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Switching to Arch and XFCE

Tue 27 Mar 2012 by mskala Tags used: , ,

I am, as the title implies, switching my home desktop system from Slackware Linux and KDE to Arch Linux and XFCE. You may see some minor disruptions here (in particular, the astrological chart generator may be down or unreliable) for the next few days. The switch is a pretty big production; I've been using Slackware for most of the last 20 years, and KDE for most of the time I've been using Slackware, and because I've been doing continuous incremental upgrades instead of full reinstalls, some parts of my system actually are that old.

There was no one big annoyance or disaster to make me want to switch, but my dissatisfaction with KDE has been gradually increasing for the last few years, and I decided it would be better to switch in a controlled way when I'm not fighting a fire, rather than wait until some kind of disaster forces me to switch under pressure. I'm still basically satisfied with Slackware, and I could have continued to use it, but I tried doing a similar KDE to XFCE switch on my laptop first to debug the process, and found that doing a complete reinstall of the underlying Linux distribution really makes the desktop change a lot pleasanter. Given that I'm doing a reinstall of the core Linux system, it seems like a good opportunity to also do the switch to Arch, which has some advantages over Slackware.

My gripes with KDE are no big secret, but just for amusement value I'd like to set down the biggest ones again. As I was considering this change and starting to think about pros and cons of doing it, I came to the realization that it was silly of me to be even considering continuing to use KDE, when about the only thing from KDE I still really like is its PDF viewer. Here are some of the reasons I no longer want to use KDE.

  • Things that have silly names because including the letter K is more important than telling people what the thing actually does (Most components of the system. I refer to them below according to what I call them minus the profanities, instead of by their official names, with my best guesses about the official names noted in parentheses. In fairness, GNOME has a similar thing about the letter G, and some of XFCE's components, notably Terminal, err too far in the other direction.)
  • Attention-stealing user interface "features" (general policy throughout the system, including but not limited to large slow-moving tooltips, "notifications," window manager animations, task bar animations, start-menu pop-ups without a mouse click, and panel auto-hide)
  • No manual panel hide; developers claim that auto-hide (see previous item) makes this unnecessary, thus justifying its removal; that because "Kicker" has had its name changed to "Plasma" they are absolved of responsibility for the issue; are rude to users who want the feature back; promise to put it back; do not do so; situation has been unchanged for years. (XFCE's panel also lacks manual hide, but there is some realistic possibility that XFCE will implement manual hide within the next five years.)
  • General policy that announcing a new version, even if it only exists as vapour, makes it okay not to fix problems with the old version; and that having a new version, even if it is only a stub, makes it okay not to have and never to plan to implement features that were useful and important in the old version. And of course giving the new version a new silly name makes it perfectly okay to completely abandon any continuity from the old version. (Manual panel hide, lost in the change from "Kicker" to "Plasma," is a perfect example, but this also shows up in the printer-settings issue, and throughout the system.)
  • The Thing That Wants You To Spend Many Hours Creating A Resource Description Framework Catalogue Of All Your Private Documents Using The Dublin Core Ontology, And Of Course Getting The Master's Degree In Library Science Necessary To Understand What That Means, So That You Can Share Your Private Documents With The World As Soon As Microsoft, Apple, GNOME, And All Their Users Have Also Done This And Followed KDE's Standards For It In Preference To Their Own (Nepomuk Semantic Desktop, implementation of which seems to be the KDE Foundation's main development priority at the moment because they are in a race with GNOME)
  • The Thing That Wants You To Tell It What Kind Of Work You Are Doing At Any Given Moment So It Can Prevent You From Seeing Software Packages It Doesn't Know Are Related To That Kind Of Work Because Ha Ha You Didn't Correctly Tag Them With Dublin Core Resource Description Framework Metadata You Silly Non-Librarian Goose (Activities and the Cashew)
  • The Thing That Pops Up And Demands You Acknowledge Several Paragraphs Of Abuse And Threats On Every Login Because You Aren't Running A Structured Query Language Server (Akonadi component of Nepomuk)
  • The Thing That Consumes All Your CPU Resources Doing Nothing (two for one! It might be the Akonadi index builder, or Plasma Desktop. Most likely both.)
  • The Useless Desktop Corner Icon (the Cashew)
  • The Thing That Prevents You From Using Your Sound Hardware (aRTS Esound JACK Phonon)
  • The Media Players That Don't Work Because Somebody Wants To Make A Point About Software Patents (various)
  • The Media Player That Supposedly Works Very Well But Not For You Because Several Paragraphs Of Abuse And Threats About Your Non-Existant Structured Query Language Server And Resource Description Framework Metadata (Amarok, and its tight integration with Nepomuk)
  • Three Places To Set Printer Settings, Only One Of Which Actually Has Any Effect, And That One Resets Itself To Incorrect Defaults Requiring A Manual Override On Every Single Print Job. This alone is a dealbreaker for using KDE in a multi-user semi-public environment like a school computer lab. It has remained unfixed, with no real plans to ever fix it, for years, and developers have been rude to users who've expressed the view that fixing it might be more important than Nepomuk Semantic Desktop.

So far the installation of Arch and XFCE is going well. I'm posting occasional updates on the upgrade status to my Twitter stream, should you want to hear about it. The new stuff is not without its own annoyances - so far the biggest being GRUB's poor support of RAID, and Arch's lack of support for bringing up a system without /usr for recovery - but I'm generally pleased with it.

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You are officially cheered on! Your Tweets seem to be echoed on Facebook so I'll see them there.
Axel - 2012-03-28 09:37
I went back to fvwm (and xdm for login) about a decade ago, and it has quietly abstained from annoying me since.
kiwano - 2012-03-28 09:45
Yikes! My old box (about fourteen years old) died yesterday. Irreparable main disk malfunction. I have ordered a new tower and shall install when Mercury goes direct; operating for now on an Ubuntu demo disk.
Axel - 2012-03-29 22:53
The present Mercury retrograde seems to be hitting everybody pretty hard. Normally I don't pay any attention to them. I wonder what's different about this one - or if in fact it's some other effect and not Mercury at all.
Matt - 2012-03-30 09:33
The worst was probably the 27th-28th soon after the turning point, when the Moon was in late Taurus making SA=LU/ME. As Mercury goes back over the same area another hard time should be 12th April with the Moon in Capricorn and LU=ME/SA.
Axel - 2012-03-30 12:35
I only like Konsole: but kKill kDE!!! Yay! (Warmest regards from Singapore)
catmaker - 2012-05-11 03:47

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