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back to article Ubuntu without the 'U': Booting the Big Four remixes

It's the end of April, so that means that there's a new release of Ubuntu. Well, actually, no - it means that there are eight of them. Don't like standard Ubuntu's Mac-OS-X-like Unity desktop? Here's where to look. There are umpteen "remixes" alongside the eponymous distro. These mostly differ by having a different desktop - and …

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If...

If you don't mind a scruffy GRUB then it's better just to install them side by side and try them that way. The average HDD has enough space for 7 easily.

Alternatively you can just install the different desktops over Ubuntu and choose per session but it might be best to follow a guide for that as my success with this has been mixed :)

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Re: If...

Alternatively, one can put them on a usb stick, provided there are iso images available. I am sure they will fit on a 8-16gb flash drive (plus some persistent casper-rw space). This way the compressed images take up around 1gb (+casper-rw). However, you need more RAM for seamless performance.

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Paris Hilton

Re: If...

On a memory stick will not really give a good impression of responsiveness etc.

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Re: If...

On a memory stick will not really give a good impression of responsiveness etc.

never got a any bad impression of responsiveness on any hardware I've tried, usually low end. Sometimes it won't correctly boot and an extra kernel option is required. In the latter case you'd need to upgrade the kernel after the install. (Yeah, nvidia is the only exception). Talking about various flavors of Mint here though :)

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Meh

Re: If... I only had a clue

What you want is a sleek kernel, tailored to your box, a base system and the apps you need. Why anyone would have several distros - where +50% of the files are exactly the same - alongside each other, is beyond me. Maybe it's time to RTFM ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If... I only had a clue

Most people wouldn't even understand what you just said. Which is why people get boxed products.

And even most people that do understand do not give a crap and have far better things to do with their time.

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And if 8 isn't enough...

And if 8 isn't enough, you can always install one of the distros based on Ubuntu, like Mint.

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Re: And if 8 isn't enough...

Or even go one step better, run Debian sid.

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Re: And if 8 isn't enough...

Or even better still, LMDE.

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I was surprised how much RAM Kubuntu gobbled up.

However, I can tell anyone who cares that Lubuntu is a little life saver.

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It all depends on what the RAM is being used for (e.g. caching etc.). I have seen other stats with KDE on other distros (openSUSE I think) where it uses less RAM than the GNOME-derived competition.

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For "most Windows like"...

read "developers have stuck most closely to the so called 'universal standards' for GUI's, in that they haven't become collectively insane and are not busy stripping out functionality and common sense as fast their little fingers can type."

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Re: For "most Windows like"...

>most Windows like

>read "developers have stuck most closely to the so called 'universal standards' for GUI's, in that they haven't become collectively insane and are not busy stripping out functionality and common sense as fast their little fingers can type."

Your post might have made more sense before Windows 8 but you just described Microsoft as much as the Gnome guys.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: might have made more sense before Windows

No, it still makes sense.

Microsoft are just too stupid to realise that, for the rest of us, "Windows-like" is going to mean before-Windows-8.

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Exactly

A century from now when people ask "what did Microsoft do" the amswer will be "they invented the taskbar".

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Headmaster

Re: Exactly

"A century from now when people ask "what did Microsoft do" the amswer will be "they invented the taskbar"

No they didn't Acorn invented that with RiscOS, about 4 years before Windows95 appeared.

Waits for someone to chip in with an even earlier example....

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Re: Exactly

"No they didn't"

That doesn't mean people won't say they did.

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Re: Exactly

But history is written by the winner.

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Pint

I'm just waiting

for the Ubuntu haters to rant about how stupid Unity is (which would be totally pointless in this "anything-but-Unity-thread", but hey. . .), and that Shuttleworth is not very clever, and that Canonical is just ripping you off, and that and that and that . . .

I've never really seen the point in criticising a configurable OS for it's GUI; If yo9u don't like something, change it! Or let someone change it for you: enter Mint.

Most of the time GUIs are a very personal preference and you mainly stick with what you grew up with, thereby not giving a new GUI the chance to show it's strengths.

In my opinion Ubuntu is a great package, it's easy to install, runs with loads of hardware (even older stuff) and gives users a wide choice of GUI; all combined with an easy, reliable update solution and a ton of available software. I've got no problem of recommending it as a Desktop OS. I actually found that quite a few non-IT people handled Ubuntu/Unity a lot better than Win8/TIFKAM.

And I have to confess that I actually rather like Unity now.

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Linux

Re: I'm just waiting

> I've never really seen the point in criticising a configurable OS for it's GUI

Ubuntu isn't sold as being a kit. It's not Gentoo. If you want a kit, then you run that.

The whole selling point of Ubuntu is supposed to be that it is ready to use. It falls down somewhat in this area. That's why there are different variants and Mint. These alternatives exist because Linux users aren't just passive consumers that will take whatever crap you want to give them.

If Ubuntu isn't doing it for you then you can (and should) dump them for someone that's doing a better job.

That's how the free market works.

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Re: I'm just waiting

Upvoted to counter an apparently gratuitous downvote---too many of us do indeed lead sad lives, with far too much time on our hands.

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h3
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Re: I'm just waiting

I don't think they are I can use GUI really what I don't is one that reduces the speed that applications can work at by kiling 3d performance.

I would rather use nothing at all (Just a full screen xterm) and a graphical browser full screen when I need it than anything that kills performance of the things you actually want. (Fortunately it is not the case but if my only option was this or Unity or Gnome 3 it is the option I would take.

(Not fussy otherwise - KDE is ok because you can just disable the unnecessary part really easily and then its pretty fast not that I would use the Ubuntu version of it I think I would use Opensuse.)

twm or mwm or olwm all fine xmonad,sawfish,ratpoison ,enlightenment dr17,afterstep.

The only thing I am bothered about is focus follows mouse with no autoraise. (Unless there is something else that makes it not necessary like with xmonad). I also like the terminus font but I am not totally inflexible about that. (I would have it on my desktop but I wouldn't mess around installing it everywhere).

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Re: I'm just waiting

You miss the point. A lot of people liked the Ubuntu gnome-2 style interface and had been using it for years. A lot of them are not OS-junkies - they don't want to have to learn new and exciting ways to screw up their workflow, they just want a stable platform which won't throw up nasty surprises. If Unity had been introduced as an alternative desktop on a new 'buntu there would have been no howls of complaint, but it userped the gnome style interface with something completely different. In my case, Unity was totally unsuited to the way I work. I switched to Xubuntu - which is not too far from gnome - and am now experimenting with Mint/Mate but all of this is completely unproductive.

And yes, I know that gnome had moved on to the less than popular gnome 3 but that was because the gnome development community suffered from the same arrogant "we know what's best" attitude as Canonical.

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Re: I'm just waiting

@h3 - I was beginning to think I was the only person still using focus follows mouse with no autoraise. It confuses the hell out of people brought up on windows but can be exceptionally productive with some application mixes.

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Re: I'm just waiting

>That's how the free market works.

With Linux its only partially exposed to market forces. Yes for profit companies like Red Hat, etc doing most of the heavy lifting but you also are at the whim of what the hobbyist developers consider fun for somethings.

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Linux

Re: I'm just waiting

"not giving a new GUI the chance to show it's strengths."

And what happens when you have tried the new GUI, and it doesn't not only show any strength but you find out is completely backwards?

Gnome 3.x is crap, Unity is slightly better but shit because it crashes an average of 10 times a day (I haven't tried 13.04)

My advice is: XFCE 4.10.2 rules, XFCE is the one that deserves a chance.

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Re: I'm just waiting

@h3 "The only thing I am bothered about is focus follows mouse with no autoraise."

I'm with you on that point. It is so much more productive. Ditto for for Alt+mouse button for move, resize and raising. This should be the default behaviour on all desktops, including Windows and Macs which are unusable because of this. Also mouse middle-click for paste is something I really miss when I'm forced to use Windows.

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FAIL

Re: I'm just waiting

Alt+

you obviously must be right handed. for the 10% of the population that are lefties, this useless.

Go on, try using the mouse with your left hand and then entering all those nifty shortcuts. See how long before you get peed off with it.

Utter fail.

At least Unity (the only thing 'Unity' about it is the condemnation of it by my former Ubuntu loving friends) hasn't gone down the TIFKAM/Metro route (yet). I'm firmly in the Gnome2 trench btw. Where is all the KISS principles gone in U/I design these days? Into the recycle bin of history is my guess.

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@ JohnSanders - Re: I'm just waiting

"

And what happens when you have tried the new GUI, and it doesn't not only show any strength but you find out is completely backwards?

"

If it doesn't suit you (My laptop doesn't crash, by the way, what are you doing?), then use a different GUI.

Easy as that.

Again, and again, and again: Calling something 'crap' is not a valid statement in my opinion, even as a personal opinion it's unsuitable. Unless, of course, you were born in Vulgaria.

By the way, I've got nothing against XFCE, Debian, Mint; I actually have those in use as well, but on my casual-everyday-lappy I'm happy with Unity. And I don't understand how a distribution can be so flamed for a replaceable part of it.

It'd be slightly different with OSX or Windows, these are quite tied down. But Linux?

This is probably the main reason why it doesn't catch on as a desktop OS. To many squabbling, fanatical fanboys who scare hoi polloi away.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm just waiting

I find having to click when the mouse is already where I want it very irritating and it is even more so that when I need to see only those lines I am typing but want to read from the whole of another window that one is obscured Like pop-ups that take over the whole screen till acknowledged when deep in concentration.

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PJI
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Re: I'm just waiting

You can set osx to do it. Of course, using an X wm on osx also gives it.

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Re: I'm just waiting

You can set osx to [have focus follow the mouse cursor]

Windows too. In XP "focus-follows-mouse", aka "implicit focus policy"[1], could be enabled with the misnamed "X Mouse" feature of TweakUI. In Vista, Win7, and the past few releases of Server, it's been an option in the Ease of Use / Accessibility control panel. I don't know whether it's still an option in Win8.

Unfortunately some Windows applications misbehave under the implicit focus policy. Visual Studio 2008 (which was a showcase of poor UI ideas) was one; it had various windows, such as the Properties dialog, that would automatically unmap themselves when they lost focus, unless they were "pinned" in the manner of some older Sun GUIs. When the dialog was first mapped, it wasn't pinned; and under implicit focus, it immediately lost the focus, and unmapped itself before you could do anything. Impressively stupid. It was possible to work around this by setting a focus-change delay; that made applications like VS2008 usable, but it was an annoying compromise, since sometimes the focus would lag behind where you expected it to be.

[1] As the Motif window manager had it, back in the day. I don't remember what older WMs made this configurable, or what they called it if they did.

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I'm waiting for a

GameBuntu.

Ubuntu designed specifically to boot up and launch steam, along with its dependencies. Nothing else. I could see it being useful in a dual boot situation.

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Linux

and what about

Mate and Cinnamon? Aren't there ppa's for those which I remember successfully installing on a friend's machine? There also used to be Fubuntu (fluxbox) available. This one might be even more lightweight than LXFCE.

Although, for my own desktop I have switched to Mint and Debian, however, imho, all the members the of the *Buntu family look pretty good. MS Windows Vista/8... cough-cough.... This is one of those many instances where freedom pays off pretty lavishly.

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Re: and what about

s/LXFCE/LXDE/g

was it XFCE +LXDM I was thinking about ;-)

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Re: and what about

>This one might be even more lightweight than LXFCE.

Fluxbox might be more lightweight than openbox but I haven't seen a desktop linux iso based on it under 35 meg like I have with openbox (Slitaz).

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Re: and what about

right, Damn Small Linux distro, DSL, claims to only require about 32MB of RAM with fluxbox. However, if I remember correctly, they are still using 2.4 kernel, there were plans to switch to 2.6 though.

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Re: and what about

Yeah DSL uses less memory but their iso is over 100 meg now last I remember. Not that it matters with even memory sticks being in triple digit gigabytes but compact is cool.

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Linux

With the way canonical has been acting lately why even bother with Ubuntu? If you have or want to use something that uses APT, Why not just use Debian? I mean Ubuntu is just a fork of Debian with proprietary and patent encumbered software included by default, right? Like any other distro, Its not that hard to add repos and software that isn't included in Debian?

So If you absolutely need Canonical's applications or what some would consider objectionable software, you can always add the repo and install the package, right?

I come from the land of Headwear (RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora with KDE because I don't like Gnome, I also have to suffer Oracle Linux at work occasionally, but its basically RHEL with Oracle bloat added on). I'm used to having to add certain things manually (codecs, some drivers, etc) because there are legal or ethics issues involved, so forgive me if I'm saying something completely alien to a Ubuntu user.

I tried using Ubuntu (actually Kubuntu) about six years ago and it was a terrible experience for me personally, and at the present time I don't have to have anything to do with it at either of my jobs, so I don't, but I can see how some people might like it.

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hmm

Granted Ubuntu is pants these days but they do have a big 3rd party compatibility edge on debian. I moved from Mint Debian rolling to regular Mint just because of library version conflicts causing the Steam client to not run. I could resolve them myself of course but not worth the effort. Debian is only a good choice imho if ALL the software you want to run is in their repository.

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KDE

Oh, if only there was a way to switch the desktop over to 'just show the files in ~/Desktop'.

Oh wait, there is...

Wonder what else you skimped on reviewing...

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Re: KDE

Virtual desktops/workspaces. They are available as well as Activities. I wouldn't blame a layman for confusing them since they are similar yet completely orthogonal to each other, but a reviewer should be familiar enough with the object of the review to not just make something up.

Also just making a vague assertion that 3D hardware is somewhat required for KDE is BS, you can run it very well thank you without and without having to use a different window manager. This was a USP for a bit, but xfwm4 has learned the same trick.

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Re: KDE

The reviewer also has not appreciated how extremely useful the "Folder view" widget is on KDE. If he had just bothered himself to actually understand and then explain what it is, then there might be a bit more appreciation for how the KDE guys are evolving the desktop and making it useful in ways Microsoft are not.

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Re: KDE

@Tom Chiverton 1:

If you had paid a little more attention, you might have noticed that in the second KDE screenshot, I do actually show a reconfigured desktop with icons on it (and a hierarchical start menu).

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Re: KDE

@Will Stephenson:

The example that you choose to give as a positive thing - that it has /both/ virtual desktops /and/ "activities" - is the kind of pointless bloat that really annoys me.

I have been using KDE since 1998; when did you start, out of interest? KDE 1 was good: focused, simple, clear. Clunky in places but the best thing around. KDE 2 started to add clutter and bloat. KDE 3 was a huge, overcomplicated mess. KDE 4 I personally find completely unusable, not to mention so ugly it is actually unpleasant to look at.

However, I know that some people like it. (People completely devoid of any æsthetic sense, presumably.) So I tried to give it a fair crack of the whip.

As for the 3D part - I found Kubuntu's performance in a VM poor, although not as poor as Unity and GNOME Shell. When I took the same steps required for them to function well, KDE also responded a great deal better. Its extensive use of transparency and similar effects punishes a 2D-only display and is wantonly demanding of CPU. As well as being fugly, as I think I mentioned above.

There was a time when KDE was the gold standard of Unix desktops. It isn't any more. Now, it's a self-indulgent mishmash of thousands of twiddly little options and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

What I wrote in the review was me being fair and even-handed towards if.

HTH. HAND.

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Re: KDE

@Paul 135:

I've tried it. I have colleagues who love it. I hate it, myself. And it was my review. :¬)

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Re: KDE

@ Liam Proven

> The example that you choose to give as a positive thing - that it has /both/ virtual desktops

> /and/ "activities" -

*Did* I give that as a positive example? I pointed out that there are both, not one instead of the other. FWIW I agree that the big 3 new features in KDE 4: embedded PIM middleware; semantic search; and topic sessions need to be more useful to users to earn their place on the default desktop, otherwise they should get out of the way. I've started a little project to address that within the base KDE framework that you once admired.

> is the kind of pointless bloat that really annoys me.

You do make that quite clear.

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Re: KDE

I tried it recently, and i love it, it reminds me of the later versions of AmigaOS.

Yes, the default floating folder of a few icons is rubbish, switch it to the Search & Launch interface and its far better.

And activities are great, flip between my Emulation, Games, Office, Images and Video desktop with a quick win-tab. The lack of multiple desktops is one reason why Windows is always lacking for power-users.

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