Distribution Specific Quirks

The preceding description of KDE and GNOME has glossed over an important issue: Most distributions don't ship standard KDE or GNOME installations. Instead, they create custom themes, modify Panel settings, alter menu contents, place distribution-specific icons on the desktop, and sometimes even replace components. Also, different distributions may ship with different versions of popular desktop environments. The net effect of these changes is to create a desktop that's identifiable as belonging to a particular distribution. Nobody who's familiar with the systems would mistake a SuSE KDE installation for a Mandrake KDE installation, for instance, although the same core features are available on both. Some of the issues with specific distributions include:

Debian Debian runs on a longer release cycle than most other distributions, and it is more likely to include older but better-tested versions of its packages than are other distributions. Debian 3.0, for instance, ships with KDE 2.2 and GNOME 1.4, which are becoming fairly aged, although you can upgrade these packages to more recent versions. Debian tends not to make extensive changes to its default KDE or GNOME installations.

Mandrake This distribution favors KDE but includes GNOME. The distribution makes modest changes to both environments, but it makes more to GNOME than to KDE. In both distributions, some menus are altered to include the Mandrake name. For instance, the GNOME Applications menu becomes the MandrakeLinux menu. Mandrake includes some distribution-specific hardware and software configuration tools, some of which replace desktop environment-specific tools, such as MenuDrake replacing the K Menu Editor. Most of the screen shots in the "Mastering KDE" section of this chapter were taken from a Mandrake 9.1 beta system, running a late beta of KDE 3.1.

Red Hat Red Hat has made extensive changes to both its KDE and GNOME installations to make them look as much alike as possible. Unlike most GNOME systems, Red Hat's default GNOME includes no Menu Panel; instead, the Edge Panel takes on most Menu Panel elements, sometimes in slightly altered form. Most GNOME tools remain accessible, although their positions on menus may be altered from the default.

Slackware Like Debian, Slackware tends not to make extensive changes to its desktop environments, and it doesn't jump on the bandwagon with the latest release as quickly as some others. For instance, Slackware 8.1 shipped with KDE 2.2 and GNOME 1.4, although KDE 3.0.5a was officially available as an upgrade in early 2003, and a late GNOME 2.2 beta was available from http://www.dropline.net/gnome/ (I used this beta to produce most of the screen shots in the "Mastering GNOME" section of this chapter). Slackware 9.0, released late in this book's development process, includes more up-to-date versions of both KDE and GNOME—3.1 and 2.2, respectively.

SuSE Like Mandrake, SuSE favors KDE, and makes even more extensive changes to the default KDE themes and menu layouts. These changes include ready access to SuSE's system configuration tool, YaST. SuSE's default GNOME configuration is less heavily modified than is its KDE setup.

Because of these differences between distributions, some of the specific menu paths provided in earlier sections of this chapter may not apply to your system; nonetheless, the basic principles of operation and most or all of the utilities described should be available to you.

Team LIB

Team LIB

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