The latest Linux releases sport good-looking desktop interfaces and a host of well-designed applications, themes, screen backgrounds, and icon sets.
Compared to other operating systems, such as Mac OS X or Windows XP, Linux sports a reputation for ugliness. Linux may be able to get the job done, but it doesn’t look very good while doing it. While these other systems, especially any modern Macintosh, come complete with beautiful desktop interfaces and colorful features at every turn, Linux, at least according to reputation, is plain, old, and homely.
While arguably true in the past (some see beauty in its blandness), the last few years have seen dramatic improvements in both the Linux GNOME and KDE desktop interfaces. The latest Linux releases sport good-looking desktop interfaces and a host of well-designed applications, themes, screen backgrounds, and icon sets.
In addition, GNOME desktop users can add desktop applets, called gDesklets, to enhance the look and feel of their computer desktops.
GDesklets provide small applications that can create eye candy, as well as present useful features on your desktop. Each gDesklet “floats” on the desktop screen, or alternately, they can be collected into a single window. For example, the GoodWeather gDesklet applet shows the weather with a four-day forecast, good weather or not. The Rhythmlet applet allows you to control the Rhythmbox music-playing application, and it also downloads from Amazon.com the album cover art for the music currently playing. You can display information on your current system load, memory usage, or wireless network signal strength, all in small, attractive displays. Other gDesklets show the time, the current month’s calendar, or disk usage statistics. You can see stock prices, news summaries, the wisdom of Tao, or suggestions for when to pray.
You can even replace the GNOME desktop panel with the StarterBar gDesklet, which adds nothing but does give a nicer look to the normal panel, allowing you to launch applications in style.
Adding just a few gDesklets to your desktop can transform a drab interface into a stunning, eye-catching display. No longer will you have to envy Mac OS X users, especially with a transparent gDesklet window.
To get started with gDesklets, you need to download the gDesklet server, and then a number of applets. GDesklet add-ons called sensors provide data to the gDesklet server, and gDesklet add-ons called displays present the information to the user, usually with a good deal of eye candy. Looking good, after all, is the main point.
The entire system requires the Python scripting language, the GConf configuration program, the gtop library, and the special GNOME-Python package. Some gDesklets have additional requirements; check their Web site for the details.