Sunday, November 24, 2013

Minimal Xubuntu 13.10 Desktop installation


I have performed a clean install of the newest Xubuntu distribution and I like the result. They have reacted to the bug reports I posted and fixed dependencies to the bloatware and spying packages that were not possible to avoid during Xubuntu 13.04 installation. I have also spent some time trying to figure out the minimum set of packages for the network-manager to work. Here's the installation procedure:

Edit: you may start with the Xubuntu 14.04 LTS installation instructions.
Download a netboot iso from here depending on the architecture and dd it onto a thumb drive. Start the installer and choose - Install from the command prompt. It is possible to use WLAN iface during installation but installer only supports WPA, WEP or no encryption. If you use WPA2/PSK security on your router then it can temporary be changed to WPA or a guest network can be created.

Here are some tips to answer installer questions:
  • kernel to install - default (linux-generic)
  • I do not encrypt home directory because I had bad experience with a failed encrypted home directory. If something happens with the file system it is always easier to restore it if it's not encrypted. 
  • Drivers to include in the initrd - unless installing onto a thumb drive choose targeted.
  • Automatic updates - select no if you prefer to update system manually (I do prefer manual updates)
  • Is system clock set to UTC - select yes
  • Choose any time zone you want during installation. When the system is installed call 'sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata' to set it correctly

And here comes the important installation step: installer will suggest to choose software to install. Choose 'Manual Packages Selection' at the end of the list. Now when the aptitude is started press q to quit it without selecting anything! Installer considers this as an error and it will return to the 'Select and install software' step. Skip it and continue to the GRUB installation. Finish installation and reboot the computer. Now core system is installed.

Desktop installation

First of all I suggest to install bash-completion package to make it easier to install the rest of the system.
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bash-completion
Relogin or start another bash for changes to take effect

Now install the desktop:
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends \
       xubuntu-desktop \
       xfce4-terminal \
       xfce4-power-manager \
       xfce4-volumed \
       xfce4-indicator-plugin \
       xfce4-datetime-plugin \
       xfce4-cpugraph-plugin \
       xfce4-netload-plugin \
       xfce4-screenshooter \
       xfce4-xkb-plugin \
       xubuntu-icon-theme \
       xfwm4-themes \
       alacarte \
       pavucontrol \
       file-roller \
       plymouth-theme-xubuntu-logo \
       mousepad \
       gvfs-fuse \
       thunar-archive-plugin \
       catfish \

Note: you may skip xfce4-screenshooter plugin because it's ridiculously big

Additionally I install the following (optional) packages:
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends \
       davfs2 encfs rar libnotify-bin iw gparted vim \
       ntp htop cifs-utils ethtool

# firefox
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends \
       firefox flashplugin-installer

# indicator-keylock
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tsbarnes/indicator-keylock && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-keylock

Reboot the system into the Desktop. Now there are couple of steps necessary to finish installation:
  • Open 'Settings Manager' -> 'Desktop'. It will update desktop background and fonts. It's enough just to open and close it. For some reason this is not done automatically
  • If you prefer manual updates then open 'Settings Manager' -> 'Session and Startup' -> 'Application  Autostart' and uncheck 'Update Notifier'
  • Fix sound indicator
The Desktop is complete. htop reports 232MB used memory for a 64bit system.

Network Manager installation

Network Manager still has lots of dependencies and manual package selection is required. I need WLAN and modem support at the moment so I only install these packages:
sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends \
       network-manager-gnome iptables iproute \
       mobile-broadband-provider-info usb-modeswitch modemmanager ppp comgt 

Run apt-cache search --names-only 'network-manager-([^-]*-gnome|strong)' to list other available nm plugins.

Before you reboot the computer it is necessary to remove all network interfaces except loopback from the /etc/network/interfaces otherwise Network Manager won't work. Here as an example I had to comment out WLAN interface that was added automatically by the installer:
alex@xubuntu:~$ cat /etc/network/interfaces
# This file describes the network interfaces available on your system
# and how to activate them. For more information, see interfaces(5).

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback

# The primary network interface
#auto wlan0
#iface wlan0 inet dhcp
# wpa-ssid XXXX
# wpa-psk  YYYYYYYYYY

After reboot htop reports 258MB used memory.

Parts that aren't installed

  1. Time and Date Settings Dialog (gnome-time-admin package)
  2. Users Settings Dialog (gnome-system-tools package)
  3. Printing subsystem (cups)
  4. Bluetooth desktop support (blueman package)

You may continue with power saving tweaks I described in the older post.

Possible problems

  • If you have problems installing GRUB into the MBR of the destination drive then you can find the solution in my previous post
  • Laptop sleeps when lid is closed, regardless of Power Manager settings according to this bug description
  • Sound and microphone noise issues


severounch said...

First of all, thanks a lot for this excellent post, what a nice idea !

I have been using the --no-install-recommends option a lot since a few months, but I never had THIS big thought.

So, I used your tutorial to install xubuntu 12.04 (I prefer the LTS versions), and first of all, it works like a charm. I was not really bothered by the number of packages I had, cause my desktop is poweruser's. But I wanted to see if it was possible (even with proprietary drivers in beta and so on, for game purpose).


More: I was always wondering why RAM use is constantly increasing after several days use (though less with xubuntu I thought ) and if it was something inevitable. With this install, after a few days, same programms installed, same startup apps, same everything in fact, the RAM use never exceeds 400 Mb for a 64 bits install. I used to see it reach 750 Mb from time to time, decreasing then to 500-600 with nothing in use, but now it's so stable !

Anyone experienced this with your install ? What is there to understand in the standard Xubuntu install, too many scripts or something ?


Rodrigo Tenorio said...

Thanks for the tutorial. :)

Could you describe the following step better?

> And here comes the important installation step: installer will suggest to choose software to install. Choose 'Manual Packages Selection' at the end of the list.
- - - -

The installer did not give me the option to choose. So I got lost. :/

Thank you very much.


alex said...

Rodrigo, check this tutorial -

Anonymous said...

Just curious why you choose to use Xubuntu rather than Debian as a base for your minimal install. Seems the big selling point of Xubuntu is the curation and package management done by the Ubuntu/Xubuntu developers, but these were precisely the parts you didn't want. It seems Debian, as a kind of universal platform for a system, would have provided a more natural base for your highly selective build. Is there something about the Ubuntu/Xubuntu treatment of the core Debian system that made it more attractive to you?

Rodrigo Tenorio said...

Thanks for your help.

I came to report that I make a minimal install using the new 14.04 mini iso.

I had problem with grub. And I find a simplier solution. After notice that my internal HD was indentified as SDB and my pendrive as SDA, I choose install grub in /dev/sdb mbr.

Despite this, all steps worked and after a reboot the system get running normaly.

Thanks for everything. :)