| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 629, 28 September 2015
Welcome to this year's 39th issue of DistroWatch Weekly!
Following the success of touch screens on mobile devices, more laptop computers have been shipping with touch interfaces. This has resulted in several of our readers asking which open source desktop environments work best with touch screens. This week we experiment with using open source desktops with a touch interface and report on the results. In our Questions and Answers column we discuss locking down user accounts so that a user can only access the files in their home directory. In the news last week we saw Mageia launch a new and useful tool for transferring ISO images to USB thumb drives. We also learned OpenMandriva is making it easier to run games on Linux and Rebellin Linux is changing the way their users receive support. Plus we provide a list of the torrents we are seeding and share the distribution releases of the past week. In our Opinion Poll we ask whether you use Linux for gaming and, if so, where you find new games. We wish you all a great week and happy reading!
|Feature Story (by Jesse Smith)
Reach out and touch a desktop
A little while back one of our readers e-mailed me and asked if I would experiment with the commonly used Linux desktops and report on how well they worked with touch interfaces. This is unusual territory for me. I generally do not like using touch interfaces, though I have worked with them on and off for over a decade. I tend to find navigating by swipes and finger presses cumbersome and unpleasant. I suspect part of the problem is my fingers are somewhat large, the buttons I am aiming at are often small (by comparison) and I dislike seeing finger prints on my screens.
Still, I own a laptop that features a touch screen and so I loaded up several desktops on the device and experimented with each one in turn. The laptop is a de-branded HP with Intel video drivers and an approximately 15-inch screen. During most of this trial the laptop was running Linux Mint Debian Edition 2 (LMDE 2), which is based on Debian "Jessie". Prior to starting this trial I had the Cinnamon, KDE 4 and Lumina desktop environments on this laptop. I added LXDE, MATE and Xfce. I attempted to install GNOME Shell as well, but ran into dependency conflicts, which I suspect relate to already having Cinnamon on the device. To work around this I downloaded a copy of Fedora and ran GNOME Shell from the live environment. Since Unity is not available in the software repositories of Linux Mint Debian Edition I downloaded a recent release of Ubuntu and used Ubuntu's live environment to test Unity 7.
There is one other thing I would like to touch upon (please excuse the pun) before talking about the differences between each desktop environment. Specifically, it is that I have encountered several people asking if one desktop or another "works with touch". Technically, just about any desktop is going to, on a base level, work with touch devices. So long as the hardware supports touch interactions and the proper device drivers are in place, the operating system should recognize taps as clicks and a finger moving across the screen as some sort of gesture (highlighting, dragging or scrolling). I want to make it clear up front that any open source desktop should work (to some degree) with touch interfaces, so long as the right drivers are in place and playing nicely with the hardware. The question I'm addressing here is how well suited (or unsuited) a desktop environment is when it comes to running on devices with touch screens. To answer that question I will be looking at how easy it is to perform common tasks such as launching applications, moving and resizing windows, switching between tasks and scrolling.
Let's begin with a look at Cinnamon. It was the default desktop to ship with my copy of Linux Mint Debian Edition and so it was what I was using while other desktop environments were being installed. Cinnamon, as it turned out, was pretty much in the middle of the pack when it came to touch interaction. On the one hand, Cinnamon's spacious application menu was easy to navigate using touch and the desktop icons were nice and large, making them easy targets for my radio tower style fingers. On the other hand, resizing windows was a bit difficult as the corners of application windows had only a small area to touch and grab to resize the window. Scroll bars were small in Cinnamon too, making it tricky to browse through documents. On the positive side of things, window controls (the minimize, maximize and close buttons) were spaced apart and fairly easy to press. On the whole, I would give Cinnamon a 3/5 star rating when it comes to running on devices with touch screens.
GNOME Shell 3.16
GNOME Shell running on Fedora came next. I have mentioned in the past that GNOME Shell is a technology I find frustrating to use because of the way interface controls are spread out. The controls are represented by large icons, are spread out over a wide space and the environment is very dynamic. These aspects of GNOME Shell may drive me slightly batty when using a keyboard and mouse, but these same characteristics make GNOME Shell easily the best environment for touch devices.
GNOME's large, widely spaced icons are perfectly sized and arranged for my fingers. The scroll bars are easy to locate and use and the title bars at the tops of windows are unusually large which facilitates moving applications around the screen. GNOME Shell's sparse controls are very well suited for touch interfaces.
GNOME 3.16 -- Large and well spaced desktop elements
(full image size: 340kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
The real ace up GNOME Shell's sleeve though is its virtual keyboard. GNOME was the only desktop to detect I was touching my screen and to automatically pop-up an on-screen keyboard when a text entry box had focus. This was done without any prompting or configuring on my part and it meant I never had to touch a keyboard or mouse during my time navigating GNOME.
One aspect of using GNOME I found weird, at least when comparing the environment to other desktops during this trial, was resizing windows. I could resize application windows, but GNOME required I resize windows by dragging the upper-left corner of the window rather than the lower-right, as other desktop environments did. This threw me off for a few minutes, but I slowly got used to resizing windows using the title bar rather than the bottom-right corner of an application's window.
The one problem I did run into was, at one point, GNOME simply stopped responding to taps and gestures. It was as though the screen had stopped being sensitive to touch. I could still move the mouse and type via the keyboard, but the touch interface was effectively dead. This continued for about a minute until the problem suddenly corrected itself and GNOME resumed taking input from the touch screen. The temporary interruption may have been a GNOME issue, but I suspect it is more likely a problem with a hardware driver. In any event, I gave GNOME Shell 5/5 stars.
The KDE 4.14 desktop was next in line and I think, of the desktop environments I tried, KDE performed better than most. The KDE environment is populated by large icons and the default Kickoff application menu is very easy to browse when using a touch interface. (The KDE Classic application menu is less suited to touch, but it is not the default option.) The window controls are of medium size and fairly easy to tap. I found the scroll bars in KDE were easy to manipulate, but difficult to see with LMDE's default theme as the scroll bars were grey-on-grey.
KDE 4.14 -- Working with widgets
(full image size: 496kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
Perhaps the feature which most stood out while I was using KDE was how well suited the widgets and widget controls were to touch screens. It is very easy for the user to access the KDE cashew button, bring up a panel of widgets and drag them with one's finger onto the desktop. The widget controls for moving, resizing and rotating are large and easy to manipulate with a finger.
My one serious complaint when using KDE was that it was nearly impossible to resize a window while using the default theme. I could grab a side or corner of a window in order to resize it about one out of every eight tries and that was very frustrating. Window resizing aside, KDE performed well and I gave it 4/5 stars.
Next up was Lumina. In many respects, Lumina worked well for me. The application menu is fairly easy to explore using a touch interface. The scroll bars on windows are nice and wide, making it easy to browse documents. Lumina has a relatively large spot in the lower-right corner of application windows that makes resizing the windows straight forward.
I did run into two problems with Lumina. The first was the default window controls were too small and too close together to access easily. I found I was as likely to close a window as I was to maximize it. The second problem I ran into was I could not switch between open windows using the task switcher bar on the panel unless (and this is strange) the application menu was open. Simply tapping on a minimized window's icon produced no result. However, if I opened the application menu first and then tapped on an icon, the appropriate window would be brought into focus.
In short, working with one window on Lumina was very pleasant, but moving between two or more applications was cumbersome and I gave Lumina 3/5 stars.
Lumina 0.8.6 -- Exploring the application menu
(full image size: 291kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
Next on my list was LXDE. The LXDE interface is designed with traditional desktops in mind and I was not expecting a lot from this desktop environment. This was just as well as LXDE did not work well with my touch screen. While technically the controls worked, almost everything on the screen was too small to access effectively by touch. Window controls, application menu items and the buttons on the panel were all too small for me to use. I was not able to resize application windows, again because window borders were too small for me to touch.
The one area where LXDE did well was with scroll bars. The scroll bars in LXDE were big and bright, easy to find and move. This earned LXDE 1/5 stars.
The MATE desktop was next on my list of interfaces to try. MATE offered me another middle of the road experience. On the negative side, the MATE menus are fairly small, window controls are too close together to be used safely and scroll bars were hard to see with the default theme. However, on the positive side, windows had fairly large and easy to "grab" title bars, making MATE windows easy to move. The MATE panel has nice, big buttons that facilitated switching between windows.
MATE, while it offers a fairly traditional layout and small menus, was not difficult to navigate and so I gave it 3/5 stars.
I expected good things from Unity 7 since, like GNOME Shell, Unity's large controls and gaps between screen elements lends its environment to touch. On the whole I found Unity did generally work well with my laptop's touch screen. The large icons are easy to select, window controls are widely spaced and windows have thick title bars to facilitate moving applications around the screen.
My one serious issue with Unity was that I could not resize application windows. I could easily maximize and minimize windows, but setting them to a specific size was not possible. I had hoped Unity, like GNOME, would pop-up an on-screen keyboard when I was entering text, but this did not happen. I had to switch between touching the screen and using my laptop's keyboard.
One quirk of Unity, and I think this is a bad thing, is the way we scroll through documents. All of the other desktop environments I tried utilized scroll bars to navigate documents. When using Unity, some applications have scroll bars and these work just as they do in other desktop environments. However, many applications do not have scroll bars. In an application which has no visible scroll bar we browse documents by swiping up or down the screen. In other words, about half the applications I ran on Ubuntu acted like smart phone apps while the other half acted like traditional desktop applications. I wouldn't mind one or the other, but switching between the two was jarring. In the end, I assigned Unity 3/5 stars.
The last desktop on my list was Xfce and I found Xfce 4.10 offered me the least pleasant experience of the bunch. Icons and menu items were small, window controls were placed close together and did not respond at all to taps. The resize area in the lower-right corner of application windows was large enough to easily see, but often did not respond to being touched.
Early on I thought Xfce desktop icons were not responding to touch at all, but I eventually discovered I had to tap on the text under a desktop icon in order to launch a program, tapping on the picture (the icon itself) produced no result. Xfce has a bottom panel with quick-launch buttons and these worked and were easy to access.
Of all the desktop environments I tried, Xfce was the only one in which I could not move windows by tapping on the window's title bar and dragging it around. In this way Xfce was unique. One of Xfce's few good qualities where touch was concerned was that scroll bars were clearly visible and worked smoothly. I gave Xfce 1/5 stars.
Xfce 4.10 -- Exploring the desktop with touch
(full image size: 321kB, resolution: 1366x768 pixels)
On the whole, I don't think there were a lot of surprises in this trial. The older, traditional desktops (LXDE, MATE, Xfce) appear to be much more interested in saving screen space than being touch friendly. More modern desktops like KDE 4, GNOME Shell and Unity appear to be making an effort to use large, touch accessible controls. No desktop environment worked with touch perfectly, but GNOME certainly stood out as being made with touch screens in mind.
Something I noticed while exploring each desktop environment was there did not appear to be a way to right-click on anything. When using an Android phone, pressing down for an extended period usually causes a context menu to appear. This does not seem to be true of any of the desktop environments I used this week. I think this is a shame as hold-to-right-click probably would have made several tasks easier. I also found most desktops have not addressed scrolling. Unity tries to allow us to swipe to scroll, but it only works about half the time. The other desktops are all still stuck with traditional scroll bars which feel a little out of place when using a touch device.
In the end, I was quite happy to return to using a mouse instead of my finger. It is nice to be able to right-click on controls again and select items with a higher degree of accuracy. But if I do need to, in the future, use an open source desktop on a touch device, I hope it is GNOME Shell.
|Miscellaneous News (by Jesse Smith)
Mageia makes transferring ISOs safer, OpenMandriva creates new gaming documentation and Rebellin replaces their support forum
Many of us test and install distributions from USB thumb drives. These external, pluggable drives offer a portable and fast way to transfer an operating system to a new computer. There is one important drawback to using USB drives though and that is getting a distribution's ISO image onto the thumb drive can be dangerous. When using most image transferring tools or the dd command, the user is often one typo away from wiping their hard drive. The Mageia developers have created a utility, called ISOdumper, which will transfer an ISO file onto a USB drive, automatically handling most of the steps which could potentially go wrong. ISOdumper also verifies the data on the USB drive, confirming the ISO file has been transferred correctly. The Mageia blog has more details: "Several programs are available for dumping ISO boot images to USB sticks - for installing the operating system. Doing this by hand is hazardous: a mistake can overwrite a disc partition. Mageia has its own package, ISOdumper, which does a lot more than the basic task. It is available from normal repositories, you can install it through the Mageia Control Center or Add/Remove software. The latest release is 0.42. It is a GUI program which requires, and solicits, root privileges. In every case you must choose in the `Device' list the USB stick you wish to use." Further information can be found on the application's wiki page.
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The OpenMandriva team is making it easier to find and run games on their distribution. In a blog post the team explains how they are lowering the bar to running popular games on their distribution: "Our talented and very much playing members created a portal to help you to install and execute most popular Windows games and game platforms - now - in your OpenMandriva Lx!
We used all community forces (WINE, PlayOnLinux and our knowledge) to provide [the] best and easy way to install all of them. We started from most popular games and platforms. Forget dark commands with a lot of parameters and codes and configurations, you will install simply and quick, using basic Linux commands, but most of the time you will need just your mouse." Getting many games running with WINE or other compatibility technologies can be overwhelming and the new OpenMandriva games page addresses this. Supported games are presented with step-by-step instructions and screen shots to show users how to install popular game titles.
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The Rebellin Linux distribution is changing the way users access community support. The project plans to do away with community forums and, as a replacement, transition to using a Questions-Answers site similar to AskUbuntu. A post on the Rebellin Linux website explains: "I'll be completely getting rid of the forums. Question-Answers will the be the only form of community support for Rebellin Linux henceforth. I feel such a support mechanism is much better and efficient than forums. Forums will be removed at the time of Rebellin v3 Launch - 2nd November, 2015. It's my request to all users not to post any new queries in the forums."
|Questions and Answers (by Jesse Smith)
Containing user accounts
Locking-down-user-accounts asks: Is it possible to lock users into their home directories? I want to prevent users from being able to access anything outside their home.
DistroWatch answers: It is possible to jail user accounts into a specific directory and the methods will vary depending on what kind of access the users have to your system. For example, most FTP servers (such as vsftp) have an option to limit remote access to one corner of the file system, such as a home directory. The OpenSSH software also makes it fairly straight forward to restrict users into only accessing their own files when they connect to your server using the secure file transfer protocol program (sftp).
Restricting users who have remote shell access via OpenSSH's secure shell (ssh) application is trickier, but it can be done. In theory you could probably force local users into jailed environments so they could not access the bulk of the file system, but that would create many more problems than it solves since each user would need copies of large portions of the file system in their jail in order to get anything done.
Often times when people ask for a way to lock down user accounts, particularly local accounts, it is an indication that they are concerned with what another user can access or modify. The good news is, if accounts are properly set up and file system permissions have not been changed from their defaults, users typically cannot change or damage anything on the system. A normal user account can only modify the contents of their own home directory (and their files in the /tmp directory) and their ability to read programs or data on the rest of the system is generally not a threat.
Usually, the only concern faced when dealing with what users can see on the system is with regards to other users' home directories and system-wide configuration files. A lot of distributions default to allowing users to read the contents of other users' files. This is usually done for convenience, but it can pose a threat if someone stores sensitive data in their directory without securing it with encryption. Luckily it is easy to fix this, setting the permissions on a user's home directory to being accessible only to that user takes care of the problem. As for system-wide configuration files, such as those stored in /etc, so long as root is the only user who can edit those files and no passwords are carelessly added to the configuration files, there generally is no reason to block users from reading the files.
What it really comes down to is Linux is designed in a way which allows users to have read access to most of the file system while still being secure. The one thing you should be careful about is making sure any sensitive data or files containing passwords are not readable by everyone on the system. Usually this can be accomplished by running "chmod o-r my-secret-file" on the sensitive file.
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Past Questions and Answers columns can be found in our Q&A Archive.
Bittorrent is a great way to transfer large files, particularly open source operating system images, from one place to another. Most bittorrent clients recover from dropped connections automatically, check the integrity of files and can re-download corrupted bits of data without starting a download over from scratch. These characteristics make bittorrent well suited for distributing open source operating systems, particularly to regions where Internet connections are slow or unstable.
Many Linux and BSD projects offer bittorrent as a download option, partly for the reasons listed above and partly because bittorrent's peer-to-peer nature takes some of the strain off the project's servers. However, some projects do not offer bittorrent as a download option. There can be several reasons for excluding bittorrent as an option. Some projects do not have enough time or volunteers, some may be restricted by their web host provider's terms of service. Whatever the reason, the lack of a bittorrent option puts more strain on a distribution's bandwidth and may prevent some people from downloading their preferred open source operating system.
With this in mind, DistroWatch plans to give back to the open source community by hosting and seeding bittorrent files. For now, we are hosting a small number of distribution torrents, listed below. The list of torrents offered will be updated each week and we invite readers to e-mail us with suggestions as to which distributions we should be hosting. When you message us, please place the word "Torrent" in the subject line, make sure to include a link to the ISO file you want us to seed. To help us maintain and grow this free service, please consider making a donation.
The table below provides a list of torrents we currently host. If you do not currently have a bittorrent client capable of handling the linked files, we suggest installing either the Transmission or KTorrent bittorrent clients.
Archives of our previously seeded torrents may be found here. All torrents we make available here are also listed on the very useful Linux Tracker website. Thanks to Linux Tracker we are able to share the following torrent statistics.
Torrent Corner statistics:
- Total torrents seeded: 114
- Total data uploaded: 14.6TB
|Released Last Week
Linux Mangaka Mou
The Animesoft development team, the group behind the Ubuntu-based Linux Mangaka distribution, have announced a new release of their desktop operating system. According to the developers the new release, Linux Mangaka Mou, will work on both x86 and PowerPC 64-bit architectures. The Mou version ships with a lightly customized MATE desktop and multimedia support. "Today the whole Animesoft team are proud to be able to announce the final stage of Mou which is based on Ubuntu with the lightweight MATE desktop containing Aooke® and IBM® PowerPC 64-bit architecture scripts. As any other Mangaka release (except One) you will be able to run on any 64-bit PC and enjoy a out-of-box fast and complete Linux for Anime & Manga multimedia viewing and editing purposes." Further details on Linux Mangaka Mou, and a screen shot of the distribution in action, can be found in the project's release announcement.
The developers of Tails, a privacy oriented live distribution based on Debian, have released Tails 1.6. The new release mostly contains minor software upgrades and security fixes. "Tails, The Amnesic Incognito Live System, version 1.6, is out. This release fixes numerous security issues and all users must upgrade as soon as possible. Upgrades and changes: Upgrade Tor Browser to version 5.0.3 (based on Firefox 38.3.0 ESR). Upgrade I2P to version 0.9.22 and enable its AppArmor profile. There are numerous other changes that might not be apparent in the daily operation of a typical user. Technical details of all the changes are listed in the Changelog. Fixed problems: Fix several issues related to MAC address spoofing..." The project has also provided a list of known issues users should be aware of in order to remain anonymous when on-line. The project's release announcement has further details on Tails 1.6.
Tails 1.6 -- Running the GNOME desktop
(full image size: 132kB, resolution: 1280x960 pixels)
Absolute Linux 14.12
Paul Sherman has announced the release of Absolute Linux 14.12. Absolute Linux is a Slackware-based distribution featuring the lightweight IceWM window manager as the default desktop. This release is based on Slackware's latest development tree: "Absolute 14.12 released. This release is based upon Slackware Current (prior to 14.2 release). Many of the same applications and features, but recompiled nearly everything due to newer libraries (especially the PNG libraries). Python 3, and GTK+ 3 transitions have begun, I suppose, as both are now available. Extra support packages will be needed by applications that do use them." This version is built on top of Linux kernel 4.1.6. Some other notable updates in the changelog include: "AbiWord 3.0.1, MESA 11.0.0, glibc 2.22, IceWM 126.96.36.199, PulseAudio 6.0, GCC 4.9.3...." Visit the distribution's home page to read the brief release announcement.
Kai Hendry has announced the release of Webconverger 32.0, the latest stable release of the specialist Linux distribution for web kiosks - now with Firefox 41.0 and improved web browser privacy features: "Webconverger 32 release. Prompted by the disturbing privacy defaults in Windows 10 and an enquiry whether Webconverger leaked any intranet information, we reviewed Firefox defaults. This review was accomplished with Wireshark, a tool that allows us to analyse every packet leaving and entering a Webconverger instance. We did notice a lot of network noise chatter caused by safe browsing, location services and a media codec download. We reduced this chatter by turning off these automatic Firefox services. Finally, an upgrade process on an install was packet sniffed. Strictly speaking, these Firefox defaults don't leak any private information and elements like safe browsing should give an extra layer of malware protection, but in practice the network noise generated by these services are too risky for security." Continue to the release announcement for full details.
Manjaro Linux 15.09
Philip Müller has announced a new release of Manjaro Linux, an Arch-based distribution designed to be easy to install and use. The new release features a date-based version number, 15.09, along with a new graphical system installer, called Calamares. Manjaro Linux 15.09 also includes Firefox 41 and updated kernel packages. "I'm happy to announce Manjaro 15.09 (Bellatrix)! Since June we are working on this release. First thing you will notice, this release was not tagged 0.9.0 as we would have normal done. Well, we had a discussion with all developers and decided to go for date tags from now on. Also new is: we ship with Calamares as an alternative graphical installer. It is now stable enough to be used on productive systems. You can still use Thus. Also our terminal installer got some small improvements." Manjaro Linux 15.09 is available in three official favour's (Xfce, KDE and Net) along with several community spins. More details are available in the project's release announcement.
Manjaro Linux 15.09 -- Running the Xfce desktop
(full image size: 552kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
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Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Steam and gaming on Linux
Earlier this month, Ars Technica ran a story which observed there are currently over 1,500 game titles in Valve's on-line Steam store. The article states, "Anecdotal evidence supporting Steam's Linux gaming growth looks rosy as well. The five most popular Linux titles for Steam include major developer offerings like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (the rest of the top five according to Phoronix includes ARK: Survival Evolved, Team Fortress 2, and Dota 2). And this summer, a small indie game called Don't Be Patchman even became the first Linux-exclusive launch on Steam." Linux is increasingly becoming a platform for games, even for big titles.
This week we would like to know if you use Linux to run games and, if so, do you play exclusively open source games which can generally be found in a distribution's official repositories, or do you use third-party sources like GOG and Steam?
You can see the results of last week's poll on using disk encryption here. All previous poll results can be found in our poll archives.
Gaming on Linux
|I do not play games on Linux: ||665 (37%)|
| I play open source Linux games exclusively: ||275 (15%)|
| I play games from third-party platforms (Steam/GOG): ||342 (19%)|
| I play games from a variety of sources: ||522 (29%)|
Distributions added to waiting list
- Cubuntu. Cubuntu is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu. The distribution ships with the Cinnamon and MATE desktop environments.
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DistroWatch database summary
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This concludes this week's issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 5 October 2015. To contact the authors please send email to:
- Jesse Smith (feedback, questions and suggestions: distribution reviews, questions and answers, tips and tricks)
- Ladislav Bodnar (feedback, questions, suggestions and corrections: news, donations, distribution submissions, comments)
|Linux Foundation Training
|Reader Comments • Jump to last comment
1 • touchscreen (by erinis on 2015-09-28 01:08:57 GMT from North America) |
Keep your greasy pizza laden fingers of my desktop!! Thanks but no thanks. Great article as usual.
2 • Gnome Shell (by Gustavo on 2015-09-28 01:15:09 GMT from South America)
Just after a few days using Gnome Shell (and years bashing it) I eventually became a fan of the Desktop Environment.
It is definitely the most polished Linux desktop and, with some extensions (bottom panel Windows List, Places, Recent Items, maximize/minimize buttons), a very nice, efficient and somewhat traditional desktop.
Congratulations to the Gnome team.
3 • Touchscreen Unity (by mi on 2015-09-28 01:22:10 GMT from Europe)
In Unity, in order to resize windows, you need to make a three-finger-tap on the window, and then the you can easily resize it. A four-finger-tap on the screen starts the 'menu'.
4 • enlightenment for touch screens (by RollMeAway on 2015-09-28 03:35:40 GMT from North America)
Jessie, you missed enlightenment. An oversight?
It has libraries and options designed for touch.
I don't care for touch screens myself, but surely someone visiting these discussions,
does use enlightenment with a touch screen.
Tell us about it?
5 • @1 touchscreen (by Nacho on 2015-09-28 05:52:14 GMT from North America)
"Keep your greasy pizza laden fingers of my desktop!! Thanks but no thanks."
Of course you could use some handi-wipes first, so you don't end up as a manimal. ;)
"Great article as usual." This, I can agree with. :D
6 • Measures of desktop figures, icons, windows etc. (by mim yucel on 2015-09-28 06:26:35 GMT from Europe)
So we have encountered a need (a problem) ; The ıcons and windows should be resizable and these parametres could be saveable in different names so that depending on user on the same tauchscreen pc (tablets) or non-touchscreen pc (laptops) we could easily/quickly recall the desired sized desktop UI.
7 • Gnome Touch & ISOdumper tool (by M.Z. on 2015-09-28 06:49:15 GMT from North America)
I've been saying for some time now that Gnome 3 was both terrible on the desktop & looked like is was heavily inspired by smart phones & touch screens. It's not at all surprising that Gnome wins in a test of touch enabled DEs, though it stills seems like a fairly crappy desktop for PCs & regular laptops. The Gnome folks can take some solace in the fact that they beat the field in touch UI, but they seriously need to rework their desktop functionality.
Side note on the Mageia ISOdumper for USBs, it's a good idea. I once sent a copy of PC-BSD to parts unknown while trying to follow their instructions for Linux users. Considering the details in the Mageia blog I guess I'm fairly lucky no harm was done.
8 • gnome 3 (by lucius on 2015-09-28 07:00:07 GMT from Europe)
@ Gustavo - my experience also. Spent a long time ripping into Gnome 3. Now I've been using it for a few weeks I've found a quiet elegance and a simplicity to it that is very pleasant indeed.
9 • @ Jessie, touchscreen (by Wse on 2015-09-28 07:01:32 GMT from Europe)
In LXDE, XFCE you can enlarge icons. True, they are not designed for touchscreen, but can be used, if you really want to. By the way, Jessie, how about trying eOS and its Slingshot launcher, or the old Slingshot launcher, which you find in XFCE distros such as Voyager etc? What about Openbox based Semplice Jetro Tull?
10 • KDE Plasma 5 and Unity 8 (by CSRedRat on 2015-09-28 07:21:31 GMT from Europe)
Test plase for touchscreen KDE Plasma 5 and Unity 8. And what about DE for Wayland?
11 • Steam/GOG & Touch Desktops (by Stan on 2015-09-28 08:12:43 GMT from Europe)
Steam/GOG: It is relieve to have those service for GNU/Linux.
Touch Desktops: I do not like GNOME3 because of its child size icons and controls, but I do believe it should be the best option for touch screens.
Personally I do not like actual touchscreen market, for me its insane to work with my arms manipulating a vertical screen for a couple of hours.
Maybe one day I'll move to touchscreen interface for my Desktop ONLY when they can be placed in horizontal position and don't cost your life savings.
12 • Touchscreens (by kc1di on 2015-09-28 09:06:30 GMT from North America)
I Agree with Jessie that I'm not fond of touch screens -- but don't tell the wife who loves them via tablet.
Will have to give Gnome another chance, have tried it several times and gone back to something else.
13 • touchscreens (by brad on 2015-09-28 12:01:40 GMT from North America)
For those (like me) with sausage-like fingers, a stylus may be helpful for touchscreen interaction. I *hate* fingerprints on the screen, so using a stylus is my only option.
I have a touchscreen laptop, and find that Cinnamon works very well with touchscreens. The only problem with the touchscreen is the laptop itself, not the DE; I find that I have to hold the laptop screen with my other hand when using the stylus (or my fingers), in order to assure myself of a "hit".
14 • Desktops wars or freedom of choice? (by Einar on 2015-09-28 12:06:25 GMT from Europe)
@7: Different people like different things. You may think Gnome is garbage and prefer other desktops, but other users have different tastes in aesthetics and different views on which functionality is important for them.
It seems like many Linux users are bashing one of the greatest aspects of Linux: the freedom of choice, especially when desktop environments are concerned. I get that many were upset with Unity and Gnome when they started going in new directions, but MATE, Cinnamon, LXDE and XFCE are providing you the choice to use more traditional desktops if you like to. It's been years since the change in direction(s) and it might be time to get over it and just use what you like and talk that up in stead of talking down other people's ideas and efforts.
As a long time Mac user now using Linux, I appreciate this freedom to choose desktop, and I applaud everyone having a vision of their ideal desktop and working towards their vision. If you don't like a change in direction of a project, you might contribute towards another direction within the project or you might use something else. Constructive criticism and stating an opinion is fine, but why do we have to fight each other within an already small community? I don't get it.
15 • @4: enlightenment 17 and trinity DE for touch screen tablets (by Tran Older on 2015-09-28 12:28:16 GMT from Asia)
I have been using both on real touch screen hardware with Atom chip and 1GB of Memory.
1. E17 on top of Ubuntu 15.04 (Sorry to Jeff Hoogland as I did not download Bohdhi Linux with the Moksha Desktop :-)) : It is remarkably fast and furious. I installed 2 themes originally from openGEU (Sunshine and Moonlight) and the Vivaldi browser to be used instead of Midori. One note of caution : You'd better use Nautilus / Thunar instead of the E17 file manager as thumbnailing is a minor issue of the E17 file manager due to tablet display size.
2. Trinity on top of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS ( downloaded from University of Kent server) : In terms of speed, it was not lack behind the E17 experience. In terms of ease of use, it provided a better learning curve as the Trinity Desktop looked strikingly similar to a product sold by a corporation in Redmond,Wa. The Trinity Control Center provided substantial choices for users in comparison with that of E17, a reminder of the good old days of Corel Linux and Lindows. Regrettably, konqueror-trinity, the file browser cum web browser, has crashed quite often, especially when you cut and paste something. I has been unsure the problem was due to the fact that Trinity used DCOP instead of DBUS. You don't have to reboot your tablet but it's quite annoying.
To solve the problem I installed d3lphin as file browser and qupzilla as web browser but I failed to remove konqueror-trinity.I haven't tried Q4OS yet.
16 • Linux touchscreens (by Wse on 2015-09-28 12:33:22 GMT from Europe)
Would you think, this--http://postimg.org/image/j094n7bhv/--could be used for touchscreens?
17 • Touchscreen friendly DE (by Christian on 2015-09-28 12:37:57 GMT from South America)
IMO, the point of having a touchscreen friendly DE is for convertible laptops.
I have a 2x1 Dell computer and I do like Unity, but one thing that bothers me is the lack of an automatic virtual keyboard when in "tablet" mode, or some inconsistent behavior (like the size of the buttons to resize windows or scrolling).
It's interesting to see the Windows 10 take on the subject. Although the interface is already friendlier to touchscreens, you do get a "tablet mode" button that makes the experience a lot better when there's no keyboard attached to the screen. This way you get better desktops for each case (laptop or tablet) instead of trying a single solution for everything.
18 • games sources (by Steanne on 2015-09-28 13:14:01 GMT from North America)
poll option missing: you don't consider the possibility that publishers make games available for this platform on their own. it DOES happen.
19 • Nice review (by Paul on 2015-09-28 13:53:42 GMT from Europe)
Very nice review, thanks.
Someday it would be nice to see a series of articles on display systems technologies, where they are going and when they might arrive. Too much of what one comes across is codenamed gibberish that is hard to understand and of questionable relevance to most people.
20 • Touch screen review (by Charles on 2015-09-28 14:26:05 GMT from Europe)
"Of all the desktop environments I tried, Xfce was the only one in which I could not move windows by tapping on the window's title bar and dragging it around. In this way Xfce was unique."
I wonder if this would be fixed if 'Applications -> Settings -> Window Manager -> Advanced -> Double click action' was set to 'Nothing'.
Anyway, interesting read - thanks.
21 • @6 profiles for icon sizes touch/mouse (by PePa on 2015-09-28 14:28:12 GMT from Asia)
Exactly! We need some default profiles for Touchscreen and Desktop for icon sizes and other desktop settings, so that it can be quickly switched! Especially the environments that I love for their adaptation to Desktop work (LXDE, MATE!) need an easy profile switch to a configuration more suitable for Touchscreen usage. Sounds like a fantastic idea, it can have other uses too, like standard configurations can be tranferred for picky users. :-)
22 • re #7 (by albinard on 2015-09-28 15:10:30 GMT from North America)
For somewhat safer ISO transfer to USB there is also an Ubuntu version called mkusb. I haven't used it, but it seems to be a system of confirming just where you're sending the dd'ed material.
23 • Icon size? Really? (by fernbap on 2015-09-28 16:14:30 GMT from Europe)
It is obvious for anyone that the defaults for desktop PCs are NOT finetuned for touch screen devices. If they are, then they fail miserabily on a desktop PC.
What is most important is how a desktop can be optimized for a touch screen, i.e., how much liberty the user has to change the defaults.
You seriously don't expect a desktop, if preinstalled on a tablet, to keep the PC defaults, do you?
So, items like icon size and difficulty to drag window borders are false questions and should not be used when judging a desktop, unless it is impossible to change those.
That, imho, reduces the value of your review.
24 • tourchscreen (by Leonhard Euler on 2015-09-28 17:33:07 GMT from Europe)
Non of the desktop environments is designed for touchscreens. The trend in the last years is to use the keyboard more often. This is especially true for Gnome and Unity, but also for Plasma. Without a physical keyboard the workflow is very different on this systems. There are different demand and I think we need different desktops for different systems.
If there are more touch devices able to install Linux (by the average user) the mayor desktop environments will offer a touch version, or at least make there versions more usable on touch devices. KDE defiantly plans to offer a touch friendly version, but the touch desktop will always be different form the main non-touch desktop. Maybe you should try the plasma netbook desktop with touch, or we have to wait until plasma 5 is made fit for touch.
25 • Touch for desktop screens (by mikef90000 on 2015-09-28 20:16:25 GMT from North America)
IMO this is a really specialized market. The above post about using an LCD screen near horizontally could be useful for some types of design. The quandry is what to use for the front surface - the usual wimpy plastic ones on consumer displays would not survive much touching.
Perhaps someone who has one of those large (~21 inch) touch displays that HP made (a couple of years ago?) could give us the pluses and minuses. I saw one close up in Costco, a sign that they were not very popular. They were also stupidly expensive and tiring to use with my long arms; short people beware!
26 • Gnome 3 (by arnold on 2015-09-28 20:45:49 GMT from North America)
#3 & #8. I too, bashed Gnome 3 from the first. I now like it. I do not like, nor am I interested in, a touch screen.
27 • "Dumping" an ISO (by Kragle von Schnitzelbank on 2015-09-28 21:41:47 GMT from North America)
It's nice to see a kinder, gentler GUI for taking a (ISO) dump on a portable storage device. A modicum of progress in a constructive direction, to be sure, since a GUI can reduce opportunities for errors in the hands of those less skillful, experienced, or mentored.*
28 • Convertible touchscreens - why? (by traditional on 2015-09-30 11:03:00 GMT from Europe)
I don't see the point of convertible laptops. Why use a clunky, functionally crippled touchscreen interface (and cover the display with smears - looks great in sunshine!), if you have a keyboard and mouse/touchpad that actually allows you to get productive work done?
In this context, I always thought that the main idea of the (broken by design) Win8/Metro interface was to force people to use the touchscreens they would otherwise have ignored.
On a slightly different note, I have been quite disappointed by the ugly flat low-color look of the Plasma DE (e.g. Manjaro KDE). I sincerely hope that some nice, 3D-looking themes are also available.
29 • Using right-click on touchscreens on any desktop (by Touchuser on 2015-09-30 14:34:06 GMT from Europe)
Doing a right-click on touchscreens is easy:
Add to your xorg configuration:
Option "EmulateThirdButton" "1"
Option "EmulateThirdButtonTimeout" "750"
Option "EmulateThirdButtonThreshold" "30"
30 • touchscreens (by Jason on 2015-09-30 19:50:31 GMT from North America)
I bought my wife a Windows 10 SurfacePro recently and must admit it is an amazing device/OS. Not perfect for sure. But it seems to be the best evolution of tablet/laptop/touchscreen/keyboard available. It wouldn't surprise me if these become the most popular computing device behind smartphones. I am someone who doesn't generally like touchscreen -- but found myself using my finger for selecting and swiping rather than using mouse -- it was more convenient and much faster. It also lets you choose to have the device go into a tablet mode (like android) when the keyboard is disconnected.
31 • Gnome, USB writers & KDE 5 (by M.Z. on 2015-09-30 21:23:34 GMT from North America)
@14 - Gnome
Gnome does look to be genuinely good on touch, but from my time using the latest Fedora/Gnome in VirtualBox I still see significant design flaws related to being too locked down & too focused on touch elements at the expense of good desktop design. If I could make one constructive criticism/generalization about the biggest problems in Gnome it would be the complete & utter lack of buttons & visual cues as to what is going on. From the min/max buttons, to the informationless 'click & drag but only this direction' lock screen, it seems to me Gnome design is still flawed. The entire UI is still deeply influence by the kind of thinking that led Gnome to say 'lets hide the shutdown function & make them press the alt key to reveal it'. Any interface without any visual cues looks to me like it is almost intentionally meant to be unintuitive & bad for potential new users. I genuinely hope they change direction, even if only because some big distros I like seem married to Gnome as a default despite the problems.
@22 - USB writers
Well I don't use Ubuntu given the spyware issues, but I like the 'USB Image Writer' that is installed by default in all versions of Linux Mint. In fact if you look at the linked Mageia blog post it says they pulled in some of their code for ISOdumper directly from the tool in Mint, though ISOdumper seems more feature rich. There are probably a few other good tools out there too. I think the Mint tool might be derived from something in OpenSuse, but I' fairly sure there are other similar tools floating around. The ones I've seen all look safer & more convenient than the dd command.
@28 - KDE 5
I generally like KDE quite a bit, but I agree thoroughly about these new flat & ugly designs. They could be a nice option for some folks who like minimalism, but the glow of KDE 4 is far more attractive to me. That being said it's still KDE we are talking about here & there should be an easy option to change the theme. I do see problems with KDE & Cinnamon on occasion, but both projects build in flexibility & seem willing to respond to users. It's a much better attitude than I ever heard out of the Gnome project when I questioned their choices/direction.
32 • #3 . #8 . #26 Gnome Shel (by aboutGtk3 on 2015-09-30 22:56:56 GMT from Europe)
In the early days Gnome Shell was far from being a finished product, so I bashed it too. Once it improved and after get used to it, I become unable to adapt back to the traditional DE paradigm.
33 • Sabayon and 3g modems and NetworkManager (by gnomic on 2015-10-01 00:55:41 GMT from Oceania)
Recently looked at Sabayon 15.09 Gnome and MATE editions and found it impossible to connect via a 3g modem. The Gnome version just didn't seem to want to know whatsoever, no sign of creating an interface for the modem or being able to add one via the system software. MATE managed to see the modem in the usual way with NetworkManager but on attempting to connect it decided to go into the dread 'network has been disconnected' mode where it stayed resolutely. Does anyone know whether Sabayon is broken with NM and 3g modems, and what if anything can be done about it? Haven't spent hours hunting for the answer but a skim of the forums didn't help. Did come upon a suggestion that NM has been broken in Sabayon in recent releases.
There seems to be a bit of this about currently. A recent look at Archbang also revealed a fail with 3g connections. Most distros with NM seem OK with 3g but there are exceptions.
34 • Touch screens (by Kazlu on 2015-10-02 12:54:59 GMT from Europe)
@28 touch screens
I disagree: Although a keyboard and a mouse are in my opinion the best tools to be productive on a desktop or even a laptop, when you are on the move you lose the mouse and the touchpad is really a pain in the ass for a replacement. I had the occasion to manipulate the laptop of a relative with a touchscreen and I had to admit I liked having the possibility to touch the screen. Actually, touch screen and touchpad even proved complementary for certains tasks. I still prefer the mouse, but when you don't have it because you are travelling, touch screen is a real plus - yet not mandatory.
About the review regarding touch screens with different desktops:
Nice and interesting review. It's good to review the default capabilities of desktops, but like others already said most of them can be tailored to be more touch screen friendly through themes or desktop customization. The process is similar to what I tried when I looked for a desktop that would behave well on HiDPI. MATE, KDE and to a lesser extent Cinnamon proved to be very customisable desktops allowing you to resize texts, icons, title bars and window controls sizes. Although wondow borders (used in resizing windows) were not always concerned, that is still themable. Add to that things like the homerun launcher in KDE or any other "big fingers compliant" menu you can think of. Those desktops have some really good points for touch screens, although that requires a little work since these are never the default parameters.
Xfce is a bit less practical to that extent in my experience. For example, you cannot change the size of the title bar or window controls other than with a theme. Too bad, it's a
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