February 21, 2007

The War on DEs/WMs…

Posted in Linux at 11:28 pm by pmatos

War is not only over territories, or power or whatever…
I (like probably many of you) have fought a war on choosing a Linux distribution for the first time. I’ve fought it and I can gladly say it is over. Started about 9 years ago and endured 3 years of struggle. From Redhat, Slackware, Mandrake (now Mandriva), Suse, Redhat again and then finally Gentoo. I’m with Gentoo for 6 years now, at the time it was very immature but still caught my attention and I decided to stick with it. Today is very well known and popular and still satisfies all my needs (already looked at Fedora and Ubuntu but it is not good enough for me to change or even giving it a try). I won’t anymore details on that, because the current war is of another kind.

Once you get to a Linux distro… things are not over. Now you have to choose over KDE or Gnome… or if you ask on a forum you might get many more geeky suggestions like: Blackbox, Fluxbox, XFCE, RatPoison (for the extreme crazy, lunatic geek), E16, etc.

I’ve been about to post on this for about a year… but only now I was able to seat, get some coffee, cookies and just do it!

My initial choice was Gnome (at the time still 1.xx), then moved to KDE (2.xx), tried Gnome again and for some time I jumped in between these two. One day in a crazy and lunatic geek mood I tried RatPoison… why? Because I had just spent a summer learning GNU Emacs in depth so I thought… hell, this is almost an operation system, so I had RatPoison, an emacs window, Netscape and that’s it. In Emacs I had IRC (ERC), Email (Gnus), Scheme (MzScheme, no quack as interface at the time), Common Lisp (CMUCL, no Slime as interface at the time), C, IM and that’s it! Well, I quite remember to had it running over 2 months… For some reason I can’t remember now I changed but I didn’t want those bloated (compared to Ratpoison at least) DEs (Gnome and KDE) so I tried E16. Sleek, fast, never crashed, beautiful, configurable… I sticked to it… for a long time. Then I decided to give Gnome a try, already in 2.8. Argh, didn’t last the weekend. But then KDE 3.3… 3.4… 3.5 and more recently 3.6. In moving to KDE I immediately noticed a crash after the first day or two… but then I decided to stick a little bit longer and I liked it. It had auto mounting, konqueror was nice, net transparency, virtual desktops, nice well-integrated apps, consistent look and feel, etc.

Firstly I changed to KDE 3.3 from E16 (with a short stop on Gnome) for mainly two reasons:

  1. E16 was not having any updates. Although activity on the mailing list showed a lot of effort on E17 (which although being developed for a long time, has not seen a release) nothing on E16 seemed to be happening. That cracked my motivation to keep using E16… as nice as it was…
  2. Then it was at least a year I spent with E16 and have not seen anything regarding the mainstream DEs so I was quite curious and eager to give them a try!

So it was, for the last year (?? already ??) I’ve been using KDE and it seems quite nice, I’ve even programmed a few things in it and am developing a project using kdelibs which are an excellent framework (mainly since they are based on Qt). Still, the more I used it the more I grew tired of the little problems that kept coming up and didn’t happen with E16:

  • Konqueror is memory eating monster and kept, from time to time, eating my processor (some excused themselves with cache blablabla but I tried all possible options and same problems persisted). Moreover, konqueror has problems with google calendar, google mail, netvibes (although it’s now better than it was) and other services I regularly use.
  • Kpdf couldn’t open some pdfs… although acrobat reader could.
  • Kopete has some wierd problems… Video transmission is not responsive. I keep asking and requesting video and when it doesn’t crash it only sends or received video. Rarely (but it happened) I can see and receive video at the same time. Lately message sending just started to fail. Whenever I send a message it eats my processor for about 2 minutes and sends the message afterwards which renders it useless.
  • Key bindings are completely bloated in KDE when compared to E16
  • Most addons I tried to beautify KDE just bloated my desktop, corrupted my disk or crashed my system like kxdocker, ksmoothdock or some other applets I tried to add to the desktop.
  • I wanted to create some bindings for KDE, so the standard solution seems smoke. Lack of documentation, terribly complicated and the need to first bind C to KDE so that I can then bind my language with C (since my language can only connect to C) makes things even worse.

…among other things! I’ve reported all these issues in the respective mailing lists, forums and bugzillas but there are many issues to take care and most them are never handled or the solution is just to get a better PC. The cool solution, if I had a lot of free time would be to get the code and fix the issues… unfortunately I don’t have this amount of free time to spend on these projects.
KDE is good… Somethings are not directly KDE fault but still I’m a little mad at it! KDE4 seems to be the big news on its way still I guess I’ll have to buy a new system before installing it. I don’t think it’ll be a light piece of software!

Well, time to go back to the one who has never left me with a useless system: Enlightenment 16.

On what follows… I’ll explain how I’m moving myself into E16 world again! Be right back!



  1. Paulo Köch said,

    Why not e17? I have a couple of friend using with it and they’re quite pleased with it.

  2. pmatos said,

    Indeed, E17 is cool and nice but I have a couple of reasons for not using it.
    1 – I don’t know how to use it. I know E16, it’s easier to get me going.
    2 – I’ve been following its development and it’s not “as stable as hell” as E16 is.

    Anyway, I’ll be installing it side by side with E16 for some testing.

  3. ion wm said,

    Ratpoison is too clumsy. Try Ion3.

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