musings between the lines

there's more to life than code

ubuntu 12.10 quirks

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A new OS means new issues to resolve.

Ubuntu 12.10 is no different.

I’ve been a primary desktop user of Ubuntu since 9.04 and have enjoyed it quite a bit since then. I used to love the concept of something like Slackware where I could install whatever I wanted and configure it to exactly how I want it to be. Nowadays, I still respect slac, but I just no longer have the time. Or rather, I no longer want to spend the time to configure and adjust just to get things 100% as I like them. 95% is good enough, and that’s where Ubuntu has met my needs nicely.

Not sure why I thought this needed an intro, but there you go.

So I normally sit back a bit and let a new release work out the kinks… but this time I just jumped in head first with the upgrade (from 12.04). I’m going to use this space to jot down what broke during the upgrade and what I had to do to get things back to working order. Hopefully it wont be too long, but we’ll see. Maybe if you’re up against the same issues, it may be of help.


update-manager -d

to trigger the manager to start the upgrade process.

Start up

Well, right off the bat, I ran into problems. I’m guessing it’s something to do with the tweaking I’ve done (removed global menu, lots of widgets in top bar, clickable desktop, etc) but unity wouldnt consistently start on log in. Sometimes it would be fine, other times I simply get a completely clean desktop. No icons, no Unity bar, no corner triggers. Nothing. Thankfully I could Ctrl-Alt-t to get a terminal. Once in there, I just needed to start Unity and I was back in business:

unity &

An oddness for sure, but either something I need to figure out in my setup, or maybe if it’s Canonical’s fault, wait for a fix to float in. Either way, I don’t really log out of the machine I’m on, so it’s just an occasional minor annoyance.

Lost Compiz settings

This seems to nuke itself on each reboot. So it’s a bit of a pain. I need to get into CCSM (CompizConfig Settings Manager - look for it in Unity) and do my usual adjustments there. I had this same problem once in a while in 12.04, so this seems to be a carry over. Some settings I tinker with:

  1. General Options -> Focus and Raise -> Click to Focus (off)
  2. General Options -> Desktop Size -> 3 x 3
  3. Expo -> Bindings -> Expo Edge -> (display) TopRight
  4. Expo -> Appearance -> Deformation -> Tilt
  5. Expo -> Appearance -> Reflection -> checked
  6. Scale -> Binding -> Initiate Window Picker -> (display) BottomRight
  7. Scale -> Binding -> Initiate Window Picker For All Windows -> (keyboard) <Super> w
  8. Unity -> Behavior -> Hide Launcher -> Autohide
  9. Unity -> Behavior -> Reveal Trigger -> Left Edge
  10. Unity -> Experimental -> Launcher icon size -> 32
  11. WobblyWindows -> Enabled
  12. Enhanced Desktop Zoom -> Zoom In -> Ctrl - Alt - Super - Button 1
  13. Enhanced Desktop Zoom -> Zoom Out -> Ctrl - Alt - Super - Button 3

I don’t have to redo all of them, but definitely the expo and focus and raise I have to once in a while. The rest are listed just to note my own personal preferences that I use in case I need to redo them.

Clickable desktop

It’s habit. I dump things on the desktop once in a while. It’s habit. I just need it clickable. I know I don’t really use it much, and I don’t change my background too often, and I can do it other ways without too much hassle. But something feels wrong if I cant click it, so I need to get that enabled.

From a terminal:

dconf-editor &

Then navigate to:

org > gnome > desktop > background > show-desktop-icons (toggle to checked state)

For some reason, the setting isn’t honored and I have to open up dconf and uncheck and check to get it to stick. Happens on reboots so I need to repeat this each time. Also sometimes (also on 12.04), the desktop background wouldnt load (it’s a wallpaper stored on a networked drive) so I need to actively open Appearance and make it recognize the wallpaper. For that, it’s convenient to right click on the desktop and open the “Change Desktop Background” menu item. So maybe I do need it to be clickable.


Remote desktop

I only started using this in 12.10 so I’m not sure if 12.04 had the same problem. I run this via the built in “Desktop Sharing” service which is something compatible with VNC. IIRC, it should be running on port 5900, for those that want to punch through the router. Anyway, the issue I have may be specific with -ATI- AMD Radeon cards, but basially, I can connect from a remote client (in my case, a Win7 laptop) and I can see the initial screen, but it wont update. The mouse moves, and I can watch the client move windows from the host machine, but nothing changes on the client machine.

Looking at the interwebs, it mentioned I need to checkbox a “disable_xdamage” in gconf-editor but alas, I don’t see that option. Not sure if it’s because I have an AMD card or 12.10 or whatever, but it’s not there. Luckily, there was still a viable solution. For those that run NVidia, you can check:

gconf-editor &

and go to:

desktop > gnome > remote_access > disable_xdamage (checkmark it)

But for those with AMD cards, try the following:

Open the AMD Catalyst Control Center (find it in Unity, easiest that way). Go to:

Display Options > Tear Free > Enable

See if that works. That did the magic for me. Ideally, it may have been fun to use Window’s formal Remote Desktop option, but that resulted in the client just seeing a blank background only desktop too, even with the fix. No windows, nothing. At first I though it was running on a separate :# display, but I could actually create folders on the desktop that showed up on the host, so it was suffering from a different kind of blanking issue.

Anyway, your milage may vary. If you want to try the Remote Desktop method, just install the open source remote desktop protocol via:

sudo apt-get install xrdp

Maybe it’ll be kinder to you.



The scanner I have, actually a multifunction thing from Brother (MFC 7820N), decided it didn’t know it was a scanner after the upgrade. Ubuntu did remember that it was a printer, but gscan2pdf (and other scanning apps) decided it’s no longer a scanner.

I basically redid the setup for the scanner and everything came back.

If you also have a Brother machine, you can find the instructions on Ubuntu Guide.

Amazon lens

Nice in concept and I’m all for supporting something like Ubuntu via affiliate credits, but I’m not quite sure I really need an Amazon listing each time I search in Unity. So you can remove it in one of two ways. Either turn on Privacy mode (search Unity for it):

Privacy > Search Results > Include Online Search Results > (turn it off)

or remove the shopping lens:

sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

Then restart Unity.

The first turns off any sort of online results, like for videos and music as well. The second, if you like those other searches, just removes the amazon shopping portion. I opted for the second one.


Display issues

I’ll make this generic since perhaps there’ll be more.

First up is some screen tearing issues with the default “Movie Player” app. Didn’t happen in 12.04 with the default Catalyst drivers there, but something changed in 12.10. Not quite sure what the solution is, but VLC works well without the same issues, so I’m moving the default player to VLC instead. Not really a fix, but good enough.

Not quite sure how to make the global change, so for now, I just right click the movie and access:

Properties > Open With

VLC should be listed as a Recommended Application. Simply click that and set it to the Default Application. This will change the setting for all media of that type. Basically I just if I see that a movie type pops open Movie Player instead, I do this fix. Eventually this should switch over all the movies formats I regularly watch to VLC.


Still to figure out:

  1. Other Software sources. Well, the upgrade to 12.10 disabled all the 3rd party software sources. There’s a comment in front of each saying ”disabled on upgrade to quantal”. Does this mean I should not use them? Does it mean I should remove them and readd them as needed? Can I just activate all of them again by checking them off? And now I need to manually edit each of the source files and remove the ”disabled on upgrade to quantal” text if I find that it’s working ok? Couldn’t it just disable the ones that it couldn’t find a quantal repository for?

  2. Chromium window control buttons went back to the right. I was actually liking the left look. I wonder if it’s just a toggle switch somewhere?

Any more?

Yeah, maybe. Time will tell. And if I remember, I’ll update this post with any other issues I run into, or if any of them magically resolve themselves with updates down the line. Feel free to let me know what your experiences are or if you have any questions about the above.

sigh… dconf-editor and gconf-editor. and you wonder why we cant have a friendly linux desktop for normal people…