Feeds

back to article Party like it's 1999: CDE Unix desktop REBORN

The original Unix desktop, the Common Desktop Environment or CDE, is back. Seven years after Sun replaced it with GNOME on Solaris, the Open Group's Common Desktop Environment has returned, now fully open-source and with a modern Linux port. CDE was developed about 20 years ago as a unified desktop environment for all the …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Paris Hilton

Fond memories!

10 years ago I used mainly Sun and HP machines under CDE. When I had to install software on Apple Mac or MS Windows machines, they were so clumsy by comparison.

Paris, 'cos she's an icon.

10
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fond memories!

I was at Durham Uni 2000 to 2003 (doing CS) and and the Unix workstations that we used, Solaris if I remember rightly, were running this. I thought it looked quite interestingly retro even then. My non-CS friends who knew nothing but Windows (Mac was dead on its arse at the time) thought it was hilarious and refused to use it, even though you could still surf and get to all your emails, and you could completely cut out the humungous queue in the library computer room by going to the handful of these workstations sitting un-loved at the back. Happy days!

10
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fond memories!

Ten years ago, you thought Win and Mac were clumsy by comparison to CDE? I think that says more about you than it does about CDE, Mac OS or Windows. I used CDE in the early 90s and even then it had a stark, utilitarian feel, when compared to other GUIs available at the time.

12
7
Bronze badge
Meh

Re: Fond memories!

Fond memories? I recall occasionally meeting it on 1990's RISC workstations and thinking "what a bloated piece of ****". My preferred desktop was based on twm at the time, which had about 1/10 of the resource usage of CDE and started almost instantly, even on 1990's hardware.

Of course, by modern bloatware standards, CDE is now probably really lightweigh (at least until enthusiasts get around to "modernising" it). But I suspect nowadays it does not have any practical advantages over XFCE, which in the Linux world is more mainstream and thus better supported (just today I heard Debian is going to make XFCE the default DE in their next version). But let all flowers bloom...

6
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Thumb Up

Re: Durham Uni

Heh snap. You must have been in the year above me but I had exactly the same thoughts about it. Do you know if they still use it? They were trialling Linux servers running GNOME on Fedora by the time I left.

1
0
K
Bronze badge

Re: Fond memories!

I had some good times hacking up CDE ... But have to agree with you, it was a piece of dogs meet. but the late 90's Windows and MacOS had far exceeded CDE.

1
4
Unhappy

Re: Durham Uni

Solaris+CDE has been replaced with Fedora Linux+Gnome and Ubuntu :(

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Durham Uni

Not sure to be honest mate, haven't been back to the department itself since I left. You used to be able to telnet into the Unix servers from outside networks, pretty sure that doesn't work any more, which might indicate they've been switched off, but equally it might just mean they got a bit more security-conscious, or changed the names of them or something.

Nice to meet a fellow CS graduate in the wild - sorry I'm A/C as posting from work and I know my boss reads these threads in his lunch hour!

0
0
Happy

Re: Fond memories!

I have memories of SunTools on SunOS, from the early 90's. I think that pre-dated CDE? It certainly looks more like what I remember DEC ULTRIX workstations of the same era using. Ohhh. now I want a circular mouse with those offset wheels underneath :-D

Cheers,

1
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Fond memories! - +1 for twm

I remember when twm came out as "tom's window manager" before it was renamed .. but then again I remember the transition from X10 to X11.

I hated the Motif widgets that CDE was built on (UI design by committee was never nice) ... always felt my eyes bleed when I used it .. too many nested rectangles and a bloated API/callbacks ... but then I did write my own X11 widget set 8-)

Nothing beat twm + xvt (the xterm replacement written by ex-colleague JB@ukc) for a minimalist developer desktop .. + xclock & xeyes if you must have some eye-candy !-\ Ah, happy hacking days, now replaced by meetings and reports.

3
0
Thumb Up

Re: Fond memories!

me too :)

when i saw the screengrab, my first though was "thats the amiga workbench". nice, utilitarian (as already mentioned) GUI.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fond memories!

"True it was not as pretty as some GUIs but what do you want on a server running Solaris in a server room? No, it did its job well and looking at the screen shot does bring back happy memories"

Who said anything about servers? I was using it on Sun Sparc Stations and x-terms, the Windows or Mac machines were always more popular at my uni. Which also sort of suggests that the vast amount of cash paid for these workstations was, even then, taking the piss a bit.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fond memories!

**SIGH** Twenty years ago I was using VUE on HP-UX workstations and then they introduced CDE. Not sure which one I preferred.

And I still occasionally develop the odd program using Motif.

1
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Fond memories!

I am a bit older (more like early mid 90s in school) and I always found CDE on the unix boxes to be pretty sleek and exotic and cool to work with. Later though once Netscape was the only browser in town they become less useful. Oh sure Netscape technically ran on CDE but the code was of such garbage quality that it would often bring the whole unix system down. Pretty impressive really being it was unix. Microsoft winning the browser wars wasn't all due to the windows monopoly.

0
0
Silver badge
Linux

Re: Durham Uni

Even on Solaris, Gnome replaced CDE a long time ago.

CDE is more like "partying like it's 1989".

By 1999, the two main efforts to replace and forget CDE were already under way.

1
0
Trollface

Re: Fond memories!

Do you mean rewriting it in C++?

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: Fond memories!

same here. decades ago used Motif HPUX workstation. Only used a mac for M$ software for corporate needs.

Windows at home, but always wanted that unix feel there. Gnome never impressed. BTW ITIRC that KDE was meant to be an open rip off of CDE ? Then it got big.

0
0

Re: Fond memories!

Memories - hah! We still use Netscape on OSF/1 under CDE on a daily basis. It forms the basis of our online help system. Nothing wrong with it! Unstable - no way.

Mind you, on a closed network, we don't have to contend with modern websites.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Durham Uni

I remember those workstations from way back in 1993 , using gopher to grab stuff from around the world. I recall a hack which would allow you to pop up an image on someone else's workstation , had great fun sending unsuspecting victims a surprise image :0).

When i was there they were all hostnamed after star systems.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Fond memories!

Netscape got somewhat better towards the end (anything after 4 though was basically a new code base) but there was a reason they threw everything open source all of sudden. There code had become unmaintainable and the community quickly realized it and rewrote the thing from the ground up.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Fond memories!

At Durham there is still a little bit of Unix left for legacy use, but it's the same two servers as from the early 2000s (altair and deneb); full details are at http://www.dur.ac.uk/cis/desktop/

The vast majority of all desktops are now Windows 7 straight, or in a few rooms can dual boot with Fedora. There are no dedicated Unix or Linux terminals around anymore, the only dedicated non Windows desktops are a few managed Macs for certain staff. Most Linux work is done on a timesharing system over ssh.

Use of Unixes or BSDs in student bedrooms has also been banned - you have to be running an up to date Linux, Mac or a non-server version of Windows.

Even the HPC cluster is now Linux running on a load of HP blades.

It is still possible to ssh into the linux service remotely (ssh -X vega.dur.ac.uk), but the Security Hardening project has made it a little tougher to get remote access through other means.

0
0
Silver badge

I see a place for a modern variant of CDE.

I've been using version 2.1 on old Sun gear for years.

Most of my desktop systems will remain KDE 3.x, though.

2
1
Silver badge

Re: I see a place for a modern variant of CDE.

XFCE started off as a clone of CDE and still captures some of the same experience as CDE but is more configurable and modern. I think it's more suitable to lightweight deployments where memory footprint or graphical performance would rule out something like GNOME or KDE.

2
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: I see a place for a modern variant of CDE.

I use XFCE now since KDE moved to 4.

My main machine has a dual core AMD CPU. 4 Gb of memory etc. and it really flies. Using Gnome or KDE just gets in the way and that, I think, is a welcome legacy from CDE.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: I see a place for a modern variant of CDE.

I would switch to XFCE if it had a desktop magnifier like KDE has (as a desktop effect rather than a separate program). My eyesight is deteriorating and I need it to see the screen.

0
0
Bronze badge

Ah, the days when a desktop environment was just that - it drew boxes for windows, tiny little icons and got out of the way.

Something tells me that by the time this thing is integerated with FreeDesktop standards, DBus, and all the other junk that's "necessary" nowadays, it'll be just as much a resource hog as any other.

Seriously, people. Give me Windows 3.1 looks, and the ability to run modern programs and then get the hell out of my way. If you need to use even 16Mb RAM, I want to know why.

9
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

"If you need to use even 16Mb RAM, I want to know why."

Triple-buffering a 2560 x 1440 pixel display requires 84 MB of RAM just for the display buffers. Most modern operating systems require the feature to provide the compositing features.

Now, using Display PDF might seem an odd choice for a GUI, but it's also the reason for OS X's ubiquitous PDF support: it's basically 'free' for developers. And this brings us to your next request:

"Give me Windows 3.1 looks, and the ability to run modern programs and then get the hell out of my way."

You're asking for mutually exclusive features: a low-footprint GUI that can run "modern programs". Modern programs rely on the rich APIs and features of modern operating systems. Operating systems aren't there for the benefit of end users: they're there for the benefit of developers. End users only ever see the pretty windows and icons—the user interface—but, as you've just shown, they don't really understand what's going on under the hood, or why operating systems are designed the way they are.

GNU / Linux distros have failed spectacularly in the consumer space precisely because the FOSS community haven't really understood the connection between that GUI and the underlying OS. If your OS forces me to jump through a thousand hoops just to get basic features into my application, why would I choose to develop for it when I can target the much more developer-friendly Windows and OS X?

OS X lets me build a complete database-driven application without writing more than a dozen or so lines of code. I could have a basic stock control application written in a week. Add another week and it'd be running on the iPad, and possibly even the iPhone too. The secret is in the Xcode IDE and the OS X (and iOS) APIs which do so much of the heavy lifting for me.

Windows leads the way here: Microsoft are, at heart, a developer tools company, not an OS company. (MS-DOS was bought in. Windows NT was the first fully home-grown OS Microsoft made.) Their operating systems are convenient packages of developer technologies and tools, with a nice GUI for end users to interact with them too. Visual Basic was arguably more of an attraction for corporate adoption of Windows 3.x than Microsoft Office: suddenly, custom business applications became a lot cheaper to build, allowing businesses to automate more tasks.

CDE is a throwback to the late '80s / early '90s approach in the UNIX community of separating everything from everything else. It's a very modular approach, so you can customise it to your own needs, but it also makes it inherently more difficult to code for if your goal is that of a consistent user experience. Which is why UNIX does so well in vertical markets where customisation is desirable—e.g. Android—yet fails badly in the consumer space where consistency and ease of development are far more important.

Your conflicting request proves my point. You literally cannot run a modern application on a 20-year-old GUI, because you can't build such applications on such flimsy foundations without expending far more effort and resources than it's worth.

17
8
Silver badge

You can probably use twm if you like that sort of environment.

Personally I quite like XFCE4 for its quick-load. I can netboot mythbuntu over 100mb ethernet in normal OS load times. But if I'm working all day, KDE would probably be my choice.

Note that most apps will require KDE or Gnome installed as they use the shared libraries - kmail can't draw a text window without KDE installed and the libraries loaded.

It will be interesting to see how the VDI space plays out. WinXP is rather efficient compared to W7 in terms of desktop resources, so I suspect there will be a lot of RAM pain when those upgrades go through.

1
0
Silver badge

DBus is just mechanism built over sockets which allow messages to be broadcast or sent from one application to another via pub/sub. e.g. that new mail has arrived, or that an appointment is due, or that the printer is jammed.

What exactly is your objection to that?

4
0

Windows 3.1 looks...

Windows 3.1 looks you say? Sounds like Windows 8 is what you're after then...

6
0
Anonymous Coward

> Triple-buffering a 2560 x 1440 pixel display requires 84 MB of RAM just for the display buffers.

Hmmm

2560 x 1440 x 24 bits = 11,059,200 bytes per buffer.

Three buffers makes it 33,177,600 or 31.6 MB of RAM.

You might want to make each pixel 32 bits to put each pixel on a 4 byte boundary.

This would make it 2560 x 1440 x 4 x 3 = 44,236,800 bytes or 42.2 MB.

2
0
Silver badge

@Sean Timarco Baggaley

"Which is why UNIX does so well in vertical markets where customisation is desirable—e.g. Android—yet fails badly in the consumer space where consistency and ease of development are far more important."

Uh ... Sean, your commentardry has a few problems.

For a start, Apple's "OSX" IS UNIX ...

Secondly, I write modern software for 40 year old systems on a regular basis.

Somehow, I doubt there is "an app" that will allow you to comprehend the above ...

3
2
Happy

Maybe he'd prefer an OS which was designed to run quickly and in a small footprint rather than one which has 98% of an airline booking system built in to it on the off chance that a developer might want to use it? If a developer wants particular functionality on my system, they just specify some libraries in the .deb. For me that's better than having absolutely everything built in, just in case.

(Using Lubutu, power switch to usable in fourteen seconds).

2
0
Happy

I liked CDE

My first big admin project was upgrading Sun workstations from SunOS 4.x to Solaris 2.5 and higher. This included CDE, from 2.5.1, IIRC. And compared to the old Sun OpenWindows environment, CDE was much faster and easier to use. The multiple desktops were fantastic for organising my tasks (one for main work, one for internet, one for admin tasks on the main servers etc) and this set up has been a mainstay in my work ever since (whether with Gnome, KDE, CDE or Irix).

The only desktop that doesn't allow this sort of thing is Windows, at least by default. Maybe there's some third-party virtual desktop stuff out there?

I'm tempted to get the CDE source and give it a whirl.

Colin

4
0
Thumb Up

Re: I liked CDE

I too loved CDE - did the job and without any distractions (if you wanted eye candy you could go buy a lava lamp and place next to your monitor).

Given what Microsoft are laying upon windows 8 users then a port of CDE as a replacement GUI, could just be justified.

4
2
Boffin

Re: I liked CDE

The only desktop that doesn't allow this sort of thing is Windows, at least by default. Maybe there's some third-party virtual desktop stuff out there?

There are various ways of running and displaying Unix/Linux apps on Windows, depending upon your level of compromise between tackyness and resource hogging. One interestingly weird but effective approach involves using Colinux (A Windows device driver which runs Linux) and combining this with Xming (an X manager running on Windows). Alternatively run the Unix/Linux app on a seperate box, launched using a Putty SSH command line, and use Xforwarding to display it using XMing on Windows. I've not found a good way to cut and paste between Linux and Window app windows running on the same desktop using XMing though.

You may prefer using VirtualBox or VMWare running a Linux VM if your Windows hardware is up to a good enough spec - and it's worth buying AMD or Intel CPUs with hardware virtualisation support when making new purchases. Virtual machines also have their usability glitches, e.g. restricting cut and paste between systems running on the same desktop.

0
0
Boffin

Re: I liked CDE

Colinux was good a half decade ago, but is now effectively dead. This is in large part because it doesn't have an x64 version; at last check (five minutes ago), they're still complaining about how much work it is, just like they've been doing ever since someone pointed out their software only runs on a 32-bit machine. Colinux also, as with any VM, requires that you dedicate to it a chunk of system resource -- CPU, disk, and RAM -- which gets annoying after a while, as does the weirdness of trying to get two completely separate paradigms to live nicely together. (In my experience, copy-paste problems are the least of it!)

You've entirely left out Cygwin, which is a good way of running Linux apps on Windows; unlike your other mentioned options, Cygwin does require that you compile from source rather than just running a Linux binary directly, but it's got an enormous amount of prepackaged software already available, without much more effort than running yum or apt or insert your favorite package manager here -- and the full GNU toolchain is also available, along with more libraries than you can shake a stick at, so building from source isn't really a trial in most cases.

Combined with Xming (or not), the result is as much or as little Windows as you like; you can run a fullscreen X server and use Windows purely as a HAL (though you might need to pop out for a moment to configure a wireless adapter or similar), or you can run Xming in multiwindow mode and intermingle Windows and Cygwin applications willy-nilly (like I do), or you can leave out the X server entirely and use Cygwin only for services like sshd and crond.

And, last but not least, under Cygwin, copy-paste is supported.

2
0

Re: I liked CDE @PyLETS

"There are various ways of running and displaying Unix/Linux apps on Windows, depending upon your level of compromise between tackyness and resource hogging."

You may have got the wrong end of the stick here, sorry. I know I can use Xming and similar to run an X login to a Unix box, blow this up to full screen and hide all the Windows stuff.

What I meant was: is there a virtual/multiple desktop solution for Windows itself? The number of times I've seen people with multiple apps and windows running, 20+ sometimes, all crowding the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. It takes ages just to find something in an environment like that.

A Windows GUI that can support multiple workspaces (like CDE, KDE, Gnome and all the rest mentioned in this thread) would be a major improvement to Windows. Is there such a product?

Colin

0
0
Thumb Up

Re: I liked CDE @PyLETS

If you're running Windows XP (eschewing, as sensible people do, everything since) there is Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager, available from the PowerToys section of http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/windows-xp. It works pretty well, in my experience.

0
0

Re: I liked CDE @PyLETS

I've been running JS Pager for more than 10 years, using the same binary today that I downloaded then. It's the first thing I install on any fresh Windows, even for friends & family. At first they don't know what it's for, later they wonder how they ever got along without it.

The desktop selector looks a little tacky but allows a number of tweaks and generally does the job well.

0
0
Happy

...virtual/multiple desktop solution for Windows...

VirtuaWin.

Has it's moments, but it's generally pretty solid and fairly configurable. And one of my Windows desktops is a full-screen Linux VM with multiple desktops itself.

0
0

Windows desktop pager

I'm a big fan of Virtual Dimension for this purpose; it's free and available from Sourceforge. You can set up as many desktops as you like, organized however you please; it handles its own hotkeys, and can recognize combinations like Ctrl+Alt+Win+Right Arrow; it doesn't, in my experience, inflict nearly the level of annoyance to be expected from most Windows desktop pagers (the Power Toy one, and JS Pager, emphatically included). Virtual Dimension does occasionally lose track of which desktop a window belongs on, and shows it on every desktop whether you want that or not, but compared to other Windows desktop pagers I've tried, that's not really much of a problem.

(The essential difficulty here is that Windows really isn't designed to support more than one desktop at all; while I gather you can create more than one desktop API object, and even switch the display between them, you cannot move windows between them, and apparently can't do much else you'd expect to be able to. This being the case, desktop pagers are forced to fake it, usually by hiding windows which shouldn't appear on whatever desktop you're on at the moment, and in general I'd say a bit of clunkiness is to be expected no matter what you're using.)

One mild PITA with Virtual Dimension is that it takes up some desktop real estate if you want it to show the actual desktop pager, although you can also control it via a system tray icon; if you want the pager, but don't want it to overlap maximized windows, you can use Desktop Coral (payware, but not nagware, and you can use it free forever) to carve off a chunk along one edge of your desktop in which to put the Virtual Dimension pager and maybe a dock or something, if you like.

That's also a good way to make the most of a widescreen display's extra horizontal real estate, something I think a lot of folks would be happier with their machines if they gave some thought to doing -- take this, for example, which is a shot of my own desktop, and note that the maximized web-browser window has almost the entire height of the screen to display in, because the taskbar, Firefox tabs, et cetera, are all pushed off to the side in columns rather than taking up scanty vertical real estate.)

Hope this helps!

0
0

I remember using HP's VUE, which is a lot of what you'll come into contact with in CDE. At the time I thought it was a bloated pig, compared to OpenLook. By the time CDE came together, it was just about right, weight and power-wise on newer workstations. CDE had some nice features for users, but was still a mess underneath for sysadmins.

2
0
Linux

Cubuntu...

...its now inevitable and just a question of when.

3
0
Thumb Up

Re: Cubuntu...

I would donate to a Kickstarter project for that.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Cubuntu...

Cubian or nothing for me

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Barely used it... Just enough to log on to my University account, and then launch the CAD application from a command prompt.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.