Skip to comments.The Mac-ifying of the Linux Desktop
Posted on 05/21/2014 11:19:14 AM PDT by ShadowAce
The sheer variety available to the Linux desktop brings with it a level of discussion and debate most other platforms do not know. Which desktop is the best? Should Linux hold onto what has always worked? Should the Linux desktop mimic what others already know? Dare Linux look and feel like OS X?
That last idea is a bit of a conundrum one with multiple arguments. First and foremost, there is no debating that OS X is a fast-growing platform. It not only has deep roots in Linux architecture, it has been accepted by numerous types of users. There have been many attempts at cloning the OS X desktop on Linux. Some of those clones have succeeded, to varying levels. One in particular (PearOS) succeeded so well it was bought by an unknown American company and removed from existence. That company is rumored to be Apple (a Black Lab Linux developer announced (in a goodbye letter) he was leaving the team to join Apple ...in a Linux endeavor they recently acquired. It's fairly easy to put that two and two together.) But still, until there are facts, it is conspiracy, at best.
But what is it about OS X that not only draws the users, but has Linux developers scrambling to clone? One fact that cannot be denied about OS X is the consistency found throughout. No design element has been overlooked and every window opened retains the overall look and feel better than any other desktop. Beyond that, you have to start looking at apps...even more specifically, the likes of iTunes. Since the smartphone has become such an incredibly integral component of day-to-day life, users rely upon the tools to keep those devices in sync with their data. Whether you like the app or not, few apps do a better job of syncing multi-media and other data as does iTunes. Without something similar Linux loses out.
Matthew Garret, in his essay The Desktop and the Developer proposes that A combination of improved desktop polish and spending effort on optimising developer workflows would stand a real chance of luring these developers away from OS X with the promise that they'd spend less time fighting web browsers, leaving them more time to get on with development.
Improved desktop polish. That statement alone should ring very true with Linux desktop designers across the globe. I would add modern to that Improved modern desktop polish because users are no longer happy with the likes of flat desktops, such as Gnome 2, Fluxbox, or KDE. Users, especially the average user, wants polish, they want something that looks as modern as the mobile tools they use.
Distributions, such as Ubuntu, have gone to great lengths to take that idea of consistency and elegantly apply it throughout. Unity does an incredible job of working the look and feel of the design to every aspect of the desktop. Linux Mint also has grown, leaps and bounds, with unifying the look and feel of the desktop.
Have Ubuntu and Mint caught up to OS X? With respect to unification of look and feel, it's becoming a very close race. As for application familiarity, that's another debate all together.
As for distributions cloning OS X, PearOS has been forked, but even the fork is running into some levels of resistance. At first it was named Clementine and showed promise. The distribution then ran into legal issues with the name (the original name belongs to my media player of choice, Clementine). Now, Klementine OS is nowhere to be found.
Beyond the conspiracy theories, beyond the purchasing and obfuscation, why would a Linux distribution want to mimic the look and feel of OS X? When you do a search for OS X Linux clone, you generally come up with the following distributions:
Elementary OS Luna
Clementine (now Klementine)
Red Star OS.
After much digging, I discovered yet another Linux distribution with a desktop aimed at resembling OS X. This distribution is called Pirum OS. This distribution was started by high school developer Tyler Wolf and, almost as quickly as it started, was re-branded into The Pear Project. No development, no signs of life.
This disappointment sent me reeling back to Google to discover LuninuxOS. Outside of having a double-take of a name (it's pronounced loon-e-nux o-s), the platform has a single idea: that an alternative computing operating system should be beautiful, simply, fast, reliable and fun. After a bit of digging, it turns out this distribution is also no longer in development.
All of this leads me to a single question: With so many challenges (some legal), why do developers insist on attempting to create an OS X clone of Linux? I've scoured through the various pages of the different distributions to seek out that answer. There are numerous conclusions to draw:
The developers want to mimic the OS X look because of its popularity
The developers feel the familiarity of the OS X interface will draw users
There is some truth to the ease-of-use claims that surround OS X.
Once you give some of these distributions a try, you quickly come to realize that some are simply a standard GNOME (in most cases) desktop with a Dock and a Panel. Once you get beyond the theme of the desktop, there is little OS X to be found. You won't find iTunes or any of the other software stacks that draw people to Mac. What you will find is the standard Linux software. And that is nothing to hide. In fact (outside of the desire to look like OS X), when you examine the single most common goal of all of the OS X clones to have come and gone, you have one common goal:
All of these clones want to emulate what is often considered the de facto standard when it comes to elegance on the computer desktop: OS X. But by whose standard? Compare OS X to some of the modern Linux desktops, such as:
All of a sudden, OS X doesn't look so modern. In fact, OS X is still hanging on to the same metaphor it's used for thirteen years. The true beauty to OS X stems from the hardware, not the software. Install an OS such as Ubuntu 14.10 or the latest Deepin Linux on a Macbook Pro Retina and see what real, modern elegance looks like.
With every OS X project that comes and goes, hardship seems to follow. Either it's crossing the boundaries of copyright (and having the project closed), failing to drum up enough developer interest to get the project truly off the ground, or having the project purchased (insert your own conspiracy theory here). So the big question still remains. Why? Why not focus on doing what Linux has always done better than any other platform innovate. If you want to create a platform similar to OS X, take what Apple has done well and blend it with what Linux has done well and create something completely unique.
Remember, trademark and patent law is very confusing and challenging. The owners of those patents will go out of their way to prevent you from infringing on what they've created. Don't think, for a second, that the likes of Apple will allow someone to perfectly mimic their desktop without putting up a fight. Some outstanding distributions have come and gone because they desperately wanted to cling to what Apple was doing. PearOS was a darling among a large crowd and could have gained a strong foothold for the Linux desktop. It disappeared in a shroud of mystery.
Is it an impossible battle to fight? All in the name of cloning something that people either love or hate? No matter how you slice it, Apple is mighty. We may never know if they flexed that might to prevent a clone desktop from gaining any momentum. What we do know is that Linux is the king of innovation and will continue to enjoy a number of brilliant and modern desktops.
For any and every variant of Unix, it is line mode only for me.
If vi was good enough for me in the 80s it is good enough for now.
I can script anything I need.
Cripes, just go and buy a Mac. It isnt like you lose access to some essential Linux exclusive programs by not having it.
OSX is Unix®. Linux is a clone of Minux which is a clone of Unix.
Kind of like looking through the wrong end of a telescope.
OSX is Unix®.
Linux is a clone of Minux which is a clone of Unix.
I like my XFCE desktop. I put Cairo Dock on it just because I like it, but other than that, it's pretty much a unique desktop. Simple, usable, and gets out of my way.
Best of all--I can change it at any time I want to, without having to buy software, licenses, or permission from a vendor.
I think you were the one who pointed me to PearOS before. I went there and discovered it had been discontinued. I like trying different flavors of Linux from time to time. Zorin Lite does have an Mac desktop, look and feel, option but it is not in the Zorin full install, I believe. The Zorin full install has the look and feel of Windows 7 just for those that would like to migrate from windows to linux easier.
I still like Ubuntu the best. It has a desktop totally different from windows and takes a little time to get used to. Once I did, everything I use is right there on the side, that I keep hidden till needed.
It has no root in Linux. It is from the BSD side.
" 3.4 > V "
When I was an MTS at Bell Labs,
" 3.4 > V "
MacOS X is a certified UNIX® 03 Standard OS.
The Unity desktop chased me away from Ubuntu. I like choices, and I like people who want me to have choices. So I switched to Zorin.
And I’ve put Zorin Lite on a couple of older NetBooks that had XP on them. So far I’ve heard no complaints other than there’s no Xtree Gold clone that they can successfully get installed.
As a developer who only uses linux (Debian) I HATE HATE HATE Gnome 3.
If Gnome 3 is modern than modern sucks!!! I went to MATE, (gnome 2.)
“Cripes, just go and buy a Mac. It isnt like you lose access to some essential Linux exclusive programs by not having it.”
The problem there is that Apple has a pretty limited selection of hardware available. There is nothing resembling “enthusiast” hardware - fast i7, desktop video card, expansion, and user serviceable/upgradeable. That gap has led to a large “Hackintosh” community. It would be nice if Apple would finally release that type of machine, often called the “xMac” - I think it would be quite a boost for Mac popularity.
I’m hopeful Linux can mature into something with close to MacOS’s ease of use and elegance. It’s nice to have alternatives! The price is right, too... ;-)
Yeah, Zorin is probably my second favorite. You’re right, Zorin Lite is great for older computers and I have installed it for people getting away from XP with no problems.
Also, Minix is microkernel and Linux is macro kernel.
Don’t like Gnome3. All the easy customizatons are gone. The task bar is gone. It takes two or more steps to do what I could do in one step with Gnome-2.
I want a desktop for a workstation, not for a touchscreen appliance.
Cinnamon on top of gnome-3 is an improvement, but then vnc has problems with it.
I am a Linux developer, but I gotta say, with the Linux desktop, nothing is easy and with Gnome-3, it only got worse.
Most of my work is done in a terminal window with vim and other tools, but just setting up the desktop to be usable is such a bear.
> I HATE HATE HATE Gnome 3.
“It isnt like you lose access to some essential Linux exclusive programs by not having it.”
No, you just losing a good deal of spending cash going that route.
You use a video screen?
I'll bet you use ASCII, too.
Real men use flashing lights to indicate hex addresses - and that's only when they're taking a shortcut from pure binary.
There are 10 kinds of people, those who know binary and those who don’t.
I just took a quick look at Zorin OS, I have a PC for the in laws that needs a new OS (it currently has XP) and think I’ll give that a try.
Most important for them is similarity to XP. They’re in their mid to late 70’s so a “drastic” change in the OS look and feel won’t go over too well. Granted, XP was all they ever knew since they got their very first computer from me when they retired. All they need a computer for is web browsing, email and skype.
Do you know if Zorin has Desktop control capabilities in case I need to connect to them for support? They live 350 miles away and being able to support them remotely and use screen sharing is a requirement.
There was a third kind, too, but you can't talk about it.
Blech! Vi? Do you seriously still use Vi in common practice? I’m all about nano!
Vi is the lowest common denominator among line text editors in the Nix world. I still have to use it in VMware when I SSH to a host. Otherwise, I try to avoid it like the plague. I’m just curious if you seriously still use it or used to use it.
Vacuum tubes and EBCDIC, baby.
If one goes out on you, you can't read the result register and you get a checksum fault.
If I had a 4 year old kid, he/she wouldn't need to rely on hex as a crutch...
>>Vi is the lowest common denominator among line text editors in the Nix world<<
That is the point. I go to a lot of different clients. Vi is ALWAYS there, like an old, easy, ugly girlfriend always ready for a booty call.
But I carry around my little “hero kit” with fun toys that help my Unix experiences... :)
Knew an old guy who had worked in a space with one of those. They told him not to worry if the air conditioning ever failed, because he’d never make the door alive anyway. And to think I complained about blue-screens...
>>There was a third kind, too, but you can’t talk about it<<
In the mid 80s, there was rumor that USSR tried and failed at a a trinary computer.
But the Relational Model is trinary so go maybe the Ruskies weren’t all that far off...
>>Knew an old guy who had worked in a space with one of those. <<
There used to be a job replacing the bad tubes (I had a slightly older colleague who did just that).
There was a warehouse-sized room with them damn things.
And yeah, it would be like a bad plasmodium ending if the cooling stopped...
Understood. It’s platform agnostic, so regardless of the distro, I know I can rely on vi to be there. I guess it’s just new to me to see someone extolling its virtues whereas most with whom I associate deride it as useless in a world of Ctrl+ goodness like nano.
Daily. There is stuff that I can do in vi in seconds that I can't do in any other editor in hours. I do lots of stuff with quick macros in vi rather than wasting time with hand-crafted sed/awk solutions for file manipulations. I seriously love vi for that stuff.
LOL, you win.
Personally, I’m a butterfly programmer...
I haven’t been able to get any remote control into that machine yet. If you figure it out I’d love to know what you used.
Will let you know. I’m having a hell of a time getting it to run in full screen mode under VMWare and installing VMWare tools on it.
Thus far, not terribly impressed with it for that reason. Every other Linux I’ve tried has been a 20 minute or less install including VMWare tools and getting it to run full screen. There’s something goofy with Zorin.
“Do you know if Zorin has Desktop control capabilities in case I need to connect to them for support? They live 350 miles away and being able to support them remotely and use screen sharing is a requirement.”
I use the TeamViewer program (www.teamviewer.com) for remote access. Zorin is Debian / Ubuntu based, so TeamViewer should run on Zorin. TeamViewer is available free for private use. Better still, it works across different platforms - control Linux computers from Windows computers, and vice-versa.
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