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Posts Tagged ‘GNOME DO’

Learning to live with XFCE

October 24th, 2009 2 comments

There’s no doubt that when I initially switched from GNOME to XFCE, I was pretty angry. But hey, you can’t stay mad forever – In time, I’ve learned to appreciate GNOME’s minimalistic cousin for what it is, and (unlike some of the other guys) haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll be switching back to GNOME tomorrow.

Sure, XFCE was a pain to get set up, but since then, it’s been fast and exceedingly stable. As a point of comparison, while running GNOME, I experienced daily crashes related to a known issue between Compiz and my Intel integrated video card. On XFCE, this issue has yet to manifest itself, although this may also have something to do with all of the upgrades that I made the day before changing desktop environments. With the addition of Compiz, GnomeDo+Docky, and some minor customization, I’ve created a desktop that is pleasing to look at, but remains responsive and lightweight on my aging hardware.

My only major complaint with XFCE remains the organization of the “Start Menu.” While I initially thought that the idea of separate Application, Places, and System menus in GNOME were stupid (having come from a Windows background), I find myself missing them under XFCE. I find their single menu system cluttered and hard to navigate, even with it’s sub-menus. GnomeDo improves things, but only if you know the name of the feature or setting that you’re searching for.

On the other hand, the GNOME community has just released a new version of their desktop environment, and it seems to include some neat new features. More importantly, the GNOME community has done a lot of thinking about where they want to take v3.0, due for release in either March or September of 2010. Some of the most interesting ideas that have come from this brainstorming (in my mind anyway), are a new desktop paradigm, supported mainly by a new compositing engine called Gnome Shell, and a new way of browsing your files called Gnome Zeitgeist. Check out some early demo screens here.

Hell, I might even consider taking the KDE plunge, just to see what all of the rage is about…




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

XFCE: A Bitch Session

October 14th, 2009 10 comments

After a full day of using XFCE as my new desktop environment, I have just a few complaints, handily summarized in the following ordered list:

  1. No Alt-Tab: I was under the impression that alt-tab window switching was a standard feature of every desktop environment since at least Windows 98. So where the hell is it in XFCE? Nowhere! That’s where! Instead, I enabled the ring switcher plugin for Compiz, which I had to run in order to use GNOME Do anyway.
  2. Default Browser Doesn’t Save: This one started out with the crappy default web browser that comes with XFCE, Web Browser 2.26.3. It is allegedly a GNOME project (which is odd to say the least, since this is XFCE, and GNOME defaults to the Epiphany Browser). In any case, even after setting the default browser to Firefox (Iceweasel in my case), the system still launches all links in this inferior app.
    Screenshot-Preferred Applications
  3. Cursor Set Doesn’t Apply Immediately: Along with changing the default web browser for my system, I changed the cursor set. The default one was ugly, so I grabbed some new ones from Synaptic, and set one in the mouse theme options dialog. The problem is that the cursor set doesn’t change until some random amount of time has elapsed after I log on. So my session begins with the old, ugly cursors, and then eventually gets around to changing over to the prettier new ones. What the hell?
  4. GNOME Do and Screenlets Don’t Always Start: This one is likely related to running Compiz on top of XFCE (which includes it’s own compositing engine), and the order of startup applications. In any case, sometimes when I log on, GNOME Do and Screenlets fail to start, and I have to bring them up manually. I have a feeling that this is because Compiz hasn’t yet started, and the applications fail, as they rely on it being there. Still, a hearty WTF to this one as well.
  5. Default File Browser Lacks Network Locations: The XFCE default File Manager is Thunar 1.0.1, which is fine, except that it does not include any way to browse network shares. In GNOME, I can hit the ‘Network’ place, and immediately view any available SMB share drives on my local network. As of yet, I haven’t figured out how to find or mount network locations through the XFCE GUI.
  6. The ‘Start’ Menu Fails: I never thought that I would say this, but I find myself longing for the Applications/Places/System menus of GNOME, instead of the mashed together start menu that is present under XFCE. Although this could just be because I’m not yet familiar with XFCE, I find it harder to locate programs in this menu system. The GNOME organization just felt more logical once you got used to it.
  7. Lack of Default Features: This speaks mostly to the organization of XFCE. Instead of including every imaginable feature in the default install, extra features are added through a series of plugins, so as not to bog down machines that don’t require them. As such, my default install did not include a battery level indicator, a wireless network strength monitor, or a slew of other ‘basic’ desktop environment features. Installing the package xfce4-goodies fixed all of these problems.

Of course, not everything about XFCE is bad. So far, I’ve found it to be stable and exceedingly fast. X11 hasn’t crashed once, although I have no doubt that it will; and once I installed the xfce4-goodies package, I found the environment to be very functional. Overall, I am pleased with my choice, even though there have been some minor setup annoyances.




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

Testing out Testing

October 13th, 2009 No comments

With everybody switching up their desktop environments this week, I decided that I’d take a shot at installing XFCE on my system. My initial research showed that it is somewhat like a light-weight, highly customizable GNOME. Since I’m running on older hardware, it seemed like the best choice for me. While at it, I also decided to go ahead and move my Debian install from the stable to the testing repositories. In an ideal world, this switch would open the doors to some newer software, alleviating many of the issues that I have had with older software.

Moving to Testing:

Without bothering to do any research, I added the Debian Testing repository to my sources list and told the machine to check for available updates. It immediately found 655 new packages available for installation. Luckily, Debian offered me a handy “Smart Upgrade Manager” and I didn’t have to navigate the upgrade process myself:

Screenshot-update-manager

After hitting the Smart Upgrade button, my machine chugged away for a few moments, figuring out dependencies and the like, and finally presenting me with a 1289.4MB list of 1570 required packages. Hoping for the best, I hit Apply, and spent the next 2 hours waiting for the necessary downloads to complete. Three episodes of House and an episode of Flashpoint later, at almost 1am, the install process was finally finished. So far, everything seemed alright.

Until I restarted. With the updates applied, my machine booted just fine, and even allowed me to login. Unfortunately, it never made it as far as the desktop. I was presented with a blank grey screen and a mouse pointer (which does work), but no windows, toolbars, or panels to speak of. It seems then, that X11 is working, but that it isn’t launching a window manager of any kind on login. I hit ctrl+alt+F1 and was relieved to find that I still had a terminal, and access to all of my files. But where did my desktop go?

Once at the terminal, I launched Aptitude, to see if there were some broken packages that needed to be fixed. It listed 190 that ought to be removed, and another 6 that ought to be upgraded, including GNOME. Hoping to fix the problem, I told it to get to work, and watched as it attempted to clean up the mess that I had created. That finished, I did what I should have done in the first place, and followed these instructions in an attempt to fix my system by upgrading properly.

This time, everything worked nicely, and within minutes, I was looking at my desktop through the brand spanking new GNOME v2.28.0, just released on September 27th. A solitary hiccup with dependencies required me to completely remove and reinstall the Compiz compositing engine. Friends, I speak to you now from the bleeding edge of the Debian GNU/Linux experience. From this point onward, I will receive the very latest code, just as soon as all release-critical bugs have been addressed. Sweet.

Adding XFCE:

From my newly stable machine, I opened up Synaptic package manager and installed the xfce4 package, which pulled all of the necessary components of my new desktop in as dependencies. I also added the xfce4-artwork package, as it promised a slew of extra pretty desktop backgrounds to play with. After adding Gnome Do, Docky, and playing around with the desktop settings, I arrived at a pretty decent looking desktop:

xfce-desktop

My first impressions of the desktop are that it seems very solid, fast, and customizable. Unfortunately, it is lacking a few creature comforts, mainly alt-tab window switching (seriously, what the fuck?), and drag-and-drop from menu items to  other windows. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll give it a solid run, and see if it will become my Desktop Environment of choice.

Edit: After a long look down the tubes, I concluded that XFCE doesn’t support alt-tab, and just enabled the Ring Switcher plugin for Compiz to do the job instead.




On my Laptop, I am running Linux Mint 12.
On my home media server, I am running Ubuntu 12.04
Check out my profile for more information.

The road to GNOME

October 12th, 2009 2 comments

As you know we are all going to be transitioning from our current desktop environment (DEs) to something new. I did a bit of quick research and it seems as though Fedora offers the following DE options: KDE, GNOME, Xfce, LXDE. However because KDE is my current DE I  obviously can’t use that one.

Goodbye KDE, you served me well

Goodbye KDE, you served me well

LXDE

Let me start by saying I didn’t chose LXDE as my replacement. With that out of the way I think LXDE could have a lot of potential given the right scenario for its use. From what I have read, it is an extremely light-weight DE that is mostly menu driven. So much so that you can actually script the right-click menu!

Xfce

I consider Xfce to be GNOME-lite, and I mean that in a good way. It is designed to remove some of the clutter found in more fully-fledged DEs, thus speeding up your ability to be productive. However with my system’s beefy specs and the fact that I have been running KDE this whole time I doubt I need to shed that much DE weight.

GNOME

GNOME is the default desktop for Fedora and something that I had initially passed up in order to differentiate my experience from that of Dana’s. Now though it seems as though GNOME is the best (for me!) alternative to KDE.

Installation

After some quick Googling I found a forum post that described installing GNOME through yum by typing the following command into a terminal:

sudo yum groupinstall “GNOME Desktop Environment”

I could only assume that this means that yum will go out and grab anything that has to do with the string “GNOME Desktop Environment”. So I bravely hit the Enter key only to be presented with a list of 57 packages that needed to be installed for 106MiB worth of download!

Is this ok [y/N]: y

The downloads were actually very quick with an average speed somewhere between 650KiB/s and 1MiB/s. The install process on the other hand took significantly longer. Once it was finished I decided to reboot (just in case!) before switching the session options to load GNOME instead of KDE.

First impressions

Oh god what am I doing here? I am not very good with GNOME. It seems as though the first thing GNOME did was get rid of my pretty KDE log in screen and replace it with a sparse looking GNOME one. Par for the course I suppose. A quick switch of Sessions from KDE to GNOME and I logged in.

My new GNOME desktop

My new GNOME desktop

Once my desktop loaded GNOME presented me with a pop-up telling me to unlock the default keyring. Is this the same as kwallet? Apparently not because I had to keep guessing passwords until I finally hit the right one.

Holy crap! My wireless actually connected without prompting me for the wifi password. That is a feakin’ miracle!

The next thing I did was try and install Compiz, which enables desktop effects for GNOME. This took some work but eventually I got it to work by running the following command:

sudo yum install -y ccsm emerald-themes compizconfig-backend-gconf fusion-icon-gtk emerald compiz-fusion compiz-fusion-gnome yum install -y ccsm emerald-themes compizconfig-backend-gconf fusion-icon-gtk emerald compiz-fusion compiz-fusion-gnome libcompizconfig compiz-gnome compiz-bcop compiz compizconfig-python compiz-fusion-extras compiz-fusion-extras-gnomelibcompizconfig compiz-gnome compiz-bcop compiz compizconfig-python compiz-fusion-extras compiz-fusion-extras-gnome

and then turning on some effects within CompizConfig Settings Manager.

CompizConfig Settings Manager

CompizConfig Settings Manager

Next I had to turn off some stupid default setting that made my file manager open a new window for every folder I browsed into. I don’t know why this was enabled by default but it was awful and had to go.

Why GNOME? WHY??

Why GNOME? WHY??

To finish things off I quickly install GNOME Do and set it’s theme to Docky at the recommendation of Phil D. And welcome to my new desktop!

Is this Mac OSX?

Is this Mac OSX?

Differences

I haven’t had a long time to play with GNOME on Fedora yet but I will certainly be comparing it to KDE along the way. So far from what I’ve seen GNOME seems to be a little bit snappier. Another thing I noticed was that while both KDE and GNOME can mount Windows shares, GNOME can’t seem to write to them for some reason. I actually quickly booted back into KDE to make sure this wasn’t just a fluke and sure enough KDE could still write to those same shares. On the plus side KDE now also remembers my WiFi password!

2 weeks and counting…

That’s all for now. In the two weeks leading up to our next podcast I will continue to post about new discoveries and little differences between GNOME and KDE. Until then…




I am currently running a variety of distributions, primarily Ubuntu 14.04.
Previously I was running KDE 4.3.3 on top of Fedora 11 (for the first experiment) and KDE 4.6.5 on top of Gentoo (for the second experiment).
Check out my profile for more information.