I like linux. A lot.
Ten years ago I worked for a software producer in their IT department. It’s where I started to grow as a computer tech, then a network guy. One day someone got hold of Red Hat (5.2?) and asked if I’d like a copy. Sure.
I had never seen linux before but Red Hat, even back then, made it easy enough to install that I was up and running shortly thereafter, fully graphically. Over the years I tried a few others but always found them lacking in one area or another. The Red Hats turned me off with the RPM package management system.. I kept getting caught in Package Dependency Hell, where you try to install something and wind up with a really screwed up system, chasing around the one or three packages that you need to make the first one work. Of course making the first one work may take out the entire system, but it’s all fun, right? As a result I used Debian thereafter.
I ran into Ubuntu a while back. It installed in record time. It was stable as a rock. It started to get a lot of positive press. And I was getting fed up over my head with Windows… really fed up. I picked up the habit of always running a linux box next to my Windows box. Guess which one stayed up all the time…..
Ubuntu installed to its default desktop, Gnome. There have been Desktop Wars from way before I started using linux and it is not my intention to continue them. I will just put forth what works (and doesn’t) for me.
I don’t like Gnome. Right off the bat, the bar is in the wrong spot (the top). Changing it is possible but I still can’t get it to work the way I like. The colors or theme are changeable, and a good thing, that. I still use Gnome, when I have to log in to a default or safe desktop, but it’s not my desktop. It’s a bit… difficult for me to grasp. Things don’t appear where they should as far as I’m concerned. Many people love it. I don’t.
I tried installing Kubuntu. Man oh man, that’s a lot of desktop (the KDE desktop). Way too much, in fact. If you like Windows, it’s certainly your best choice. It is a total heavyweight and makes no claims otherwise. Unfortunately that’s way too much for me. It’s a visible performance hit, which is one of the things that pisses me off about Windows. Thusly, it was ejected.
Let me mention that the desktops of which I speak can be had as complete installations as well as desktops. You can install Ubuntu (Gnome desktop) and have the system install KDE. You can choose either desktop at bootup if you like – you’re not limited to one of the other.
Next up was Xubuntu. This features the XFCE desktop, acknowledged as a more lightweight desktop, free of the `bling’ of KDE. This worked out the best for me. It did everything I was looking for without doing way more or making things difficult for me. This would be the lightest of the three `standard’ Ubuntu desktops. Understand that there is no difference in Ubuntu – just how it looks.
Now you may ask yourself what I don’t like about XFCE (and well you should). So, what don’t I like about XFCE? Glad you asked. I like a hiding bar at the bottom, kind of like you can force Windows to do. Unfortunately after I got this implemented, the bar would occasionally decided to not hide on purpose. Whether it was just to piss me off or some other reason I don’t know. But about half the time, the bar refuses to hide. I can find no reason for this. Sometimes it can be fixed by toggling the hide button. Sometimes it refuses to reappear too, which I can fix every time by right-clicking on the edge of the bar. There’s also an issue about controlling the system, where sometimes it’s very difficult to get to some piece of system control because I can’t FIND it in the XFCE menus. It seems like it needs to be more tightly integrated with Ubuntu but maybe it’s me.
Regardless, that’s what I use and why. It’s my OS and my desktop across about seven boxes at work and home.
If you want to get more creative or experiment, there are tons of other desktops/window managers you can install. IceWM is another light one, as is Fluxbox. Some emulate other systems. Some even emulate Windows (heaven forbid). The new version of KDE seems to pride itself on being like Vista, although I can’t figure out for the life of me why anyone would. If you like pretty and bloated, what’s the point of leaving Microsoft in the first place?
Your mileage will vary, according to express written permission of the National Baseball Software Foundation (of America). If you have any questions, please write.