Let's talk about desktop environments.

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Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby exploder on Sun Oct 21, 2012 12:22 pm

Ubuntu 12.10 has just been released, Unity has had some nice refinements. The new preview feature in the dash is a really nice refinement and I think that over time Ubuntu's dash is probably going to be one of the best alternatives to the traditional menus we have seen in the past. I like the way Unity is trying not to take away features but adding new and different features. Unity in Ubuntu 12.10 is less responsive than it was in 12.04 but I think updates will speed things up over time. As I understand, the Ubuntu developers are developing Compiz now and they have their hands full with many other projects as well.

Elementary OS Luna is currently under development and I watched some YouTube demos of it thanks to someone posting about it here. I was impressed with the fact that Elementary OS developers are going in their own direction with the user interface and developing things on their own. The desktop effects I saw were very impressive to say the least. The shadows used on windows really caught my attention! Luna has an extremely elegant look to it and in my opinion it surpasses the Mac OS for visual appeal. I like how the developers are taking their time with the release to take care of bugs and further refine things. I saw some very unique features in Elementary OS Lunu and really look forward to checking out the final release when it arrives.

I have been reading about new features coming to Cinnamon in Linux Mint and that the features will be back-ported to the LTS. Cinnamon just keeps getting better with each new release and the decision to fork Nautilus in favor of retaining features was an awesome decision. I read about the improvements that are coming to the software center today and it sounds like things are really going well for the new release. Cinnamon is my favorite desktop environment for retaining a traditional desktop and it has a great set of default desktop effects to make it feel modern and polished. I am really looking forward to testing the new release when development releases start to show up.

I am really enjoying the current trend of developers developing their own desktop environments. I think it is great seeing new and unique things being developed for Linux. Many new users do not want a Windows clone and with Windows 8 on the horizon I think that more people are going to take a look at Linux to see what it has to offer. I think that Linux has the edge on Windows 8 as far as usability goes and I find that many people that are new Linux users want something new and different. There are many more distributions doing their own thing besides the ones I mentioned and I find it refreshing. It used to be that there was not very much distinguishing one distribution from another but now there are some really great choices out there.

Game developers are porting some really great titles to Linux and commercial projects of various types are looking at Linux more seriously. I read about an open source replacement for Microsoft Project and thought to myself, this is the kind of thing we need to see for Linux to advance as a mainstream alternative to Windows. These are exciting times for Linux and I am impressed by the new ideas and ways of doing things are headed. I understand that many long time Linux users want a traditional desktop but the times are changing and I think that developers are being more creative than they have ever been.

What is your take on where things are headed? Does anyone else see positive things happening for Linux?
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby Adelante on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:21 am

ElementaryOS is truly lovely. I've been trying out the daily builds for a few days, which are classified "unstable." But it's proving extremely stable and quick as a bunny. Though I keep expecting something terrible to happen, it hasn't. It's very pleasant to use. The design is pretty rigid, thus far, which I understand is how the developers like it to be. I don't have any major issues with that approach, they're doing a beautiful job of it. But I would like to be able to see the applications fonts better, say 11 or 12 px, and I haven't found a way to change it, except for the fonts on Synaptic individually. Perhaps the final release of Luna, due out tomorrow (date flexible), will offer a way to increase general font sizes and also window themes so the scrollbar isn't so thin. I know it looks pretty but it can be hard to maneuver sometimes. Those are the two little things I know one way or another I can probably work out. A more serious issue I have is if I install something, it doesn't necessarily appear in the menu (wingpanel, I think they call it). My Linux skill set isn't very deep, so these could be my problems, not the system's, I realize. But overall I'm kind of in love. :D

exploder wrote:Elementary OS Luna is currently under development and I watched some YouTube demos of it thanks to someone posting about it here. I was impressed with the fact that Elementary OS developers are going in their own direction with the user interface and developing things on their own. The desktop effects I saw were very impressive to say the least. The shadows used on windows really caught my attention! Luna has an extremely elegant look to it and in my opinion it surpasses the Mac OS for visual appeal. I like how the developers are taking their time with the release to take care of bugs and further refine things. I saw some very unique features in Elementary OS Lunu and really look forward to checking out the final release when it arrives.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby monkeyboy on Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:44 am

exploder wrote: What is your take on where things are headed? Does anyone else see positive things happening for Linux?

It depends on where you look in time and ones expectations. If you look at the here and now and are wrestling with a problem then the Linux experience can suck. On the other hand if you look at the state of Linux as a desktop OS now as compared to say five or six years ago things can look much better now. In the future, who really knows. The crystal balls are all dim and the time machine never worked so seeing where Linux is going its all conjecture.
Expectations are also a big issue when it comes to ones perception of quality in a Linux based OS. If one wants a drop in replacement for one of the big commercial OSs then things have never been really good in Linux. On the other hand if one is willing to get over the learning curves the options available (DEs,targeted releases, applications, etc) for a Linux user have never been better.Bottom line you can usually find what you are looking for in Linux if you want. IMHO
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby overthetop on Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:16 pm

I agree that a lot is happening in the Linux world these days, for better or for worse. The desktop environments seem to be in a bit of a tizzy, but I trust that in time, everything will sort out. If there is one thing available today, its choice; and that has always been a part of the Linux experience. Every day that passes, things get more mature and more stable; and like exploder, I am looking toward Linux's future with high hopes!
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby caerolle on Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:44 pm

Personally, I love all the options available with Linux. Beyond the basic requirement of being willing to work and learn, and not just use, you can find or build pretty much anything you want. I started with MATE, was great while I learned, tried KDE and hated it, went back to MATE, found it had too much stuff, moved to Xfce and loved it for a while (it is still my fave of the mainstreams DEs, by far). Then even Xfce was too cluttered, went to Openbox with Conky and a panel. That was a bit too bare, wound up with enlightenment (e17), and it's just right! You can do a bit of customization in Windows and OS X, but nothing like what is possible in Linux. And this is just wrt your desktop! Beyond that, there are so many different options in Linux systems themselves. I feel it's a great time for Linux. I don't really see it ever becoming mainstream, like Windows or OS X, but there is a vibrant and active community, and it doesn't seem to be in danger of going away.

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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby DrHu on Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:15 pm

I think the separation of an OS into desktop and mobile makes more sense than the commercial vendors approach of generating a Mobil +desktop hybrid
    Such a desktop, as the latest windows OS (win8) does nothing for the normal desktop user, who has a much larger screen and possibly a real desktop, not a notebook sized screen
    --and usually will want a more complete OS experience than simply gesturing or mini-apps as you get with smartphones or mobile devices..
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby overthetop on Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:58 pm

DrHu wrote:I think the separation of an OS into desktop and mobile makes more sense than the commercial vendors approach of generating a Mobil +desktop hybrid
    Such a desktop, as the latest windows OS (win8) does nothing for the normal desktop user, who has a much larger screen and possibly a real desktop, not a notebook sized screen
    --and usually will want a more complete OS experience than simply gesturing or mini-apps as you get with smartphones or mobile devices..

I wholeheartedly agree.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby caerolle on Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:11 pm

Well, I guess that experiment is being started right now. We'll see how that works.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby remoulder on Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:25 pm

exploder wrote: am really enjoying the current trend of developers developing their own desktop environments. I think it is great seeing new and unique things being developed for Linux. Many new users do not want a Windows clone and with Windows 8 on the horizon I think that more people are going to take a look at Linux to see what it has to offer

@exploder: have you read Miguel de Icaza's blog post What Killed the Linux Desktop in which he says
Linux on the Desktop lost the race for a consumer operating system. It will continue to be a great engineering workstation ... we lost the chance of becoming a mainstream consumer OS. What this means is that nobody is recommending a non-technical person go get a computer with Linux on it for their desktop needs

My own take on this is that the race for the desktop is long over. Whilst all these efforts now springing up are nice, in the long term they are going nowhere as far as the average consumer is concerned, linux desktop use is and will remain a tiny niche. Whilst there are many who will disagree, the desktop computer as we know it is likely to disappear over the next decade. All the big players can see the writing on the wall why do you think they are putting so much emphasis on touch and mobile, even Canonical and Mozilla are following that route. It doesn't matter what you or I or anyone else here think, it's what the consumer, the average non-computer person, goes out and buys, and at the moment and for the foreseeable future, that is not desktop computers. Sure businesses will continue to buy them for a while but they by and large don't really care what desktop environment they run as long as it is productive and certainly don't care for fancy graphics and bells and whistles. The last word I'll leave to Miguel who wrote
this is something that intelligent people will disagree until the end of the days
[Edit] your original post and add [SOLVED] once your question is resolved.

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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby DrHu on Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:47 pm

All I hope is we don't all get forced onto tablet style systems (mobiles..eg smartphones and such) as the only acceptable computer input or user/consumer system
    I personally think gestures are only useful on smartphones and the finger tapping needed to use a tablet is a waste of time except for browsing and minimum entry users
    --I don't see how a doctor for example, who might find the convenience of a carry-about computer (tablet) useful can get much done (inputs) using virtual keyboards (maybe they'll develop voice input more completely) or finger twitching on a screen (small as it might be)

I concede PC sales have gone down in preference to smartphones and tablets
--it is almost like some gender based marketing: women styled notebooks (colours or key or fashion styles) meant to appeal to that demographic, while ignoring their current customers and assigning everyone to the new thing!

Ah well!, I can always give up and stick with what I have, if I get tired of the next new thing
    --something that passes for innovation, but is really just trending (I think that is one of them thar words that are au courant

Why I don't jump to any new thing that shows up
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby caerolle on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:17 pm

remoulder,

I do agree with you and Miguel de Icaza any chance there ever was for Linux to be a mainstream desktop is long lost. I will go beyond what he says about 'technical fields' and say that in my field, isolation and characterization of proteins, it's non-existent. Everything is Windows based, either with a PC hooked directly to the equipment, or with data collected on a server and accessed via a client on a PC. Modeling is done on supercomputers, and those use UNIX, but the vast majority of people are using Windows boxes.

I don't agree with de Icaza that supporting one unified Linux OS would help that much. I personally see Linux as mostly an enthusiast undertaking (I know some people do use it for business, b/c they hate Windows and OS X so much, and it is used a lot on servers and embedded in things, I mean as a general desktop system), and it seems the appeal is variety. Look at the impact of GNOME locking things down on its popularity--it seems to be less, not more, popular.

Dr. Hu,

I would think that gamers would at least keep desktops popular enough that we can continue to buy hardware for a long time?
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby remoulder on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:33 pm

caerolle wrote:popular enough that we can continue to buy hardware for a long time

But at what cost? Manufacturers will follow the money and produce goods that appeal to the majority. There will probably remain some who produce specialized hardware as now but without mass market costings these are likely to be more and more expensive.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby caerolle on Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:58 pm

True, remoulder. Maybe we'll be reduced to scouring abandoned buildings like in the apocalyptic movies, to find hardware in 10 years. If so, I guess I'll have to find another hobby. I'll miss Linux, though.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby DrHu on Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:52 pm

I gave up following HAM radio when scanners came about, but I still like to keep in touch with old guys (nostalgia I guess, but that's not all that bad)
http://www.osfiles.com/
http://www.old-computers.com/news/default.asp
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby exploder on Fri Oct 26, 2012 8:58 pm

I ended up putting Ubuntu 12.04 x64 back on my HP DV6 laptop tonight. 12.10 was just too slow and with no tweak utilities for it, I just was not that happy with it. A recent update to Jockey in 12.04 seemed to solve my graphics card issues, one core of my processor is no longer maxing out. The LTS is noticeably faster and it uses a lot less memory than 12.10 was using. I really like the Unity interface, it is easier for me to see and I will miss the right click preview feature but all the bugs are pretty much fixed with the LTS now.

I am still looking forward to Mint 14 and elementary OS Luna. I want to see how memory use is with both of these. I think that Cinnamon is not going to have the slowness that Ubuntu 12.10 currently has. elementary OS Luna looked very responsive in the videos I watched too. I think all 3 of these distros are worth watching because they are all doing their own thing with the user interface. I watched a video of Gnome Shell 3.6 last night and it is starting to look pretty good. I tried Gnome Shell on Fedora for a couple of weeks a while back and it was pretty nice, simple but nice just the same.

I also read that Razor QT was coming along nicely, it looked like a nice contender for a light desktop environment. Razor QT kind of reminded me of KDE 3x for some reason but it looked a lot lighter, this one might be real interesting for KDE fans that have older computers collecting dust.

There sure are some good choices out here, something to suit everyones needs. :D
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby rhodry on Sat Oct 27, 2012 1:20 am

This is going to be my next computer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-THdG5gVTw

I'm surprised noone thought of it sooner?!! :)

I am also still waiting for the 1st of the TRSI - Texting Repetitive Strain Injury claims to come forth. Business is gonna LOVE this!!

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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby cwwgateway on Sat Oct 27, 2012 9:28 am

@remolder
I guess I have to agree that I doubt linux is going anywhere on the desktop (but I will never stop hoping for that extremely slim chance). However, the desktop itself will always be needed, even if it is used less and less. There is just no way to do some work done on a desktop on a tablet - the screen's too small and it has no real keyboard (yeah, you can get table transformer things, but they aren't as good as a real USB keyboard with a number pad, etc). Basically, businesses, people who do a lot of office work, people who are involved in photo/video editing, and some consumers are going to need desktops.

As for the actual topic, I do think that it is very nice how different distros are making their own desktop for their own needs, but I personally preferred the way it worked with gnome 2. Cinnamon stuff isn't compatible with unity stuff which isn't compatible with Gnome Shell stuff which isn't compatible with ElementaryOS stuff. However, if you accept that that is how it is now, it does look very promising. Distros are choosing how they want to be. Here are my thoughts on a few of them that are fairly new (including distros with Gnome Shell):
  • ElementaryOS - their desktop is very nice and it shows the vision of the developers, but it isn't very customizable, so I would have trouble using it. I like how clean it is and the menu is very nice, but I don't care for the particular dock
  • Mint/Cinnamon - Cinnamon is by far my favorite desktop of the ones mentioned here. It has a large community surrounding it, and the themes, applets, and extensions are great. Cinnamon has very nice default settings, but it is very customizable - I think it is getting close to rivaling Gnome 2 in most use cases (there are still some limitations). Cinnamon also isn't meant to just be implemented in Linux Mint and to have the Mint developers' very clear vision of what the desktop should be. Instead it can be used in large numbers of distros and, like I said before, it's very flexible.
  • Mint/MATE - MATE makes me feel nostalgic. It is very customizable and very stable (unless you try to use compiz), but it isn't too exciting or interesting - it doesn't have any WOW features besides its customization abilities and its support of some Gnome 2 stuff.
  • PinguyOS - PinguyOS has a very interesting default setup, and it is very nice as long as you like the layout. It runs Gnome Shell, which isn't as customizable as Cinnamon, but it is still very good with the extensions site and the large amount of themes. It comes with lots of stuff preinstalled including conky, which I think is great unless you are the type of user who likes to start at a more basic install and build up, rather than build down (removing things you don't want).
  • Ubuntu/Unity - In 12.10, Unity got some improvements, but they aren't really refined yet. I think the goal of Ubuntu is to add a good amount of new features and, after they're released refine them. This isn't bad - these aren't stability problems or anything like that, its just features who don't work optimally yet. I still think Unity is very nice, although customization is not its strongsuit.
  • ZorinOS - ZorinOS uses AWN, which I really like, for its panel (by default). I think this is a great idea because AWN is already very customizable, and because they use it with Gnome Classic (as far as I can tell) so its lighter on resources. I think that it does have some limitations, but it is still very nice. I think its biggest advantage, though, is how closely it resemble Windows, including the menu.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby remoulder on Sat Oct 27, 2012 10:51 am

cwwgateway wrote:the desktop itself will always be needed

If history teaches us anything it is that everything changes. Years ago there were no desktops but there were still computers and input was done via punched card or tape. Before that input was done via moving links or settings switches. All of these were used by businesses. It was only with the advent of the pc that we got desktops as we talk about them today, and now we see PCs gradually being replaced by other devices, some of which likely haven't been invented yet. When ever this subject is mentioned, people these days automatically seem to think about smartphones and tablets, but this subject was being discussed even before these devices existed, so imho it is a little short sighted to make assumptions about the future.

As for the list of desktop's you mention, Mate, Zorin and Elementary are really just flavours of gnome2 and to some extent Cinnamon for the gnome3 refuseniks, and Pinguy is a remix of gnome shell. Seems to me none are particularly original today in terms of design and innovation in the way that unity, gnome shell,or heaven forbid Windows 8 are, all seemingly tracing their design back to Windows95 or even before that, the Apple Lisa perhaps?
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby exploder on Sat Oct 27, 2012 11:11 am

remoulder, you make some interesting points! The way people are joined at the hip by their cell phones makes me wonder if the Ubuntu phone concept is the future. Use your phone all day, then put it in the cradle when you are at home and have a PC, kind of cool. I am not willing to give up my huge monitor for a little tablet screen. I have an Android tablet my wife got me when I was in the hospital and it sits in a drawer all the time. Most everyone carries a cell phone these days though. I really hate the people that think they have to be on their cell phone all the time though, drives me nuts and they are so rude.

I do agree that things are changing though. Computers have to be recycled and the landfills will no longer take them. Cell phones are cheap and everyone is trying to shrink down the size of a computer to the size of a credit card these days. Much as I hate to say it, I think the days of the desktop are numbered. The idea of a phone that is a computer and a TV would save a lot of resources and solve the disposal problem of obsolete electronics.

Everything does change and I suppose computers are no exception.

Edit: Come to think of it, Ubuntu's next release is focusing on mobile devices. Maybe the Ubuntu phone will be a reality in the near future? They did say they were waiting on quad core cell phoes before they got things rolling.
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Re: Let's talk about desktop environments.

Postby Adelante on Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:05 pm

Very nice. I have it on Kubuntu 12.10 and it works beautifully.

exploder wrote:I also read that Razor QT was coming along nicely, it looked like a nice contender for a light desktop environment. Razor QT kind of reminded me of KDE 3x for some reason but it looked a lot lighter, this one might be real interesting for KDE fans that have older computers collecting dust.
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