The Linux Desktop

Sunday, December 25, 2005 - 01:06:04 pm
(Posted Under: Linux Linux, Gentoo Linux Gentoo Linux, Geek)
As of last week, I've been trying out Linux desktops. Something that has been in the back of my mind for a while, and became forefront last week, thinking about making a Gentoo live DVD for my laptop.

Firstly, man, I was shocked at how long it took to emerge Gnome. My server is a 3.0Ghz hyperthreaded P4, which laughs at compiling X or fvwm2 - only taking about half an hour. Gnome on the other hand went for about a day an a half!

Secondly, man I can be completely stupid at times! Last week I was playing with Gnome (once it had finished) - on a VMware console on my server over VNC from my workstation. Which was, y'know, pretty hard! I did want to play with the desktop locally, but didn't have a machine I wanted to install it on. Idiot. Fucking idiot! This is X Windows after all! I have no idea why it took me days to think "I can run an X server on my workstation under cygwin, and bring the remote desktop to my local machine". It's not like I haven't done that before. Why the hell I didn't think of that on Tuesday night, I have no idea! At least now I am typing this from Firefox on Gentoo Linux, on my workstation machine via X11 forwarding. A much better representation of using a Linux desktop that trying to do stuff over VNC to a VMware console.

So, a Linux desktop should be easy. I've used Linux extensively for years, in a text mode / server type setting. Linux kicks ass over Windows. There's Firefox for web. There's Thunderbird for mail. (Both of which I use on Windows). There's gaim for instant messaging. It can't be that difficult...

My first impression is how much fonts in Linux suck. Immediately I was reminded of 1996, using Netscape on Solaris. No, for a real blast from the past, Mosiac on Soloris. Surfing the web just doesn't feel the same without Windows fonts. Similarly, Thunderbird looks like ass as well. I guess it's mainly the fonts. Though, in general is looks fairly boxy and Motif like, and again reminds me of the days of reading mail using Netscape on Solaris. The window borders also remind me much of the old Unix days. The title bar is definately an improvement over the old days of FVWM2 though.

Which is all fairly superfical - like not wanting to go out with a fat chick. But still, the fonts (largely) are really off putting.

Upsides are definately the multiple workspaces / desktops.

Running this desktop from cygwin means I don't have window switching (ala alt+tab), or use of the Windows key (which I assume opens the gnome menu). I mean, I do, but of course Windows captures the key pressed rather than the X desktop. Which is making it a bit harder to be able to get a good impression of what it's like to use.

At the moment I'm emerging kde, which is seeming like it'll have the same ETA as gnome did. I've already had Christmas lunch, and it's at 5 of 44 packages. Gnome had 199, but speedwise this doesn't seem any faster. In anycase, I will try out KDE when it finishes, to see if I like it anymore than Gnome.

In anycase, over the next week I'm going to try and use the Linux desktop, exclusively, or as exclusively as possible. (That is of course, in a cygwin X session on Windows.)

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