Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Perfect Desktop or "The Perfect Bloat"

DISCLAIMER:
I do not, in any means, want to state that "The Perfect desktop" Guides are not good enough. They are actually very good. They are very exhaustive and have demonstrated everything very nicely with the help of screen shots. My point is that they have gone overboard with their selection of Software.




I want to write a guide to setup a complete windows replacement for a novice and did a little research for the common software a normal user will use. I came across the Perfect Desktop Series of howtoforge.com. They have an excellent guide for setting up "The perfect Desktop". I, however, found this guide to be a little too exhaustive and having too much duplication of software. Lets check their latest guide for Linux Mint 4.0.

Their Preliminary Notes says:
To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Linux Mint 4.0 desktop to have the following software installed:

Graphics:

  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • F-Spot - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos

Internet:

  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Flash Player 9
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • BitTornado - Bittorrent client
  • Azureus - Java Bittorrent client
  • Pidgin - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client

Office:

  • OpenOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • Helix Player - media player, similar to the Real Player
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • GnomeBaker - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs

Programming:

  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Quanta Plus - web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor

Other:

  • VMware Server - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions


Gosh !! Thats hell of a software and that too many with duplicate functionality. I realize that a normal user might need some of these packages, but definitely not all of them. Thats just simply wastage of space/bandwidth and too much configuration.

Here is a simple review of their software list.
  1. Graphics
    1. Picasa & F-Spot. They both perform very similar functions of organizing photos and doing basic editing. Though picasa also offers to upload to Picasa web and there can be very small differences in their functionality, but at the end, both perform the same function of organizing photos.
    2. GIMP -- Most normal people would not require all the advanced features offered by GIMP, actually speaking most people just want the basic editing offered by both Picasa and F-Spot. GIMP is good, but can be intimidating for novice
  2. Internet.
    1. Firefox and Opera both ??
    2. Thunderbird and Evolution both ??
    3. Azureus and BitTornadi both ??
  3. Sound and Video.
    1. Amarok, Rythmbox,XMMS and Banshee. All four just for playing music ??
    2. gtkPod. Now if you have Amarok, you can control your iPod, gtkPod is not required.
    3. Audacity & Sound Juicer CD Extractor both ??
    4. MPlayer, VLC Media Player, Totem, Xine Media Player, Helix Player -- Did you guys leave anything else on this planet ? Oh yes you missed out on Kaffeine :)
    5. GnomeBaker,dvd::rip and K3B. Wow, when just K3B can perform all the possible CD/DVD burning functions.
  4. Programming.
    1. KompoZer, Bluefish and Quanta Plus. All three for creating a web page.
  5. Others.
    1. VMware Server -- If I want to run Windows desktop, I'll dual boot. Why shall I run a virtual machine in Linux ? Comeon these are GEEKS jobs, who want to tinker with their desktop and play with various options. A normal user will never try this.
Here I can see that too many software share similar functionality with just minor differences between them. Some people might argue that the extra software provides flexibility and an average user might user just the one he/she likes. If that is the case then a normal user should install just the software he/she likes an not three- four similar type of softwares. For instance between Amarok, Rythmbox,XMMS and Banshee, I prefer Amarok and it performs almost all the functions which either of Rythmbox,XMMS or Banshee can perform. Then why should I bloat my system.

HowToForge promotes GNOME as desktop ( even PCLinuxOS and OpenSUSE are configured as GNOME )and all their applications are mostly GNOME centric. Then what is the futility of having applications like Amarok, Audacity, QuantaPlus or K3B. We have good GNOME replacement of all these, why not just restrict to pure GNOME, when we can.

There is nothing bad in installing all the above applications, but giving too much choice to users can be confusing. Look at the current most successful desktop Linux distribution - Ubuntu. Ubuntu has carefully selected set of applications for each task. There is not duplication and still user can perform most tasks.
And not to forget, keeping minimal applications keeps the system lean and easier to maintain.

Just my two cents.

7 comments:

dennyhalim.com said...

tried this? http://wiki.dennyhalim.com/ubuntu-minimal-desktop

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hanly said...

Excellent post,thanks for sharing.
pdf to tiff
ipod manager
Perfect !! Now i add it to bookmark!
YouTube to MP4 Converter

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