April 24, 2019

From the Desktop: E Stands for Enlightenment (Really, I Promise)

Beginning to See the Light

  • October 31, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

It has been, dare I say, an enlightening week. First off, let me thank all the people who kindly wrote in about last week's article. Everyone was really very positive and I hope to have a follow up soon.

And now back to our regularly scheduled look at the X window managers, already in progress.

Enlightenment and Me

...and that's how I evaded the phone cops, back when I was new to Linux.

Also during that time, I figured out just what was involved in running a GUI on Linux, an epiphany in which Enlightenment played a big part.

My very first Linux install was Caldera OpenLinux, with a KDE desktop. These were dark and troubling times for me, and looking back I see that transitioning to Linux was a lot like puberty: exciting, terrifying, and sweaty--only without the good stuff. And, just as I don't really like to share my adolescence with most people (think mouthy little geek-punk lusting after girls), nor do I usually share all the stupid mistakes I made during my formative Linux months (think mouthy 30-something geek not lusting after women because his wife would frown on such things and likely call a lawyer).

Here was a big misconception: I did not know what a window manager was. I looked at Caldera OpenLinux and said to myself "Ah! There is OpenLinux, happily running on my computer."

I got the sense of how wrong I was when I was visiting a more experienced Linux enthusiast and saw his KDE desktop and said "Hey, you're running Caldera, too!"

"No, that's SuSE," he said.

"But it looks like my Caldera. Do all flavors (I was still calling them flavors back then, instead of the hipper "distro") look like this?"

Yes, I was a pitiful excuse for a Linux user.

My friend, luckily, took some time to rev up another desktop to show me the concept of different window managers. His first choice was actually an error on his part, because he showed me not a true window manager, but GNOME.

It began to dawn on me that GUIs in Linux were much more of a transitive thing than the DOS/Windows relationship, which had been brainwashing me for the last few years.

I started poking around in the Control Panel, changing this, tweaking that. Then I saw the Enlightenment settings and got confused again.

"Wait a minute," I asked my friend, "if GNOME (and yes, I pronounced it "knowm") controls the desktop, then what's this Enlightenment?"

Then the lesson really began. By the time the session ended, my synapses were firing off impulses about X, window managers, desktop environments, and the like.

By the time it was over, I was thinking to myself that this whole GUI thing was for the birds. It took a few more sessions with my guru friend to sort out all of the logic behind X. And it all started with Enlightenment.

A few weeks later, I felt much better about this Linux doohickey. It still wasn't as great as the payoff during adolescence, but I'm married now, anyway.

Then I tried to deal with fonts, and plunged back into the depths of despair again.

Another tale, for another day.

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