The never-ending "Gnome vs. KDE" battle flared up again yesterday when Linus Torvalds stated a preference for KDE.
Of course, it was immediately put on Slashdot, so, as Linus once put it, there was a "big public wanking session
" about it. There was a lot of misinterpretation very early on, but the actual thrust of his argument, as far as I could tell, was that Gnome has an unfortunate tendency to remove functionality completely in the name of making the interface easier, which of course just leads to a crippled interface. Hence his preference for KDE over Gnome.
I have to say, I've always been puzzled by Gnome. I couldn't see quite where it fit in. If a user wants a lightweight, bloat-free desktop, there are dozens of lightweight WMs that will work better for them than Gnome. If they want a Windows-style, the-GUI-is-everything desktop, KDE is far more impressive. Gnome seemed to have no real niche. I didn't really care enough about the subject to find out any more, but yesterday I found out what Gnome aims to do.
WMs are lightweight and highly customizeable, but you tend to need to configure them yourself to make them useful. KDE can do just about everything out-of-the-box but it's a complex, resource-hungry beast: An out-of-the-box KDE has dozens of items in the menu, and I don't know how many screens of configuration options.
The design philosophy of Gnome appears to be to create a desktop that works out of the box, but without bloating it with lots of confusing functionality. A simple, elegant interface that a total newbie can comfortably use right away, no configuration needed or really even desired.
Now, that's a very, very difficult task. I won't say it's impossibly difficult, but it's outside the reach of most people. It's no surprise that it hasn't achieved it yet, and not unexpected that there's a perception, right or wrong, that there's a tendency to simplify the interface by simply removing functionality instead of making that functionality simple & intuitive. A GUI with the stated goal of removing customizability is at odds with just about every other *nix GUI I know of , so even though it's being removed for the perfectly acceptable reason that they aim to remove the need for it, they've chosen a tough path to follow.
So it seemed an opportune time to mention my experiences with Linux GUIs.
When I was trying to get Lou to switch to Linux, I gave her Ubuntu - Gnome-based. I was disappointed to see that the theme was unchanged from a few years ago when I had Gnome installed as part of Slackware. I know it's shallow, but first impressions count, and the default Gnome theme just looks naff to me. Uninspired icons on a plain grey background. Maybe they aimed for a conservative appearance to appeal to corporate users, I don't know. But a Gnome desktop just doesn't shout out "I'm wonderful, use me!
". It's more of a resigned sigh. It's nowhere near as enticing as a default KDE appearance.
If it made up for that by being simple but highly functional, which is the whole aim, it could probably be forgiven. But it wasn't. Simple, yes. But it really didn't do much. Certainly printing was a no-go without doing a CUPS configuration thing. I believe Gnome's lack of printing support was the reason KDE was chosen in a number of corporate environment, in fact. . .
So we switched to Kubuntu, the KDE-based version, to give that a try. Everything worked. Knowing just what a pain setting up CUPS can be, I was genuinely impressed that KDE simply detected her printer & set it up for her. It was slower to load, certainly, but it worked fine when it was up & running, and at the end of the day, it actually did stuff.
So when she switched to FreeBSD, she didn't even bother with Gnome: KDE all the way. Just as well, in many ways. In Linux, you use Alsa for sound. I know how to set that up. I have no idea what BSD uses, or how to set it up. I didn't need to find out, as KDE did it for her. It's a really impressive piece of work, KDE.
I hate it, but it is
Why do I hate it? The bloat
. The sheer amount of crap that fills every menu. The fact you have to do everything the KDE way, via KDE, instead of just doing it your own way. In the same way that an MS Windows machine is always an MS machine, KDE is always KDE. It gets in the way of itself.
Hence the whole "Gnome vs. KDE" has no place in my life: The answer is always "Neither, hate them both.
" Even the short periods when I use Knoppix grate on my nerves.
But if anybody asks "What desktop should I use?
" my answer is "If you need to ask, use KDE.
" If you don't know enough to pick a GUI, you probably don't know much else about Linux. KDE will get you up & running in spite of it. Gnome won't.
Not yet, anyway. Hopefully they will in future. After all, choice is one of Linux's biggest advantages. If Gnome didn't exist, it would have to be created. There always has to be "Something