Monday, April 20, 2009

Xfce under Debian!

After my recent switch from using Ubuntu to Debian on my laptop, I decided to try installing Xfce. The standard Gnome environment that Debian provides is nice enough, and refreshingly free from the various broken and unintuitive add-ons that Ubuntu adds (e.g., compiz). However, I've never exactly loved Gnome, and the philosophy of Xfce --- a simple and easy to use desktop environment --- sounded extremely appealing.

Well, all I can say is that using Xfce was like coming home after years in the wilderness. It's plain, it's simple, people who like all sorts of desktop effects would probably say it's boring, but my god, things just work. It reminds me, in a good way, of using fvwm back in the late 90s, except that modern conveniences (e.g., wicd to manage network connections, xfce4-battery-plugin to monitor the battery) are easily available and integrate unobtrusively.

When I started using Ubuntu, I can remember reading articles that expressed the opinion that Ubuntu was trying to turn Linux into Windows. I thought that view was alarmist at the time, but given the recent efforts of both the Ubuntu and Kubuntu projects to drastically reduce functionality and usability in the name of "modernizing" the user experience, I'm forced to conclude that the alarmists were right. There's a quote from Marge Simpson that I think summarizes the situation nicely: in an episode taking place in the near future, she says "Fox turned into a hard-core pornography network so gradually, I didn't even notice."

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