Setting up Xubuntu after installation

Here’s how I like to set up my Xubuntu installation.

1. Display settings

By pressing Ctrl+Esc I open the Display control panel and set up my dual-screen setup:

Click the image to see it bigger

2. Moving the panel

If the Panel is in a wrong monitor, right-click the Panel, go to Panel > Panel Preferences, Uncheck ‘Lock panel’ and set Mode to Automatic, then just grab the small handle near the Whisker Menu icon and drag the panel to the monitor you like. And then lock the Panel again:

3. Distro update

Then I update the distro and restart the computer.

I have had times when the update is extremely slow. I managed to fix that by going with browser to address 192.168.0.1 (can be 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.10 or something else) or the settings of the Internet router and restarting it. Other way to restart it is to take its power plug out of the wall, putting it back in and waiting a minute or two.

4. More updates…

After that, more updates. This time from the Software application.

5. NVIDIA drivers

  • Open Additional Drivers
  • Check the latest driver
  • Apply changes
  • Restart the computer again

6. Configure Thunar file manager

  • Press Super+F to open the Thunar file manager
  • Right-click and uncheck all the cluttering partition and network shortcuts from the Side Pane
  • I also right-click and send shortcuts of the mounted work and storage partitions to the Side Pane
Click the image to see it bigger

However, I later discovered the hiddened partitions are still visible when I save an image from GIMP, for example.

So, I decided to:

  • Install Disks from the Software application
  • Press Super+T to launch Terminal
  • Type sudo gnome-disks to launch Disks with root privileges
  • Click the settings cogwheel for a partition and select “Edit Mount Options…”
  • Put “Automatic Mount Options” to off
  • Uncheck “Mount at startup”
  • Uncheck “Show in user interface”
  • Repeat this for all the other drives that don’t need to be visible
  • For the /work and /storage partitions I checked “Show in user interface” and in the Thunar file manager I removed the normal bookmarks of them that I had just added

In Thunar file manager preferences, I make it to show files and folders in details view by default.

Thunar after I checked “Show in user interface” for the /work and /storage partitions in gnome-disks

7. Blender

After software update and installing Blender from the Software application, a reboot was needed to be able to open Blender from the Whisker menu (Ctrl+Esc). However, it is quite an old version and doesn’t have CUDA available in the settings.

Installing Blender from Software

However, if you download Blender from their website, uncompress the file and launch Blender, it has CUDA available. Like I explain in this article.

After installing nvidia-cuda-toolkit, though, the CUDA is also available in the Blender that’s installed via the Software application.

To install the toolkit, Super+T (Windows-key+T) to open the Terminal, then:

# Install nvidia-cuda-toolkit (you can use Tab to autocomplete the command as you're typing):
sudo apt install nvidia-cuda-toolkit
Installing NVIDIA CUDA Toolkit

After that, CUDA should be available.

When you render with GPU the first time, though, it takes about 2 min 43 sec (I timed) to load a the render kernels, before the rendering starts. But after that, the rendering starts instantly from there on.

8. Updating the installed Blender

To update the installed Blender to the latest version, use a PPA. Open Terminal, then copy-paste the following into it (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+Shift+V):

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:thomas-schiex/blender && sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y blender

When new versions of Blender are released, this Blender will update automatically with the Xubuntu’s updates (that we run earlier in the section 2 of this article). Xubuntu bugs you every once in a while that new updates have been released.

More apps you can install from PPAs: I wrote an article about that.

9. Dropbox

After Dropbox installation the indicator icon in the panel (application tray) didn’t seem to work correctly.

This piece of advice solved the problem for me. I made a small shell script out of it (in Terminal). It waits 10 seconds and then runs that command when you log into Xubuntu, which worked nicely:

# Make ~/Scripts/Dropbox folder:
mkdir -p ~/Scripts/Dropbox
# Make the Shell script:
mousepad ~/Scripts/Dropbox/dropbox_startup.sh
# Insert the following inside it:
sleep 10s && dropbox stop && dbus-launch dropbox start
# Save and close

Then, open Session and Startup and add a new item. Call it Dropbox startup and put the following command for it (but replace the /home/mj with your own home folder path):

sh /home/mj/Scripts/Dropbox/dropbox_startup.sh

10. Numix Circle icon theme

I install the Numix icon theme with a command:

# Install the Numix icon theme:
sudo apt-add-repository -y ppa:numix/ppa && sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y numix-icon-theme-circle

Then I go to Appearance and change the icon theme to Numix Circle. In the same place in the Style tab I also like to put on the style Numix — And I also open Window Manager application and set the Style to Numix.

Changing the icon theme to Numix Circle

11. Easystroke

Easystroke gesture recognition tool in use

Then, I install the Easystroke gesture recognition tool. I have detailed instructions about it in this article.

# Install Easystroke:
sudo apt install easystroke

12. Xfdashboard or the Exposé feature

Xfdashboard running

Xfdashboard is a GNOME Shell overview or Mac OS X Exposé type of task switcher, which also works nicely with Easystroke. Xfdashboard is not as nicely animated and sleek as its cousins, but since Xfce is all about speed and lightness, it’s quite okay.

# Install xfdashboard:
sudo apt install xfdashboard

After install, search (Ctrl + Esc) for xfdashboard settings in order to configure it. I like to check the Enable workaround for minimized windows in order to have the contents of the hidden window captured and visible in it.

Run (Alt+F2) or map it to Easystroke with the command xfdashboard.

Mapping xfdashboard to Easystroke

13. Other Xubuntu tweaks

I like to use Super-key (Windows-key) instead of Alt for moving and resizing windows with mouse. That is, hold down Super-key and use left mouse button to move and right mouse button to resize application windows. I rarely resize any windows by grabbing their corner.

Setting up some keyboard shortcuts

In Keyboard, I also like to use Super+Space to open up the Whisker menu instead of Ctrl+Esc:

In Keyboard Behavior tab, I also like to put Repeat delay to 300 and Repeat speed to 30

Tiling application windows via keyboard shortcuts

In Windows 7 there’s this handy feature where you can hold down the Windows-key (Super-key) and press left and right arrows to resize and tile an application window (like the browser) to half a screen. There is a way to do this and even more in Xubuntu, just add keyboard shortcuts for them, I like to use all the number keys of numpad for this (you may need to keep your Numlock on or off while doing this):

Moving a window to another monitor via a keyboard shortcut

I found this a bit hacky way to do this. A scripth can be fetched and put in use with a single command in Terminal:

# Install xdotool and wmctrl, make directory ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/, download move-to-next-monitor script into it, rename it to have a Shell script .sh extension, make it executable:
sudo apt install -y xdotool && sudo apt install -y wmctrl && mkdir -p ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/ && wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/jc00ke/move-to-next-monitor/master/move-to-next-monitor -P ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/ && sudo mv ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/move-to-next-monitor ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/move-to-next-monitor.sh && sudo chmod +x ~/Scripts/Xubuntu/move-to-next-monitor.sh
It’s a good habit of using a bit of caution with commands like these. It might make sense to check what the script https://raw.githubusercontent.com/jc00ke/move-to-next-monitor/master/move-to-next-monitor has inside it before running the command.

Then, I made these two identical shortcuts for running it:

It works quite fiddly for me, but at least it transports the window to the other monitor eventually, and then I can easily use the Super-key+Numpad window tiling options for that window on that monitor.

Panel clock custom format

For the clock in the panel (top-right corner) I like to use a custom format (the way I name my project folders). Right-click it, select Properties and put this into the format field:

%Y-%m-%d - %H:%M

Symbolic link for fonts folder

I store a sizeable collection of fonts in my Dropbox folder. After installing a new distro, it’s easy to just drag the fonts folder into ~/.fonts/ by holding Ctrl+Shift in order to make a symbolic link out of it. After that the fonts will appear to applications like Gimp, Inkscape and Krita.

If there is no .fonts folder in your home folder, make one.

The folders and files starting with a dot are hidden files you can’t see normally. Press Ctrl+H to toggle them visible or invisible.

Making a symbolic link by holding Ctrl+Shift and dragging

I like to make symbolic links also for Blender settings and other that type of stuff:

Making a symbolic link by holding Ctrl+Shift and dragging. Image taken in Manjaro XFCE Linux distribution

More about hidden files and folders

Like mentioned above, the folders and files starting with a dot are hidden and you can’t see them normally. Press Ctrl+H to toggle them visible or invisible. However, sometimes there are files you can’t rename to have the dot and are annoyingly visible, like system files and folders in the root of partitions.

For example, a folder called lost+found (although in Xubuntu’s Thunar file manager the lost+found is automatically hidden) or Windows files (these files often appear into shared NTFS formatted partitions after using them with Windows) like msdownld.tmp, $RECYCLE.BIN, System Volume Information, rescue, pagefile.sys.

You can hide them by making a text file called .hidden and add the names of what you want to hide inside the text file (make sure there are no extra spaces, otherwise this doesn’t work):

msdownld.tmp
$RECYCLE.BIN
System Volume Information
rescue
pagefile.sys

Then, save and close the .hidden file, restart the file manager (close all file manager windows, open again).

And so, after hitting Ctrl+H, the file manager is clean of useless files!

Updates will follow

Later I will update more things into this article about how I keep setting up Xubuntu. Cheers!