A Couple of Quick Ubuntu Tips

I’m setting up an Ubuntu Jaunty install for a friend and trying to get it nice and usable. I’ll be messing more with Linux in the near future I think. Anyway, I ran across a couple of things that really bugged me and that took me a *while* to fix, so I thought I’d share/document for next time.

Side note: I’m damn impressed with how far linux has come since I last gave it a real look. The last time I actually installed linux was pre-corporate-sellout Red Hat almost a decade ago. That experience was…not enjoyable. Ubuntu, thus far, has been every bit as easy to work with as Windows. (Take that for what it’s worth)

Font and Options Too Large on Ubuntu Login Screen

First thing I noticed after fresh install was that typing into the login box revealed that the font size was crazy huge. The letters weren’t readable at all, and the options menu was barely readable it was so big. Took me a while but I finally found the fix.

Drop into a bash session and type the following:

sudo vi /etc/gdm/gdm.conf

you can replace vi with your editor of choice (gedit provides a notepad-like experience). You are looking for a section that says something like:

[server-Standard]
name=Standard server
command=/usr/X11R6/bin/X -br -audit 0
flexible=true


Edit the command line to include a dpi directive so it becomes:

command=/usr/X11R6/bin/X -br -audit 0 -dpi 96

You will need to reboot to see the changes (or restart GNOME) and the next time you do your login screen fonts should be normal people sized.

The application ‘NetworkManager Applet’ (/usr/bin/nm-applet) wants access to the default keyring, but it is locked

This one was a pain. I had my friend change her password temporarily so I could do a bunch of setup on her account. This was fine for everything except when Ubuntu wanted to connect to my wireless. It wasn’t storing the WEP in the keyring, and it kept prompting about it being locked. Entering the password didn’t work at all, and it was pretty much getting annoying.

After searching for a long time and finding nothing, I ran across this thread that provided the answer. Basically, go back to network settings, edit the wireless connection, check “available to all users”, and the prompt disappeared.

Random Tips

One thing I found while trying to resolve these issues is that it’s much better to include the version of Ubuntu in the search. At first I was trying things like ubuntu login screen font too large and getting very dated results. Changing it to ubuntu jaunty login screen font too large made a world of difference. I guess this may be fairly obvious to most of you, but I’m used to searching for mac os x and not needing to specify leopard.

Also, if you’re new to linux or are a keyboarder in general, make GNOME Do the first thing you download and install. It’s like Launchy or Quicksilver or [your favorite launcher here] and has been invaluable as I try to find my way around an unfamiliar system. On Ubuntu, you can get GNOME Do directly from the Add/Remove Programs manager (select community-maintained programs).

Those are my Linux tips for today.

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    About Scott Reynolds

    Scott C. Reynolds is a developer with over a decade of experience creating enterprise solutions, primarily in healthcare and biotechnology. He is passionate about the art and craft of applying software solutions to business problems. He is a frequent speaker and participant of community events nationwide.
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    2 Responses to A Couple of Quick Ubuntu Tips

    1. Luis Abreu says:

      I’ve also installed Ubuntu in the last couple of days and played a little but with it. It’s really good and it has really improved a lot in usability. The only thing that is left is getting better distributions for it. Yes, installing stuff is not that hard. the problem is when you have dependencies…there’s still some work to be done in that area…

    2. alberto says:

      @Luis,what are exactly your problems? I don’t really know what you are talking about, aptitude manages dependencies in a really clean way.