Martin @ Blog

software development and life.


Linux with Beryl: almost as good as Mac OS X

I’ve used Mac OS X almost exclusively for about 1,5 year. I especially liked the nice effects and the fact that things ‘just work’. Now, since a few weeks, I’m using Ubuntu Edgy Eft on my laptop and this week installed it on my old Athlon PC with Nvidia GeForce 4 graphics board. I enabled Compiz this week (see previous post) and now installed Beryl. This last engine is even nicer than Compiz (but according to the changelog of Compiz, a lot of the features of Beryl are also available in the latest development versions of Compiz). Beryl makes Linux almost as usable als Mac OS X. The software was already available (Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim,, Eclipse, Gvim, The Gimp, Inkscape and Xchat are the programs I use the most) but with Beryl the usability and visual effects are almost as good, and sometimes even better. Especially the Exposé emulation and the trailfocus is very nice and actually improves the usability. I also installed Beagle and Deskbar. I have Beagle installed because of the engine, and use Deskbar as my main search program. This way, the functionality of Deskbar is similar to Spotlight on the Mac, and allows you to search for documents, e-mails, programs, chatlogs, webpages and much more. Finally, there is Network-manager which makes it easier to configure your network and especially makes it a lot easier to use wireless networks with WPA en WEP encryption.

Unfortunately, most of these tools are not installed by default on Ubuntu Edgy Eft, however, Feisty Feist (version 7.04) of Ubuntu, will include most of the stuff I mentioned in this post. At least there will be 3d desktop acceleration, beagle, network-manager and (I assume) Deskbar. As a bonus, the Ubuntu developers aim to improve the multimedia support in Ubuntu. I think this last point will make Linux even more usable for the average person than ever.

Ironically, I stumble across the news that Gartner thinks that Mac OS X is more attractive for businesses as a desktop operating system than desktop Linux. While I have the opinion that both Mac OS X and Linux are more usable than Windows as desktop operating system, I’m not sure that one of them is better than the other. Both are based on Unix, and as such have some obvious advantages over Windows (most notably a better command line shell and better security model), but I think they have both their specialties. Mac OS X is more suited for people who work with proprietary software, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and MS Office, while Linux is a better platform for developers (although Mac OS X could be used for this as well, but requires some more fiddling because of the lack of an integrated package manager such as RPM/Yum or dpkg/Apt/Synaptic.

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