Ubuntu 17.04 – a review
Ubuntu 17.04 was announced a few days ago. I had already decided that I would install it, and do a little testing. So, once I saw the announcement, I started a download.
To download, I followed the links from the announcement to the download page. From there, I selected the torrent download. I was using the “vivaldi” browser, and it gave me several options with the torrent link. I chose the option to open the file. And that started the download with “ktorrent”.
I also downloaded “SHA256SUMS.desktop” and “SHA256SUMS.desktop.gpg”. Next, I checked the gpg signature with
gpg --verify SHA256SUMS.desktop.gpg SHA256SUMS.desktop
which showed that I had a good download of the checksum file. After the torrent download had completed, I checked its validity with
sha256sum -c SHA256SUMS.desktop
That reported that the downloaded iso file was ok. It also reported that some files did not exist. I ignored that. It was just that the checksum file had checksums for other isos that I had not downloaded.
Next, I wrote the iso to a USB device that I intended to use for installing. The iso file was around 1.6G, so a 4G USB was big enough for the purpose. I used “dd_rescue” to write to the USB flash drive.
Install to an encrypted LVM
My plan was to install to an existing encrypted LVM. I first booted up the USB device. I’ll note that this was on a UEFI box with secure-boot enabled.
The system booted into the Unity desktop, with an introductory message showing. I hit the super key (Windows key) to bring up the menu. And there, I typed “term” into the search box, and clicked on the terminal application.
Once I had a terminal open, I ran “sudo bash” to give me a root command line. My next step was to unlock the encrypted LVM on that computer. I used the command:
cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdb5 cr_sg2
Here, “/dev/sdb5” was is the partition for my encrypted LVM. And “cr_sg2” is just a virtual name to assign to the virtual device created by opening the encrypted partition. I was prompted for the encryption key.
I was now ready to start the install. So I clicked on the installer icon.
I had to make a few preliminary choices, such as timezone and language. The defaults actually worked pretty well.
Next came the partitioning screen. There were several options. I chose “something else”. That got me a list of partitions that I could manually assign to this install. I assigned a volume (named “root2”) from the LVM to be used for the root file system. I set that to be formatted and mounted at “/”. Next I selected “/dev/sdb4” to be formatted and mounted at “/boot”. I then selected the swap volume from the LVM to be used for swap. And, finally, I selected “/dev/sda2” to be used for the EFI partition.
At the bottom of the screen, it showed “/dev/dm-0” to be the location to install the bootloader. That looked wrong. I changed that to “/dev/sda2”, which is also wrong. The bootloader install works differently for UEFI systems, so this was probably just misleading information.
From there, I proceeded with the install. And everything seemed to be successful. But I knew, from previous experience, that it would not be bootable without some adjustments.
When done, the installer offered to either reboot or continue testing. I selected “continue testing”. That left me running the Ubuntu system booted from the USB.
The next step was to create “/etc/crypttab” on the installed system. So I mounted the root filesystem at “/mnt”. I copied “/etc/crypttab” to “/mnt/etc/crypttab”, and I then edited that almost empty file. I added the line:
cr_sg2 UUID=6418eff9-1796-412a-9b0c-9d2db5430640 none none
The first field “cr_sg2” was just the virtual device name that I used for the LVM. The next field specified its UUID. I found the UUID using the command “blkid /dev/sdb5”
With that done, I now had to create the initrd (or initramfs) for the boot.
mount /dev/sdb4 /mnt/boot mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/boot/efi mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev mount --bind /proc /mnt/proc mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys
The above commands mounted the other file systems needed for the installed system. I then went into “chroot” mode for the final steps
chroot /mnt update-initramfs -k all -c -v
That last line regenerated the “initrd”. And with that, the new system should be bootable.
Finally, I exited from “chroot” mode and then rebooted the system.
During reboot, I hit F12 (while the boot logo was showing). That gave me a BIOS boot menu. There were two items named “ubuntu”. I chose the first, which turned out to be a lucky choice. That was the entry for booting Ubuntu with secure-boot, while the other entry would only have worked if I had turned off secure-boot.
The system booted up smoothly, and gave me a login screen. And there, login was successful as the user that I had created during install.
I was logged into the Unity desktop. I’ve never liked Unity. But I had already decided that this time I would try harder. A day or two before Ubuntu 17.04 was released, I saw an announcement that this would be the end of the line for Unity. The 18.04 release of Ubuntu would instead use Gnome as the main desktop.
I could have given up on Unity at that point, but I decided to follow through with my plans.
I proceeded to see whether I could make the unity desktop usable.
I knew that Unity was somehow based on Gnome. So I looked for Gnome-Tweak-Tool. I opened the software center, and searched for “Tweak”. And I then installed Gnome-Tweak-Tool.
I later realized that I probably should have used Unity-Tweak-Tool. But Gnome-Tweak-Tool worked for what I wanted. I was able to set it to sloppy focus (the focus goes to a window when I move the mouse over that window), and I was able to turn on auto-raise (a window is raised to the front when I move the mouse over it). For the way that I use computers, this setup makes it a lot more useful.
While looking at the Gnome-Tweak-Tool window, I noticed that it showed that I was set to have 4 desktops (or workspaces). Previously I had never been able to access more than the one.
Exiting the tweak tool, I tried to move to another workspace. And that did not work. So I used google. Apparently Unity comes with workspace switching disabled. The google search showed me how to enable it (with the “Appearance” application in system settings).
I also changed the background (or wallpaper) to something better than the bland default. And I was able to set the dashboard on the left to auto-hide.
With those changes — sloppy focus, auto-raise, auto-hide, workspaces enabled and a decent wallpaper, Unity looked a lot more usable. In fact it looked a lot like Gnome. I’m not a Gnome fan, but this was still a lot better than the defaults immediately after Ubuntu install.
The Gnome-Tweak-Tool also allowed me to define an auto-start application. I did not see how to do that with the Unity-Tweak-Tool. So I set it to automatically start a terminal session when I login.
I don’t much care for the Ubuntu software center. I was able to install the Tweak tools with a search in the software center. But I also wanted to install “csh” (my preferred shell). And I wanted to install “sshd” so that I could login remotely. Search in the software center did not find either of those. So, instead, I resorted to running the commands “csh” and “sshd” at the bash command line. Bash told me what command I would need to install those applications. That worked. But it’s a pity that search in the software center does not find them.
This far, Ubuntu has seemed pretty stable. I still prefer opensuse. But, once I had the Unity desktop suitably configured, I found it reasonably usable.