failing like never before


Enlightened Love

I've mentioned a few times in my previous posts, how much I liked Enlightenment 17, the desktop shell. Although E17 is technically still in alpha, it is surprisingly stable. Suffice to say, E17's alpha is about as stable as the final release candidate of Windows Vista. E17 has been in development for an ungodly amount of time, making the development phase for Debian seem lightning fast. But as I said, even now, E17 is still quite useable.

I had some problems with E17 a while back when I was running Ubuntu. I was using a third-party repository and one of the packages was unstable and ended up wreaking havoc with my Enlightenment installation. I eventually ended up removing all of the Enlightenment libraries and packages from my computer, and since I was too lazy to grab a stable snapshot from the Enlightenment servers and rebuild everything from source, I was left without Enlightenment for quite some time. I built E17 from source a year or so ago, back when I tried out Vector Linux, but it took a bloody long time, especially since I had to resolve all the dependencies manually.

Just a few weeks ago, I installed Debian (Lenny), having decided it was time for me get started on a more serious Linux distro. I'll write about my experiences with Debian at a later time. I decided to install E17 again, but this time, I decided to be a little more research first. In the Enlightenment user manual, there is a section on installation. The manual also provides some links to scripts that automate the installation process, which was really nice for me, because one of the reasons I like Debian is because I hate having to build everything from source and resolve dependencies. I tried using the "Easy 17" shell script to install E17, and it worked great. Easy 17 not only automates installation, but if you call the script with a "-u" argument, it will update your installation. You still have to resolve dependencies yourself, but that is to be expected.

I didn't check the installation path that Easy 17 uses, so I was a little confused at first when I couldn't find where everything had gone to. It turns out that Easy 17 installs Enlightenment in your /opt/ folder.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of my E17 desktop right now, since I'm running Windows right now in order to finish up my homework. But I'm going to try to give a decent overview of my recent experiences with E17.

The very first thing I noticed, is how light Enlightenment is on system resources. In idle, my computer uses slightly less then 55MB of RAM, in stark comparison to Windows XP which uses around 300MB, and my CPU was hardly doing anything at all. Its been extremely hot lately and I don't have air conditioning, so it was reassuring to know that my computer wasn't going to fry itself sitting in idle. Everything responded amazingly fast, windows popped open almost instantaneously and I could switch desktops without a glitch. It was like a dream. Although I have noticed a few bugs in Enlightenment, none of them have caused my system to die, nor I have noticed any memory leaks or run-away processes. If Enlightenment does experience a serious error, it has this cool feature that allows it to reload itself without closing any of your other programs.

I've been using Enlightenment on and off for about the past year, so I've been able to see some of the changes that the system has gone through. Although E17 is stable enough for day to day regular use it is still distinctively alpha. That is to say, you will always be noticing substantial changes in the user interface since the feature set has yet to be frozen. I've grown used to this, and have actually grown to like it. Sometimes I'll be be doing something and think, "wouldn't it be easier if I could just do a slightly different way?" and then a few days later I'll update my system and find a new button or option box that does just that. Its a bit like getting a random present.

Enlightenment differs greatly from KDE and Gnome in that it doesn't have a traditional Microsoft Windows-style toolbar. Enlightenment instead comes with a Mac-like application launcher, and some modules that hold the icons of your minimized applications. It takes some getting used to, but I've grown quite fond of the Enlightenment interface. E17 manages to be both simple to use and powerful at the same time. There is only one configuration panel which numerous sub-menus, which allow the user to control pretty much every aspect of the desktop manager. Unlike Gnome, Enlightenment allows users to easily modify and create now hot-keys, making everyone's life easier.

The Enlightenment module that I love and use above all, is the "run command" module. Hitting alt+escape brings up a box in the middle of the screen where you can then type in a program name. In a web 2.0 live search style, the computer searches for matches as you type and displays them to you. Now that I think about it, it is kind of like Mac OSX's spotlight search thingum. But I still love it. Why bother moving my hand off my keyboard so that I can move my mouse and click on the application launcher, when I can just type in a command?

Way back when, in the earlier days of Linux, Enlightenment 16 was considered a heavy weight desktop manager with flashy graphical effects. If you can still find web sites that date back far enough, you'll find humorous phrases like "...needs at the very least, 1MB of RAM to run properly." However, as I mentioned earlier, Enlightenment is now the epitome of slim and lightweight. It ran perfectly fine on my dad's old 400MHz AMD Duron (I remember telling a fellow at work a few years back, that I had a 400MHz Duron, he asked me if "400" was the bus speed). If you want a flashy desktop manager that doesn't take too much system memory, then Enlightenment is for you. Granted, the effects that E17 offers are nowhere near as cool as what Compiz-Fusion can offer: you won't be getting your desktops on a transparent cube or a Windows Vista style application switcher,  but it'll still look pretty flashy, and a whole lot better then desktop managers like XFCE or Fluxbox. has a bunch of different animated and static wallpapers and themes for E17 that are quite attractive.

I realize that without some good screenshots, this isn't as good of an article. Nor is this a review of E17, simply some of  my thoughts on the desktop manager.

Closing thoughts: I love enlightenment!

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