My first steps after installing Xubuntu

Every time a new Ubuntu version is released you see blog posts popping up about the first things to do after installing it and every time I read one of those it’s mostly a waste of time to me. I guess I just have different requirements. So here is the list of things I do after installing Ubuntu. Xubuntu 16.04 that is in this case. First a few things that will be relevant for common users too, before getting to the geeky stuff.

Setup Supported Languages

The dialog pops up into your face after the first boot, so why not do it right away. Otherwise you can find it under Language Support. You don’t need to change the languages for menus and windows assuming you made the right choice during installation. However, you should install all the languages you could possibly care about as they are important for spell checking in Libre Office for example.

Setup Touchpad Properly

Under Mouse and Touchpad you should either disable the touchpad altogether (I prefer using the pointing stick) or tick the Disable touchpad while typing box while reducing the delay (unless you have really slow fingers). This is to avoid having your mouse cursor jumping around or changin focus while you type.

Setup Window Panel

It can be configured by doing a right click and then choosing Panel -> Panel Preferences. I prefer to have the panel at the bottom, to get it there you go to the Display tab, untick lock, drag the panel to the bottom of the screen and tick lock again. There are several things to do under the Items tab:

  • First configure the window buttons. I disable Switch windows using the mouse wheel, set Sorting order to None (the default order is weird and like this I can drag and drop) and change the Middle click action to Close Window (so it’s the same thing as in Firefox)
  • Add CPU Graph, configure it to not have a frame and make the background color the same as the panel using the colour picker.
  • Change the format of the clock to Week %V, %A %d %B, %H:%M:%S

Disable Title Bar For Maximized Windows

For the longest time I was looking for options to remove the title bar for maximised windows. After a lot of googling, trial and error, I found a combination of maximus and devilspie2 and quite a bit of configuration to work best. It still didn’t work great though because devilspie2 crashed quite frequently. And then I found this solution for XFCE which just works and is really this simple:

  • open xfce4-settings-editor
  • under xfwm4 tick titleless_maximize

Setup External Hardware

I have got a printer and a NAS both configured with static IPs.


I mount the nfs shares of the NAS using autofs:

sudo apt-get install autofs
sudo vi /etc/auto.master

Add the following line (--ghost creates empty directories for the shares):

/nas /etc/auto.nas --ghost

Then create /etc/auto.nas with the following content:


And restart (reload does not bring up the ghost directories) the autofs service:

sudo /etc/init.d/autofs restart

Unfortunately there is a problem with the wireless that prevents it from locating local IPs for a few minutes after starting it (and thus access to the NAS fails) and I could not figure out why. However, disabling the wireless n protocol serves as a workaround:

sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/iwlwifi-opt.conf <<< "options iwlwifi 11n_disable=1"
# restart wireless
sudo modprobe --remove iwlwifi
sudo modprobe iwlwifi


Every time I tried to add a network printer through the dialogues, I was left with now printer installed and a broken package system which was quite hard to fix. Most likely culprit: gutenprint Luckily Brother provides a Driver Install Tool on their homepage. So I download it under -> Software Downloads -> Printers and do the following:

gunzip linux-brprinter-installer-2.0.0-1.gz
sudo bash linux-brprinter-installer-2.0.0-1
Input model name -> DCP-L2560DW

After confirming a few things and typing in the IP ( printing and scanning (using Simple Scan) work like a charm. But for the best quality, you still need to change resolution to HQ1200 under Printer Properties -> Printer Options


I listen to music over bluetooth and discovering and pairing of my receiver works without problems. However, connecting to it as audio sink generally fails with Connection Failed: blueman.bluez.errors.DBusFailedError: Protocol not available... Installing pulseaudio-module-bluetooth solves this problem.

Setup Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Set preferred terminal emulator to X Term in Preferred Applications
  • Add keyboard shortcuts for xbacklight -dec 1 and xbacklight -inc 1 (the default hardware keys do not allow fine enough steps for backlight) and install xbacklight sudo apt-get install xbacklight
  • Enable direct switching between display modes using Fn+F8 by adding disper --cycle-stages='--single:--secondary' --cycle and installing disper sudo apt-get install disper
  • Change application for keyboard shortcut Print Screen to xfce4-screenshooter --fullscreen --save /home/sebastian/Desktop
  • Change keyboard shortcut for xfce4-popup-whiskermenu to Super+X (can’t use only Super, as shortcuts using Super+something will not work if you do)
  • Change key for drag-and-drop of windows to Super in Window Manager Tweaks
  • Change Show Desktop shortcut to Super+D in Window Manager

Install Useful Apps

XnView and Skype have to be downloaded and installed manually all other are available through the package manager:

sudo apt-get install \
    entr \
    gmusicbrowser \
    gnome-font-viewer \
    gparted \
    inkscape \
    libreoffice \
    pdftk \
    pinta \
    puddletag \
    silversearcher-ag \
    tree \
    usb-creator-gtk \
    vlc \

Uninstall Apps I Don’t Use

sudo apt-get purge \
    gnome-mines \
    gnome-sudoku \
    indicator-messages `# I do not want notifications from Thunderbird` \
    parole `# I prefer vlc and gmusicbrowser` \
    pidgin \
    ristretto `# I prefer xnview` \

Enable support for watching HBO

Unfortunately HBO does not use HTML5 and does use DRM, so all you see is a black screen when you try to watch Game of Thrones. However, there is a great tutorial of how to get around this problem. As pipelight kept on stealing focus on several websites, I found it necessary to enable it only for watching something and to disable it when done:

sudo pipelight-plugin --create-mozilla-plugins
sudo pipelight-plugin --remove-mozilla-plugins

Enable support for playing DVDs

Playing DVDs won’t work by default either and apparently there might be legal issues when doing something about it. So here is just a link with more information

Setup Terminal Environment

Switch To ZSH

sudo apt-get install zsh
chsh -s /usr/bin/zsh

Logout and login again

Install Dotfiles

My dotfiles are on Github along with all my other public projects, so lets get all of them at the same time. First access has to be sorted, so either existing ssh keys (~/.ssh folder) need to be recovered or new ones generated and registered with Github ( Then the repositories can be cloned:

# a few things are required
sudo apt-get install \
    curl \
    git \
    jq \
    moreutils \

mkdir ~/Clones
cd ~/Clones
curl --silent \
    | jq --raw-output ".[] | .ssh_url" \
    | xargs -L 1 git clone
cd ~/Clones/dotfiles
# retrieves a few things that are not part of my dotfiles repository
./ # a few folders have to be created manually, but install will tell you about them

Side note: I also have private repositories on Bibucket, they can be cloned like this:

echo "Bitbucket password:" \
    && read -s password \
    && curl --silent --user "sblask:${password}" \
    | jq --raw-output ".values | .[] | .links.clone | .[] | select(.name==\"ssh\") | .href" \
    | xargs -L 1 git clone

There is a lot of stuff in the dotfiles, so a few more programs need to be installed that are either configured in the dotfiles or are required in some other ways:

sudo apt-get install \
    autokey-gtk \
    baobab `# to analyze disk usage from Thunar context menu` \
    compton \
    meld `# to compare files and directories from Thunar context menu` \
    parcellite `# keeps copied text in the clipboard even after applications have been closed` \
    puddletag `# to edit mp3 tags from Thunar context menu` \
    redshift \
    tmux `# use 'CTRL-B' + 'I' to install the plugins` \
    vim-gtk `# run BundleInstall the first time you run it to install all the plugins` \
    xclip \

Setup Programming Language Environments

The following environments are mostly for programming, where it’s important to avoid version conflicts between dependencies of different projects. They also help to keep your system clean. I think it’s preferable to only install stuff system wide if it comes with the system package manager. But there is for example Jekyll which I use for this blog that comes as a Ruby gem. Using rvm allows me to do gem install jekyll without installing it system wide.


Really the easiest of the lot, all you need is the following which will also change you shell configuration file.

N_PREFIX=$HOME/.n curl -L | bash


gpg --keyserver hkp:// --recv-keys 409B6B1796C275462A1703113804BB82D39DC0E3
curl -sSL | bash -s stable
rvm list known
rvm install 2.4.0 # the latest version from `list known`
rvm use ruby-2.4.0
rvm alias create default ruby-2.4.0

Rvm has to be in your PATH and be loaded by your shell.


There are certainly other ways to do this, but when the goal is to keep the system clean, I can even get away without installing virtualenv system wide:

cd /tmp
# get the current virtualenv package
curl \
    |  pup 'a[href]:contains("tar.gz") attr{href}' | xargs -L 1 wget

# install virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper
tar --extract --strip-components 1 --file *.tar.gz
./ ~/.opt/virtualenv
~/.opt/virtualenv/bin/pip install virtualenvwrapper

Now virtualenvwrapper can be loaded from your shell configuration which requires your PATH to contain the path to the virtualenv in ~/.opt.

You will probably come across missing Python headers when installing packages using pip at some point, so why not install them right away?

sudo apt-get install python-dev

Now you can go ahead and install the python utils/programs you need, here taking httpie as an example.

mkvirtualenv httpie # gets activated automatically
pip install httpie
ln -s ~/.virtualenvs/httpie/bin/http ~/.bin/

Other things that I install that way are:

  • aws
    # for completions:
    ln -s ~/.virtualenvs/awscli/bin/aws_completer ~/.bin/
    ln -s ~/.virtualenvs/awscli/bin/ ~/.zsh/bash_completions.d/
  • docker-compose
    # for completions:
     curl -L$(docker-compose version --short)/contrib/completion/zsh/_docker-compose > ~/.zsh/completions.d/_docker-compose
  • grip
  • yq