Tag Archives: Gnome

Why I Switched to KDE

I have always been a Gnome person. I’ve tried KDE every once in a while but I never really liked it. It seemed it was always either features that were missing that Gnome had or things didn’t work right where they worked fine in Gnome.  I could never get used to it and I would always find myself back in Gnome.

Recently though, the timing was just right. I used to be a big fan of Unity, but I was very put off by the version that is in Ubuntu 11.10.  I liked the version in 11.04 much better. Not to mention it was much stabler. The version in 11.10 was very unstable for me and I did not like some of the new functionality. I quickly became very unhappy with Unity.  I realized that I wasn’t as big of a fan of Unity as I thought. I didn’t want to use Unity anymore I got so frustrated with it. So I started looking at my options.


I decided I would try KDE yet again. Not only did KDE look absolutely beautiful, but all of the features that were missing for me had been implemented and all of the deal breaking bugs had been fixed after many years. So I tried to give KDE a genuine shot. It was a bit awkward getting used to the way KDE does things. But I fell in love with it after just a few days and haven’t looked back. KDE seems very refreshing and freeing compared to Gnome. I can customize every little bit to my likings. Now I look back and Gnome seems very restrictive to me.


tl;dr: Got tired of Unity and tried KDE again. Fell in love with it and never looked back.

On Unity

With the recent announcement of Ubuntu 11.04 shipping Unity instead of Gnome Shell by default, there has been a lot of backlash.  I’m talking about all the knee-jerk reactions such as “I DON’T LIKE THE DIRECTION UBUNTU IS HEADED TIME TO SWITCH TO GENTOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!11”.  It’s funny how people can react like this over an Ubuntu release that hasn’t even been released yet.  Unity has been made the default interface on the netbook edition, but what needs to be understood is that it is kind of a “1.0 release” sort of thing.   In the same way that the first release of KDE 4 was rough around the edges, Unity is rough around the edges. It is definitely not perfect.  Even I have some complaints about it, but for the love of sanity, try it for more than ten seconds and make your decision based on actual experience and not nonsense.  Also realize that the Unity that will ship with 11.04 will be much different from the current version.  The developers are going to get a lot of feedback during this release cycle and will improve upon it.

Transitions can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable.  We’ve been though this many times before.  As I mentioned before, when KDE 4 was initially released there were many, many complaints. Now all I hear is how nice KDE 4 is.  When PulseAudio was released it caused a lot of problems for people.  Over time though it has greatly improved and I would even dare to say that it now works for most people most of the time. When Ubuntu first released Notify-OSD, there was a lot of outcry about that but died down after a while.  Maybe because people become used to it or *gasp* prefer it to the old notification-daemon.  Unity will follow in a similar fashion.  Transitions can be bumpy but everything turns out OK in the end.

Some other things to consider:

  • Gnome Shell will still be in the repositories and easily installable.
  • Gnome 2.x will still be in the repositories.
  • Unity is not replacing Gnome 3

Give Unity a chance before writing it off and don’t spread FUD.


With the introduction of the new theme for Ubuntu 10.04 there has been much controversy over the placement of the window management buttons. A lot of people (or perhaps a small but very loud group of people) have complained about how the positioning on the left is bad. The thing is another major OS places its window management buttons on the left; OS X. I’m positive that Apple put a lot of usability research into the placement of those buttons. There’s no way the developers just arbitrarily placed the buttons on the left. But that’s besides the point of this post. What I find kind of ironic amongst all of the complaining is the most downloaded theme on gnome-look.org is this theme. And guess where the buttons are placed. That’s right, on the left. If buttons on the left are so bad, why do so many people want them? Just sayin’.

File Roller is Terribly Inefficient

The Gnome archive manager, File Roller, is terribly inefficient in the way it handles archive extraction and creation. I just happened to have Htop running while I was extracting a large gziped tar archive which was on my external hard drive with File Roller when I saw what File Roller was actually doing. First off, File Roller is pretty simple in the way it works. It’s just a GUI wrapper for the command line tools like tar, gzip, etc. So here is what File Roller does when you extract something. It copies the whole archive to a temporary directory in ~/.cache/.fr-xxxx. Then it extracts it in the temporary directory and then copies the extracted files to the location you’re extracting them to.  ARRRRRGGGHH! 👿 What is this I don’t even

Now if that archive happens to be sitting on an external drive and you’re extracting it to the same directory or to another directory on the same external drive you can see just how terribly inefficient this is. It has to copy the archive to your home directory then extract it, then copy it back to the external drive! This is such a waste of time, it makes it take twice as long since it has to make unnecessary copies to temporary locations. Like I said before, File Roller is simply a GUI wrapper for command line tools which is what makes me even more frustrated with this. Tar supports extracting to alternate locations with the -C option. So why the hell is File Roller making unnecessary, time-wasting copies to temporary locations!? I can accomplish the same thing in less time and more efficiently than File Roller with something like this

tar -xzvf file.tar.gz -C /path/to/destination

Another reason this is so bad is that if you happen to be running low on disk space in your home directory and you try to extract an archive that is on an external drive and the archive is larger than your free space you won’t be able to because it will complain about the lack of disk space even though you may have more than enough free space on the external drive.

Finally, it does something just as pointless when creating archives too. I had a 2.3GB file on my desktop that I wanted to compress with lzma. Guess what File Roller did. Yep, copied the whole 2.3GB file to a temporary directory, compressed it, then copied back to my desktop. 👿

I see no logical reason File Roller needs to be making these unnecessary copies to temporary locations. If anyone has a good reason why it does this please enlighten me.

Related bug https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/file-roller/+bug/146206


So Much Potential

I was doing some thinking and I realized there’s a few pieces of technology in Linux that have so much potential but are extremely under-utilized.


PolicyKit is an awesome piece of software. It allows for a finer grained permission system. Instead of launching an entire application as root, you can elevate your privileges in a seamless manner. However, PolicyKit is so under used. For example, when Gnome deprecated gnome-vfs and moved to gio/gvfs, Nautilus supposedly got a framework in place that would allow PolicyKit integration. So if you needed root permissions to makes changes to the file system you would be able to basically click a button and elevate your privileges through PolicyKit. Synaptic could also benefit from some PolicyKit integration. Why isn’t PolicyKit used more?


Tracker is a great metadata indexer that crawls your files system and indexes metadata from files. Instead of only searching by file name, you can use Tracker to search ID3 tags or search for text in a OpenOffice or Word document. The problem is, no one has integrated this great search functionality into applications. Once again, there’s an opportunity for some integration with Nautilus. If Nautilus could use Tracker as a backend for searching and have the ability to add tags to files, it would really add some great functionality.

There’s so much potential here. It’s a shame it’s not being used.

Install Qgtkstyle

Since I haven’t found any proper debs of qgtkstyle around, I’m just going to tell how to compile it from source.

If you don’t know what Qgtkstyle is, Qgtkstyle is a Qt theme engine that uses your GTK theme directly.

First thing to do is to enable the Backports repository since you need Qt 4.4 which is in the Backports in Hardy.  You can do this by going System→Administration→Software Sources, then going to the Updates tab and enabling the “Unsupported updates (hardy-backports)” repository.

Software Sources
Software Sources

Click Close and then click the Reload button when prompted.  Now to install all the development packages needed to compile Qgtkstyle.

sudo apt-get install build-essential libqt4-dev libgtk2.0-dev subversion qt4-qtconfig

This is optional if you want to install with Checkinstall

sudo apt-get install checkinstall

Now to get the code

svn co svn://labs.trolltech.com/svn/styles/gtkstyle

There should be a folder in your home directory called gtkstyle. Now enter that directory

cd gtkstyle/

Now compile it

qmake qgtkstyle.pro

Now here you have a choice. You can either just install it directly with

sudo make install

Or you may like to build a deb out of it for easy removal later if need be.  In that case do

sudo checkinstall

and follow the instructions.  They’re pretty self explanitory.

Now if you go under System→Preferences→Qt 4 Settings you can choose GTK from the drop down menu.

Qt 4 Settings
Qt 4 Settings

Then do a File→Save and enjoy Qt applications with a nice GTK integration. 🙂

Also if you want to see a little Easter Egg move that preview window around. Yes you can actually move that. I won’t spoile the surprise. It gave me a little laugh when I first found it. 😉

Why the hate for Qt?

I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot of “ZOMG it’s Qt! Oh Noes!” going on and I just don’t get it.  I think the reason is some confusion and lack of understanding.  Now I’m not talking about the programming languages behind Qt and GTK, I’m talking about the typical end user’s experience.  People seem to assume that Qt == KDE, Qt requires a lot of KDE libs, and/or Qt looks ugly and doesn’t integrate well in a GTK environment.

First, a Qt application doesn’t always mean it’s KDE.  Yes KDE is based on Qt, but there’s a huge difference between a pure Qt app and a KDE app.  An application that is written in pure Qt has nothing to do with KDE whatsoever.    Some of these include SMplayer, KeePassX, VLC (0.9.2), VirtualBox, and many others.  KDE apps will depend on a lot of KDE specific stuff that will have a lot of dependencies.  This goes on to the second point.  A pure Qt app does not require a tone of KDE libs since it has nothing to do with KDE.  All it usually needs libqt.

Finally to put this integration mess to rest.  Qt integrating into a GTK environment used to be an issue.  This is no longer true.  This argument is deprecated.  Qgtkstyle (which will come bundled with Qt 4.5 😀 ) is a Qt theme engine that uses your GTK theme directly.  It does not try to emulate a GTK theme or anything like that.  It actually uses the GTK theme.  So now it can’t be argued that Qt doesn’t integrate with GTK anymore.  You pretty much can’t tell the difference.

SMplayer Preferences
SMplayer Preferences

You almost can’t even tell those are Qt applications.

So I just don’t understand all the Qt hating going on.