Installing GNOME3

The GNOME desktop environment runs on top of the X Window System and is available in most Linux distributions usually as the default desktop environment or an option. The latest version GNOME3 represents a rather marked shift away from the conventional desktop environment with an altogether greater footprint that earlier versions.

Since I my machines are not exactly new I decided to see just how small a number of packages I could install and still have a reasonably functional system. First I did a basic install of Debian taking the usual default options, but when I got to the software selection screen I unchecked ALL the options.

Software Selection Screen
The result is a minimal installation with not much of anything – a perfect starting point for a minimal system or a dedicated server. Though I’m not sure you can really call any installation that includes GNOME3 ‘minimal’ !

To install anything you need to be running as root.

$ su


$ sudo -i

Before we start installing GNOME check the locale settings.

# dpkg-reconfigure locales

Select the entries corresponding to your own language settings.

Then comment out the entry corresponding to your default network interface, to allow GNOME to manage the network address later. (It is the last line in the file shown below).

# vi /etc/network/interfaces

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# The primary network interface
allow-hotplug eth0
#iface eth0 inet dhcp

Next modify the configuration of the package manager so that recommended and suggested packages are not automatically installed.

# vi /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/10norecommends

APT::Install-Recommends "0";
APT::Install-Suggests "0";

Finally we can start installing the required software by updating the list of known packages

# apt-get update

Since GNOME depends requires an X Window server we need to install this first. You don’t absolutly have to have the second set of packages, but you won’t save that much disk space by leaving them out.

# apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core xfonts-base xinit
# apt-get install xfonts-100dpi xfonts-75dpi xserver-xephyr

The following commands will install a minimal gnome desktop based on the core components and the additional packages required to configure things.

# apt-get install gnome-panel gnome-session-bin gnome-session-common \
> gnome-settings-daemon metacity nautilus
# apt-get install gnome-session-fallback gnome-applets alacarte \
> gnome-themes-standard network-manager-gnome gnome-terminal 
# apt-get install policykit-1-gnome gvfs gvfs-backends ntfs-3g

To get a graphical login screen we also need to install a display manager.

# apt-get install gdm3

Note – To be able to use the network monitor applet users must be in the ‘netdev’ group.

# for ID in user1 user2 user3; do ( adduser $ID netdev);done

For a really minimal system you could stop at this point but you may want to add some additional packages to provide a web browser, e-mail client, and audio or video playback.

To be able to play sounds you need the following packages which now include the MP3 CODECs needed play and encode audio tracks as MP3 files and no longer need to be downloaded separately.

# apt-get install gnome-media pulseaudio 
# apt-get install gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad \
> gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg 

To adjust the default sound volumes and device settings you need.

# apt-get install gnome-control-center

To play DVDs requires an additional package which is not available in the main distribution owing to licence restrictions. You don’t have to install this but if you do it must be downloaded separately and installed manually.

# wget -c libdvdcss2_1.2.10-1_i386.deb
# dpkg -i libdvdcss2_1.2.10-1_i386.deb

Finally you can install some additional applications to provide the ability to view documents and images, extract files from compressed archives, and play music and videos (using the CODECs you installed earlier).

# apt-get install eog evince file-roller totem sound-juicer
# apt-get install gnome-screensaver
# apt-get install gnome-system-monitor

The choice of web browser is generally a personal preference, GNOME includes the following applications for web browsing, email and chat that can be installed if required. However, I personally prefer Firefox and Thunderbird over the latest GNOME applications.

# apt-get install epiphany-browser evolution evolution-plugins pidgin

If everything went according to plan when you reboot you should get a graphical logon screen.

# reboot

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