Posts Tagged ‘ubuntu’

Fixing Matlab errors in Ubuntu 12.10

I recently installed Ubuntu 12.10 in my system and found that the upgrade a lot of my system. A reasonable number of fixes were simple but some of them were very annoying. In this post I just wanted to discuss two specific errors I faced and how to fix them.

I use the student version of Matlab (32 bit) on a 64 bit machine. As part of upgrade to Ubuntu 12.10 , the installer removed multiple 32 bit files which caused the issue. When I tried to run Matlab , I got the following errors :

~/matlab/bin/matlab: 1: ~/matlab/bin/util/oscheck.sh: /lib/libc.so.6: not found

~/matlab/bin/glnx86/MATLAB: error while loading shared libraries: libXpm.so.4: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

The first error is mostly harmless – I will describe how to fix it later in the blog post. Fixing the first error needed to install 386 (32bit) version of few packages. Of course, fixing one exposed the next error and so on. In the interest of time, I will put all the packages in the single command.

sudo apt-get install libxpm4:i386 libxmu6:i386 libxp6:i386

Running the above command worked and allowed Matlab to run. However, I then faced another issue – when I tried to save a plot, it was failing again with the following error : (fixing first caused the second)

MATLAB:dispatcher:loadLibrary Can’t load ‘~/matlab/bin/glnx86/libmwdastudio.so’: libXfixes.so.3: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory.
??? Error while evaluating uipushtool ClickedCallback

MATLAB:dispatcher:loadLibrary Can’t load ‘~/matlab/bin/glnx86/libmwdastudio.so’: libGLU.so.1: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory.
??? Error while evaluating uipushtool ClickedCallback


To fix this, run the following command :

sudo apt-get install libxfixes3:i386 libglu1-mesa:i386

Finally, to fix the innocuous error :

~matlab/bin/matlab: 1: /home/neo/gLingua/matlab/bin/util/oscheck.sh: /lib/libc.so.6: not found

do the following :

sudo ln -s /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc-2.15.so /lib/libc.so.6

Of course, make sure the libc-2.xx.so version is the correct one before running this command.


Hope this post helped !

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I have been a happy Amazon Prime customer for the last couple of years. One of the biggest perks of using it the availability of large number of videos available for instantly watching. Infact, I watched almost all episodes of Star Trek (TOS to Voyager) using this method.

Sometime in the second or third week of January, this method broke down. Whenever, I tried to play the episodes of Voyager, I got an error in Flash player. Basically, it will open a dialog box saying ‘Updating Player’ which will soon error out saying "an error occurred and your player could not be updated”. If you retry, it will get stuck with ‘Updating Player’ .

I was using Ubuntu 11.10 on a 64 bit machine. I tried lot of things and nothing really worked. I installed and reinstalled Adobe Flash plugin and other codecs and basically made a mess of my system. Finally, I found a simple solution in Amazon Instant Video forum in an unrelated thread. The link is here . The solution is very simple . Install hal and libhal1 package for your distro. If you are using Ubuntu, the command is

sudo apt-get install libhal1 hal


Few of my friends also had this issue and installing these packages seems to fix the issue. Unfortunately, this useful tip seems buried under other  noise and hence I decided to put a separate blog post. If this did not fix the issue I recommend looking at Adobe’s Problems playing protected video content on 64-bit Ubuntu Linux page. This has some additional information on making flash work.

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In this post , I assume that you use Ubuntu (with English) and want to use it to read or write Tamil stuff. Hence , I discuss steps to view Tamil web pages and also edit files in Tamil. This post will not tell you how to get a localized Tamil version of Ubuntu.

Reading Web Pages in Tamil

This is the most common requirement. You have Ubuntu and you want to visit and read , say, Tamil newspapers or blog posts. To do that install the following packages :

sudo apt-get install language-support-fonts-ta ttf-tamil-fonts ttf-indic-fonts-core

These three packages should solve the problem of Tamil fonts from multiple websites. ttf-indic-fonts-core  adds some popular Tamil fonts (in addition to other fonts for Indian languages) and ttf-tamil-fonts adds some more additional Tamil fonts.

Writing in Tamil

Writing in Tamil is done by adding Tamil keyboard layout to Ubuntu. If you are in a version before Natty (11.04), then use “System -> Preferences –> Keyboard” . If you are using Natty, then click on the power icon on the right hand top of the screen and select “System Settings”. In the settings dialog, choose Hardware tab and then select Keyboard. This will open up keyboard preferences menu.

Select the “Layouts” tab and click on Add . In the “Choose a Layout” dialog, go to the Language tab and select Tamil as the language. Choose your preferred variant . I have chosen “India Tamil Unicode”.  Click “Add” to add the language.

If you notice, the top panel will automatically get the keyboard layout indicator which highlights the currently selected language. This selection is application specific . For eg, if you selected Tamil when typing in gedit and then went to say LibreOffice, you will be typing in your default language in LibreOffice. Initially this behavior is a bit confusing, but usually makes lot of sense in practice.

In the Layouts tab, click on Options and set an appropriate key combination in the entry “Key(s) to change layout”.  I use “Shift+Caps Lock”. This is useful as otherwise , you need to key toggling in the keyboard indicator. If you are keyboard person, this is the best way to switch over all the languages in your layout. If there are multiple, then pressing “Shift+Caps Lock” cycles through your choices. The keyboard applet/indicator will change appropriately.

Unfortunately, most Tamil keyboard layouts are not mnemonic based and it takes quite a while to get used to. But once it starts working, it’s a great liberating feeling to type in another languages.

Using Tamil

Since Linux has a great internationalization support, you can use Tamil for other purposes also. For eg, I use Tamil to name folders ! Or sometimes even write some personal stuff 🙂 . Most applications including Nautilus has multilingual support and things should seamlessly !

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R is one of the coolest language designed and I am having lot of fun using it. It has become my preferred language of programming next only to Python. If you are also using Ubuntu, the rate of update of R in Ubuntu’s official repositories is slightly slow. If you want to get the latest packages as soon as possible, then the best option is to add some CRAN mirror to your Ubuntu repository. This by itself is straightforward. I decided to write this post on how to solve the GPG error if you get it.


(1) Decide on which CRAN repository you want to use. Finding the nearest one usually gives the best speed. Lets say it is http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/ . Append "bin/linux/ubuntu". Typically this works. You can confirm this by going to this url in the browser too.
(2) Add this to your Ubuntu repository. There are multiple ways. In the steps, below, replace http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/bin/linux/ubuntu with your mirror

(a) Synaptic -> Settings -> Repositories -> Other Software -> Add . In the apt line enter "deb http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/bin/linux/ubuntu natty/".
(b) sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list and add "deb http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/bin/linux/ubuntu natty/" at the end. If you are not comfortable with vim, use gedit but instead of sudo , used gksudo.
(c)sudo add-apt-repository deb http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu/bin/linux/ubuntu natty/


(3) Refresh the source repository by using refresh in Synaptic or using  "sudo apt-get update "
(4) Install R or any other package you want. If you are installing R , I suggest you install r-base-dev instead of r-base. If you are installing some R package , check if it exists with the name r-cran-* . Else, install it using install.packages command inside R.
(5) Enjoy 🙂

Fixing GPG Errors

When I did these steps, I got an error like the following (This occurred when I updated last month, this might be fixed now !):

GPG error: http://cran.cnr.berkeley.edu natty/ Release: The following signatures couldn’t be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 51716619E084DAB9

If you get the error, enter the following commands in the terminal.

     gpg –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv-key E084DAB9
     gpg -a –export E084DAB9 | sudo apt-key add –

Repeat the steps above and this should fix the key error.

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Hamster is one of my favorite apps in Linux. I use it so much that I had previously written a post on it at Time Tracking in Linux using Hamster. One of the problems, I faced when I installed Natty was that it does away with the notification area (or systray). This means that the hamster applet will not be loaded in the panel automatically.

In the Launchpad, there exists a bug that discusses ways to add indicator support to Hamster. The author of Hamster has indicated that ,for now, he is not going to write a version for GNOME 3.0 (using GNOME Shell). I took a look at the code and it seems interesting – although I am not fully familiar with hamster graphics methods. If Unity support is not built into hamster in the near future, I will take a stab at it. In this article, I discuss some workarounds to still use Hamster in Ubuntu Unity or GNOME Shell  . They range from the easiest to hardest.

Method 1

If you are using Ubuntu Unity, the best alternative is to use the hamster version developed by Alberto Milone. The description of his work is this page – Appindicator for Hamster . Basically, he created a child class of HamsterApplet which has appindicator support. Pretty neat ! I browsed through the code and it seems straightforward. Hopefully, it will go into the upstream.

The instructions to use it are given in the linked page. Basically, you download the python code from hamster-appindicator’s github page. If you do not know how to use git , then just download the raw Python file . Put it in some folder and invoke it as "python hamster-indicator.py &". You can also add it to your Ubuntu startup applications !

Method 2

Since hamster applet is nothing but a Python app, you can technically invoke it as a standalone application instead of an applet. Most of the time, the utility must be in your path. You can invoke it as "hamster-time-tracker &" (or "python /usr/bin/hamster-time-tracker &") and by default, it will open a new stand alone window for the tracker. One thing to notice is that, this view does not have the "Add earlier activity" button. So this is only useful , if you want to add tasks starting now. Or you can muck around with Hamster’s use of negative time (-x a@b,c means I have been doing activity a of category b with description c for the last x minutes).

If you want to add earlier activities, invoke hamster as ,

    hamster-time-tracker toggle

  There are other options also. The entire list is overview|statistics|edit|preferences|about|toggle . The overview mode opens the "Overview" window that allows you to browse your activities for this week/month etc. The statistics mode shows a chart of your activities. The edit mode opens a new window that usually shows up when you click on "Add new activity". It allows you to enter activity,category, description, tags starting at arbitrary time.

The only catch is that it does not always visible and hence you might forget that it even exists ! If you are not as absent minded, then this is the best way to go (especially in GNOME 3.0 or GNOME Shell).

Method 3

Use this method, if none of the above works. This is only for masochistic hardcore geeks. The basic idea is to use the hamster-service that runs in the background and use the hamster’s command line utility. Just invoking the command line tool "hamster-cli" will give you a list of options. They are :

(1) list-activities : You can invoke this option to list all the activities and their respective categories. The format of output is activity@category . This is useful if you want to add a category using command line. The invocation is
    hamster-cli list-activities
(2) list-categories : This will show a list of all available categories. Usually this is superfluos as list-activities gives you the categories also.
(3) stop : This stops the task that is currently being tracked by hamster.
(4) list : This , by default(without arguments) , shows all the activities tracked for today. You can also give hh:mm-hh:mm option to display activities between specific time.

    hamster-cli list
    hamster-cli list 00:00-12:00

The first shows all of today’s tracked tasks while the second shows till 12 PM.

(5) start : The most important switch. This allows you to add a new activity – This can start now or at an earlier time. The format of entry is to give a activity with its category, optionally start time and description.

Currently, you cannot add new category or activity types using hamster-cli. You can only add/track a task using existing activity/category. If you want to add new activity/category use "hamster-time-tracker preferences" command to open Hamster’s preferences dialog which will allow you to do that .

    hamster-cli start "Blogging@Blogging"
    hamster-cli start "Blogging@Blogging,Hamster Post" 19:00-21:00
    hamster-cli start "Blogging@Blogging,Hamster Post" -00:40:00

The first invocation starts a new ongoing task of activity type Blogging and category type "Blogging" (after the @). The second invocation adds an earlier task of blogging between 7-9 PM. The third invocation starts a new task of blogging that started 40 minutes ago and still ongoing.

Hamster allows a more sophisticated time specification mechanism for start. I will put the details verbatim from the help of hamster-cli.

Time formats:
    * ‘YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss’: Absolute time. Defaulting to 0 for the time
            values missing, and current day for date values.
            E.g. (considering 2010-03-09 16:30:20 as current date, time):
                2010-03 13:15:40 is 2010-03-09 13:15:40
                2010-03-09 13:15 is 2010-03-09 13:15:00
                2010-03-09 13    is 2010-03-09 00:13:00
                2010-02 13:15:40 is 2010-02-09 13:15:40
                13:20            is 2010-03-09 13:20:00
                20               is 2010-03-09 00:20:00
    * ‘-hh:mm:ss’: Relative time. From the current date and time. Defaulting
            to 0 for the time values missing, same as in absolute time.

To see other information, type "hamster-cli" without any arguments in the command line. It will show a helpful list of commands.

Method 4

One of the comments in the Launchpad asked for Hamster to behave like a docky helper. If thats your thing, follow the instructions at  this page . I have not personally tried it but hopefuly it will work.

Method 5

This is something I tried but did not work. Basically, I tried to add hamster to the whitelist of applications that are allowed to use notification area in Unity. You can find the details of how to enable any application to use systray at this askubuntu question.

I tried entering various incantations like hamster,Hamster,Time Tracker,hamster-time-tracker, hamster-tracker and so on. Somehow none of these worked. If anyone got it to work please let me know in the commands.


In conclusion, Hamster is one of the coolest apps in Linux and this post discusses some workaround for using it in Unity or GNOME 3.0 /GNOME Shell. Hopefully, indicator support will be built in the upstream itself soon. Have fun with Hamster !

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In this post, I plan to talk about Ubuntu Unity. There has been hundreds of post on Unity . I will try to refrain from posting yet another Unity review. I assume that by choice or force, you are currently a Unity user. I plan to discuss how to make your life more productive by mastering it. So I will discuss various shortcuts, configurations and other cool stuff that I found in my 3 months(From Mar 2011) of active usage. Hence, this post will be slightly more technical. If you want an introductory post/review on Unity, check out the exceptional post by Ryan Paul here   .


Unity has been one of the most controversial products released recently and the reaction has been surprisingly polarized. Lot of people hate it and lot of people love it. Whatever be your position, it is a good idea to learn to use the Unity paradigm because this is the direction that most of Linux community is moving. For eg, GNOME Shell, which is another popular alternative for Unity , also has similar design vision. So, it is safe to say Unity is a harbinger of a potential UI revolution in Linux. Whether this will cause more users to come to Linux is yet another matter 🙂


Before we discuss about Unity, I think it is a good idea to give an orientation of various Unity components. This will help you when you read other posts or when you ask questions in some forums.

Unity :  Unity is nothing but a desktop “shell” to GNOME. GNOME Shell is yet another alternative. One of the key things to understand is that Unity was designed as lightweight shell as it was focused towards netbooks running Ubuntu. Understanding this will provide an appreciation of Unity’s design decisions. Since  it is targeted towards netbooks, it tries to conserve screen space as much as possible. Unity was ported to desktop in Natty. It is internally written as plugin for Compiz.

Ayatana : This is another name that you will come across. Ayatana can be considered as an umbrella project primarily focusing on UI and design stuff in Ubuntu. Some of the notable projects are Unity, Unity 2D,  MultiTouch, App indicators, Me-Menu and Notify OSD. See their launchpad page for more of the projects they run.

Unity-2D : Unity 2D can be considered as poor man’s Unity.  If your computer does not have the necessary hardware capabilities to run Unity, Unity-2D will act as the fallback. In Natty, the classic GNOME was provided as the fallback. Starting from Oneiric, Unity-2D will be the fallback. It is primarily written in QML and uses Metacity. Even Unity-2D replaces panel, launcher and other stuff.

Mutter , Clutter , Compiz and other stuff : Unity is primarily written as a plugin for Compiz window manager. The toolkit uses in Nux which is claimed to be faster than Clutter. Nux acts as an interface between Compiz and Unity. GNOME Shell uses Mutter (Metacity Clutter) as the window manager. Metacity is yet another window manager used in GNOME 2.2+ . Clutter is the toolkit. Both Nux and Clutter are opengl toolkits that provide convenient hardware based acceleration if available. This is the reason why both Unity and GNOME Shell uses a toolkit that has this support. For Unity 2D, the window manager is Metacity (even though Compiz can be used). If all of this confuses you , ignore it. Other than hard core geeks, nobody cares about these.

Wayland : This is a development that I am excited about. Wayland is primarily a display management system (also a protocol), just like X Window system. Instead of making some assumptions about Network and stuff, Wayland allows you to use native opengl to provide great graphics. The vision is quite fascinating and I hope it will turn out great.

Now that you know the overall big  picture, lets dive down to specific UI elements in Unity. The following text is based on my interpretation of Canonical’s design blog and this excellent AskUbuntu question  .

Ubuntu Button : This is the big button on the left top of the screen.

Launcher : This is the entire strip on the left that comes up when you hover over the left side of your screen. This will contain multiple types of icons. Icons that act as launcher icons for other applications, icons that show the currently running applications , lenses and workspace switcher.

Accordion : If you open lot of applications such that the launcher does not fit,  the icons are displayed in an accordion fashion – Basically, few of the icons are vertically stacked and if you hover your mouse over them it expands to show the icons that are present there.

Sigil : As said before, Launcher may contain some icons always – even if the application is not running. If the corresponding application is launched (or some other application), the icon in the launcher will contain a small white arrow called the sigil. It denotes that the application is currently running. The number of sigils denotes the number of instances of the same application.

Quicklist : Quicklists are another really cool idea in Unity. Although not as polished as Windows 7, it shows lot of promise. Quicklists are the common tasks that you do in an application that is accessible to you when you right click the application’s launcher item. Quicklists can be anything – For eg quicklist for a browser might be to open a new instance, open in incognito mode, go to specific site etc.  Alternatively, if you use Banshee/Rhythmbox, you can have all the music controls (Play/Pause/Next/Previous) in the right click.

Dash : The full screen black translucent overlay that appears when you press Super. Alternatively, you can click on the Ubuntu button. It contains a search option and also broadly classifies applications like Media, Internet etc.

Lenses : Lenses are one of the coolest ideas in Unity. Even though Dash allows you to search , its use is fairly limited to items in your computer. Lenses take the idea of the dash and extend it in such a way that it can search arbitrarily anything. You can kinda consider “Files and Folders” and “Applications” on the launcher as a special kind of lenses. They are currently called Places but their usage will be deprecated. There are lot of other cool lenses – For eg, one which searches sub-reddits , one that searches contacts , Amazon , Youtube etc. The API is also pretty awesome. I was able to code a lens to show the latest tweets of a user just by typing their name within couple of hours. If no one writes, I will write Lens tutorial sometime soon !

Panel : The strip that is at the top. The panel has been thoroughly given a facelift in Unity. It now performs lot of tasks. By default, it shows the title of the current active applications. When you hover your mouse over it , it shows the menu items of the applications. On the right hand side are the app indicators.

Global Menu : Also called as Application menu. When an application is active, this part of the panel will show the window controls  (Maximize/Minimize/Close) and the window title. If you hover over the panel or press Alt key, it changes to the menu of the application.

App Indicators : These are the icons on the right side for the panel.  By default it contains Sound, Network, Mail/Chat indicator, time , Me-Menu etc. You also add other indicators if you wish. To see the potential of these indicators, check out the sound indicator. It contains all the buttons to control playing and also allows you to select other playlists.

Overlay Scrollbar : Overlay scrollbar is one of the innovations in Unity designed to save space. In a typical application that needs scrolling, the scrollbars appear taking up valuable pixels. In Unity, the scroll bar appears as a thin strip. If you move your mouse over it, the classical scrollbar appears.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Accessing Unity Items

Exhaustively discussing all the features of Unity is beyond the scope of this blog post. If you are interested, see Ryan Paul’s article linked above. I will discuss the most important stuff and will intersperse mouse and keyboard based access. If you are a keyboard junkie, all of Unity’s keyboard shortcuts are here  .

Launcher : This can be activated by hovering over the left end of the screen. Alternatively, you can class keep pressing Super key for couple of seconds to make it visible. The initial delay is to prevent accidental invocation. If you are not comfortable with the default behavior, you can change it . See the section of unity configuration below. Since Unity removed the bottom panel that used to show active windows in the current workspace,  viewing the launcher is one way to see all the open applications.

Launcher Items : Once the launcher is visible , you can click on any launcher item to launch the application (if not already running) or bring it to the foreground. If you are a keyboard person, keep pressing the Super key. The launcher will appear with a character appearing on each of the icon. Pressing the character along with Super key will launch the application. For eg, Super+a starts the application places and Super+1 launches the application corresponding to the first icon in the launcher. Pressing Shift or using middle click will start a new instance.

Operations on Launcher Items : The default set of launcher items are not ideal and you many want to do some personalization. The simplest is reordering of icons. You can do it by either clicking on an icon and moving it up. Or you can click on it, pull it to the right and then place it at the right place.

If you want to remove a launcher item,you can drag the icon to the trash. Unfortunately, the obvious action of pulling the icon out of the launcher does not seem to remove the icon. If you have used any docks like docky or AWN , this might seem unintuitive.  If you want the icon to never appear in launcher, launch the application and right click on the icon and unselect ‘Keep in launcher’ option.

If you want to add a new application,the easiest way is to launch it by other means. Once the icon shows up in the launcher, right click it and select ‘Keep In Launcher’. Putting arbitrary application is a bit tricky. See the ‘Advanced’ section for details.

Lenses : Super+A opens the application places (lens) and Super+F opens the the Files and Folders lens. Super+T opens the trash.

Dash : Pressing Super and releasing it immediately brings the dash. If you use Alt+F2, it brings out Dash version of “Run” dialog.

App Indicators : Pressing F10 highlights the first app indicator menu which you can use keyboard navigation keys to select. To move to the other indicators press left or right arrow keys. For eg, pressing F10 for me opens the network indicator. Pressing right opens the volume indicator applet and so on. Of course, pressing Esc removes the focus from indicators.

Show Desktop : Pressing Super+D minimizes all the windows and shows the desktop. Pressing it again restores the windows.

Workspaces : If you press Super+W , it will create an Expose like effect showing all non minimized windows in all workspaces. If you want only for current workspace, type Shift+Alt+Up arrow. Moving a window to another workspace is not obvious as the bottom panel is removed. There are two ways : Press Super+S and it shows all the workspaces with the current window highlighted in current workspace. You can now use mouse to move window across the workspaces. If you want to move using keyboard, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+ Arrow keys. You can may recognize that Ctrl+Alt+Arrow is the key combination to move across workspaces. Adding a shift, moves the window to the appropriate workspace.

Configuration and Personalization

One of the nicest things about is that it is highly configurable – Especially, if you do not mind getting your hands dirty with terminal stuff. In this section, I will discuss basic configuration of Unity and how to personalize it using quicklists and additional lenses.

To do the basic configuration, you would have to install “CompizConfig Settings Manager” (ccsm) from Synaptic. Once you have installed it press “Alt+F2” and enter “about:config” to access it. If you typed “ccsm” instead, search for Unity in the search box and get the “Ubuntu Unity Plugin” dialog.


My favorite settings are :
(1) Hide Launcher to “Dodge Windows”
(2) In Experimental tab, set “Backlight Mode” to “Backlight Toggles” . This will help you identify active and inactive launcher icons from their backlights.
(3) Launcher Icon size to 32 pixels.


Custom Launchers:
You might custom applications to your launcher. There are multiple ways to do that – The easiest is the following :
(1) Right click the desktop and select “Create Launcher”
(2) Set the launcher type – typically it is Application
(3) Enter the name of the launcher. This will be the name the Launcher icon will show if you hover over it or right click it.
(4) Enter the full command line path in Command field.
(5) Optionally enter a comment. You can also edit the icon by clicking on the icon’s icon 🙂
(6) Click ok and save the item. This will be saved in your desktop.
(7) Now drag this item on to the launcher.
(8) Voila ! The item is added to the launcher !


Custom QuickLists :
You can also create custom quicklists. The method is not very hard but involves editing configuration files manually.  The basic idea is as following :
(1) Find a similar .desktop file from /usr/share/applications/ and copy it to ~/.local/share/applications/ with the name as per your wish. Of course, you can keep it in any folder you wish but ~/.local/share/application is customary.
(2) If your .desktop file has a line like “OnlyShowIn=GNOME;”, change it “OnlyShowIn=GNOME;Unity;”
(3) At the end of the file , add the following line “X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=shortcut1;shortcut2” . Replace shortcutx with your name of shortcuts. Each of them , except the last, must be separated by semicolon. It is better to have each shortcut name to be a single word.
(4) For each of the shortcut, add a section like this :

[shortcut1 Shortcut Group]
Exec=Command to run

(5) Things to note above are that the name of the shortcut at the beginning and in each section must match exactly.
(6) Go to this folder using Nautilus. If you want to see hidden files, press Ctrl+H. Or type “xdg-open ~/.local/share/applications/” in the command line. Now drag and drop the file you modified into Launcher.
(7) Remember, if you delete this desktop file, the launcher icon will also go !

One thing to realize is that to get access to these quicklists, the launcher icon need not always be in the Launcher. For eg, I want the quicklists for Banshee but I do not want Banshee’s icon cluttering up my space. If you are like me, make the change to the desktop file and put it in ~/.local/share/applications but do not drag and drop to Launcher. When you start the application, then Unity will automatically show the quicklist options. If the application is closed, the icon also goes away !

If you are too lazy to do all these, check out this link  for lot of awesome custom launchers and quick lists.


GNOME Applets :
Every Gnome user will have their own share of Gnome applets. Unfortunately, Gnome applets by themselves are not possible to be used directly in Unity. This is not just a Unity . The same holds for Gnome Shell too ! In Unity, they have to be adapted to use the indicator api to showup on the panel.

Systray Access :
You may use lot of applications that lands up in Systray. In Unity, you many notices that they are not shown at all. Most of the time , it does not really matter. But if you really wish to make the application show up, you need to add the application to a whitelist. The details are given in the following link  .

Lenses :
It is not very easy to create custom lenses without knowing programming. Some of the currently popular ones are given in the link  . I really like the Gwibber based lens. I am looking for a lens that uses tracker for better file search though.


This is a random collection of tips that I found useful. Some of them are discussed elsewhere in this post too !

(1) To launch a new instance of an application, middle click the launcher icon . Pressing Shift will also start a new instance.
(2) To move an application another workspace, make sure the application has the focus. Press Super+S and move the application to appropriate workspace. Alternative press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+ Arrow key to move it.
(3) If you like global menu bar and want Chrome to have it, enter “about:flags” in Chrome. Search and enable the “Experimental GNOME menu bar support” .
(4) To access the Unity settings manager, press Alt+F2 and type “about:config”. This directly gives the dialog to change Unity’s settings. To go to Compiz settings,  use “ccsm”. 
(5) If you mess up your Unity settings, try “unity –reset” .
(6) If you want to access special quicklist for an application but do not want the application taking up valuable space in Launcher when not active, there is a way to do that. Create the desktop file and put it in ~/.local/share/applications but do not drag and drop to Launcher. When you start the application, then Unity will automatically show the quicklist options. If the application is closed, the icon also goes away !
(6) If you were a hamster time tracking applet user and lost it in Unity, there is a hack that makes it work ! Check out this link for details http://albertomilone.com/wordpress/?p=502 . This works perfectly for my use !


There are lot of excellent links that helped me compile this list.
(1)  Ryal Paul’s in depth Unity review : http://arstechnica.com/open-source/reviews/2011/05/riding-the-narwhal-ars-reviews-unity-in-ubuntu-1104.ars .
(2) Power user’s guide to Unity : http://castrojo.tumblr.com/post/4795149014/the-power-users-guide-to-unity
(3) Unity Lens Architecture document : https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Unity/Lenses
(4) Unity place sample  : https://code.launchpad.net/~unity-team/unity-place-sample/unity-place-python

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    I installed Natty Narwhal when the beta1 came few days ago. I wanted to write a blog post with the instructions to upgrade to Natty but kept postponing it due to Unity issues I was facing. Now that the system is working as I prefer, I thought I will put out a brief post on upgrading with a few tid-bits on using Unity. I am collecting some useful tips on Unity for the power users and will put out a post about it sometime soon.

    There has been lot of confusion about installing Natty. Most of the initial beta1 reviews were very critical with some calling it as the worst Ubuntu beta ever. I also had a horrible experience initially. During my initial install, Ubuntu Unity failed to work and the screen will have black patches wherever my mouse points. I tried lot of different configurations like installing Nvidia drivers or using Nouveau drivers and so on and nothing worked for almost a week. I was pretty disappointed. But after a week and few updates later, Unity started working like a charm. As of now , I do not have any issues in Natty so I can confidently advise people to upgrade it from Maverick.

To Upgrade or not to upgrade ?

    This is probably the first question you must decide – For me the answer is simple : If you are running some production server or anything sensitive , don’t install it. Just wait for two more weeks. The final version goes out on Apr 28th.  If it is your personal laptop, you are Linux geek and wanted to earn some karma, then what are you waiting for ? Start the upgrade ! Of course, there might be minor hitches and potential instability as it is still in beta – But if my experience is any guide, it is very stable now. The things you gain by installing outweighs the minor annoyances.

Upgrading to Natty from Maverick

    The conventional method that is specified in the Ubuntu website is to type the following in the terminal (or by pressing Alt+F2 and typing it in the Run dialog)

    update-manager -d

The other equivalent command is of course :

    update-manager –devel-release

Most of the time , I assume that this should do the job. Your update manager will open up, show that Natty (11.04) is available for download. All you need to do is click on "Upgrade" , sit back and relax !

For some reason, this upgrade took a huge amount of time. I had a reasonably fast internet but still the installation took almost 2 hours. Of course, your mileage will vary. The upgrade by itself was quite straightforward and no surprises.

What if you cannot see the upgrade option to Natty

1. Go to System -> Administration -> Software sources.
2. Click on the "Updates" tab and check "Pre-released updates".
3. Click on "Close" button. This will refresh the package list and most likely will open up the package manager that will show a huge list of packages to upgrade. Hopefully, it will also show "Natty Narwhal (11.04)" upgrade option.
4. Now close the update manager and open the Software sources again (same  as step 1). Now undo what you did in Step 2 – Un check the “Pre-released updates” option.
5. Click on "Close" button and the package list will be refreshed again. Now you should see the upgrade option to Natty saying : "New distribution release ‘11.04’ is available". You can alternatively run "update-manager -d" command to get this option !

Some Random Stuff

1. In case, Unity does not work for you , you can fall back to Ubuntu Classic. In the login screen, select your username and press enter. The control will go to the password textbox. Now, at the bottom of the screen, you will see a session selector. Select "Ubuntu Classic". This will allow you to have the classic GNOME-ish desktop.

2. One of my favorite Linux utilities – hamster-applet is not working in Natty due to the whole Unity and common menu thing. I need to figure out a way to make it work. There is a launchpad bug[https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity/+bug/686062 ] which discusses the alternatives. Subscribe if you are interested.

3. The transition to Unity was very hard for me. This is especially true because I was a keyboard heavy user with lot of custom key bindings. Suddenly, all of them were useless. Even more annoying was the fact that GNOME-Do was not getting invoked when I pressed Super+Space as Unity gobble the keystroke. Unity did have a "gnome-do’-ish dash but it was a bit awkward to me. It was quite annoying when I have to remember that I need to press Alt-F2(Super-A) for searching applications and Super-F for files and folders. GNOME-Do has a more unified interface which is also more customizable as of now.

4. The fact that Unity uses the Super (Windows) key wrecked havoc on my keyboard shortcuts. In addition to GNOME-Do, I had other shortcuts like Windows-G for gedit, Windows-C for Chrome etc. So I searched a lot to find how to change the Unity’s default activation key. Most of the results were crap. The best result is given by this gem : http://askubuntu.com/questions/29553/how-can-i-configure-unity . Basically, you need to install ‘CompizConfig Settings Manager’. Invoke it and search for Unity. Click on ‘Ubuntu Unity Plugin’ and in the behavior tab, change the setting for the entry ‘Key to show the launcher’.

5. Some excellent links that details keyboard shortcuts for Unity are : http://askubuntu.com/questions/28086/unity-keyboard-mouse-shortcuts and http://www.multimediaboom.com/ubuntu-11-04-unity-keyboard-shortcuts-key/ .


Hope you have fun with Natty. I will put out a post soon on customizing Unity for power users.

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