Ubuntu-gnome 17.04

I have already reviewed Ubuntu-17.04.  However, the Ubuntu folk (i.e. Canonical) had already announced that, starting with 18.04, they would switch their mainline version from the Unity desktop to the Gnome desktop.  So I decided to also test out the 17.04 version of Ubuntu with Gnome desktop.

I installed Ubuntu-gnome in an already existing encrypted LVM.  The machine that I used actually has two hard drives, with an encrypted LVM on each drive.  So this was a different LVM from the one that I used for the mainline Ubuntu (with unity).  Currently, both versions of Ubuntu are installed on that machine.

My experience with downloading and installing was very similar to what I described for the mainline version.  So I won’t repeat that.


After installing and booting, I was ready to login to Gnome.  The login screen is coming from “gdm”, the Gnome login device manager software.  For my first time login, it presented the name of the one user that I had defined during install.  I then used the user manager software to define two additional users.

With the additional users, the login screen shows three names.  They seem to ordered by frequency of use.  So the name that I usually use for login shows up at the top.

There is a gear wheel on the login screen.  Clicking that gives me a choice of three possible desktops:

  • Gnome
  • Gnome Classic
  • Gnome Wayland

On first login, the default is “Gnome”.  Thereafter the default is the one most recently used.

A login to “Gnome” gives the standard Gnome running on X11.  A login to “Gnome Classic” also uses X11 to manage the graphics.  And a login to “Gnome Wayland” uses the Wayland software to manage the graphics.


The Wayland software is said to be the up and coming replacement for X11.  I have mainly used Wayland when testing Gnome 3.24.  Wayland runs pretty well on this system.  I don’t recall seeing any problems.  However, my graphic setup is fairly basic.  I have Intel graphics (Haswell), and only a single monitor.  I have heard reports that Wayland can run into problems with dual monitors or with proprietary graphics drivers (such as Nvidia).  I expect that any such problems will be resolved over time, as Wayland is further developed.

I’ll note that Wayland does emulate X11.  So applications that only run with X11 can still run under Wayland.  They will be using the X11 emulation to handle their graphics.  I checked running “xterm” that way, and it seems to be running fine.  However, the emulated X11 does not support the MIT-MAGIC-COOKIE authentication typically used by the standard X11.  So if I wanted to run an “xterm” as the root user, I had to handle authentication differently.  I used

xhost +SI:localuser:root

I ran that command as an ordinary user.  After running that, I was able to start and xterm session as root.

I should note that Ubuntu disables the root account, and expect the use of “sudo” to run root commands.  I use “sudo bash” if I want a root command line.

I’ll note here, that I have also tried Gnome over Wayland on opensuse Tumbleweed.  And it also seems to run well there.  I have tried running KDE Plasma 5 with Wayland on opensuse Tumbleweed and on KaOS.  But there is still very noticeable brokenness for KDE over Wayland.  At least in my testing, Gnome over Wayland has seemed quite stable.

Gnome Classic

I’m not a big fan of Gnome classic.  I’m not a fan of anything Gnome, but I prefer the standard Gnome to Gnome Classic.  Still, I decided to give it a try before posting this review.

Gnome classic uses different menus (word-based menus in place of icon based menus).  It puts an additional panel at the bottom of the screen.  And it has 4 fixed workspaces, in place of the dynamic workspaces for standard Gnome.  It’s really that extra panel at the bottom that I don’t like.  It wastes valuable screen real estate.  But, apart from that, Gnome classic works pretty well.

After experimenting with Gnome Classic, I logged out, and then I logged in again to Gnome Wayland.  Big surprise.  What I got was Gnome Classic over Wayland.  The Gnome Classic seemed to stick.  Use it once, and every future login will also be Gnome Classic, whether you want that or not.  There did not seem to be a way of getting back to standard Gnome.

After trying various methods of getting back to standard Gnome, I decided to try one last thing.  I rebooted.  And, after the reboot, my login to Gnome or Gnome Wayland was back to the standard Gnome.


Ubuntu-Gnome 17.04 seems to run very well.  Try it if you want to get some idea about what standard Ubuntu will look like next year.



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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

One response to “Ubuntu-gnome 17.04”

  1. Joey Chapa says :

    Thanks for mentioning the reboot to revert from Gnome Classic back to Gnome. I just spent twenty minutes searching for a fix, wondering why they didn’t just implement that with extensions. The latest Gnome looks fine so far (I like the default minimalism). But I’m experimenting with its intended work flow to see what it brings to the table.


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