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Old 11-17-2003, 01:13 PM   #1
Charlie Spencer
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GUI pro's and con's - X, KDE, Gnome


Our IT support department is installing Red Hat on standalone desktops as a learning experience. This is to prepare for possible installation on file servers on our Windows NT network. The Linux experience in the department is limited, and I've never even seen it. I hope to begin installing it today.

I've read about different graphical user interfaces that are available. From what I've read, X, KDE, and Gnome are among the most popular. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Please give specific reasons why you think one is better or worse than the others. Please restrict the discussion to these three, since it's my understanding they come with the Red Hat 9 distribution; if I'm mistaken, please correct me. I'm not ready yet to hit the web and download anything else at this point.

My Linux experience is extremely limited. If you use a term that isn't common in the Windows part of the universe, please explain it.

Thanks for your assistance.
 
Old 11-17-2003, 01:35 PM   #2
Tinkster
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Welcome to LQ :)

First, X is not an alternative in these choices,
Gnome and KDE require X to run, and X by
itself is not going to impress you much ;)

From an administrators viewpoint I'd go
with KDE since the releases are maintained
by a gang of people who make sure
that submitted bits and pieces work
together. Gnome is a bit more diverse/
diffuse in the way it's being handled.
(In other words: with Gnome I've been
through dependency hells).

From an architectural viewpoint Gnome
might be the more clever product since it
uses CORBA for interprocess communication
which should make communication
with application bits on remote machines
a breeze, even over platform barriers.

Cheers,
Tink
 
Old 11-17-2003, 02:40 PM   #3
Charlie Spencer
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That's easy for you to say...

First, it sounds like you're saying KDE has been tested more thoroughly than Gnome. Am I misinterpreting you? Who are "a gang of people"?

Second, what's "dependency hell"? Is it comparable to what we Windows types call "DLL hell", when an executable is looking for a required supporting file but can't find it, or when a supporting file required by multiple programs gets replaced by a new app with a version incompatible with the existing ones? I'm a newbie; I was hoping such problems didn't exist in this OS.

Third, everything you said after "From an architectural viewpoint Gnome
might be the more clever product" sounds really cool. I wish I understood it.

*** Off-topic *** I admit I'm finding the open source world a bit confusing. I understand the concept in theory, but who do you turn to when something doesn't work? You didn't "buy" it from anyone, so where do you turn for support? How do you get in touch of the people who actually wrote it? Is anyone actually responsible for an application? Somehow surfing newsgroups doesn't strike me as a support system I'd stake a mission-critical server on. *** End of Off-topic ***

Thanks.
 
Old 11-17-2003, 02:55 PM   #4
Tinkster
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Quote:
Originally posted by Charlie Spencer
That's easy for you to say...
Which bit? :)

Quote:
First, it sounds like you're saying KDE has been tested more thoroughly than Gnome. Am I misinterpreting you? Who are "a gang of people"?
Let's say that KDE has stricter standards than gnome,
specially in integrating with the Desktop Manager.
As for the gang, have a look at: http://www.kde.org

Quote:
Second, what's "dependency hell"? Is it comparable to what we Windows types call "DLL hell", when an executable is looking for a required supporting file but can't find it, or when a supporting file required by multiple programs gets replaced by a new app with a version incompatible with the existing ones? I'm a newbie; I was hoping such problems didn't exist in this OS.
Pretty much so. With the exception that you could
easily have two parallel versions of dynamic load
libraries, and just point different applications to
different directories. In Gnome I often had the problem
that when I (want to) upgrade one application I pretty
much have to upgrade all of Gnome, whereas KDE
was more gentle :) ... these days I don't use either
of them, so wouldn't know how the battle goes.

Quote:
Third, everything you said after "From an architectural viewpoint Gnome
might be the more clever product" sounds really cool. I wish I understood it.
Well, CORBA is ancestor to MS's DCOM and COM+,
if you wish, with the big difference that it's platform trans-
parent (no, two different versions of Windows DON'T
qualify :}). It's been around for a long time (OS/2 was using
SOM, which was IBM's Corba implementation) in the
days when Windows was still restricted to DDE ;)

Quote:
*** Off-topic *** I admit I'm finding the open source world a bit confusing. I understand the concept in theory, but who do you turn to when something doesn't work? You didn't "buy" it from anyone, so where do you turn for support? How do you get in touch of the people who actually wrote it? Is anyone actually responsible for an application? Somehow surfing newsgroups doesn't strike me as a support system I'd stake a mission-critical server on. *** End of Off-topic ***
It's a fair enough call ... usually open source projects
will have techniques for bug-tracking, if you look at
KDE's website again, look at http://bugs.kde.org/ ...
Similar with OpenOffice, Mozilla, the kernel, gnu.org ...
usually (if the bug is severe) it will be fixed faster
than MS would acknowledge its existence ;). If that
still sounds to insecure, there's always Linux
consultancy firms you can ring up. They'll come and
fix your problem. And they'll sign a service level
agreement with you, too.


Cheers,
Tink
 
Old 11-18-2003, 09:49 AM   #5
Charlie Spencer
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>In Gnome I often had the problem that when I (want to) upgrade one >application I pretty much have to upgrade all of Gnome,

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "upgrade one application" vs "upgrade all of Gnome". I understood Gnome to be a GUI; what do you mean by "all of Gnome"? What applications would you have to upgrade for the GUI? Why would a GUI be upgradable in pieces rather than as a whole?

I did complete installing RH 9 yesterday, but haven't had a chance to do anything other than the initial boot configuration.

Thanks again.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 10:15 AM   #6
aaa
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The 'desktop enviroments' are just a bunch of programs bundled together. X is the actual 'gui'. The bundled programs make it easier to use. A window manager manages windows (lets you move programs around, makes that little bar on top that has the close/resize/minimize buttons...). There is a program that makes a panel with menus in it, and there is a 'desktop' program (without it your 'desktop' won't be able to do much, no icons, etc...). What I think Tink means is that upgrading just one little app made him upgrade the rest of the Gnome stuff.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 12:27 PM   #7
seneca
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May I add:
  • The graphical user interface (GUI) on Linux is mostly determinded by the toolkit (also called widget set) which an application uses - there are two important: QT and GTK+ but some big applications use their own toolkit, for example OpenOffice and the Mozilla Browser.
  • A desktop enviroment (or simply the desktop) is not only determined by it's toolkit but also by additional libaries and basic applications like a window manager, a file manager and a panel (this is which shows your running application and a "start" menu). There are two main desktop enviroments: KDE and GNOME. KDE uses the QT toolkit and GNOME uses the GTK+ toolkit.
  • For just using Linux, it does not really matter which toolkit an application (like an office package) uses because QT/KDE applications run peacefully with GTK+/GNOME applications - whatever Desktop Enviroment you use. Additionally, RedHat did it's best to intergrate eachother, as far as I know.
However, small differences in the toolkits (and thus in the applications) can't be disguised and these might irritate new users. The best way to go is to determine what applications you'd like to use in your company.

Then choose the Desktop enviroment which uses the same toolkit as most of your choosen applications (or the most important applications). Probably you won't find 100% of applications from one toolkit for your needs but this way, you'll have the best possible integration and the smallest learning curve for new users.

Some additional notes on GNOME:
  • GNOME comes in small pieces and it's hard to go throught its dependencies. But on most distributions (and also on RedHat) there is a small application called "apt-get" which takes care of those dependencies and you won't have any problems upgrading GNOME. It's true that upgrading means replacing all GNOME packages but this happens twice a year and is done in half a hour when you have a good internet connection (it's roughly 100 or 200 MB of packages)
  • GNOME uses fixed release circles and it uses the Linux Kernel numbering scheme. This means that even release numbers are stable and tested (like the actual 2.4), uneven releases are not (like the actual development release 2.5)! Unstable releases usually don't go into distributions thus you don't have to be afraid that GNOME is less stable than any other desktop enviroment.

Maybe this helps a little bit.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 01:18 PM   #8
Charlie Spencer
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Climbing the learning curve...

I'm used to thinking of the GUI as a (in)coherent whole. Typically, what kind of changes show up in a GUI upgrade? Or is the question too broad?

Right now we're investigating server room use. End-user desktop deployment is not on the board or under discussion, so we're not at the point of picking desktop applications.

Thanks for the explanation of the numbering scheme.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 02:29 PM   #9
seneca
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What changes show up is hard to say - some of them you won't notice, some you may not notice because they hit things you don't usually use in your daily work, and some you are already expecting for a really long time, like, for example, the redesign of the GTK+/GNOME file selector dialog.

When your company is going to use Linux as a Server, you don't have to worry about the toolkit or the GUI because there's no need to have a graphical user interface on a server, right? Then, there will probably be no XServer, no GTK or QT toolkit and no KDE or GNOME.

If you need to access the server, you will probably use some kind of web interface or, more commonly, a ssh connection (this is a sort of a secure telnet connection) or you'll use the command line directly at the maschine.

Last edited by seneca; 11-18-2003 at 02:36 PM.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 03:19 PM   #10
Charlie Spencer
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"...there's no need to have a graphical user interface on a server, right?"

Why not? I was brought up on DOS and VMS, and can type 35 wpm, but I've always found a GUI to be easier to use than a command line. What are the disadvantages?

I usually reserve the command line for those things I can't otherwise do through a GUI. At this stage I don't know what percent of Linux operations I can't access through the GUI; of those I can't access, I don't yet know how often I will need them. I'm a newbie; enlighten me.

Everybody, thanks for all the help. Forget the Gnome vs. KDE question; I'm going to run Gnome since it starts by default. I'm gettting overwhelmed by the choices and it's giving me a negative attitude toward the OS, something I want desperately to avoid. My new response toward all questions of distro's, apps, etc., is that I'm going to run whatever I find first or loads by default. That's the approach I took to Windows apps; I don't see a reason to change. If it doesn't do the job, then I'll look for other options. I have to remember my mission is to drain the swamp, even when I'm up to my <anatomical reference> in alligators.

Note to programmers: Be sure to begin your application name with "AAA". That way I'll find it first when I sort my search results in alphabetical order!
 
Old 11-18-2003, 03:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Charlie Spencer
"...there's no need to have a graphical user interface on a server, right?"

Why not? I was brought up on DOS and VMS, and can type 35 wpm, but I've always found a GUI to be easier to use than a command line. What are the disadvantages?
1. Memory consumption for the benefit of what? 1 hour of
administration a month? :O
2. The more is going on, the more can fail
3. Higher likelyhood of people attempting to
mess with the box ... :}

Quote:
I usually reserve the command line for those things I can't otherwise do through a GUI. At this stage I don't know what percent of Linux operations I can't access through the GUI; of those I can't access, I don't yet know how often I will need them. I'm a newbie; enlighten me.
Hard to tell, since the sets of graphical tools
are strongly distro dependent. That said, you
may want to have a look at webmin. :)
You won't need X on the server but can still
administer it remotely trhrough a graphical (web-
based) interface.... takes about 3 megs of RAM
as opposed to 30+ ;)

Cheers,
Tink
 
Old 11-18-2003, 03:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
...there's no need to have a graphical user interface on a server, right?
A server is there to serve things. Like a webserver only serves a web-page, and you want it to use all its resources for this task.
A GUI uses a lot of CPU an memory power, and by disabling the GUI, all this resources will be used for it's primary task, to serve.

When I started whit linux, i first started doing everything through the GUI. That way it looked less difficult, and I sort of 'got the feeling'. But you can't do everything through these GUI's. One day you will do more than these GUI's can offer, so you will dive into the console. At first I found it difficult, and i got back to the GUI often. But once you get the hang of it, you will see that the console is much more powerful.
Quote:
I'm getting overwhelmed by the choices and it's giving me a negative attitude toward the OS
I recognize that one. When I first started, I was like "why are there 5 browsers on my system?" and so on..
It's all about free choices. There are a lot of programs whit the average linux distribution, and the user can decide for himself what to use, after he has tryed all the software, to see for himself what he likes best.
Linux-systems don't force you to use one particular browser, or editor or whatever. It's your choice.

Last edited by EyesOnly; 11-18-2003 at 03:48 PM.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 03:48 PM   #13
seneca
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Quote:
Originally posted by Charlie Spencer
What are the disadvantages?
Most Linux folks would probably answer: A GUI for a server box just needs unneccessary resources. Usually you set up your box and then you make sure it doesn't catch too much dust.

Well, there's probably someone better than me to explain server admisnistration on linux. But I believe when you got used to bash programming, maybe a nice script might reduce your administration to the line "admin --update server1" once a week and that's it.

Quote:
I'm gettting overwhelmed by the choices and it's giving me a negative attitude toward the OS, something I want desperately to avoid.
Yes, that's something everybody seems to go through at the beginning (Sort of "Oh, my god! Why isn't this organizied in a sane manner!" ). Later, you'll wonder what you've done before you had the choice to change the application because you simply didn't like it!

Really! After some time it's just fun!
 
Old 11-18-2003, 04:21 PM   #14
Charlie Spencer
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Using the command line just feels like a step backwards to me. I've gotten spoiled just having to point and click. Part of the my learning curve is I don't know Unix either, so I don't know any of the commands (yet). I'm s..l..o..w..l..y working my way through Red Hat's documentation, hoping that will make clear what I can get away with in the GUI and when I've got to hit the command line.

I find the prospect of spending my time installing, testing, and uninstalling apps to be rather daunting, and the idea of test driving various distro's appalls me. I expect it will take me several weeks / a few months to get comfortable (not competent) on RH9. At that point, I don't know see starting over on a box I can finally use productively. On the rare occasions I reload a Windows machine, it takes me a week to set it up completely the way I like it , and that's an OS I'm familiar with. Where do people get the time to keep rebuilding their box from scratch, much comparing and contrasting features? Maybe I lack the open source mindset; I'd rather spend my time working WITH the computer than working ON it.
 
Old 11-18-2003, 04:28 PM   #15
Charlie Spencer
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Seneca, is bash programming anything like DOS batch files? Thanks.
 
  


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