Putting Gnome on Atkins

Quick what do thin clients and thin people have in common?  Typically a lack of sugar (and if that's not true for you, I hate you and just wait).  In the real world sugar has many names, almost always ending in "ose".  In the thin client world the sugar comes in the form of eye candy and Gnome is full of it.

Now your typical \*nix desktop application coders are probably the most overcaffinated, sugar consuming, pizza loving people on earth.  Couple this with some insanely fast PC hardware and what do you get? 

Something that's wrong for thin client, that's what!  So let's cut some carbs out of Gnome and make it lean, mean, better for Sun Ray machine.

Most of  these tips will work for any 2.4 +  flavor of Gnome.  Some however are Solaris 10 specific which I will note.  These are the command line versions that an administrator can put into a script which can be ran by users by choice or automatically at login.  If you're more GUI driven, just fire up gconf-editor and follow the path of each item.

Get rid of the new Solaris 10 login screen (obviously Solaris 10 only)

Note: System wide change done by root

Why: The default Solaris 10 login screen with the s-curve graphic takes at least 5-20 seconds to draw depending on your network speed.  Reverting back to the older dtlogin based greeter reduces this to less than 1 second.

touch /etc/dt/config/C/styleModern

Get rid of the Gnome splash screen

Why:  This is just a bandwidth waster.  But on the other hand it's something to look at while Gnome starts. <insert snoring sound here>

gconftool-2 --type bool --set \\
/apps/gnome-session/options/show_splash_screen false

Get rid of Network Status applet

Why:  The Network status icon is useless for a normal user and redundant in a Sun Ray environment (no net, no Sun Ray).  The fact that it blinks (creating more traffic) is even more reason to remove it.

gconftool-2 --type list --list-type string --set \\
/apps/panel/global/disabled_applets \\

Note:  Depending on when this is set, a logout may be required to take effect

Don't show the JDS About screen (Solaris 10)

Why:  A bandwidth waster.  All the props in the world to the Gnome and JDS folks out there, but was the scrolling (and sometimes starfield simulations) really necessary?

gconftool-2 --type bool --set \\
/apps/gnome-session/options/sun_extensions/viewed_about_jds_three true

Tip:  You can also just find and rename gnome-about to gnome-about.old for much quicker fix that applies to all Gnome versions.

Get rid of the logout effect

Why:  Outside of watching fullscreen Spiderman trailers, this is about the dumbest thing to do on a thin  client.  Hey, let's redraw the screen 4 or 5 times, each at a different color level.  If you have wall paper, this can take up to 30 seconds under low bandwidth scenarios until you actually get to the point you can log out.

gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/apps/gnome-session/options/logout_effect black

Turn on WireFrame windows (Gnome 2.6+ & Solaris 2.0.x Gnome)

Why:  No reason to show the contents of windows while dragging.  In fact, unless you are dragging it real slow, it's impossible for a human to read what's in the window while dragging.

gconftool-2 --type bool --set \\
/apps/metacity/general/reduced_resources true

Solaris 8/9:

gconftool-2 -s /apps/metacity/sun_extensions/wireframe_move_resize -t bool true

Turn off wall paper

Why:  Initial screens take longer to draw, each time a window is moved or closed, the wallpaper must be redrawn.  Huge bandwidth waster.  A solid black background works best.

gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/desktop/gnome/background/picture_options none
gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/desktop/gnome/background/primary_color 000000
gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/desktop/gnome/background/color_shading_type solid

Use dtterm instead of gnome terminal (verisons of \*nix that have a terminal that does not use AA fonts)

Why:  Gnome Terminal uses AA fonts which are basically graphics to a thin client.  Compare the speed of dtterm (or xterm) with gnome-terminal on a ls -altr e\* from /.

gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/desktop/gnome/applications/terminal/exec /usr/dt/bin/dtterm
gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/desktop/gnome/applications/terminal/exec_arg -- -e

Use a simpler theme

Why:  The default BluePrint theme on JDS is fairly complex.  Requires more CPU and more bandwidth to be displayed. 

gconftool-2 --type string --set \\
/apps/metacity/general/theme Simple

Turn off tool tips

Why:  Extra text popping up creates extra traffic.  If your users are somewhat proficient, disable these

gconftool-2 --type bool --set \\
/apps/panel/global/tooltips_enabled false

Use a smaller font

Why:  The base font dpi of 96 is pretty large, with AA fonts treated basically as bitmaps, the smaller the better.

gconftool-2 --type float --set \\
/desktop/gnome/font_rendering/dpi 86

Note:  You can turn off the rendering of AA fonts, but it is just too horrible looking to mention.

Those are my favorites.  Leave yours in the comments and I will add them to the list.

Turn off the Desktop (submitted by Glynn Foster)

Why: If you want a really clean desktop with no icons or context menu, follow Glynn's tip.

gconftool-2 --type bool --set \\
/apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop false


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My name is Craig Bender aka ThinGuy. I'm a Principal Software Developer for Oracle's Virtual Desktop Engineering group.

I architect and evangelize the use of Oracle's Desktop technology including Sun Ray, Secure Global Desktop, and Oracle VDI.


« March 2015