Monday, January 14, 2013

Minecraft on Ubuntu: Part 1 - Installation and Setup

For quite a while I have been wanting to make a post about setting up and running Minecraft on Ubuntu, so here it is.

This first post will cover setting up Xubuntu, installing Minecraft, adjusting things to make it optimal, and finally enjoying Minecraft on an awesome, freedom loving, libre breathing operating system.

I Thought You Said...

Firstly, these instruction will be based on using Xubuntu in lieu of Ubuntu, although everything will basically work for Ubuntu as well.

I suggest Xubuntu as a base because:

  • I find Xubuntu elegant, attractive, and functional. Hat tip to the Xubuntu development team.
  • XFCE is a familiar desktop metaphor for people transitioning to Linux
  • I have experienced marked Minecraft performance improvements with Xubuntu compared to vanilla Ubuntu with Unity as the desktop environment

As Xubuntu can run well on modest hardware, I think it is an excellent choice if anyone has an under performing Windows machine and want to try something different. You can learn more at the Xubuntu website. Enough evangelizing, moving on.


Minecraft is written in Java and requires the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) to run the application. We will be installing the OpenJDK package, however, rather than the official Oracle JRE. There are reasons, but I shan’t go into them at the moment.

Using Software Center, search and install OpenJDK. Make sure openJDK 7 is installed and not OpenJDK 6. Enter password as necessary for installing the software.

Software Center and OpenJDK 7
Software Center and OpenJDK 7

Right. We are now prepared.

Installing Minecraft

On the Minecraft Download page, find the "Minecraft for Linux/Other" section and pick the "minecraft.jar" link to download it. Once downloaded, use your file manager (typically Thunar or Nautilus) to copy this file from your /Downloads directory to your Desktop. This is the first step to allow us to click the Desktop icon to start Minecraft.

 Open a terminal (I know....ewwww, but the terminal is quicker and rocks it like nothing else can) and type the following:
cd Desktop
chmod u+x minecraft.jar
Be sure to hit after each line. This will allow the new .jar file to be executed (i.e. run). PROTIP: when typing the second line you can use the Tab key to auto-complete "minecraft.jar". 

Using the Terminal
Using the Terminal

Don't freak out if the terminal doesn't say, "Congratulations!" or "I did your task without delay or errors, Captain!"...if things went well it won't say anything.

(In vanilla Ubuntu, you can also right click to set the .jar file as executable on the Permissions tab. If anyone knows how to change the execute bit without using the terminal in Xubuntu I would appreciate a comment.)

Also, right click the icon located on the Desktop. Pick the "Open with other Application..." option (picture to left).

OpenJDK and Use as Default
Rick Click and pick "Open With Other Application..."
Right Click and Open With Other Application

Make sure "Use as default..." is selected on the bottom, highlight "OpenJDK Java 7 Runtime", and finally pick the "Open" button (picture at right).

Impulse Power, Mr. Sulu

At this point you might be able to double click the Minecraft icon on the Desktop and have Minecraft start....but then again, you might not.

In some circumstances I have found that Minecraft will work just fine at this point, in others I have experienced that Minecraft will fail to start (hanging at either a white or a black screen) or keys will seem to "stick" (i.e. you take hands off the keyboard but you keep moving in the game).

If any of these issues are experienced, then you should probably update the Light Weight Java Game Library (LWJGL). Follow the instructions on this page which will instruct you to download the current LWJGL and replace several files.


You should now have a working install of Minecraft on one of the best libre operating systems at this time. Enjoy!

In the next post I will talk about installing a few mod packs like Tekkit or Feed the Beast.
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