Linus Ditches KDE and Gnome (so what?)

Having made an earlier defection from KDE to Gnome, Linus Torvalds has now rejected both in favor of Xfce. It’s only natural that the actions of the creator of the Linux kernel would attract extra scrutiny, and I think that his decision is reflective of a wider disenchantment amongst long-term Linux users.

So is this post a sky-is-falling complain-fest? Not at all. It might be time for some of us to say, “I don’t like the way that the big two DEs are shaping up, so, I’m going to use something else.”

There was a time when KDE was the desktop for geeks who liked an intricate, customizable interface and Gnome had found its niche as a business desktop. No prizes for guessing which one Linus chose. However, upon the introduction of KDE4, he jumped ship in favor of Gnome 2. He stated that he was disappointed with the performance and reliability of KDE4, in addition to being unconvinced about the new direction that the developers were taking.

He made the announcement of his latest defection via Google+. His first remark was fairly benign:

“While you are at it, could you also fork gnome, and support a gnome-2 environment?”

but then he followed up with some more specific and scathing criticisms:

“I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3.”

“In gnome3, the developers have apparently decided that it's "too complicated" to actually do real work on your desktop, and have decided to make it really annoying to do.”

“I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really.”

Ouch. But also... not ouch. I think that there’s a positive side to all of this. Linus wants to get back to what he considers to be his favorite era of the Linux desktop. What we’re talking about here is a desktop that uses an interface mechanic that is reminiscent of both MacOS and Microsoft Windows and that favors a modular approach to application selection. KDE4 and Gnome 3 are breaking with traditional desktop mechanics while introducing some new elements. KDE4 fails on the second criteria of the the “classic” Linux DE as it will increasingly make use of highly integrated applications.

As for the criticism that has been hurled at the KDE and Gnome development teams, lets be fair: they are introducing new ideas that will allow Linux to keep up on the desktop (and mobile) space, and hopefully, even get ahead of the competition. I’m sure that that some of the first wave of Linux desktop users wished that TWM could have remained the default choice of the major distros.

Before KDE and Gnome came on the scene, many Linux desktop users used TWM derrived desktops like this one. The great thing is that you still can, if you want to.

This could be the opportunity that that Xfce (and Enlightenment and Window Maker and all the others) has been waiting for because Xfce can offer something approaching the classic Gnome 2.0 experience. This gives Linux users a choice between the integrated approach of KDE4 and the simplified, “average user” oriented front end that Gnome 3 (and Unity) is aiming to provide, or [shock horror] something else . Perhaps it will be left to a distro maintainer to use Xfce plus some Gnome components to provide a desktop that continues to offer the look at feel of a circa 2008 desktop while offering a hope of maintenance and future improvements.

Let’s face it, hiccups in development aside, no other operating system offers as many ways of working as dear old GNU/Linux does. No one has to be stuck anything that they really hate and new GUIs are under constant development.

To the complainers I say, “you’ve never had it so good!”


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Many DEs

Anonymous's picture

I like and use many DEs.... KDE4, GNOME2, IceWM, fluxbox, E17,FVWM Crystal, Window MAker and 3D also... Compiz-Fusion, Looking Glass, Metisse...
All beatiful! working, good...

But not GNOME3, GNOME3 is heavy, unstable, veri inefficient toward old hardware, almost unusable and Ugly!

Identifying the problem.

Ugglybabee's picture

Let's identify the problem correctly, so we can solve it. The release of KDE4 is not the problem, it is the loss of KDE3. We don't need to justify our preference, and we don't need to attack KDE4. If KDE4 didn't supercede a desktop that I find to be more usable, I'd have nothing but praise for KDE4.

The people who claim to prefer KDE4 aren't lying. I wouldn't want to take KDE4 away from them, even if such a thing were remotely possible. What I want is to hold onto what I have, and that is not only possible, I believe that it is inevitable. Remember who they told us that a fork of KDE3 wasn't going to happen? remember how it happened? And now it's not going to succeed, right? KDE3 will live, because people want it.

Instead of complaining.

Ugglybabee's picture

If you prefer KDE3, instead of complaining, please consider using one of the distros that still supports it. Opensuse has a nice unofficial KDE3 repository, Kubuntu-Trinity is performing much better than the previous release, IMO. Vector Linux has a "KDE Classic" edition. And Slax and the remixed Slax, Porteus, both use KDE3 desktops.

Went back to KDE3

Ugglybabee's picture

After more than a year. I had occasion to need a live CD, and I chose Slax, and using KDE3 again felt so good that I installed Kubuntu-Trinity on everything that I owned that has a hard drive.

OK, so I used to "still use KDE"

Anonymous's picture

I posted the comments below with the title "I still use KDE". Well, after kded4 mysteriously started eating 100% of my CPU *again*, requiring a reboot to fix it.... I switched over to XFCE. So far so good... I do still miss my animated cube for switching workspaces, but I'll live. There's no easy way to edit the xfce application menu that I've found, and some things aren't in the right spot. And it's kind of cluttered with all of the KDE stuff still available in there. But I can still run some of the apps I did before (e.g. kdenlive, k3b).

Now I have to wonder... if I stick with it, do I bother changing distros? I'm on Kubuntu 11.04. I think I'll just stay with this the way it is, and then when the new version comes out, upgrade, and then see if KDE can win me back.

if you want a 'cube' just use compiz

sean_lynch's picture

Xfce can be used with Compiz, just like gnome:

As a matter of fact you can use gnome's Metacity as your WM instead of the XFCE WM or Compiz.

You can have XFCE and your cube!

Gnomes KDE 4 mistake.

realmkeeper's picture

I tried to like Unity and I tried to like Gnome3, but I run a Laptop and a PC without touch-screens and thus render the User experiences proclaimed by both development team hideous, like so many already have said.

Unity I consider still in Alpha as there are numerous problems or rather lack of user interface design considerations. It is worth a look in say a years time.

Gnome3 WOW! Under the bonnet it is good, BUT having read a lot the discussions and documents presented by the UX team, I do wonder. They themselves break the rules that they proclaim and there in lies the the clue. They have been smoking something good.
A mobile interface on a PC, damn that is good stuff. If I wanted a mobile interface on a PC I will install MeeGo, JoliOS, Android(blacksheep - bad google stealing code) or one of the other small screen UX Linux experiences.

I am looking at importing tablets with standard X86 chips and Gnome 3 has solved my problem on the UX front, But a desktop PC? For everything that is said on the gnome website on user interfaces holds true for a limited user interface appliance device. For a computer the user interface arguments breakdown. Opening the app menu smells like my android motocrap and on a 21 inch Screen looks hideous.

Lastly, Why should someone fork a project? Why should there be a divergence of funds? What happens to the people that make decisions that segregates a community and loses the trust of many (say 40%) in a community? Do they get promoted or chewed-up and spat out?

PS I don't know how, I don't know where, I don't have the skills, but I am forking Gnome 2.

unity 11.04

jarhead0311's picture

unity and unity2 on my desktop with 1Gb of ram slows down the machine / useage like I can't believe. I left Windows after Win2000 due to this issue and I am going to try Linus strategy and move to Xfce.
Unity sucks on my machines.

Luddites, anecdotal

Anonymous's picture

Luddites, anecdotal evidences--this comment section is an amusing, face-palm inducing representation of the mentality of the average Linux user.

Luddites? Really? That's the

Anonymous's picture

Luddites? Really? That's the best you have for sincere and accurate criticisms? Please. If we were all so afraid of new things we probably wouldn't be using a constantly changing desktop Linux in the first place.

ha ha

Aparaatti's picture

Guess (at least hope) that there are also majority who can't be bothered with this bashing and can see the many sides of things.

I still use KDE

Anonymous's picture

I've tried several distros since the late 90s, started out on Redhat 5.1 (I think) and then after a few years to Mandrake, then Mandriva, Knoppix, then to Kubuntu. I've stuck with it thus far. And yes, there are things I don't really like about it (Nepomuk, Plasma) but I do like it in general. Although, things like kded4 bringing my machine to its knees at random times and requiring a REBOOT has made me reconsider.

I see people complaining about KDE, but nothing specific. You hate Konqueror or Kmail? Use something else. Heck, I still use fetchmail and pine (alpine). If it can't handle something easily, like multiple image attachments, I fire up sylpheed. I used to use Compiz, but it caused me all kinds of problems. I like that KDE integrated that functionality into Desktop Effects. I run 4 desktops and keep Firefox on 1, terminals on 2, and then I can use 3 and 4 for other specific apps. I enjoy showing people the cube animation for multiple desktops, they think it is as cool as I do.

I'm running 64-bit on a quad core, so maybe KDE would be pretty resource intensive on some machines. I leave my machine on all the time, so restarting isn't a major concern for me either. I have used XFCE on a live Xubuntu while traveling for work and I like it, but not enough to switch. Yet. Never been a Gnome fan really. But as others have said - we have a choice. And I really REALLY appreciate that.

Ditch Gnome 3?

Anonymous's picture

I have been using, primarily, Gnome since Redhat 6.1. I have tried several others, but the only other one I've cared to use was Ice-WM (for light-weight boxes).

I used (forced myself) KDE for about 6 months, never cared for it. I've a good friend that refuses to use FVWM (I can't hardly stand it).

I was pretty sceptical about Gnome 3 when I first saw it. I didn't care for their default configuration. A clean desk(top) is a sign of an empty mind ;-)

Once I figured out I could configure it to my liking, I had no problem with it. Isn't this one of the major reasons we use Linux? We can have it our way.

Personally, I suspect that if Linus had bothered to look into the settings, he wouldn't have abandoned it so quickly. The stock configuration has an empty desktop and no way to put anything on it, 2 Lines of console input and I can have all the garbage on my desktop I want. But if XFCE is what he wants, he should go for it. It's all about freedom of choice.

DE choice

ppyo's picture

I started using Linux with Slackware and fvwm. Switched to KDE and Mandrake and I was a happy camper. Enter KDE4 and I fled, horrified, to Gnome in Ubuntu. Now with the introduction of Unity, I really tried to like it, to no avail. The thing is KLUNKY. So I simply set Gnome back as my default session, and installed AWN. Works like a charm. Having choices available is one of the many things that makes Linux great.

Ppyo - A proud Linux user since '96.
Distros in use: Ubuntu, Jolicloud, Android, Zubuntu/Cacko (Zaurus).

Openbox + tint2 + gmrun (or

Anonymous's picture

Openbox + tint2 + gmrun (or something similar).

What else do you really need?

Still trying to get along with KDE4

Praedor's picture

Big disconnect between KDE 3.x and 4. I used to be able to brag about how when windows crashed, that was it, reboot time but if I had a crash in linux, I could still do work or even restart the WM/DE because the system itself did NOT crash. Well, that may still be technically true but since KDE4 I can say that it doesn't matter because when KDE4 goes down, it all too often is virtually the same as my entire system going down. I lose ALL input capability. Cannot get to a CLI, often cannot get to a safe point with a Ctrl-Alt-F2, etc. I don't carry around an extra computer so I can use it to ssh into my crashed (KDE4 crash) system and try and salvage the session, no, I LOSE the session and actually have to do a Windows(tm) and hard reboot! Thanks a lot KDE developers! That plasma crap is buggy and unstable as hell and it all too often effectively wrecks the entire system. There have literally been sickening moments for me when I would actually entertain the idea of going back to windows because of constant Konqueror crashes (a browser that STILL cannot handle most of the modern worldwide web!), panel crashes, plasma crashes that totally bork all inputs.

I started with KDE when it was still 0.x. I am actually looking into dumping the whole thing because it is so buggy, unstable, and dangerous to the stability of the entire system its running on. Nice going KDE developers.

My computer is NOT a mobile phone. I do NOT want some full retard interface on my real computer simply to make it look/feel/act the same as some halfwit mobile device with a screen measured in a couple inches. I do NOT want flashy CPU and memory hog bells and whistles simply for the sake of bells and whistles. Dump ANYTHING that compromises stability.

Everyone knows you don't go full retard. You (KDE) went full retard. Never go full retard.

you can uninstall Unity in Ubuntu 11.04

larry's picture

Hello. Recently I installed Dream Studio 11.04, basically Ubuntu 11.04 with some added Audio & video production tools, and I absolutely HATE the UNITY desktop. So I opened a terminal and typed "sudo apt-get remove unity" then after rebooting I had no desktop panels so I right-clicked the desktop and created a launcher for xterm. I then opened xterm and typed "gnome-panel". This instantly gave me back my traditional gnome panels at top & bottom. I then edited my "startup applications", took out what I didnt want and then added "gnome-panel" then closed it. Then I typed "sudo reboot" in xterm. The machine rebooted and wallah!! Good Bye unity!! Hello traditional gnome2 :) Worked like a charm. Hope this helps others!!

Before Gnome 3 released, I

Anonymous's picture

Before Gnome 3 released, I changed to Xfce.

I don't know much about

Ritesh Raj Sarraf's picture

I don't know much about GNOME, but KDE failed. Look at when KDE4 was released. Still today, it is broken. For example, Konqueror, the most important user visible component of KDE, is broken. Doesn't work on most sites. The noise is less because the momentum has been stolen by Chrome and Firefox.

Look at kmail. It is 2011 and the damn thing can't do html emails.

When KDE4 development started, we all hopes KDE would cut out the junk code which stops them from extending features (like html emails, proper rendering engine - webkit). But no. They failed.

Most old KDE folks left, frustrated. I don't know what plans were there with the new ones. As a Proof of Concept, they did make KDE run on Windows. Run as in good for nothing.

And look at Plasma. That damn thing is supposed to remain behind your application window. But looks like that is what all of KDE is worried about. Every release, you just hear about the crappy plasma.
I guess Aaron had a charter to redo the desktop shell to plasma so that the work would be leveraged by Nokia on the Maemo platform. It is just unfortunate that there's no Maemo now. ;-)
And the same with kdepim.

DE to attract defectors while ignoring the underlying power.

badiane's picture

I remember a long time ago when I would open the KDE file manager and would search the content of my filesystem with regex patterns. Now that's the way it's supposed to be. By that I mean that it's OK if a new user doesn't know about regex and he shuoldn't be forced to do so, but let's not obfuscate the available power that more experienced user are used to on the command line.

I've always thought that the same power of the command line should be made available via the GUI. For example, the default notion is that one should not run as root; OK, so if as a regular user, via GUI, I want to copy a file to another directory to which I may not have permissions, it's not quite proper to just tell me via a dialog box that I have no permissions, or that it can't be done or just give me a generic error message. The logic should consider by default that I may know of or have the means to do so, thus prompt me through the available mechanisms for credential. I know that it can be done with gksu and such but the point is that logic should be default in DE's or WM's.

In the same vein, when I need to create multiple directories (folders) I should be able to have an "advanced" button on the dialog box which, beside allowing the neophyte to create a directory, would allow me to say enter something like /{sub_dir1,sub_dir2}/{sub_sub_dir{1,2,4} without any issues. Same for copy or move. Why diminish the power of the OS for a somewhat fallacious notion of "ease of use" which can still be provided while still allowing access to the underlying power. Let's have interfaces which transfer or allow access to the underlying powers of this wonderful OS.

It's ok to want to bring people in, but we must also consider that the users we want to bring in sometimes may be used to mediocrity and if we are trying to make them feel at ease, it will most probably mean that we would have to replicate, if only externally, that mediocrity with which they've become so familiar. That's wrong. If there is good and well written documentation or other didactic vectors to allay their initial fears, they should be the focus of the disseminators and not a reduction of features.

Things are neither hard or easy. It's always us. Take a test you took which kicked your ass, you will refer to it as a hard test, but once you find help whether on your own or via another individual or individuals you now take the same test and it's now "easy." What has changed? Not the test, only your psychological and intellectual relationship to that same unchanged test. That is key. Great documentation, by that I mean things which are explained in multiple ways that different type of individuals can find useful and rate so that newcomers can easily find the style which fits them; and it should be organized in a not to rigidly monitored manner. Then developers would create great and powerful functionality and work with the qa/functionality/ergonimics team and the documentation team would then work with groups of writing teams to disseminate information relative to beginner, intermediate and advanced. Yes I realize that these are relative terms but the groups are large enough to lower the barrier for adoption of different types of people.

(I must preface this by saying that I'm making the next statement from the standpoint of ignorance of any presently available mechanism which allows for what I ask.)

Other things I'd like to see are interfaces between devices like there exists with printers, pulse (yes just a loose example) and some others which would allow mitigated access to the afore mentioned. No longer would I have to put /dev/video0 in my vlc and not be able to access it with another application. That way it would be very easy for me to record video that another device is producing by simply reading the same managed output stream and not have to worry about locking.

Again, it's not about following others, but solving problems. I don't care for trends but I do love, what I call, contextual problem resolution. To give a quick and somewhat loose example of what I' have in mind. It would be considered a good thing to have a candle in a dark room, so relative to that context and its elements light from a candle would be good. But now if one is in a dark room with a match and a candle and there also an inflammable but inodorous gas, then a lit candle might not be a good thing. So if elements in a context change then considerations have to reflect that. I understand that it increases complexity but I think the rewards can be tremendous.

Just wishful thinking on my part.

“Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
Mark Twain.

Don't know if power features would be practical on the GUI

Fidel Viegas's picture

Hi Badiane,

I agree with you on almost everything. As for the power you have on the command line being available on the GUI. Hum... that wouldn't be that productive for me. I barely leave the keyboard, and between opening a window and just typing everything on the command line, I think it is faster in the command line. And let's just not forget that we can always write scripts that automate our tasks. You can naturally write GUI apps that run your script, but that takes a lot of more time. Scripts are short and quite fast to write.

That is just my opinion.



Don't know if power features would be practical on the GUI

badiane's picture

I also agree with your points.

I would say that along the lines of keeping the power of the GUI, it would be good to have a lot of keyboard shortcuts but to still give the keyboard shortcuts the power of the GUI where it is best and to still be able to edit the mechanism behind the GUI actions.

For example in XFCE4's terminal, they have a toolbar which interferes with my Alt-a, Alt-e, Alt-b, Alt-f; Why? Should that be. Why should I loose because some newcomer doesn't know the Emacs key strokes. I hate it.

This is what I place by default in my .gtkrc-2.0:
include "/usr/share/themes/Emacs/gtk-2.0-key/gtkrc"
gtk-key-theme-name = "Emacs"
gtk-can-change-accels = 1

just to be able to enjoy my keyboard action.

Thanks for the comment.

Shortcuts are essential

Fidel Viegas's picture

Certainly! I do agree with you on that. Unfortunately, sometimes we do find these sort of incompatibilities among applications.



openbox + wbar + tint2

jrt's picture

openbox + wbar + tint2:
highly configurable
stays out of your way
low resource consumption

KDE road to somewhere

Janis's picture

I can not say that I hate KDE4, but it has seriuos drawbacks comparing to KDE3.5. To be more specific on the worst one (in my case) - in time of active develeopment of KDE 3.5 it was able to support separate x sessions on 2+ different monitors. Current KDE4 is not able to do it - the best result is dark screen with cursor, thats the most one can get from it.

May be I am the only freak with different monitors on which desktop streching and other perversions can not be used. (i tried allmost anything recommended to get it working to no avail). I am checking that from time to time just to find that bugfixes are not the first priority of current KDE4 development/marketoid team.

Travails of setting up Gnome 3 on Fedora 15

Rajan R Vaswani's picture

After a long time, I installed Fedora 15. Initially, I found the Gnome 3 user interface difficult to use, but later, got to a point where it actually worked well. The defaults were pretty bad, and to change font sizes etc required editing, which non-technical users would find difficult. Obviously, the Fedora 15 distribution did not come with tools to enable users to set it up properly. However, these are now available.

The only thing missing right now, is further classification of the applications. All appear bunched in one display, whereas, it would be more efficient to have them categorized further. However, Gnome 3 should provide an interface more conducive to the users. If a user wants to have a windows like panel, so be it, if a user wants to have a Gnome 3 look and feel, so be it. The point is transitioning to the Gnome 3 interface takes a few days, but Linux is all about choices... and XFCE fits the bill today where users would still prefer a windows-like desktop.

Unity rocks

Hector's picture

Its the best DE Ive ever used.

Over the Hill

Ken Sarkies's picture

I have noticed a phenomenon in the computing world, not just open source, in that a great application/environment seems to reach its peak of development and then goes downhill. I agree that Gnome and KDE are showing those signs. Perhaps a review of these could identify a point at which the peak had been reached, and we could revert back to it.

My two cents...

Keith Daniels's picture

I agree with Linus and most of the negative comments about KDE 4 and Gnome 3

In 2000, I switched to Linux using Suse and KDE 3. Three years ago I switched to Ubuntu Hardy with KDE 3 because so many of my "experienced" friends recommended it. Every time they came out with a new version of KDE 4 I would try it and the new version of Ubuntu that supported it and then remove it and go back to Hardy and KDE 3.

When they came out with Ubuntu 10.10 and KDE 4.5 I decided to get serious and try to switch to KDE 4. For three months I really tried hard to make KDE 4 useful and do what I needed... but I kept running into major problems. My productivity in editing, HTML programing, Bash programing and file manipulation dropped by a factor of 4 or more and my frustration level went up by a factor of 10 or more.

I am a heavy "over user" of Kate, Konqueror (as a file manager) and Konsole (even in Hardy I managed "over use" them to the point I would crash them once or twice a day). In KDE 4 Kate was much slower to use--to many menus to open to do things that used to take only one, keystroke commands were often different, and the location of many menu items was changed. But to me what was most important was that regular expressions in Kate were no longer fully functional--you couldn't even search for a blank line using regex and no one was interested in fixing it. In Konqueror there were similar usability problems and quite often in the middle of moving or renaming files Konqueror would disappear and I would have to restart it. Konsole wasn't bad but there wasn't really anything new that it did that I needed.

I also noticed that with Ubuntu 10.10 and KDE 4 the system would sometimes do different things than normal for no reason that I could see. Things like different boot up patterns, the login would randomly change from Xwindow log in to console login, the KDE desktop and toolbars would sometimes randomly shift and some items would disappear. All of these were major distractions which I had to waste my time fixing.

I discovered the Trinity Project and decided to install their KDE 3.5.12 fork on Ubuntu 10.10. Happiness... I could get work done again. But the erratic boot, login and random screen re-arrangements continued. This did not happen with Hardy and I think they are caused by the Linux part of the Distro not the Gnome or KDE part although it could be a Xwindow problem--otherwise why would it appear in KDE 3 when I switched back?

The Trinity Project is working on a version of KDE 3.5.13 for Arch, and when it is available I am leaving Ubuntu and doing things my way for a change--which is what Arch is all about and Linux is supposed to be about.

Someone said people never like changes and new things. Quite often that is true, but in the case of computing they have very practical reasons for not liking changes. Most of the negative comments made here seem to be from people who are trying to get work done--not playing with their computer or experimenting with new ways of "presenting" and doing things on a computer. Besides not being very interested in spending a lot of their time managing the new OS, they have deadlines, budgets and profit & loss issues to deal with. Changes that make them miss deadlines, spend extra money or lose money, make them unhappy.

Most developers "seem" to think that you can instantly switch to using new menus, taskbars and keystroke commands--and that you should do this often. In reality someone like me who has spent years trying to work faster everyday has not trained their mind to remember the taskbars or keystrokes needed, but has trained their muscle memory to automatically choose the right key, icon or menu. If you don't believe me switch Control S from save file to delete file and see how many months it takes--and how many files you delete--before you can retrain your muscle memory. In a way this attitude of developers is to be expected since developing programs is step by step process with a lot of breaks for testing and most of the time they are contemplating everything they are doing in detail--unlike like office work, writing and editing where what you are thinking feeds directly into your muscle memory...

Also if you have spent years learning how to use a tool exactly the way you want and it still does everything you want--switching to a new and very different tool that does not do anything new (that you need) is not something you are interested in. If you are forced to use it, and that new tool slows you down and reduces productivity then you will HATE it.

The Trinity Project is not trying to make KDE 4 go away--though obviously they don't like it or they wouldn't be adapting KDE 3.5 to the newer Distros and kernels and fixing the bugs that the previous developers of KDE never did. If you would like the productivity of KDE 3 back but want the new features of the newer Linux kernels you might consider giving them a hand--they could use it.

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone.
My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone."
-- Bjarne Stroustrup


Anonymous's picture

Kde3 did not exist 2000

ehh... Yeah..

Keith Daniels's picture

At almost 70 my memory don't exist much any more either...

What year is it now....?


But I did start out with SUSE and it was in the early part of the decade. And most of what I remember using was KDE and ssh'ing from the console.

"I have always wished that my computer would be as easy to use as my telephone.
My wish has come true. I no longer know how to use my telephone."
-- Bjarne Stroustrup

Great analysis

Anonymous's picture

That's the best, clearest, most practical analysis I've seen of the real-world problems caused by the new-for-newness-sake fetish. Oftentimes developers -- of software or other products like breakfast cereals -- feel they have to continue coming up with something new and exciting. The new and exciting is just that when it solves a problem, but when it is just filling the need to keep levels of excitement up to justify development, well, enough said.

I only wish Keith would develop this into an article for LJ.

Keith definitely has a point,

Fidel Viegas's picture

Keith definitely has a point, but we shall not forget that things move on. If Windows managers weren't invented, we would be stuck in the command line right now. And yet, when developers started using graphical interfaces, they have had to learn it, and yes they have had to waste some time on it. Therefore, evolution of user interfaces is unavoidable. Look at the evolution of Windows from version 3.1 up to Windows 7. Or Mac OS.

The majority of the haters of the new user interfaces introduced in Gnome 3, Ubuntu Unity or KDE 4.5 are developers. But we shall not forget that the majority of users of any OS aren't developers. They are regular users that get all excited with great looking interfaces. Just look at the number of Linux users that like to show off their modified Windows Manager. Therefore, in order for Linux or Unix variants to compete with Windows or Mac OS X, UI designers need to somehow match what they are aiming at: the regular user who loves fancy stuff.

The popularity of the iPad, iPhone or the Android based phones is all about that: nice looking gadgets with fancy icons flowing around. If we think about it, when we look at Unity it is very practical for regular users. All they need is for the shortcuts for their often used applications to be available instantly. And between navigating the applications menu and clicking on a nearby icon, I think the nearby icon is much more productive for them.

Since I don't really use the Applications menu to look for things, it does not affect me as much. I just hit Alt+F2, type the name of the application and it just opens. In my case, that is more productive than clicking an icon or navigating the appliations menu, because I don't have to move away from the keyboard.

People may complain about how Unity looks of Gnome Shell looks, but if regular users like it, then that is what Canonical or any other distro will be aiming at. In fact, they were clear that they were not aiming their distro at developers. So, if developers don't like it, then move to another distro that provides what you need. That is the beauty of Linux: you don't like it? You are free to choose another distro that provides what you need, because there are thousands of them. And if you don't like any of them, then create your own distro, something you can't do with Windows or Mac OS.

I still prefer to use Ubuntu 10.04 because of its extended support, however when the support will go away, I will move to a Unity based version, as I know that by then it will be pretty stable. In fact, I need to learn how to use it because quite a lot of my customers actually liked it. And guess what? They are regular users. ;D

All the best,


no love for jwm?

bigbenaugust's picture

So JWM is about 4 years out of development, but it works like a champ.

Not really a DE, though, but maybe that is the point.


I have to agree. JWM is

Anonymous's picture

I have to agree. JWM is awesome. Light and Fast! It doesn't get in my way, the menus are very easy to setup. All my most used apps are right there in the first popup. I also have a small script that generates the whole Gnome/KDE menu structure in a sub-menu. So when I install something via apt, it will appear in there.

You just can't beat a well written window manager. These Linux desktop environments (Gnome, Unity, KDE4) are all just bloat-ware. Clearly newer is not always better.


Anonymous's picture

The first WM I fell in love with, was Enlightenment. It was E15 back in the days when I was using that.

Sadly, the development process for Enlightenment is so slow, I would have liked to try running E17 now instead of GNOME 3.


Anonymous's picture

Tried the new unity myself and I just had to throw up. How is this an improvement? I ran away from KDE4 when that dropped which became a system resource hog, to Gnome. Now you also have Gnome3 which is looking to be garbage as well. I don't know things are starting to look bleak if it doesn't improve or these developers start listening. LXDE is starting to look ver promising. I'm surprised Linus didn't jump onto that one yet.

LXDE w/ OpenBox

V. T. Eric Layton's picture

I ran LXDE with OpenBox on Sidux a couple years ago. It was very minimal, but also very easy on resources and VERY stable.

Try it.

Xfce for Me

V. T. Eric Layton's picture

I started out with Gnome. Converted to KDE (up to 3.5). Left KDE when that abomination (4) came out and wouldn't stop crashing my Slackware installations. Went to Xfce and never turned back. I'll stick with Xfce until...

Do not waste your time

tonibmw's picture

Do not waste your time decorating, positioning and resizing windows. Be productive with i3wm ( + dmenu. Austere, yet powerful and fast as light

Goodbye Ubuntu...

jeff.ward's picture

I signed up for an account here just to express my hate for Unity - that should pretty much sum it up. I'm willing to endure setting up another website account just to voice my disgust for the direction of Unbuntu and Gnome.

I'm a programmer who uses Linux 8-10 hours a day, and if Ubuntu 11.10 doesn't deliver Gnome 2.3, 11.04 is the last version I'll ever download.

Ernesto lists a number of complaints and I agree with him 100%

I will add that I've been using Ubuntu for years, and I was excited for the 11.04 release. I'm as excited about new features as the next guy. I installed and played with it expectantly. It just completely killed the joy when I realized they traded usability and customizability for flashy, hip looks. That's insane. That's anti-Linux. Simply unbelievable.


mwallette's picture

I have used several Linux distributions (Slackware, Gentoo, Ubuntu, CentOS, RH, Knoppix) and several DE's (Gnome 1.x, 2.x, KDE, IceWM, Black Box and now Unity). IMHO, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, and as is so often the case, what works well for one person doesn't work well for others. It's a matter of finding the right tool for the job at hand.

Personally, I tend to be a minimalist; I'd rather have performance than eye candy any day, and for me, a desktop that gets in the way is a huge downer. Consequently, I tend to prefer the lightweight desktop environments like BB or IceWM to KDE and Unity. I've been quite happy running Gnome 2.x for the last five years, and have been quite unimpressed with Unity on Ubuntu 11.04. I can see where it might *become* a slick desktop in time, but I find myself fighting the user interface too much as it exists right now. Particularly (and as someone else mentioned in the comments), one of my hot issues is that focus follows the mouse. I want to have one window on top but be able to mouse over another window to type without raising it to the forefront. In Unity, if you have the desktop set up this way, the menu bar will shift to whichever window was last under the mouse, which is a real pain in the backside. I also find myself constantly fighting with the windows trying to maximize when I move them and with the dock disappearing and reappearing at random when my mouse or a window gets anywhere near the edge of the screen. I haven't ditched Unity yet -- I can see it's potential -- but my coworkers are getting rather tired of hearing my swear at it day in and day out :)

LJ, do a poll and show people the alternatives please

nim_xam's picture

Well this looks like an issue that is important to many linux users. Maybe LJ should do a poll "What DE/WM are you using now?" and "What DE/WM did you use previously?" :) The results might be interesting and can be used as a lead intro to other alternatives.

I know in one of the recent issues of LJ there's one that features DE/WMs, but why not, based on the results of the poll, pick several top DE/WMs and LJ do an in-depth how-tos on installing and configuring them? Just some suggestions. If LJ really did post an article on such a topic I sure will check it out :)

Please, do a survey!

ericp's picture

I would also like to read what you get.

LJ, please do a poll

Long-Time Linux user's picture

AMEN! Last year, I loaded Fedora 15. my long time favorite, KDE, had morphed into something I no longer could relate to. So~let's see what's new with Gnome? Argh. Not what I really want. I went to XFCE. It's minimalist, all right, but it made more sense to me than the current KDE or Gnome. I figured, at the time, I was an isolated case. Perhaps not so...? I'd like to see a poll. Not a fan-boy war, just a poll. What do Linux users like in a desktop interface?

KDE4 on Slackware 13.37

Anonymous's picture

Stability problems? Where?

I stick to the basics. My KDE looks like XFCE (only prettier). I don't know about all the widgets. I really don't care, but it seems easy enough to figure out...the more crap you have running at once the more unstable your environment becomes.

I haven't had a total session crash since release date. That's pretty impressive.

Oh yeah, and stay away from

Anonymous's picture

Oh yeah, and stay away from Compiz. All of stability issues I have noted with other distros can be tracked back to Compiz. The first thing I did when I upgraded to Slackware 13.37 was uninstall it. Thankfully, and understandably so, Compiz does not run by default in Slackware.

Xubuntu rocks! It has come a

Anonymous's picture

Xubuntu rocks! It has come a long way from only 3 years ago when I last tried it. It's lightweight and unlike many other lighter weight distros, has a 64 bit version. Also, it's simplicity and functionality won me over. Apparently Linus too, albeit nobody knows if he's using Xubuntu or just XFCE on top of something else. Doesn't matter, if it sends KDE, Gnome and Unity creators back to school, it's worth it.

Linus is RIGHT! Go Back to previous version!

JimB's picture

Linus hit the nail right on the head. Gnome and KDE has gone backwards not forwards in this development fiasco. Branches that need to be thrown away and only to be brought up when pointing out what NOT to do. They're two black eyes for Linux at a time that Linux can't afford to be minimalized. Linux needs to get into the mobile market somehow in a big way but making the desktop behave like mobile apps isn't the start I had in mind. Really, please, come up with something better soon, guys. First,however, go back to previous version first; call it a new version if you must bump up the numbers whatever it takes. Really, can't wait for any update on this trash, IMHO.

Emacs + Focus Follows Mouse + Don't Raise on Click

Greg Strockbine's picture

I've been using Linux now since last century (I love being able to day that). I love the choice it gives me.

I have 3 main rules:
- I live in emacs
- Focus Follows Mouse
- windows should not raise when clicked in

I have used Enlightenment, Window Maker, icewm, blackbox, openbox, fluxbox,KDE-3.5, Gnome, xfce, lxde.

I've used Red Hat 7, Red Hat enterprise, mandrake, libranet, storm linux, Gentoo, Ubuntu, Sabayon, Debian testing.

My favorite combination for a long while was Fluxbox on either Gentoo or Debian before getting envious of the task bars of KDE and Gnome. For a while I ran KDE 3.5 at work and Gnome 2 at home, just so I could experience the difference.

I also managed a server for 10 years and would spend all my time ssh'd into a remote server, working in an xterm. I was so used to the command line that when I moved to the KDE and Gnome desktops I ignored the GUIs they provided to basic commands. It took me over a year to get used to them.

I loved gnome 2 + compiz. I ate up all that eye candy.

I read about Unity and Gnome 3 and thought they were huge mistakes. I installed them and then ran back to Fluxbox. But Fluxbox seems kind of primitve to me now.

I went the opposite way. I embraced Unity on my netbook and Sabayon + Gnome 3 on my desktop. Gnome 3 rocks. I fell in love with it. At work I use Ubuntu 10.04 + Gnome and it seems kind of boring.

I have Gnome 3 plus my requirements:
- emacs
- focus follows mouse
- don't raise on click

I love the choice Linux gives.

Plus Linus was wrong. To get another terminal in the same window he only has to CTRL-click on the icon.

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