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I have been using the windows desktop as well as KDE and Gnome. However Linux can work very nicely without them with the new windowmanagers on plain X. It is here tha Linux really shines and flies!
I feel that Linux has been getting a bad name re-crashes and slow speeds - BECAUSE of the desktops and the office suits. This is the work of MS and other commercial distributers to get people to computers who are clueless and have phobias. In the present day, far more computer aware populations - it maybe wise to tell them the disadvantages of using the above chunky and massively buggy software of desktops and office suits.
mysql or postgresql with GUI frontends
All in one environments can be pretty sexy for some people. I love eyecandy now and again.
Personally I use blackbox on a day to day basis, but now and again I end up playing in KDE...
As for it being slow and clunky, I don't get that. I have older hardware (a laptop that's a P2-333 and a 1Ghz Athlon) and KDE 3.1 has been nothing but great since I installed 9.1 so I don't understand people complaining about slowness...
(a friend of mine is running KDE 3.1 on a p90, now THAT'S slow, but we've played with it and the general feel is that it takes forever to start, but once started it is usable....not great mind you, but usable...we've mostly switched that machine over to blackbox now and its doing great for what he needs it to do).
That's an interesting thought. Open source "failure of nerve"? For instance, the Mozilla project has dumped their browser suite and are going to go with Phoenix/Firebird which always was an IE knockoff instead of Netscape-like like Mozilla. And with all the attempts to win over MS users with MS-like things like KDE and office suites and things that are diametrically opposed to *nix-like piping with grep on command lines, it is bringing a lot of Windows-like problems. Large resource consumption, app crashes, etc. (I understand a browser-suite is also diametrically opposed but, hey, allow me my contradictions.) There's been a million *nix vs. MS threads and GUI vs. CLI threads, but this feels a little different. Interesting.
I like the command line and I like lightweight window managers and KDE's even kind of neat to look at and play with. I don't think anything KDE and Open Office does is a problem in itself, because you can do any of it or not. But I do wonder if people think they want Windows and they get something that's close to Windows but not identical, they're likely to be the kind of people not to explore alternative window managers. And they're likely to think "What's the point in this nearly-Windows OS? It's not quite 'good enough' because it's still a little different". If KDE could precisely duplicate Windows they might think "It's exactly the same but cheaper!" Or if Linux could "sell" them on its complete differences with command line tools and lightweight Window managers, maybe they'd get it. But Linux seems to be trying to "emulate" Windows, yet "still be Linux" and this probably isn't going to impress many Windows-oriented OR Linux-oriented users in the long run.
For myself, I like the command line at times and thought I was die-hard blackboxer but fluxbox may be even better. But I'm happy it's all there, overall. I just wonder about all these "default to GUI on boot and GUI means KDE" distros and the first impression people are getting of running Linux. It's also disappointing that KDE replicates so many of the dumb GUI things in Windows. Like having a "close" button in a box that's already got a "close" button on the window of the box. Dumb little things like that. Most of the GUI elements are like Windows or a little more awkward. Linux had the opportunity for an IDE that had a new interface logic but basically just repeated the basic Windows 9x paradigm.
*cough* Short answer: no, we don't need desktops.
This is definitely "Software" but unless I'm missing the point of the question, it feels more "Linux - General" or even "General" though. *g*
Digiot mentions something worth thinking about. Is it cool to chase after MSwindows desktops with KDE and GNOME? They even have modifiers to make them look and feel like Windows! This is like how Windows chased MacOS! Well I guess we don't really need desktops but....
Anyway it is a pity if new Linux users never look at the Linux CLI/xterm windows/ Fluxbox, Enlightenment etc.
Some think that most of GUI software - abiword, gnumeric even web browsers like Firebird, will NOT run without KDE or GNOME!
I enjoy customising the desktop now and again, just for a bit of flar, but as it was said before, 90% of my activities are done in a terminal window, which functions just fine for my needs. Most of the time, when I'm just adjusting small things, I don't even start KDE after logging in; I don't need to look at a pretty background to vi/mcedit a file
I guess desktops are nice to work on, I use them too, but the fact is we can do without them.
The window managers people mention above are very nice too. They don't have a real desktoop but are eficiently functional acn configurable.
If we really need KDE/GNOME why don't they be really innovative and change the way we do things rather than be a MACOS/MSWIndows/IBMOS2 lookalike?
Desktops are the main reason why computing takes long. Draging your mouse across the windows is probably the thing that takes longest. Desktops are really for kids/amateurs because unless you are doing graphical design or playing video games, you don't need no desktop-- in fact you probably don't even need a mouse. I dare the people ofn the forum to unplug their mouse for a week and see if their productivity increases!