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Debian Stretch (Gnome et al.) on my laptop

Posted 07-09-2015 at 08:41 AM by jere21
Updated 07-19-2016 at 09:01 AM by jere21

EDIT 2015-08-04: Window resizing issue fixed.
EDIT 2015-11-01: Add more install tips. Modal dialog issue fixed.
EDIT 2016-01-17:
EDIT 2016-03-30: Nautilus (Gnome Files) settings.
EDIT 2016-04-21: Hint for terminal alternative to Gnome openweather extension.
EDIT 2016-07-12: Touchpad changes (synaptics/libinput). Gnome-photos still lacks functionality. gnome-system-tools dropped by upstream.
EDIT 2016-07-19: gnome-shell-extension-top-icons-plus (newly packaged)

See also the the Jessie issues.

Current bugs:
  1. Fixed: Window resizing
    Gnome 3.16 came with an issue where the mouse pointer doesn't change to "resize" look on all borders of every app. (Only some apps and some parts of the borders are affected).
    The resizing seems to work anyway, just click with your normally looking pointer on any border and resize the window.
    This should be fixed in mutter 3.17.3:
    commit 12771a555a9954ba9f002b7e422385cf2e904e86
    Author: Jasper St. Pierre <>
    Date: 	2015-06-23 22:23:45 (GMT)
        theme: Make sure to clear the entirety of buttons properly
    Fixed in Debian Stretch as of 2015-08-04, but not by a mutter update. Anyway ...
  2. Fixed: Windows modal to parent
    Some windows are sticked to their parents, and don't allow to resize/move the parent, which is behind the current window. (E.g. "Edit Contact" with parent icedove's "Address Book").
    Fix with (or set manually in the GUI dconf, or Gnome Tweak Tool (Windows - Attached Modal Dialogs):
    gsettings set attach-modal-dialogs false
    Fixed at least in 3.18.1-1: false is default now.

  • Monitor hard disk health status
    ii  gsmartcontrol   0.8.7-1.1+b2      graphical user interface for smartctl
    ii  smart-notifier  0.28-5            graphical hard disk health status notifier
    ii  smartmontools   6.3+svn4002-2+b3  control and monitor storage systems using S.M.A.R.T.
    This should notify you in advance if the disk is about to fail (luckily never happened to me, so I don't know for sure). Not every failure can be catched by S.M.A.R.T.
  • Packaged gnome shell extensions
    ii  gnome-shell-extensions               3.18.1-1                 Extensions to extend functionality of GNOME Shell
    ii  gnome-shell-extension-suspend-button 0~git20150615-2          Gnome-shell extension to modify the suspend/shutdown buttons
    ii  gnome-shell-extension-weather        0~20151023.git34aa242-1  weather extension for GNOME Shell
    ii  gnome-shell-extension-top-icons-plus 15-1                     GNOME Shell extension to move system tray icons to top bar
    gnome-shell-extension-weather uses providers for the weather data which unfortunately require API keys, aka registration: or Does anybody know how free/open/libre these services are and if there are alternatives?
    You can click on the "Weather data providey by ..." field to open the provider's website. ioforecast opens with your configured place's weather forecast. openweather does not open the saved https link, changing it to http gets you to its starting page.
    In the meantime I'm using the following command for weather forecast in a terminal (requires terminal size of min. 125x41; put the following command in e.g. /usr/local/bin/weather, the city name is optional):
  • gnome-shell-extension-top-icons-plus
    Shows tray icons on top, or: see the Pidgin icon again and realize that there are new messages.
  • shotwell (replaced by gnome-photos, which still lacks a lot of functionality.)
  • systemd-cron to provide cron daemon & anacron functionality (replaces them but continues to execute the /etc/cron*/ and crontab jobs)


You might've got accustomed to some of the following packages over the years. Don't worry if they get uninstalled now.

So now I have systemd installed. This means I can uninstall:
  • pm-utils
  • acpi-support
  • acpi-support-base

With pm-utils gone, the following uninstall automatically:
  • ethtool
  • hdparm
  • libx86-1
  • radeontool
  • vbetool

If you have installed systemd-cron also these go/have gone:
  • anacron:amd64
  • cron:amd64
  • powermgmt-base
  • rsyslog:amd64

gnome-system-tools to manage e.g. user-accounts is dropped by upstream and not used anymore by upstream Gnome (see this RFA bug). Instead its functionality has been added to gnome-control-center.
  • gnome-system-tools

Touchpad changes:
It's still kind of work in progress, but it seems the xinput driver (libinput) will replace the synaptics driver (xserver-xort-input-synaptics). This may bring a better touchpad recognition (e.g. better palm detection to prevent accidentally using the keyboard - although that may just be disabled in your old synaptics installation, check with:synclient | grep PalmDetect). But for some people it caused more problems. See this thread at debian-devel.

  1. Tweak Tool - Extensions
    Also available via, but you need to Allow it in the browser to run!
    Local extensions are saved to ~/.local/share/gnome-shell/extensions/
    • Openweather
    • Removable drive menu (drives aren't remounted after a few seconds with this, contrary to removing them in "Files" or just unmounting them.)
    • Suspend button (gives a shutdown, a standby and a lock button)
  2. Settings - Privacy - Purge Trash & Temporary Files - On, Purge After 30 days
  3. (In case it is not already done
    sudo update-alternatives --set editor /usr/bin/emacs24
    sudo update-alternatives --set gnome-www-browser /usr/bin/iceweasel
    sudo update-alternatives --set x-www-browser /usr/bin/iceweasel
  4. Enjoy the benefits of Freedesktop standardization (and hope that all Desktop environments keep/return to use it).
    Set the default paths that some programs use for files in $HOME/.config/user-dirs.dirs:
    # This file is written by xdg-user-dirs-update
    # If you want to change or add directories, just edit the line you're
    # interested in. All local changes will be retained on the next run
    # Format is XDG_xxx_DIR="$HOME/yyy", where yyy is a shell-escaped
    # homedir-relative path, or XDG_xxx_DIR="/yyy", where /yyy is an
    # absolute path. No other format is supported.
  5. Check /etc/xdg/autostart/ and remove everything you don't need/want to run automatically when a user logs in (but e.g. removing tracker-* here will lead to recurring error messages when using Gnome):
    cd /etc/xdg/autostart/
    ls -l
    sudo rm evolution-alarm-notify.desktop
  6. In nautilus (Gnome Files) ask what to do with scripts (e.g. execute), instead of diplaying them with gedit:
    dconf write /org/gnome/nautilus/preferences/executable-text-activation "'ask'"
  7. General Nautilus (Gnome Files) preferences, imho much better suited for users with mouse and keyboard instead of a touchpad:
    dconf write /org/gnome/nautilus/preferences/always-use-location-entry true
    dconf write /org/gnome/nautilus/preferences/default-folder-viewer "'list-view'"
    dconf write /org/gnome/nautilus/preferences/sort-directories-first true
  8. Always have keyboard numlock on:
    dconf write /org/gnome/settings-daemon/peripherals/keyboard/numlock-state "'on'"
    dconf write /org/gnome/settings-daemon/peripherals/keyboard/remember-numlock-state true
  9. Highlight the current location of the pointer when the Control key is pressed and released:
    dconf write /org/gnome/settings-daemon/peripherals/mouse/locate-pointer true
  10. Reconfigure debconf to use the Gnome Interface
    sudo dpkg-reconfigure debconf

  1. Use the same name for a program and the process. Respect that there are alternatives. So don't call the process "nautilus" just "Files" in the UI (as it was a few versions ago, which is quite confusing), or "evince" just (something like) "Document Viewer". Now it seems no name is shown altogether, not even some "About" dialog. This is at least not so misleading anymore, but still makes it harder to figure some stuff out (kill the process, find some info on the web, ...).
  2. xrandr settings depending on connected video devices should be remembered.
    (Stopped working with Gnome 2 for Linux after 2.6.32, so perhaps not a Gnome issue.)
    Status: Works for the user, but not the login prompt.
  3. bluetooth on/off setting should be remembered
    Status: works, but disabling it removes the complete bluetooth entry from the system menu (to reenable e.g. use Settings - Bluetooth - On).
  4. Handle "vertically half-maximized" windows like unmaximized ones: Once a window is (half-)maximized it should still be possible to resize and move it (without bringing it back to its previous un(-half-)maximized size first).
  5. Moving windows to the bottom of the screen should "horizontically half-maximize" them.
  6. Don't disable every extension if Gnome crashes. It's bad enough that the crash happens. But it's just annoying to have to remember first which ones were enabled and then to manually reenable them (and the extensions were always innocent!). You could suggest to me to disable them, but don't just do it - unless you don't want users to use extensions at all. Reported as Debian bug #782084.

Yay, gets installed automatically now:
  • Pulled in by gnome/gnome-core:
    ii  dconf-editor      3.18.1-1  simple configuration storage system - graphical editor
    ii  gnome-tweak-tool  3.18.0-1  tool to adjust advanced configuration settings for GNOME
    dconf-editor is for GSetting configuration, aka everything. For older software you may still need gconf-editor (not installed here).
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