Will I be punished for my inability to choose?
December 16, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Linux Question: KDE, Gnome, keeping things seperate, the future etc. (Ubuntu/Fedora).

So I just got a new computer, on which I would like to create a primary Linux install (while keeping windows for Office, Steam).

I have used linux for a couple of years, and have tried Ubuntu (the most), Fedora, openSuse, maybe one or two others.

The meat: I like KDE 4.x, and would like to jump back on that train but it seems that most popular distros 'favor' Gnome (except Suse maybe). So...
-How terrible is it to install both?
-How do I clearly discern gnome vs. kde apps?
-How bad is it to run kde/gnome apps in their non-native DE?
-I have a lot of space, can I also instal XFCE etc. (not 'can' really, but 'should')?

Oh, and if you have any insight about how my question relates to Unity/Wayland, feel free to speculate.

Extra points: if you have a distro/flavor recommendation I am all ears. I am considering sticking with Ubuntu, or maybe moving to Fedora. Mint seems popular now these days too.
posted by rosswald to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, first off, there's Kubuntu--Ubuntu with KDE instead of Gnome.

Next, there's almost zero reason not to install and use both KDE and Gnome. When you start a gnome program under KDE, it'll load what it needs to draw the app, but KDE will continue to manage the window. In fact, I use a hearty mix of K and G programs on my machines... I don't even pay attention to which is which.

Actually, on Ubuntu (all I use after nearly 12 years of exclusive linux use), I don't even bother to install KDE. I just apt-get programs I want, and apt installs the minimal KDE libraries to make it work. The same applies in reverse, if you're using KDE but installing Gnome stuff.

If you specifically want to switch back and forth between DEs, most login managers will allow you to choose your "session" when you login. You can choose from any window manager/DE on your system, at each login--and any good one will save your last preference.

Basically, it's a non-issue. Although some of the stuff, like notifications, will be duplicated instead of unified. It doesn't really bother me, but it does some people.
posted by Netzapper at 3:42 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: I don't recommend you try having multiple Desktop environments living together, but see below.

If you like KDE, install Kubuntu.

I love XFCE and recommend it strongly, it's very light on resources and, in my mind, as useful and functional as KDE or Gnome. If this sounds like something you'd like to try, check out Xubuntu.

Personally, I'm dual-booting Windows 7 and normal Ubuntu with XFCE installed on top. Doing this is ok, but be prepared to have to fix some Nautilus issues (i.e. Nautilus trying to steal control of the Desktop and mysteriously changing the wallpaper), as well as some minor keyboard issues (gnome-screensaver bypasses XFCE's keystroke detection and grabs the XF86ScreenSaver key directly).
posted by nzero at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: It's not a problem at all to run a KDE app under GNOME and vice versa. You might take a bit of a memory hit as you'll have the two stacks both in memory, but on a modern system with lots of RAM this shouldn't be a concern. As to discerning the difference, it's pretty obvious that the apps use different widgets. If you want Ubuntu with KDE as the default then look at Kubuntu.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:45 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: Oh, and to your "how to tell the difference between KDE and Gnome applications" question, I say that most KDE applications are named with a K at the beginning of their name, and almost everything else is written in GTK. I have to respectfully disagree with Netzapper- if you run KDE applications in a Gnome environment, a lot of KDE services will start and never stop (and will then be restarted by your Gnome session every time you log in). If system resources don't matter to you then this may not matter, but for me (running on a very resource-limited system) this is a major no-no for me.
posted by nzero at 3:46 PM on December 16, 2010

Minus that extra "for me."
posted by nzero at 3:47 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: How terrible is it to install both?

It's unlikely to make a big difference, you're probably installing most of GTK and QT either way. You'll probably be updating the system more often and have bigger updates because you have more packages installed, but as long as you have broadband you'll not notice much.

How do I clearly discern gnome vs. kde apps?

Gnome apps will have dependencies on GTK stuff, KDE apps will have dependencies on QT (and will mostly have names begin with the letter K).

How bad is it to run kde/gnome apps in their non-native DE?

Shouldn't make a lot of difference as long as you install everything through your distro's package manager everything will be taken care of.

I have a lot of space, can I also instal XFCE etc. (not 'can' really, but 'should')?

You can do. I went through a phase of installing every DE environment available. After a few years I got over the 'tinkering for the sake of it' and now just stick to one DE on each PC and concentrate on doing actual work instead ;)

If you want to really impress your friends, try installing e17.

Oh, and if you have any insight about how my question relates to Unity/Wayland, feel free to speculate.

I speculate that when Ubuntu, or any other distro, switches to Wayland it will be at a point where they've got most of the main packages integrated into the new display libraries.

Extra points: if you have a distro/flavor recommendation I am all ears.

Personally I prefer Fedora to Ubuntu, but it's my experience that upgrades between versions are much easier on Ubuntu. I've tried it a few times with Fedora, but it's never really worked well, mostly these days I wait until I want to buy a new hard drive (about every 18 months) then do a fresh install with a new release and copy everything over.

In short, if you're new to Linux, Ubnutu might be an easier road.
posted by robertc at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2010

I run KDE apps under Gnome all the time and have never had a problem. But I don't run a resource-limited system like nzero's: just a normal desktop with plenty of memory and space.
posted by lollusc at 3:59 PM on December 16, 2010

Response by poster: Ya, I am not a pro by any stretch, but not a complete noob either. I may try and punish myself by installing and compiling Gentoo on my old desktop. Hopefully.

My new machine is pretty beefy, but I also sort of fetishize "efficiency" in random areas of my life.

It sounds like I should just install them all though. I have heard a lot of recommendations for a seperate /home partition, which would also allow me putz around, and then wipe as needed.

And I am very seriously considering Fedora, though they are all pretty good.
posted by rosswald at 4:09 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: Here's a strategy for you from an inveterate distrohopper: virtualize.

I use VirtualBox (get the version from their site, it has more features than the one in your distro's repositories).

You can run your "full time" distro on your main machine, and the go absolutely NUTS installing virtual machines. If your computer is reasonably powerful, you can run your virtual machines full screen and you won't even know it's not native.

Doing it this way is 100% safe, nothing will get broken or messed up, you can save modified virtual machines in various states of modification and then revert to previous states, you can delete them, etc etc. It's a great way to learn for yourself the answers you are looking for. It's like having an infinite amount of computers available to you to experiment with at no cost, but to keep your regular computing environment safe and stable.
posted by quarterframer at 4:32 PM on December 16, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and thanks for the all responses!
posted by rosswald at 4:33 PM on December 16, 2010

Best answer: n'thing kubuntu

I used to be a huge gnome fan, but switched to KDE after 4 was released. I have been running Kubuntu happily for just over a year now on my netbook (not the netbook remix, I hate that) I have been avoiding using any gnome programs because my netbook does not have the spare power to run both at the same time. So far I have even been quite successful at running MS Office and engineering programs like MatLab under wine no problem. That way you don't have to shutdown and boot into windows to work on an office document.
posted by token-ring at 10:05 PM on December 16, 2010

Response by poster: It good to hear that Kubuntu is so strong. I am surprised, but with all the recs. for it that may be the direction I go.

The virtualization idea is a good one. I have done Wine stuff, but true virtualization is something I should get a handle on.

Also, I got bored and found the Linux Action Show's review of Arch linux, which may be what I try instead of Gentoo on my old desktop.
posted by rosswald at 6:57 AM on December 17, 2010

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