commit d4d7bdb7d8f89e4184d552fa3be099166536b926
parent a225517ccdf2681e02f079f243bf2a886f5bfcf2
Author: oscarbenedito <>
Date:   Tue,  5 May 2020 21:29:58 +0200

New entry: My journey through desktop environments

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diff --git a/content/blog/ b/content/blog/ @@ -53,4 +53,5 @@ Just like you don't go around giving everyone access to your browsing history or emails, you shouldn't do the same with companies. You might have nothing to hide, but why would you give such private information away? + [rtb]: <> "Real-time bidding — Wikipedia" diff --git a/content/blog/ b/content/blog/ @@ -135,6 +135,7 @@ post. This was partially because shortly after I started writing, [this][kevq-post] post came out so I changed my focus a bit. If you don't post your full content on your web feed, read it! + [rss]: <> "RSS — Wikipedia" [atom]: <> "Atom — Wikipedia" [json-feed]: <> "JSON Feed — Wikipedia" diff --git a/content/blog/ b/content/blog/ @@ -0,0 +1,124 @@ +--- +title: "My journey through desktop environments" +categories: technology +tags: ["Decentralization", "Personal website", "Privacy", "Website"] +date: 2020-05-05T19:26:00+00:00 +--- +My first experience with GNU/Linux was with KDE. It is the desktop environment +used on my college computers, and it was more or less the only experience I had +with the GNU/Linux operative system, so it was the desktop environment I +installed at home (at that point I don't think I knew the difference between a +distribution and a desktop environment). After some time, I got comfortable with +the new OS and learned that distributions and desktop environments were +completely different things, so I started to look around for other DEs and +decided to go with GNOME. It was a weird choice, as I had only read—and +heard—bad things about GNOME, but I was reading a lot about the GNU project and +decided to go with the DE that was part of the project, just to try it out. + +Well, GNOME is great. I love GNOME! I am glad I wanted to try it (for a more or +less stupid reason) against what people were writing/saying. It works great out +of the box, it has programs for everything I needed and can easily be configured +to fit your needs[^detail]. With Debian 10, the dark theme is great, and other +apps like firefox also go dark with it[^not-gnome]. It was a bit confusing the +first couple of days, but it was easy to get used to. GNOME has worked great for +me (and still does). With the lack of a bar with all the open windows (like on +KDE), I have gotten more used to moving around with the keyboard. I also made a +conscious effort to use the keyboard more, as I had seen many people move around +faster and more naturally when they weren't using the mouse. So, after gaining +confidence with the keyboard, I decided to finally give i3 a *real* shot a +couple of weeks ago. + +[^detail]: A very simple example is setting up "natural scroll" for the + trackpad, which I had a couple of issues the first time I tried with some DEs. + But there are many things. + +[^not-gnome]: I know this feature is not exclusive for GNOME (indeed, I + configured i3 to act like this), but it works out of the box, which is the + point I am making. + +[i3][i3] is a tiling window manager, which means that it is a window manager +that arranges windows in a way that they don't overlap. As I see it, a window +manager is similar to a desktop environment (like GNOME or KDE), but a lot more +"lightweight". It doesn't have all the features and applications desktop +environments do, it simply arranges your windows. There are probably more +differences, but I haven't looked into it much. + +I say I decided to give it a *real* shot because I have tried i3 multiple times +before: mainly logging in, seeing how ugly everything looks, logging +out[^hidpi]. This time it was different: I had time to figure everything out, so +I decided to push through the first days (when everything is to be configured"), +and then decide. I installed it, tweaked it a little, didn't like some things, +installed [sway][sway], it fixed some things but messed up others, I also +considered other tiling window managers like [dwm][dwm], and went back and forth +a couple of times (all in one day). Eventually, I decided sway had one problem I +couldn't cope with[^sway] and decided to stick with i3. I made a list of +everything that was missing (or "wrong") and went to bed. + +[^hidpi]: I have a HiDPI screen which made everything look super tiny. I had + some issues with HiDPI screens with KDE (there was always a weird app that + didn't work well with it). This got solved (out of the box!) with GNOME, and + after all the frustration I had in the past, seeing it back was a nightmare. + This was finally solved pretty easily, although the solution is a little hacky + so I can also plug my computer into non-HiDPI screens. + +[^sway]: The problem is that applications using Xwayland are blurry on HiDPI + screens, and that wasn't solvable as far as I could tell. They also had no + plans to solve it anytime soon (according to sway developers, it is an + Xwayland problem, and it's on them to fix it, which is a fair point). + +The next day, I grabbed the list and started working on the items. Some of them +were very easy to fix, like make the sound buttons work. Some others were a +little harder, like mounting USB automatically. I even had to reinstall i3—a +fork of i3 actually—so I could have gaps between windows (yes! I needed those!). +I also added more items to the "problems-to-fix" list as I kept using i3. After +about a week, I had fixed everything on the list! + +This process of going through a lot of minor things made me realize how awesome +GNOME is. It has so many features, without a need for the user to spend hours +and hours making everything work. KDE probably also goes into this category, but +I haven't used it as much so I can't say. Other DEs that I have tried have given +me some problems here or there, nothing major, but it isn't the out-of-the-box +experience I appreciate in GNOME. + +Some people quickly disregard these DEs because they are "bloated". In my +opinion, it is true. They have an absurd number of features, but for myself, +when I simply need everything to work without any tweaking, this is great. As a +new GNU/Linux user, I wanted my computer to work without much configuration, +while still being able to be "picky" about some stuff. Even as a +moderately-confident user, I didn't have a week to spend making i3 look and act +as I wanted. For all my little things to be included, there are probably many +more that I don't want, and are also included (and other people want). I am fine +with my desktop environment being bloated. That changes for pretty much any +other software I run on my computer, I like simple things, but I also don't have +unlimited time. Indeed, my initial reason to switch to i3 (or a tiling window +manager) wasn't "less bloat" or simplicity[^less-bloat] (I find GNOME very +distraction-free, and it has a good performance on my computer). I switched +because I was tired of overlapping windows and I wanted to make more use of my +keyboard for managing everything. + +[^less-bloat]: Now that I have tried it and feel comfortable, my next + installation might come without GNOME and probably have much less bloat, which + I will appreciate for sure. It simply hasn't been a priority so far. + +With all the changes, I am very satisfied with i3, and haven't gone back to +GNOME for a week. It did take a lot of time to figure everything out (and +configure it), but it was something I had wanted to do for a long time (that's +why the many attempts) and I finally had extra time to do it. It was definitely +worth it! + +## Final note + +I think one of the major issues I had on my previous attempts was the `$mod` key +used for all i3 shortcuts. It is so hard to reach the `Super` key! I had already +switched the mapping of `Caps lock` and `Escape` (which improved my vim +experience drastically), so I knew `Caps lock` was the key I needed for my +shortcuts (it is so easy to reach!). I have now mapped `Caps lock` to act as +`Escape` if I tap it, and as `Super` if I hold down. With this little trick, i3 +becomes a lot nicer, but without damaging vim's experience. If you are +considering using a tiling manager, think about it! Also recommended if you use +vim! + + +[i3]: <> "i3 website" +[sway]: <> "Sway website" +[dwm]: <> "dwm website"