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Old 12-18-2006, 08:03 PM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default Beginners Guide to Linux Desktops

So you use Linux, but have you ever used a different desktop environment than the default? Surprisingly, there are too many to even count, but we are taking a look at a few of the most popular and explain advantages of each one.

You can read the full article here and discuss it here.
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Old 12-19-2006, 09:07 AM   #2
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Thanks for a very good review. I'm using Gnome, but has been thinking about changing to KDE. In the review of KDE you have included a screenshot of my personal KDE desktop and how do you get the system information, like Memory&Storage, Time&Date, ... on the Desktop?

Thanks
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Old 12-19-2006, 10:02 AM   #3
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Hey BanjoBoy,

Thanks for the nice comment. I should have closed that portion before I snapped the screenshot, because it's a plugin for SuperKaramba, not a part of KDE. I once found the plugin base somewhere, but I can't remember which site. Basically, it's a .theme file and you can just edit it in a text editor to your liking.

http://netdragon.sourceforge.net/ssuperkaramba.html
My Theme

Install SK and then right click my theme and save as if you want it. It will require a good amount of editing though, such as your mount points and things like that. I edited it specifically for my system, so it may just spit out garbage on yours. If you like weather, there's another cool plugin called Liquid Weather that you may want to try.

Hope that helps.
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Old 12-19-2006, 05:43 PM   #4
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Hi, nice review, but ...


I just thought, and that's by far not your fault, that the E WM/DE review could have gotten a little bit more. E was once The prettiest of them all. It was even the default WM for Gnome in the early days. Granted E is only a WM, not a DE really, but what I missed the most, especially in the screenshots, was a better theme. I know the winter theme is the default E theme, but it looks so ... ugly. I remember back in the day, with ganymede iirc, the default theme back then, that just wowed and awed me. Also E still has the most themes over at themes.freshmeat.net of all WM's out there.

I know you gave an honest with default settings review, but including one pimped E screenshot would have been nice to remember us about the glory of E16.

Oh and what about E17
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Old 12-19-2006, 06:57 PM   #5
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Default More.

This article does well to make newbies aware that there are other desktop/window-manager possibilities. However, it probably could have gone a little further, and it could have been a little more accurate.

Although the article did say that it was "... merely scratching the surface..." of the available desktops/window-managers, here's a simple link to a site listing and describing what's available:
http://xwinman.org/
There is a world of choice out there!


FROM THE ARTICLE:
"While GNOME shares similar goals as KDE, that's where the similarities end. The environment as a whole is completely different, and is reminiscent of Mac OS 9 in terms of layout. Whereas in KDE, all of the programs, launchers and applets are crammed into a single bar (which is why it's so large by default), GNOME splits this into two parts. On the top of the screen you will have your menu, clock and quick launchers. On the bottom, you have your currently used applications and also the desktop switcher. It may seem like an odd setup if you've never used GNOME before, but after some usage you will quickly understand how much sense it makes."

This paragraph includes a few of the many misconceptions involing Linux desktops/window-managers. The default layout of a desktop is usally determined by the specific Linux distro, not by the creator of the desktop/window-manager. Here is a screenshot of the default KDE desktop in the recently-released, mini-edition of Sabayon Linux:
http://www.thecodingstudio.com/opens...Edition/14.gif

As one can see, part of the task-bar is defaulted to the bottom of the desktop, and the other part is defaulted to the top. So, Gnome isn't the only desktop/window-manager that has this capability -- not by a long-shot. And, from looking at the KDE panel-configuration window, it is obvious that task-bars (and portions of task-bars) can be arranged in almost any way that one desires, including along the sides and corners of the desktop. I would guess that Gnome is just as configurable.

I'm also guessing that many Linux distros having KDE as the main desktop choose to default to the large task-bar to accommodate the 4-paned, square arrangement of the "virtual desktops." Perhaps the distro creators want new users to know that the square arrangement is a possibility, in case the new users are only familiar with the side-by-side configuration. At any rate, in KDE, it probably only takes three or four clicks of a mouse to change to one of the smaller task-bars, with side-by-side virtual desktops.

I don't know if there are prescribed, default layouts from KDE or from Gnome -- the screenshots from the KDE site show a few typical layouts with a few uncommon ones:
http://www.kde.org/screenshots/
I couldn't find any screenshots on the Gnome site.

No reason is given as to why the Gnome layout shown makes so much sense. After years of reading the opinions of countless usability "experts," I believe that the best layout is the one that the user prefers, and there are zillions of other layouts possible in Gnome, KDE, ROX, WindowMaker, Golem, E17, 3d-Desktop, XFCE, *-box, JWM, Oroboros, PAWM, etc... By the way, I currently enjoy IceWM with one tiny task-bar on the bottom, with side-by-side virtual desktops (four) and with no icons.


FROM THE ARTICLE:
"When you first login to a new GNOME environment, you will notice how incredibly clean it is. The desktop only has a few icons (unless you have files already there) and the theme is simple, but visually appealing."

There are only a few desktop icons on the default Sabayon, KDE desktop shown in link above, and this condition is true of the default, non-Gnome desktops of many Linux distributions.

The visual appeal of a desktop or window-manager is subjective, and relies primarily on the specific theme/configuration that one chooses or modifies or creates. And themes are portable -- if someone creates a popular theme in one desktop/window-manager, that theme is often ported to other desktops/window-managers. Most of the established desktop/window-managers have a wide selection of themes/configurations.


FROM THE ARTICLE:
"All of that said, once you have GNOME installed you will have a desktop like seen at the top of this page. Although it's such a full featured DE, bloated is a word that doesn't come to mind. It's fast, versatile and reliable."

Again, it might be that not all Gnome desktops will appear like the one shown in the article.

Also, I don't know much about Gnome's current state, but I would be surprised if it has overcome the size and bug problems that have plagued it in the past few years. KDE is also huge, but, as I understand, it is easier to compile.


FROM THE ARTICLE:
"Fluxbox, E16, FVWM-Crystal"
"Warning: Hardcore users only! Minimalistic environments are just that. They are designed for a variety of users. First, you may have a super old machine that you want to set up as a file server. Or, you may want the smallest environment possible for performance reasons, or enjoy having a lot more of your screen available for windows at any given time. Lastly, you may be one of those Lunix hax0rs that would feel more more leet by using a more hardcore environment."

Let's not scare people unnecessarily. Fluxbox, E16 and FVWM-Crystal are incredibly easy to use. I'm positive that my 81-year-old mother could easily navigate through any of these three window-managers (she runs Mepis/KDE).

The true minimalist environments are Ratpoison, Ion, evilwm, BadWM, Stumpwm, etc., and these window managers are extremely fast and efficient. Here's a screenshot of Ion:
http://modeemi.fi/~tuomov/ion/screenshots/ion3-1.png

Hope this helps.
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Old 12-19-2006, 08:59 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Oh and what about E17
I haven't installed that yet, but I've been meaning to. It's coming along nice!

Thanks for the great points, both of you. I did seem to overlook a few things. If I ever follow up this article when newer versions of the desktops become available, I will make note of all the facts here.

Thanks again. This is the type of constructive criticism we thrive on
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Old 12-20-2006, 11:27 AM   #7
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Default Great article!

I'm not exactly a newbie anymore, but I haven't ventured out of my Gnome desktop safe haven. I have an old laptop that I'm going to try to put Linux on and after reading your article, I think I'm going to use Xfce or Enlightenment. Thanks!
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Old 04-27-2007, 09:59 AM   #8
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Default Nice terminal

How can I get the custom terminal on the first page? The green letters and black window is very nice. Can I do that with gnome?
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Old 04-27-2007, 04:25 PM   #9
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As far as I know, you cannot change the colors with the default GNOME terminal, although I can't say for sure. I'd check, but I currently don't have GNOME installed. If you have KDE installed, you can probably load up the same terminal program I use (Konsole). Just hit ALT+F2 and see if konsole brings anything up.

If not, you can install KDE to get it. I don't believe you can install Konsole without KDE-base, but I could be wrong. Once you have it installed, you can edit the settings to your liking. The attachment shows the exact settings I use for the color scheme.
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