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Month: September 2020

[trinity-users] TDE distro for beginners

From: "Dr. Nikolaus Klepp" <ml-migration-agent@...>
Date: Sat, 19 Sep 2020 15:15:13 +0200
Hi all!

There has been a question on this list some weeks ago about which TDE capable distro is good to begin with. Now I had the need to prepare a linux beginners course for "windows damaged minds" - and was more or less forced to take a look at the available distros, beginner friendlyness, languge support, speed and ease to use. I found this process to be quite painful, so I decided to give you my personal view of the entry hurdles that M$ victims have to get over and whit what distribution I ended up with. 

My initial plan was to start with a stock live distro - something advocated as "user friendly, modern, ..", let the students create a live-usb, play with the original ui, install TDE and then get into linux. Turned out to be not that easy at all.

>From the linux side of view all distros have their right to exists. Many are just not very fund of a user leaving the "right way". From the UI aspect, M$ is a nightmare of a spectial kind and most of the distros mimic that nightmare in a "creative" way, only a few ignore it. So let's begin with UI nightmares that can kill the "linux experience":

Window border/handles: 1 or 2 pixel wide window borders or handles as found on M$, AntiX, MX, Mint, all GNOMEs and "modern" UIs. Looks cool and stylish, but is a pestilence when you don't have 800x600 pixel display. For antiX and MX: It took me a week to realize that windows can be resized and not only maximized.

Some GUIs have "interesting" behaviour of objects: e.g. AntiX: right click on destop item brings up a menu centered under the cursor, which happens to select "Edit ..." as long as you keep the RMB pressed and executes "Edit ..." when the RMB is released. All KDE based GUIs have UI quirks of their own, e.g. all menues disappear when you press LMB outside the menu - only the dreadful cashew keeps it's menu open till you press ESC (or "Close") - what an easteregg. Only OpenSuSE KDE mitigates this problem: the cashew is disabled. The only distribution with a plain unsable UI is Ubuntu ("slow is the new fast" - it matches M$).

Why is the UI interesting at all? It's the first stage where the user can or cannot choose. If choice is difficult, it's not a choice at all - and that leads to the question of "what's the point in linux", which I definity do not want to argue with in a beginners course. 

So why install TDE at all? Virtually all "user friendly" distributions suffer the "configs are scattered all over the pace"-syndrom. That includes M$, MX, AntiX, all XFCE and openbox *box based GUIs (exeption: refracta-xfce). Most have dreadful "launcher" application that changes it's content depending on the flow of sahara sandunes. e.g. MX: 2 part window, left side chages content when mouse moves over right side or you try to find the shy scrollbar inbetween. Same on all KDE based UIs. On Ubuntu it's different, you don't know what will happen next (most of the time nothing happens). ALL of the non-TDE UIs including M$ ignore laptops or hide the options in a very secret place, e.g. it's quite a surprise to observe what happens when you close the lid.

To clearify: You can install TDE on all the tested distributions and you gain functionality and choice by doing so. But on some distributions you loose the built-in goodies (e.g. MX tools), which is a problem - not necessarily for beginners (they might not even notice), but for the poor guy trying to teach if the beginners take notice.

Languge settings: almost all distributions have a problem with language selection at boottime. You can choose e.g. german on the bootloder, but it's ignored on the live image. Only the commertial distros get that kind of right, where OpenSuSE does the best job and Ubuntu speaks an interesting variant of german that I have never heared of before - might be marketing-german, consequently it also uses marketing-megabyte and marketing-gigabyte. 
When the live-image is installed either to disk or live-USB, then the language is set correctly after the next boot. That's a nuicance, but viable - if you find the correct installer in the scattered menues and you don't mind loosing 15 minutes of your time with explanation. Please note that all refracta-based distros have a "Installer"-icon the desktop (exegnu, refracta, MX, AntiX ..). 

A note on all "modern" UIs: somehow the bad M$ habit to scatter configs and important stuff over equally over all menus has found it's way into linux. There is not a single distibution (exception: exegnulinux) that has an equivalent to tdecontrol. KDE based kcontrol is crippled - that's a KDE problem. Ubuntu has .. I don't know how to say that polite. The MX tools are in a shallow menu reachable from the launcher, you need to always go that menu if you need a different tool. Well, all of that is "business as usual" for M$ users, but I don't like it as it takes time to explain.

Comming to the ease of installing TDE on the different distributions: Following the steps in the TDE wiki it's quite easy to do for all distros - if you know enough englisch to follow the steps. That said, the only distribution that requires only one additonal step to get going with TDE in german is exegnulinux (install tde-i10n-de). For all others I need to cheat :)

So what's my conclusion? First of all use something with refracta on board if you want to set up a course (Exegnu, refracta-xfce, MX, AntiX ...). You can tailor your image for exactly what you want to teach. All refracta based distros offer the same unmatched functionality in respect of portability. These show no difference to a regular devuan installation. Even LinuxCNC works without problems :) Keep in mind, that the HD installation will not always boot from USB, so use live-usb-installer.

My ranking list:
- Exegnulinux ist the easiest to handle (beowulf). 
- Refracta-xfce gives a well configured XFCE without any specific tools (beowulf), it's a perfect starting point, too. 
- MX and AntiX have special tool that do not make your live easier if you leave the right way, you'll need to invest quite some time to get going and you ruin the spirit of the distributions. If you do not plan to go TDE centric these are most likely ideal (and you have a different audience).
- Stay away from anything systemd and/or GNOME like Mint, Ubuntu, OpenSuse etc. - on one hand they boot slow (nobody beats Ubuntu! .. ok, M$ is slower but they have decades of experience). On the other all that marketing blablabla that went into these distributions make them absolutely inflexible. Not to mention that you have to find something like refacta for these distros in the first place.
- Knoppix: I almost forgot to mention this. It's systemd-free since 8.6. and comes with a lot of stuff. It's a good startingpoint, but the latest verson (8.6.1) is over a year old and the new (9.0) is not availableon the mirrors. For me it did not offer any benefit over the refracta-based distros, but you might think different.


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