Saturday, May 21, 2011

Installing Gnome Shell on Ubuntu 11.04

There's a Gnome 3 PPA available for Ubuntu 11.04 here. It's still highly experimental, so it's not recommended for daily use. It's even less stable than btrfs since the packages are updated much more frequently compared to the btrfs which comes as part of the kernel.

Just like a lot of other people I'm pretty curious about Gnome shell, so I'll be installing it in VirtualBox for testing purposes just like I did with btrfs. In fact, I'll be using the exact same VM so it'll be Gnome Shell on an Ubuntu installation using btrfs.

VirtualBox & Guest Additions

VirtualBox 4.0.8
Gnome Shell needs 3D hardware acceleration support to run. To make things work, you'll need to install at least VirtualBox 4.0.8 (current stable build at time of writing). Also, be sure to install Guest Additions in the VM.

Updating Ubuntu 11.04

Since Gnome Shell is in a state of flux, it's a good idea to update Ubuntu with the latest packages before installing the experimental shell.

~$ sudo apt-get update
~$ sudo apt-get upgrade

The gnome-session package in the Gnome 3 PPA currently has a bug that prevents it from properly handling Gnome desktop sessions, so be sure to pin your current gnome-session build.

~$ echo gnome-session hold | sudo dpkg --set-selections

With that, initial preparations are done. All that's left is to install Gnome Shell.

Installing Gnome Shell

Start with adding the Gnome 3 PPA to your repositories list

~$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3

Then, update your packages list followed by an upgrade and, finally, installing Gnome Shell.

~$ sudo apt-get update
~$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
~$ sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

It's a pretty hefty download so those with slower Internet lines should probably refrain from trying this at all. A mistake would be really painful.

Updating session settings

Gnome login settings (as seen in Gnome Shell)

Gnome Shell doesn't support automatic login right now, so change your login screen settings to manual login. This way you'll be able to choose the login session yourself. You could also set the default session to "Ubuntu Gnome Shell Desktop".

Gnome Shell running inside VirtualBox

Releasing the hold on gnome-session

In case you want to install the new gnome-session when it's safe to do so, just remove the hold with the following command from terminal:

~$ echo gnome-session install | sudo dpkg --set-selections

With that, running an update should also pull in the Gnome 3 gnome-session packages. Again, the Gnome 3 PPA is considered experimental, so do it at your own risk.

That's it. Reboot, and enjoy your Gnome Shell desktop.