What shell component is which?

What shell component is which?

Postby silverdirk on Fri Nov 02, 2012 12:35 am

No clue if this is the right sub-forum, but thats my whole problem:

I like some shell features, and hate others. How can I determine which is which? I have read documentation and looked at dozens of screenshots and installed 5 flavors of mint and ubuntu in the last month, but I'm still confused.

I install Mint 12. I like it. I install the updates, and suddenly it looks like Mint 13. I want Mint 12's login screen, and I want Mint12's cool upper-left-corner-hotspot that pops up a full-screen window selector. (what is that thing even called?) I don't care about a bottom bar or a menu (to each their own). Which packages do these things come from, what project are they part of (Mate? Cinnamon? MGSE?), and can I keep them after installing updates?

More generally, is it documented anywhere which component provides what?

Thanks,
-Mike
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Re: What shell component is which?

Postby karlchen on Fri Nov 02, 2012 7:54 pm

Hello, Mike.

Provided you installed the main desktop edition of Linux Mint 12 in the past the shell was the Gnome 3 shell plus the a Gnome 3 shell extension which brought back the Mint menu and the Mint look as closely as was possible at that time in development. This was Linux Mint 12 with MGSE.
I have been running Linux Mint 12 with MGSE since December 2011 and installed all officially offered updates. It still looks and behaves like Linux Mint 12 with MGSE.
In case you have added Cinnamon to Linux Mint 12 in the course of time then it is imaginable that your Linux Mint 12 looks pretty similar to Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon.
In case you have performed a distribution update lately, you have upgraded the whole of Linux Mint 12 to Linux Mint 13.
Your report is not really precise enough to decide for sure where you started and what you may have changed in the course of time.
In order to get an idea which Mint version you are really running today, you should run
Code: Select all
lsb_release -a; uname -a
and post the screen output here.

Pragmatical approach of finding out which software package does what

Launch Synaptic Package Manager. Tell Synaptic to display only the installed software packages. (roundabout 1800 to 2000 packages, I guess.)
For each package which you are interested in read the "description". It will give a very brief explanation of what the package is meant to do. The description text may or may not hold a link to a more detailled documentation.

Kind regards,
Karl
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Re: What shell component is which?

Postby silverdirk on Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:50 am

Thanks for the fast reply! and terribly sorry for my slow follup on your suggestions.

I have 3 partitions: Windows, Linux, and a Shared giant partition of all my files. I had an aging Gentoo install that needed replaced with a desktop that works. I tried Ubuntu 11, then Ubuntu 12, then Mint 13 MATE, then Mint 13 Cinnamon, then Mint 12, each time reformatting only the Linux partition. Both Ubuntu's had annoying UI elements I couldn't stand, like the Mac-style menu bar and annoying behavior of the left-side bar. My goal was to get something like the Mint 12 on my laptop which I'm quite happy with (and haven't bothered to run any upgrades on, since I don't use it that often).

On that evening, I had reformatted and installed Mint 12, installed a few packages, then told it to install all the updates. After a reboot, it looked like Mint 13 again and had lost the user interface elements of Mint 12 which I was looking for. (and the nice login screen). I wrote this frustrated post, then reformatted again to get a clean Mint 12. Life then got in the way and I didn't have time to follow up on your suggestions.

Upon thinking back, it might be possible my home directory preserved some package manager settings from Mint 13. I took a more conservative approach to restoring my home directory this latest time.

Code: Select all
$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID:   LinuxMint
Description:   Linux Mint 12 Lisa
Release:   12
Codename:   lisa

$ uname -a
Linux Osangar 3.0.0-12-generic #20-Ubuntu SMP Fri Oct 7 14:56:25 UTC 2011 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux


So I'm very positively running Mint 12 right now.

This is what I want to preserve:
  • When I move my mouse to the upper-left corner of the screen, the left-bar of icons appears and all my windows zoom inward and arrange themselves so they are all visible and not overlapping, with a darkened background, and I have a tab-selector type control that lets me select "applications" to see icons from the system menu, and filter them by the top-level menu categories.
  • When I alt-tab, I see one icon for each copy of a program. I see icons and not thumbnails of the windows themselves.
  • When I reach the login screen, my username is displayed read-only and it is waiting for me to type my password, but I can easily click or type other users to log in as.

I guess the first bullet point is provided from "gnome-shell 3.2.2.1-0ubuntu0.1", however my understanding was that Ubuntu was using the gnome3 shell, and this behavior certainly doesn't exist in any Ubuntu I've tried.

I'll assume that the traditional alt-tab is coming from MGSE. "mgse-alttab 1.0.1"

But the third one is still a mystery. I searched my installed packages for "login" and found no matches. None of the "gnome-*" packages mention a login screen either.

And, to cut to the chase, is there some way to take a fresh install of Mint 13 and make bullet points 1 and 3 happen? I don't want to be depending on discontinued versions.
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Re: What shell component is which?

Postby karlchen on Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:26 pm

Hello, Mike.

When I move my mouse to the upper-left corner of the screen, the left-bar of icons appears and all my windows zoom inward and arrange themselves ...
This is a Gnome Shell feature. You can use Gnome Shell under Ubuntu, of course, yet, the default desktop environment is Unity by now.
To the best of my knowledge none of the most common desktop environments in current Ubuntu editions, Unity, KDE, XFCE, offer this typical Gnome Shell feature.
To the best of my knowledge none of the most common desktop environments in Linux Mint 13/14, Cinnamon, Mate, XFCE, KDE, offer this typical Gnome Shell feature.

When I alt-tab, I see one icon for each copy of a program. I see icons and not thumbnails of the windows themselves
The current Cinnamon 1.6.7 desktop environment, available in Linux Mint 13 & 14, allows you to alt-tab through the window list as well, and will display thumbnails of all windows plus a larger preview of one of the thumbnailed windows as you alt-tab through the list.

When I reach the login screen, my username is displayed read-only ...
The list of available login-screens depends on the desktop manager. Mint 12 uses LightDM. Mint 13/14 use MDM by default. The current MDM offers a long list of differently styled login screens, some of which seem to behave as you describe. In Mint 13, you can configure MDM and the login screens by going to Menu => Preferences => Login Screen.

So I guess that the features explained under bullet points 1 and 3 can be achieved under Mint 13 / Mint 14 as well, by selecting the appropriate desktop environment (Gnome Shell) and by selecting the appropriate login screen. But be aware that by selecting Gnome Shell just to activate one particular feature you give up a lot of the typical design and interface features which make Mint look and behave like Mint.

Personally, I happily lost the feature you love so much in favour of Cinnamon. - By the way, you can achieve a similar behaviour in Cinnamon by moveing the mouse pointer to the utmost upper lefthand corner of the screen.

The best approach, though maybe not the fastest, will be downloading 2 or 3 Mint live systems (Mate, Cinnamon, KDE), run them from DVD or USB pendrive and find out how they feel and which one you like best.

Kind regards,
Karl
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Re: What shell component is which?

Postby bimsebasse on Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:38 pm

If Gnome Shell is your preferred desktop I'd recommend using Ubuntu Gnome Remix instead of Mint, or fedora if you don't mind learning a somewhat different OS.

Mint's Gnome editions are moving towards Cinnamon and MATE and will be less and less Gnome shell friendly.
Thank you for this thread. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this forum into something special. You clearly know what you are doing, you’ve covered so many bases. Thanks!
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Re: What shell component is which?

Postby silverdirk on Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:09 pm

Karl, thanks for the info!

I guess my main misunderstanding was about Ubuntu's Unity. I had read somewhere that they were driving the development of Gnome these days, and assumed that all their crap was built into gnome, and Unity was just a fancy codename for new Gnome features.

As for why I like gnome shell with MGSE alt-tab, I guess it all comes down to window switching speed.

If my hands are on the keyboard, classic alt-tab is king. I mentally track how far apart my windows are in history, so I know that "alt-tab-tab" will get me from my code editor to my terminal. I don't need pretty eye-candy, so I'd rather not have it slowing down the operation. Ubuntu also broke this by collapsing multiple windows of the same program into a single block, so I have to tab through every program on my desktop in order to get from one terminal to another. It also tabs through gkrellm windows, which annoys me to death.

When my hand is on the mouse, I have my acceleration turned way up, so a medium flick of the wrist can get me to the top left, and another gets me to my desired window. The way the windows spread out makes nice large targets to land on, which I love. I actually feel significantly more productive when using a mouse now.

Gnome-shell's full-screen menu isn't so hot (massively disorganized and not ergonomic), but the idea of a full-screen menu has merit... If I want to run a program and it isn't on my hot-launch bar, then why use a menu smaller than the full screen? I'm using both the MGSE menu and the gnome3 icon grid at the moment, and haven't decided which I like better.

bimsebasse - I might give that a try in a VM so I can see what a pure-gnome setup looks like. Thanks for the tip.
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