Back in 2008 I switched to Linux (Debian Lenny) and abandoning it for Mac OS X again in early 2009, due to the mess that is fglrx.1 Mac OS X is still my main OS on both my work and home machines, but once in a while I’m still tempted to switch. The efforts of the Ubuntu team are one of the main reasons I’m still considering to go back to Linux.
In 2008, I chose Debian as my OS because of its philosophy and I though I still sympathise with Debian’s Ideology of Free, I would choose Ubuntu as my flavour of Linux next time I decide to switch. Earlier, I also stated my preference for KDE in favour of GNOME, but looking at the releases Ubuntu is churning out, I would happily use GNOME over KDE. In part the ethereal transparency fetish that seems to have gotten a hold of the KDE design team is to blame for this. The fact remains that the KDE 4 Plasma theming support is lacking in some areas. Fine-grained control over colours and fonts isn’t possible at the moment.2 Also, the user interfaces of a lot of the core KDE applications don’t appear to be well designed as opposed. It’s nitpicking on the level of widget and button placement, I know, but considered together with the others things I don’t like about KDE (notifications, limited theming, etc.) I would choose GNOME.3
I believe my critique of GNOME versus KDE 4 is still valid. KDE still has a clearer architecture and overall vision of where its heading. Ubuntu makes up for the muddled nature of GNOME though, by having a clear vision and points of focus with each release. I was delighted to read that Mark Shuttleworth wants to focus more on the visual design of Ubuntu, which has drastically approved with the last few releases. The creation of the new Ubuntu font by Dalton Maag in the latest release (“Maverick Meerkat”) is testament to that as well. It’s as nice interface font with proper anti-aliasing and a world apart from the horrible looking default “Sans” of the olden days. Also, it has much better support for light and dark themes than KDE has. Installation was a breeze, as well as configuring drivers (I only had to activate my proprietary wireless driver). The Ars Technica review of Ubuntu 10.10 is a very nice read if you want to know more.
The only thing I didn’t try was fiddling with the display drivers. The testing machine has an ATI graphics card in it, so if I want to use a dual monitor setup or utilise it for my gaming needs I would need to install the beloved fglrx drivers again… Which is a world of pain. Considering the ease with which my wireless was enabled on Ubuntu I have some hope of experiencing the same joy with activating the fglrx drivers. If it’s as painless as the wireless procedure I just might consider switching again.
- Maybe things improved in the meantime, but setting up fglrx and fiddling with the compilation of your own kernel mods wasn’t the most fun thing to do on Debian. It broke X a lot of times as well. ↩
- One of the bugs filed in relation to this doesn’t seem to have a lot of support or priority. ↩
- KDE might have a more concise framework and architecture, but GNOME has those characteristics on a visual level in comparison to KDE at the moment. ↩