Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st Dec 2008 23:31 UTC, submitted by linuxlinks
Window Managers "Mainstream Linux distributions typically default to one of two desktop environments, KDE or GNOME. Both of these environments provide users with an intuitive and attractive desktop, as well as offering a large raft of multimedia software, games, administration programs, network tools, educational applications, utilities, artwork, web development tools and more. However, these two desktops focus more on providing users with a modern computing environment with all the bells and whistles featured in Windows Vista, rather than minimising the amount of system resources they need. For users and developers who want to run an attractive Linux desktop on older hardware, netbooks, or mobile internet devices, neither KDE or GNOME may be a viable option, as they run too slowly on low spec machines (such as less than 256MB RAM and a 1 GHz processor). This article seeks to identify the best lean desktops for Linux, for users that have old or even ancient hardware."
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Dissatisfied with KDE & GNOME
by Jason Bourne on Tue 2nd Dec 2008 03:38 UTC
Jason Bourne
Member since:

I uninstalled today my copy of Ubuntu 8.10. My motives were the hassle that is to replace Windows Explorer "Classic Mode with Sidepanel & detailed view". Nautilus got so much in the way that it became obvious that the application did not want to do what I needed to do. This time I really felt like if GNOME was almost popping up a banner "Don't do this, you're too stupid...". Then I installed Konqueror, but I needed to download something like 300MB to also get (the unwanted) Dolphin and a vast amount of KDE libraries. With Nautilus or Konqueror, I couldn't even change a mimetype icon for a specific kind of file (FLAC). I am sure one out there managed to do this, but not me, not with konqueror in KDE4, not with Dolphin and to with Nautilus. My Main menus in both KDE and GNOME got "cluttered" of one's another application, everything out of the right places. I mean... these two desktops really must not even LIKE BEING TOGETHER on! (LOL)

Today I realized that one of the biggest problem for me, in Linux, is the file manager: Windows Explorer/XP may suck for some people, but I didn't see any competitor at its level. (I said "Classic Mode, with panel and detailed view", not default)

You will tell me of other alternatives that certainly don't use GTK+ and are quite ugly, not to mention the inconsistent system behaviours such as the mouse pointer to left, outside at the desktop area, and then to the right, inside the application. I mean, this really sucks man! Further more, it's Nautilus that is "decently" integrated to the system, and not others which I later installed to fiddle with (Pcfman, Thunar).

Tom already wrote in the series "Why DE sucks" how GNOME redraws are slow. I have a good 3D card, my video is working wonderfully well and still, GTK+ is slow to redraw. This redraw glitch and Nautilus are one of the greatest GNOME shortcommings. Take that away and Ubuntu will be a real alternative to Windows.

On the other hand we have these lightweight desktops but they also have ridiculous flaws. For instance, XFCE. I think it's primarily the name. It will never "catch". XF what? Too much acronyms! Why can't something be properly named, like Orion or Andromeda, for example. The panels are not very optimal just like GNOME default. There is space in the bottom being wasted. I think if XFCE shifted to a Windows XP-like interface, emulating the look and feel (not necessarely all that blue) would get this desktop really far ahead GNOME and KDE. You see the contrary, developers will try to emulate the strangest things around, but not what 99% of the users are used to on a daily basis (read Windows).

It's kind of humiliating for DE developers to try to imitate everything that Windows Vista does or what Microsoft is going to implement, instead of trying to diminish the learning curve between Windows & Linux desktops. I believe KDE signed a consentiment to its obituary, because they have increased the complexity and there are people who are right when they say that they couldn't "do a thing" inside KDE4.x. GNOME is ahead KDE in that sense, but it seems like another extreme-right politics group, embracing no new ideas on how to get rid of Nautilus. Can you do a "lasso" over your files in list view (detailed)? I bet you can't. (Yep, I know there is a workaround and it has been filed as a bug, but is it in latest Ubuntu? No...) You see, this is what I am talking about.

Until there, I find difficult to adopt even more alternatives to the desktop.

Edited 2008-12-02 03:47 UTC

Reply Score: 2

pxa270 Member since:

I've found Xfe to be a pretty nice Windows Explorer clone. Try it if it's in your distro's repositories.

Reply Parent Score: 2

jokkel Member since:

Well since you can't stand change or don't seem to be able to try to learn new ways to manage your files, just use the one special setting on windows explorer you like.
The reason other desktop environments exist, is to be different and follow their own design ideas and principles. Cloning MS Windows' behaviour mostly isn't one of them.
So don't complain about the hammer's design if what you wanted is a screwdriver.

It's a fallacy to think that free desktop environments need to emulate Windows as much as possible to get more users. The prime example for this is the most successful 'other' desktop: Mac OS. It's in some places very different from Windows, more than KDE and Gnome certainly. Being different is a path to success not failure.

Reply Parent Score: 6

Soulbender Member since:

Sorry, is this topic about KDE and/or GNOME and why they suck?

Reply Parent Score: 2

h3rman Member since:

This redraw glitch and Nautilus are one of the greatest GNOME shortcommings. Take that away and Ubuntu will be a real alternative to Windows.

Do you really believe that?

Reply Parent Score: 2

sbergman27 Member since:

Do you really believe that?

Such are the pitfalls of hanging out in nooks like ours here at OSNews. Surrounded by others holding the same strong opinions on the same niche topics, in a community mostly disconnected from mainstream concerns, we can actually start seriously believing stuff like that. I'm thankful for the splash of cold water that I get each day from administering my XDMCP servers and supporting real business desktop users. We run Gnome on X terminals over 100 mbit lans. And none of my users have, at any time, said anything about screen updates being slow or that they don't like the file manager. They call me when they run into an actual problem that impedes their work flow, like a site's javascript not working with Firefox. Meanwhile, on OSNews, supposedly tech-savvy people complain that their work flow and creativity are impeded because:

- GTK+ redraws are allegedly sometimes perceptible

- X is network transparent

- Desktop Q isn't configurable enough and they can't use the keystrokes they learned in Word Star.

- Compiz doesn't work with their video chipset

- There aren't enough selections in the menus

- There are too many selections in the menus

- Their fonts aren't antialiased quite right

- Their power supply makes too much noise

- Someone put something in their Fitt's area

The list goes on. I'm thankful that my users are real people. I'd go nuts if they were OSNews readers. ;-)

Edited 2008-12-02 16:09 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

lemur2 Member since:

Tom already wrote in the series "Why DE sucks" how GNOME redraws are slow. I have a good 3D card, my video is working wonderfully well and still, GTK+ is slow to redraw. This redraw glitch and Nautilus are one of the greatest GNOME shortcommings. Take that away and Ubuntu will be a real alternative to Windows.

GNOME uses software rendering of the desktop. It doesn't matter how fast your graphics card is.

The only desktop for Linux that uses the GPU for accelerated graphics for the desktop is KDE4. Even then, nvidia has had a broken driver for Linux for over 2 years now that is absolutely horrible for 2D graphics ... nvidia is a graphics decelerator on Linux (I'm not sure if it is fixed yet or not).

Anyway, if your system has a reasonable non-nvidia graphics GPU, with working 2D accelerated graphics, then KDE 4.1 and later will be by far and away the fastest desktop for Linux for your system. KDE 4.2 (now in beta) reportedly rocks ... it blows everything else away.

The caveat here is that your system must have accelerated graphics GPU (the requirements for which are not high, just that it works and does actually accelerate the graphics) and enough RAM, at least 256MB but 512MB should probably be considered a practical minimum. This therefore cannot be called a "lightweight" desktop ... but nevertheless, if your system does meet the minimum requirements, as many do, then KDE 4.1+ will be the fastest desktop for your system, and it will easily out-perform (on your same hardware) these "lightweight" desktops, and GNOME, which all use software rendering to draw the desktop screens.

KDE4 also runs GTK+ applications pretty well (and AFAIK it can accelerate rendering them), and there is now support for keeping the GTK+ theme in step with the chosen KDE4 theme, so that GTK+ applications integrate reasonably well with the rest of the desktop.

Edited 2008-12-02 22:32 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

DrillSgt Member since:

"Even then, nvidia has had a broken driver for Linux for over 2 years now that is absolutely horrible for 2D graphics ... nvidia is a graphics decelerator on Linux (I'm not sure if it is fixed yet or not). "

Source for this please, besides your own personal anti-proprietary agenda? The only graphics cards I know of to be horrid on Linux is ATI. Hopefully that will change soon. Nvidia drivers have been rock solid and well performing on any machine I have set it up on and have seen it on. That is about 200 machines running various Linux distros and using graphics extensively for video. The driver may be proprietary, however it is stable and works.

KDE 4 works great on Nvidia cards in my experience, where ATI cards can barely handle a basic load without locking up X, and therefore KDE.

Reply Parent Score: 2

Jason Bourne Member since:

Problem is not only UI acceleration. I was using Nvidia 180.06 latest and it was quite nice under KDE or GNOME. Problem is that, within those 2, GNOME still loses in redrawing, I really believe it's a GTK+ issue.

I didn't "get the point" of KDE 4. The new menu, is that an attempt to emulate Office 2007 ribbobs UI? Or was that an attempt to emulate Windows UI search engine? Because I can't ever find an application at first glance on that menu. In my opinion, KDE4 blew it. GNOME caught up on the advantage KDE had and now it has been shipped as default and chosen desktop on most distros. I really believe a quite amount of people just left KDE4 for everything else.

Perhaps ported KDE3 to Qt4 would have made more sense, but I don't get the mentality of developers: Just when all users are about to get really used to a dektop, everything gets changed (and broken).

I also agree with the person who said it's just not about de desktops. You rarely will live without using k3b, firefox, thunderbird, evolution, what have you. And for that you will need those huge GNOME/KDE libraries hanging around.

Edited 2008-12-03 15:07 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1