Jazzing up Ubuntu: conky, gaia, emerald, oh my!

Dec 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Linux / Freebsd

I had a link to this page sent to me the other day: http://lifehacker.com/5651352/the-gaia-10-linux-desktop and one glimpse at that pretty desktop got me all tingly inside so I went to work trying to install.  Much to my dismay the installation process was far from straight forward, infact the gaia10.us website mentioned in this post is virtually all for Windows.  More than a little frustrating after you download everything and go through all of the files searching for something that my operating system could use.  But then again, it’s only in the true spirit of linux that jokers like the author of that original post would post something like that, tell you how great it is and then leave no explanation of how to do it.  I suppose, it’s part of the appeal of the OS of making everything a learning process but for the pretty shiny stuff I wouldn’t mind that being easy.  When it comes to tweaking my file system, or pulse audio or anything technical I love digging around for info, but when it comes to the pretty shiny stuff, give me a break and throw us a bone.

So to make up for the oversight of that post I’ll go through everything you need to know to get your Ubuntu desktop looking just like how it looks in that picture.

Sprout Theme

  • Install p7zip by either typing ‘sudo apt-get install p7zip‘ in shell or searching for it in synaptic
  • Go HERE and download the original theme package.
  • Now that you have p7zip and can actually extract the bloody theme put it somewhere handy.
  • Now you need to install Emerald and just to be safe why don’t you run the following command from shell to make sure that you have all of the compiz stuff needed to implement this theme: ‘sudo apt-get install compiz compiz-plugins compiz-gnome compiz-core emerald compiz-fusion-plugins-main compiz-fusion-plugins-extra fusion-icon compizconfig-settings-manager
  • Now that that is all installed, to into applications, system tools and click on ‘Compiz Fusion Icon’ , you should see the little blue box up top there.  Right click that –> select window decorator and choose Emerald.
  • Now right click on the blue compiz box icon once again and click on ‘Emerald Theme Manager’, click on ‘import’ and go to where you extracted the sprout archive and import the 2 emerald files
  • Pick the one you want and viola!  You now have the sprout theme installed, only 7 steps later.

Custom Pidgin / Empathy iconset

So the next thing we encounter is the pidgin icon set.  Now I use a combination of empathy and aMsn myself and I started writing a rather lengthy tutorial on customizing Empathy with the Gaia theme however it


  • It would appear that most of the themes for empathy are actually adium themes.  So in order to allow empath to use adium themes the easiest solution seems to be a little script that can be found here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1297237 .
  • Now that you can install adium themes, or more specifically message-pane themes head over to  http://live.gnome.org/Empathy/Themes and choose some themes that do the trick for you and install them.

AWN ( The App Dock )

  • Go here: http://wiki.awn-project.org/index.php?title=Installation and make sure your system is up to snuff
  • Go here: http://wiki.awn-project.org/DistributionGuides , find the distro guide that suites you and go nuts.  For me it was as simple as typing: ‘sudo apt-get install avant-windows-navigator awn-applets-python-core awn-applets-python-extras‘ in shell
  • If you want any themes you can head over to http://gnome-look.org
  • Customize and play with that to your hearts content


Conky was mentioned here with special individual configs(isn’t that special?), but from the screenshoot I really can’t tell what those configs were or if Conky is even running in that screen.  So I’m kind of flying blind here.. Either way, Conky is a system resource meter/tool to give you a nice HUD of usage meters, bandwidth, temps, music, etc etc. There are a ton of different configs you can pull into it so that’s kind of up to your discretion at the end of the day

  • First thing’s first, we gotta install the damn thing: ‘sudo apt-get install conky
  • Big surprise that the original post doesn’t shed any light on what conky configs he implemented so you’ll have to go searching around for a conky config that tickles your fancy
  • http://crunchbanglinux.org/forums/topic/59/my-conky-config/ this is a great place to go for ideas.

Conky definitely takes some fiddling with but at the end of the day it looks pretty damn cool and is worth going through some of those designs.  I don’t have it where I want it quite yet but that is one of the things I love about using linux and that is that it is always an evolving work in progress.  Evolving as you evolve, never remaining static and forcing you to constantly learn.

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