I talk a lot about what I think is wrong with the current state of Desktop Linux. And I spend a fair bit of time talking about what I think can be done to improve it, and which applications I like the most.
So I figured, why not collect my notes together...
And lay out, piece-by-piece, what I think would be the ultimate Linux Desktop Distribution. And, when I say ultimate. I mean ultimate. The best eye candy. The best media related apps. The best usability. The kind of Linux distro that, out of the box, knocks peoples socks off and makes Windows and MacOS X die-hards lay down their swords and declare this new Linux distro "totally teh rad".
My focus here is primarily to use existing projects and applications. Re-inventing the wheel is boring.
Let's start from the ground up.
Debian or Ubuntu. This is the most widely used base on the desktop. Debian stock, Ubuntu and Linux Mint make up for a huge percentage of Linux Desktop usage. So this simply makes sense.
Ya know what? Let's go with Ubuntu. It already has many of the pieces we'll need (Restricted Hardware manager, etc.).
Package Format / Package Manager
Since we're going debian... let's go with .deb for the package format as well. That way we can be more sure of package compatibility with the "big boys". And, while we're at it, let's go with apt. It works.
As a wise man once said: If it ain't broke, don't freaking mess with it.
This is a harder one.
KDE4 is rad. Very, very rad.
QT, upon which KDE is built, is also rad.
On the flip-side, a Gnome desktop can be made to be pretty rad too.
And many of the applications that I'm going to want to include are GTK based.
So we're going Gnome. Sorry KDE.
We're going to include a dock by default. I know many of you don't like docks. Get over it. Having a dock helps to show new users what's available on their newly installed OS in an attractive (and easy to understand) way.
CairoDock? Sure. It works. AWN? Also works. Either one will suit this purpose just fine...
But we're going with Gnome-Do's new dock.
Why? Because Gnome-Do is awesome. That's why.
Default system fonts need to change. Also wouldn't hurt to license a few fonts from Blambot. Get some professional, high quality (and cool looking) fonts in here.
Ya know... spice things up a bit.
Themes / Icons
There are some freaking amazing themes and icon sets already available. Pick two that work well together and use them.
Then get to work on some great backgrounds. It's not that hard.
Here's an example just to get you rolling.
The Application Store
You had to know this was coming, right?
We need the major distros to step up to the plate and include an application store (a nice, desktop application, from which users can easily purchase commercial software and services for their Linux desktop). This is absolutely a necessity.
Oh. Look at that. Click N Run. It exists. And it works on Ubuntu based distros.
Strict Package Updating Rules
This is a simple one, but one worth calling out. One that is best described via an example...
Hypothetical scenario: X.org releases an update. And a bunch of other distros grab it and their intel graphics cards stop working so well.
What we do: Absolutely nothing. We stayed with the older X.org. And, would ya look at that, our intel graphics cards are still working.
This is also a tough one. The new KOffice is really nice. But OpenOffice works, and works well. So that's what we'll use.
Audio / Video Framework
Scream it from the mountain tops: GStreamer is king.
There's this awesome application called Miro (used to be Democracy Player).
It's there. And it's off the charts cool. By including it, by default, this Linux distro just became the coolest platform for finding and watching online video content.
Windows has Windows Media Center. OS X has Front Row.
What do we have? Currently... most distros don't ship anything in this category of application.
But there are several options.
My choice is Moovida (formerly Elisa). It's commercially backed. Uses GStreamer. Is more powerful than Apple's Front Row. And it looks awesome.
Banshee. See how easy that was?
Yeah, yeah. I know. Amarok is great. Rhythmbox works.
But Banshee is designed in such a way as to be approachable for people coming from several other music managers. And it looks good. So it's settled.
"But wait," you're asking, "those other operating systems don't ship with super cool audio editing software. Why does Linux need to?"
We can either settle for mediocrity or we can take the lead. It's up to us.
Now audio editing is not Linux's strength. Ardour is awesome. But not very approachable.
So we're going to go with Jokosher. It's easy to pick up and use for the average dude who just wants to record a little tune or podcast.
Pitivi. Commercially backed. Advancing rapidly. Also using Gstreamer for the back end. It's got a ways to go before it's going to compete with iMovie... but we've got to start somewhere. And if we focus on one key app in each category, progress will be made much faster.
In my not-so-humble opinion, F-Spot compares incredibly well with the consumer offerings from both Apple and Microsoft in this space.
Most distros ship with about a dozen games. Most of which... nobody ever plays.
Time to step up and ship with 2 or three really solid games.
Let's go wit Yo Frankie! to show that Linux is just as capable for games as any other platform.
And Hedgewars because it's fun. And we need to have something fun and multiplayer.
And... oh heck. Frozen Bubble to have something more casual.
No more Pidgin. Pidgin is out.
In rolls Empathy. It's a better design.
How about for video and audio chat?
"Say whuuuut? But, Bryan, Skype is closed source!"
Yeah. I know. Get over it. Skype works. Everyone uses it. And so do we.
Firefox. It's there. People know it.
Evolution will do just dandy. It integrates will with the Gnome desktop and provides enough of the more advanced features that many people will need.
Windows developers use Visual Studio. Mac developers use XCode.
Sure. There are exceptions to that rule (as there should be), but those are the gold standards for their respective platform.
Having one "standard" development toolset that is officially "blessed" by the creator of that operating system has many great effects, including : Focusing development on key features instead of reinventing the wheel, building a larger base of developers from which to hire, etc.
There's lots of options here. QT Creator is great... but this is a Gnome desktop.
So what's the most accessible and feature rich IDE available currently for Gnome applications? And which one gives developers direct access to the widest array of frameworks from which to build great applications?
I know. I know. "Mono is bad cuz of teh Microsoft." If you genuinely believe that then you are not likely an actual (professional) software developer and should probably spend your time worrying about something else.
MonoDevelop is a great tool. There. It's decided.
In an effort to make this desktop friendly to those switching from other platforms, and to increase the amount of software and functionality of the desktop...
Flash is installed by default.
And, you know what? While we're at it... so it AIR.
Which means that applications like Twhirl, etc can now be installed and run without the user ever having to know about Flash or AIR themselves.
Huh. Look at that! Using nothing but existing projects we have a new Linux distro that:
- Is more stable (ie, less code changes between major releases) than the primary major distros out there.
- Looks better than current Ubuntu, Suse or Fedora (or Windows... or OS X).
- Showcases the gaming potential of Linux desktops.
- Has, out of the box, Audio and Video editing software that is accessible for normal users.
- Has a more "discoverable" interface (ie, thanks to the dock it is easier to showcase the great applications available right away).
- Allows for a larger software ecosystem by including a way for companies to sell their commercial software directly.
Could of the existing distros get to this point easily? Yes.
Will they? Man. I sure hope so.
Because it would be awesome.