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Debian Desktop Subproject Launched 387

MrOutlander writes "The Debian Project is now officially addressing its usability on the desktop with the launch of the Debian Desktop subproject. Great to see usability being recognized as a very important part of debian. Other than the sometimes daunting install process, Debian is one of the best linux distributions."
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Debian Desktop Subproject Launched

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  • Required Reading... (Score:5, Informative)

    by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:36AM (#4521476) Homepage
    Aqua Human Interface Guidelines [] and Mac OS 8 Human Interface Guidelines []. Don't reinvent the wheel, perfect it.
  • Start Here: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:37AM (#4521483)
    The Gnome Usability Report: /participant_mix.html []

    I read this about a year ago. It does an *excellent* job of pointing out many of the inconsistencies and gotchas in any given linux desktop situation.
  • by omegakidd ( 592638 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:44AM (#4521527)
    MacOS is one project. Windows is one project.
    Linux is opensource and many people can start their own projects if they want to. Finally, different linux falvors have different purposes (ex. For the first time user or for the expert.).
  • by z-man ( 103297 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:48AM (#4521559)
    When it comes to Debian it is not just a choice of distro, it is a choice of distro built on good principles as well as on good architecture.

    The truth is however that each distro exist to offer you even more customizibilty. You have distros like Slack/Gentoo that many like because they don't include many unnecessary packages and the distro offers you much configurability. Many don't like these distros however because they don't have the time to compile(Gentoo)/configure/install everything the good-old-way or that they just want a distro that is a tad more user-friendly. For those you RedHat/Suse and Mandrake that are distros that are based on a binary package system (Gentoo has ports which downloads the source and compiles it). Each of these have their own "touch" as well.
    Mandrake offers many patches/programs to make life easier, so Mandrake is a very popular choice for people that are new to Linux.
    RedHat doesn't offer as much as Mandrake in the newbie area, and are a bit more strict on what goes into their kernel and distro. So imo RedHat isn't quite as user-friendly as Mandrake.
    SuSe I don't know much about, I know that tthey have a configuration utility that has gotten a lot of positive feedback (YaST isn't it?).

    So the choice of distro is just a part of the customization. Part of running Linux is choosing the distro that is right for you.
  • Also (Score:5, Informative)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:57AM (#4521644) Homepage
  • Re:How funny because (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:58AM (#4521650)
    backup your /etc
  • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:5, Informative)

    by PeterClark ( 324270 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @09:59AM (#4521660) Journal
    Well, I don't know what the hold-up for Mozilla is (someone else can jump in), but in the case of KDE3, the only reason that it isn't in unstable now is because of the GCC3.2 transition. One the transition is complete, it's ready to go in. (Of course, there are debs maintained now by the official packagers, they just can't be called official packages because they're not in unstable. But they work just fine.) As for XFree, the big hold-up was testing and patching it to be compatible with all the other platforms. As I understand it, XFree develops pretty much exclusively for x86, and then lets the Debian folk port/patch is over to Alpha, Sparc, PPC, etc.

    You also forget that Debian is not a company, but a community. In other words, you cannot dictate what will be done; people will do whatever interests them. It works, it's just that at this point with so many transitions and changes going on, the process has slowed down. Want to sped it up? Fork over some $$$ to a developer. Simple as that.
  • Re:How funny because (Score:2, Informative)

    by mbanck ( 230137 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:02AM (#4521689)
    I was just cursing out Debian, which is my main OS, because yet again my XF86Config-4 got overwriten by a default.

    Check out any recent post from Branden Robinson on debian-devel, most of them cover this, this one [] for example.


  • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmu1 ( 183541 ) <`jmullman' `at' `'> on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:04AM (#4521710) Journal
    I was a Slack user for several years, but the Debian installer was just so darned screwy. I should be able to select a few categories of programs, then edit the contents _if_ i want to. I shouldn't have to pick from some two-thousand package names with terrible(if any) descriptions. I installed Deb once. The system didn't work very well, because I didn't install some of the things I was supposed to. Sure, I could have just started apt-getting. Problem was, I didn't know half of the stuff I needed. Now days, I might be able to cope. Then again, why would I want to cope when I can install Slack or RedHat?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:04AM (#4521711)
    A) I'm running Debian on old 386's now as routers. Why should I have to throw away that perfectly working hardware?

    B) compiling for 586 is retarded. The only sytems that benefit from 586 optimizations are 586 systems - 686 systems are architectured differently so that good 586 optimizations don't do much for 686's. Optimizing for 686 would actually give a performance benefit. If you want that, go use Arch Linux or Gentoo.

    C) Recompiling all those packages, or keeping both i386 and i686 archives, would be a tremendous amount of work. And, to be honest, 99% of apps don't benefit that much from the optimizations anyways. Recompile your multi-media apps (or use ones that detect the corrent modules at runtime) and install an optimized kernel package, and you should be good.
  • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:06AM (#4521732)
    Ximain Setup Tools have been abandoned. Ximian is no longer sponsoring it. Instead, it continues it's life as GNOME System Tools [].
  • Re:Daunting? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sepper ( 524857 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:08AM (#4521753) Journal
    The problem is not the "Text-base install" as much as "No hardware detection" and "too technical centric". The install sometimes looks cryptic to some (have to know that a geforce use the "nv" driver, etc.).

    It took me a while to figure out the exact driver for my sparcstation, and in the end, i had to open the box and do a search on google to know.

    This new incentive to push debian into the desktop is "a good thing". Even if it doesnt turn out perfect, it's still a step in the right direction.
  • by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:12AM (#4521789)

    Optimizing the kernel for a particular CPU model is almost certainly a win (I'm not a kernel hacker and don't know how much of a win); but it seems to me that the costs of producing and storing multiple optimized versions of an "average" app probably outweigh the benefits. And since i386 is the lowest common denominator, Debian may as well just continue building for that.

    I suspect that you're probably right about the costs outweighing the benefits. (Sigh.) It's just that when I tried out Gentoo, the difference in execution time was noticeable, and not just in big applications like KDE. I had used custom compiles of KDE and XFree86 under Debian Woody for some time, but the underlying stuff must have slowed it down. Under Gentoo, it takes my machine about 22 seconds to start KDE, whereas under Debian Woody it took about 45. In my book, a 50% decrease in startup time is significant.

  • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:2, Informative)

    by dzym ( 544085 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:13AM (#4521792) Homepage Journal
    Mozilla 1.1 is in unstable.
  • by leviramsey ( 248057 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:15AM (#4521806) Journal
    Optimizing the kernel for a particular CPU model is almost certainly a win

    glibc, X, and crypto libs would get a benefit from CPU optimization. If nothing else, the order of instructions might be changed to better support a superscalar architecture.

    Mandrake accomplishes the glibc by having a /lib/i686 directory with i686 builds of the most intense glibc components. At runtime, the kernel is queried to determine the CPU and based on that, either the i586 builds in /lib or the i686 builds in /lib/i686 are used.

    Of course, this doesn't work on VIA processors, as they are mistakenly id'd by the kernel as i686-compatible, when they really aren't.

  • Re:Wrong focus? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ray Dassen ( 3291 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:23AM (#4521874) Homepage
    Shouldn't Debian focus on trying to stay up to date on core components instead?
    Debian focusses on whatever the Debian developers care about. One thing Debian developers tend not to care about at all is armchair experts. If you happen to disagree with what we care about, feel free to learn How you can help [], or to pay for a developer to scratch your particular itch.

    We all know that some critical packages are way out of date:
    -XFree, 4.2 just appeared in unstable

    And excellent prerelease packages have been available from the X Strike Force [] for months. Not to mention that Debian supports X on 11 architectures [] rather than just i386.
    -KDE 3 Unofficial packages are available; official packages will follow after the gcc transition; see the FAQ [].

    -Mozilla 1.1
    Available [] in unstable and testing, as are recent CVS snapshots.

    And it's even worse for people using woody without 'proposed-updates' package repository!
    woody is the stable release. Debian takes stability very seriously and the stable release is only updated to fix serious issues (in particular security issues), not to put in new releases of packages. If you want a more up to date system, use testing.

  • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Informative)

    by v1z ( 126905 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:23AM (#4521878)

    Just try to replace a videocard - what will Debian with default xdm do?

    Flash x five times, and then start up a text-mode dialog telling you that X seems to be crashing, and politly ask you if you want to reconfigure.

    If you select no, it will kindly disable xdm for you, and ask you to enable it, once you've worked out what the problem is.

    Maybe redhat copes with this now, but it certainly didn't use to.

  • Re:Menus (Score:2, Informative)

    by leviramsey ( 248057 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:25AM (#4521896) Journal
    One thing I hope that they will do is have better integrated menus for GNOME and KDE programs. I ran KDE in Debian and always hated that by default, there was a "Debian" submenu for non-KDE programs. Ditto under GNOME. Programs ought to be grouped by task, not by desktop.

    Mandrake has made the Debian menu system do just that. Perhaps the Debian developers may want to take a look?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:29AM (#4521931)
    Why don't people just use TWM? Small, fast, runs GNOME and KDE apps fine, very configurable, and (as the Vi fans always say): IT'S AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE.

    Yip, virtually all X installations include TWM. If that argument works for Vi, a similarly minimal piece of software, why not TWM?

    Oh, and before the uninformed start arguing, TWM DOES support RandomPlacement, extra titlebar buttons, keybindings, icon regions, multiple menus and submenus, and loads more. There are even variants with virtual desktops for those who want them.

    Long live TWM! Who else uses it aside from me? :)
  • by Cro Magnon ( 467622 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:34AM (#4521974) Homepage Journal
    One problem is that code optimized for a Pentium might not run as well on a K6 as 386 code.
  • Re:Daunting? (Score:2, Informative)

    by marcelC ( 592689 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:38AM (#4522002) Homepage
    It's not the text-based idea that's the problem, usability and ease. With slackware or an old suse text based install I was quite happy, I could select every package I wanted, and knew what it did without getting lost in numerous tabs and windows, when I tried Debian I was amazed at how needlesly complicated it was, I knew what I wanted to install, but after 45 minutes I was lost in the maze. I'm back with slack now...:)
  • by Isle ( 95215 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @10:49AM (#4522087) Homepage
    C) Recompiling all those packages, or keeping both i386 and i686 archives, would be a tremendous amount of work. And, to be honest, 99% of apps don't benefit that much from the optimizations anyways. Recompile your multi-media apps (or use ones that detect the corrent modules at runtime) and install an optimized kernel package, and you should be good.

    Not really, do you have any idea of how many platforms Debian is currently autocompiled for? (I've lost count)

    Some of these platforms takes days or weeks to compile some packages so there should be pleanty of time to compile the i386 package twice.

    No the real issue is that dispite how cool processor specific optimizations sounds, the gains are very limited. I think it is supposed to improve when we switch to gcc-3.2, but it has to be ready for all the Debian platforms before that is attempted.

  • Re:Daunting? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @11:55AM (#4522611)

    In debian stable (woody), when you are done setting up the base system, tasksel has a few broad catagories.

    Afterwords, you can run dselect to individually select or deselect packages, but you aren't required to.

    I think debian stable{-1} (potato) was the same way. Never had to install anything older then that.

  • FUD (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sam Gibson ( 459850 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @01:41PM (#4523550) Homepage
    LILO can do that too asshat. I'll send you my lilo.conf file for debian that does a 640x480 logo and nice colors and stuff if you don't believe me. STFU and stop spreading FUD.
  • by pmz ( 462998 ) on Thursday October 24, 2002 @02:05PM (#4523798) Homepage
    ...X-Windows is never going to cut it in the desktop world.

    What is so wrong with X Windows? If anything, it should be refined to smooth out things people complain about. I'd hate to throw out X's abstractions (client-server; layered architecture: server, window manager, applications) in favor of something new and flashy but architecturally neutered.

    I think the fundamental concepts behind X Windows are sound. If there are implementation issues, address those before trying to reinvent everything badly.
  • Re:Timeline? (Score:2, Informative)

    by The_Dougster ( 308194 ) on Friday October 25, 2002 @02:17AM (#4527781) Homepage
    I really wouldn't consider Debian to be "untimely" because it doesn't rely on constant updates to fix pesky bugs that trouble you. A Debian stable release is a rock-solid foundation for a computer system. Take my old Compaq Contura 425/c laptop which runs Debian 2.0, everything on it works very nicely, and though it is a somewhat old system, it doesn't crash and it "just works."

    I rather doubt that I will ever upgrade it. When it was new, Debian 2.0 was the current stable system and it supported the hardware and video nicely. Since then the bar has been raised and I doubt that it would perform well running Woody, and I know that Compaq AVGA video support has been dropped from XFree86-4. So what I have is an old laptop running an old stable Debian which is frankly just fine!

    Of course I'm one of those "Experts" so I really don't care when this thing ever comes to fruition. Yes it would be nice to welcome a gaggle of newbies to Debian, but then again, having them cut their Linux teeth on something like Mandrake or SuSE isn't necessarily such a bad thing. I personally do take some time to answer the occasional newbie question on selected Debian mailing lists, but I really have a lot of better things to do. I adamantly refuse to ever help anybody with Windows if I can possibly avoid it, but I genuinely enjoy helping Debian gnubies.

    Actually, if you want a painless Debian install, get Libranet Linux, install that, then apt-get Debianize it. It will be very close to a pure Debian system.

VMS must die!