Get GNOME Shell on ATI + Ubuntu 11.10

Ubuntu 11.10 (codenamed Oneiric Ocelot) was released a couple months back. Multiple reviews are available on the internet about how Unity (its default desktop environment) has been polished further among various other features, so I’m not going to go into depth on that here.

While a ton of people have complained about Unity, I’ve gotten used to it during the time that I’ve used Natty. However, I was drawn by Gnome Shell as well, and the fact that Ubuntu Oneiric has made it easier than ever to install it pushed me to try it out.

I’ve been using Gnome shell for about a week now, both in Fedora 15 as well as Ubuntu 11.10, and I’ve grown to like it just a little bit more than Unity, for whatever reason (IMHO, it just looks better, take the top panel for instance).

To install Gnome Shell, run the following command in a terminal –

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell gnome-tweak-tool

Gnome tweak tool is a package that allows you to customize Ubuntu’s Gnome shell environment to change the theme from Ambiance to Adwaita (start it up, then go to Theme > GTK+ theme). This simply integrates better with Gnome shell from what I’ve heard.

For most users, logging out and then logging back in (while selecting Gnome) in the LightDM screen should suffice. However, the ordeal is not yet over for ATI users.

Since the default open source driver for ATI chipsets that ships with Ubuntu Oneiric has issues working with Gnome Shell, we have two options at hand –

Install the latest proprietary drivers from the ATI website (Catalyst 11.10 or later)
Install bleeding edge open source drivers from the xorg-edgers PPA

I will be detailing both methods below.

MY SPECS – Dell Studio 1558 with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD5470 running Ubuntu 11.10 (with the latest updates as of 02 Nov 2011).

NOTE – The following techniques assume that you have not modified your base Ubuntu video drivers in any way (i.e. you have a vanilla install with respect to graphics).

While this guide worked for me, it might not produce equally awesome results for you. Although the risk of messing up your existing install is minimal, please back up any important data before proceeding.

Method I – Installing the latest proprietary drivers (credit goes to this site)

This technique worked fine, but did not seem to resolve video tearing issues for me.
Before you start –

Install the prerequisite packages:

sudo apt-get install build-essential cdbs fakeroot dh-make debhelper debconf libstdc++6 dkms libqtgui4 wget execstack libelfg0 dh-modaliases

If you are using the x86_64 architecture (64 bit), be sure to install “ia32-libs” before proceeding!

sudo apt-get install ia32-li$ sudo apt-get install ia32-libsbs

Download the latest Catalyst package: (this contains both the 32 bit and the 64 bit installation candidates):

cd ~/; mkdir catalyst11.10; cd catalyst11.10/

Create .deb packages:

sudo sh ./ --buildpkg Ubuntu/oneiric

Install the .debs:

sudo dpkg -i fglrx*.deb

For troubleshooting any further issues, look at the aforementioned guide for further details, especially the section on video tearing.

Method II – Installing the latest open source drivers (credit goes to this thread)

This is the technique I’m currently using, and I’m not experiencing video tearing of any sort.

IMPORTANT – As of 02 Nov 2011, this technique WILL break Unity. A bugfix is on the way, but in the meanwhile, you’ll be restricted to using GNOME Shell or an alternative DE.

Add the following ppa to your software sources by opening up Ubuntu Software Centre and going to Edit > Software Sources > Other Software > Add


Then run the following commands in a terminal window

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

For each technique, restart X for the changes to take effect. This can be done by logging out and then back in.

Good luck, and have fun playing around with GNOME Shell!


5 thoughts on “Get GNOME Shell on ATI + Ubuntu 11.10

  1. Hello
    Although, am not recommending ATI card at all, for linux, due to bad quality of proprietary drivers, I am glad that you make this subject. I don’t have ATI graphic card so I cannot perform any installation, that’s why I am happy that you did it for all ATI users 😉

  2. Pingback: Get GNOME Shell on ATI + Ubuntu 11.10 | sn0v | Pici's Ubuntu Blog

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