Thoughts on Desktop Environments

date: 2023-01-15

Using the default DE

I am fairly certain that the first version of Linux I used was something put out by RedHat. I do not remember the details, but it must have been around 2003 or 2004. I'm guessing that it was Gnome 2. I didn't stick with that for very long, but I do remember the Evolution mail client and some other very GTK looking apps.

I should try to find some Linux .iso images from that era.

In 2004 Ubuntu hit the scene. I remember reading about it's upcoming release and then I downloaded and installed it pretty much right when in came out in April of 2004.

Ubuntu used a themed version of the Gnome 2 desktop environment. I was just getting into Linux and didn't explore much outside of that.

For the next decade or so I mostly used Ubuntu and also stuck with the stock desktop environment they provided. So when Ubuntu made their own Unity desktop environment, still based on GTK, I used that.

It was only when Ubuntu switch away from Unity to Gnome 3 that I started to look for alternative desktop environments. That first release of Ubuntu with Gnome 3 was so slow in comparison to what the previous defaults had been.

Looking at options

I looked at early versions of the Cinnamon desktop environment. I used Mate for quite a while. Ubuntu MATE was a go to distro for me for quite a while. I like the green themed Ubuntu MATE defaults.

Then in 2019, I became interested in tiling Window managers. I dove in and used BSPWM for quite a while.

BSPWM wasn't an easy place to start with tiling window managers, but I managed to find some guides and get it working. I made some videos about it in 2020.

I do think that working with more minimal window managers is worth it. You have to learn about how programs start and scripting to customize things to your liking.

Right now, I am mostly using the Cinnamon desktop environment because it is the default in Linux Mint, which I also started using quite a bit in 2020 and have continued to until now.

Cinnamon just works on most computers right away without much tweaking. That's good for people using Linux for the first time and good for me if I am just wanting to get work done without having to do any setup.

There's value in just using the defaults. There's also a lot to be learned by crafting your system to be just the way you like it... and a lot of value to that, too.

Where to next?

I plan to make a more minimal graphical setup using the berry window manager. It is a lot like BSPWM, but different enough for me to try.

I plan on building it from source and documenting the process, even though a .deb package is available. Part of the reason for wanting to do that is that I plan on trying to get it to work on the Tribblix distro of illumos (OpenSolaris), which I do not believe will have packages for it, though it might as Tribblix is a retro inspired distro.

I'll probably use the Lemon bar or something similar and Rofi for starting programs and other automations.

berrywm, rofi and lemon bar are all written in C, are minimal and fast and have permissive MIT licenses. So they very much fit in with what I am going for with the Retro Edge Tech Stack.

tags: #cinnamon #bspwm #berrywm