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Debian Changes Default Desktop From GNOME To XFCE 328

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the cool-kids-still-use-windowmaker dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The default desktop within Debian 7.0 'Wheezy' has changed from GNOME to Xfce. GNOME, KDE, and LXDE will continue to be available, but the decision was made to default to Xfce. The reported reasoning comes down to size constraints in fitting GNOME on a single CD."
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Debian Changes Default Desktop From GNOME To XFCE

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  • The what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @10:55AM (#40918851) Journal

    There's a "default desktop" in Debian? I thought everyone just installed the netinst and used apt-get to install whatever desktop they wanted.

    • by ilikenwf (1139495)
      Maybe the "default" desktop is just the one that's used for the GUI on the LiveCD/DVD? It still doesn't install anything short of the base system and dependencies without the user who is installing selecting the packages, last I checked...
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Aren't most distros these days going towards trying to fit on a DVD (dual layer?), rather than on the old CD's?

        Can Debian not fit it all on a dual layer DVD?

        • Why would you burn a DVD? Just buy a nice fast $10 USB stick.

          • by Clith (5063)
            Because a DVD costs 20. You could burn 50 DVDs for the cost of one $10 USB stick.
          • Burning an ISO is usually much simpler than setting up a USB installer stick.
            • by PhillC (84728)
              What's difficult about using dd to burn an ISO to a USB stick?
              • by jedidiah (1196)

                ...or having a shiny happy GUI tool like Ubuntu does.

                • I tend to use UNetbootin for about all my usb installs anymore... I've also use vmware with an iso directly to install ESXi and FreeNAS to USB drives (for booting from)... both options work well.
              • by Darinbob (1142669)

                A lot of computers can not boot up to a USB stick. I presume Debian, like many Linux distributions, is interested in running on a wide variety of computers including some that are old. That's why fitting on CD #1 is important for the base distribution. People with better computers are not restricted to only what's in the base, they are also no restricted from creating a bootable USB stick that has everything.

              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                Because there is frankly a shitload of decently powered PCs that won't boot from USB? Especially a lot of the consumer OEM boxes, I swear its like a contest to see who can put the least amount of options in the BIOS. Do they get charged by the checkbox or something? But if you look at some of the Dell or eMachines units they have pretty much jack and squat in the BIOS and if you do the old F12 to choose boot trick more than half the time you get DVD or HDD but NO USB option. I've seen that on what are other

        • A DVD-DL costs a fortune (about 15x a normal DVD). No-one really uses them, except for 360 games, and stuff like that where you don't have a choice.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          "it all" takes up about 8 single-layer DVDs [debian.org]. That's just the main repository... contrib and non-free adds a shitload more.

          So, they try to put the base system and as much of the most common packages on the first disk, so it can be used standalone to get a useful system.

      • Re:The what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jazzmans (622827) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:45PM (#40920237) Journal

        This is Excellent! I've been using XFCE4 for damn near 10 years now, having it be the 'default' means that things like vnc etc etc won't default to gnome (gnome sucks ass) without a customized config file. It also means I can let the 'default' desktop system get installed instead of manually installing the DE and WM I want instead of GDM and Gnome.

        Yay Debian!!!!!

        jaz

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          A good change, definitely.

          Last I played with testing, they had the ability to schedule automatic updates too, like Ubuntu's done.

          Debian's getting pretty damn desktop-usable these days, for sure. The few things that don't fit well (ancient iceweasel for instance) debian-backports is a good help for.

    • Re:The what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dskoll (99328) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:00AM (#40918913)

      I think it's the one you get if you choose "Desktop Environment" in the newbie software selection dialog.

    • The netinst allows you to install a GUI (one of the options it gives). By default, it installs GNOME, although you can change that to xfce, lxde or kde with an option at boot.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:07AM (#40919003)

      apt-get? LUXURY! Us Slackware users use tar -zxf && ./configure && make install!

    • http://www.linuxjournal.com/ufiles/debian_netinstall.png [linuxjournal.com]
      If you do a netinstall, there comes a point when you are asked if you want to install a "Standard system" and there is a choice for "Desktop environment" without any futher choice. In Debian, this meant gnome. If you do the same with ubuntu (minimal iso=netinstall), it shows a longer list with choices including lxde, xfce, kde an others.
      http://i.imgur.com/DTFyq.png [imgur.com]

      Debian does have better tasksel choices, but they are not exposed by the installer. Sure,

  • Excellent news (Score:5, Informative)

    by killmenow (184444) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @10:59AM (#40918909)
    I am okay with this. I've used XFCE on most linux server boxes for years anyway (if any graphical environment at all). Way more lightweight than Gnome or KDE and works great.
  • by Dr. Manhattan (29720) <`sorceror171' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:02AM (#40918941) Homepage
    ...and enjoying it. XFCE works pretty well and is easy to use. This actually makes Debian more attractive to me.

    However... there are definitely some issues that bespeak a need for more polish. E.g. this one [launchpad.net], or this one [launchpad.net]. Hopefully a bit more focused attention will lead to quicker fixes.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:36AM (#40919377)

      > Hopefully a bit more focused attention will lead to quicker fixes.

      Exactly. Nothing focuses attention like becoming the default desktop environment. Fedora probably won't abandon the GNOMEs anytime soon but can anyone see GNOME3 being the default for RHEL7? Ubuntu has went their own zany way with Unity but if the alternate (XFCE, KDE, Mint, etc) spins/forks aren't already accounting for more installs than the base Ubuntu it is only a matter of time because a broken desktop isn't going to fly. And no matter how many users leave neither the Unity or Gnome Shell devs will admit they are leading in a direction few care to follow.

      The difference is we get a choice, we don't have to accept what they create. Pity the poor fools on Windows, they are about to get Metro whether they want it or not and they aren't going to have many options. Heard the latest? The prereleases have been hacked to default to a normal desktop but the RTM has 'fixed' those hacks so they won't work. They aren't going to allow em to escape. Of course corporate types will be able to stay on Win7 for years; end users won't be able to buy a new PC without 8 after the new year.

      And when OS X gets the iOS makeover they won't have any choice either; but of course they will all suddenly decide it is insanely great and exactly what they wanted all along.

      • by Loopy (41728) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @03:25PM (#40922311) Journal

        The difference is we get a choice, we don't have to accept what they create. Pity the poor fools on Windows, they are about to get Metro whether they want it or not and they aren't going to have many options. Heard the latest? The prereleases have been hacked to default to a normal desktop but the RTM has 'fixed' those hacks so they won't work. They aren't going to allow em to escape. Of course corporate types will be able to stay on Win7 for years; end users won't be able to buy a new PC without 8 after the new year.

        Agreed regarding the Metro loophole business, though I'm sure this isn't the last we've heard on this.

        Sadly, though, I'd like to present you the Flamebait of the Day award for that last bit.
        Windows Vista release = Jan 2007
        Windows XP still available from Dell = October 2012
        My sources are telling me Windows 7 will follow much the same plans as XP did, with availability as a "downgrade" option for the next year at the very least.

        Furthermore, Microsoft STILL allows downgrades from some Win7 editions to WinXP! (see http://www.microsoft.com/oem/en/licensing/sblicensing/pages/downgrade_rights.aspx [microsoft.com])

      • OS X has been getting an iOS makeover for nearly 2 years now. Every update they add more and more iOS-isms to the system....Mac Appstore, Reverse the scroll behavior to match the swipe behavior on a touch screen, etc.

    • by number6x (626555) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:58AM (#40919687)

      Your first bug is a Xubuntu bug dealing with their implementation. It is not an XFCE bug. Ubuntu or the Xubuntu volunteer team need to fix this.

      The second is an XFCE, or more specifically a Thunar (the xfce file manager) bug. Judging by the thread, it looks like it has already been fixed in Thunar. I do not know if Xubuntu has updated to used the fixed version yet.

      XFCE definitely has an active development team. The biggest complaint is that there are not enough features or bling. Of course, part of the XFCE philosophy is to have fewer features and bling, but still be fully configurable so potential new users should keep that in mind.

      XFCE is not shooting for the bleeding edge.

      • by MrNemesis (587188)

        GNOME isn't shooting for the bleeding edge either! Instead, it's taking aim at its own foot... ;)

    • by houghi (78078)

      I use XFCE on openSUSE and it is what I expect it to do. It works with multiple monitors (not Xinerama) with NVidia drivers.
      Trying to do that in KDE or GNOME might be possible, but I never found out how.

      I would prefer WindowMaker, but there the multiple monitors does (did?) not work and asking for a solution I got on the merry-go-round between NVIdea, X and Windowmaker. Each pointing to the other.

      The thing I miss is the ease of changing the individual windows in Windowmaker. Especially placing them on deskt

  • I'm delighted.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:02AM (#40918951)

    Whatever the reason is for the change, I will say "Thank god, thank you thank you thank you Debian developers".

  • What is a CD? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:03AM (#40918955)

    And why is it important that a distribution fits on one?

    • by Michalson (638911) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:41AM (#40919451)
      A CD or 'compact disc' was an ancient precursor to the DVDs that you can still find in some stores today. During their heyday CDs where mainly used to store a primitive type of mp3 called '16bit uncompressed PCM' but could also store regular data. A typical CD could hold between 650 and 700 'megabytes' worth of small files. A 'megabyte' was an older unit of storage; One megabyte was just 1/1000 of a gigabyte!
      • by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > CDs where mainly used to store a primitive^Wsuperior type of mp3 called '16bit uncompressed PCM'

        Fixed that for ya. Still haven't paid for an mp3 file and have no intention to. If they start selling FLAC I'm in, otherwise I'll stick to CD. With a CD I can make whatever format and/or bitrate I want without suffering a transcoding loss. No format currently sold online through downloads can say that. And if tech improves I can reencode without needing to repurchase everything. So no, I won't be buyi

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        640 MB ought to be enough for anybody!

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        One megabyte was just 1/1024 of a gigabyte!

        FTFY

  • Bloody brilliant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:03AM (#40918959)

    Debian sounds a voice of reason within the community.

    I wondered how they would tackle the infamous UI "situation", and this was the outcome I hoped everyone involved would have the guts to go forth with.

    Rejoice for a surge of development activity for Xfce - a much more fruitful use of developer time than some other currently available UI sinks.

    • Re:Bloody brilliant (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Em Adespoton (792954) <slashdotonly.1.adespoton@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @04:07PM (#40922863) Homepage Journal

      Debian sounds a voice of reason within the community.

      I wondered how they would tackle the infamous UI "situation", and this was the outcome I hoped everyone involved would have the guts to go forth with.

      Rejoice for a surge of development activity for Xfce - a much more fruitful use of developer time than some other currently available UI sinks.

      I fear for XFCE... "development activity" usually doesn't mean fine tuning the system to work better with fewer bugs -- it means new people wanting to add on their own "missed" features -- which would eventually bring XFCE right into the morass they've been avoiding all this time.

      Thankfully, I don't think the core devs will allow that to happen. But it's going to be a bit demoralizing for them for a while, as they get increased complaints from users, and the increased developers are all clamouring for commit access, wanting to scratch itches that should have nothing to do with XFCE in the first place.

  • The article seems to imply Gnome 3 is to blame but surely the rest of Debian also increased in size.

    I have one datapoint, I just installed gnome 3 in Openbsd 5.1 (It can be done and works surprisingly nice) and Obsd+X.org+Gnome3 fists completely inside a CD with a couple hundred MB to spare.

  • by kthreadd (1558445) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:09AM (#40919033)

    GNOME 3

    • by allo (1728082)

      why do you need to point out, its the real reason? The article says, gnome 3 is the reason.

  • Most folks grabbing debian are getting just the installer file (live-cd) and burning that to disk. If in the States, just go to your local library, college or university and grab the remainder of the disk images and put them onto a flash drive. The installer includes the ability to mount ISO images, so you have little to no problem unless the system is so old that it doesn't have USB ports. In that case, its too old to run the latest debian.

    First Post

  • by nssy (1530925) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:13AM (#40919065)
    Torvalds said "I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really"
    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:47AM (#40919549)

      And it won't have newbies either. That is what is so maddening. Who is going to suddenly start using Linux + GNOME3? Will any of us current users recomend it? Doubtful. Are they going to get preloaded onto tablets or something? Ha! The resource requirements for GNOME are far greater than Android so it would be a top of the line product, so who is going to put GNOME3 on a flagship product? Who? Nobody, that is who.

      I admin a public lab that is currently running Centos. It defaults to GNOME2 and it looks familiar enough that random people can walk in and begin using it. There is no way I'd put GNOME3 on these machines. The support nightmare would never end.

      I keep hearing the occasional GNOME Shell fan in these hate/rant threads chime in with "I hated it for a few weeks but now I love it." Can you imagine me telling people that? Can you? Really? Perhaps you GNOMEs should rethink discoverability and learning curves with an eye to actually making it easy for a new user. You guys go on and on about being focused on new users and ignore the reality that most 'new users' aren't totally new to computers anymore and expecting them to unlearn what they already do know is a loser.

      • by cruff (171569)

        Who is going to suddenly start using Linux + GNOME3?

        The users of the recently announced GNOME OS?

    • by pnot (96038)

      Torvalds said "I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really"

      In that case, he should probably be using Mate.

  • by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:14AM (#40919081) Homepage

    It's probably a sane choice to move debian away from gnome and towards xfce, but I wonder if the reason is very sound. They should have switched to DVD as the default ISO media many years ago, becuase people who are on such an old computer that it lacks a DVD will surely want to use the less than 200 MB netinstall ISO instead.

    I think that it's still important with an offline-installable system, but limiting yourself to CD when DVD has been the standard for ages is just weird and shows of stagnation and "get off my lawn".

    • people who are on such an old computer that it lacks a DVD

      It's not that your computer lacks a DVD drive as much as lacking wired broadband Internet access to the home. Downloading a disc image that fills a single-layer DVD will use up most of the 5 GB per month data allowance typical of a home satellite or cellular Internet plan, as will downloading 5 GB of packages using the net installer.

      • by pipatron (966506)
        But installing over the net won't use more data than downloading the CD ISO. It will use much less because it will only download what's needed, and it will download any updated packages so you don't have to upgrade right after installation.
    • by KiloByte (825081)

      It's not the stated reason that matters. It would be too hard politically to pass such a change without a massive debate that would drain a giant amount of time from everyone involved. And here, we have a sane choice done over some easily fixable detail (recompressing everything as .xz, already in progress, would allow Gnome3 to fit).

      Great kudos to Joey Hess. And if you have doubts he's right, consider what Linus said a year ago. Or, take a look at recent Slashdot, Phoronix [phoronix.com], or even gnome.org [gnome.org] articles.

      • And here, we have a sane choice done over some easily fixable detail (recompressing everything as .xz, already in progress, would allow Gnome3 to fit).

        But such a general solution applies just as well to KDE or XFCE. GNOME takes up less space? XFCE took up less space to begin with, and now it's even smaller. Although honestly I have no idea what else they could possibly want to toss into the default install that would make a smaller DE enticing.

  • Oh, don't worry about that; any excuse will do!
  • You were good for a while.

    Nice knowing you.

  • Happy With XFCE (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @11:42AM (#40919467) Homepage

    I used XFCE for a while years ago, after one of the bloatenings of Gnome. Switched back and had been pretty happy with Gnome until they started turning it into WebTV. Still struggled along with classic mode for a while, but they've been dumbing that as well. Switched back to XFCE and very pleased.

    If you want a thin client for the cloud, Gnome/Windows 8/Mountain Lion/ChromeOS are all fine. If you want a computer, XFCE/Debian may be the best option.

    I tend to think a divergence is inevitable. The masses don't want a computer and never did. They grudgingly used them because it was where all the good stuff was. Now that the oligarchs are offering convenience as an alternative to liberty, most people are lining up. The hardware manufacturers are falling right in line with UEFI, the network providers are pushing to cripple the nasty peer-to-peer design of the Internet, and everyone with an IQ below 120 (and a surprising percentage of those above) can easily be convinced they are happier this way. It's called progress.

    Ummm, which is why I like XFCE... OK, bit of a digression there. But maybe that suggests a motto: "XFCE: Don't shuffle blandly into the decline."

  • After release of GNOME 3 I moved into opposite direction (I was using xfce for many years).

    Anyway it's a good thing, because I dislike GNOME/KDE integration of single applications, for instance I use k3b which is only usable dvd burner and it comes from KDE. If xfce will be default then maybe some people realize applications should work everywhere not fit GNOME desktop.

  • Bodhi/Enlightenment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by water-and-sewer (612923) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @12:10PM (#40919863) Homepage

    I moved to Bodhi Linux with its Enlightenment desktop, and like it. That's the fun thing - everyone can find their own escape route from Gnome3 since Linux offers so many choices.

    Bodhi is very lightweight and was easy to configure (though it took me a day to figure out E17's vocabulary). I'm very happy, and it's a simple CD download, which is good - I don't have much bandwidth.

    DVD downloads are a hassle, in my opinion. When it comes time to download one I usually resort to purchasing from one of the companies that advertises on distrowatch.org.

    I highly recommend Bodhi though - it's very sharp and polished.

  • It's about time for XFCE to become the default of a major distro. Since 4.8, it's definitely been polished enough.
  • When I install a Linux distro, I generally just adapt to the default desktop environment, although my preference tends to be KDE.

    My largest problem with GNOME is not its modularity or architecture, but the shear bulk of repitition of doing a single task. GNOME has become its own worst enemy and a victim of its own success -- open source (check!), lots of options (check! check!), even more options because someone forked (check! check! check! check! check!)...

  • by benmhall (9092) on Wednesday August 08, 2012 @04:45PM (#40923349) Homepage Journal

    XFCE is a fantastic DE that is very flexible, customizable, easy-to-use, and mature. It runs great on old and new hardware. It runs better over NFS than Gnome ever has, it works great over NX or VNC.

    I've used it on-and-off since the very beginning. It has always been a stable DE that has managed to evolve over time without every significantly alienating its user base.

    Every year or two I upgrade or replace the Linux side of our Linux dual-boot lab machines at work. Since at least 2006 I've been defaulting to XFCE (early 4.0 and newer.)

    Not once have the students complained about the desktop. True, it isn't super-flashy but it works like a charm.

    (And, as an added bonus, I can still make it look like BeOS if I want to.)

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