Since we're on the subject of old-school Linux computing I thought I'd bring up a topic very near and very dear to my heart (and one that tends to make M$ users drool with "trapped computing envy".
I've used pretty much every X Windows Window Manager there is. ICEWm. AfterStep. KDE. Gnome. BlackBox. FluxBox. Fvwm. Sawfish. Metacity. WindowMaker. XFCE. The list goes on and on. And throughout the years the one thing that seems to always bring me back to a particular Window Manager is configurability. I admit it - I am an eye-candy junkie. But we're not talking about the "Dashboard" kind of eye-candy junky. We're talking about Transparency-kinda, animation-sorta, font-laden, color-rific eye-candy junkie the likes only a Linux Window Environment can offer.
Recently I went on probably my longest jag with one particular WE - KDE. Why? It was darned pretty and it did most everything I wanted. But it was missing two key elements - flexibility and old-school charm. Let's face it, there's something to be said about dropping into a text editor and changing the configuration of your Window Manager. Bork up your configuration...drop into console mode (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace) and edit the proper configuration file. Worst case scenario...remove the WE director in your ~/ directory (using Evolution type "rm -rf ~/.e16") and then restart x ("startx" works nicely.)
But it's not just the old-school charm that brings me back. I really desire my WE to be able to look EXACTLY the way I want it. I spend a LOT of time at my desktop and I don't want to waste that time looking at something less-than-sexy, so why not work in an environment that is far removed from the "task bar/system tray" of Windows-land?
So with that in mind I jumped the KDE shark and hopped back onto the Enlightenment ride. And I have to tell you it is one fun ride. Sure it's not nearly as easy to configure (you might just have to open up Pine and edit a resource file) but it sure is flexible and fun. And what's more? When people gander at my desktop they are once again going "Oh cool, make my computer do that!" "Well..." I get to happily say, "If you run Windows, your computer can't do that."
Oh sure there are some instances where some key-happy hackers have ported some of these WEs to Windows. But those ports tend to be flaky at best. I recall installing WindowBlinds once and seeing a top of the line machine come to a stand still as if it had been infected by every known worm and virus available.
Nope. You want a cool desktop, you use Linux. Of course you could drop the duckets and use OS X but where is the fun in that? You might get some groovy features but, once again, you are trapped in a room that was created by the "Jobs Farm".
And I realize a lot of you are saying "I'm an IT pro, I don't have time for fluff like this!" Don't lie. You're a nerd just like me...you like things EXACTLY the way you like them and you rarely settle for anything less. So the sooner you stop denying this fact, the sooner you'll install one flavor of Linux and then start playing around with different WEs until you find your desktop Nirvana. It's there. It calls to you. And it's siren song can not be ignored for long.
So go - do what you know you must do. And when you have questions about a particular Window Environment, send me a line at jlwallen :at: monkeypantz :dot: net.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.