By default, Debian installs with the Gnome desktop; other choices can be made at installation. Still other choices can be made later. (Try changing your desktop on Windows–you can change the wallpaper and some of the icons, but that’s about it. You can’t change the whole thing from one to another.)
I had to install Fluxbox, which was a matter of opening the Synaptic Package Manager, selecting Fluxbox, and telling Debian to go get it. Bing, bang, boom. All done. (Note that all the Fluxbox pictures that follow were taken after I configured Flux to my liking.) Here’s a picture of the Synaptic Package Manager.
Here’s a picture of my computer with the Gnome desktop selected.
Windows users will see many things that look familiar: a system tray, desktop icons, a menu bar, and a task bar (the menu bar and task bar are separate; either or both of them may be hidden or set to autohide). The position of the bars is configurable–I like mine at the top). The background, by the way, is the beach at Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Fluxbox is not a desktop; it is a window manager. It exists to start, resize, and minimize applications. It does not automatically start power management functions or wireless detection functions. It does not have a trash bin (“recycle bin” in Windowsese) nor its own clock (it uses the system clock). Many of these functions can be started as separate apps if the user wants them, but they are not built in.
I logged out of Gnome, selected Fluxbox as my desktop, and logged back in.
Here’s a picture of Fluxbox showing the menu. The transparency is configurable; by default, there is no transparency. (The background is from PixelHigh.)
The menu is invoked by right-clicking the mouse; its upper left corner positions itself where the mouse pointer is located when you right-click it. The menu lives in a text file that is completely user-configurable. Here’s the menu opened into a text editor:
Fluxbox also contains something called “The Slit.” It’s a spot on the desktop–the location is configurable–where applications written for the Slit (profoundly referred to as “dockapps” because they can be docked) can be placed. I like to park the GKrellM system monitor tool in The Slit and set it to appear on mouse-over. Here’s a picture of GKrellM: I’ve magnified the GKrellM interface itself so you can see all the information it shows in a small space (and there are other GKrellM monitors I don’t use).
Linux comes with multiple desktops or workspaces. In this picture, Kolour Paint is open on desktop one; the open menu shows that the Opera browser is open and running on workspace two. (Just for grins and giggles, I changed themes between screen shots.)
I’ve recorded a short video of me messing about in Fluxbox. You can view it here. It is in the free and open source ogg theora format; I’m working on transcoding it into *.avi, but I’m not there yet. As soon as I get there, I’ll update this post.
Windows users can find a Windows player for ogg theora here.
Update: Here’s the *.avi, converted from *.ogv using MEncoder. (The avi tested fine on my box. YMMV. On the Windows box, Windows Media Player reported that “error downloading codec.” I’m still new at this transcoding stuff.)
See the video on YouTube here.