Switching to AfterStep in Ubuntu 8.10

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When Ubuntu 8.10 is installed for most users it will setup login through GDM (GNOME Dsomething Manager). GDM will default to GNOME session, which in turn will use GNOME Window Manager (whatever it is). Now Gnome session in itself does have some useful things in it, such as gnome-power-manager, and other stuff, which many people will find useful. It is the Gnome Window Manager that we object to. Hence the question: how to switch to AfterStep for your window management needs, while preserving whatever little goodness that GNOME may have.

Installing AfterStep

Download AfterStep sources. You don't want to use Ubuntu's package as it may have weird stuff in it. Compile AfterStep. For that step you may need to install a bunch of library packages named something-dev :

libpng-dev, libjpeg-dev, libtiff4-dev, librsvg2-dev, libfreetype6-dev.

Run configure script, then make and sudo make install.

We also recommend that you install rxvt-unicode and set it up as your default terminal emulator. For that you can either use Ubuntu's package or download and build it from sources.

Changing GNOME to use AfterStep

Note that you don't simply want to start into AfterSTep session from GDM, as that will bypass all of the GNOME startup stuff. Instead you simply want to change GNOME's window manager to use AfterStep. One way to accomplish that :

echo "export WINDOW_MANAGER=/usr/local/bin/afterstep" > ~/.gnomerc

Then Log Out and Log back in (into default/GNOME session). You should have AfterStep as you window manager now, but desktop will look like a mess, with GNOME panel stuck in the middle of the screen, and Nautilus desktop window in some weird location.

Rearranging desktop

Close and disable Nautilus desktop window using this command :

gconftool -t bool /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop -s false

Now Go into AfterStep's Menu/Windows/Move. Press and hold Ctrl+Shift then click on Wharf bar and drag it a bit down, freeing up space for Gnome panel. Now Go into AfterStep's Menu/Windows/Move again. Press and hold Ctrl+Shift then click on the Gnome panel and drag it up, placing it between the Wharf and WinList. Quit AfterStep. Log Out of the Gnome session. Log back in. You should have a nice, clean desktop now.

Now GNOME will also have a rather useless Bottom edge Panel. To get rid of that annoyance - simply Right-Click on it and select Delete this Panel from the menu. Click through confirmation screens and it will be gone for good.

Completely Replacing the Gnome WM

An alternative way is to disable GDM completely by (in Lucid) renaming gdm upstart file in /etc/init to something like "gdm.conf.off". Other Ubuntu releases will have a init.d GDM entry that can have it's executable status turned off.

Now check that ~/.xinitrc has afterstep in it (a one line entry of the word afterstep) and then you can use startx from the command line to go into X with Afterstep.

The advantage of this method is that you will not be troubled by any Gnome panels.

More stuff to come ...

If anyone has any questions/suggestions, please e-mail to Sasha Vasko: sasha at aftercode dot net. Thanks !!!