The Linux Desktop
After my recent migration from MATE to Xfce, I pondered a bit about my history with the Linux desktop.
I started using Linux based systems 18 years ago. My first exposure was a long forgotten distro named Lycoris. My first major distro was Mandrake 9.0. I still have the CDs. I think I paid $49 retail at a brick-and-mortar.
During those early days I bought a whopping 40 GB hard drive. Compared to my previous 3.2 GB disk running NT4 and WFWG 3.11, I was uncertain I would fill the drive. Yet I did. I jumped into the deep end of the pool. I sliced the drive with about 15 partitions. I installed four or five distros along with my original Windows NT4 and Windows WFWG 3.11. I had a common FAT32 partition to share certain data files such as Firefox profiles.
Those were days when I learned a little about a lot. Eventually I settled on Slackware. One attraction was Slackware always improved but the fundamental design did not change. I had a life to live and stable software was up my alley. I'm not much of a fad follower and neither is the Slackware BDFL.
In those early days KDE was version 2.x and GNOME 1.x. For the most part both desktops were inferior to Windows, but all software starts raw. When I first dabbled with Slackware I was introduced to bare bone windows managers such as FVWM, blackbox, fluxbox, and lesstif. I never wrapped my mind around bare bone window managers and they all seemed like too much work.
GNOME transformed to version 2.0, the forerunner of today’s MATE desktop. KDE moved to 3.x series. GNOME somehow never tickled me. I became hooked on KDE 3.x. The final 3.5.10 release was enjoyable to use. I think Konqueror 3.5.10 was the best file manager ever.
The developer paradigm shifts to GNOME 3 and KDE 4 caused much havoc in user land. I am not a tablet or smart phone user. I never could adapt to GNOME 3. Despite disastrous quick adoption by some distro maintainers, I waited patiently for KDE 4 to mature. I saw hope after a few releases. Then the developers decided KDE would be built on certain pillars, one of which is the infamous Akonadi.
I waddled along for a few years with the Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE). For a while those developers seem to be progressing well. Then development was quiet and support for Slackware evaporated. TDE no longer seemed attractive.
Looking for a new home I saw Xfce, MATE, and an oddball collection of window managers. Slowly I migrated pivotal apps. Despite my previous indifference to GTK territory, gradually I came to not mind MATE. I stuck with MATE, but like previous tales, I saw myself disenchanted with the development road map.
Slackware has long included Xfce. Being a long-time Slackware user, occasionally I tinkered with Xfce. I somewhat forgot about Xfce during my KDE and TDE years. I tinkered with Xfce again a few years ago. For some reason I continued with MATE.
After 18 years I now am using Xfce full time. At least for the past few weeks. I find Xfce refreshing and responsive. I note the developers’ KISS philosophy. Finding a desktop environment where the traditional desktop metaphor is embraced and quite configurable is enjoyable.
Much noise has been made that the Xfce developers needed four years to move from version 4.12 to 4.14. So what? Doing something right takes time, unlike much of the buggy rapid development nonsense seen these days. Just like much noise has been made that more than three years have elapsed since the last official release of Slackware. “Release when ready” should always be the guiding light, not release rapidly for click-bait headlines.
Here’s hoping my Linux desktop remains stable, quiet, and stays out of my way.