Red Hat still includes the Desktop Switcher application, so I momentarily switched to KDE 3.0.3. I think Red Hat has done a good job modifying a Qt theme to look similar to GTK+'s BlueCurve. Whoever said that Red Hat modified KDE to look like Gnome is wrong. The BlueCurve theme is not Gnome's either. Red Hat wrote it pretty much from scratch. So, KDE applications now looks similar to Gnome's, and Gnome's applications are looking similar to KDE's. This is a good thing. As you can see from the KDE screenshots the desktop now has an (almost) unified look (the buttons and some other details are not the same as in Gnome). If you do not count the plethora of GTK+ 1.x important and default applications (Evolution, GIMP, Balsa etc), XUL (Mozilla), God-knows-what-toolkit (OpenOffice.org), Java, some Python GUI apps I installed and some KDE 1.x and 2.x apps, well... the rest of the Red Hat 8 looks unified. Well, as you can see, not entirely. It is a step in the right direction, but until all these applications get ported to either Qt 3 or GTK+ 2 or create a BlueCurve theme for their toolkit and force AA to them, the desktop won't feel entirely unified yet.
But as I said earlier, this is the most unified look and feel achieved today in the Linux world and it should be embraced by the community of users, instead of bitching at Red Hat for doing the Right Thing (TM) for their business. Yes, the "About KDE" is not there anymore, and very correctly it is not. I give props to Red Hat for taking this intrusive propaganda from the KDE Project to throw in this menu item on each and every Qt/KDE application. It is a completely reduntant, duplicated information for 99.9% of the users and it is there only to consume space. And yes, I am mostly a KDE user, but speaking as a UI designer (and not as a KDE user), RH did the right thing to remove that always-ever-present menu. The KDE About box should be included in a central place, somewhere else. Currently, you CAN view the About KDE box by clicking the KDE menu, then on the Panel menu, then on the Help menu and then you will find it there. It is a bit hidden I have to admit. But it is there, as you can see from the screenshots we feature here.
Red Hat 8 comes with quite a number of applications, it even includes KOffice 1.2. Suspiciously and funny enough, when you install additional packages from the RH CDs via the Package Management application, all the GUI apps I installed were showing under the Extras menu, but KOffice was never joined the Gnome's Extras menu as other KDE apps did after installation, while it does join KDE's Extras submenu (which is identical to Gnome's otherwise). Anyways, you can find a number of apps, FTP clients, KDevelop, Emacs, File-Roller, Gaim, Galeon, Gnumeric, lots of puzzle games, preferences for the http server, NFS, Services, hardware information, X11 resolution/monitor panel, Internet wizard with support for wireless, modems, nics, ADSL, ISDN etc. However, there are other things missing, equally important. I couldn't find a samba configuration tool coming from Red Hat, no visual way to change your sound card from a list, and no visual way to change your monitor's refresh rate or printers.
Also, there is no Java installed. No Macromedia Flash or Real Player either. And that brings me in the multimedia offerings of this distro. Or its lack there of. Red Hat 8 has to be the poorest multimedia-ready distro by default that I ever ran (except Gentoo of course, which comes with virtually nothing by default :). So, there are no movie players on Psyche (except the limited Kaboodle which is not even installed by default). None. No XINE, no VLC, no XMovie, no NoATun, no nothing. I don't know what Red Hat means by saying that this is a "business desktop", but I can tell you that when I used to work at Montal.com in UK, which is a business ISP and AIX/WinNT provider, the girls at the marketing and PR department needed the ability to play avi and qt or mpeg files daily. Our design company was sending us either Flash presentations, or real avi files to show us the progress for our marketing/advertising material they were creating for us. So, no matter how much I might bitch later in this article for not including 2D/3D drivers from nVidia, this is an even bigger oversight/issue. This is 2002, people, and modern offices and businesses need full multimedia capabilities by default on their desktop. And Red Hat fails to deliver these. Hurrah for Windows XP and MacOSX in this particular issue.