Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Installing Conky on Linux Mint

Summary: This article covers installation and configuration of Conky on a Linux Mint system, installation of themes, and tweaks required for making themes work properly on Cinnamon desktop.

Conky is a light-weight system monitor that displays information on your Linux desktop. It is similar to the Rainmeter application on Windows and is included by default in many linux distributions like Knoppix, PartedMagic and Pinguy OS. Since it draws directly to an X-window, it is extremely lightweight and consumes very little system resources compared to other applications. There are a number of really beautiful themes available at DeviantArt and other sites.

Sadly Conky doesn't have a GUI interface for changing themes and other settings. Installing a theme involves editing config files. The settings for Conky are stored in a file named .conkyrc in your Home directory. Other files are stored in a directory named .conky. Some of the fonts used by the theme may be missing on your system and has to be downloaded and installed manually.

There are also some issues with the Cinnamon desktop in Linux Mint. Some themes will not be displayed unless we make certain changes in the .conkyrc file.

First let's install Conky by running the following command in a terminal window:

sudo apt-get install conky-all

After the packages are installed, start Conky with the following command:


Since we have not yet installed any themes, Conky will pick up the default config file that came with the package: /etc/conky/conky.conf

Now let's install some themes.

Kill Conky by pressing CTRL+C in the same terminal window from which we ran Conky. If Conky refuses to quit, you can kill it forcefully by executing the following command in another terminal window:

killall conky

Download the Gotham theme from the Deviantart site and unzip the files in your HOME directory. The .conkyrc file will go directly into your HOME directory and the remaining files will go into the .conky folder. The .conky folder will be hidden (since it starts with a dot .). To view the folder, open your file manager (Nemo/Nautilus), go to your HOME folder and press CTRL+H.

Open the .conkyrc file in a text editor (command: gedit ~/.conkyrc)

Find the following lines:

own_window no
own_window_type override
minimum_size 250 5

Change them to:

own_window yes
own_window_type normal
minimum_size 550 300

These changes are required for displaying the theme properly on Cinnamon desktop. You can skip this step if you are using Ubuntu.

Save the file and close the editor.

Start Conky again (command: conky)

Enjoy your new desktop!

Issues and Troubleshooting

Missing Fonts

Most the Conky themes that you will find on DeviantArt and other sites, use fonts which are rare. If the font is not installed on your system, then the theme will look strange.

Conky automatically uses the default font for drawing the text if the original font is missing. However, if the original font is smaller or larger than the default font, it will mess-up the alignment between the text and the background image.

Open the .conkyrc file and look at the lines at the bottom of the file. Here's a sample taken from the .conkyrc file in Gotham theme

${voffset 10}${color EAEAEA}${font GE Inspira:pixelsize=120}${time %H:%M}
${font}${voffset -84}${offset 10}${color FFA300}${font GE Inspira:pixelsize=42}
${time %d} ${voffset -15}${color EAEAEA}${font GE Inspira:pixelsize=22}
${time  %B} ${time %Y}${font}${voffset 24}${font GE Inspira:pixelsize=58}
${offset -148}${time %A}${font}
${voffset 1}${offset 12}${font Ubuntu:pixelsize=10}${color FFA300}HD ${offset 9}
$color${fs_free /} / ${fs_size /}${offset 30}${color FFA300}RAM ${offset 9}
$color$mem / $memmax${offset 30}${color FFA300}CPU ${offset 9}$color${cpu cpu0}%

The theme uses the GE Inspira and Ubuntu fonts. The Ubuntu font is installed by default on all Ubuntu systems but the GE Inspira font is not. You can download the font from sites like Font Catalog and install it by following the instructions given in the Ubuntu Wiki.

Conky is running but not visible on desktop

Open the .conkyrc file in a text editor (command: gedit ~/.conkyrc)

Find the following lines:

own_window no
own_window_type override

Change them to:

own_window yes
own_window_type normal

Theme not fully visible (truncated images and text)

Add the following line to the top of the .conkyrc file or edit the line if already present:

minimum_size 700 100

Adjust the width (700) and height (100) as required. You may need to restart Conky for the changes to be visible.

Moving the theme to another location on the desktop

Find and edit the following lines:

gap_x 60
gap_y 300

The gap_x value (60) is the distance from the left edge of the screen and the gap_y value (300) is the distance from the top edge.