Editor's Note: One (Strange) Man's Hunt for the Linux Desktop
May 28, 2004, 23:30 (11 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)
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By Brian Proffitt
Linux on the desktop.
It feels like there should be an echo effect there, doesn't
Linux-inux-inux-nux... On The Desktop-top-top-top...
With all the reports we have seen of late about getting our
favorite operating system on the desktop of corporate and home
users, I don't think the echo chamber effect is going overboard, do
you? Then, picture in your mind a giant Tux, standing on a dark
mountaintop, sword in hand, the bones of proprietary code strewn on
the jagged mountainside below him. Do the echo chamber again. See?
Not a bad scene.
Sam Raimi had better watch out, there's a new director coming to
But to the matter at hand. Linux on the desktop. I have a
problem with this description. After a day or two of fiddling
around with some cool desktop tools and theme, I have come to the
conclusion that worrying about Linux on the desktop is a misnomer,
because 99 percent of the time I can't even see the desktop and all
of the cool toys I have put on it!
This all started last week, when I upgraded to Fedora Core 2. I
had tried to point yum and up2date to the new Core 2 mirrors, but
they were still heavily trafficked, so I finally muttered some
obscenities and tried this new BitTorrent thing-a-ma-bob to pull
the ISOs down for CD burning.
Boy! Was this a pleasant surprise! For those of you not familiar
with it, BitTorrent is a
peer-to-peer system that lets you share files across a completely
distributed network. So, instead of finding and linking to a single
peer who has the file I need and praying they have the bandwidth
and the will to stay online long enough for me to pull the file
down, I downloaded a .torrent file that indexed the files I needed
and allowed me to download the files from multiple sources at
This jigsaw-puzzle approach to downloading spreads the load
across multiple sources and (if there are enough sources online)
makes your download go much faster. The karmic is that while you
download files, you become a source, too. So your system uploads
while it yanks files down. For courtesy's sake, users are urged to
keep sharing the files after the download is complete, to keep the
number of sources to share high. (I did good, I left the files in
place for two days.)
After I upgraded to FC2, I wanted to try out some new eye candy
for my system. After reading Marcel Gagné's recent
article on SuperKaramba, I was intrigued enough to give it a
I tried the binaries first, and that seemed to work. But after
running SK, I tried to load some themes and got nothing but black
boxes. Well, after pulling the source down and trying to compile, I
discovered that I supposed wasn't running the right version of the
Python libraries, which was odd, since I had a version that was way
past what was required.
I faced a choice: get the libraries into my system's path or try
something else. I'm more into instant gratification, so I chose the
latter and shifted over to GNOME to try gdesklets.
PCLinuxOnline ran a
tutorial about this GNOME eye candy recently,
and I thought it would be worth a look.
And it was, actually. It took a little while to get everything
sorted out, because the documentation was a bit lean, but
ultimately I got the GoodWeather, Popmail, and RRS-Feed desklets up
and running. I think they look really sharp... when I can see
The problem is, at least for me, that I never actually get to
see my desktop. All day long, virtually every day, I have Mozilla
open with its multiple tabs looking at every Linux site you can
think of, a Gnumeric spreadsheet with the day's storyboard, and
Evolution churning out whatever e-mail makes it past spamassassin.
With these three windows open at any given time, I hardly every get
to see the actual desktop.
Since I have Weather Report 2.6 running on the GNOME panel, and
Evolution beeps when I get new mail, I only missed the added
functionality of the RSS-Feed. But, setting up some bookmarks in
Mozilla to alert me when a page updates was a workaround for
I still wanted a cool desktop, though, so I went hunting about
for a nifty theme instead. And therein lies another tale.
So, Linux on the desktop? Well, in the most literal sense of the
termd, I'll believe it when I see it.
In the meantime, it's a holiday weekend here in the States, and
you know what that means. Linux Today's newsfeed will not be
running this coming Monday, May 31, as the staff (me) enjoys a
weekend of relaxation (watching sports). To those celebrating, have
a safe Memorial Day weekend, and for the rest of you, please feel
free to relax amongst yourselves. :)