Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Desktop Enviroment Group Posted at

Base Specifications for the Free Desktop Environment

1. Any Desktop Environment needs a set of standards to determine the development path it will take. This specification is currently a rough draft of ideas and concepts. This is a beginning phase draft designed for interested parties to begin conception of a new Desktop Environment.

2. The following however, are base requirements for this DE:

Must follow and use all Open Desktop Specifications
Must use Compiz-Fusion for 3D, desktop effects and animations
Must use Emerald for theme Decorations
Must be OpenGL compliant
Must be user configurable to create the look, style and layout they desire
Must be user friendly but allow for advanced options for power users
Must not use any other Desktop Environment's tools and confguration applications
Development of tools to ease the creation of themes, including cursors and icons
Include integration with WINE using links to library files that handle the functions required to run the desired programs
Must fully Comply with Fitts' Law
Must be portable to work with any windowing system such as Xorg, Wayland, Xfree2k and others.

3. This DE needs to incorporate ideas and features found in Gnome, KDE, Xfce, LDE and all other DE environments used by *NIX systems. These features need to be properly evaluated for their usefulness and ability to enhance the Free Desktop Environment not just add features. If the feature does not add quality and desired ability then another solution or method needs to be utilized instead.

4. The DE must look at several sources for inspiration, ideas and concepts. Not only from DEs but from distribution specific implications of tools, layouts and designs as well.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Switching From Gnome 2 To Xfce

Switching to another Desktop Environment can create some havoc. Especially finding replacement programs, applets and utilities one had previously but in some cases those options are no longer viable for any number of reasons.

Switching to Xubuntu I incorporated the following changes to my software line up;


When I switched from Gnome to Xfce I initially spent some time getting things set back up. I originally installed Evolution but that became a problem when I tried to fix a minor issue. I was going to do a reinstall of Evolution as part of the fix but dependencies somehow got broken. I decided to install Thunderbird to handle my email while I looked into the issue. Instead I discovered that Thunderbird had matured considerably and now had available the features I needed, plus others I didn't have with either Kontact or Evolution previously. Since Xubuntu used Thunderbird as its default email client I decided to go ahead and make it my default as well. With available add-ons I was not only able to get the features I needed and wanted but others that produced a better experience for me overall. The following is a list of the add-ons I have installed:

Adblock Plus
Contacts Sidebar (Not available at Mozilla site. Must be obtained at developers website.)
Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus
Firetray (I used AllTray in Gnome for Evolution and it didn't work so well in Xfce. This add-on works better and has user configurable options you will never see in AllTray.)
Image Zoom
Lightning (I removed the Xubuntu version of this add-on and installed the one from Mozilla. I highly suggest you do this as well since this add-on is under heavy development you will want to get and use the latest stable copy available.)
Mail Merge
Mail Tweak
Message Faces for Thunderbird
Provider for Microsoft Exchange
Timezone Definitions for Mozilla Calendar (This is a required add-on. DO NOT REMOVE)
.vcs Support


Sadly this was an applet I found extremely useful but in order to get it into Xcfe required an install of most of the Gnome Core system which I was not willing to do. The good news is I found this neat little utility that is actually better and does not require dbus access to function. You can configure it to automatically run when certain programs start as well.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:caffeine-developers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install caffeine


There is a plugin for Thunar to access Dropbox available here:

Get the latest tarball version and follow the instructions on the website to build and install it.


I just can't get Gwibber to work and this is due in part to new Twitter sign in security requirements. Thankfully a new Linux Native Twitter Client just came on the scene. It has some very nice features while being surprisingly lightweight. Its called Hotot and is available via Launchpad:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hotot-team
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hotot


I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here. The following Blog Post has the correct information on how to get Emerald working on Natty. (Any version of Natty)


Its not Gnome but then with Gnome 3 changing to Gnome Shell and Ubunty defaulting to Unity I wanted a Desktop Environment that allowed me to have the workflow, look and feel I wanted. Xfce has provided that for me and using the above applications, utilities and blog posts have allowed me to keep those functions I had grown accustomed to having.

Many others have expressed the same opinion concerning Unity and Gnome 3. So this post is to help anyone who wants to keep a similar layout like the one they currently have under Gnome 2. Xfce just may be the answer for you.

Its certainly worth looking into.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

XFCE - The Mouse That Works

Like just like three years ago when KDE 4 came on the scene I am finding myself being forced to move onto another Desktop Environment. However, unlike last time many of the alternative environments have matured significantly and this allowed me look them over with a happier feeling that I wouldn't be left to far out where my productivity would suffer.

Three years ago Xfce was decent but lacked in features I needed. Today that's changed with Xfce 4.8. The only real issues I faced was finding solutions to my personal needs and taste that replaced Gnome based functions that required me to basically load Gnome itself. Don't get me wrong here I have several Gtk apps installed, many of which were created with Gnome in mind. What I'm saying is that getting certain functions implemented were not easy unless I was willing to also install Gnome. Being that the idea here is to replace my Desktop Environment I really wasn't willing to do that. Since Xfce is Gtk based I really had no issue with using Gtk based apps but installing Gnome wasn't going to happen.

Thank God for Google as I have been able to find plug ins, and applications that fulfilled the needs and saved me from having to install Gnome alongside Xfce. (I will write about this on another post.)

While there are some things about Xfce that are still in my learning curve I am actually happy with it overall. Though there are a couple of things that I feel need to be addressed.

1. To dependent on Gnome for system settings and functions. Xfce developers may not see a need to reinvent the wheel but use of another Desktop Environment to gain access to system settings, functions and configuration is just not a good idea in the grand scheme of things. Requiring the libraries and tools that force a parallel install of another Windows Manager is just asking for trouble, especially in the event that things become incompatible. Which is very likely to happen with Gnome 3 when it becomes the default Gnome system. (Which is starting to happen now. Main stream distros will soon be replacing Gnome 2, before the end of this year.)

2. I don't mind simplicity but I would like to see more options in the few settings apps that are Native to Xfce. It would also be nice to have a way to install themes, icons and cursors without having to do it manually, or using the Gnome tools.

3. Better integration and by this Xfce developers need to develop the tools for various program hooks like LibreOffice/OpenOffice, Firefox and other programs so that they function correctly within the Windows Manager. This also includes having the system tell applications where the panel(s) are located. For some reason all my tray apps assume the panel is on top where my panel is at the bottom. When I open them again they drop down slightly and it gets annoying. LibreOffice had a whole different issue, the title bar was off the top of the screen. I did get this fixed but its obvious that Xfce is not reporting coordinates to applications correctly. On this note it would be nice to see a Compiz plugin for Xfce. Xfce developers themselves need to take the lead on these or work with others to implement this.

My final gripe was something I saw from an Xfce developer to a user. A user was asking if there was a replacement for Gnome-Applet-Sleep-Inhibitor (By the way I did find a solution to this. Its called Caffeine The user was told to use the Gnome-Applet because there was no need to create a separate applet for Xfce. What the developer is not understanding is to use that applet you have to install the Gnome-Power-Manager, which requires that you install most of the Gnome Core features. Since the idea is to replace Gnome and not install it I was more than a bit upset by this statement. If that is the kind of support the Xfce community is giving then Xfce will always be nothing more than an alternative low end Desktop Environment.

Despite the above I find there are a great many things I like about Xfce. Its easy to configure and modify when you finally figure out how. You can make it look the way you want without to many issues. Honestly the only way I can tell the difference between my current Xfce desktop and my old Gnome desktop is the Icons in my Notification Tray and how they act.

One major kudo is the Xfce Weather Applet. I love how it gives more complete data without having to actually open the interface. With the animations turned on it has a nice affect down in the panel. Though I would like to see a radar map added to the interface I do like the forecast window a lot more than Gweather.

If you, like me, aren't happy with where Gnome is going with Gnome 3 and prefer to have the options to make your desktop layout like you want, then Xfce is a good option to look at. Its not a perfect replacement but I do have my system setup and ready for work. Xfce three years ago wasn't mature enough for that but with the recent 4.8 release it is now.