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Unusual Linux Desktops? 89

sparrow_hawk asks: "I'm doing a presentation on Linux, sort of a basic education about what exactly it is and isn't. One of the points I'm trying to hammer home is the idea that Linux can look and act pretty much however you want it to. I'd like to know what's the most unusual Linux desktop you've seen, preferably with screenshots -- the one that looks like the helm of an alien spaceship, or the one that mimics a 50's radio?"
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Unusual Linux Desktops?

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  • by E_elven ( 600520 ) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:54PM (#8300930) Journal
    [elven@endymion /home/elven/]$
  • That was the most unusual desktop I have ever seen for a Linux Operating System...
  • 3 diff os(s)! (Score:2, Informative)

    by J3r3miah ( 753239 )
    linux with 4 virtual desktops each imitating XP, 98, mac 9 and linux!
  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by paradesign ( 561561 ) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:05PM (#8301024) Homepage
    Theres some neat-o themes there.

    Ive been most impressed by the 'other' WMs though, the little guys. Some of the Fluxbox or icewm 'minimalist' desktops are cool.

    Also dont forget that you can do most of this stuff to XP as well, with a few hacks that is.

    • (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MikeCapone ( 693319 )
      Ive been most impressed by the 'other' WMs though, the little guys. Some of the Fluxbox or icewm 'minimalist' desktops are cool.

      My favourite, the one that I use at home, is XFce [].

      It's about as fast and small as fluxbox, but looks better and has a few features that I can't live without anymore (ie. switching between virtual desktops with the mouse wheel, from anywhere in the background.)
    • (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mystran ( 545374 )
      Indeed, the "other" WMs.. yeah, try grabbing a screenshot of wmx [] or evilwm [] and you should get something that looks unusual, even in the bash prompt when you ls -lh :)

      Both are perfectly usable, small, and almost without any runtime configuration. Still, those are my top-2 of window managers. If I did a top-3 list, then Ion [] would be the third I think.

  • check out []. Most of them are running windows, but if it's the 50s Radio or the alien, that's where to go... the OS is really secondary.
  • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:11PM (#8301078) Journal has tons of stuff that may be of use to you.

    As far as looks go.

    If you want funtionality differences some of the themes for KDE work (the B3 decoration in kde changes the way title bars look (only as wide as the title itself and can be dragged by holding shift. This allows for tabbing windows across the top). Then there is the button setting (I wish I knew what this was called, but I am at work and cannot check) where you can give it a marble theme. Or an SGI theme, or many others. It may be worth looking around for impressive Win and Mac clones, but the ones I have seen are obviously different even as a casual Mac user (I have spent 20 minutes on OSX and the aqua themes are lame) Most obvious difference is the buttons are on the right of the Window frame.

    For serious functional differences scrap KDE and Gnome and go with some strait up window managers. I had one called WM2 that only allowed you to open Xterms (that you could launch apps from) and move windows and kill windows (no nice close of them, that was the apps job). Enlightenment is pretty cool. And quite unique. The one where you drage the clip around is popular, but I don't even know what it is. After step is kinda neat to look at, but probably shows it's age. Black Box (and probably Flux Box) can look really cool, but are minimalistic, and deffernt then windows and may work good. has Black/flux Box, KDE, and Gnome themes (if memmory serves) with screenshots. There are probably better theme sights with higher standards too ( has some half done work).

    Hope this helps.

    just using standard KDE/GNOME with unique panel layout can be a good example.

    I used to do an auto hide foot in the corner (for that really big one pixel start menu)with a clock always on top in the center bottum and a task bar somewhere I forget where, I switched to KDE and it wasn't flexible enough to do it for me. I was able to maximize my apps to fullscreen and the always on top stuff was stratigically placed to avoid key spots so it was not in the way. It adds about 5% to your usable screen.

    PPS. The taskbar was across the top of the screen from 1/3 of the way (letting me see window titles) to about an inch and a half from the right edge (letting me use the frame buttuns if a window was maximized).

    next to the clock I also had a few icon buttons and drawers for stuff I really liked.

  • Remember when, Enlightenment still looked ninja instead of boring and dull with most themes not working properly?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, I do. I think it was about the same time as when Duke Nukem Forever was starting production.
  • by BroadbandBradley ( 237267 ) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:33PM (#8301238) Homepage
    do a search for window managers on google, or try [] a site about window managers. I find that while gnome and KDE look much like what most people would expect, some other window managers put a new twist on how you interact with the computer.
    also look at [] a 3d window manager that's used at the 3D-CUBE []

    another good one is the Mozilla based desktop over at []

  • Ion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EvilMal ( 562717 ) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:49PM (#8301365)
    I use a window manager called Ion []. The interface is divided up into frames instead of windows. The frames can be split and resized, and apps can be dragged from one frame to another.

    Well, I think it's kinda cool, anyway.
    • Re:Ion (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jhoger ( 519683 )
      Yeah I use Ion 2 on a daily basis. Now that you can use the floating wm for difficult apps, I never have to leave Ion.

      I liked Ratpoison too.

      Still I'd try something that's really different... say a desktop that was actually a visually programmable shell with ways of connecting up objects representing command line tools like grep, and cat and loops and variables.. (don't care about 3d).

      But for just getting work done, Ion or Ratpoison have simplified things for an old keyboard user like myself.
    • Ion is perhaps the most intuitive window manager out there. A well trained ion user can literally use it without every touching a mouse and be complete happy. And we all know that mice are the evil invention that prevents productivity.

      I hope my manager never reads this or he might take away my PowerBook.

  • Enlightenment v0.13 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hitchhacker ( 122525 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:00AM (#8301442) Homepage
    Everyone remember the old enlightenment versions?

    screenshot1 []
    screenshot2 []
    screenshot3 []

    • Oh, how I miss the good ol' Enlightenment days... back when #E was on EFNET; good times.

      Everything nowadays is so boring. When's the last time you have honestly seen an impressive looking desktop?

      GNOME? Boring
      KDE? Boring
      Fluxbox? Windowmaker? XFCE? Boring, boring, boring.

      I, for one, am still looking forward to E17, after all this time.

      GNOME going in the direction of being totally based on M$ .NET nonsense, or Enlightenment, heading towards a solid GUI of hardware accelerated GL goodness (far before
      • by tiny69 ( 34486 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:33AM (#8302323) Homepage Journal
        I miss the old The themes could be as simple as AbsoluteE or some gaudy monstrosity. And they would both look good. There was also a lot of effort to create the best looking theme or screenshot. I just don't see that anymore. The only reason I don't use E now is because Slackware dropped it because of library naming issues. Instead, I'm using KDE which is just as bad as Gnome. There are well over a dozen different processes that need to be running.

        $ ps ax | grep kde
        . . . /bin/sh /opt/kde/bin/startkde
        kdeinit: Running...
        kdeinit: dcopserver --nosid
        kdeinit: klauncher
        kdeinit: kded
        kdeinit: knotify
        kdeinit: ksmserver
        kdeinit: kwin
        kdeinit: kdesktop
        kdeinit: kicker
        kdeinit: klipper
        kdeinit: konsole --ls
        kdeinit: kmix -caption KMix -icon kmix -miniicon kmix /opt/kde/bin/artsd -F 10 -S 4096 -s 60 -m artsmessage -l 3 -f
        kdeinit: konsole --ls
        kdeinit: konqueror --silent

        I miss how simple and smooth E ran, even on older, slower systems. The only thing that has impressed me with the desktop in the last couple of years is the addition of tabs to the webbrowsers and Konsole.

        Anyone remember when Netscape was the only GUI webbrowser. And it was also the buggiest thing on the system?
        • by Heretik ( 93983 )
          ah, good old You're absolutely right; there was a community built around, just dedicated to making awesome themes.

          That little bar to the left with the top 5 downloaded themes was about the biggest motivating factor I've ever had for a project. Just having your theme up there for a few days felt really good.... somebody actually used your theme!

          Does this exist anymore? Why isn't there, say, a comparable GNOME themeing community? Alot of the E nerds went to GNOME after E17 faile
    • I love Enlightenment!! I cannot see how the others where I work use the 'modern' window managers. E is the most advanced I've found that utilizes the most potential of X. Some of the others screw up when loaded more than once per system. (startx -- :1 & startx -- :2) Or they don't behave well when exporting the display to another system. Maybe it's not the WM itself and actually the apps instead. Most of the programs I use are just terminal emulators. Basically, the only graphical progs I use are a web
      • I agree.
        I've never cared for the "panel" concept all that much, and at the risk of being modded into oblivion, I've always thought the KDE panel looked "Fisher Price". Gnome is a little more refined looking, but it's still a panel.
        Enlightenment may not be the most most resource efficient or feature-laden of all environments/managers, but it seems to strike a pretty good good balance to me.
  • by jonadab ( 583620 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:04AM (#8301483) Homepage Journal

    Here's one of mine [], which demonstrates an unusual accessibility requirement (the soft tertiary colors -- my eyes are unusally sensitive to light; I CANNOT handle Evil Blinding Backgrounds or high contrast). It also demonstrates the left side panel full of launchers, drawers, and applets that I've grown to love. The only things on the bottom panel are the task list and the clock. If it matters, this is a Mandrake 9.2 system with Gnome (but I replaced Metacity with Sawfish (because I want features, darnit) and replaced Nautilus with nothing (because I do all my file management from the command line)). The top drawer (with the drawer icon) holds the foot menu and launchers for assorted utilities and configuration things. The next drawer down, the one with the gnome-terminal icon, holds launchers for gnome-terminal (with various terminal classes and commands -- e.g., one for MySQL, one that does ssh into the cgi server, one that does ssh into the router, and so on). The drawer below that holds launchers for browsers. Then you've got three launchers right on the panel because I use them a lot: OO, Gimp, Emacs. Below the blank space is the screenshot button, the run button, a drawer of audio stuff, a drawer of games, the show desktop button (which really I ought to remove; I never use it), the CPU, memory, and swap meters, and the log out button at the bottom, out of the way. (Does anyone else think the Gnome1 logout icon looked nicer, or is that just me?)

    That Mozilla window has been open for some while; the first two tabs in particular have been open for a couple of weeks. This is typical.

    One of the Emacs windows has eshell, which is running a telnet connection to the im2 multiplexer for the chatterbox. Another is Gnus. The third has open the Changes file for Net::Server::POP3, which is what I really ought to be working on instead of posting to slashdot.

    Be sure to get a screenshot showing gdmflexiserver running with the Xnest option. That's a really cool feature. For bonus points, have a different desktop environment running inside the Xnest window than the one running outside it. Also try to get a shot from someone who uses ratpoison; there's no window manager more minimalist than that, especially when it comes to window decorations. Be certain to show off several interesting panel applets, especially if you can get one running in a tiny always-on-top panel. Get one showing something really cool being worked on in Gimp, too. And be sure to get an Enlightenment screenshot showing that weird dragbar thing about halfway up/down the screen. I don't personally like that, but it's innovative and different, and some people swear by it.

  • I run FVWM 1.24 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tony Hammitt ( 73675 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:22AM (#8301602)
    No, really. Every day, at work and at home. It's far faster than any "desktop" (it's just a window manager) and I like the insane amount of customizability. I've been using FVWM since 1993, (MIPS-based DEC workstations) even before I started using Linux.

    My friends think I'm nuts but I really like it. If I need a readable terminal with 800 columns, no problem, I can just scroll over to the next desktop area while resizing the window. I have a button for raise/lower the current window right where the old windoze icon on my keyboard used to be. I can use the mouse wheel to change the volume on xmms by catching M4 and M5 buttons (i.e. the scroll wheel events) on the root window, which is very handy for headphones and downloaded MP3s.

    It's about the most customizable thing ever written, and it's all in about 900K of pure Xlib, so I just compile it and run it anywhere I go.

    If you want, I can send you some screenshots, just reply. I figure it's about as weird a GUI as you'll see.
    • I used fvwm on Solaris/SPARC boxes back in the day when the CDE Openwindows combination was, by comparison, slow and memory intensive. The keyboard accelerator combinations for things like "verti-zoom" and lockscreen helped to increase my productivity.

      Another window manager that I used for a year or two was ctwm. It was quite configurable, but not as memory lean as fvwm.

      I live on a heterogeneous LAN. One thing that was nice was "xon remote_sgi_box xterm", etc. and building up a collection of terminal win

    • I can use the mouse wheel to change the volume on xmms by catching M4 and M5 buttons (i.e. the scroll wheel events) on the root window, which is very handy for headphones and downloaded MP3s.

      This can be done more simply, and in any wm, by using xmms-itouch [].
  • careful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:31AM (#8301680) Homepage Journal

    I would be really careful about this. While the power of choice is attractive to geeks, it more often than not puts normal people off. I think that you stand to lose more converts than you gain by putting up extreme Linux desktops--normal people react with "this is a much too complicated thing for me", rather than "oh cool! I want to twiddle with my machine too!"

    For proof, look no farther than how many Windows users have changed the default background on their machine.
    • Re:careful (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @02:24AM (#8302290) Homepage Journal
      While the power of choice is attractive to geeks, it more often than not puts normal people off.

      Where the heck did you get that factoid? From the Encyclopedia Slashdotica? It's clearly false. While some people abhor choice, the vast majority want it.

      Go into MacDonalds and find twenty different kinds of hamburgers, plus chicken and fish sandwiches. Odds are they'll have a specialty sandwich for the month. A far far cry from the John Belushi "cheeseburger cheeseburger pespi" world. Restaurants have dozens of selections. Even those that cater to the non-geek.

      Grocery store commercials advertise new larger selections. Automobile commercials advertise new makes, models and a huge range of colors and options. Ditto for just about any other kind of store I can think of. "LiquorMegaSuperMart! Now with three hundred of your favorite microbrews!"

      "But," I hear you say, "it's different when it comes to computers!" Nonsense. I walk around my work and I see that at least nine out of ten Windows users have their own wallpaper.
      • by 0BoDy ( 739304 )
        One sign of maturity if knowing how to choose. Most people aren't fully matured, nor do they want to.

        Also My GF raised apoint about windows: it tells you what to do ("click here to begin") and how to do it. It doesn't really matter where you want to go today; if Micro$oft will tell you then, they just did you a serve: you don't have to figure it out yourself
      • Having their own wallpaper is a VERY minor customization. How many of these people:
        1. Optimized their screen resolution for their hardware and eyesight?
        2. Have set it so any command line window opened opens with more than 25 lines?
        3. Changed it so they can do quick cut and paste with the mouse buttons in command line windows?
        4. Changed it so the mouse wheel scrolls a page at a time, rather than by lines?
        5. Changed IE so that it scrolls quickly, rather than smoothly?

        Every one of these changes makes worki

      • Re:careful (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SeanAhern ( 25764 )
        While some people abhor choice, the vast majority want it.

        Go into MacDonalds and find twenty different kinds of hamburgers, plus chicken and fish sandwiches. Odds are they'll have a specialty sandwich for the month. A far far cry from the John Belushi "cheeseburger cheeseburger pespi" world. Restaurants have dozens of selections. Even those that cater to the non-geek.

        Interesting that you would choose McDonald's as an example. I don't have the reference right now, but McDonald's actually found that peopl
    • Right. Also, I think businesses at least will be more interested in conformity, unity and consistency.
    • Re:careful (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bolind ( 33496 )
      People want to personalize.

      I don't know how wide spread this is outside Europe, but take cellphones for example.

      They used to be just plain black og grey. You could switch between a couple of ringing tones, and the networks had the ability to change the logo on the screen, in order to tell you what network you were currently using.

      OK, in under a year, a whole industry blossomed. Personalized covers in all kinds of colors, services where you could download new background images, new ringing tones. Now, the
      • Re:careful (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) *
        So don't give me the "users don't want to personalize".

        Maybe they do, maybe they don't. They can do as they please with their own toys and gadgets. But ask anyone who's ever supported anything, whether answering the phone at the helpdesk or writing code that relies on certain other code being present, and they'll tell you allowing the end user the ability personalize anything more than strictly necessary is a recipe for disaster.

        A desktop PC for most people is a work tool, nothing more, nothing less. The
  • by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @12:34AM (#8301712) Journal
    Mine is opera. That is it. I have configured the framebuffer device and start it with X & export DISPLAY=:0 ; opera.

    That's the desktop. Nothing else but a web surfing station. Kinda like a browser terminal. This allows me to have a device with only 64 Megs of RAM and run a web browser that I can check email and my favorit sites. It allows for useing plugins and viewing video in the browser window. Oh when opera starts hit F11 key and it will go to full screen mode. I see this as the future of desktops. Simple to use.

    • In case anyone is wondering how this can work (i.e. wonuldn't pop-ups obliterate the entire screen?) this is why:

      Opera uses an MDI (multiple document interface). All of the browser windows (i.e. tabs in Moz or Konq.. at one time, when Opera was the only one with tabbed browsing it just referred to them as "windows".. the terminology changed slightly later when the other browsers came along) are contained within the main Opera window. Opera manages these all itself, so you can just run Opera without a w

      • What's really cool is that opera and X fit into under 64 Megs of ram very nicely. Mozilla doesn't, Firefox may. Opera also gives better web browsing experience than links -g, as opera can support plugins and has better javascript support. So it actually gives a decent web browsing experience. Also when you go into full screen mode, if you have the 'free downloadable version of oprera' there are no adds because there is no place for them ;-).

        Now if I can only get my wireless card working under Linux, it

  • This may not have the wow-factor of some of the fancier systems, but in terms of UI creativity I think this scores major points. Simplicity and power: the hallmark of Linux in general.

    The original design []
    My take on it []
  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @01:07AM (#8301918)
    Over at my website - [] you can find an extremely atypical linux installation. Granted, it's not necessarily a desktop; but it might help you make the case that Linux is extremely versatile and can be used in virtually any UI situation.

  • [] has tons of awesome (and bad) themes, window decorations, icons, and all sorts of weird stuff to make kde look different.

    Me, I'm still waiting for a kde theme that puts my title bar on the right hand side of the window vertically.
  • It's rather a slashdotting contest - which reader's web server will stay up longer, serving screenshots.
  • by Spoing ( 152917 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @09:13AM (#8303729) Homepage
    If this were for geeky desktop-only folks, I'd stick with your current plan. Otherwise, show them that Linux is in use ... all Tivos robotics

    ...various network appliances

    ...on mainframes cell phones

    ...on PDAs wristwatches (though a protype)

    ...and in and in a variety of other gadgets and practical devices []

    In addition, point out that even creative types like Linux as it has been used to produce most of the major films over the last few years -- from the raw horsepower of render farms through to the artist's desktop.

    Just some ideas. (Check each one out before claiming it, though I think all the above is accurate.)

  • Library Computer Access and Retrieval System. The Star Trek computer interface. I've seen several, Linux and Windoze. It feeds the geek in me. There'a a KDE version and screenshot on freshmeat ( 41/).
    • The thing about most LCARS themes is that they just don't look or feel that good on the desktop. Probably because they are only themes and not really an environment. Maybe once someone decides to comeout with a firewire keyboard that is really just a touch screen it might work out better ;)

  • can really change the look of a desktop. There are lots of unusual panel and taskbar replacements, clocks, etc.

    Also check out KDE-Look []'s screenshots section which is filled with unusual desktops.

    Finally, there is kleardock [] a nice dock and kicker replacement for KDE.

  • or the one that mimics a 50's radio

    you mean that you have not downloaded FRLinux, the port designed to run on 50's radios.... Aw man, you are so behind the times.
  • by dasunt ( 249686 )

    There is a collection of desktop screenshots [] at

    I would suggest taking a close look at Tavis Ormandy's Desktop [] which has translucency (due to a patch to the 2.5 source) and thumbnails for icons.

    Also: Google is your friend. Try 'linux desktop screenshot' or '$WINDOWMANAGER screenshot', where $WINDOWMANAGER = 'kde', 'gnome', 'fvwm', 'openbox', 'xfce', 'sawfish', 'twm', 'ratpoison', 'ion', 'windowmaker', etc.

  • Here is my cool desktop. Sexy []
  • You can get the demo from ml


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