[conspire] comments on LMDE

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Sep 8 23:01:25 PDT 2011

Quoting Paul Zander (paulz at ieee.org):

> LMDE seemed like a good solution.

When you say 'LMDE', you're referring at this point to either of two
different default desktops, either GNOME or Xfce4 (in either case for
either IA32 or x86_64 CPU archs).

Personally, when I install Debian via any means -- or for that matter
just about any *ix -- I don't usually let the default 'desktop
environment' (if there is one) stick around for long, because I usually
prefer just plain Window Maker with no DE.  I happen to have a Debian
virthost with Xfce4, again, but that's an exception.  Anyway, the
foregoing's relevant to your 'slab' comment, I believe:

> 0) The “slab”.  Actually someone else pointed this out
> before I started.  I could have tolerated the slab if it was the
> only problem.

After a little Web-searching, I think I've identified what you're
talking about.  Linux Mint Debian Edition's _GNOME_ variant defaults to
a particular style of GNOME menus called 'slab-style', which is said to
be similar to that of MS-Windows.  Apparently, this is a huge point of
contention among bloggers and whatnot who editorialise about 'desktop
environments'.  Apparently, the term and the particular style originated
in SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, which had for GNOME a
custom-written menu applet and application manager called Slab.
Canonical, Ltd. then adapted this codebase to the GNOME editions of
Ubuntu, creating 'USlab'
(https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/desktop-slab).  Linux Mint in turn
created a fork called (I think) MintMenu of USlab for its GNOME
editions, picture here:
http://deviceguru.com/files/mint-tweaked-desktop-3.jpg  (Ugh, very
Redmond, nei?)

Anyhow, the way the GNOME DE works is amenable to configuration and
change.  I consider the process a bit annoying, but then I consider
GNOME generally not my cuppa.  Some stuff about GNOME menu
configuration:  http://oreilly.com/openbook/debian/book/ch06_07.html

You might want to see if there's a package available called
'gnome-main-menu' -- or, for that matter, [anything-hyphen-]main-menu,
to see if there's an easy way to just flip the figurative big red switch
labelled 'Get rid of the darned Slab-style main menu'.

Me, I'd not have the patience for that, but instead kill the session
manager and delete /etc/alternatives/x-session-manager, then install
wmaker (Window Maker) and set /etc/alternatives/x-window-manager to it.
But our opinions presumably differ a bit.

(And I'll also mention, again, the LMDE variant that gives you Xfce4 by
default instead of their GNOME thing.)

> 2) /home.  The install phase for mounting partitions gave two
> choices: “mount as /” and “mount as /home��.  I
> wanted to use a different partition for /home, but then I couldn't get
> things to work. 

Not sure what 'couldn't get things to work' means, specifically.  
Your mountpoints should be transparent to user software.

> 3) Updates.  Synaptic appeared to be friendly...

Meh.  ;->

> ...but when trying to install various packages, it hit multiple
> obstacles for unresolved dependencies.

Nothing quite like apt-get for mostly intelligent dependency handling.

> Using apt-get directly didn't work, but at least gave
> error messages. I did a series of experiments with variations of
> `apt-get update` and 'apt-get dist-upgrade` to no avail.

Again, I have no idea what 'didn't work' means.

Before any Debian-ish package tools on the level of apt-get or
superstructures such as Synaptic can function, /etc/apt/sources.list
(or /etc/apt/sources.list.d/*) needs to have useful contents.  That
should get populated during installation.

> Finally I gave up.  I downloaded and burnt a CD for Debian
> net-install.

Official Debian's netinst disc images are very useful and reliable.  I
nonetheless usually burn CD1 or DVD1 instead, on the theory that I'm
going to end up shlepping around a disc in any event, and it's more
likely to be immediately useful if it provides as many local package
options as will fit on the disc.

> Next, I referred to the list of packages I wanted to install.  All
> of them were already installed!  Obviously my thinking is more
> closely aligned with the Debian people than the Mint people.

Glad you liked it.  If you want the proprietary / patented codecs, AV
stuff, and the like that Linux Mint throws into the default install,
you'll be needing to take some extra steps to retrofit them, but, me,
I'm always right at home on a Debian-ish system regardless of which
installer was used to get it going.

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