Posted by: reformedmusings | March 13, 2010

OpenGEU – Ubuntu Karmic achieves Enlightenment

Here’s yet another installment in my exploration of Enlightenment 0.17, henceforth known as E17, implementations. I posted on MoonOS 3 earlier. I played with OpenGEU on a Kubuntu 8.04.1 KDE 3.5.9 base about a year-and-a-half ago. This time, I ran the current Quarto di Luna OpenGEU on 32-bit Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic with a Gnome base. Don’t try this with a 64-bit installation, because OpenGEU isn’t fully built for 64-bit yet. As usual, I tested in a VMWare Workstation virtual machine (VM).

There isn’t an OpenGEU LiveCD for Ubuntu Karmic. Ubuntu apparently changed the underlying system quite a bit, which made it very difficult for OpenGEU to keep up. For this reason, OpenGEU is switching to Debian for its LiveCD base. However, you can load Quarto di Luna from its repositories into Karmic, and that’s what I did.

Installation

I started by downloading the iso for 32-bit Karmic and installing it in the VM. I next updated the installation to the latest files. I then added the OpenGEU Quarto di Luna repositories to the sources for Karmic according to the instructions here. While this failed in my 64-bit VM, it worked perfectly in the 32-bit VM. I won’t repeat the material here.

After adding the OpenGEU repository, I installed the package opengeu-desktop. This can either be done in Synaptic or from the terminal:

sudo aptitude install opengeu-desktop

Either way, this will then install over 100 supporting packages. If you have a slow Internet connection, it might take a while. When the installation is complete, you need to logout of Ubuntu. This should take you to an OpenGEU login screen:

OpenGEU login screen

After you click on your login name, click on the Session name at the bottom as shown above and select “First run wizard”. Then type in your password and click Log In. OpenGEU will then present a series of choices for your E17 desktop setup. The first is your language:

Language selection

Select appropriately and click Next at the bottom:

Desktop profile selection

I selected the OpenGEU profile because that’s the desktop that I want to test. I recommend that you do the same. Click Next:

Menu selection

Being a glutton for punishment, I chose Enlightenment menus to get the full experience. That’s it. Anytime that you want to change your overall settings, you can rerun the First run wizard by selecting it at the bottom of the login screen. Be sure to select E17 or Enlightenment on the next login, otherwise the wizard will run again.

Overview

Next stop is the default desktop:

The glory of the OpenGEU desktop

darkmaster has again outdone himself on the Quarto di Luna artwork, which looks 3-D. This is the morning-sunshine theme. The wallpaper is animated such that the Enlightenment “watermark” flares up periodically. Very cool! If you mouse over the center of the screen, an OpenGEU label fades in and out. darkmaster typically includes day and night themes, and this version is not exception. Here’s the midnight-moonlight theme:

midnight-moonlight theme

Another darkmaster masterpiece. My only disappointment proved to be the icons, which are standard Gnome issue. The icons in MoonOS 3 are awesome. Perhaps the new LiveCD will have custom icons.

OpenGEU takes a different approach to the shelves. It sorta imitates the Gnome system tray bar at the bottom and puts the E17 primary shelf at the top. It doesn’t populate the shelf with much, though. I went in and added apps to the ibar and gadgets to the shelf, plus eliminated the battery gadget from the bottom shelf. Here’s what I came up with after only a few minutes:

Bob's interim custom setup

Yes, the clock on the top shelf duplicates the one on the bottom. I didn’t notice that until I started writing. This provides a good starting point for a production system.

The menus follow the standard E17 setup:

OpenGEU's cascading menus

In OpenGEU, the selected menu item reverses colors/highlights. All the usual Gnome stuff is present with the OpenGEU and Enlightenment stuff added in. As usual for E17 implementations, a large selection of possible settings are presented making the setup highly customizable.

Since OpenGEU installed over top of Ubuntu Karmic, the applications derive from the latter (Firefox 3.5, OpenOffice 3.1, etc.) with a few E17-specific exceptions like the Thunar file manager and Catfish. Typical for E17, applications can be accessed either through the menu icon, by left-clicking on an empty space on the desktop, or from the ibar on a shelf (top shelf in this case).

In Control

For convenience, a settings panel is provided:

Settings panel

It’s a somewhat different layout than MoonOS 3, but just as functional. Again, I prefer a central settings panel to endless settings menus. E17 delivers.

Note that the application window sports its control icons on the left side of the title bar and the application’s icon on the right side. Clicking on the icon on the right brings up a context menu with a larger number of control options, including changing its home desktop or killing the process. Very handy.

Eye Candy

No discussion would be complete without covering the 2-D Desktop Effects. I had trouble finding these because they weren’t in the settings panel. You access them from Menu -> OpenGEU -> Preferences -> OpenGEU Themes Switcher:

More Effects (bling) set for the desktop

Note the transparency of the inactive windows. There’s also improved shadowing and fade in/out as windows open/close. When switching desktops, app windows slide left or right off the screen as appropriate. It’s all very attractive and very slick. OpenGEU even adds the ability to adjust how the bling behaves from the settings panel:

Adjustable bling!

Unlike the implementation in MoonOS 3, I didn’t have much trouble with the maximum More Effects setting. It crashed three times, but an error capture routine stepped in, apologized, and offered to recover every time. It apparently did so by restarting Enlightenment, and that worked perfectly. This provided the user with a much nicer experience than the unceremonious lockup and window/menu losses I experienced in MoonOS 3.

I also tried the intermediate Simple Effects setting. Although I didn’t get the video buffer artifacts when opening windows as in MoonOS 3, the window artifact when switching virtual desktops persisted. It seems that a redraw routine may be misplaced in the E17 library code underlying that effect. Just a guess.

Conclusion

darkmaster continues to deliver stunning artwork and themes in Quarto di Luna. Custom icons would be a nice addition. The repository approach worked like a charm and leverages the underlying Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic installation well. The guided OpenGEU desktop setup provides a nice on-ramp for new and experienced users. Extra controls on the window title bars, plus for the bling in the settings add a nice touch.

The E17 ecomorph desktop effects seemed more stable and recoverable in OpenGEU, and they look great. E17 is all about beauty, and ecomorph delivers. The Enlightenment team still needs to work on its stability, though.

Overall, the Quarto di Luna edition of OpenGEU gets a big thumbs up. The implementation continues to be free, and darkmaster’s dedication to his users borders on legendary. I can’t wait to try his upcoming Debian-based LiveCD.

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Responses

  1. Very enlightening! Except for the animated desktop, it looks very much like Xfce with Compiz Fusion enabled. Thanks for this review!

  2. Thanks, Robin. I’ve never used Xfce, so couldn’t make that comparison. E17 is all about the 2-D bling, animation included. I look forward to the fruit of their effort to include some kind of cube approximation. darkmaster has all sorts of artwork for the tops/bottoms of cubes, backgrounds, etc.


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