Linux Desktop Options

Jun 12th, 2013 by adminadam in art, articles, home, videos

Last I wrote about Linux I summarized my findings from my research into the distributions of Linux with the longest-term stability and best customizability. I also looked at the variety of architectures (i.e. older hardware, older mac’s, etc.) on which these distributions could run.

I started with 12 distros and then narrowed them down to my top 7, mostly eliminating newer, more unstable, or less user-friendly distributions, such as Arch Linux, which, while popular, does not have a graphic installer, meaning you must know how to decipher the code and what to type into the console in order to get it installed in the first place.

The top 7 I ended up with were what I called the Most Extropian Linux Distributions available. They are resilient to internal (political) and external (economic and security) threats or disturbances. They are open and have strong communities of support. They are likely to last a long time and make it easy for new users to transition into Linux. They also play nicely with others and do all their homework daily. They are, in reverse order:

7. Slackware Linux (because it is old and still popular)
6. Puppy Linux (because it is small and can be run effectively from a USB stick)
5. Linux Mint (because it is popular, beautiful, and easy)
4. CentOS (because it is rock-solid and supported for up to 10 years)
3. Debian (because of its huge community, myriad customization options and supported architectures)
2. Fedora (because it is popular, beautiful, versatile, and fairly easy)
1. openSUSE (because it is easy, beautiful, popular, well-supported, and KDE-tastic*!)

Where I am at now in regards to this list is not much different from when I first summarized all the above-mentioned research I did. At this point I am making determinations of which desktop to invest my time in mastering — both for myself and for the purpose of being able to recommend an easy-to-use and nice-looking distro/desktop to my family and friends. You see, I have many family members with ailing PC’s. I have a friend with a PowerPC Mac that hardly runs a thing, and a grandfather with an old XP dinosaur. Both of their machines could be reinvented by utilizing any one of the above distributions (although I have serious doubts about my ever helping non-techie acquaintances to install Slackware or Puppy Linux). I will most likely push CentOS, Debian, Fedora, or openSUSE. While Linux Mint is great, as I’ve discussed, I worry about their small development team and their dependence on Ubuntu (and its mother-corp Canonical).

I have four distros in mind. Of these I have tried only Fedora (either as a hard-install or virtualized), and it’s been a while since I last touched them. I have my sources for reviews, however, namely Linux Outlaws, Everyday Linux, and Going Linux (the audio podcasts). I listen to these podcasts everyday driving to and from work in my commute and also read a wide assortment of Linux-related news from Hacker News, Slashdot, and Reddit.

With my current knowledge I lean towards Debian and openSUSE the most as my likely Top Two recommendations for friends and family. I love how Fedora 18 and 19 look. I also love CentOS’s 10-year support cycle — it is simply amazing. What I cannot get behind completely with Fedora is its rapid release cycle of only 18 months. The support term is concomitantly too short, around 12-13 months. CentOS is solid but looks a bit clunky and is a bit behind the times with many of its preinstalled packages, however, so I still hesitate about it too, sadly.

Debian and openSUSE, on the other hand, have 2-to-3-year support cycles. They both also support PowerPC processors (old mac’s), and of course old PC’s! They both offer multiple desktop options: GNOME, KDE, and XFCE at least. Also, both have very large development communities or dev teams. Debian’s default desktop is GNOME (although you can download a pre-wrapped version with either KDE or XFCE as well as LXDE). I will most likely use KDE or GNOME as they are the best known, most popular, and best supported desktop environments. openSUSE, inversely, comes by default with KDE but can be downloaded locked-and-loaded with GNOME or XFCE too.

How’s about some pictures to help us think about our Graphical User Interfaces here:

DEBIAN with its default GNOME 3 Desktop…

DEBIAN WHEEZY GNOME

DEBIAN WHEEZY GNOME 2

DEBIAN with its alternative KDE 4 Desktop…

DEBIAN WHEEZY KDE

Note: The user probably chose this desktop background and installed all these fancy widgets. They wouldn’t all be on or activated by default.

DEBIAN WHEEZY KDE 2


And now openSUSE with its default KDE 4 Desktop…

OPENSUSE 12.3 KDE

OPENSUSE 12.3 KDE 2

And openSUSE with its alternative GNOME 3 Desktop…

OPENSUSE 12.3 GNOME

OPENSUSE 12.3 GNOME 2


There we have it folks, the two top Thrivenotes Extropian Linux Distributions and their respective Default and Alternative Desktop Environments!

I must say I am quite fond of both the Debian default and the openSUSE default options, although they all look nice, don’t they?

I think I am in love with both the way openSUSE does KDE and the way Debian does it. My earlier fears about GNOME are also abated now. I was worried that it would be slow or unintuitive; it seems recent versions have been picking up speed and that it would not be difficult to get used to even though I’ve only ever tried GNOME 2 or the CINNAMON desktop which is based on GNOME 2. In GNOME 3 I really like the look of the semi-transparent black windows and pop-ups, including the activities screen (which includes open windows and the applications pane). In Debian KDE I enjoy the layout of the “Start Menu” and also the Mac-style quick-launch bar at the bottom of the screen, where in openSUSE I love the general polish of things in KDE and the Calculator that’s showing.

So that you can see the two OS’s through a more active, dynamic lens I provide the following review videos:

Debian with GNOME 3

openSUSE with KDE 4

I will leave it to you now, dear reader. I am personally still undecided and probably would be happy with either of the default options. When next I write to you on this topic, I hope to have tested out both OS’s in VirtualBox and will post my thoughts on installing and then using these distros on an everyday basis.

UPDATE — Next Installation Ready:

DEBIAN with XFCE

…and why not GNOME or KDE?

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