posted by Ernesto Garbarino on Tue 27th Jul 2004 06:17 UTC

"Desktop Linux, Page 2/3"
Running Gnome & KDE at the same time is only good for a transitional period of time. The X environment is already heavy, what about loading all the libraries for both KDE and Gnome just because the developer wants to choose the API she likes?. The soap opera doesn't end here. What about when the developer chooses to use the latest API and asks the user to download a recompile the latest KDE/Gnome release?. Horrible. Bundling the latest toolkit library even statically compiled is not a necessarily a bad thing. The end-user shouldn't even know what a toolkit is all about, she just wants to download, double click and go.

Poor low-level desktop integration

When Windows 95 arrived everybody complaining claiming it was just a "mask" and that underneath it was pure MS-DOS. I also was an sponsor of this concept at that time, but X is much more of a Mask for the command line based Linux distribution than Windows 95 for MS-DOS. I won't get into the details of whether this is good or not for system stability, but the facts are clear for everybody: The Linux desktop is slow and poorly integrated. A getPixel()/putPixel() call is much more expensive in Linux than in Windows. Raise your hand if you thought "but you can project the desktop over the network". 99% of the users don't care about this, should we give them a two times times slower desktop just to leave the option open of sending a pixel write over the network?. The Linux desktop must get low-level graphic integration as soon as possible. There are some projects on the matter but half of the developers consider it not worth the price.

Besides graphics, the integration with the command-line environment is also poor. If you change a setting using the command line you are usually "on your own" and you are not expected to see these changes replicated in the graphical version of the tool. The graphical configuration tools are aimed for "those who don't know how to edit config text files" which is in my own opinion an awful approach. Instead graphical tools should provide "an additional" way of modifying these files. How many times did you find a script that recalls another one with a comment that says "don't touch this, generated automatically by Kjoe"?. The Linux desktop will never get far with this kind of hacks. It is true that part of the problem is that many utilities such as sendmail have configuration files so badly designed that it is very hard to reconstruct them by using a GUI parser, but hey, what about XML?. Every application should be able to be configured either by hand using a text editor or by a GUI application using ONE configuration file. Programmers should start to write "GUI friendly" configuration files.

Mainstream applications

I don't understand why so many people complain about the lack of applications for Linux. This is probably its strongest side. It is true that some king applications such as Cubase (for audio production) or Photoshop are missing, but these applications will never get ported to Linux unless it first performs some house tidying (define a standard desktop and remove X or use in a way that "doesn't hurt"). Although a personal example is always subjective I can say that while I use a Windows XP as my primary desktop, I don't use a single application that isn't available on Linux, in fact most of them were born on Linux and have been ported to Windows; Mozilla and OpenOffice, just to name a few. Most of these applications run much slower on Linux. Even OpenOffice opens in less than two seconds (On an AMD 2500+ PC). I have Unix tools installed so I can use most of the common UNIX shell commands. Windows only provides me a well-integrated hardware-friendly desktop. I could be running these applications on Mac OS X as well.

What we need

Let's leave aside those who want Linux as a hacker tool or as a "matter of choice" product; for those Linux is already a stellar system, however, a system based 100% in open standards and open source software, free at least in its most basic form, and as easy and fast as Windows is the dream of most of us. We want to develop for the big public not just for other freaks like us. But everything comes at a price, which many of the hardcore developers aren't willing to pay because many of them don't understand that "Better" is many times the enemy of "Good". In my humble opinion, a Linux based solution that aims to replace Windows should consider at least these ideas:

Table of contents
  1. "Desktop Linux, Page 1/3"
  2. "Desktop Linux, Page 2/3"
  3. "Desktop Linux, Page 3/3"
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