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Lighweight userfriendly desktop (Was: Question: what's wrong with KDE?)

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On 27-04-2005 11:35, Jon Post wrote:
> On Sun, 24 Apr 2005 18:35:21 -0400 Randy Edwards
> <redwards@golgotha.net> writes:
>> Catching this thread I can't help but to add my $0.02 worth.
>> KDE or GNOME to me makes no difference, as long as you can run 
>> binaries from either on whatever desktop is chosen.
>> I would suggest, however, adding a second window manager option 
>> aimed at low-end machines.  Many schools want to run GNU/Linux on 
>> hardware that honestly should've been thrown away years ago.
> If anyone is throwing some out - let us know, though shipping may be
> a bit tough!    :-)
>> As such, having some sort of  "lightweight" window manager for such
>> people would be a welcome choice.  It doesn't have to be the
>> primary focus of the distro, but simply something that runs and
>> uses the menu items of the primary desktop.

> I live in Kyrgyzstan (NW border of China) where many of the donated 
> computers are older (486 or P1).  I am working with the Debian 3.0 r2
>  disks (Woody, 7 CDs) and a couple of university computing students
> to try to find or make a lightweight distribution suitable for
> schools, orphanages, prison reform centers, and libraries. We need a
> very user friendly desktop, as few students here have ever used a
> computer (no command line, just click and use/read/play).
> I'm not computer literate and would much appreciate guidance on
> preparing a lightweight, (and user-friendly) install.

First off, this debian-edu mailinglist is about the Custom Debian
Distribution "Skolelinux", based on Debian. If you use plain Debian you
may have better luck (because of more people gathering together) at the
mailinglist debian-user@lists.debian.org .

It is IMHO too late, and not really interesting, to adapt the content of
the currently released Skolelinux based on Debian woody. So in the
following I will concentrate on options relevant for the upcoming
release based on Debian sarge.

A "desktop" consist of several tools. KDE has tightly integrated "window
manager", "session manager", "toolbar", "file manager" and a bunch of
other goodies. The most lightweight yet similarly complete desktop is
probably XFCE (Debian package "xfce4" and friends). One thing it lacks,
however, is the file manager. Aprat from that, it is only slightly odd
for newbees to navigate (sure most would prefer the KDE or Gnome
desktop, but there's a price to being lean and mean). If you want even
more lightweight then let go of the "common look and feel" and use only
a windows manager directly. There's a bunch to choose from, but of the
more userfriendly ones is probably IceWM (Debian package "icewm-lite").

There's a lot of Window managers (currently approx. 40 in Debian sid),
but for newbees most are IMHO irrelevant too weird. The only "odd" one
that may appeal to newbees is probably afterstep, but that one doesn't
work from thin clients in the most recent version.

In my experience, the biggest challenge of the lighter desktops is the
lack of a good file manager. Personally I use Midnight Commander (Debian
package "mc"), but that is certainly not for newbees. Its graphical
Gnome counterpart "gmc" is dropped in sarge and replaced by the much
more bloated Nautilus. Have a look at "xfe", "rox-filer", "filerunner",
"gnome-commander", "emelfm"...

 - Jonas

- --
* Jonas Smedegaard - idealist og Internet-arkitekt
* Tlf.: +45 40843136  Website: http://dr.jones.dk/

 - Enden er nær: http://www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm
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