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r0x0rj00b0x0r 10-29-2008 08:05 PM

Your Opinion on the Linux GUI
 
I have a love hate relationship with the Linux GUI. Linux at the commandline works so amazingly well. Id love to be able to say the same about the GUI.

You ever log in and the time is in the wrong place?

I was interested in other regular Linux users opinion on this topic.

XavierP 10-29-2008 08:21 PM

Which GUI? There are many of them. I use KDE and like it.

r0x0rj00b0x0r 10-29-2008 08:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by XavierP (Post 3325575)
Which GUI? There are many of them. I use KDE and like it.

I really mean X in general.

startx 2>/dev/null

jonaskoelker 10-29-2008 08:48 PM

"the GUI" is not a monolithic thing.

First off, there's the choice of window manager. Then there's the choice of tools that give you a usable desktop (panels, system monitors, desktop icon displayers, the lot). Then there's the choice of application suites (g/k/x or DE-agnostic).

Let's start at the top. I first tried linux on RH6.2, with sawfish as the wm. And it pwnt! I seriously learned that linux gave me things I didn't know I wanted; virtual desktops, the option of making _any_ window always-on-top, sloppy mouse focus.

Even today, window management is one of the nice features that although you could give it up, you really really really would hate using a system that doesn't have it. Try Intrepid's Compiz (oh, gentoo? You run everything outta git then :D). Activate the "scale" and switch windows by mouseOver'ing a video thumbnail of the window you want. Use the "Pull" scale addon to quickly move several windows from one desktop to another.

Then there's X.org input; the EmulateWheel feature is awesome; it gives you two scroll wheels (horz+vert) in exchange for one measly button :). And the compose key is a better way to be able to input almost all characters you can want (including braille klingon math operators) [at least when what you write is english >90% of the time, and all else is written in emacs >90% of the time with latin-1-postfix). And there's xmodmap, a usable way of remapping keys (ever tried mapping escape to caps on windows XP? You frigging enter hex scancodes into the registry...).

Enough about that, and onto the desktop. Yay! I can have a desktop with no icons (gconf-editor /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop or something). Or, if I went with a bare-bones desktop with, say, openbox, I can run idesk and pypanel. Or other desktop icon and panel programs. I can waste watts and cycles on conky, a cool little system monitor that lets me see, on my desktop, if anything fishy is going on.

And for the applications: hey, there's some great usability stuff going on. For one, no interruptions. There's very little baloon "help"; firefox and evince (among others) slide down a bar displaying short messages and asking simple questions, instead of popping up a dialog box. In Intrepid's gnome engine, the selected button of dialogs is in a different color than the rest, so that you can easily see what pressing enter will do. Plus, there's some great applications with no windows equivalents (at least not for free and out of the box); dict and Disk Usage Analyzer spring to mind.

If, as you say, you're on Gentoo and Slackware, ask yourself if the typical user cares that much about a great GUI vs. a good (or even just decent and functional) one? Next, ask whether the developer community reflects the user community. And try an Ubuntu live CD some day :D

The linux command line is a near-dealbreaker for me. But the GUI is just so damn nice too that windows pales in comparison.

note: I have used 95, 98 and XP extensively; glanced at vista, ME and 200* for a few seconds; I know vista has spiffy GL effects, but are they as usable as compiz?

IsharaComix 10-29-2008 08:51 PM

Xfce4
 
I've been using Xfce and never had any complaints. My clock used to hop around my toolbar in Gnome, though. That was always pretty frustrating.

Of course, I like the command line just as much, if not more, but when it comes down to it, I like a GUI so I can make GUI programs.

jonaskoelker 10-29-2008 08:53 PM

Quote:

I really mean X in general
What does "in general" mean in this context? Are you talking about what's always true for X in its current form no matter which new clients are written (i.e. in theory)? Or what's always true for the current available clients (i.e. in practice)? Are you talking about user experience, or rendering technology, network transparency and the asynchronous ways of X?

pixellany 10-29-2008 08:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by r0x0rj00b0x0r (Post 3325579)
I really mean X in general.

startx 2>/dev/null

"X in general" is better than Windows in any way that I can imagine----It might be better to try and identify any aspect in which Windows is better.

BUT--as already observed, Windows is a specific GUI design, theme, whatever. X is only the foundation for GUI designs which are (in Linux) incredibly diverse.

bcwagne 10-29-2008 10:20 PM

Having started with MSDOS 4.xx on a 286, I am a fan of the command line. I was extremely disappointed when I tried Win ME/2000 to find that they took away my DOS functionality. It is the same in Linux. If I want to do something quick, I use the CLI.

GUIs are another matter. There was a 'shell' for Windows 9x called geoshell, which replaced the cluttered windows desktop with a small toolbar and a right click menu. I used geoshell all the time. There came a point when I was so frustrated with windows I switched to Linux almost exclusively, and never looked back. I was a little disappointed with most of the major desktop environments because they were too bulky, or lacked functionality, or whatever. I finally tried XFCE, and found exactly what I'd had with geoshell. I've stuck with it ever since.

As for X in general, I really can't complain. There are some things I'd like to see improved, but since I don't have the mind to improve them myself, I just let it be. As the saying goes, if you can't do a better job, don't complain about the job being done.

Shadow_7 10-29-2008 11:46 PM

I use IceWM. Simple like win95, but not eternally grey. Everything stays put, every pixel is somewhat customizable. Baring those used by the applications. And no desktop icons obscuring my background image. Plus net and cpu meters built into the toolbar. Not perfect as menu lists larger than the display seems to require the use to cursor keys to fully navigate. And some KDE support is limited. But I tend to not to run many KDE type apps. Boots fast, launches apps fast, and just works. Not quite gui in terms of customizations / configurations. But functional. Beats the heck out of windows where it can take twenty plus minutes to shutdown a 2+GHz dual core.

Mega Man X 10-31-2008 05:55 AM

I think "GUI" in Linux, still has a long way to go. It is beautiful (or can be made to look beautiful) but it far from being usable on a serious environment. From time to time, we see users saying that after a reboot, all panels in Gnome had disappeared. And that indeed does happen. An especially annoying thing (but minor issue) is, for example, when I have a mounted device (like a Windows partition) on my desktop (Gnome) and I connect an USB disk. I will then have two icons on my desktop. The problem is that both icons are on the top of each other. I mean, come on. How hard is to place the icon somewhere else. In all fairness, I've seen this happening to OSX as well.

Because of all the toolkits we have, it lacks some integration too. In Windows, for instance, I can drag and drop an image from Windows Explorer to the MSN Messenger and it will be my display picture. I can drag a file to Outlook and it will be attached to an e-mail. In Linux, that interoperability is not always possible. I can't even drag and drop a movie file to vlc media player. Sure, the fault is on the developers part and there is little we can do, but there is probably a reason why that simple feature does not work in Linux.

From a developer point of view, supporting several "GUI's" is not an option. Sure, for hobbysts, Linux is a paradise: Lots of tools to choose from and source code for everything. For an end user, who probably doesn't care (or shouldn't even) know what a GUI is, it is a lot to learn.

There is also lots of problems with fullscreen applications. Years ago, I made a platform game in Java. It was a super mario clone. Worked great in Windows, but in Linux... fullscreen was buggy. So let's blame Java implementation here. As another example, the monitor I am sitting now has a resolution of 1440x900. If I run a game with wine in say, 800x600, when I leave the game, most likely my desktop resolution will be set to 800x600 and there is not way to fix that except by restarting X. That happens all the time to the point of being annoying.

And indeed, running something on the top of X instead of being inbuilt with the kernel like (probably) Windows does, is slower. One may say it is more stable, so if X crashes, it does not take the OS down with it, which I agree. However, I have not had a Windows crash in years and X or its "GUI's" die all the time. But hey, I can restart X, so the system is working fine...

All in all, I think Linux has the best foundation than any other OS. The GUI, user interface design, GUI-stability, several choices for toolkit, responsiveness and interoperability, on the other hand, has far too many rough edges for an average Joe to deal with, in my humble opinion.

jschiwal 10-31-2008 06:20 AM

For some tasks, using a GUI is much easier. Imagine previewing pictures you've taken in a camera and removing red eye without a graphical interface. For other tasks, such as working with a large number of files repetitively, or selecting files in multiple subdirectories, using the command line is much easier. Imagine having to delete 100 odd files out of a list of around 2000, and doing this for around 80 units. I installed cygwin/X at work so I could enter in the files to delete in one list, and run "grep -f deletelist inventorylist" and pipe that through sed to create a delete script. I can then do in an hour or two what would take days using the GUI "filemanager" for these devices.

Shadow_7 11-01-2008 08:00 AM

I'll agree that it's not quite for a normal joe the plumber user (yet).

My X is fairly stable. A lot of that depends on the versioning and drivers though. If I try to do fancy things like multi-head / multi-monitor or odd resolutions, then I'm more apt to find the bugs in supplied video drivers. And I have windows crash on me all the time, even Vista. Among the dozens of other things it does by default that I didn't request it to do. Even with the additional separation of layers in linux, linux still out performs my Vista dual core machine. Especially on said machine.

jiml8 11-02-2008 02:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mega Man X (Post 3327115)
I think "GUI" in Linux, still has a long way to go. It is beautiful (or can be made to look beautiful) but it far from being usable on a serious environment.

Not usable on a serious environment???

Presently I have two X sessions running in this box (one at ctrl-alt-F7, the other at ctrl-alt-F8). The "main" one - the one I am using now - has Compiz Fusion running, with a virtual cube setup that is 4 stories high, giving me a total of 16 screens. I am running KDE 3.5.9 in this one. I have VMWare Workstation up and running in one screen, with two copies of Windows 2000 working.

On another screen, I have development tools running, and I am importing an X session from another machine on my LAN. This other machine (which I am running headless) is configured to be able to monitor satellite communications and I am working on a power spectrum display that will give me a nice graphical output of the power level across the bandwidth of the satellite transponder I am looking at. This is contract work for a client.

The other session, at ctrl-alt-F8, is running KDE 4.-something. Partly, I am playing with that KDE and partly I want another interface to communicate with that satcom machine for some other interface things I am doing.

I have no trouble moving icons around and making them stay where I put them. I do agree that there are some occasional glitches, but nothing that rises anywhere near the level of making the thing unusable.

Quote:

Because of all the toolkits we have, it lacks some integration too. In Windows, for instance, I can drag and drop an image from Windows Explorer to the MSN Messenger and it will be my display picture. I can drag a file to Outlook and it will be attached to an e-mail. In Linux, that interoperability is not always possible.
True enough.

Quote:

I can't even drag and drop a movie file to vlc media player.
I can.

Quote:

From a developer point of view, supporting several "GUI's" is not an option. Sure, for hobbysts, Linux is a paradise: Lots of tools to choose from and source code for everything. For an end user, who probably doesn't care (or shouldn't even) know what a GUI is, it is a lot to learn.
Depends on what you mean by "support". I have not had any problems using gnome apps in KDE. I also am developing an app in which I am using gtk, and it works fine in KDE.

Quote:

There is also lots of problems with fullscreen applications. Years ago, I made a platform game in Java. It was a super mario clone. Worked great in Windows, but in Linux... fullscreen was buggy. So let's blame Java implementation here. As another example, the monitor I am sitting now has a resolution of 1440x900. If I run a game with wine in say, 800x600, when I leave the game, most likely my desktop resolution will be set to 800x600 and there is not way to fix that except by restarting X. That happens all the time to the point of being annoying.
There are reasons why Java is not the best choice for a lot of things. Nominally platform agnostic, the reality is different. And, when some game or something changes my screen resolution, I use krandr to change it back - without restarting X.

Quote:

And indeed, running something on the top of X instead of being inbuilt with the kernel like (probably) Windows does, is slower. One may say it is more stable, so if X crashes, it does not take the OS down with it, which I agree. However, I have not had a Windows crash in years and X or its "GUI's" die all the time. But hey, I can restart X, so the system is working fine...
X is most certainly slower than the Windows GUI. That said, it is fast enough and I for one seldom experience crashes or problems with X these days (though that wasn't always true).

Quote:

All in all, I think Linux has the best foundation than any other OS. The GUI, user interface design, GUI-stability, several choices for toolkit, responsiveness and interoperability, on the other hand, has far too many rough edges for an average Joe to deal with, in my humble opinion.
A couple of years ago, I would have agreed with you. I no longer do agree with you. Quite frankly, the capabilities of linux with X blow Windows clear out of the water. Consider the setup I just described; you simply cannot do this in Windows.

While I grant you that Windows has certain specific advantages (faster, mainly), for almost all of the rest X is just better.

As for rough edges, I just set this satcom box up a couple of weeks ago. Rather than fool with it, I dropped a Mandriva One CD into its drive, booted into that live CD, set up networking, and told it to install itself. I made a few choices regarding locale and such, then went away. When I came back, Mandriva 2008 was installed and running on this box. Completely painless. And Mandriva 2008 is a very nice distribution, with very few glitches or rough edges.

abolishtheun 11-02-2008 04:36 PM

X is the iran-contra of the unix world and needs to be put out of its misery. There's no technical reason it should have survived over something like NeWS, but thanks to Sun's policy of being the dumbest fucking company on the planet, we're stuck with X and the ICCCM, and lost almost 2 decades (where the first decade consisted of getting X not to blow up our CRT monitors and setting our houses on fire). It doesn't help that the only people who fully understand its internals are either dead, retired, or rightfully want absolutely nothing with X any more.

j.todd 11-02-2008 08:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by abolishtheun (Post 3329396)
X is the iran-contra of the unix world and needs to be put out of its misery. There's no technical reason it should have survived over something like NeWS, but thanks to Sun's policy of being the dumbest fucking company on the planet, we're stuck with X and the ICCCM, and lost almost 2 decades (where the first decade consisted of getting X not to blow up our CRT monitors and setting our houses on fire). It doesn't help that the only people who fully understand its internals are either dead, retired, or rightfully want absolutely nothing with X any more.

I think we just need some smarter people working on it. Hopefully, those people Canonical hired to work on it will help.


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