Different strokes for different folks when it comes to Linux desktops
Today in Open Source: There's no perfect Linux desktop that meets every user's needs. Plus: New Firefox OS phones, and a review of Chakra Linux 2014.02
Is the classic Linux desktop the best?
Datamation takes a look at why so many users seem to prefer the classic Linux desktop environments.
Based on the figures in LinuxQuestions' Members Choice Awards, 84% of Linux desktop users prefer a classic desktop. By contrast, innovations like GNOME 3 or Ubuntu's Unity lag far behind. Which raises the question: what accounts for the popularity of the classic desktop, and what are the implications for the design of graphical interfaces?
Mostly, a classical desktop is defined as whatever you point at when you use the term. In the case of the LinuxQuestions Awards, I mean Cinnamon, KDE, LXDE, MATE, Trinity, and Xfce. I include KDE because, despite numerous innovations, its interface begins with a classical desktop.
Image credit: Xfce
You might have noticed that I used the term "different strokes for different folks" in the headline of this article. I think it sums up well the issue of choosing a desktop environment because there simply is no one desktop that will appeal to everyone, no matter how great it is or how many people like it.
Personally, I prefer classic desktop environments like Xfce because they simply meld well with how I like to work. I find using them to be much faster and more intuitive when I am multitasking or just moving around my desktop.
However, what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. I have no problem with folks that prefer GNOME 3 or Unity or whatever their preference is for their own computer. We don't all use a computer quite the same way and nowhere do you see that more clearly than in the kinds of interfaces each of us prefers to use.
I've tried Unity and GNOME 3, and I wanted to like them both. But I simply couldn't gel well with how they are set up. And I think that's really the crux of the issue for most users. You can try another user interface but at some point it either works for you or it doesn't, and if it doesn't then you discard it and move on to one that meets your needs.
The ability to choose desktop environments is one of the best things about Linux. Unlike Windows or OS X, there is a rich treasure trove of desktop environments available to any Linux user. Nobody is locked into an interface that they don't like on their computer.
The funny thing about user interfaces though is that today's "modern desktop" is tomorrow's classic desktop. Ten years from now we may all look back at Unity and GNOME 3 as quaint classics that shine in comparison to whatever newer interfaces are available at that time!
New Firefox OS phones
We've got a slideshow here on ITworld (courtesy of Network World) that shows off the new Firefox OS phones.
Mozilla introduced a range of new devices at the Mobile World Congress this week that run its Firefox OS mobile software. While none of them appear to be headed for the U.S. market, the idea behind the budget devices from manufacturers Alcatel, Huawei and ZTE is to popularize Firefox OS in developing economies, where smartphone saturation is far less complete. Take a look.
It's terrific to see Firefox OS humming right along with these new phones. I particularly liked the looks of the Alcatel Onetouch Fire E and the Alcatel Onetouch Fire S. Firefox OS itself is also looking good, I dig the round icons.
Hopefully this means that Firefox OS will soon get some serious traction in the marketplace. I'd love to see it emerge as a real contender with Android and iOS. We need a viable alternative to both of them, and Windows Phone isn't it.
Chakra Linux 2014.02 review
DistroWatch has an in-depth review of Chakra Linux 2014.02.
Chakra rose from a Arch Linux foundation and took on two interesting characteristics. The first is that Chakra maintains a semi-rolling release style of package management. Basically the foundation of the distribution stays relatively static (and hopefully stable) while the end user applications roll forward, maintaining pace with the latest upstream versions. The second characteristic, and what makes Chakra stand out in my mind, is that the distribution tries to maintain a pure KDE/Qt environment. There are no GNOME/GTK+ packages in Chakra or even in the project's default software repositories.
...Chakra has some nice features and it does some interesting things. I love how amazingly fast the project's build of KDE is on my hardware and I like that the project does some things a bit differently. I like that the team has put together an increasingly comprehensive collection of documentation.
Image credit: DistroWatch
Chakra sounds like a great option for those who want an Arch Linux base combined with a purely KDE desktop environment. It's too bad that you apparently can't select specific packages during the install though, perhaps they'll add that feature in a future release. It's not a big deal, but it's nice to be able to customize the software that is installed by default.
What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.