Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

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Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by mggm »

Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I've stumbled upon this site: https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/ and I have to say, I don't really understand many of those tips. The "Don't mix desktop environments" is one of them.

The author of the site says:
Don't mix desktop environments: stick to the default
6. An Ubuntu or a Linux Mint in which you install the full KDE desktop alongside the existing other desktop environment (Mate, Cinnamon, Unity, Xfce, Gnome), becomes a hopelessly polluted mess. This pollution will decrease performance and may cause instability and malfunctions.

If you want to ensure that your operating system continues to work well, stick to the default desktop environment. And don't install any KDE applications in Ubuntu or Linux Mint, that upon installation pull in half of the KDE desktop as dependent files (like for example DVD burner K3B does)...

Tip: when you install applications by means of Synaptic Package Manager, then you can check beforehand what a particular application needs as dependent files.

Desktop environments that share a lot "under the hood", you may install alongside each other, if you wish. For example: Xfce (the desktop environment of Xubuntu) fits pretty nicely alongside the Gnome/Unity of Ubuntu and the Cinnamon/Mate of Linux Mint. But even then some pollution is inevitable...

Have you made this mistake and do you wish to undo it? Then the best approach is unfortunately a clean re-installation.
(direct source of the quotation)

IIUC, a DE, like any other (complex) program, is effectively a bunch of executables, shared libraries, and config files. Therefore (perhaps out of my ignorance), I do not see why can't e.g. Cinnamon and KDE coexist together.
Let's say the user has installed both of them on one system. If he chooses to run Cinnamon, then Cinnamon's executables, shared libraries and config files are loaded to the memory; if, however, the user chooses to run KDE, then KDE's files are loaded. Since Cinnamon is GNOME-based, and GNOME and KDE are sth like two different ecosystems, then I do not see how could Cinnamon and KDE go into conflict, if they are not run both at the same time, just because of how different they are! How can a program damage the system by simply existing, if it's not run?

What I could understand is why I shouldn't run any KDE application inside any non-KDE environment; well, doing so would result in KDE's libraries (used by that application) and e.g. Cinnamon's libraries (Cinnamon's running at the moment, duh) loaded at the same time, to maybe some conflict could arise... I do not have much experience, and I actually never tried to mix two different DE's, yet I did try two times to install Kate in a GNOME system - Ubuntu for the first time, Fedora for the second. And I experienced no problems because of this (although I did eventually screw up Fedora... IIUC the direct reason of Fedora's malfunction was different, however). Also, from practical point of view, it would really be nice to be able to install KDE's software into a Cinnamon Mint; while one may, e.g, like Cinnamon, he might also prefer Kate over gedit...

Also, I do not understand why the only option to undo the installation of another desktop enviromnent is a clean reainstallation of the whole system. Quoting the Official User Guide for Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon Edition:
Because the package management software keeps a complete record of all of its actions, it is quite capable of reversing any steps that it took in the past, while ensuring that removing one package will not cause any other package to fail.
. So, if I install KDE through the Software Manager, I should be able to revert the system to the state before this installation any moment, shouldn't I?

Last but not least - the User Guide seems to encourage users to mix desktop environments! Let me quote it:
There's a lot more to learn about Linux Mint and about Linux in general. This guide was just an overview of some of the aspects related to your desktop. By now you should feel more comfortable with using it and you should have a better understanding of some of its components. Where are you going to go next? Will you learn how to use the terminal? Will you give other desktops a try (KDE, XFCE, etc.)? It's entirely up to you. Remember, Linux is about fun and the community is there to help. Take your time and learn a little bit every day. There's always something new no matter how much you know already.
Well, I was about to try installing KDE or LXDE nearby Cinnamon, just out of curiosity - but now I got a little bit scared... Anyway, I'll be gratefull if anyone wishes to clarify these topics.

Cheers, mggm.
Last edited by mggm on Mon Oct 13, 2014 6:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by jimallyn »

The first Linux distro I ever used, Mandrake, back in 2002, had both KDE and Gnome installed. It worked fine. But I have heard others say it's probably not a good thing to do. If you try it, let us know how it works out for you.

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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by DeMus »

The way I see it is that the author of the first quote in your thread is not a KDE enthusiast. Everything works together (XFCE, Gnome, Mate, Cinnamon) but nothing works with KDE. All other versions can be downloaded from his site, not KDE.
Well, Gnome and Mate are just as far apart as Gnome and KDE since Mate is the old Gnome 2, which is totally different from Gnome 3. So why can those two play nicely alongside and a combination with KDE is sure to go haywire?
As others also say, try it out, it works. At boot chose the DE of the day and use it, next day something else. Be sure to include KDE, once you go KDE you never want something else. But that's me speaking, a real KDE enthusiast.
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by Pierre »

you might install another DE - if you were not happy with the DE that came with your install,
and didn't wish to re-install gain, but with another type of DE.

so, you could simply install a 2nd DE & select between the two, at the log-in screen.
but - agreed - it would be wise to *not* have several DEs installed on the one system.
Please edit your original post title to include [SOLVED] - when your problem is solved!
and DO LOOK at those Unanswered Topics - - you may be able to answer some!.
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by Tigereye »

That may have been an issue years ago but I don't have any issues with rendering etc. For instance I use gimp in a pure kde distro and it works more than fine and some kde apps in cinnamon.

As suggested perhaps the best way to see how each is different, try each de out and then cherry pick the apps built for the other de that you like. For instance I like the look of Mint with Cinnamon but find some apps from kde better for my purposes. The beauty of Linux Mint is the different different desktops available to try out. The same goes for most other distros too ie kubuntu, xubuntu......
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by QiTana »

I have something to add to this old post, that you may find helpful (then please comment to say that it was). I'll be as brief as possible.

Comment: I found the least strain on the reader would be to serve the helpful part first.

You're right, a file or anything on a hdd is basically like a log. Don't use it and it doesn't make a difference. But when (because of how 'things work' with OS'es) different GUI's save data in the same places, they may confuse each other. Then add all the nuts who say 'It's all good' or 'It's a mess' and you will end up not knowing what to believe. I think the answer is somewhat two-partite. When someone as in the article is as consistent as the person seems to be banning everything KDE, if not entirely correct in the assumption 'it will be messy', there might be some truth to it still. I have had less problems by keeping to just Cinnamon. But then my GUI problems started when installing one inherently different from every other. The other is: try. Your mileage may vary, because the problem may occur on any or several levels. Simple as that.

The solution is one though. Find a program you like to backup your system, or use one supplied with it. After that you can experiment and should things go wrong, you just replace everything with the backup and there is no need for the EXHAUSTING 'clean install' the writer talks about. Save the backup according to how much you know about what to do if something goes wrong and the rule of thumb 'safety first'. So no knowledge? Let's assume that. Back everything up as to system and user account. Least or no compression. Store in a safe place, preferably another physical drive.

Now experiment and if thing become a mess, you're still set. Along with some useful broadside reasoning. But only as much as is necessary, since such reasoning, while heavily useful is heavily limited.

Good luck and much good may it do you!

When I started using Linux I ran into a lot of problems and issues as an old know-it-all Win-loose user. Some of them I still find irritating, but not so with most of them. I asked a fellow what he thougt as a Linux user and he said he hadn't had any problems the six years he had used it. Nowadays I can say I really haven't had any problems using it (as my main OS) these past years I've logged into it. That took me 6 or 7 years to get to (because life happens and you need to tend to it).

My problems have mostly concerned the uselessness (sometimes) of GUIs, Gnome, KDE, what have you and the fact so many say 'oh, it woirks much better than Windows'. Something seems acooking. That way the old counter-adage ring oh so true: Linux is only free if your time is. What finally worked most of these issues out was 1.) the article you refer to and 2) Staring to get heavy with BASH.

It turns out that (and people of higher learning than I - do be gentle, but please correct me if I'm wrong) while Windows was developed as a one-at-a-time user system, Linux was adopted for a one-user-at-a-time type of computer and it's home-user base. So while Microsoft may have adopted their system to work in a server environment, Linux already does.

This means that instead of the Terminal equivalent in Windows being the fire escape when all else fails (clicking and crying), in Linux it's the guest of honor. There are a number of reasons. Through the terminal you cannot do things much faster (scripting aside) than in the GUI, but much more efficiently. In the GUI you have a standard set of solutions covering most standard sets of problems a user will most likely encounter, available by a click or two. It doesn't get much faster than that. When it works! But as soon as you realize you click 10 to 15 times to achieve a specific task, the terminal IS faster and more efficient. So while combining GUI and terminal will provide speed as well as efficiency, you can do anything possible in the system from the terminal. Either you just do them repeatedly, or you write a script and create an alias (I would think) for it, so all you need is a word or two to call your script. That way your little sequense of commands, or if you like, a whole book of them arranged in a program-like structre will be available with little to no effort. You write your script, save it and run it when ever you need.

If you have gotten this far in the text I applaud you. Give yourself some credit :D:

My pieces of information would be these:

Linux works differently.

While GUI's are helpful, especially to newbies, perhaps like you, definately like me when starting out, no-one really cares about them (the GUIs). You keep them as small as possible and rudimentary. Then you 'live' on the command-line. This differs greatly from Windows.

To this should be added that most hardware (for economic reasons) are not open, leaving the Linux community with guessing or backwards engineeering the necessary drivers (thank you Microsoft). This adds to linux not always performing as 'seen' on youtube or other places. On a system where all specifications (closed HW or not) has been released though, it does work at least close to those sources. Sometimes beyond.

Then many don't release their specs at all, leaving you with poorly supported hardware.

The conclusion is: The problem can exist on several levels, from Linux the great liberator, to downright hard to icorporate hardware. That's why all these sources would come off as much more trust-worthy if they simply followed a 'your mileage may vary' approach to attitude.

And that's the bottom line. Using somewhat of a broadside logic when considering anything computer, you may start untangling those mysteries. And that's why (if you've read the top part that should be place here) sources conflict, things work perfectly, and what should work like a charm crashes incessantly. So backup your everything and get cracking on safe side!

May the Power of the CPU be with you!
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by MDRMintUser »

The main point of the article is that things can get messy. To understand why you have to consider how each desktop environment is created. All DE/WM's build themselves around a set of libraries, many libraries. When they finish their release, those libraries are frozen to the distribution and they expect them to be the same until they release a new update. Many developers will line themselves up with that release, but since the release schedules of the WM developers are seldom lined up, they can often conflict in the version numbers of the libraries. This is often not too much of an issue, but it can be at times.

So what happens when you say, have Gnome installed, and you install a program that was designed for KDE, like K3B in the example above? The system goes out and downloads all the libraries it needs from the KDE site. Those libraries will correspond to the ones needed by the K3B developers at the time they released, often in coordination with the KDE release. So now you have libraries from Gnome and KDE on your system. Not a problem as long as they are unique. The problem comes in when you have library dependencies that overlap (don't have a specific example). Now you can have two of the same library of different version numbers, which can potentially cause conflict because only one will be "official", and if in the this example, the KDE was later than the the Gnome one, and one of the libraries depreciated or removed a particular function needed by Gnome... problem. Congratulations, you've just entered depenency hell.

But the author proposes that this is only relevant to DE's, but it's not. It's an issue with all programs, and at any time, any program can install a dependency library that will have issues with your system. So the bottom line is when you go to install a program, look at the dependencies it needs. If it's a huge list, you might want to investigate a little to see if it will cause you a problem, but often times, it's just too much hassle to figure it out. So you install it, and hope for the best.

But ultimately, after months or years of doing this, the only way back to a clean system is to reinstall, usually with a new release and start the process all over again. This is just the nature of the beast. Open source software, as good as their intentions are, is just horribly configuration managed from the high level view, and I doubt that will change any time soon.

EDIT: The same concept applies when installing two or more WM/DEs. It's not guarnteed to be a problem, but there is just the potential for issues unless the release developers tested the configuration of mutliple DEs. Many developers test with Gnome and KDE installed together in their release, and in those cases, it's perfectly safe to install them both. But if the developer creates releases specifically for one DE, like Mint appears to do, then you might want to be cautious mixing them. That said, I've installed KDE on top of a Cinammon release before without issue, but who knows, I could have been one program installation away from disaster.
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by QiTana »

Correction: I said inherently different DE's can be problematic. That was a misprint. Like the author just before this post says, it's not a problem as long as the libraries are unique.

But since sometimes we make mistakes we couldn't have foreseen (regarding security) or should very well have been able to calculate (regarding our self-consciousness afterwards), to avoid having to reinstall your system after a disaster, back it up. There are several programs available. I've gotten one to work called Clonezilla (remains to see how good it is at writing the stuff back), that creates a dump of the partition (like a snapshot) and saves it as a file. Keep your system on another partition than your user account and back them up separately. That way you'll have a relatively small file, say 20GB for for system. Small, efficient and quick to back up. Should disaster strike, you just write the latest, greatest information back, and it's basically undone. Do likewise with your user account, or at lest its dot-files, and you'll be well off there too. There are other programs that backup partitions, so shop around. There are also programs like Lucky Backup that does the same, but file by file. They're good to use together and having done so, you can sleep lighter at night and experiment all you like.

Another thing. If you have enough space on your HDD, install a copy of your system on another partition. Experiment with that so you don't jeopardize your working partition (the one you depend on). If things go wrong you can just write that back, while still being able to do the things you need in the meantime. If things work out, you just make the same change to your working partition. After having backed it up first. Make backups as often as needed.

Good Luck!
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Re: Why shouldn't one mix different Desktop Environments?

Post by Hoser Rob »

I'm also generally against installing more than one DE because, as mentioned, you will tend to have 2 DEs that want different versions of the same library element and so on. This causes problems that are hard to diagnose, particularly for newbies who are usually the ones who want to do this.

The funny thing is that the only exception I'd make would be having both KDE and one other GTK based DE like cinnamon or mate or most DEs, because KDE uses Qt libraries and doesn't create so many conflicts.

if you really want stability then it's probably true you shouldn't install KDE apps in a GTK environment. But it's not that bad, and if you really want that app go for it. I'm not quite that conservative. Although the only KDE app I'd do that with nowadays would be okular. MAny KDE apps are good but they're not that good.

As an ex KDE user I can also state that there are a lot more GTK based apps than Qt KDE ones, and they tend to run better in a GTK based DE. This is true of most of my media programs ... I could list quite a few feature/things that didn't work properly in KDE but are fine in cinnamon and mate.

BTW I would rate the blog originally quoted as pretty good, not great, but I do agree with most of what he says.
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