Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Tale of Two Distros: Back to the Future with Fuduntu and SolusOS

Katherine Noyes,
aka Linux Girl
It would be difficult to find a better illustration of the power and beauty of free software than the current state of Linux Desktops.

Exhibit A:

After years of comfortable service to Linux users far and wide, the GNOME 2 desktop was effectively retired, replaced instead by the mobile-inspired GNOME 3 alternative. Ubuntu, meanwhile, launched its like-minded Unity.

Many Linux users balked, not enjoying the mobile paradigm on the desktop.

Instead, they turned to any one of countless alternative desktops or distros. Eventually, the GNOME project relented. Meanwhile, brand-new desktops and distros were born to serve this base of users who yearned for the classic experience.  Life went on, and users were happy again.

An unhappy prospect

Exhibit B:

Over in the proprietary world, on the other hand, Microsoft came out with Windows 8 and its “Modern UI,” formerly known as Metro. Users balked; usability experts expressed concern. No start button to be found; huge learning curve.

And, what are users' choices?

Well, downgrade back to Windows 7 or switch to something else altogether, such as Mac or—better yet—Linux.

Life may be going on, but it's not at all clear that users are happy with such a disruptive set of choices before them.

A solution for everyone

Few areas of the Linux world are more fascinating than this desktop evolution, and it's really because of the speed with which free and open source software can evolve to meet users' preferences.

Whereas Microsoft and its users will take years to get beyond the debacle that is Windows 8, the Linux community has already found a place for its own set of mobile-minded contenders and come up with yet more choices for those who don't like them.

First in this glorious evolution following the arrival of the mobile-inspired contenders was MATE, an alternative for Linux Mint users.

Appearing not long afterwards, Cinnamon is a fork of the GNOME 3 shell that's designed to offer yet another transitional option between the old, familiar GNOME 2 and the new GNOME 3.

Cinnamon has already enjoyed particularly widespread adoption, including use in not just Mint but also Sabayon, Cinnarch and possibly even as a default in Fedora.

Enter the distros

Even more interesting, though, are the new Linux distributions that have been born on the cusp of this revolution.

First to catch my attention was SolusOS, a Debian-based distro launched last year by founder Ikey Doherty that uses the GNOME 2 desktop. In the short time since its founding, SolusOS has sprinted up DistroWatch's page-hit rankings to No. 14.

Then, too, there's been Fuduntu, a distro now at No. 27 on DistroWatch that Andrew Wyatt launched in late 2011 and is also based on GNOME 2. Fuduntu is my primary distro at the moment, and so far I love it.

Most recently of all, the SolusOS project launched Consort, a brand-new fork of GNOME Classic.

Bottom line?

There's always a fresh and new choice for everyone in the world of Linux desktops--even in this era of mobile-inspired transitions. If that's not a testament to the power of FOSS, I don't know what is.

-- Katherine Noyes

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  1. Katherine, I have to point out that there is one intermediate step for Windows 8 users that isn't quite as extreme as installing Windows 7. There are a plethora of replacement Start Menus available. I recommend that people pay the $5 for Start8. Is it ideal that someone have to pay money to recover their workflow? No. That said, it's not ideal that someone have to maintain software themselves or write a replacement graphical shell either, but it was the solution available.

    Aside from that, thanks for the good press. We always appreciate it!

    Blair Zimmerman,
    Fuduntu Marketing

  2. I tested out Win8 on both my desktop and laptop, even with the start menu replacement app it is horrible. After running on Win8 since Sept, I decided I was done with it and made a switch to Fedora. Couldn't be happier.

  3. I really like Gnome 2 and SolusOS clearly benefits from it with a clean customisable interface. How long will these distros stick with Gnome 2 before either XFCE or MATE become a better choice

    1. Ikey Doherty announced the fork of Gnome3 to 'Consort'.