I am using Ubuntu Server 10.10 in a VirtualBox. I need to install a single GUI program (RubyMine) on it.

I checked out installing ubuntu-desktop with apt-get, and it wants me to install 430 new packages (including OpenOffice). I installed the server in the first place to keep the install as clean as possible!

How do I do a minimal install of (all packages needed) to run that single GUI program?

I created a file /etc/apt/apt.conf and added the following:

APT::Install-Recommends "0";
APT::Install-Suggests "0";

But sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop still says:

0 upgraded, 430 newly installed, 1 to remove and 9 not upgraded.
Need to get 155MB of archives.
After this operation, 542MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]? n

You can install X without a complete desktop environment but to be upfront and honest, installing ubuntu-desktop is probably the quickest and config-free method of doing what you want.

For our media centre, I use a simple stack of: nodmxserver-xorgopenbox. It's very raw but it allows me (with a bit of scripting) to have the system boot to X and then launch the media centre application (Boxee here). I could probably have gone without openbox but it's nice to have some sort of Window Manager just in case I do want to run something else.

When I was doing it, I followed a whole raft of different documentation but the bulk of it is summed up here. In short you should be aiming to:

  1. Install nodm, X, etc.
  2. Configure nodm by telling it what user to run as (I do suggest creating a non-root user)
  3. Create a ~/.xsession file to boot whatever application you want to be running. In my case this is:

    exec /home/oli/uberboxee

    You'd just swap out /home/oli/uberboxee for your launcher.

Just as a side note, if you install something that requires, for example, GTK, you'll find it might pull in a massive number of recommended packages. To keep things light, I strongly consider you run your apt-get installs with the --no-install-recommends flag.

The Low Memory System page on help.ubuntu.com is a good resource for finding alternatives to the Gnome desktop. Installing a desktop suite is going to bring a lot of stuff but it might save you a little bit of configuration.

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  • Thanks for your insights..I am infact looking at the ubuntu help for low memory systems; also i did try --no-install-recommends but it doesn't seem to work (says no such option). I'm looking into using Damn Small Linux now. – Zabba Apr 28 '11 at 23:30
  • Sorry, I can't access facebook: facebook.com/note.php?note_id=417853742697 :( Could you add add different link to this information? thx – Steven Devijver Feb 24 '12 at 10:12
  • Also, found this link on how to configure nodm: staff.blog.ui.ac.id/jp/2010/07/06/… – Steven Devijver Feb 24 '12 at 10:14
  • ok, after a few hours of struggling I figured out I didn't have xinit installed (I'm using ubuntu server.) sudo apt-get install xinit solved that problem. Reboot and now it's working! – Steven Devijver Feb 24 '12 at 11:49

You just need to install a clean desktop environment, try Gnome or KDE for starters this will give you a graphical interface without the extra software each distribution is coming with.

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  • How do I install a clean desktop environment on Ubuntu Server? – Zabba Apr 28 '11 at 22:44
  • 1
    @Zabba sudo apt-get install gnome-desktop-environment – topless Apr 28 '11 at 22:49
  • You can always get the code and build it yourself there is an analytic guide in gnome.org – topless Apr 28 '11 at 22:51

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