So since my Ubuntu installation was behaving idiotically I decided to stop delaying the unavoidable, and made a fresh install of Arch Linux on an spare disk. I completed the installation of the basic system in a couple of hours, but I could have finished way earlier if the neighbours didn't create so much interference with my Wi-Fi.
Even if mrdoob is tempting me with GNOME 3, arguing that
it's not that bad!, I want to test by myself the other alternatives and see if I can work with them.
Since I can choose what I install, the system is a sort of lightweight Frankenstein:
- ext3. Recent Ubuntu versions use ext4 by default, and I did use it for a while, but stopped doing so when I discovered that if the system crashed, some files got reduced to 0 bytes (that is: their contents were lost). Not nice! So I'm opting for the tradition here.
- LightDM as login manager. This is the same that Ubuntu uses, and is based on WebKit so I can customise its appearance by editing HTML if I want to. But what is really interesting is that it's super fast, so the login screen shows up almost immediately after the X are started. Win!
- I have only installed ALSA, and not PulseAudio, for the time being. I also set its daemon to load up asynchronously, so that speeds up a little bit the load process.
- I'm using WiCD for managing my wireless connection. In the past I used NetworkManager but I wanted to try this one. It's slightly ugly compared to NetworkManager, but does its work spotlessly so I won't complain!
- XFCE. It's very fast but also a bit rough, compared to GNOME2. Semiwin, read on for more on why!
- Nautilus as File Manager. Thunar (XFCE's 'native' file manager) is very fast but doesn't have tabs. I also tried pcmanFM which does indeed have tabs, but it was slightly buggy.
- Firefox. The current version packaged in Arch is 7, whereas the builds from source are already on 10. I used to build my own version with Ubuntu, every week or so, and I tried to do the same but it failed. Since I'm not yet used to the build process in Arch I decided I would just use the repo version for now. In any case, it starts up almost instantaneously. Win!
- Chromium. The Arch repo doesn't include Chrome, but Chromium. It therefore doesn't have a Flash plug-in--but that's OK. I'm going to try and avoid using Flash as much as I can; the only problem I've found so far is that Google's StreetView requires Flash. I demand a WebGL version!
- Talking about WebGL, I'm using the nouveau open source nvidia driver. I thought it was going to be problematic just by looking at their compatibility table, but so far I just got a WebGL issue, and I'm not sure if it's because of Chromium or because of the driver itself. We'll see when I experiment more with WebGL.
- Graphics stuff: I installed GIMP (2.6) and Inkscape. I also installed the Save for web GIMP plug-in, which is pretty useful as you can choose to strip EXIF data, adjust the output size based on the compression level, etc... This is packaged in a set with more plug-ins in Ubuntu, but I had to compile it from source here, as it's not in Arch repositories. It wasn't difficult though, and allowed me to submit a documentation patch too, which is already merged into the project! I love github! ^^
- For video, I'm using VLC, and for audio, Audacious. I learned today how to compile the XMP plug-in for Audacious straight from the GIT tree, so I can listen to tracked music (modules) with Audacious too. Yay!
- For quick image viewing I installed Mirage. It's super fast but doesn't show EXIF data, so when I want to browse/view images with more detail I use gThumb, which I already used in Ubuntu. But the default is to open images with Mirage.
- I also installed GNOME terminal, as I'm used to it. xterm was a bit too basic! Win if only because of the tabs!
- And VirtualBox. I want to experiment with having a couple of virtual machines for certain things such as web development, so I can just fire it up when I need it, and the rest of the time I won't have an Apache daemon process waiting on the background (you can replace Apache with MySQL, nginx, etc... you get the idea). That way the system is very lean, and also I can copy the virtual machine to another computer and keep working without having to set up another environment! Therefore... double win!
So what do I think of XFCE after using it for a couple of days? Well, it's good that it's sooo fast, but it also feels excessively rough sometimes. Specially when editing or customising things such as panels I find myself right clicking on things and not really getting the sort of contextual menu I would expect to see.
I guess I've been spoiled by the Ubuntu eyecandy and now everything else feels ugly. The problem is that as these interfaces are GTK-based and whoever designed GTK themes apparently was high when doing it, making custom GTK themes is just so complicated that I guess you need to be on drugs too if you want to create a GTK theme. It's so unnecessarily confusing. So after trying to install the Ambiance theme from Ubuntu and not getting too far, I decided to just look for a very simple XFCE theme and see how it would work. At least is not punching my face every time I look at the screen, unlike other themes that I saw :-)
However I think I'll succumb and test GNOME 3 soon, because of two reasons:
- I found about about tint2, a GNOME panel. That alleviates my initial G3 reluctance.
Meanwhile I've noticed my computer is way quieter than usual. Specially I hardly hear the hard disk--I literally have to look at the led to see if it's working or not. With Ubuntu it was considerably noisier, but it could be because it was fragmented --don't know! It's just a random fact that I've observed.
Previously on the Distro/desktop (s)hopping "saga": KDE. Next: we'll see! I'll update when it happens.