From Blue to Brown

Warning! The following post uses a lot of techno-babble and less-than-well-known Linux terms. If you are not familiar with the GNU/Linux operating system, it would help to read this simple Wikipedia explanation first. I have also attempted to provide links for further clarification when using the names of specific Linux programs.

From Blue to Brown

It has been almost a year since I first booted into Kubuntu, the KDE-centric Ubuntu Linux operating system. What a wild ride. I familiarized myself with the applications and the Debian/Ubuntu way of doing Linux, and then I started to reconfigure. And then I reconfigured some more. And then I reconfigured some more. I was installing applications left and right, making DVD playback work here, getting 5.1 audio support there. I eventually let my Slackware background get the best of me, and I compiled drivers (WiFi), software (amaroK SVN, BibleTime CVS, GimpShop), and this all eventually lead to a major mental meltdown. Relating to computer tasks, anyway.

KDE (the Blue) is great for users new to Linux, because it is very similar to Microsoft Windows in many regards. It is also great for experienced Linux users, because it is highly configurable, and these configurations are easy to find, and they provide much needed relief from editing conf files all the time. But, KDE is very sloppy in several places. Mainly in presentation and appearance. This is of course is my humble opinion, but this is also, of course, my humble blog, wherewith I may opine to my heart’s content.

My biggest struggle with KDE was getting non-KDE applications to behave more like KDE applications. I understand that isn’t necessarily KDE’s fault, but much could be done in the standardization of dialog boxes and menu departments. I also started to feel very discontent with the styles and window decorations in KDE. They changed every day (probably more often than my desktop wallpaper), and I never could find something attractive. The default KDE icons, Crystal SVG, are a well-tuned professional icon set. But so much blue gets on my nerves. Literally! And there aren’t Crystal icons for every application in KDE yet, which causes graphic inconsistencies reminiscant of Windows XP still using certain older Windows 2000 icons. They don’t mix; I use computers for long periods at a time, which makes appearance a factor just as important as usability and function.

I knew where this discontent was guiding me, and you probably know by now as well: GNOME (the Brown). GNOME is the default desktop environment for Ubuntu, and thus by nature receives more love and attention in almost all departments (appearance, usability, function). For example: there was an update reminder app for Ubuntu/GNOME long before one came to Kubuntu/KDE. A fabulous icon set, a new-style Human, as well as the tango-fied Human, have been lovingly built especially for Ubuntu. They look great! Ubuntu as a complete product really looks sharp and polished. I recently upgraded my desktop to Dapper 6.06, and I’m enjoying the exploration experience.

One requirement of moving from KDE to GNOME is learning what all the dang-fangled applications do! I actually had to read the Ubuntu User Guide (great job, docteam!) to make sure I understood how to burn a CD (without K3B), and especially to make sure I could adjust system preferences and configurations. In all reality, many of the GNOME apps are ahead of their KDE cousins – Gaim has less AOL IM bugs than Kopete, Ekiga (formerly GnomeMeeting) doesn’t have an official KDE cousin yet, Firefox (default in Ubuntu) is most certainly my preferred browser over Konqueror.

There are troublesome areas, however, as goes any Linux situation in my experience. I’m sure I will appreciate the stability of the Totem movie player over the Kaffeine movie player. But the RhythmBox music player is not anywhere near amaroK’s feature set. There is an alternative called Banshee, which I may investigate soon. I haven’t actually spent that many hours in GNOME yet, so there will be a second part to this post.

What I hope to achieve from this switch is less frustration with the overall appearance of my computer, as well as less time spent configuring applications which should already be human usable.

To be continued, once I get the chance to actually sit down at my desk for a while…