June 9, 2005
I've been using Ubuntu on my desktop at work for the last six months or so. As of Hoary, I'm switching back and forth between KDE, Gnome and XFCE. I've been mostly using KDE for years now. I find it a very productive environment. However, with Ubuntu, I've been once again tempted to look into Gnome. It really has matured since 1.4 and 2.0, when last I used and tested Gnome.
Hoary defaults to Gnome 2.10. I've been testing it extensively lately, as I'm trying to decide if the undergrad Linux image should once again default to Xfce or should use Gnome instead. While I prefer Gnome, XFce has seemed a bit faster in the past. However, as features are added, I find that this is less and less the case. With Xfce 4.2.1, I'm actually finding Gnome faster for day to day use. One thing that has bothered me with both Xfce and Gnome is that I haven't been able to alt-tab across all desktops. Gnome uses Metacity as the default Window Manager, Xfce uses xfwm4. Neither of these WMs seem to support alt-tab on all desktops. However, after reading WM benchmarks on Rasterman's site, I was once again reminded that I could simply swap out Metacity for something else. For the first time in probably four years, I'm once again using Sawfish. What a nice, fast, extensible WM!
Using Sawfish with Gnome, I am once again able to alt-tab between workspaces. And that's just scratching the surface! I'd forgotten how much Gnome had scaled back. Metacity is nice and simple, but I've always found it too limiting not to mention a bit slow. With Sawfish I get the WM extensibility I like with all of Gnome's features. I have to say, just switching the WM makes my machine noticeably more responsive. Now, if I could just find a decent Nautilus replacement. ;-)
Which brings me to the point of all of this: I've been splitting my time pretty evenly between Windows, MacOS, Solaris and Linix these days. All four OSs have their good and bad points. Overall, though, I'd still take Linux any day. You really can't beat the customizability of it. Really, what other OS makes it so easy to swap out any part that you don't like? Different processor? Ok! Different scheduler? No problem! Don't like the DE? Alright. I know the choice can be a detractor, and I deal with the pros and cons of this all the time. However, for me, Linux is still no. 1.