get changed around. Below is a list of what should be changed in Fedora/GNOME to make it more usable:
- Shutdown item not visible in user menu (you can get around by pressing [Alt] key).
- Hibernate item missing from the user menu.
- Adwaita Gnome-shell theme contains unnecessary padding.
- Gnote icon is displayed in the bottom panel than the top panel.
- Only close button is displayed on the window title bar.
- Today’s date is not displayed, instead just the time is displayed at the top panel.
- Network Manager applet does not have a option to disconnect from a connected resource, either it be wired or wireless.
There might be some others as well, but these are the one that were hindering the usability in my perspective. Discussed below are some of the tasks that will make your Fedora 15 machine more usable (disclaimer: you might have to install non-free software while following this post).
Configure SUDO access
On a Fedora machine you generally have a root user and a general user with no root privileges. Sudo is a mechanism that helps a user run commands and applications as a root user, or with root user’s privileges without logging-in as a root user. To set up a user with sudo access:
su - echo 'username ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD:ALL' >> /etc/sudoers exit
To run a command with sudo, just prefix the command with the keyword “sudo”. Example:
Set up RPM Fusion Repository
RPM Fusion provides software that the Fedora Project or Red Hat doesn’t want to ship. That software is provided as precompiled RPMs for all current Fedora versions and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5; you can use the RPM Fusion repositories with tools like yum and PackageKit. RPM Fusion hosts two yum repositories – free and nonfree. The “free” repository hosts RPM packages for free software and the nonfree contains RPM packages for non-free software. We’ll set up both the repositories, follow these steps:
sudo yum localinstall --nogpgcheck http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm
Install mp3 and essential media codecs
MP3 and some other non-free media codecs are not packaged with Fedora, but are available at the non-free repository of RPM Fusion. Given the popularity of those codecs/formats, you will certainly want to have it installed, else you can not play much of the media files. But still you have the freedom to choose to play media file with a open source compliant format. To install non-free and other related codecs:
sudo yum install gstreamer-plugins-good gstreamer-plugins-bad gstreamer-plugins-bad-free gstreamer-plugins-bad-nonfree gstreamer-plugins-ugly gstreamer-ffmpeg xvidcore
VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files as well as DVD, Audio CD, VCD, and various streaming protocols. It is some sort of universal media player. To install vlc:
sudo yum install vlc
Install plugins for file archiver for 7zip and rar
7z is the new archive format, providing high compression ratio and rar is one another popular format for compressing files. We can install plugins for both of these file formats for the file-roller utility. To install both the plugins:
sudo yum install p7zip p7zip-plugins unrar
Install Adwaita Improved theme for GNOME Shell
“Adwaita Improved” is just an improved version of the default GNOME 3 theme called Adwaita. Improvements include reduced the overuse of padding in combo boxes and the primary toolbar(breadcrumb Nautilus bar) and blended the sidebar colour into the background colour. To install this theme:
mkdir -p ~/.themes/ wget -t0 -c http://www.deviantart.com/download/206172213/gnome_3__adwaita_improved_by_half_left-d3eqzhx.zip unzip gnome_3__adwaita_improved_by_half_left-d3eqzhx.zip && rm -f COPYING mv Adwaita/ ~/.themes/
After you’ve copied the Adwaita Improved theme to the “~/.themes/” folder, press [Alt] + [F2], which will open up the run dialog, press [r] at the dialog and hit [Enter]. This will reload gnome shell.
Install Gnome Tweak Tool with required plugins/extension
Gnome Tweak Tool is a tool to customize advanced GNOME 3 options. It is very helpful to tweak some configurations which would otherwise involve changing gconf settings using a gconf-editor tool. The plugins we will install are as below:
- User Theme: This plugins lets you choose a gnome shell theme among those available at ~/.themes/.
- Alternative Status Menu: This gnome shell extension will display additional items (viz. PowerOff and Hibernate) in the user menu.
- Gnote: This gnome shell extension pulls up the gnote applet from the bottom panel to the notification area of the top panel, and hence is visible all the time.
To install gnome tweak tool:
sudo yum install gnome-tweak-tool gnome-shell-extensions-user-theme gnome-shell-extensions-alternative-status-menu wget -t0 -c http://www.fpmurphy.com/gnome-shell-extensions/gnote.tar.gz tar -zxvf gnote.tar.gz mkdir -p ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/ mv firstname.lastname@example.org/ ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/
After downloading and copying is done, reload gnome-shell by press [Alt]+[F2], pressing [r] followed by a [Enter] keystroke.
Tweak advanced GNOME settings
We will tweak the following GNOME settings to make the desktop environment more usable.
- Display date and time in the top panel instead of just time.
- Display minimize, maximize and close – all the three buttons in the window title bar.
Open Gnome tweak tool, on the left are various sections/categories of tweaks. Among them, click on Shell. Toggle the Show date in clock to “ON”. Set the value of the combo box for Arrangement of buttons on the titlebar to “All” to display all the three buttons in the window title bar. You might optionally need to reload gnome shell after making this changes.
Install other GNOME 3 themes
If you do not like the default theme that you get with Fedora 15 (which is Adwaita, with a few changes after you installed Adwaita Improved), you can install other Gnome shell themes as well. Two good repositories of Gnome shell themes are:
Download the theme that you want to use/test. Extract the archive (if it comes as zip or tar.bz2 bundle), and copy the folder to ~/.themes/. After copying, open the Gnome Tweak Tool, click on the Shell section at the left pane. Select the required theme from the Shell Theme drop down box on the right pane. You might need to restart Gnome shell.
Install Flash Plugin
Although HTML5 has gone a lot ahead, Flash based content is still dominant on the web today, and you would require a flash plugin for your browser to view the flash content. At this stage you have two options for the plugin:
- GNU Gnash: The GNU Flash movie player, which is a free software.
- Adobe Flash Plugin: A proprietary flash plugin from Adobe Inc., the developers/maintainer of Flash
To install the GNU Gnash flash player plugin:
sudo yum install gnash gnash-plugin
The Adobe Flash player plugin is currently packaged for 32 bit systems as a RPM package. To install 32 bit version of the player:
wget -t0 -c http://linuxdownload.adobe.com/adobe-release/adobe-release-i386-1.0-1.noarch.rpm sudo yum localinstall --nogpgcheck adobe-release-i386-1.0-1.noarch.rpm sudo yum install flash-plugin
A beta preview version of Adobe Flash player is available for 64 bit machines from Adobe Labs. To install the 64 bit version:
wget -t0 -c http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplayer10/flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz tar -zxvf flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz sudo mv libflashplayer.so /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/ sudo chmod 755 /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so cd /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/ sudo ln -s /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so
You will have to restart your browser if it’s already running.