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Remember, these are development builds and preview snapshots, and are still in the early stages. While it appears to be functional (so far) your mileage may vary.

Installing GNOME-Shell

With the release of Ubuntu 9.10, a GNOME-Shell preview is included in the repositories. This makes it very easy to install (and remove) as needed. The downside is that it is just a snapshot so you are not running the latest-greatest builds. For this reason I’ve included instructions on installing the package as well as compiling the latest builds.

I should also note that GNOME Shell requires reasonable 3D support. This means that it will likely *not* work within a virtual machine. In particular, problems have been reported trying to run GNOME Shell with 3D support in VirtualBox.

Package Installation

If you’d prefer to install the package and just take a sneak-peek at the snapshot, simply run the command below in your terminal:

sudo aptitude install gnome-shell
Install GNOME-Shell on Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala"

Manual Compilation

Manually compiling GNOME Shell will allow you to use the latest and greatest builds, but it can also require more work. The notes below are based on a successful build I did in late 2009, but your mileage may vary. If you run into problems please note the following:

  • Installing GNOME Shell does not affect your current installation, so if the build breaks you should still have a clean environment.
  • You can find more details as well as known issues here: GnomeShell

There is one package that you’ll need to compile GNOME Shell called jhbuild. This package, however, has been removed from the Ubuntu 9.10 repositories for being outdated. I did find that I could use the package from the 9.04 repository and haven’t noticed any problems in doing so. To install jhbuild from the 9.04 repository use the instructions below:

  1. Visit http://packages.ubuntu.com/jaunty/all/jhbuild/download
  2. Select a mirror close to you
  3. Download / Install the .deb package.

I don’t believe there are any additional dependencies needed for this package.

After that package is installed you’ll want to download a GNOME Shell Build Setup script which makes this entire process much, much simpler.

cd ~ wget http://git.gnome.org/cgit/gnome-shell/plain/tools/build/gnome-shell-build-setup.sh

This script will handle finding and installing dependencies as well as compiling the builds, etc. To launch this script, run the command:


You’ll need to ensure that any suggested packages are installed before continuing. You may need to re-run this script multiple times until it has no more warnings.

Lastly, you can begin the build process. This process took about twenty minutes on my C2D 2.0Ghz Dell laptop. My build was completely automated, but considering this is building newer and newer builds, your mileage may vary. To begin the build process on your machine, run the command:

jhbuild build

Ready To Launch

Congratulations! You’ve now got GNOME-Shell installed and ready to launch. I’ve outlined the steps below. Please take note of the method, depending on how you installed.

Also, please note that before you launch GNOME-Shell you must DISABLE Compiz. If you have Compiz running, navigate to System > Preferences > Appearances and disable it under the Desktop Effects tab.

Install GNOME-Shell on Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala"

Package Installation Launch

gnome-shell --replace

Install GNOME-Shell on Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala"

Manual Compilation

It will as follows:

~/gnome-shell/source/gnome-shell/src/gnome-shell --replace


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