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May 7, 2004
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Linux for Windows Users #8

The Linux (Multiple) Virtual Desktops Unleashed

Part I: Overview

Mike Angelo -- 7 May 2004 (C) -- Page 2


Article Index
To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

Spreading applications across virtual desktops

Now let's open more applications. However, we do not want to mess up or clutter the layout and on-top exposure of the GIMP dialogs and image canvases. So, let's spread the additional applications across the other three virtual desktops.

An application will open in whatever virtual desktop is the focal desktop when it opens. You can make a virtual desktop the focal desktop by clicking on its icon on the Taskbar (Figure 3, on page 1) or the Desktop Pager (Figure 2, on page 1).

In order to open a few applications in virtual desktop 1, the desktop 1 icon in the Taskbar shown in Figure 3 is clicked. LinNeighborhood (comparable to the MS Windows Network Neighborhood) is opened in virtual desktop 1. The Virtual Desktop Configuration panel is opened in desktop 1 also.

Next, the icon on the Taskbar for virtual desktop 2 is clicked to make desktop 2 the focal desktop. Then two instances of the Konqueror file-manager are opened in virtual desktop 2. The Konqueror file-manager is comparable to the My Computer and Windows Explorer file managers in Microsoft Windows.

Let's not forget to open a Web browser. Therefore, virtual desktop 3 is brought into focus and the Konqueror Web-browser is opened in it. TOP (a Linux resources and processes monitor) also is opened in desktop 3. Of course, the GIMP already is opened in Desktop 4.


Figure 4. The default Virtual Desktops Configuration Panel in the Mandrake 10.0 implementation of the KDE desktop. It shows four desktops configured.

The Desktop Pager screenshot in Figure 5 diagrammatically shows these applications opened and spread out across the four virtual desktops. Please notice that KDE's Desktop Pager uses representative icons for the various applications that are opened.

For example in the desktop 2 representation, Desktop Pager shows two file folders to represent the two instances of the Konqueror file-manager opened in desktop 2. The Konqueror, World Wide Web browser opened in desktop 3 is represented by a globe (World) icon.

Desktop Pager uses Wilber, the GIMP mascot, to represent the GIMP Toolbox and dialogs. However, actual, compacted views of the image-editing canvases are used to represent the image canvases.


Figure 5. The KDE Desktop Pager showing applications opened in all four virtual desktops.


Figure 6 shows the same portion of the Mandrake 10.0 implementation

Figure 6. The the KDE desktop and taskbar.
of the KDE (K Desktop Environment) desktop and taskbar shown inFigure 3. Again, please notice the four, box-like icons to the left in the taskbar at the bottom of Figure 6. They are numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. Unlike Figure 3, all four virtual desktop icons on the Taskbar now show applications opened in each of the four virtual desktops.

You can cycle through the virtual desktops by clicking on their taskbar box-like icons.

The Konqueror Web-browser and the TOP resource-monitoring utility opened in desktop 3 are shown in Figure 7. Because they have been opened in their very own, unique, virtual desktop they are not buried in the clutter of all the other applications currently opened across all the virtual desktops. Likewise for the GIMP Toolbox, dialogs, and image-editing canvases opened in desktop 4.


Figure 7. The Konqueror Web-browser and the TOP resource-monitoring utility opened in the KDE 3.2 desktop running on Mandrake 10.0.


At the time the Figure 5 screenshot was taken, there were thirteen windowpanes opened. But because they are spread over four virtual desktops, they all are on top. That is they are on top in their own virtual desktops. It's pretty darn slick!

My main, workhorse Linux- box currently is a 1-GHz Pentium 4 machine with 512-MB RAM and 526-MB Swap partition running Mandrake Linux 9.0. There currently are 14 virtual desktops configured with 27 applications opened across the 14 desktops. I often have more than 27 applications running on that machine. Even with that sort of application load, it's lightning fast.

On the other hand, the 300-MHz AMD K6 box with only 128-MB RAM used for this tour can handle only about three or four applications before it starts to bog down. It seems the bottleneck is in available hard RAM rather than in CPU speed.

M.A.

Article Index
In a sense, you may conceptualize each virtual desktop as a workstation or play-station. Each workstation or play-station stays just the way it is when you move to another workstation or play-station. To move from one workstation or play-station to another, simply click on the appropriate icon in the Taskbar -- no fuss, no mess.

If you have thirteen windowpanes open in Microsoft Windows, you are going to have a cluttered mess!

The limit to how many applications and windowpanes you can have opened when using virtual desktops is a function of system resources. The more hard-RAM and SWAP memory you have and the faster a CPU, the more virtual desktops and opened applications you can have. Please see the right sidebar.

What's next

In Part II, the Linux Virtual Desktops Tutorial we will add more virtual desktops to the configuration and open more than thirteen windowpanes. Stay tuned.

Test System

The Linxux-based computer used for this Linux Virtual Desktop tour is a desktop machine running Mandrake Linux 10.0, Community Edition. It has a 300-MHz AMD K6 CPU on an Amptron motherboard with 128-MB RAM and a 40-GB Maxtor Ultra DMA 66 hard drive. This box is connected to the LAN via an integrated SiS 900 PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter. Article author, Mike Angelo, built the machine.


<---- Back to Page 1


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Books


The Business and Economics of Linux and Open Source, Martin Fink, Prentice Hall, ISBN: 0-13-047677-3. $27


Linux For Dummies, 4th Ed., LeBlanc, Hoag, and Blomquist, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-1660-4. $30

Linux in a Nuthsell, 4th Ed., Siever, Figgins, and Weber, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00482-6. $40

Linux Kernel Development, Robert Love, Sams, ISBN: 0672325128. $45

The Linux Process Manager: The internals of scheduling, interrupts and signals, By John O'Gorman, Wiley, ISBN: 0-470-84771-9. $35

Linux Toys, Christopher Negus and Chuck Wolber, Wiley, ISBN: 0-7645-2508-5. $30


Running Linux, 4th Ed., Welsh, Dalheimer, Dawson, and Kaufman, O'Reilly, ISBN, 0-596-00272-6. $45

Understanding the Linux Kernel, 2nd Edition, Daniel P. Bovet and Marco Cesati, O'Reilly, ISBN: 0-596-00213-0. $50


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