Customizing Ubuntu: A Journey into DEs

My Amazing DE (Desktop Environment)

Rather than using the last week to work on cool projects, I choose to spend that time organizing my digital clutter. Today, that meant reinstalling Windows 10 in order to get it to successfully update, but the previous part of the week saw me struggling to get the look of Ubuntu configured in a way that I felt satisfied with. After a long journey of constant Googling and Terminal commands, I have created a map of my quest in case I (or somebody else) ever needs it.

UEFI and the Triple Boot

Before I made the switch to Linux, I had been running a dual boot of a macOS (a Hackintosh to be more precise) and Windows 10 on my desktop. The Hackintosh acted as my daily driver, and Windows was used in case I ever felt the need to do some gaming. Not feeling ready to do away with the two installations just yet I choose to triple boot my system, but because a Hackintosh needs a special boot loader I ran into some issues.

When I installed Ubuntu onto my drive, grub (Ubuntu bootloader) took priority over my Clover (Hackintosh bootloader) installation, meaning that I was unable to boot into macOS. After much Googling, the fix for this was quite simple.

efibootmgr -vefibootmgr -c -d /dev/sda -p <Partition Number> -L <label> -l \EFI\<label>\<Bootloader Name>.efi

GNOME < KDE Plasma

Once booted into Ubuntu, I realized that I had made the wrong choice. My distro looked like this:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6a/Ubuntu_19.10_Eoan_Ermine.png

But I wanted it to look like this:

https://i.imgur.com/pymg4Tk.jpg (Sadly this was likely a mockup)

According to the internet, if I wanted “The Blur, ” I would need to made the switch to KDE Plasma. So, using some random commands found on the internet, I was able to install Plasma over GNOME; which, as it turned out, was a huge mistake (but we’ll get to that later).

Latte Dock

https://www.apple.com/v/ipados/d/images/meta/og__fmbih1sc9gq6.png

Inspired by the floating dock in iPadOS, I wanted this same look within my DE, and so I turned to Latte Dock. Previously, a couple of quick internet searches had shown that the most recent version of Latte Dock supported a “floating dock,” however when I looked into it a bit more I realized that I had to compile the dock from the Github repository.

This ended up taking me a while, but only because I had failed to update my Ubuntu and Plasma version to the needed version in order to the dock to work. So, to make a long story short, when compiling Latte Dock make sure to be on the most recent version of Plasma and Ubuntu. Then, simply follow the steps provided on the page.

After a couple of hours of troubleshooting, I was able to get my dock to look like this:

Floating Dock

Amazing.

The Blur (Kvantum)

This was why I installed Plasma in the first place; in order to get some amazing blur on the background of my windows because surfing the r/unixporn subreddit, showed so many examples of the blur effect that I simply needed it in my DE. It turned out, that in order to do this, I simply needed to install the Kvantum theme manager and the Materia-Blur theme.

Installing Kvantum was as simple as running the following command.

sudo apt install qt5-style-kvantum qt5-style-kvantum-themes

Then, in order to get Materia Blur, all I had to do was run the following.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:papirus/papirus
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install --install-recommends materia-kde

However, getting the Kvantum theme to be applied wasn’t that straight forward. It turns out that in order to apply the theme two things have to happen.

  1. The first is simply to open up the Kvantum theme manager and select Materia-Blur as the active theme.
  2. Then in System Settings > Appearance > Colors set the chosen theme to “Kvantum”.

Was this was completed I finally had the blur that I had apparently been missing all my life.

Konsole and Fish

Because I am bad at using Bash, I decided to switch to Fish, a shell that allowed for nifty features such as autocomplete on commands and MAN page completions. Installing fish was as easy as sudo apt-get install fish. However, I then needed to style it using ohmyfish, lovely named after the famous ohmyzsh theme manager. This installed simply with the command curl -L https://get.oh-my.fish | fish . To finish up, I installed the bobthefish theme using omf install bobthefish, changed my color scheme in Konsole to material dark, and enabled blur within the theme settings.

Kubuntu

As I was finishing up with my install, I realized that there were still GNOME dependencies that were taking up space on my drive. However, these dependencies were so numerous that removing them manually would not only be difficult but would likely hurt the integrity of my system. So, I installed Kubuntu (a version on Ubuntu with Plasma preinstalled), and then reapplied all of the theming described above.

Finishing Touches

In order to finish up my DE, I did a couple more things that weren’t significant enough to deserve their own sections, so I will instead list them here.

  • Find a background
  • Configure volume control keyboard shortcuts
  • Set up macOS like menu bar
  • Get Plasma to save widget configuration
  • Make sure KDE remembers the primary display
  • Installed VSCode, Spotify, Git, and Node
  • Configure Spotify keyboard shortcuts

Overall, after taking so much time to configure my DE, I really do love the way that it turned out. I hope to spend more time getting to know Linux, and maybe one day attempted Arch or even Gentoo. But, for now, I am simply going to enjoy my distro as it is, and hopefully get some work done.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Connor Sparks

Connor Sparks

👋 My musings here are basically a public stream-of-consciousness journal, so please forgive my writing: it’s getting better, I promise.