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Old 10-07-2009, 12:04 PM   #1
mschrank
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Distro Q's and differences between XFree86 and KDE etc


Hi, I'm a beginner with linux. I've used Kubuntu for ages, but I set it up, got it working and never touched anything under the hood.

My old Intrepid box got old and senile in the hardware, so I had to take it back round the shed and put her down. It was respectful, peaceful like, she knew what was happening... I buried her next to her favorite tree in the backyard.

So yes, I got this new Mini ITX setup with a dual core Atom processor and 4 gigs of ram for my new computer. I'm going to use it as a media center in my living room. However Atom 1.6 ghz is no screamer so I'd like to build a system using a light weight operating environment to leave more power for running programs and playing my media.

I could install the latest version of Kubuntu again but I thought this time I'd try to get a bit deeper into Linux and educate myself.

Could someone clarify the differences between XFree86, Window Manager, and a Desktop Environment (KDE/GNOME/etc)?

I know it goes like Hardware -> XServer -> XFree86 -> Window Manager (I read the tutorial on linux.org).

But where does KDE or a "Desktop Environment" come in? Is KDE a decked out window manager with its own programs that runs on top of XFree86 or what? Or does it totally replace XFree86?

Also if anyone could reccomend a distro that is media friendly and isn't tied to a window manager, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks!
 
Old 10-07-2009, 12:19 PM   #2
pljvaldez
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XFree86 is not used anymore due to licensing issues (perceived or real - it was a big mess), a group forked it and most linux distros use Xorg as the xserver. The xserver basically does the translation from the application space to the low level hardware directions.

A window manager does just that -- manages windows. It draws border boxes, resizes boxes, lets you drag boxes around, etc.

A desktop environment is basically a window manager and a bunch of other tools (like putting icons on the desktop, a taskbar, etc) tied together to make a nice complete experience. KDE has it's own window manager, KWin. Gnome has it's own window manager, Metacity (though before 2.2 it used Enlightenment or sawfish). Other desktop environments I'm aware of are LXDE and XFCE. Here's a good link of many window managers and desktop environments.

Simplistically you could say that all you need to have a gui in linux is to have an xserver and a window manager. Usually you would do this on a lightweight box because you probably don't need all the other bells and whistles (or bloat) of a full desktop. I've used Icewm in the past for this.

Do you have any sort of media center program in mind? At home I use MythTV and there's a lot of good distros available that are already setup for you. In the end, I just installed a bare bones Debian and then built on top of that.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 12:29 PM   #3
Hangdog42
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Quote:
Also if anyone could reccomend a distro that is media friendly and isn't tied to a window manager, I'd appreciate it.

Actually, any distro is capable of running any window manager. One of the bigger disservices the *buntus do is to give the impression that the window manager is an integral part of the distro. That is just plain
Windows-think.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 12:53 PM   #4
mschrank
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I see, so the setup works with an XServer running a window manager. KDE is a window manager with a bunch of other programs for a more integrated/easy user experience. The most common XServer is XOrg. Correct?

What then is a desktop manager? Is that what displays all your icons on the desktop and such?

So a working GUI would consist of an XServer running and Window Manager and a Desktop Manager?

Oh and I'm not using MythTV this time, I cancelled my cable thanks to Hulu and Netflix. Unfortunately I'm gonna have to dual boot to windows thanks to watch instantly's windows-tied DRM issue. Bleech.

Thanks again

Last edited by mschrank; 10-07-2009 at 12:56 PM.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 01:09 PM   #5
Hangdog42
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Quote:
The most common XServer is XOrg. Correct?
At least in Linux since the fork that pljvaldez pointed out, that is true.

Quote:
What then is a desktop manager? Is that what displays all your icons on the desktop and such?
I think it is better to think of it as all the other functions besides just displaying windows.

Quote:
So a working GUI would consist of an XServer running and Window Manager and a Desktop Manager?
Not necessarily. The "desktop manager" you refer to actually isn't needed. If you look at GUI environments like Fluxbox, they are just window managers. They can draw and manage windows, but they don't have the ability to have things like icons living on the desktop (at least not without external add-ons). Some of the window managers out there, like TWM or ratpoison, are horribly minimalistic and provide only exceedingly minimal window capabilities. However, they would fall under any reasonable definition of GUI.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 01:37 PM   #6
smeezekitty
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My old Intrepid box got old and senile in the hardware, so I had to take it back round the shed and put her down. It was respectful, peaceful like, she knew what was happening... I buried her next to her favorite tree in the backyard.
WTF?
 
Old 10-07-2009, 01:46 PM   #7
mschrank
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Originally Posted by smeezekitty View Post
Code:
My old Intrepid box got old and senile in the hardware, so I had to take it back round the shed and put her down. It was respectful, peaceful like, she knew what was happening... I buried her next to her favorite tree in the backyard.
WTF?
Don't worry it was respectful and dignified.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 02:03 PM   #8
mschrank
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I'm thinking Debian + Xorg + XFce for this build:

Dual Core Atom 1.6 ghz
4 gigs memory
200 gb hd
Nvidia Ion

Sounds good?
 
Old 10-07-2009, 02:31 PM   #9
pljvaldez
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Sounds good. There's an XFCE install disk (the link is for the 64-bit version, but there's also a 32-bit version if you prefer). It also has LXDE (which I've been meaning to try out).
 
Old 10-07-2009, 02:48 PM   #10
smeezekitty
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XFree86 is not used anymore due to licensing issues (perceived or real - it was a big mess), a group forked it and most linux distros use Xorg as the xserver. The xserver basically does the translation from the application space to the low level hardware directions.
return FALSE;
you can still get xfree86 just google download xfree86
 
Old 10-07-2009, 03:17 PM   #11
mschrank
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Thanks to everyone for the replies. I know its easy to overlook basic questions.

One more newbie question... when I install this OS (debian), will I have the option to not install the default desktop environment? Basically (for educational purposes) I just want a base configuration I can install the xorg and related stuff myself.

In a distro, I am looking for the following:

1) Paired down, no bloatware
2) Good package manager to avoid dependency hell

Last edited by mschrank; 10-07-2009 at 03:35 PM.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 03:40 PM   #12
smeezekitty
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most have bloatware
 
Old 10-07-2009, 04:15 PM   #13
pljvaldez
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Originally Posted by mschrank View Post
when I install this OS (debian), will I have the option to not install the default desktop environment? Basically (for educational purposes) I just want a base configuration I can install the xorg and related stuff myself.
Yup. When it gets to the software selection stage, just deselect everything (using the space bar) except "Base System". If you go this route, it's probably better to just use the netinstall CD.

Here's a link to an install guide. That site is good for Debian stuff.
 
Old 10-07-2009, 04:29 PM   #14
mschrank
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thanks a lot
 
  


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