So I've spent just about a month with this new HP Pavilion g6-2210us laptop that shipped with Windows 8. That means UEFI and Secure Boot.
And new hardware. We all know how difficult Linux can be with new hardware.
During the aforementioned month, I did a lot of work in Windows 8. I sent up my whole environment. Even installed Perl. And Python. (It's not like I'm a big-time hacker or anything, but I aspire.)
But it's time for me to get back to Linux. Except that I'm having issues.
Linux on new computers is always dicey. Or it has been for me.
Right now I have a Windows 8-running (aka Secure Boot-equipped) HP Pavilion g6-2210us, and its AMD video chip is not playing nicely with 3D-accelerated video in Linux.
So GNOME 3 is unusable, Ubuntu's Unity is marginal.
But Xfce, in all it's 2D glory, looks perfect.
I'm testing Fedora 18 again. Yes, the live image. I didn't do an install, though I'm certainly thinking about it.
In this release's GNOME 3.6 desktop, at least a few applications -- all from GNOME proper -- like Nautilus are putting more functionality into the "global" menu that pops down from the app's icon in the upper panel.
While not catastrophic, it is problematic.
From where I sit, as long as most of an application's menu choices remain in its own window, putting anything in that app's panel-icon dropdown menu other than a superfluous "quit" does nothing to enhance the user experience.
More directly, having to go from the menu in the application's window to the additional menu in the upper panel to look for the functions you want just seems wrong.
For one thing, it kills discoverability, something that both GNOME 3 and Ubuntu's Unity seem overly fond of doing.
Fedora 18 has finally appeared in its final form after many delays. Largely responsible: a new Anaconda installer that has seen much criticism, mostly from users who like complicated manual partitioning. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I've always liked Ananconda. As far as I know, it's the only installer that can create any number of encrypted partitions -- in or out of LVM (logical volume management) -- and allow me to unlock them with a single passphrase typed once during boot. It also appears to be the only installer that can create a fully encrypted LVM installation while allowing another operating system -- like Windows -- to remain on the same disk.
What I'm trying to say is if the Debian installer would do these two things, I'd be a happy, happy camper.
Back to Fedora 18, aka "Spherical Cow." (I do like funny distro names more than serious Fedora names or stupid Ubuntu animal ones.) F18 offers a whole bunch of desktop environments in relatively (to very) new versions: GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, KDE and now MATE and Cinnamon. No Unity. A pity, perhaps. Or not.
I downloaded the network-install ISO, from which I could theoretically install any one of these environments.
I also downloaded a live image of Fedora 18 with Xfce 4.10. For the past many months, I've been using Xfce 4.8 rather heavily in Debian Wheezy. Debian Wheezy is never, ever going to get Xfce 4.10, even via Backports, as far as I know. Not that there's all that much difference between 4.8 and 4.10.
I picked this up entirely by accident:
A few years ago, if you were running a graphical desktop under the X Window System in Linux and wanted or needed to kill the X server, you typed
When that "went away," I thought that was it.
But that's not it. You can do the same thing that
ctrl-alt-backspace did with:
The "PrintScreen" is your print-screen key. Mine is labeled PrtSc.
So if you want to kill your X session from the keyboard, go right ahead.
Debian is boring. Releases happen every two years, give or take. Developers spend months and months chasing bugs while other Linux distributions crank out release after release.
But Debian gets better as it inches toward release. And if you're running the Stable distribution (Squeeze instead of Wheezy, still in Testing) you can enjoy the goodness for the next two years -- or three if you wish, as Stable gets an extra year of security patches as Old Stable after a new Stable version is released.
Debian isn't quite as boring as it is
conservative. Even though Debian's Testing is more stable than many other distributions' actual releases, you can expect some bugs. And if you follow Testing, as I am at the moment, you get to see some of those bugs get fixed.
I'm currently running GNOME 3.4.2 in Debian Wheezy, but I've wanted to know what was going to be so different in newer versions of the desktop environment.
I'm grappling with those differences, as you can read in posts right around this one. While it seems like this is time for GNOME 3 to settle in a bit, it looks like that will happen maybe a year from now.
Coming at this as a user of GNOME 3 (and I find myself actually liking the environment that many have avowed to leave behind), Fedora 18 is looking like a very good release for desktop users.
I've been comparing it to the Ubuntu 12.10 GNOME Remix, which is sticking with a less-hobbled Nautilus 3.4 along with a GNOME 3.6 base. So far, Fedora 18 appears to be superior. It handles my hardware (and touchy Alps touchpad) better and seems more solid, even in its current alpha form.
Even though the first Ubuntu GNOME remix is a final release, it seems pretty unfinished, and I expect things to be a lot better if and when the Ubuntu 13.04 GNOME Remix is released.
But for now Fedora 18 looks like a very promising way to run a solid GNOME 3 system. Or as solid as it gets, anyway.
And on the Getting GNOME page, GNOME recommends not only its own ISO but Fedora proper, OpenSUSE, Arch and Debian.
Going by what I read, Linux and BSD users are abandoning GNOME and Unity for ... Xfce.
They hate GNOME 3/Shell, they don't like what Ubuntu's done with Unity, and they're not crazy about KDE, either.
Enter Xfce. Back in the GNOME 2 days, I found that on a fast machine you really didn't gain much in desktop speed by picking Xfce over GNOME. But on slow, old hardware, Xfce sure could make a difference.
That means on new computers it all boils down to what you like. If Xfce does the job for you, use it.
With GNOME and Unity throwing out the "old" desktop paradigm for a new one that ostensibly helps the tablets and touchscreens none of us are using work better, anybody who wants to keep working in the same way they've been doing for decades is probably looking at Xfce and LXDE as the way going forward.
Some don't want any change, but most want evolution instead of revolution, and they don't want nonexistant tablets to dicate how they use their mouse-and-keyboard computers.
I get that.
Even Windows users are in this. Windows 8 probably won't throw out so much baby with bathwater, but the changes in the Microsoft desktop would ordinarily send geekier users scurrying toward Linux. Unity and GNOME 3 might be too much of a shock.
It has more than enough features. It's fast. It's not undergoing a cataclysmic transformation. It doesn't care about tablets, touchscreens, smartphones or TVs. It's not trying to sell you services or get you to buy shit. It works like a desktop you know. (Like GNOME 2.)
Personally I haven't soured on GNOME 3. I still like it. But I also like having something I know will be there when my hardware isn't so new. A workhorse desktop.
Already I like what I see in Xubuntu 12.10.
The new Xfce 4.10 desktop environment with a network-friendly Thunar file manager
Nice defaults and design (which you usually get in a distribution's "native" desktop environment but not so often without it)
What I don't like:
Onto the next ...