Trying GNOME (Again)

Trying GNOME (Again)

It’s been about two years since I last tried GNOME. My first experience was with Debian on an old laptop. I was very dissatisfied with the performance and design of the desktop. I didn’t like the lack of modularity of the applications, and my opinion of the desktop further declined with the introduction of client side decorations becoming the standard for most, if not all, GNOME apps.

I stumbled upon GNOME again when my horrific heavily customized version of LXDE stopped working. I remembered reading about a “GNOME Tweak Tool” somewhere. I figured I could do something to make GNOME work better for me. The GNOME Tweak Tool was exactly what I needed. It made it simple to change options that I would expect to be in the desktop’s control center by default.

The extensions made my experience a whole lot better as well. The addition of an application menu and the “Dash to Panel” extension made GNOME feel more familiar.

Customized GNOME Desktop
My GNOME desktop after fiddling with the GNOME Tweak Tool.

The difference of running on Wayland rather than Xorg has also been positive. The differences have been subtle, but window movement feels smoother, which I like. However, I’ve noticed if the desktop freezes, the cursor freezes as well, unlike my experiences Xorg. I particularly like the “Night Light” feature and am impressed that it works on Wayland.

That being said, the desktop does not avoid my criticism. The GNOME control center does not show as many settings as I would like (Although it’s fairly complete), particularly those offered by the GNOME Tweak Tool. The desktop also seems to be geared towards those who aren’t as familiar with computers, and by default takes on a kind of interface better suited for mobile devices and touchscreens.

All in all, GNOME has come a long way. It’ll be my default desktop for a while, and hopefully it continues to improve. I would recommend it to those who want “easy” GNU/Linux experience.

Compton + Window Maker

Window Maker with Compton
I was curious how a compositor would to do with Window Maker. To my surprise, it worked very well, and I was satisfied with the results. Shadows displayed as expected, as did transparency (mostly). The only odd effect I got was that by enabling transparent menus, other areas (which apparently are treated as menus) became transparent as well. Other than that, it preformed smoothly and it was great.

Window Maker: A Real (90s) Desktop

Window Maker Desktop
Window Maker with Dillo, xman, xedit, xclock, and xeyes open.

Review

Anyone at least a little familiar with Linux knows about the different major desktop environments: GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, MATE, etc. For fun, I decided to test a Window Maker on Ubuntu in a virtual machine. Being a fairly experienced Linux user, the learning curve was relatively minimal. Window Maker was designed to closely imitate the NeXTSTEP desktop, an ancestor to the modern macOS interface. It’s a different experience, but it’s light, it’s fast, and it’s 90s. Because it’s not a composited desktop, there’s lots of window tearing. And though you won’t get a ton of eye candy, it’s very customizable and has an awesome control center. If you need a light desktop, are experienced with Linux, like the 90s, and are looking for a different experience, I recommend giving Window Maker a shot.

To Install

To install on Debian/Ubuntu:

# apt install wmaker

Other Distributions: Head to the Window Maker site, download the source code, and compile.

How I Set Up My Environment

I downloaded the Ubuntu 16.04 server CD image and install in qemu.
Once installed I ran:

$ sudo apt install xorg wmaker

To start Window Maker, I typed:

$ startx wmaker

Backing up N64 Games, Part 1: Windows 98

Picture of ‘GameShark Pro’

Recently, I obtained a piece of hardware called the ‘GameShark Pro’ to back up Nintendo 64 games. It has a parallel port on back to communicate with the computer. But, the software it uses is outdated and proprietary. And only works with Windows 98. It took about two weeks to get Windows 98 to install on my hardware, the longest it’s taken for me to install an operating system. And being so old, it has no Ethernet drivers or support for my display’s resolution. So, after a long adventure I can be comfortable on the internet and backup my games… Almost. I still need an old male-female LPT cable.