• Too Many Options


    I cannot decide. There are too many options. A Microsoft Windows person would have no idea.

    It’s all the fault of Linux, or more properly “GNU/Linux” pronounced “Gah-New Lin-ux” or sometimes “Gah-New Lin-ox.” Much to the distress of the GNU people who provide all the software for Linux and BSD systems, nobody wants to say “Gan-New” before “Linux.” The harsh reality is this: the vast majority of the public just calls it Linux.

    First decision: Which Linux? There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of the open-source, free operating system. It’s already running on devices you probably own, like your modem, router, Android Phone, tablet and smart TV. At my house it also runs my Desktop Computer.

    I feel secure in Linux. No viruses. No compromises. Safe, functional, beautiful, incredibly powerful.

    So for the first choice I decided I wanted a “rolling distribution,” or one that once installed, it never had to be installed again. It will update itself forever, including the Linux kernel. I am tired of the versions that get outdated and have limited support after an expiration date. There is no need anymore to put up with that. There are both stable and “bleeding edge” rolling versions of Linux out there that do everything that Ubuntu or Mint do. Tough it out.

    Next I needed it to be functional. Out of the box working, for the most part. At least in major areas. I shouldn’t have to have a command line prompt and build the entire operating system from the ground up like with Arch or Gentoo. I have no time for that. I wanted a version of Linux which made disk partitioning easy and left me with some kind of graphical interface when I’m done installing and at the same time which gives me complete control over what I’m putting on my computer.

    Finally, I wanted to be slightly off the beaten path, but not too far off. I didn’t want Debian/Ubuntu/Mint family versions, or Red Hat versions, Gentoo derivatives or Slackware. Something different. I decided on Arch derivatives, and I narrowed that down to one: Antergos-OS. I did, in the process, over the years, explore all of the above options.

    Second decision: What desktop environment? This is where Microsoft Window users are lost. They just have to accept whatever Microsoft has decided for them. They can customize their desktop to some degree, but not with the flexibility and complete range of power that someone using Linux has. In Linux we have many “DEs” such as KDE Plasma, Gnome 3, Mate, Xfce, Cinnamon, Deepin, Enlightenment, Openbox, Lxde and so on. Each of them handles things a little different, look a little different, have different functionalities, strengths and weaknesses.

    The Desktop Environment is where I falter.

    The desktop environment sits on top and is what your Window Manager serves up to you to interact with your operating system – I think.

    For years I used a well-known desktop environment called Mate, and pronounced it “Mate” like the British version of a friend. Only recently I figured out it’s not pronounced like a British friend, but a two syllable word “ma-tay,” which I have trouble getting my head around.

    I also used Cinnamon, but didn’t like it so much. Mate was my DE for years.

    Then I got bored with it. I tried Unity. Hated it. So I went with Xfce, which is pronounced exactly like the letters of the alphabet. I couldn’t figure out and didn’t seem to like KDE Plasma. We’ll get back to that.

    Then I migrated to Gnome and discovered that half the YouTube world mispronounces it as “Nome” when the developers want us to pronounce it “Gah-Nome” because the G means something – what I don’t know, but it’s really supposed to be pronounced “Gah-Nome.”

    Then I went back and looked at KDE Plasma, the most popular of all.

    Now I have all three on my computer. I can switch from one to the other: Gnome, Xfce and KDE Plasma. I have them all set up. They are all beautiful, have rotating wallpapers, intense functionality and so on. I can do anything. I can place Facebook games, watch Netflix, watch Amazon Videos and YouTube, work on my spreadsheet, write and update this blog – all from any of them. It’s hard to remember which DE I’m in at the moment. Let me check … Behold – I’m in Xfce, which is weird because for the last few weeks I’ve been inside Gnome and the last two days I’ve been setting up Plasma. Xfce was my first of these three.

    With it all set up so nicely, I can’t decide. I’m confused. I don’t know what to do.

    I guess if you don’t like this kind of problem and like having to pay money for an anti-virus subscription just to protect your computer from software you have to download from questionable sources, then go on using MS Windows. In Linux all our software comes from trusted “repositories” and is safe and sound, and we don’t have virus problems. See my earlier post about Linux Virus protection.

    So for now, if I get bored, I just switch. Why should I be nailed down to some boring window environment when I can have anything I want and complete freedom with my computer?

    Those are some of my reasons I run Linux on my desktop computer and why I like Antergos.

  • Great column, if I may call it that.
    I recognize “the problem thing” a lot, though I discussed this with a friend, who uses only Mac, recently. He listened with interest and after he saw the different desktop enviroments, he looked at me with a slightly confused look and responded:
    'Okay… I get that Linux is a great system and it’s for free; that’s a great plus. I get that you prefer the one system above the other, but the desktop thing?!? You’ve worked with a Mac for seventeen years, hell you even convinced me to make the switch from Windows! I have never heard you complain about how things are working and arranged on your screen! All these choices, it makes you more indecisive, instead of running and enjoying the OS.'
    I couldn’t deny that there was some truth in his remark, I guess it’s the luxury position we’re in.

    Thinkpad E570 Intel core i5 (Kaby lake)
    8 GB RAM
    256 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD
    Intel HD Graphics

  • @shwaybotx - Nice piece, although as someone who has used Linux exclusively at home since 2002, I, too, have struggled with the “which DE” question, as I don’t like to install multiple desktop environments on my system. Maybe I don’t get bored as easily. :smile:

    When I decided I was ready for a different flavor of Linux (I had been using Peppermint 7 but had bogged it down with a bunch of stuff and just decided to start over), I decided to go with Antergos. I had run Manjaro at one time and like it, though I ran into a few problems which led me back to Peppermint.

    Once I decided on Antergos, I decided to go with Gnome. Since I was going different, I decided to be completely different. I was used to Xfce, and I didn’t want KDE. I had not used Gnome for some time and had not tried any of the Gnome 3 iterations. Since it also seemed to be the default DE for Antergos (as it is the DE used on the live iso), I gathered it might be the most completely fine tuned.

    So far, I like it. I don’t know yet whether I like scrolling through all of my applications on the desktop. At the same time, I think I like the Activities button and don’t want to lose it by adding an Application Menu. (Is there a way to keep both?) Being able to integrate the Gnome calendar with my Gmail calendars was also nice.

    What many see as the greatest weakness of Linux (too many choices, as you point out) is at the same time its greatest strength, allowing people to do what they want. One of the things that attracted me to Antergos was not necessarily that it is a rolling release, although I like that. Nor is it the fact that it is Arch-based (had no bearing on my decision). It is the fact that it does not seem to install as many things on your system up front and allows the user to decide to a greater extent than most systems exactly what s/he wants and needs on their own computer.

    I’ve only been running Antergos on my machine for about a week, but so far, I like it.

  • But options are what live gives us too ;)
    On linux i think you have to choose one, this happens on experienc/es or on accident/s.
    On me it happens on both…
    In the 90ies i want to use KDE Desktop, but never get it running, because my systems was some Frankenstein selfbuild zombi machines with almost no power. And after the first years without a usable Desktop environment i was lucky to get Gnome running.

    But in this times there wasn’t that much options as today, but one option still is the same the everlasting TERMINAL!
    And inside a terminal you can do everything you want!!!

    Then after time machines get cheeper and faster, then i try KDE and find out that everything working different, i always get back to Gnome because i get used to it…

    [updates once a week] = [90% less problems]
    [Li{u}n//u//{i}x] since 1988 - overcoming failure means success
    howto-install-antergos
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    i3 GNOME

  • @WaltH said in Too Many Options:

    I don’t know yet whether I like scrolling through all of my applications on the desktop. At the same time, I think I like the Activities button and don’t want to lose it by adding an Application Menu. (Is there a way to keep both?)

    Do you know about Gnome extensions? First of all you need the tweak tool. Download, install and run it. Then inside look at Gnome extensions. What you want are Dash to Dock which moves your favorites to a dock at the bottom of the screen, and you can move the activities button to the front of the list. Then you also want the Activities Configurator extension. Search YouTube for customizing Gnome.

    @joekamprad said in Too Many Options:

    Then after time machines get cheeper and faster, then i try KDE and find out that everything working different, i always get back to Gnome because i get used to it…

    Joe, I have found Gnome with the Gnome extensions is the best. Watch YouTube videos “customizing Gnome”. You don’t have to use the activities button much if at all.
    -Wayne

  • @shwaybotx - I’ve used the basic Tweak Tool which is already part of Gnome, and I’ve added a few applications to favorites on the Dock, which I’ve also moved to the bottom of the screen. I don’t, however, see any option for displaying the Activities button on the dock, let alone moving it to the front of the list. I do see an option for moving the Applications icon to the front of the dock (or to the left). Obviously, still some research to do.

  • @WaltH Here’s an image of my desktop. (More below the picture)
    Wayne Boyd's Gnome Desktop

    You’ll see I have a doc at the bottom with the activities button in front. That’s done with Dash to Dock. The wallpaper is rotating every 60 seconds. I have a zillion pictures in a folder called ~/Pictures/Wallpaper that rotate on the desktop.

  • @shwaybotx - On my desktop, the dock is also at the bottom, but my system says that Activities button is the Show Applications button. Are they somehow the same? I’m talking about the Activities button at the top left of the screen where you have buttons for View, Apps, Menu, Applications (what is the difference between these three?) and Desktop with the Activities button top left. I would love to find a way to keep it and maybe have an Applications menu, but when I turn on the Applications menu, I lose that Activities button.

    Here is my desktop: (http://imgur.com/a/JUeDI)

  • @WaltH Yeah, I think I got the “activities” button mixed up. Maybe what you need is the Winthumbnails extension. Tried that one? Nice desktop btw.

  • @shwaybotx said in Too Many Options:

    @WaltH Yeah, I think I got the “activities” button mixed up. Maybe what you need is the Winthumbnails extension. Tried that one? Nice desktop btw.
    Thanks. I looked at the Winthumbnails extension, and it looks like some people don’t like it because it apparently can’t be removed or turned off/disabled once installed. At least a few users have also complained about the functionality of this extension. I need to look at some configuration videos before I go adding a bunch of stuff, I think.

  • I was remembering when i was testing different distros and eliminating candidates; i wasn’t completly aware about Mate, Gnome, KDE etc, thinking these were part of the distro, so eliminated some of them at first by the appearence, i had no idea that it could be changed. ehhehehe

    Today it’s getting boring to test other distros, when i install some new and try to install some packages i use normally here (Antergos) i discover they are not there, needing to import keys etc.
    Under Antergos even when is not in Arch/Antergos repositories i can find them on AUR. Using another distros is almost like going back to windows, searching in my browser to find where the heck is the program i want.

    Antergos (default OS) - WIN10 (abandoned)
    I3wm - Mate desktop
    AMD - A4 7300 Radeon graphics
    16 GB ram
    HD 1 TB
    Linux newbie since 06/2016

  • I agree there are too many options, but also too many glitches as well. I have mostly jumped between KDE/XFCE/Gnome.

    I used to always go back to XFCE then that had an HDMI bug so that put me off, then with the Nvidia tearing etc…but you soon get used to adding lines here, using Compton.

    KDE, well I really cannot understand how anyone can like it, I did have a brief spell as I liked all the glassy look, but its just too clunky for me.

    Gnome, well I always seem to come back to this now, I like the simple top bar transparent with the time and weather, Plank at the bottom and no graphical glitches, but then you find you have the wrong amount of extensions, and they start playing up. and I start to head back to WIndows 10.

    Windows 10, wow great to have you back, latest drivers, no issues with apps, things just work, then a few weeks down the line, mmm this is slowing down, I am getting spied on, you restart my computer when you want, tin foil hats…

    Ah Gnome, great to have you back, and repeat :)

  • @brianreid1 said in Too Many Options:

    Windows 10, wow great to have you back, latest drivers, no issues with apps, things just work, then a few weeks down the line, mmm this is slowing down, I am getting spied on, you restart my computer when you want, tin foil hats…

    …and viruses. My big thing about Windows. Beside the corporate look and feel.

    You’re an odd one @brianreid1 I must say but I totally relate to everything you’re going through except. I couldn’t go “back” to Windows. I’m an anti-windows person to the core. For real. I’d rather struggle with BSD than Windows, and fortunately I’ve got Linux in between!!!

  • @shwaybotx said in Too Many Options:

    I couldn’t go “back” to Windows. I’m an anti-windows person to the core.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I still have my old Windows 7 computer which I occasionally have to use when I want to edit video. Video editing is the one area where Linux still lags far behind. Plus, when I’m trying to get the video done I do not have the time, or patience for the learning curve. Never mind that some of the features to which I’m accustomed just do not seem to be there. Anyway, my original point being that when I do go back to my Windows machine it runs so slow now that it drives me bonkers. The appearance of the GUI is also disappointing and makes me feel impoverished for having to use it. (“Yes, I’ve become a Linux snob” he thought to himself as he looked down his nose at the Windows users around him). I would love to overwrite it with a Linux distro because I would get more use out of it, but for now I’ve got to let it be. When I assembled my build I installed two SSD’s with the intention of using one for Linux and the other for Windows, keeping both systems completely separate in order to avoid some of the conflicts between the two that I had read about. However, once I installed Antergos and saw how great it is I thought to myself, “Why am I going to waste a perfectly good SSD on a piece crap like Windows?” I guess at some point I’ll use it instead to try out other distros until I find one that I feel like using as a secondary environment for alternate purposes.

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