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KDE GUI Open Source Linux

An Ode To Skulpture 56

jrepin writes with an excerpt from an an article at OSNews musing on the virtues of those "ugly" old interfaces that were common before Apple's Aqua drove everyone to use visual gloss for its own sake: "Thom Holwerda tends to believe that the best interfaces have already been made. Behaviourally, CDE is the best and most consistent interface ever made. It looked like ass, but it always did exactly as you told it to, and it never did anything unexpected. When it comes to looks, however, the gold standard comes from an entirely different corner — Apple's Platinum and QNX's PhotonUI. Between all the transparency, flat-because-it's-hip, and stitched leather violence of the past few years, one specific KDE theme stood alone in bringing the best of '90s UI design into the 21st century, and updating it to give everything else a run for its money. This is an ode to Christoph Feck's Skulpture."
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An Ode To Skulpture

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:47PM (#42452617)

    Consistently awful. Being bad every time is still bad.

    Nobody pines for "good ol CDE".

    • by AaronW ( 33736 )

      I agree. I had the misfortune of having to work with a Sun computer as my desktop PC. I helped port KDE to Solaris in order to have something useable (I wrote the Solaris ARTS support). A bunch of my coworkers also switched from CDE to KDE on Solaris. Window management on CDE was unusable, especially if a lot of console sessions were opened.

      • by CdBee ( 742846 )
        I am tempted to agree with the submitter actually - My first experience of UNIX was on a SAP production server running CDE and I found it very usable and consistent. Also I like 'CDE' as it's my initials.
    • by mungtor ( 306258 )

      Damn right. Openwin was way better.

    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      CDE never did anything unexpected - as long as you were expecting the mouse cursor to randomly become invisible, which keeps happening on one or two of the SPARCs where I work.

      To be fair, after it did that a few times, we did expect it, I guess.

    • Thanks for your well-put-together analysis.

      Do we still give reasons why we hate shit around here?

  • TL;DR Version (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @02:47PM (#42452625)

    Some guy found a KDE theme he really liked.

    • Some guy found a KDE theme he really liked.

      Not only that, but it's a very washed out, low-contrast design. Great if you're trying to write some rainy day poetry maybe, but hardly good design.

      Also, it's easy to diss "visual gloss for it's own sake", but I think it's fair to judge user interfaces as successful when they positively influence how people feel about the product. As always, emotions are super-important, regardless if your aim is to pull more ordinary users into computing (e.g., grandma and Joe sixpack) or just make a boatload of money (

    • Well here's a nice thing: you can actually have themes and change a significant amount of the look of KDE. Compare that to Mac or Windows where you take what you are given with only a very tiny amount of customization.

  • Fonts! (Score:2, Troll)

    by war4peace ( 1628283 )

    Nope, still butt-ugly. It's a matter of taste, agreed, but those KDE fonts... man, they suck. ...And what's with the constant battleship-grey?

    • I'm curious... what's wrong with the fonts and/or what's specifically "KDE" about their wrongness?

      (It'll use whatever colour scheme you pick (or create); not a fan of grey myself...)
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The extremely heavy fonts (the text "Allows the manipulation..." in this [osnews.com] screenshot) catches my eye in a really bad way.

        • Well, it's a headline of sorts. Not sure that could ever bother me (but there are areas where KDE (or at least Plasma) rub me the wrong way aesthetically)
      • I don't know how to explain. Slashdot fonts: good. Skulpture screenshots fonts: bad. I am looking at this screenshot: http://skulpture.maxiom.de/images/skulpture-sample-2.png [maxiom.de] - observe how the "d" has a small protrusion at top, the "p" has a small protrusion at the bottom, etc. Each letter looks crappy, there's a tiny bit of extra information in each letter. Overall, it annoys me.
        Take this screenshot: http://skulpture.maxiom.de/images/skulpture-newcheck.png [maxiom.de] - kerning is messed up. Hint: look at "Text Edit"

        • I'm not sure I can see the problems, except for the kerning issue in the small text. I'm mostly using Gnome Shell and GTK 2/3 applications at the moment and frankly didn't notice a difference versus KDE. Deja Vu Serif looks pretty much the same to me in Gedit (say) as in your first screenshot... maybe I'm just not used to anything better...
          • Yeah, I think it's a matter of taste in the end. I remember I used to create such buttons and GUI items for the lulz in Turbo Pascal about 20 years ago, when I was in high school. Oh and they worked, too. Of course, there's a difference between ad-hoc graphical items and such a skin, but from a visual perspective, these are very, very simple to create. To me, "an Ode to Skulpture" means "an Ode to something that a teenage could create in Turbo Pascal 20 years ago". Hardly something to brag about.

            • Oh, I meant the fonts, which don't have anything to do with Skulpture. I think Skulpture is nice enough in a "Windows 95 plus polish" kinda way... then again I'm not really looking for "Windows 95 plus polish". Liking my rounded corners and hipster flatness, actually...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Someone once experimented [wikipedia.org] with something else than battleship grey. For some reason it didn't catch on.

  • People learn to work with new things even if it takes some effort.

    Are we measuring the nanoseconds that users are wasting? Or worried about our grandparents? They can adapt too.

    All these UI discussions seem more about people trying to impose their preferences on other people than anything remotely rational.
    • If you could choose between a badly designed system, and a well designed one, would you just say "I'll deal with it" and stick to the bad one? And it's not a simple matter of personal preference, usability can be measured (somewhat) objectively, so certain interfaces ARE a hindrance.

    • Right, because Windows 8's new UI is so wonderful and revolutionary that people are trampling themselves trying to buy new devices that use it.

      Oh wait...

      The UI *is* important. In fact, it's *critically* important, because that is the face of the device you interact with. So much of new technology is different only for the sake of being different, and provide absolutely nothing of value that technology of yesteryear didn't already have.

      The iPad practically invented an entire new market segment, despite the

  • CDE is the best and most consistent interface ever made.

    OMFG! For about half a second, I thought you were serious, then I recalled clearly my student years were learning *nix was so much more easy with the CLI than with the plain mess that was CDE...

  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:12PM (#42452853)
    One geek explores his nostalgia for old user interfaces the rest of us hated with a single screenshot retrospective of one in particular.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      In an attempt to salvage something....

      It looks a lot like a number of themes for Amiga OS and other systems, i.e. fairly derivative. That's a good thing. Everyone used to copy everyone else with UI design, and design in general, to the benefit of all. Now we have design patents to put a stop to that advancement.

      It's kinda interesting how mobile UIs are like desktop UIs from 30 years ago. At first they were mono-tasking, then you could switch apps with them running in the background, and now you can run two

  • I always thought KDE in general looked like crap; and adding K at the front of all their apps seemed more lame and ridiculous than Apple's iWhoring...
    • Re:KDE (Score:4, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @07:03PM (#42455599) Journal

      and adding K at the front of all their apps seemed more lame and ridiculous than Apple's iWhoring...

      Why? It followed the older tradidion of X programs having an x in front of their name, like xterm, xcalc, xbiff, xedit, xlogo, etc.

      • Unfortunately, this results in some weird menus. KDE should strip K out of their menus.. stop messing with the alphabet.

    • All their apps/projects? Calligra, Dolphin, Marble, Gwenview, Owncloud, Plasma... are you sure? The K naming is something from the past, now you can name your app in KDE as you want...
  • CLI vs GUI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ios and web coder ( 2552484 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:18PM (#42452941) Journal

    "looks like ass, but..."

    Usability is something that really gets short shrift from artists, designers, coders and engineers. In fact, it is often met with hostility and direct resistance.

    There are so many elements involved in a truly usable interface. "Doing what I expect" is one. "Giving me exactly the correct information" is another, as is "appropriate and timely feedback."

    However, aesthetics also play a huge role in a usable interface. It needs to look usable. Maybe not "attractive," but a button needs to look like something that you WANT to click.

    I grew up on CLI. Since I've been doing software development since the early 1980s, I have used some of the scariest CLIs ever made (Is a hex keypad a "CLI"?).

    These days, I greatly prefer a GUI. I often need to go into the CLI on a system to do stuff, but prefer to stay out of it.

    I have designed skeuomorphic UX (I'm actually a fairly decent graphic designer, so I could make stuff look quite "real"), then trashed that for flat, and am basically settling into a "middle ground," where elements of 3D are used, but sparingly. I have found that performance is also a usability coefficient. When you have big-ass 24-bit PNG images, the software spends a great deal more time tossing stuff around in memory and/or disk. That can slow things down.

    I'd like to see everyone agree that GUI and UX is every bit as important as the engine that drives it.

    I don't think we're there yet. I suspect this comment thread will bear that out.

  • by Synerg1y ( 2169962 ) on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @03:27PM (#42453057)
    UI design evolved as the resources justifiably allocated to it multiplied. Transparency requires CPU power, something a ways more scarce on a PII than an i7. A modern AJAX enabled website can spin a 90s computer for a least a little while CPU-wise before loading. For nostalgia though... I remember the icons being a little bit more pixelated in the older Linux GUIs.

    And... anybody looking for a similar thing to do with their windows when turning off aero isn't ghetto enough, deviantart has some "classic classic" themes you can try.
    • by CdBee ( 742846 )
      The irony is that in 2001 I had a PC with a 1.1ghz Athlon which could boot Windows 98SE to desktop in 11 seconds. A modern Linux OS with a really stripped down UI can boot on modern fast hardware in about the same length of time but a full bells and whistles UI takes 20 to 40s - windows or linux.. Its almost as though additional UI features were added to the max and extended every time PC power improved in order to deny too fast an experience...
      • Might seem that way to most, and the thing is... you have to a DIY builder to get around the curve you're talking about. Bleeding edge parts regardless of era have always exceeded computing requirements for 99.9% of users, just be prepared to spend some $, and that's where anything from Dell, HP, IBM gets decisively smoked.
    • by hvdh ( 1447205 )

      A modern AJAX enabled website can spin a 90s computer for a least a little while CPU-wise before loading.

      A few years ago, eBay had some flash animation on it's start page showing off a few items with rotation and scaling.
      It caused constant 70% CPU load on my 1.8GHz Athlon64!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Who would have thought that windows 95 interface is so great

  • Before Mac OS X... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 02, 2013 @05:05PM (#42454091)

    I have been an official Apple Developer for ages.

    When Mac OS X was still in development, they gave us pre-release builds.

    These did not use the Aqua interface. They basically used the original OS 9 interface.

    These prerelease builds were REALLY FAST.

    Then, we got the official Aqua release at the WWDC.

    The OS had slowed right back down to OS 9 speeds.

    Since the original Aqua, Apple has been steadily draining out the eye candy, and moving towards a simpler interface.

    The irony is that the hardware can now support eye candy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is now the #1 contender for 2013's understatement of the year.

    • CDE was pretty dated in 2000.

      In 1994, the choices were some MacOS, Windows 3.11 for workgroups, IRIX and CDE. By the standards of the day, Motif with its 3D chiselled look was actually quite nice. IRIX was cooler though.

      • Motif with its 3D chiselled look was actually quite nice. IRIX was cooler though.

        Maybe my memory's faulty, but didn't IRIX use Motif for the Indigo Magic Desktop?

        • OK, this is going back a bit.

          Quite a few programs on the SGI were Motif based since they were ports to/from other unices.

          For the desktop, they used 4DWM, and there was some file manager. Given the use of the knurled wheel widget for the vector icon scaling, I'd guess they were Open Inventor based.

          That was on things like the O2 (much later) and the big green tower SGI whatever that was and if my memory serves me correctly.

  • The saddest part of this whole story to me is the screenshot itself. I'm looking at it on a 10-year-old IBM ThinkPad T42, and there's considerable blank space in my browser window both above and below that screen image, plus my browser's title bar, menu, location bar, bookmark bar, my gadgets at the top of the screen, and my bar thingy at the bottom of my screen... The ancient screen is 1050 pixels high; the screenshot is768 pixels. Modern laptop displays are missing a quarter of their vertical pixels! Why

  • Things a windowing UI should do:
    Conserve screen pixels:
    no start/home bar - let me bring up common apps or shell via a right click (hello, TWM and brethren)
    thin window borders
    small but simple icons for close/minimize/maximize


    Things your windowing UI should NOT do:
    be a web browser
    manage my printers or wireless network interfaces
    act as a filesystem
    block when 1 app wedges

    We don't need brushed metal, transparencies, cube-shaped 3d representations of your windows, wiggly xterms, just give

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"