Here's why Linux is innovating on the desktop

Here's why Linux is innovating on the desktop

Summary: Here's how new attempts to capture the desktop show the dreams of Linux are becoming closer to reality.


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  • Another achievement of the modern iteration of GNOME are the underpinning libraries known as GNOME 3 libs. Although they may not be of interest to most end users, these libraries are worth mentioning because they have dramatically helped increase performance and simplify development. Ubuntu Unity is making the migration to the GNOME 3 libraries — greatly increasing the reliability and performance of the Unity desktop.

  • With the choice available on the Linux desktop, you're bound to find a style that suits you. The renaissance we're seeing reminds me very much of the mid- to late 1990s, when there were so many excellent Linux desktops it was hard to decide which to use. Now, style has been mixed with user-friendliness and the features needed for home and company use. No matter your level, or how you are using the Linux desktop, you can do it with style.

    The future
    The Linux desktop is alive and flourishing. The developments of the past year will move the Linux desktop even further forward. I'm excited about the desktop is and where it's going. What about you?

    This story originally appeared as 10 things the Linux desktop can be proud of on TechRepublic.

    Image credit: Gianchi83/Wikimedia Commons

Topics: Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • love the e17

    I've been a fan of e17 since before bodhi hit 1.0 last year, but isn't this more of a what's being innovated than 'why'? I didn't see the words "because gnome 2 was older than dirt" anywhere.
  • Gnome 3 - Cinnamon Hybrid on Mint

    I have been running Gnome 3 for around a year. Mint allows me to add icons to my desktop using Cinnamon and then switch to Gnome 3 and have my icons on my desktop. I'm very visual and need to have the icons there because I sometimes have problems remembering what I want to open up; okay, I'm old, too.. My start up list includes every doodad I want to monitor battery life, time, calendar, and the rest.

    If you haven't used Gnome 3's search feature you are missing out. Hit the Super Key and type the first two or three letters of what you want to do (write a letter, set up a spreadsheet, start a terminal) or what you want to open (AbiWord, Gnumeric, Guake, etc,) and Gnome will return possible packages and/or files. You can just highlight the one you want and hit enter and away you go. It is the feature that I love the most. Unity does it in Ubuntu and the HUD takes it one step further but Ubuntu takes away some of the customization options I like so I'm sticking with Mint, for now, because it works better for me than any other desktop environment I've ever used.
  • Innovation without purpose

    I don't know of any user, except the OS Worshiper, that really cares about the OS, as long as it is functional. Even MS's regrettable Ribbon was suffered through until people learned it and actually liked it.

    It wasn't liked but it was functional so people used it regardless.

    Point here is that the Desktop has been functional for years. In my opinion, fared favourably against Windows Desktop, but still failed to attract a user base outside of the geek community.

    Reason - Applications. for the average user, If I use Windows at work, I want the same Windows applications at home. Period. No, I don't want to use a different desktop or different applications. I want MS Word (same as work) and I want Excel. They don't work on Linux, so Linux is automatically out.

    While the purveyors of the desktop want you to think the innovations are wondrous, the average user that is required to save them doesn???t care.

    Classic innovation seeking a problem. Never really catches on.
    • Every time I have to use Windows I go from happy to angry in about 2 second

      I find the Windows experience to be painful and restricting. Where as with the KDE + OpenSuSE experience I can really flex my system and get more done as the desktop + OS work with me how I want to work, not how some corporate entity dictates how I should work.
      Linux User 147560
      • but you are different from the average user

        You actually know the names of the interface and operating system. 98% of the users out there don't know or care. All they want are their Windows based applications and Windows to run them on.

        The OS is strictly secondary in their world, the applications come first and foremost!
      • All they want are their Windows based applications and Windows to run them

        And how do you know this by the way? do you happen to speak for 98% of computers users out there?
    • It serves a purpose for those who use it

      I'm not saying this to be contrary or argumentative. I genuinely am curious...

      Why not go at it the other way? Ask if you might be allowed to install the same applications at work that you use at home?

      While Windows software might not always have an exact Linux version (although some do, or at least work well in Wine), most Open Source software does make both Linux and Windows versions. I know installing your own personal software preferences is not acceptable in some jobs, but it never hurts to ask.

      I'm fortunate in my position that I can use my own personal laptop for work, so it's the exact same system in both locations. And while the people at work don't quite get it when I tell them I'm not actually using MS Office, that doesn't matter. What I do interoperates perfectly fine with most of the MS apps (Publisher being the exception), so no one needs to think about what software I'm using.

      What's really interesting to me is the fact that I seem to be able to do more with my system than anyone else in my office can. People often come to me with tasks that they just can't easily accomplish on their limited Windows systems (which isn't always a good thing). They also occasionally ask if I need them to buy anti-virus updates, other software updates, etc., and don't understand why I always say "no thanks," even after explaining Linux to them.

      That said, personally I don't like many of the "innovations" that have been made. I'd rather have Gnome 2 (in the form of MATE now) than Gnome 3 or Unity. Cinnamon is ok, though. All I ask in a desktop is that I can mold it into my workflow. Gnome 2/Mate, KDE, and Cinnamon all work really well for that. Gnome 3 and Unity, not so much. Never cared much for Windows because of this, either.

      It's great to have choices!
      • Your situation is unique, you understand what's going

        and you are making an informed choice that fits your personal needs and wants, not the needs of the masses.

        I'm in a company with 20K machines. Company policy prohibits using them for personal use, so most are desktops that don't go home.

        The vast majority of users barely know how to turn it on, and have no interest in anything other than using familiar software.

        Last time we tried to use Open Source, replacing MS Office with Open Office, we could tell early on that mutiny would ensue. The accountants went ballistic, because the spread sheets are NOT identical and all of their calculations must be recertified!

        To these people the OS interface didn't matter at all, only their beloved Word and Excel. We didn't even try Linux, just the apps!

        Many have exactly the same type of setup at home for their own use. It's all about familiarity, nothing else.

        It's all about the applications, nothing else matters to 98% of the users out there.
      • Cynical99's point is...

        ...really about abandoning Linux altogether and switching back to Windows so we can all become proprietary tools like he is. That 90% marketshare just isn't enough.
      • There is a Simpler explanation why Linux will never be mainstream desktop

        Linux rule our coporate datacenters, offers leading infastructure for various enterprise applications, the replacement for old school proprietary software. But Linux will never reach the home user for ether work or play.

        Money.... Enterprise Linux Makes money and lots of it. Desktop linux is made from free opensource software. There is no profit to be made from it. Software makers ultimately want to make money. Linux is mearly a playground to gain experience in various programing languages using free open source APIs or contributing to a community of highly intelegent and experienced developers. But these are mearly side projects to ones they get PAID to make. These programs they get paid for are only feisable on windows. Linux is free pepople will expect it to remain free.
      • Your situation is unique, you understand what's going

        My 60 year old mother doesn't understand what's going on, a lot of the time she doesn't even know when to left click, she was using windows 7 but I put Debian on her laptop (after I got tried of fixing windows problems) MS Office is running in wine and she has no problems with it at all, in fact she likes it because its fast.
      • Linux is not superior, Windows is not superior

        It's the applications. Linux apps are different and in many cases, quite inferior. That's all it takes. People buy computers to run apps, not to run operating systems.

        By the way, the 90 year old grandma that's running Office in Wine? Do you really believe she could have set that up on her own? That took technical expertise not available to 95% of the people out there.

        Just one more example why Linux will never rule the desktop. If the Apps don't run natively, the average person will buy Windows 'cause that's where the app runs without problems.
      • Do you really believe she could have set that up on her own?

        Do you really believe she could install windows on her own?

        You seem to think that people actually choose windows, but the majority of people just buy a computer and windows happens to comes on it, but people actually choose to use Linux.
        Just look at windows phone, people don't choose that.
      • Do you really think she could install Windows on her own

        No, but Windows comes pre-installed and ready to go. Not necessary. Linux, unless you look for it is aftermarket.

        Not to mention that the real issue isn't running WIndows or Linux, but installing MS Office to run in Wine under Linux.

        I doubt she could do all that on her own, but on a pre-installed Windows system you put the DVD in, it starts automatically, you press install and it installs.

        In your scenario,
        Install Linux,
        Make drivers work
        Install Wine (have to know it exists first)
        Install MS Office under Wine.
        Make it work

        By the way, I've used Wine and while most of the application works, it seems there's always one function that blows up and craters the application somewhere. It isn't perfect by any means.
      • No, but Windows comes pre-installed and ready to go

        So whats the problem with buying a laptop with Linux preinstalled with MS Office already setup in wine? (that's considering they actually want MS Office) apart from those windows rebates OEM's get which keep Linux from being preinstalled in the first place.

        Your only excuse seems to be that windows comes preinstalled, and what makes you think most people want MS Office anyway? do you not think that they might actually want LibreOffice on an OS that doesn't need antivirus and doesn't slow down over time?

        How can you know what people want if they aren't given a choice?
    • So you agree Linux is superior

      And the only barrier to Linux taking over all of computing is user's resistance to change?
      • No, not the point

        Two things keep Linux from ruling the desktop.
        1. Applications. Linux apps are typically inferior to Apple or Windows apps.

        2. Resistance to change. People like the familiar. Most don???t care about the OS, so if it gets in the way, they want nothing to do with it. Linux gets in the way when they want to run a Windows based app that they use at work.

        Until Linux can run Windows apps natively, Linux will remain a far, distant third place after Apple.

        Apple has it's own ecosystem that rivals MS, so not the same problem there. Then again, just try to get an apple fan to switch to MS. Nope, not going to happen!
        • Blender 3D in Windows runs...

          ...*INFINITELY* slower than Blender 3D in Mint. Otherwise they are identical.

          LibreOffice does exactly everything I need it to do that MS Office does. Well, more, actually, but I won't go into that. And before you say I'm just a casual user of Office, I program in the VBE to create custom solutions for my department and also for other areas in our institution (I work in a hospital). And I'm not talking recording macros and tweaking them: I'm talking writing custom applications.

          Inferior? Perhaps to the MS mavens. Or those who need the ribbon. But for 99% of those who use Office-type applications, the difference to them is completely obscure. Except for the price.
      • @cynical99

        >>Linux apps are typically inferior to Apple or Windows apps.
        typically not. Windows and Mac are harder to set up properly.
        Say, emacs is present on all of the three, it's easier to install, maintain and use in Linux and BSD. Terminal emulator, gnu or bsd utils, and bash are harder to find and install on Windows
        >> 2. Resistance to change.
        Partially yes, however,
        -- a user buys a PC in 99% of the time with MS Windows preinstalled and unlike any other bundled product neither can resell nor return it (compare it with car tires, e.g.)
        -- most schools and organizations are teaching and using Windows
        >>Linux gets in the way when they want to run a Windows based app that they use at work.
        If that happens, both they and you do not realize that there is an app available for Linux already.
        >>Until Linux can run Windows apps natively,
        Address this to Redmond. As far as I am concerned, I do not care, I even remove their hypervisor from all of my custom kernels when building them.
      • If you don't care

        "I am concerned, I do not care"

        Why are you debating as you've already made up your mind? Seems mindless.