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My New Favorite Linux Desktop Environment:KDE

January 17, 2012 8 comments

I’m back with a rather passionate post about my new favorite Linux OS and my Konversion to KDE; or the K Desktop Environment.

About two weeks ago I was in a sorry state. I’ve used Linux Mint on our main computer for a couple of years now. But because of the impending demise of the Gnome 2 Desktop Environment, I’d been trying out Linux Mint 12 with Gnome 3 and Bodhi Linux which uses the Enlightenment desktop. Without going into details (which I’ve done before) I was growing more and more dissatisfied with the state of Mint 12, despite all the wonderful improvements they’ve made to add extensions and alternate Desktop Environments (MGSE, Mate, Cinnamon). I was just having too many problems with lack of basic management tools for the operating system and not being able to configure the computer the way I was used to. I kept running into roadblocks; and things that used to be easy to do were not working any more. I was getting rather testy! And mad at myself! I had erased the beautifully functional Mint 10 from the hard drive in order to install Mint 12 and Bodhi, in hopes that one of these would prove usable enough to keep on this computer for the long term. But I had become sick and tired of having to keep finding patches and tweaks and new extensions to get back the functionality of this machine.

The last straw came when I ran a bunch of updates to Bodhi Linux which caused Enlightenment to crash continuously, making the desktop unusable. I knew I could delete the ‘e’ configuration file to (probably) fix it, but then I’d have to reconfigure all the changes I’d made to Bodhi. And the same thing happened on my other computer running Bodhi, too! Now I know that this problem could be rectified with a little work; and the Bodhi team have done an amazing job making an E-17 distro that is way better than any I’ve used before. But I was just tired of  having to spend more time fixing things, or looking for ways to get something to work!

In desperation my thoughts wandered back to another Linux DE which is also (I think) the original one: KDE. For years KDE was the king in the Linux world; but over the last several years Gnome has gained a bit more popularity (until its recent release).  And over the last three years I’ve tried out KDE distros once in a while. I’ve tried to like KDE; but for some reason it seemed too different (it actually looks more like Windows in some ways) and seemed too complicated. It’s always appealed to me for its visual beauty; but for some reason I never felt comfortable enough to install and use it. But just recently I’ve been playing around with OpenSuse 12 with KDE. I liked it so much I actually installed it on another computer. But after installation, the wireless network would not work, though it did from the Live CD (?).

Anyway, to get to the point; I decided to try out Kubuntu (Ubuntu Linux using KDE instead of Unity/Gnome) since I’m most familiar with the way Ubuntu-based distros work. It uses the same repositories and package manager (more or less). All the Linux operating systems I’ve used over the last three and a half years have been Ubuntu-based. And; the very day I was going through my Linux identity crisis, I happened on this blog post: Kubuntu 11.10 Komprehensively Explored; which is probably the best advertisement for Kubuntu and KDE that I’ve ever seen!

I downloaded Kubuntu 11.10, burned it to disk and fired up my computer from the Live CD. After maybe half an hour; I was in love! This was gorgeous to look at! Compositing effects were beautiful and smooth, even from the CD! And you can configure everything and anything; even more so than with Enlightenment! This was what I had been wanting all along.

I reformatted my hard drive and installed Kubuntu that evening, and in a few hours I knew I had found Linux Bliss!!

And two weeks later I’m loving KDE more and more. I had a couple of minor problems early on which were quickly solved using the extremely helpful Kubuntu Forums and user database. I have since explored the wonders of KDE and it is, for me, simply a joy to use. Esthetically pleasing, highly functional, and really easy to use. The attention to detail astounds me! And it just works.

I’ve heard that when KDE went from version 3 to version 4 a year or more ago, a lot of users did not like the changes, either. So I’m sure Gnome will be a lot better off  a year from now. And maybe the earlier versions of KDE I had tried before were not as polished as the current 4.7 (with 4.8 being released shortly).  All I know is that Kubuntu 11.10 is here to stay for a long time on this computer! Until 12.04 comes out in the spring, that is.

On a side note: Yesterday I installed Xubuntu on our old laptop that has been running Bodhi Linux. I’ve had a fondness for the Xfce desktop for a while, but this latest version of Xubuntu is really nice. For older hardware, this distro runs great, and Xfce is very nicely configurable and a pleasure to use.

In my opinion, anyone looking for a worthwhile replacement for Gnome or Unity in Ubuntu would do well to try out Kubuntu or Xubuntu.  Those darn ‘buntus got ya covered, no matter what your taste in desktop environments!

Linux Desktop Environment Round Up

2011: A year full of right and wrong for Linux

KDE 4.8

Linux in 2012: What to Expect

Update March 17, 2012: I’ve decided to create a new blog here on WordPress strictly dealing with Linux and Open Source Software for the average desktop computer user. Please check it out at: TheFearlessPenguin. Thanks!

I’m still alive… and here to bid farewell to 2011

December 31, 2011 1 comment

I did not realise it’s been almost six weeks since my last post! The holiday season has been busy and enjoyable. And of course, Solstice/Christmas-time with a six and nine-year old was very fun. We visited friends in Olean, who I always wish lived closer! And it was nice to spend time with my family and Stephanie’s over the past month. I hope your December has been pleasant and not too stressful.

So on this last day of 2011, and my wife’s birthday, I’d like to reflect briefly upon the passing year.

First; I continue to be thankful that Stephanie has her job and that we, unlike millions of Americans, still enjoy a nice home and enough food to eat and that we live in a safe neighborhood surrounded by wonderful people. I’ve heard so many horror stories about what so many of our fellow Americans have gone through in the past year that it’s difficult not to be saddened. (And that’s just America; the rest of the human race has not been enjoying much prosperity, either!) Here’s hoping this coming year will see some improvement for everyone, except for the bankers and government officials and our Corporate Overlords, of course, who are faring just fine!

I continue to be amazed at how quickly our children grow and change. And I’m very happy, as a home schooling parent, that I get to spend so much time with them (well, most of the time, that is) and experience all the subtle little joys and tribulations and triumphs that make them who they are. I’ve really got a damn wonderful life here! My big resolution (I was hoping not to use that word!) for 2012 is that I make more time for writing and for painting and other creative endeavours.

And after so many years, I’m so glad that all of our troops are finally out of Iraq! That’s probably one of the best outcomes for this fading year. I just hope the misery of the Iraqi people will diminish as time goes on; but who can say?

On a lighter note; here are a few things I recently heard about that I’d like to share. The first is a tiny computer called the Raspberry Pi that sells for $35!! And it looks pretty decent! If you have a keyboard, monitor and mouse this is a great little device for setting up a home entertainment hub. They should be for sale very soon. This would be perfect for the kids! Or any body who wants to make documents, surf the web and watch videos. HERE is the official website.

Another cool thing about the Raspberry Pi is that there is a version of Bodhi Linux that is made specifically to run on the ARM processor that the Pi uses. And speaking of Linux (as I must) this year has certainly seen a lot of changes to desktop Linux distros. Over the last few weeks I’ve installed Linux Mint 12  and Bodhi Linux on separate partitions on our main computer’s hard drive to see how they run on this machine. I especially wanted to test Mint 12 with it’s tweaked version of Gnome 3 Shell. And after installing the extensions and playing around with it a while, I’ve discovered Mint’s Gnome 3 desktop environment is not bad. Still not as ‘tweakable’ as the discontinued Gnome 2, but quite attractive and usable. I think by the next release it will be really nice! Also, in the last month of 2011 two new desktop environments/window managers have come forth: Razor-qt, which is very lightweight and looks promising for the coming year; and Clement Lefebvre of Linux Mint has come up with their own alternative to Gnome Shell called Cinnamon. This also looks very promising and functional. I’ll need to try this out in the next six months or so when Mint 13 is released.

But, after all that, I also installed the updated Bodhi Linux 1.3.0 with the Enlightenment desktop. After a few problems, which were quickly worked out, it is running beautifully on this machine and has become our default operating system. It’s just fast, uses less RAM, and I can have graphic effects that Gnome 3 does not support yet. Anyway, enough for now. I’ll save more Linux news for another time!

In entertainment news there’s a TV show I’d like to recommend. It’s Homeland on Showtime. I haven’t been watching many television shows lately, but this thing is riveting! The story, the cast: it’s amazing! And it’s got Mandy Patinkin, for God’s sake! Enough said.

Another delightful surprise for me in the past year is Harry Potter. My son started reading this series a few months ago; he’s on book five now and we’ve also been reading the first three Harry Potter books with my daughter Fiona, who’s six. She loves them! I had only seen the first two Harry Potter movies, and had not read the books, so I was wonderfully surprised that I’m really enjoying the series. Of course there’s so much more in the books. And the stories are very interesting and well-written! There’s a great deal more depth to them than I originally thought. But the films also do a great job; we’ve been watching them after Arthur reads the book they’re based on.

Well, that’s all I can say for now. We’re meeting some friends to see ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ in 3D this afternoon. Our kids have not seen a 3D film before, but I’m thinking this would be the one to see. Should be fun!

I’ll leave you with a few other links. See ya soon. Happy New Year!

Linux Desktop Environment Round Up

Fired Up: The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy

Why I am obsessed with old school Doctor Who

In My Opinion: The Current State of the Linux Desktop

November 18, 2011 1 comment

I’ve written a few things from time to time about changes in Gnu/Linux Desktop Environments that have taken place over the past year. 2011 has seen tremendous changes in the Linux desktop; from Unity in Ubuntu; to the transition from Gnome 2.3 to Gnome 3 Shell; and to the growing number of people who are finding Xfce and Enlightenment (e17) and KDE more to their liking because of these changes.

This is the time of year when many Linux distros come out with new versions of their Operating Systems (Fedora, OpenSUSE, Sabayon, Ubuntu and Linux Mint, to name but a few), and I’ve been trying out some of these new distros to see how Gnome Shell is progressing. I’m especially interested in the upcoming Linux Mint 12, since I now am running Mint 10 on the computer that my wife and I use a lot. The Release Candidate for Mint 12 came out this past week and I’ve played around with the Live CD a couple of times now.

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed; or maybe I should say underwhelmed. It’s kind of a mish-mash at the moment between features of the old Mint with the new “MGSE” (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions), resulting in two different ways to do several common tasks and not the usual coherent integration of visual style that we’ve come to expect from Linux Mint. Though of course, this is not the final release, and there are naturally a lot of bugs that need to be ironed out from this totally new redesign of Mint. I’ve tried other distros with standard Gnome 3 Shell (Fedora and OpenSUSE) and find it nice to look at but severely lacking in usability. And Compiz doesn’t work in Gnome Shell/Unity, so desktop effects are limited. At least Mint’s Gnome Shell extensions (and Gnome tweak) make it a little more configurable; but still, Gnome Shell and Unity are, in my opinion, a huge step backward for the Linux desktop experience. Come on, people! I need my wobbly windows and fading transition effects! I need a panel I can right-click to modify and move wherever I want on my screen!

My first experience using Linux was Ubunt 8.10, Hardy Heron, three years ago. When I discovered I could download and try out any of dozens (hundreds!) of different distros from Live CDs that cost absolutely nothing, I was ecstatic! Back then Ubuntu had a slightly plain, almost retro look compared to the Macs I had been using. But it was very easy to use, intuitive, and it worked pretty darn well. After a little time reading forums and experimenting I learned I could do so much more with Linux than I ever could with the Mac or Windows. There was so much I could change and configure about the way the operating system looked and the way it worked. And there were other Desktop Environments besides Gnome to choose from! There was Compiz for groovy desktop effects, tons of different window manager themes and icon themes to download that I could change and rearrange with a couple of clicks! And a universe (and multiverse) of free and open source software I could easily install in several different ways. I had a few brief problems at first, but thanks to Linux forums I discovered I could fix any occasional glitch all by myself. What a sense of empowerment! And don’t even get me started about the wonders of the command line!

After less than a year of using Ubuntu I found Linux Mint, and today I’m using Mint 10 on our main computer and Bodhi Linux on another desktop and a laptop. I’ve installed other distros; like Dream Linux, Xubuntu, PCLinux OS, Fedora, Mandriva, Moon OS, Pardus Linux and Pinguy OS; using Gnome, KDE, Xfce or Enlightenment. But for now, standard Linux Mint 10 (Gnome) and Bodhi Linux (Enlightenment) are tied as my favorite distros. And they’re both based off Ubuntu. I’m very familiar and comfortable using Ubuntu (and thus Debian) based distros.

So this is what I don’t understand: After several years most Linux distros have progressed rapidly, thanks to the open source development mentality, to become easier to use, faster, more reliable, more elegant, and more compatible with hardware and peripheral devices. But with Ubuntu ditching Gnome for Unity, and the Gnome Developers making some drastic changes from Gnome 2.3 to Gnome 3 with Gnome Shell, it seems to me like that progress has been stopped in its tracks.

I know, I’ve heard the rationalizations. They want to appeal more to the masses; to the trend of more people using notebooks and netbooks and other portable devices, so they took the look and features of a netbook OS and came up with Unity and Gnome Shell (which to me are pretty much indistinguishable). But I just don’t understand why you would take a Desktop Manager that is easy to use and highly configurable like Gnome 2.3 and then take many of those features away; make it less functional. That makes no sense!

To me, the great thing about Gnu/Linux-based operating systems is that there isn’t just one flavor. And as I’ve said before; that’s probably the worst thing about getting the masses to try a Linux operating system: too many choices. With Mac OSX what you see is pretty much what you get. And the same with Windows. It takes years for a new version of these OS’s to get released, and even then, you pretty much know what to expect. There aren’t any drastic changes to the way it works. And the changes are evolutionary; you expect the new version to do more than the previous, not less.

So for the majority of Windows and Mac users who aren’t used to being able to change the look or usability of their OS, the new Ubuntu or a distro with Gnome Shell may be simple and attractive enough to get them to try it. Certainly the price tag and freedom from viruses and malware is a big plus. Trouble is, the vast majority of computer users still don’t have a clue what Linux is, though Canonical, Redhat and the Free and Open Source Software community may gradually be changing that. The thing I love about Linux is what makes it so difficult to promote. There is no single Face for that elusive thing we call ‘Linux’, and despite Mark Shuttleworth’s efforts there may never be.

Of course, that diversity is also a great strength. I, and a lot of other Linux users really love Gnome 2.3. And even though it’s being phased out for a less friendly, more rigid Gnome 3; the world of Open Source is all about innovation. There are always new extensions for Gnome Shell and Unity popping up, and there’s MATE, which is now in its infancy but may bring the goodness of Gnome 2 to Gnome Shell. There is always hope! But at this moment my Linux Mint 10 is working beautifully. And after checking out the alternatives, I’m going to keep using it for as long as I can.

Another alternative that I find more attractive all the time is to just bypass all this fuss over Gnome and Unity and use an Enlightenment distro like Bodhi Linux. e17 is so customizable that it takes a while to learn, but for people who want full control of their desktop and eye candy without Compiz, it’s the Cat’s Pajamas!

One last thought: Pinguy OS has a nice new version with Gnome Shell tweaks that may be nicer than Mint’s. Check it out HERE. And there’s a little demo video HERE.

If things with Gnome aren’t much better a year from now, I think all my computers will be running Bodhi. I know I forgot some points, but that’s my rant for tonight! Thank you. Comments are welcome.

Simplicity vs. Customizability in Desktop Design

More Gnome Shell Tips And Tricks

The Most Popular Linux Is…

Will 12.04 changes bring Ubuntu back to prominence?

Fedora 16 Review: When An Ubuntu User Tries Fedora

Top 6 KDE Distributions of 2011

Pinguy OS – another alternative Gnome Shell distro

Speaking of Linux Mint and their more user-friendly tweaked version of Gnome Shell; there’s another very good Linux distro called Pinguy OS that is coming out soon with their new version based on Ubuntu 11.10. Pinguy OS comes totally pre-configured with a ton of applications, codecs and utilities pre-installed.  Here’s a preview from their blog that looks great: Pinguy OS 11.10 Alpha Shell Released. Both 32 and 64 Bit.

So for the best of both worlds (combining Gnome 2 and 3), it looks like interesting times ahead for Linux Mint and Pinguy OS. In the evolving world of GNU/Linux, there are always alternatives!

Simplicity vs. Customizability in Desktop Design

Categories: Linux Tags: ,

News about Linux Mint 12

I’ve been waiting patiently to hear some news (besides rumors) about the upcoming release of my favorite Linux distro, Mint 12. It’s supposed to come out sometime in November. So just now I happened to check the Linux Mint website and found this enlightening blog post about the new version of Linux Mint. This should be very interesting!

So here you go, Mint fans: Linux Mint 12 Preview

I’m actually a little scared about this, but also excited. If the Mint developers can take the good parts of Gnome 3 Shell (beautiful design, simplicity) and combine that with the functionality I love about Gnome 2, this could be really great! Right now I’ve been using Mint 10 on our main computer (Bodhi Linux on another desktop and laptop) and everything works perfectly. I’m still trying to decide if I want to take the plunge, maybe after a month or two, and install Mint 12. Eventually, I guess I’ll have to. I can’t wait to see the final release of the new Gnome 3 Linux Mint!

Categories: Linux Tags:

Countdown to Ubuntu 11.10?

Back to the world of Linux: I just realized that the new version of the Ubuntu operating system, 11.10 (codenamed Oneiric Ocelot) is due to be released for download tomorrow, October 13th.

I’ve talked about my personal experience with the new Ubuntu with Unity here before. I’ve really tried to like it, but am just too content with the Gnome 2.3 and Enlightenment Desktop Managers/Environments to have any desire to switch to Unity. Even the new Gnome 3 Shell has been disappointing to me so far, but a lot of people (besides the Gnome developers) have been trying to make it more usable, as have the Unity developers. I keep finding numerous articles and blog posts about ways to drastically improve both Unity and Gnome 3, so there is certainly hope. I enjoy trying new things; I really do! So I can’t shake this perverse desire to try out Ubuntu again soon, especially now since you can install and run Gnome Shell along with Unity in Ubuntu 11.10. I will have to actually install it on my ‘experimental’ computer to truly find out what’s improved in terms of functionality. But I love the challenge!

So I’ve been finding it a little strange that the Ubuntu website has absolutely no mention of the release of 11.10 tomorrow. The major news on their Home page seems to be aimed at non-Linux users: ‘Ubuntu One is now available for Windows’. Up till now the Ubuntu Home page has always had the ‘Countdown to Ubuntu’ ticker and plenty of info about the upcoming release , which happens every six months. But from what I can see, no one checking their site would have a clue about Oneiric Ocelot. That seems odd.

Anyway, here are a couple of websites that do mention the big day tomorrow for anyone out there who is interested in trying out the new Ubuntu operating system, and not just the Ubuntu One file-sharing application:

The countdown to Oneiric Ocelot begins, Ubuntu 11.10 arrives October 13th

The World Welcomes Oneiric Ocelot: Ubuntu 11.10

15 Things I did after installing the new Ubuntu 11.10

Categories: Linux Tags:

Revisiting Ubuntu and Xubuntu (11.10 beta 2)

September 24, 2011 3 comments

The new Ubuntu release (Oneiric Ocelot) comes out in about three weeks. Since the Linux news feeds I peruse have been filled with all the great improvements being made to the Unity interface in Ubuntu, I thought I’d download the new Ubuntu 11.10 beta 2 and check it out. It comes with new Linux Kernel version 3.0.4 and Gnome 3.1.92 along with an upgraded Unity.

It booted up fine on my six-year-old HP computer, and I logged into the wireless connection without problems. But after checking things out for about ten minutes I have to say I was quite unimpressed. They’ve added more cosmetic Lens effects and search categories, but the Dash functionality seems much the same as in Ubuntu 11.04 that I’d installed a few months back. And I was disappointed to see that the panel still seems to not be very configurable as well. I find that the Dash and Lenses just get in the way of doing things; not make it simpler.

I guess I’m just spoiled; compared to standard Linux Mint with Gnome 2 and Bodhi Linux’s Enlightenment desktop that I’m used to using, Unity seems to me like more work to use with less functionality. It was a very underwhelming experience! And then my wireless internet suddenly disconnected, and would not reconnect no matter how many times I re-entered my password.

So, next I popped in the new version (beta 2) of Xubuntu that I’d also burned to a CD. More and more I am liking the Xfce desktop environment, and heard that this official Ubuntu brand of Xfce is quite nice. And ya know, it is! It booted quickly from the CD, is simple to use, has a nice look and an easy-to-use menu of utilities and applications. The Xfce panel is more configurable than Unity, though still not as useful as the old Gnome 2 panel. The new Xfce also comes with a simple docky-like thing at the bottom for launching apps. You can even enable simple visual effects without using Compiz. And I experienced no problems with my wireless connection even after half an hour of use.

I think Xfce is growing toward (maybe) becoming as easy to use as Gnome used to be, and certainly is lighter on your system. But for me, Enlightenment and Gnome 2 still can’t be beat!

Here are some links you may find useful:

What’s coming in Ubuntu’s new Unity Linux desktop

Is Ubuntu Driving Users Away?

Guide to disks and disk partitioning in Linux

Categories: Linux
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