The latest version of the popular Ubuntu distribution of GNU/Linux was released a few days ago, version 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot.  I’ve been playing with this release of Ubuntu  for a week or so on an old notebook (Sony VGN-TX5XN) since a beta 2 release was available, and since release day on a Dell Zino HD desktop PC (dual boot with Windows 7).  This post is really a pointer to a few tweaks and mods I’ve done (mostly as a reminder to myself) which I found dotted around the internet  As usual, I found that the upgrades went well, though I decided to do a clean installation on the Sony, as I’d accumulated a whole pile of cruft.

Overall, I find the appearance and functionality of the (admittedly controversial) Unity desktop fabulous, and from being an unwilling user with Ubuntu 11.04 – I eventually returned to Gnome 2 – I find this iteration of Unity very usable.  Here’s a snapshot of my notebook’s desktop.  It’s using one of the stock desktop images and the default theme (I think it’s called Ambiance).

Ubuntu 11.10 Unity desktop (click for full size image)

You can see along the top panel a variety of indicators showing the status of some apps and other functions (Dropbox, UbuntuOne, weather etc).  The vertical panel on the left is the main panel of icons.  I’ve also kept Docky, as I don’t like the icon stacking effect when the main panel is full, and I find it similar to OS X, which I also use.

Default applications include the Thunderbird email client, Firefox web browser, and the Libre Office office suite.  The GIMP isn’t included in the default installation, but is easily available via the Ubuntu Software Centre.  Personally I quickly installed Synaptic, as I prefer that (or the command line) to the Software Centre.  The breadth of the software available from the software centre is impressive, particularly since most of it is free.  The software centre itself is bright, colourful and easy to search or browse, though it seems a bit slower to install software than Synaptic and especially the command line.

In both a fresh install (on the notebook) and the upgrade (on the desktop PC) I had absolutely no issues with hardware or peripherals, including the notebook’s wireless card.  Setting up network printers and scanners is quick and easy.  A basic Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet just worked.

Compiz Settings. If you’re an inveterate tinkerer and have extensively mucked about with compiz settings (as I had), you might find the Unity desktop is a bit oddly behaving.  This was certainly the case for my desktop PC.  These commands reset things so that Unity works.

gconftool –recursive-unset /apps/compiz-1
gconftool –recursive-unset /apps/compizconfig-1

Weather app. To add the weather app on the taskbar:

sudo apt-get install indicator-weather

It’s pretty obvious how to set this up…I decided to use Google, and it found my location pretty easily. Apart from saving you having to peer out of the window to see what the weather’s like, it supplies a four day forecast.

UbuntuOne app.  This plonks a notifier about the UbuntuOne status on the taskbar:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rye/ubuntuone-extras
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntuone-indicator

Sysmonitor. To put a system monitor on the taskbar:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexeftimie/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-sysmonitor

To install config tools:

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

If my old notebook had a bit more oomph, I’d be likely to be using Ubuntu as my main mobile OS.  As it is, my work and home desktop PCs both run Ubuntu, and it has crossed my mind once or twice whether to dual boot my MacBook Pro…