openSUSE Radios KDE

The KDE vs. GNOME debate — which we sincerely hope we aren't sparking anew — is one of the great legacies of the Linux world. Everyone seems to have an opinion, whether it's passionate support for one coupled with vehement odium for the other, a more general sense of "This is what I started with," or a love of an entirely different, less mainstream desktop environment. All of those sentiments have surely been on display within the openSUSE community of late, as the distribution has worked its way towards choosing a default desktop.

The matter of a default desktop came to light in July, after a user submitted a feature request to the project's openFATE feature tracking system. The request asked that KDE be designated as the default openSUSE desktop, citing a number of supporting points:

  • It is confusing for new Linux users if they have to decide between KDE and GNOME during the installation. New users don´t know either of them. So it is easier for beginners if there is a default. openSUSE has more KDE users than GNOME users so it is logical to make KDE the default.
  • Unique Selling Point. It is important for openSUSE to provide something that Ubuntu and Fedora don´t provide. It would be beneficial for openSUSE to be the only big KDE distribution.
  • This could attract more developers because KDE developers need a nice distribution to develop on.
  • This would increase the popularity of openSUSE in the KDE user community. The negative impact on the GNOME community is not that bad because Ubuntu is the most popular GNOME distribution.

An important point to note is that, openSUSE ships with both KDE and GNOME as desktop options — users have the opportunity to select their preferred desktop during install, something the supporting points allude to. This differs from some distributions, notably Ubuntu, which provides a separate distribution for each desktop environment — Ubuntu proper with GNOME, Kubuntu with KDE, Xubuntu with Xfce, and a number of "unofficial" and derivative distributions offering less mainstream options. Thus, the choice of a default desktop was not to be a matter of inclusion — both are included, and that was to be maintained. The ultimate decision was, as odd as it might seem, about a radio button.

The suggestion received extensive discussion, both on the feature request itself and via the opensuse-project mailing list. Much appears to have been made about being a "KDE distribution" — indeed, the original supporting points rely heavily on the idea — an interesting distinction given that the distribution ships with both desktops. Particularly of note is the suggestion that, by highlighting the KDE radio button the installer by default, the distribution will become "the only big KDE distribution" — presumably ignoring the existence of Kubuntu, and that the default download of Mandriva is it's KDE version (including the advice "If you are not sure, just stay with the default choice"). Knoppix — much loved by Linux Journal's own Kyle Rankin — also includes KDE as it's standard desktop.

After much deliberation, including consultation with the openSUSE Board and other openSUSE leaders, Novell's Michael Löffler, openSUSE Product Manager and Chairman of the openSUSE Board, announced that from openSUSE 11.2, the distribution's installer will default to install KDE unless the user selects an alternate desktop environment. Löffler went on to discuss the status of the GNOME desktop environment within the project:

We want to make clear that both desktops are considered equal citizens within the openSUSE Project, and this will not have any impact on the quality of the
GNOME desktop within openSUSE. GNOME will continue to be offered as a top-level installation choice, and we will continue to strive to provide the best
GNOME and KDE desktop experience.

Whether openSUSE will, as suggested, become the great KDE distribution remains to be seen — what is certain, though, is that openSUSE will be seeing many more KDE users, particularly among those new to Linux. Here's hoping the project's KDE team is prepped for the extra hours doing first-level support.


Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

"It's" and "its"?

BrownieBoy's picture

'Nuff said?

A default "radio button" is an important difference

KenP's picture

Given the populatiry of Ubuntu+GNOME (although debatable), its good to have a distribution that although defaults to KDE (but offers fair choice during installation). Otherwise, as so often happens in the software world, the vendor's preferred desktop becomes the "standard". Just look at Windows. Most people out there (almost all who I meet daily) seem to think the Windows interface *is* the computer. Soon, this would be the fate of the linux desktop where GNOME would be "the look and feel". However, just as not everyone wants a Windows look and feel, not everyone likes the GNOME look and feel. However, they are being forced to use it -- by virtue of it being default in Ubuntu, for example.

In fact, in my opinion, if changing from Ubuntu to Kubuntu is a matter of doing apt-get install kubuntu-desktop (or something similar), then Ubuntu must offer a radio button choice during installation. It is unfair to assume that everyone out there is going to like the GNOME look and feel, no matter how much the devs like it themselves :-)

People buying Linux computers are already aware they are switching to something other than Windows. There is no need to be embarrased about Linux/FLOSS offering choice. Otherwise, Ubuntu in my book is soon to be in Windows camp -- which means I will resent it simply because it offers no choice to the new user.

In the name of "usability", forced desktop choice is hurting not only KDE but also all the other equally competent DE's out there (XFCE, LXDE etc)

Ubuntu/Kubuntu Choice is easy...

lambchopper's picture

Even a new user can boot a live CD to either Ubuntu or Kubuntu to choose which desktop environment they'd prefer, and then install their choice right from the Live CD desktop. Not only that, but when KDE 4 came out, that's how I tried it.

KDE, openSUSE and PCLinuxOS

Anonymous's picture

Two points about the KDE desktop:

You mention Kubuntu, Mandriva, and Knoppix as distributions with KDE as the default desktop, but not PCLinuxOS, in which KDE is the default and Fluxbox, LXDE, Enlightenment, and OpenBox are also available. For what it's worth, on the current DistroWatch hit parade the order is Mandriva (6), PCLinuxOS (7), Kubuntu (16) and Knoppix (22).

As for scepticism about openSUSE being a "KDE distribution," the commercial SuSE product (acquired by Novell about 6 years ago)was a KDE distribution. Novell added Gnome support before setting up openSUSE as a community project.

hmm.. I am not sure what is

Subramaniam Govindasamy's picture

hmm.. I am not sure what is the point made.. :) The radio button is obviously an important choice, similar to the default config files that come with an application. Sure you can change them, but in my opinion most of the users using it will stick with default choice.

And about the distros, I had used both kubuntu & opensuse, kubuntu is no good as a kde distro. Probably kubuntu is preliminary desktop to install ubuntu-desktop from there[though I am not sure kubuntu's konsole implementation is stable enough to do that :)]. I am not sure about mandriva, though I heard only good things about the distro. If it is not for arch's excellence, I would probably be using opensuse or Mandriva.