Thursday, April 23, 2009

coming to appreciate "what if's"

Henry Ford's famous "any color as long as it's black" or one size fits all, can not be applied to Linux. "We did the research for you, compiled the best out there and present to you the best product available", can not be applied to Linux. The many hands and eyes that have shaped Linux have always said "what if". So, in the car realm, cars have the looks they are known by. A shape, a grille, a logo, a style, a cost and a reputation produced by ones who bought it.

Human psychology is strange, some will emphasize a particular virtue to the exclusion or downplaying of others. I am finding I am like this (I can't escape either!) about computers. The secret, the one you are presently using is always better. And even though you are putting up with annoyances, at least you know what to expect. Some just buy it and use it, are oblivious to pain.

Linuxville, the land of what if. You design a GUI (graphical user interface), everybody loves it, plays with it, but in the back of their mind they say what if. They make another GUI, not to supersede yours, just different. Maybe it's different tools used to code it, or a different programming language or the interactions of user and graphics are different. Maybe it's simpler or more robust. Eventually there are GUI's for a number of kinds of computer users, with features certain groups of users appreciate. So, here's the Linux dilemma, it is hard to nail down a comprehensive best GUI the same way as you can with a product. With a product, everybody uses it, good, bad or ugly. With Linux, somebody will change it, the pool of "everybody" is smaller or happier using something else.

In Linuxville some will swear by KDE, some by Gnome, me I like XFCE. It is almost too bad that GUI's are not entirely separated and placed on top of the operating system. A certain level of integration insures internal cooperation, I'm sure. Maybe that is a future what if, OS selector and boot loader in ROM, GUI as a customizable personality plug-in and the operating system to manage the hardware and file system. But in general there is much heat between KDE and Gnome camps and has been for years now. It's funny how you could make them look like each other at times or make them seem like XP or Macs. All the nuances and differences are points of contention because we think somebody's got to win, to be on top, to be "thee Linux GUI."

The GUI is what identifies the operating system for the user.
A "look" makes a thing recognizable and implies a certain "feel" is behind the looks, a thing called familiarity. When you like something you want it to go on forever. You hope that later iterations, revisions, recoding, revamping and security upgrades, will never destroy the look and feel you have come to love. Sometimes improvements and innovations require us to sacrifice familiarity. We try other things because the look and feel is not the same as it was, or we need to try something fresh. So the GUI of choice for me is XFCE.

Is the GUI on the other Linux desktop greener?
I have tried different Linux distributions based on their GUI's and based on their packaging systems. Different Linux distros look and feel the exact same due to having the same GUI. Xubuntu (Ubuntu), Fedora (Red Hat) and Wolvix (Slackware) look and feel the exact same under XFCE. They will still be the same if they all had Gnome or KDE. Don't ask which distro has the best GUI, ask which GUI is coolest, then which distro exploits it best?

I have also tried Linux distributions based on the packaging systems. It is more accurate to say based on what is behind the packaging systems. That is the completeness of the pre-compiled, ready to install program inventory stored in the user accessed "repositories". In distributions with the Debian or .deb packaging, there is a reputation of having the most up to date collections with the most recent revisions. Distributions sporting the Red Hat Packaging Management or .rpm packaging, come in second at least by my reading. The oldest, Tarball or .tgz packaging (like a zip file) used by Slackware and others seem slow on the uptake. If you are prone to compile software yourself if you need to, it does not matter which packaging you use. But I have never wanted to compile or needed to because I have found all of what I need already compiled, ready to install in the .deb repositories of my chosen distribution.

Arnold, what are you saying?? I am saying that in Linuxville, you can simply use what's here and when the "what if" bubble gets attached to your thought processes, you can always do something about it. Linux is not a single product of a company's experts, yet there are some experts among us. We all get to put our two cents in on some level and some love to get in on development projects. You don't have to be an employee or work with Delbert. And figuring out which Linux is not that hard, your Linuxville guide (in various modes) is here to help.

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