reddragdiva: (geek)
[personal profile] reddragdiva

The work laptop is now on Xubuntu 12.10 beta, which includes XFCE 4.10. This works just like 4.8 but with a few annoyances fixed (e.g., there's a menu editor, it comes with the GVFS backends; though I still have to faff to make caps lock a control key). And that's how it should be.

The question with minimal desktops is the fine line between as simple as possible and just a bit too simple. How much basic stuff do you have to add back? 4.8 took it slightly far, 4.10 is almost Just Right. XFCE is so far a case study in Not Fucking It Up; I hope they never go to version 5, and just update 4 forever.

What I heartily recommend about Xubuntu: My machine is instantly way more responsive than under GNOME or KDE. This is the fucking future, our computers have four cores of streamlined and optimised CPU power with not a lot to do, they should fucking run like it.

Of course, you can go too far. Oliver Keyes just tried Lubuntu:

"I have been using it for 5 seconds. The interaction design was clearly done by a fucking postdoc in heuristic estimation or getting CoffeeScript to work underwater or some similarly highly-interesting-shit-that-is-ultimately-irrelevant-to-MAKING-SOMETHING-USEFUL. The icons are about as intuitive as one of those zelda box-moving games, the taskbar is so slim as to be virtually invisible, and no amount of whizzy speed makes up for the fact that they clearly took all ubuntu elements that demonstrate Canonical's Windows poseur status and KILLED ANYTHING THAT WASN'T DESIGNED WITH THAT IN MIND. TL;DR if you offered me a choice between using this and having my balls deep-fried and served to the queen as an entree my only objection would be to using low-grade oil in the fryer."

I have in fact run an all-macho desktop of just Sawfish and xterms, middle-click to start anything. After a while I got sick of doing everything by hand and just installed KDE 3, which didn't suck and was just lovely (if still a bit fat), and I don't know what fucked-up rush of blood to the head was responsible for KDE 4 but it was an unmitigated disaster and conclusive evidence that computer scientists need to be kept on a short fucking leash around shit people actually use, particularly if they EVER use the words "semantic" or "ontological" in ANY circumstances. Different-but-the-same shit happened to GNOME 3, only worse.

When people combine the words "desktop" and "innovation", I reach for my revolver.

(For gratuitous horror: I'm actually posting this from Windows 7. Well, I did say to IT that I'd beta-test it. Firefox is noticeably faster on the same hardware; wonder if it's still faster in Wine.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 04:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Beautifully put.

I am not a big fan of Xfce myself and I actually really rather like Lubuntu, which restored my old Thinkpad to liveliness, but in a Parisian sort of way (as that's where I am right now; it's Paris Fashion Week, darlings) I will merely adduce:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." (Not actually Voltaire; one of his biographers. But whatthehell.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 04:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

LCDE is about right for modest needs. I haven't got stuff like Dropbox working yet but all I've done is try the default install, watch it fail & leave it. For a standalone machine, it works & it's nice and quick, whereas it was a struggle to get full UnityBuntu 12.04 onto the machine. (Precise no longer supports the Pentium M or any chip without PAE; I had to use the Minimal [i.e. netinst] CD and then `apt-get ubuntu-desktop` onto it. It worked but slowly & it broke multihead support.

I would prefer a vertical taskbar, but to a decent approximation, nothing supports that as well as Windows does. "Nothing" in this case includes Win7, FWIW.

Crunchbang is the step too minimal for me. Fun, fast, simple, delightfully easy to customise, but I am lazy & no doubt decadent and I want desktop icons and external drives that just mount automagically, stuff like that. If I remove tint and replace it with fbpanel it's more usable but I can't be arsed with `dmesg | less`, `sudo mkdir /media/foo`, `sudo mount /dev/foo /media/bar` and all that kind of bollocks in 2012.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 04:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I belatedly notice that I have egregiously misused "foo" and "bar" in this example but I don't care.

*clears throat*

Date: 2012-10-01 04:10 am (UTC)
marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
I have felt the same way about Ubuntu as you do about Crunchbang (and also felt the same way about Ubuntu as reddragdiva feels about XFCE/Xubuntu) with the big difference being that I'm more into the Windows poseur features and pissed that they appear much less by default these days and so much more must be "sudo / apt / get *" than in earlier versions just to make it like earlier versions that I too can't be arsed and bollocks with it being 2012 already and all that. Judging by rdr's post, the comments to it and comments I got to my post about Ubuntu, it appears the state of open source after many of the latest releases is trending toward Definitely Not Good. As rdr says, they need to get off the ontological trip and start figuring out what people actually want. Windows already gives most people what they need and more of what they actually want than open source does at this stage of the game.

Re: *clears throat*

Date: 2012-10-01 08:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

With the personal note that I really did not like KDE3. KDE 1 was good; everything since was bloaty. And *ALL* KDE themes are fugly to my eyes /except/ Red Hat Bluecurve. (And I don't want to use Red Hat (but note to self: I need to try Centos).)

Xandros make KDE pleasant and usable; nobody else.

I actually like it that desktop is now a demarkation between the big distros. AISI the split is:
* Ubuntu = Unity
* Fedora = GNOME 3
* SUSE = KDE 4
* Everyone else = something else (maybe one of the above (but who cares?))

Re: *clears throat*

Date: 2012-10-01 08:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interesting post.

If you want something Windows-like - and I really do not; if I wanted Windows, which I don't, I'd bloody run Windows - then Mint 13 LTS is currently the best offering. There is a battle on right now between two rival taskbar-and-start-menu-style desktops: Cinnamon (GNOME-3-based) and Maté (GNOME 2 fork). Time will tell who wins.

But not being remotely Windows-like has not hurt Mac OS X. I think that trying to pretend to be something it's not is the wrong path for Linux. I'm not saying I know what the right path is, and I'm definitely not saying Unity is it.

Linux distros spent nearly a decade trying to look a bit like Windows and it got them nowhere. Ubuntu made headway just by trying to be polished and simple and whole. It worked. I think some of the stuff they're trying now - HUD, lenses, reduction of menus, etc. - is less than ideal, but in general I support the idea of simplification.

I know the billion-odd Windows users like the whole taskbar-and-start-menu thing, but love 'em or hate 'em, the whole fondleslab phone/tablet revolution has shown that it's the old thing. The masses have voted and are voting with their feet. WIMPs are on the way out. Yes, a billion people use them, but the other six-sevenths of the human race have never seen one and never will. I hope they never have to learn what a mouse is or how one works & if keyboards become a mysterious antique that's fine with me - I have my treasured IBM Model Ms.

I strongly support the continuation of Windows-like desktops for those who want them, but I think it's a legacy technology that is going to fade from prominence & I am more than fine with that. I was a seasoned professional when the taskbar first appeared; it really is not all that. There are better ways, or at least, one just as good.

You wanna know the next big thing?

Well, tough, Ima tell you anyway.

TNBT is going to be the tiling window manager.

Win8 shows the way in a very limited form. Resizable overlapping windows are going to become a legacy tech. Smart tiling WMs that let you see 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5 or so, but not many more) apps at once will come in from the world of weird edgy experimental Unix windowmanagers (stuff like ratpoison, xmonad, dwm, wmii) and merge into the "desktop" OSs.

Because they will let the nerds have their precious multiple-apps-at-once on slate-type computers, without freaking out the non-nerds too much. I've been in support since the days of MS-DOS; ordinary Joes do not know how to manage windows *and they shouldn't have to*.

Apple hasn't realised this yet - with iOS, you get one app at a time and that's it. Win8 breaks that open - you can have 2, split about 70:30. Wooo. But this is actually the beginning of something big. What it needs is smarts - so it can work out what is effective in small windows and what needs big ones, so you can have 1 or 2 main windows taking most of the space, and a handful of small ones. The power users will supplement this with virtual desktops.

All the nerds will scream at first. I remember it last time, when they all hated GUIs and wanted the command line. Within a few years, they were all happy. They loved their GUIs even though they wouldn't admit it and even a quarter of a century later, it remains a badge of nerd pride to be competent at the command line.

Well, it's going to happen again. You read it here first. Overlapping, manually-managed windows are going to go away, intelligently auto-tiled ones will replace them, meaning that nerds have no wasted pixels and non-nerds need never even know what a window is.

Within a few years, everyone will love their efficiently-tiled screens with not a pixel of wallpaper to be seen, but it will become a new badge of nerd pride to have a keystroke to flip to overlapping windows and to know how to use them. But most won't, not unless they're being watched.


Re: *clears throat*

Date: 2012-10-02 02:49 am (UTC)
marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Oh, I most definitely agree with you that Win8 wins and the future lies in tiles as opposed to Windows. And that windows (as opposed to Windows) are for the birds. Always have been, always will be. I'm not a command line geek by any stretch of the mind, but some sessions online/offline I'll run nearly everything through the command line and/or use the Run box just to have the luxury of not dealing with the taskbar and switching windows and pointing and clicking with the fucking mouse or the trackpad equivalent (the worst part of the whole Windows experience is the mouse/trackpad equivalent, by far, and unfortunately it's a trait Win shares with the Mac) and I have to say it's pretty liberating, since it's the *only* way to get out of the basically fucked-in-the-head GUI of most later versions of Windows. And I get to feel geeky for a time, for as long as I'm at it. Simple laziness keeps me from doing things that way on the tower or my laptop more often.

So yeah, I'm looking forward to Win8 features being much more widely adapted. I'm not a huge fan of touchscreen typing (physical keyboard ftw, though they have their problems, too) but I am in favor of touch functionality in general. I've been lucky enough to play with a Win7 phone or two (with the Metro tiles, same as Win8, except MS has dropped the word "Metro" in describing what is on the PC) and it is, as I said when I wrote my Android and my co-worker's Win phone up on my blog, a dream to deal with compared to Android's clunky insensitive touch screens with their apps buried in all these stupid drawers and the usual Windows experience itself. But I think it will be 2-3 years down the road before the general public widely adapts Win8 features not only in Windows, but enough to start demanding or even expecting them cross-platform (in Mac, Android, wherever) so until you get over public recalcitrance (which is almost unbelievably alive and well) we're probably going to be stuck using Win8 itself or an older Win/Android/Mac version of something or another that gets you online for quite some time.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 06:50 pm (UTC)
bob: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bob
of course you only have to do that dance once. after that you can tell fstab stuff so you dont even have to sudo.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 06:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is only true if you're repeatedly adding the same disk. I'm more bothered about random USB memory keys & other USB (or possibly Firewire) drives these days where you don't necessarily know the device or volume name.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 08:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
AFAICS, yes. It's a documented thing:

It's sort of reasonable if you're aiming at modern-ish kit; without PAE the 32-bit version can't access >~3.5GB RAM. The snag is that quite a lot of not-that-old and budget Celerons and things don't have PAE.

Lubuntu & Xubuntu still support non-PAE chips.

Allegedly even that is going away in 12.10, though. I do think that is rather foolish. Perhaps the metadistros will solve it; if not, it will lend impetus to the non-'Buntus & that sort of pleases me as well as saddening me.

I am increasingly favouring the POV that seems to be gaining mindshare: that there needs to be focus on One Linux Distro for headway to be made.

As it is, ISTM, there are 2 distros plus outliers: Ubuntu, Fedora and the rest. Mint is making headway but comes with prices of its own. Everyone else is marginal now, ISTM.

I would rather, I think, that there were one "market" leader + a broader diversity of outliers. I can't see how to get there from here, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Probably ought to add an explanation of the verdict of foolishness:

Whereas I appreciate that there *are* good reasons for it, I think it's the wrong choice. I think the smarter one would have been to say:

Do you have a 64-bit PC? If so, run the 64-bit version. Otherwise, here's a 32-bit version. It doesn't support more than 3-and-a-bit gig of RAM without a big of jiggery-pokery (i.e. switching to the PAE kernel), but it works on your older kit.

64-bit Just Works these days. I've had no compatibility problems in a year or so and they were trivial back then. The single worst I've seen was that Mozilla only offered a 32-bit build of Seamonkey, so Flash didn't work. Big deal.

As for Debian, on my non-PAE Thinkpad, I now have to run a 486 kernel. It works fine but
I'm not very happy about that.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 06:53 pm (UTC)
khrister: south park version of myself (Default)
From: [personal profile] khrister
X with ctwm is enough for me, I still use that setup at work.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-09-30 06:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
fvwm here, with as little on top of it as possible. It makes old computers fast, and new computers scary-fast. Oh, boo hoo, I don't have a pretty configuration editor. That's what vi is for.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-01 08:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
May I ask, Roger - have you experimented with tiling WMs? If you favour FVWM then clearly you don't use one, but I am just curious - I thought it might be your sort of thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-10-13 02:15 pm (UTC)
holdthesky: (Default)
From: [personal profile] holdthesky
I recommend this Dusk Till Dawn quote to desktop designers: "Are you such a loser, you can't tell when you've won?".

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