Restoring Unity

I had a bit of a problem after a common pursuit into the perfect desktop environment for one of my computers.  I have an all-in-one system running Ubuntu 16.04 in my home which I use for my vinyl cutting.  I broke a universal rule.  That rule is never experiment with the revenue-generating computer.  I was on a mission to find a lightweight desktop to replace Unity. 

My primary requirement for the vinyl cutter is a copy of Inkscape and a python extension called Inkcut.  This works fine in Unity, but I was noticing some lag as the complexity of the designs increases. 

First off, I was not going to reload the machine.  My distro-hopping days are pretty much over now that some actual uses for computers have come into my life.  I proceeded to run apt install ubuntu-mate-desktop  and give MATE a try as a replacement for Unity. If things didn’t workout, I would just run apt remove ubuntu-mate-desktop and be back to normal.

MATE was really nice.  My drive is encrypted with LUKS.  When I rebooted for the first time my reaction was “Oh, isn’t that clever.  They replaced the decryption screen with a MATE logo.”  I went back to work for a few months in Inkscape and thought nothing of it. 

Things were going very well free from Unity, but I was still feeding memory to Gnome 2.0 instead of Inkscape.  While not in any way faulting MATE, I changed my mind and decided to add a time-honored favorite.

apt install fluxbox

Now the fun began.  apt remove ubuntu-mate-desktop does not remove that clever encryption screen along with a few other dependencies.  Every time I rebooted, that clever screen was there.  It was completely functional, but coupled with the fact I was using fluxbox’s user login screen, the whole system looked like a Frankendistro.  Fluxbox was removed easily with a quick apt remove, but that clever screen! I wanted to go back to stock Ubuntu and began digging on Google for a fix in my free time, probably about an hour a week.  I refused to reinstall over something this trivial.

After a lot of dead-ends and some mention that it’s not even worth it because you can wreck your ability to dencrypt the drive, tonight was finally the night.  I found the solution by combining multiple instructions and some commands which had helped in the past.

The main clue: dpkg records everything it installs and removes in /var/log/dpkg.log

These logs are compressed in gzip files overtime, so if you fix this in slow motion like I did, you may need to extract multiple files to get all the records.  grep is your friend afterwards.

grep -iw -e “installed mate” /var/log/dpkg.log*

Then, I came to my senses and simplified the process:

sudo dpkg –get-selections | grep mate

Two packages caught my full attention:

plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-logo install
plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-text install

Some final actions:

apt remove plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-logo plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-text

I rebooted at this point and saw plymouth screens with generic text.

Let’s make it pretty again with some old knowledge from Debian:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure plymouth-theme-ubuntu-logo plymouth-theme-ubuntu-text

This command is a little scary.  It triggered an update to initramfs, but I noticed something in the output:

“update-alternatives: warning: alternative /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-mate-logo/ubuntu-mate-logo-scale-2.plymouth (part of link group default.plymouth) doesn’t exist; removing from list of alternatives
update-alternatives: warning: alternative /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-mate-logo/ubuntu-mate-logo.plymouth (part of link group default.plymouth) doesn’t exist; removing from list of alternatives
update-alternatives: warning: /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth is dangling; it will be updated with best choice
update-alternatives: using /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-logo/ubuntu-logo.plymouth to provide /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth (default.plymouth) in auto mode”

After a second reboot, I was successful.  Unity has been restored.  If only dpkg-reconfigure worked on people!

One thought on “Restoring Unity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.