I had a bit of a problem after a common pursuit into the perfect desktop environment for one of my computers. I have an all-in-one system running Ubuntu 16.04 in my home which I use for my vinyl cutting. I broke a universal rule. That rule is never experiment with the revenue-generating computer. I was on a mission to find a lightweight desktop to replace Unity.
My primary requirement for the vinyl cutter is a copy of Inkscape and a python extension called Inkcut. This works fine in Unity, but I was noticing some lag as the complexity of the designs increases.
First off, I was not going to reload the machine. My distro-hopping days are pretty much over now that some actual uses for computers have come into my life. I proceeded to run apt install ubuntu-mate-desktop and give MATE a try as a replacement for Unity. If things didn’t workout, I would just run apt remove ubuntu-mate-desktop and be back to normal.
MATE was really nice. My drive is encrypted with LUKS. When I rebooted for the first time my reaction was “Oh, isn’t that clever. They replaced the decryption screen with a MATE logo.” I went back to work for a few months in Inkscape and thought nothing of it.
Things were going very well free from Unity, but I was still feeding memory to Gnome 2.0 instead of Inkscape. While not in any way faulting MATE, I changed my mind and decided to add a time-honored favorite.
apt install fluxbox
Now the fun began. apt remove ubuntu-mate-desktop does not remove that clever encryption screen along with a few other dependencies. Every time I rebooted, that clever screen was there. It was completely functional, but coupled with the fact I was using fluxbox’s user login screen, the whole system looked like a Frankendistro. Fluxbox was removed easily with a quick apt remove, but that clever screen! I wanted to go back to stock Ubuntu and began digging on Google for a fix in my free time, probably about an hour a week. I refused to reinstall over something this trivial.
After a lot of dead-ends and some mention that it’s not even worth it because you can wreck your ability to dencrypt the drive, tonight was finally the night. I found the solution by combining multiple instructions and some commands which had helped in the past.
The main clue: dpkg records everything it installs and removes in /var/log/dpkg.log
These logs are compressed in gzip files overtime, so if you fix this in slow motion like I did, you may need to extract multiple files to get all the records. grep is your friend afterwards.
grep -iw -e “installed mate” /var/log/dpkg.log*
Then, I came to my senses and simplified the process:
sudo dpkg –get-selections | grep mate
Two packages caught my full attention:
Some final actions:
apt remove plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-logo plymouth-theme-ubuntu-mate-text
I rebooted at this point and saw plymouth screens with generic text.
Let’s make it pretty again with some old knowledge from Debian:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure plymouth-theme-ubuntu-logo plymouth-theme-ubuntu-text
This command is a little scary. It triggered an update to initramfs, but I noticed something in the output:
“update-alternatives: warning: alternative /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-mate-logo/ubuntu-mate-logo-scale-2.plymouth (part of link group default.plymouth) doesn’t exist; removing from list of alternatives
update-alternatives: warning: alternative /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-mate-logo/ubuntu-mate-logo.plymouth (part of link group default.plymouth) doesn’t exist; removing from list of alternatives
update-alternatives: warning: /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth is dangling; it will be updated with best choice
update-alternatives: using /usr/share/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-logo/ubuntu-logo.plymouth to provide /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth (default.plymouth) in auto mode”
After a second reboot, I was successful. Unity has been restored. If only dpkg-reconfigure worked on people!