LinuxQuestions.org
Review your favorite Linux distribution.
Go Back   LinuxQuestions.org > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Newbie
User Name
Password
Linux - Newbie This Linux forum is for members that are new to Linux.
Just starting out and have a question? If it is not in the man pages or the how-to's this is the place!

Notices


Reply
  Search this Thread
Old 03-02-2004, 06:58 PM   #1
hyper guy
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Location: A State of Bliss (Ontario, Canada)
Distribution: Vector-Slackware + Dropline
Posts: 43

Rep: Reputation: 15
Question window managers vs. desktop environments


I need some help deciding which way I should go re the whole WM vs. DE issue. I have an old system (circa 1997, with a cyrix PII clone running at 233mhz, 3gb hd and 96mb ram) and I've recently deloused windows 98 from it. I'm now running feather linux but i'd like to goose it up a bit.

my wm (fluxbox) is pretty nifty, but I'm wondering if i should "upgrade" to a desktop environment. i am considering either gnome or kde or xfce4. i'd like to stay as close as i practically can to the unix philosophy of small interoperable programs; WMs seem to fit that ideal on first look better than DEs. i have both practical and philosophical reasons to keep things small, but i would like to have as many 'goodies' as my old system can reasonably afford.

What I'd like to know is

1) Some specific examples of things DEs can do that cannot be done at all (or nearly as easily) with WMs. What functionality would I be potentially losing? I'll judge if it might be a big deal or not.
(btw, i would be using my sys for basic web/graphic design/managment, writing (word processing), spreadsheets and database stuff, light coding, surfing, IM/IRCing, email, light web serving (really, just a testing/production server), playing (but hardly storing) some tunes/video clips every now and again.)

2) Isn't OO coding more in line with the UNIX goals in that with that paradigm you can more easily set up mini-programs within a larger one? isn't maintainability much better in that style, and if so, does that mean one "should" look to KDE's Qt set if you do go the DE way?

3) Are there any key functionalities lost using xfce4 vs. going with either gnome or kde? i really like the idea that xfce4 is relatively tiny in comparison with the other two (again, UNIX philosophy is seems to be strongly anti-bloatware), but would there be some really big handy trick i'd lose in going with that?

I know there are lots of other WMs and DEs out there, but I've been doing some extensive research and these four (xfce4, gnome, kde, fluxbox) seem (TO ME, for my purposes) to be the cream of the crop right now.

I appreciate any insight/experience you have to give.

thanks

Last edited by hyper guy; 03-04-2004 at 11:01 AM.
 
Old 03-02-2004, 08:28 PM   #2
slakmagik
Senior Member
 
Registered: Feb 2003
Distribution: Slackware
Posts: 4,113

Rep: Reputation: Disabled
Wow. Kudos for asking a question that's been asked a zillion times in a new way.

Practically: with your specs, you could run Gnome or KDE, I think, but it wouldn't be fun. XFCE would probably be the thing there.

Philosophically: I agree with your basic impulses.

1) If you use all the IDE's apps, interoperability between them in a GUI sense (drag'n'drop, etc.) is better. If you like GUI configuration, you've got more widgets to choose from. If you don't know where anything is or what file goes to what, a centralized IDE configurator might help with some stuff. If you don't know anything about the command line, you can get by a bit easier. Maybe.

2) I can't speak to that - but an excellent question. Something about Gnome bugs me and KDE, historical fundamentalist licensing crap aside, seems more appropriate somehow.

3) XFCE is really a souped-up WM. It includes a file manager (that I hated) and various other things in the package but it's not really more of an IDE than, say, Enlightenment to me. However, with XFCE libs or whatever, and future apps, it'll turn into one. As will E. Don't get me wrong, though I hated the fm, XFCE is nice. Just not for me.

For me, I believe in a command line system. The GUI is a thing stuck on it. The DOS/Win3 paradigm vs. the Win9x paradigm. (I won't even discuss NT's utter absence of separation - or older Macs.) And you could argue that drag'n'drop is a graphical pipe but I still figure *nix's native IPC is fine. And, yes, small tools are good. Sometimes *nix goes too far with that and I have my screaming inconsistency in that I love mozilla - the big one, not the flamey thing. But I like having a basic X server and something that just manages my damn windows. My interface with the system is still primarily bash and editing text files and so on. All I need is something to let me run GUI apps and push them around. A window manager.

Plus, I don't like being channeled into using a set of apps like Kthis and Kthat. I like picking and choosing. I really hate having dozens (hundreds) of GUI doohickeys and full-fledged apps I'll never touch. I resent the fact that there *are* some excellent KDE/Gnome apps that I can't really use without either buying into the package or not using most of the package. I just do without them though. No kedit - gvim or nedit; no konqueror - just mozilla and emelfm or mc (file managers and web browsers are different, damn it. We don't need more IEs. So I have no gnome or kde on my box. (On my P100 I have no X at all.)

The first Linux GUI I ever saw was an ancient KDE (ancient at the time, I mean) which I quickly ditched. Since then, I tried a bunch and stuck with blackbox, found fluxbox and stuck with it, tried a lot of stuff and still stuck with fluxbox. Tried Ice again after disliking it once and, with a bunch of tweaking, I actually shifted from a *box for the first time. Windowing controls and pop-up menus out the wazoo and a really functional toolbar to easily handle all my open windows.

Sorry for the length and my ignorance, but the question interested me and got me babbling.

To make it longer: some people complain about the inconsistency of *nix GUI apps. Well, it doesn't bother me much but I'll say this - half a dozen different apps look a lot better than five identical K/G apps and one weird one.
 
Old 03-02-2004, 10:33 PM   #3
hyper guy
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Location: A State of Bliss (Ontario, Canada)
Distribution: Vector-Slackware + Dropline
Posts: 43

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Thanks, digiot, I guess the title of this post would look rather trollish, like i'm lookin to start somethin. Really, I'm just trying to settle something -- for myself -- once and for...er, now.

I only got Linux installed on my system about a week ago and i know i have a *LOT* to learn, but i'd like to start off buying in to as much of the linux philosophy as i can.

SOUNDS like you're saying xfce (fm aside) is a reasonable compromise.

SOUNDS like you're saying the interoperability i might lose with a WM, i can make up with a bit of shell know-how. I hear you, but can you give examples? Like, if I write something in a word processor, can i 'cutnpaste' some of that text into an email note with shell commands? There are def advantages to that GUI stuff.

btw, I appreciate length as long as it's enough string to wrap the package.

thanks again
p.s. looked into the icewm thing -- not bad. not bad at all.

Last edited by hyper guy; 03-03-2004 at 07:05 AM.
 
Old 03-02-2004, 11:00 PM   #4
slakmagik
Senior Member
 
Registered: Feb 2003
Distribution: Slackware
Posts: 4,113

Rep: Reputation: Disabled
"Once and for now." Yeah, when you have so much to choose from you end up making a lot of choices. More than once.

I completely agree about the philosophy thing. I'm still clouded with a lot of DOS biases and even some Windows things but trying to understand Linux helps. Not just how to do things but why. Kind of off-topic and you may have seen them already but some stuff like

In the Beginning Was the Command Line
The Art of UNIX Programming
The Elements of Style

is really good.

Anyway - I wasn't trying to decide for you or anything. Just mechanically that Gnome or KDE might not be best suited to the hardware and that XFCE might be the best, closest IDE in that case if you wanted a more IDE-like GUI. But I think you *could* use anything on that, allowing for some performance issues.

As far as the interoperability, I'm somewhat cheating - I have no interest in word processing as such - just text and html and scripting and so on - and don't have to do a lot of the things that people who use Linux in a professional sense have to do. If a word processor is saving stuff in a binary format, it'd be hard to pass it to your email program, especially if that's Mozilla Mail, say. I'm sure you *could* parse it with 'strings' and 'awk' or something but that'd be more effort than its worth. The actual *nix tradition would be to mark it up with TeX or whatever - things that I haven't learned. Then the full array of *nix tools could be deployed on the data. (Maybe AbiWord saves stuff in xml, though. So maybe things can be done with it.) As is, I use text editors rather than word processors. For instance, with vim you can shell out, issue commands, redirect that back into the text file you're editing, shuffle it off to other programs, and so on. Even with a very Windows-ish editor like nedit, you can create macros that define custom menus, interface with the command line, pipe stuff directly into the windw you're editing in, etc. Word counting with nedit just calls on 'wc' which can be called independently from the command line. Things like that. I think that's why mozilla *is* the exception - if it wasn't for surfing the graphical web and being able to easily navigate hyperlinks and all the rest - and maybe if I was a graphics designer using the GIMP - there wouldn't be much need for X at all, much less an IDE.

-- Oh, late breaking thought dawned on me - to take it literally: you can cut'n'paste from an editor to an email program with no problem whatever your GUI. The problems are more with things like dragging and dropping files on dekstop icons to applications - that can be complicated without any desktop icons.

Last edited by slakmagik; 03-02-2004 at 11:16 PM.
 
Old 03-03-2004, 07:02 AM   #5
hyper guy
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Location: A State of Bliss (Ontario, Canada)
Distribution: Vector-Slackware + Dropline
Posts: 43

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
Well, that's a relief re the cutting and pasting thing and WMs. That is a useful ability. I think I can live without drag and drop if i had to (what would you do instead with only a WM?), but are there any other tricks you can think of that IDEs make easy?

Obviously, you're not too keen on IDEs in general, but can we say that, at least in the case of xfce4, there exists a DE that is in keeping with *nix philosophy? Is it really a program that simply manages a number of other smaller programs? It *IS* much different from the MS Windows idea of a monolithic IDE, no?

And thanks for the links, btw. I had read the first one already (and skimmed thru the second) and that was what was heavily influencing me (not to mention this interesting article/thesis was the reason why I tried freebsd -- and flailed -- my very first go at *nix some weeks ago).

Last edited by hyper guy; 03-03-2004 at 07:06 AM.
 
Old 03-03-2004, 07:18 PM   #6
r_jensen11
Senior Member
 
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Minnesota, USA
Distribution: Slack 10.0 w/2.4.26
Posts: 1,032

Rep: Reputation: 45
The thing with XFCE4 is that it has its base WM program, but also calls on other programs to act like shortcut bars, pagers, etc. So if you wanted, you could just kill those programs, only run the WM part of it, and then it's slimmed down. I use XFCE4 on my 200mhz computer, and it does anything that Gnome or KDE can do. There are some inconveniences, like there's no multi-media controls on the pannels, but I have them on auto-hide, so that doesn't really matter for me any more. Reading your purposes, I don't see any reason why you should use Gnome or KDE. Your system's too slow to run them smoothly and efficiently (Hey, so is mine, your system's only 33mhz faster than mine.) The only reason why I have KDE on my system is purely for KDM. I don't have Gnome itself on my system, although I had to install its libraries for some programs. Oh, and I'm not a big fan of XFCE's file manager either, but if you're just copying files from one place or another and are too lazy to use a terminal, then it serves its purpose. It's not ment to be like KDE's or Gnome's file browser, where it also acts as a audio player, picture viewer, and all.
 
Old 03-03-2004, 10:14 PM   #7
mikshaw
LQ Addict
 
Registered: Dec 2003
Location: Maine, USA
Distribution: Slackware/SuSE/DSL
Posts: 1,320

Rep: Reputation: 45
1) Some specific examples of things DEs can do that cannot be done at all (or nearly as easily) with WMs
As was mentioned, possibly drag-n-drop. This is something that I've come to live without personally, and I don't miss it at all. I can't think of anything else that can't be done, though if you're running only a WM, you will find that loading K- or G-apps will take a little longer, and possibly spit out some errors. This is one of the reasons I avoid KDE applications in particular....I don't like the idea of having to start additional processes in order to load a particular application.

I agree with just about everything Digiot said here, especially concerning (on a slightly off-topic note) word processing. To me, a text document is a text document, not a binary. Formatting of text is not so important to me that it should require the overhead of being a larger-than-necessary file and the limitation of not having the ability to be searched and edited with any standard text editor. The exception to this would be if you're doing layout for a graphically-rich printed document, but that's something different from what most people use word processors for.

I'm not intentionally trying to steer you away from KDE/Gnome (really, I'm not...honest), but with those specs you will notice a big difference in performance between using these DEs and using a lightweight WM such as blackbox/fluxbox
 
Old 03-04-2004, 09:39 AM   #8
hyper guy
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Location: A State of Bliss (Ontario, Canada)
Distribution: Vector-Slackware + Dropline
Posts: 43

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 15
WM sellout

I appreciate all your viewpoints, and i agree with the vast majority of them, but it is with no small amount of chagrin that i tell you that last night i sold out and stuffed the knoppix "brand" distro on that old pooter. of course, this means kde and all the extra wizzybang stuff that goes with it.

much to my happy surprise, kde does give you an option at install to manually dial down the eye-candy in accordance to how good/fast you think your setup is. i set mine at '4' (out of a possible '10') and it's still pretty slow (but not a great deal slower than when i had win98 on it).

but, coming from windoze not a month ago, i do kinda breathe a sigh of relief at seeing a desktop i have some clue how to work.

i will have to park my philosophical quandries for now and get on with some work i have to pump out for a couple of clients (i'm a freelance copywriter). what i will do is install feather linux (the linux distro i started with) on my ancient '486 and fiddle from there. for me, *nix is going to have to be something i learn bit by bit on the side, taking my sweet time. with one system WM-only and the other KDE, i guess i can better compare and contrast the differences.

no doubt i will try to discharge a number of heavyweight or unneccessary apps that come with kde. this is the thing for me, for now.


the debate will rage in my head for some time to come...
 
Old 03-04-2004, 03:18 PM   #9
mikshaw
LQ Addict
 
Registered: Dec 2003
Location: Maine, USA
Distribution: Slackware/SuSE/DSL
Posts: 1,320

Rep: Reputation: 45
Quote:
*nix is going to have to be something i learn bit by bit on the side, taking my sweet time.
That's a healthy approach, really. If you don't have the time or motivation to throw yourself headfirst into it, taking small steps will often help you avoid frustration.

Along with the "dialing down" KDE should also present you with a list of options you can deselect individually on the same configuration screen. This can allow you to lighten the load further without sacrificing some of the details you want to keep.
 
Old 07-06-2004, 04:23 PM   #10
erraticassassin
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Distribution: Slackware 13.1
Posts: 127

Rep: Reputation: 18
KDE and GNOME are trying to replicate the Windows environment on top of a text based system. Fine: let them do that. Some people like it. Problem is that while they are doing that, they are accumulating a vast array of guff around them that you probably won't use. Like barnacles. What next, KDoohickyForRemovingBoyScoutsFromHorses'Hooves? GPatentedDeviceForPolishingVoles? Bah.

I like using an xterm for some tasks. I like having a nice graphic interface for others. Preferably unencumbered by a slow windowing system. I like choice. Therefore I use a slim window manager (Fluxbox) and a slim file manager (ROX-filer) and add applications as I see fit. If I want to use a text editor (and I often do), I can pick one which suits my tastes (gedit or Joe) instead of just using what's bundled with the desktop, just because it's there.

Choice, y'see. Choice. As it happens most of the applications I like to use on a regular basis - Abiword, Bluefish, gedit - depend on GNOME libraries, but I have no wish to use GNOME itself. Nor do I have to. Nor does anyone.

Use a window manager and build your own environment bit by bit. Learn while you're doing it. Learn from your mistakes. I know I am.

Meh. I'm rambling again. Nurse! The screens!
 
Old 07-07-2004, 09:47 PM   #11
r_jensen11
Senior Member
 
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Minnesota, USA
Distribution: Slack 10.0 w/2.4.26
Posts: 1,032

Rep: Reputation: 45
Quote:
Originally posted by erraticassassin
KDE and GNOME are trying to replicate the Windows environment on top of a text based system. Fine: let them do that. Some people like it. Problem is that while they are doing that, they are accumulating a vast array of guff around them that you probably won't use. Like barnacles. What next, KDoohickyForRemovingBoyScoutsFromHorses'Hooves? GPatentedDeviceForPolishingVoles? Bah.

I like using an xterm for some tasks. I like having a nice graphic interface for others. Preferably unencumbered by a slow windowing system. I like choice. Therefore I use a slim window manager (Fluxbox) and a slim file manager (ROX-filer) and add applications as I see fit. If I want to use a text editor (and I often do), I can pick one which suits my tastes (gedit or Joe) instead of just using what's bundled with the desktop, just because it's there.

Choice, y'see. Choice. As it happens most of the applications I like to use on a regular basis - Abiword, Bluefish, gedit - depend on GNOME libraries, but I have no wish to use GNOME itself. Nor do I have to. Nor does anyone.

Use a window manager and build your own environment bit by bit. Learn while you're doing it. Learn from your mistakes. I know I am.

Meh. I'm rambling again. Nurse! The screens!
Bah, you say for people to use WM's, which means not to use DE's, which means limiting their choices.... Hypocrite....
 
Old 07-08-2004, 03:53 AM   #12
erraticassassin
Member
 
Registered: Feb 2004
Distribution: Slackware 13.1
Posts: 127

Rep: Reputation: 18
Y'know, I was just getting ready to call you out for flamebait when I actually read what I'd written again.

Buggrit!

You're quite right of course. If GNOME or KDE are right for you, then by all means use them. If you want something that just works, and works just well enough, they may well be right for you. They just aren't right for me.
 
Old 07-08-2004, 04:25 PM   #13
r_jensen11
Senior Member
 
Registered: Apr 2003
Location: Minnesota, USA
Distribution: Slack 10.0 w/2.4.26
Posts: 1,032

Rep: Reputation: 45
Quote:
Originally posted by erraticassassin
Y'know, I was just getting ready to call you out for flamebait when I actually read what I'd written again.

Buggrit!
 
  


Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off



Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Desktop Environments & Window Managers (the ones that are less resource intensive) aitzim Linux - Newbie 5 06-13-2005 10:56 PM
Desktop Environments Cheechi Linux - Software 9 07-10-2004 01:49 PM
Window Managers vs. Desktop Managers mikeshn Linux - General 4 02-11-2004 12:31 PM
X and different desktop environments usr Linux - General 1 01-24-2004 10:09 AM
Desktop Environments new_user10 Linux - Newbie 1 06-23-2003 08:46 PM


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:13 PM.

Main Menu
Advertisement
My LQ
Write for LQ
LinuxQuestions.org is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
Syndicate
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Facebook: linuxquestions Google+: linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration