"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." (Robert A. Heinlein)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Choosing the desktop ...

Since I bought the new desktop computer I planned testing some desktops, among the many available for Linux, to experience with the different interaction ways they offer and to choose the one I felt more comfortable. My previous hardware poor performances limited me on using only light-weight desktops (I used XFCE). XFCE is a honest and robust desktop indeed, but I felt someway limited provided programs like, for example, Thunar.


I'm not a Unity fan but I have to admit that it's a great desktop for beginners. My wife started using Unity (2D) on the old computer and she found it easier to use than XFCE. I so decided to install Ubuntu from the beginning on the new computer in order to make her preferred interface available in the shortest time.


One of my first thoughts has been to give a try to KDE. I knew the latest releases contained many interesting features but I never dared install it on my old Sempron 2400.

KDE is a powerful environment with some genial feature like activities. On the other hand, in the days I used KDE I never really felt comfortable (I was more comfortable even on Unity). I suppose that, after many years using Gnome (or Gnome-like) environments I adapted too much my way to work to the Gnome desktop. By the way I dismissed KDE after a few days.
If installing KDE is almost a trivial task:

sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

removing it is not as simple, fortunately I found here the very long list of “apt-get remove” commands needed.


I'm a Linux Mint user, on the EEEPC 900, I so decided to try the new Mint sponsored desktop environment Cinnamon.
To install Cinnamon I had first to add its PPA

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

Cinnamon offers a good modern but traditionally looking desktop environment with configurable top and bottom panel and application menu.

a configurable “hot-corner” brings to a desktop selection and management view

Cinnamon worked in a smooth and stable way in the days I used it but I felt it a bit limiting, perhaps because of its relative “young age”. The configuration options offered by Cinnamon are a bit limited and raw (you have to restart the desktop in order to apply panel changes). There is a good variety of Cinnamon extensions yet available but installation must be done manually and they can mine the whole desktop stability since I experienced a couple of crashes caused by an extension.

Gnome Shell

The last desktop environment I tried has been Gnome 3 shell. I don't like Gnome 3, it its default form, more than I like Unity but unlike Unity Gnome shell offers a wide choice of configurations trough Gnome Shell Extensions. I so installed the Gnome Shell from Ubuntu software center.
Installing extensions on Gnome shell has become a quite trivial task since the extension installation and management site. has been activated. I so went there and started stuffing my Gnome Shell installation with everything though could be useful. 

Here is how my Gnome shell desktop looks like, after installing an application menu in addition to some minor extensions and restoring minimize and maximize windows buttons using Gnome advanced settings.

Concluding …

At last my choice fell to Gnome-Shell enriched by many extensions. I am quite comfortable with gnome applications, its windows view allows me to manage windows, desktops and launch applications all I one while the applications menu extension I installed let me forget the ugly Gnome 3 application launcher. This post is not aimed to be comparative review over the various Linux desktops, I've only reported the decisional process that brought me to my choice in a few days of tests. The choice of the desktop is based on very personal preferences (we use this computer in two and use two different desktops) of course, if you use an operating system, like Linux, that let you the privilege to choose.

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