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    I wonder who at System76 was responsible for evaluating all possible directions they could invest in, and decided the desktop environment is the biggest deficiency of System76

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      It’s also great marketing. I’ve heard “System76” way more since they have released Pop_OS. So while people may not be buying machines for the OS it seems that as a pretty popular distro it keeps the name in their head and they may be likely to buy a system on the next upgrade.

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        Well I’d buy a machine, but they’re not selling anything with EU layouts or powercords.

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        I know a few people who run Pop_OS, and none of them run it on a System76 machine, but they all choose Pop over Ubuntu for its Gnome hacks.

        Gnome itself isn’t particularly friendly to hacks — the extension system is really half baked (though perhaps it’s one of the only uses of the Spidermonkey JS engine outside Firefox, that’s pretty cool!). KDE Plasma has quite a lot of features, but it doesn’t really focus on usability the way they could.

        There’s a lot of room for disruption in the DE segment of the desktop Linux market. This is a small segment of an even smaller market, but it exists, and most people buying System76 machines are part of it.

        Honestly, I think that if something more friendly than Gnome and KDE came along and was well-supported, it could really be a big deal. “Year of the Linux desktop” is a meme, but it’s something we’ve been flirting with for decades now and the main holdups are compatibility and usability. Compatibility isn’t a big deal if most of what we do on computers is web-based. If we can tame usability, there’s surely a fighting chance. It just needs the financial support of a company like System76 to be able to keep going.

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          There’s a lot of room for disruption in the DE segment of the desktop Linux market. This is a small segment of an even smaller market, but it exists, and most people buying System76 machines are part of it.

          It’s very difficult to do anything meaningful here. Consistency is one of the biggest features of a good DE. This was something that Apple was very good at before they went a bit crazy around 10.7 and they’re still better than most. To give a couple of trivial examples, every application on my Mac has the buttons the same way around in dialog boxes and uses verbs as labels. Every app that has a preferences panel can open it with command-, and has it in the same place in the menus. Neither of these is the case on Windows or any *NIX DE that I’ve used. Whether the Mac way is better or worse than any other system doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that when I’ve learned how to perform an operation on the Mac I can do the same thing on every Mac app.

          In contrast, *NIX applications mostly use one of two widget sets (though there is a long tail of other ones) each of which has subtly different behaviour for things like text navigation shortcut keys. Ones designed for a particular DE use the HIGs from that DE (or, at least, try to) and the KDE and GNOME ones say different things. Even something simple like having a consistent ‘open file’ dialog is very hard in this environment.

          Any new DE has a choice of either following the KDE or GNOME HIGs and not being significantly different, or having no major applications that follow the rules of the DE. You can tweak things like the window manager or application launcher but anything core to the behaviour of the environment is incredibly hard to do.

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            There’s a lot of room for disruption in the DE segment of the desktop Linux market.

            Ok, so now we have :

            • kitchen sink / do everything : KDE

            • MacOS like : Gnome

            • MacOS lookalike : Elementary

            • Old Windows : Gnome 2 forks (eg MATE)

            • lightweight environments : XFCE / LXDE

            • tiling : i3, sway etc etc (super niche).

            • something new from scratch but not entirely different : Enlightment

            So what exactly can be disrupted here when there are so many options ? What is the disruptive angle ?

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              I think you’re replying to @br, not to me, but your post makes me quite sad. All of the DEs that you list are basically variations on the 1984 Macintosh UI model. You have siloed applications, each of which owns one or more windows. Each window is owned by precisely one application and provides a sharp boundary between different UIs.

              The space of UI models beyond these constraints is huge.

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                I think any divergence would be interesting, but it’s also punished by users - every time Gnome tries to diverge from Windows 98 (Gnome 3 is obvious, but this has happened long before - see spatial Nautilus), everyone screams at them.

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                I would hesitate to call elementary or Gnome Mac-like. Taking elements more than others, sure. But there’s a lot of critical UI elements from Mac OS looking, and they admit they’re doing their own thing, which a casual poke would reveal that.

                I’d also argue KDE is more the Windows lookalike, considering how historically they slavishly copied whatever trends MS was doing at the time. (I’d say Gnome 2 draws more from both.)

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                  I’d also argue KDE is more the Windows lookalike, considering how historically they slavishly copied whatever trends MS was doing at the time

                  I would have argued that at one point. I’d have argued it loudly around 2001, which is the last time that I really lived with it for longer than a 6 months.

                  Having just spent a few days giving KDE an honest try for the first time in a while, though, I no longer think so.

                  I’d characterize KDE as an attempt to copy all the trends for all time in Windows + Mac + UNIX add a few innovations, an all encompassing settings manager, and let each user choose their own specific mix of those.

                  My current KDE setup after playing with it for a few days is like an unholy mix of Mac OS X Snow Leopard and i3, with a weird earthy colorscheme that might remind you of Windows XP’s olive scheme if it were a little more brown and less green.

                  But all the options are here, from slavish mac adherence to slavish win3.1 adherence to slavish CDE adherence to pure Windows Vista. They’ve really left nothing out.

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                    But all the options are here, from slavish mac adherence to slavish win3.1 adherence to slavish CDE adherence to pure Windows Vista. They’ve really left nothing out.

                    I stopped using KDE when 4.x came out (because it was basically tech preview and not usable), but before that I was a big fan of the 3.x series. They always had settings for everything. Good to hear they kept that around.

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                  GNOME really isn’t macOS like, either by accident or design.

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                  I am no longer buying this consistency thing and how the Mac is superior. So many things we do all day are web-apps which all look and function completely different. I use gmail, slack, github enterprise, office, what-have-you daily at work and they are all just browser tabs. None looks like the other and it is totally fine. The only real local apps I use are my IDE which is writen in Java and also looks nothing like the Mac, a terminal and a browser.

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                    Just because it’s what we’re forced to accept today doesn’t mean the current state we’re in is desirable. If you know what we’ve lost, you’d miss it too.

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                      I am saying that the time of native apps is over and it is not coming back. Webapps and webapps disguised as desktop applications a la Electron are going to dominate the future. Even traditionally desktop heavy things like IDEs are moving into the cloud and the browser. It may be unfortunate, but it is a reality. So even if the Mac was superior in its design the importance of that is fading quickly.

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                        “The time of native apps is over .. webapps … the future”

                        Non-rhetorical question: Why is that, though?

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                          Write once, deploy everywhere.

                          Google has done the hard work of implementing a JS platform for almost every computing platform in existence. By targeting that platform, you reach more users for less developer-hours.

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                            The web is the easiest and best understood application deployment platform there is. Want to upgrade all user? F5 and you are done. Best of all: it is cross platform

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                            I mean, if you really care about such things, the Mac has plenty of native applications and the users there still fight for such things. But you’re right that most don’t on most platforms, even the Mac.

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                          And that’s why the Linux desktop I use most (outside of work) is… ChromeOS.

                          Now, I primarily use it for entertainment like video streaming. But with just a SSH client, I can access my “for fun” development machine too.

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                          Any new DE has a choice of either following the KDE or GNOME HIGs and not being significantly different, or having no major applications that follow the rules of the DE. You can tweak things like the window manager or application launcher but anything core to the behaviour of the environment is incredibly hard to do.

                          Honestly, I’d say Windows is more easily extensible. I could write a shell extension and immediately reap its benefit in all applications - I couldn’t say the same for other DEs without probably having to patch the source, and that’ll be a pain.

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                            GNOME HIG also keeps changing, which creates more fragmentation.

                            20 years ago, they did express a desire of unification: https://lwn.net/Articles/8210/

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                          It certainly is a differentiator.

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                          I really hope that adding a custom component to the mix doesn’t give the user compatibility issues. Personally, I’d rather have a fixed pop store and more stable upgrading, those things were a time sink for me.

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                            …yeah the name “COSMIC” makes sense. That navigation button looks like something from an alien spaceship dashboard indeed.