Open Source

Alternative desktops

Recently, Selena penned a blog about the Linux Desktop Revolution. I replied to that posting my current Linux desktop. Shortly after that I wrote a series of articles for TechRepublic on Linux desktops. The first was Enlightenment, then came KDE, GNOME, and finally piece on Fluxbox and AfterStep. Doing these pieces only served to remind me how amazed I am that more people have not adopted the Linux operating system simply because of the desktop. Why? The Linux desktop can be anything you want it to be.

Do a search for Linux desktops and you'll come up with countless entries where people have held contests to come up with the coolest Linux desktops. And believe me there are some really cool desktops out there. Be it Enlightenment or KDE, the Linux desktop is an amazingly flexible tool.

But it's not just about looks. One of the coolest aspects of the Linux desktop is how you can configure it to do (or not to do) exactly how you want. For example: I have two stepchildren at home. One is 13 years old. I want to give her a desktop that will allow her to only run certain applications (i.e., no Limewire). I could use Windows and install a third-party software that may (or may not) fubar the system. Or I can have her run Fluxbox and create a menu that will only allow her to run the applications I want her to run.

Or say you want to run an Internet cafe. You have machines set up, but you don't want your users to run anything outside of using the browser and maybe a word processor. Using Enlightenment, I could create a menu that looks like (in the file ~/.e16/menus/

"Web Browser" NULL exec "firefox"

"Word Processor" NULL exec "oowriter"

With those simple entries, your customers will have access only to  those applications.

I think the majority of people aren't aware of just how flexible the Linux desktop can be. I think most people assume that an operating system that is mostly used for servers couldn't possibly be user-friendly or, gasp, cool! How wrong the nay-sayers are.

Do you have any outside the norm ideas for using the Linux desktop? If so, reply here and let us know.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website

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