What can you guys tell me about Linux's customization

So, before I start the talking, I need to tell you guys that the fact of me being a brazilian guy associate with the fact that I don't have much time to practice may bring to my text some english mistakes, and when I say mistakes, well you know... But I know I'm on a good place, and I'll not be flamed by a lot of kids laughing at this.


So, I started my graduation. "Telecommunications engineering" is how it's called here, and the area involves some programming, networks, circuits and stuff, what is from my interesting. Since the beggining of the graduation, and more now with my fat-best-friend spamming my head with this idea, I started to think about linux. I always used windows, since win98 and I'm really familiar with this tool (windows). Actually, I'm using win8, and I like it, but I really want to try linux. So I started to learn about all this stuff (this forum helped me a lot, I can say), and I came to a decision: I'm thinking to start from Mint, maybe... I'll start learning more about the system here, and then I will updating things.


My question is, I think (and hope), kind simple: I've always been a guy worried about the "desktop good looks", and I want to know from you guys, if you have some ideas for me. Is mint a good choice for me to have an usual and good looking Linux OS? What's the best linux to customize? And if exist a good linux to customize, is a good choice use it? I have some images from "good looking desktop" from linux OS that I think is pretty beautiful.


This one is very good. Never thought that Linux could be so beautiful.



The second image isn't THAT beautiful, but I'm very curious to know how to do this in a linux OS >:D

Hope someone can help me here, thanks!

99% certain that secnod image is Openbox, which is one of, if not my favorite non-tiling WM. Very easy to configure.

It isn't a matter of which distro you have, it's a matter of what DE/WM that you have. Mint could have Awesome, XFCE, Gnome, pure CLI, or any number of forks, alternatives, and such.

That second image is Fluxbox window manager with xcompmgr.

"my fat-best-friend" I don't even...

That first image looks like XFCE and maybe GLX-Dock / Cairo-Dock but I can't tell for sure.

I'd say Arch and Gentoo are high on the ability to customize chart, but any distro will let you tweak pretty much everything to your heart's desire. Personally I prefer to start with a minimal install, then only add the packages I want. This works great because I know what I want to install and what I don't want.

Mint will be a fine place to start, but you do end up with quite a lot of software in a typical install. With Mint you do get a graphical package manager and well-stocked software repositories so you can look for things to try out without really knowing what you want in advance.

Whatever you end up installing, have fun and don't be afraid to try out a lot of different things, just be sure you know how to uninstall or undo your changes or at least have a way to look it up :)


Whenever I want the eye-candy I run Cinnamon on Debian on my main PC or KDE on Arch on my laptop, but mostly I stick to Xfce; simple interface for a simple person.

DE's are the one most problematic thing in linux right now. With the migration to Wayland and all of the experimenting going on, Gnome get's on everybody's nerves, KDE has a lot of unsolved stupid bugs, Unity on Ubuntu 13.10 if anything is fast, until everything breaks and you have to reinstall, but XFCE is nice with Gottcode's Whisker menu but not a really modern DE, but at least everything works pretty well. When Hawaii comes and Cinnamon evolves a little more, I think those will change the landscape.

I invested time into Gnome on Fedora rawhide and KDE on OpenSuSE 13.1, and both needed a lot of ironing out wrinkles that I just know are not going to be sorted when they make stable release. But that's just the way it goes with linux, if you want the latest and greatest, you have to contribute in the testing. It's not like your system is unusable when you need it (well, except with Unity on Ubuntu 13.10 that is, those are really nasty bugs on all kinds of mutilated code snippets that just do not make a lot of sense).

The problem with linux now is that the new generation has to take over. That is not easy, because the new generation doesn't have the same priorities as the old generation, but it needs to happen because the old generation is getting burned out. Where is the legendary cleanliness of the open source code? The golden rule not to screw up packages borrowed from other projects to avoid fragmentation and incompatibility... it's just gone because a lot of devs don't care anymore, because they are disillusioned by the politics and the stupidity that surround them. I still applaud the hygiene of Fedora when it comes to packaging. Discipline is the one most important thing in technological evolution, make good code and adapt your code to what exists already, instead of breaking stuff randomly because you feel like cutting corners. The pressure on linux is up, and corners are being cut. Google does this on purpose, to sabotage open source packages, but a lot of devs follow that kind of practice out of laziness or to catch deadlines set by people without any clue as to open source development. Bosses from the closed software world that are coming to the open source business to show those hippie open source devs how it's done... that's the death of many open source packages. RedHat still gets it, Intel doesn't get it anymore, Canonical has long forgotten it, but the power of open source in in collaboration, and that can only work if everybody packages with care and refrains from hacking up other people's packages. It's just a transitional phase right now because the business world hasn't decided yet what direction to go with linux. They want the advantages, but the fact that they're exploring it, breaks many advantages, best proof of that is Google. Download Skype from the private repo of a RedHat dev, and you'll see that the p11kit has been inserted, to keep Skype from messing with Mozilla's trusted CA list, that's quality, that's what's needed, download it from Microsoft or from another repo, and you'll see that nobody bothered or even thought of it. Google has been wanting to have Chromium in the Fedora repos for years, but as long as they don't clean up their act, and stop hacking open source packages and learn to package software the right way, they're not allowed on them, even though RedHat pays a chromium maintainer that runs a private repo for people that want to use Chromium on Fedora machines, which is a day/night difference with what happens at Canonical for instance, where Google pays a Chromium maintainer for Ubuntu and uploads it directly into the Ubuntu repos. No wonder Canonical - however much great work they've done on their Ubuntu Core, and I must say, 13.10 is crazy fast, they've done great work - doesn't seem to be able to push out a stable distro, they don't have enough control over their packages, because they're burned out after 10 years of trying to compete with a product they don't need to compete with in the first place. Same for OpenSuSE, like the KDE edition that loads almost the entire gnome-deps and libs, really Novell? Why? That's just cutting corners, in the end it serves nobody, just keep the core clean, and do the packaging in an intelligent way, and there is no need for those 800 MB of bloody ballast in that KDE spin or that 900 MB of useless ballast in the Gnome spin that still looks like a second choice spin. Look at Fedora, F18 was so late for release everybody was screaming, and it was still released too early, but at least it wasn't released anywhere near to early to still be a good open source bleeding edge product. F20 will be too late again, well I prefer that over having to deal with bad packaging and unverified code.

Nice post, Zoltan, and probably the most relevant information from you about linux in general.

I'll add my 2¢ albeit off-topic - political rhetoric aside;

 OSS was always about the society of developers and hackers. Originally, collaboration was the reason I "was" (yes, past tense) so passionate about linux. I remember in the late 90's when the media was spouting Linux/BSD were a serious threat to M$' own products. I have fond memories; those early days of innovation, intellectual freedom and thought. OSS used to increase software development and push proprietary developers to lift their game.

 Then something changed, beyond developing source-code and semiotic analysis of individual distributions. Open-source no longer has the same meaning it did for me. Don't get me wrong, it has evolved to embody new and old, social, political, and cultural ideas but the cooperative method to problem solve, innovate and engineer is dying. We're reinventing the wheel again and again ad infinitum.

 I'm tired of all the bullshit surrounding linux and open-source development. All the constant arguing and conflict in the community not to mention all the ass-hats, douches and trolls in it only for themselves. I'm annoyed with the whole NIH-syndrome mentality surrounding development and the "Open Source Tea Party" arguments ie; most recently with Mir, systemd, UEFI, and ongoing kernel development for example.

 We need to get our heads out of our arses and get back to our roots. Especially now that open source development has become a part of social praxis and consciousness. We see linux usage growing exponentially and gaining momentum in home desktop use. There are lots of new adopters as evident in this forum. We can't expect the next generation to care enough to understand the UNIX way or invest time and resources ie; distraction outside of elitism. All we can hope to do is promote harmony in the open-source community and provide the tools and means to make linux and open-source development better for everyone.

+1, people forget that open source software came before everything else, and that linux was never "an alternative", it was a continuation of UNIX on PC hardware.

Closed source operating systems never really were able to become an alternative to open source software, because they were never meant as computer operating systems. There was DOS, and that did a fine job, and there was a plethora of very productive and easy to use software for DOS, that was also not overly expensive and had a lot of functionality, like WordPerfect 5.1, Framework 2.0, Harvard Graphics, dBaseIII, etc...

Apple had found the ideal way to make money on application software: they made a GUI shell for their operating system. That way, software manufacturers would have to "integrate" into that GUI to sell software for Apple computers, and Apple could up the profit margin from that. In the early nineties, a MacIntosh was an expensive computer to run, the hardware was already crazily expensive, and it needed a whopping 8 MB of RAM to run well, which was a multiple thousand dollars investment at that time. A MacIntosh as daily driver was an 8 to 10 thousand dollar investment. And Apple made money on every piece of software and hardware.

Microsoft saw that, and they didn't have a system like Apple that could make money out of everything, and their software ran on "IBM clones", which were cheaper computers, so they had a real problem. They wanted to steal the market away from WordPerfect and AstonTate etc..., but they didn't have anywhere near competing products, in comparison to WordPerfect, Word was a laugh, they didn't have anything to compete with Lotus Notes, they didn't have anything to compete with Harvard Graphics, etc... so they made a GUI shell on top of DOS, so that everything would also need to be integrated, so that uses would see colors and a Mac-like GUI shell, but if they would start up their WordPerfect, they would be frustrated because they didn't see the colors anymore. That was the sole purpose of the Windows operating system, to sell Microsoft applications without the need to have better applications. It took years for Microsoft to even come near to the features of the third party DOS-applications they bullied out of the market by releasing Windows, and they never got to the same performance level because of all of their bloatware, but that was the one and only reason why Microsoft made Windows, it was never meant as an operating system, it was meant as a fancy scheme to lock down application software and make more profit. A few years later, they realized that it would not be possible to compete with Apple by holding on to DOS as underlying operating system, and they needed something new, and they made a deal with IBM to rebrand IBM's OS/2 (which was IBM's take on creating a locked down DOS-based GUI operating system to sell it's own application software, but it was more technically sound than Microsoft Windows) into Windows NT, and now 20 years later, they're still using that very same pseudo-operating system, that was never meant to be a real operating system, to sell their application software to the world.

While the "OS wars" between Apple and Microsoft started, linux was just an adaptation of a real power-computing orientated operating system, UNIX, to the new and cheaper "IBM clone" hardware. It was a great success, because at that time, the internet was unlocked to UNIX users, and they collaborated on the Internet and a lot of side shows and applications software was developed at an incredible pace, all thanks to the fast communication and collaboration through the Internet. Linux is only a kernel, distros were built, applications were written, development environments were created on affordable x86-hardware, and the whole world started creating great open source software together. In the last 20 years, so much software has been created by the open source community, that it's not even possible to make an overview.

Several years later, a clever open source developer made a port of some UNIX applications to Windows and Mac "consumer platforms", just for fun and as a proof of concept. One of the things that were ported over from linux/UNIX/BSD/..., was Navigator, a third generation html browser. It was an instant commercial success on commercial operating systems, and the rest is history.

When Windows took over the Apple market because Apple hardware was too expensive and IBM clones were becoming much cheaper, Apple fired Jobs, it was Jobs that had devised the cunning "fake OS to lock down application software" plans. Jobs took it a step further, and stole a real operating system, the open source UNIX-clone BSD, to develop a POSIX-standard compliant, UNIX-like operating system with the same locked down GUI as MacOS, and that became BeOS, and when he was later hired back by Apple, that became OSX. So Apple now has a real operating system.

Microsoft has never bothered turning Windows into a real operating system, it has always remained basically a software store and DRM-layer packed as a GUI shell on DOS, and the only thing they did to make it more presentable, is to adopt IBM's OS/2, which was like the "enterprise version" of DOS, as a base, because it has a few more features than the 35+ year old DOS, but they still use pretty much the same filesystems as DOS, the same basic structure, the same limited features, etc... DOS was made as a simplified operating system for smaller consumer hardware, pretty much the Android of its time, something everybody could easily use, that could start a couple of games, etc... it's a very basic storage management system, to allow users to load programs from diskettes into the computer's RAM to be executed. That's why it's called "Disk Operating System". It was never created as a serious computing operating system.

So there is a world of difference between open source software and commercial "pseudo-OS's", but because of the fact that people don't realize that Windows isn't a real OS, but only the Microsoft version of the Steam client, linux and open source software is degraded as an "alternative". That makes commercial companies exploit linux, because it can also be an alternative of course, qui peut le plus, peut le moins, and that, together with the fact that open source is always degraded as an "alternative" to crappy locked down consumer software that doesn't even do 1 % of what serious open source software can do, is very demoralizing for open source developers, because they see everything taken away from them: their Internet, which at the time has strict bandwidth rules and everything was very nice and civilized, and now they can't get anything done any more because the entire US is killing bandwidth with mindless media consumption like netflix and stuff, their freedom, at the time they were really free to be creative and innovative, but now, they're spied upon, sabotaged, depicted as hackers, and any form of innovation is criticized as terrorism or ungodly anti-patriotism, and now that many of them have been working like crazy for 20 years to get to the top in the enterprise they work for, the whole thing either comes down, or the shareholders see new commercial opportunities in open source and hire some commercial software guru to take that board position they were working 20 years for to reach.

And as with everything, in the end, there is only one factor that counts: the human factor. Steve Ballmer's drones at Microsoft might be shouting "we love you Steve" during his abdication speech, but they're either on drugs or very perverted, and one thing is for sure: there is not one single serious developer amongst those drones. Microsoft is fighting freedom and affordable technology and education and knowledge with a bunch of non-creative drones that aren't even worth mentioning in relation to software, and they're winning, not on the field of technology, but in court and congress. And the linux foundation does nothing, because it's not their show, because windows is not an operating system. And they're right, Windows is not an operating system, and is nothing but a retarded locked down digital distribution channel that people actually pay for, but the newer generation only knows Windows, so linux has to do something about that, the new generation has never seen UNIX, doesn't know about WordPerfect, doesn't care about DOS, they don't know the full story, they weren't there. They never knew that before the mid 90's, you couldn't find a single school or university on earth that ran a single Windows or Mac PC, because they all took computing seriously and needed a powerful real computing operating system, so they ran UNIX. In the beginning of the 90's, it was unthinkable that a computer engineering student would use Windows or Mac, computing was a serious scientific thing, it was governed only by open source software and UNIX-like operating systems. That is different now, educational institutions are sponsored by software console vendors like Microsoft or Apple, and that means that the next generation of software devs will start out with a serious disadvantage and a serious misconception. So I think that the open source community has to start taking the handicap of the newer generations into account. There is a knowledge deficit, and it will be harder for young people to invest themselves, with all of the distractions that are going on now, and that were never an issue in the old days. But I'm still very positive about the capabilities of the open source community to adapt. They've always succeeded in adapting the inadaptable, they will also succeed this time around. Projects like Manjaro prove that, and luckily, those projects have to compete with older projects like Arch and Mint/Ubuntu, just to make sure they keep on the right track and stay for real.

For people that knew the old days, well, it's always the same story, those days will never come back. 15 years ago, linux users were admired because they could communicate in real time over the internet, something few people could do. Now, linux users are being frowned upon and put on blacklists by ISPs and governments because they have the power to potentially do something bad or aren't considered "consumers" or "home users" by ISPs, but have to take an enterprise subscription. Two years from now, linux users will be admired again, as they are now in the enterprise world, because they can actually make computers work, and avoid the enormous quality problems commercial closed software is having ever more of, and because they can save people money.

And that's where it's going: the economy doesn't need the big computing innovations for the moment, they need to reduce overhead, and that's where open source devs need to swallow their pride and just offer their open source solutions as an "alternative", that's better quality, stable, cheaper, less overhead and more efficiency, and that's also something open source can do, and it's much easier for open source to play the underdog and accept being an "alternative", than for a closed source commercial software console to reduce overhead and "just work" and be efficient.

And once the point of general acceptance as an "alternative" is reached, even if that means that some crappy code is merged in some applications, that's where open source will have won, because at that point, the power of real computing is everywhere, and innovation will automatically start to happen again. It's just frustrating that it take so long.

So to come back to the OP, this was not a thread hijack, all of this is actually a broader answer to your question. Linux DE's are just applications, there are dozens of those, you have a huge choice and each and every one of them is crazily customizable. It's just not like Windows, there is no "default theme" or no "default setting" or no "Microsoft color scheme of the week", everything is there to personalize by each and every user, because open source can...

All I have to say about this topic is, albeit incredibly personal (sorry for this):

Screw unity. I gave it a shot, even though I was already a tiny bit used to gnome interfaces and read alot of scrutiny about it. Every update I pushed on Ubuntu has completely broken unity. But firstoff, I will admit this:

I'm only used to running/maintaining non graphical service-oriented linuxes (debian or arch in my situation). I have completely little or no understanding of X and graphical shells, and anything that comes with it!

But dear god, unity has made me feel like a fool on many occasions. encountered bugs are; unity not starting at all, or even a situation where mouseclicks didnt work in unity at all. On the ubuntu forums or anywhere the golden advice seems to be 'reinstall ubuntu'.... .... .... Dear God, I thought Windows forums were horrible.

And It feels to me like thats exactly what is going wrong in the linux world. Yes, even as a linux n00b I dare say this: You got this new generation of people who aren't used to the way its done in Linux (might have borrowed that from you, Zoltan), who are influencing the whole linux universe. I think this is because if anything, Linux has got more to do with the userbase than any other OS.

But when you can't even find a detailed solution for a simple problem, then you simply know there is something seriously wrong with the community. You still have smart people and good examples among the crowd, but more rotten apples (or empty ones) seem to show up.

Ofcourse the source of my particular problem is that Ubuntu just is a crap distro, especially if you are into learning. (And apperantly, if you just want it to work it is also crap.) And the user base seems to consist of mainstream noobs. (In this situation: Me included.)

I learned alot more with setting up my first debian server, and a chunk more with setting up an arch server. But with Ubuntu I have learned about nothing at all, even though it was my first graphical linux experience, I'm hoping to forget it even sooner.

I Think I'm going to try out LightDM, but I'm not sure which distro to pick. I'll read around on this tread and hope something good will pop up.

to the OP: made up your mind yet?

Hello mathiashls,

Leaving politics aside, if you want a beautiful desktop that is also very customizable and stable you should definitely check out Kubuntu (www.kubuntu.org) I've been running for a few years and I'm very pleased how it came better and better over the years.

Wow! Is this even healthy to read for a 15 year old?  This has opened my eyes...

Hey guys, thanks a lot for all the posts you all have wrote here! All opinions help me a lot.

I know, I know, this post is very old, I just don't have much time to spend on the forum, but I try my best. I'm coming back just to show to you my choice. Based in a lot of things and with the help of my friend Gusta 'negodark' Heinz and yours, I started using Manjaro, and I'm looking for an Arch instalation, but I know I can't do this by now.

 By the way, Linux is amazing! I don't know why I could use windows for so long.