A look at the evolution of the Linux desktop through the ages. Specifically Red Hat Linux.
Posted: December 12, 2012. At: 9:58 PM
The Linux desktop has undergone a significant change in layout since the earliest days of the Gnome desktop that we saw on Red Hat Linux back in the day. Those were the days of dial up Internet and 14″ monitors that were far smaller than the massive computer screens that we have now. And the ease of installation is improved. although installation of Red hat Linux 6.2 was very easy; the configuration of Xfree86 was not always much fun compared to now when we have Xorg which will auto-detect hardware and set up everything for you upon loading the graphical interface. The old Red Hat Linux interface was made to resemble Windows `95. And it was quite a clean and usable interface that was fun to use and attractive. This screen-shot of the Red Hat Linux 9 desktop shows a similar look; the clean and attractive desktop is the same as the older Red Hat screen-shot on the top of this page. The wallpaper is even the same style. RHEL is the current implementation of the old Red Hat distribution, but the Fedora Linux distribution is the free version that has Red Hat support and has a large community behind it that supplies patches and support websites to help out users of this distribution. The latest RHEL 7 distribution will feature the Gnome 3 desktop instead of the Gnome 2 desktop that has been a feature of this distribution until now.
It is good to see that the Red Hat company maintain their branding as their products evolve. Sure the newest Red Hat desktops are slightly similar; but the Red Hat Enterprise products still keep the same Gnome desktop that the older Red Hat Linux products used. This is a sample screen-shot of the RHEL desktop. RHEL is the current implementation of the old Red Hat distribution, but the Fedora Linux distro is the free version that has Red Hat support and has a large community behind it that supplies patches and support websites to help out users of this distribution. The latest RHEL 7 distribution will feature the Gnome 3 desktop instead of the Gnome 2 desktop that has been a feature of this distribution until now. Of course, this was only a matter of time; the Gnome 3 desktop is the next stage in the evolution of the Linux desktop; this features a touch interface with an applications menu that shows a whole screen full of large icons separated into categories that allows you to select the application that you are interested in. Older Linux desktops like FVWM 95 and Afterstep took a differing route; one was emulating the Windows `95 desktop and the other was copying the NextStep desktop.
Nowadays; the desktops are copying the Macintosh OSX look. This is not the best thing; it is better to focus on usability than whatever desktop layout you can copy. That is why people still use the old Xfce desktop and other simpler window managers like Awesome WM and Openbox. That is the natural thing to happen though. The touch screen interface is a fad due to the Android and IOS devices with touch screens and all of the touch screen interfaces in movies like the Avengers and Iron Man. iron Man even used a holographic interface with projected holograms that can wrap around your arm and can be “picked up” and moved around. I am not sure how that is supposed to work; but maybe in the future we will have holographic computer interfaces. But moving your arms around for ages to operate a computer interface all day would really be tiring. I have seen a large computer monitor that was a touch screen; but that would be too tiring to use for long periods without getting very sore indeed. People do not want to use a Minority report interface waving your arms around to navigate the interface. How would you write a long thesis on such an interface; or on an on-screen keyboard that provides no tactile feedback to your keystrokes like a real keyboard?
Thank god for the desktop PC and laptops that actually have a real keyboard that is actually usable and the form factor that actually makes sense. The Linux Mint MATE desktop that mimics the Gnome 2.32.2 desktop in intimate detail is a godsend when installing desktop Linux these days; I use it with dual monitors and it works a treat. I did take off my second monitor for a short time; then I put it back on again; I really cannot cope without it. The only problem is that when I have Youtube running in full-screen on one monitor and I do something on the other monitor; it will switch out of full-screen. But that is a minor bug. The MATE desktop is the reason I formatted over my Ubuntu 12.10 installation and installed Linux Mint 14 instead. It really is that good. I remember installing the Gnome 2.10 release from source code on an old Zenwalk machine that had Xfce installed and it worked a treat. That was back in the days of kernel 2.6.12 and that was quite a good Linux distribution. The KDE 3.4 desktop was another good Linux desktop interface; before they disabled the file management ability of Konqueror and implemented the Dolphin file-manager instead. But a KDE 3.4 desktop was very fast indeed. KDE 2.2 was even better; wih a great range of packages and utilities that came with it. The Trinity desktop project is an open source project that is bringing the KDE 3.4 desktop back in 2012-2013.
This is an interesting project; I would be very happy if someone made a PPA available for Linux Mint 14, I would be installing that right away. One thing I miss is the old KDE World Clock that would show the area of a world map that was illuminated by the sun. Now that is a Plasmoid, but it should be a fully functioning application for the KDE 4.9 desktop. They have done some things wrong when the moved from 3.5 to KDE 4.0. But the main thing they did wrong is the release of the KDE 4.0 code into the wild before it was ready for the mainstream. This meant that a lot of Linux distributions like OpenSUSE and Ubuntu deployed the KDE desktops before the code was optimized and this resulted in performance degradation on people’s desktops. But overall the advent of the MATE desktop as well as the presence of Xfce and Lxde provide sane alternatives if you do not like the Unity and Gnome 3 interfaces that are prevalent these days. They show the Unity interface on television these days; but the computer interface in the TRON Legacy movie was better; that was running on a variant of the Solaris UNIX operating system. I wish that Encom was really selling their operating system; I would get a copy and be happy to try that out. As I love UNIX; I would be right at home. I have found an interesting PDF file here: http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/teaching/courses/cp1/unix.pdf this contains a listing of UNIX commands and this will be very interesting to any Linux user.