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Portables (Apple) Displays GUI Graphics Software Linux

Ask Slashdot: Good Linux Desktop Environment For Hi-Def/Retina Displays? 234

Volanin writes "I have been using Linux for the last 15 years both at home and at work (mostly GNOME and now Unity). Recently, I gave in to temptation and bought myself a Macbook retina 15". As you can read around, Linux still has no good support for this hardware, so I am running it inside a virtual machine. Running in scaled 1440x900 makes the Linux fonts look absolutely terrible, and running in true 2880x1800 makes them beautiful, but every UI element becomes so tiny, it's unworkable. Is there a desktop environment that handles resolution independence better? Linux has had support for SVG for a long time, but GNOME/Unity seems adamant in defining small icon sizes and UI elements without the possibility to resize them."
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Ask Slashdot: Good Linux Desktop Environment For Hi-Def/Retina Displays?

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  • KDE (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lobachevsky ( 465666 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @04:53PM (#42147211)

    Use KDE, and the retina display will look beautiful.

    • Re:KDE (Score:5, Funny)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @04:55PM (#42147237) Homepage

      Bolour with a K? Silly bunt.

    • Re:KDE (Score:5, Informative)

      by SomeKDEUser ( 1243392 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:04PM (#42147379)

      Yup, all the icons are in svg, and all the UI elements scale. So you'll get all the beauty at a very high resolution -- and those icons are little works of art.

    • Re:KDE (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Andy Prough ( 2730467 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:05PM (#42147397)
      Agreed - KDE. And be sure to get some good fonts and set the precisely. Go with the Droid font package - those are very high quality.
    • ...because of SVG. (Score:5, Informative)

      by gentryx ( 759438 ) * on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:17PM (#42147569) Homepage Journal
      KDE got a lot of flak for the early 4.x versions, because they felt terrible. But what they did (replacing many internals, reworking the architecture) did yield us now a very flexible UI. Plasma (KDE's UI) is fully based on SVG and looks good on pretty much any screen, be it a notebook, workstation, or even tablets. And its not such a CPU/memory hog as the people generally claim.
      • The KDE gang was wise enough to tell everyone not to use the early 4.x series until it was more mature. Not that many people listened.
  • KDE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @04:56PM (#42147251)

    I've never tried it in really high resolutions, but everything I've found online says KDE supports resolution independence.
    And it's just so much better and usable in so many ways than those other environments you've been using.

    • Re:KDE (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:01PM (#42147331) Homepage Journal

      Have to throw in my support here. Been using KDE since 1.x, I've tried other desktops but can't seem to use one of those without missing my KDE, and so much so that programs compiled to bring up GTK widgets (browsers) actively piss me off. The QT version of the file browser and so many other things are just more versatile and elegant.

  • Tiling WM (Score:5, Funny)

    by elusive_one ( 2525924 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:00PM (#42147301)
    Use a tiling window manage and just get rid of all those annoying UI elements. Serious suggestion.
  • xmonad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Robert Bowles ( 2733 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:02PM (#42147341)

    I'm currently using xmonad as a desktop environment (almost exclusively), as it plays quite nicely on VHRDs (very high resolution displays). At most, you'll have to tweak the borderWidth elements.

    Optionally, if you're looking for a bit more eye candy, try twm and its derivatives. Most the the UI elements scale dynamically. (too flashy for my tastes however)

    • I'm also a full xmonad convert. I don't know how I ever got along without it, really.

      Now you have me wondering how different life would be on a VHRD? Maybe it's time for a better monitor...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:05PM (#42147395)

    Use a tiling window manager and do most of your stuff in console. i3 is my current personal favourite.

  • Enlightenment (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:06PM (#42147419)

    You can choose the magnification ratio in the initial configuration wizzard. This affects everything, not just the fonts. It's the real deal.

  • Vmware Fusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:08PM (#42147447)

    HiDPI on Linux is a work-in-progress .. and even when it *does* work, battery life goes down the crapper. Also, thunderbolt hot-plug hasn't been figured out, but it will work as long as your Ethernet dongle is plugged in ahead of power-on. Wifi requires bw-fwcutter, etc.
    It's the same as Linux on any other bleeding-edge hardware (and from a very Linux-unfriendly company) .. so the entire thing has to be reverse-engineered from scratch.
    Want it done faster? .. buy rMBPs for the developers actually working on the drivers.
    Like all things Linux, they'll get it figured out eventually. Until then, the best way about it is just run VMware Fusion and run Linux inside of that .. solves all the above issues and really isn't that big of a performance hit. Probably not the "purist" answer you were after but it's the easiest way to get it done in the meantime.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:19PM (#42147589) Homepage

    The DPI setting will scale your fonts and other items to look good on your screen.

    Usually, I am reducing the DPI on high-definition screens so I can get smaller fonts and icons, but the opposite should also work.

    • by Jthon ( 595383 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @07:06PM (#42149361)

      Your comment shows a lack of understanding as to what DPI is supposed to be used for since DPI shouldn't control scaling.

      DPI stands for dots per inch, and you should configure that setting to match the actual number of dots per inch of your display. Then the SW environment should support some sort of sliding scale to let you change the size of any UI elements.

      Sadly most desktop platforms don't do this correctly and bind the DPI to the size of UI elements. I will admit that resolution independence isn't easy, Microsoft didn't really start down that path until Windows 7, and Apple didn't start to get close until Mountain Lion.

      Having used a retina display Mac it irritates me that they don't just have a slider to set UI scale, but instead you can select from several pre-set resolutions. I suspect this is because many applications still try to plot stuff pixel by pixel and so can't scale arbitrarily. It's not easy for most SW to be truly resolution independent and it seems most developers seem to skip handling that sanely on all platforms.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:31PM (#42147745)

      --dpi dpi
                                This also sets the reported physical size values of the screen,
                                it uses the specified DPI value to compute an appropriate physi
                                cal size using whatever pixel size will be set.

    Or maybe :
    --scale xxy
                                Changes the dimensions of the output picture. Values superior to
                                1 will lead to a compressed screen (screen dimension bigger than
                                the dimension of the output mode), and values below 1 leads to a
                                zoom in on the output. This option is actually a shortcut ver
                                sion of the --transform option.

  • by steevithak ( 1180195 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @05:41PM (#42147873) Homepage
    Didn't the GNOME desktop switch to scalable SVG rendering way back in 2004 or so (starting from Raph Levien's work on Gill back in 1999)? There were all kinds of articles back then about how awesome SVG was and how all GNU/Linux desktops would be using it soon. I thought Nautilus was designed with SVG support in mind? What happened to all that work and when did GNOME switch back to pre-historic bitmapped stuff? That's kind of sad.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:13PM (#42148421)

      It's actually working. The situation is messy, but workable. (As usal for Linux)

      -- people found out that automatic DPI detection is mostly useless because there too many monitors out there who report incorrect information. X supports a DPI override switch which would be a nice place to manually adjust this but...

      -- The GNOME people decided to ignore what X reports and hard coded a 96 DPI definition.

      -- On top of their hard coded DPI, GNOME has a "text scaling factor" property (default 1.0). Increasing it causes compliant applications to render fonts and other UI elements in larger formats. The main motivation for this was to improve accessibility for visually impaired people, but it also serves for people with high DPI screens. This value can be changed via the accessibility options or by installing the gnome-tweak-tool (or editing gconf).
      Only GTK/Gnome applications will honor this and even then, compliance isn't perfect as some still use bitmaps for icons. But it's good.

      So, for people with high DPI screens:
      - Force the X DPI setting to a proper value. This will help with some applications (including most Qt/KDE ones, I think).
      - Change the GNOME text-scaling-factor to something that matches the value above. Ie, if you set your X DPI to 200, then set your text-scaling-factor to 2.08 (200/96).
      - For Firefox or Chromium, you'll need to manually adjust the zoom level.

      • mod parent up as 'informative', it is correct in all particulars. I've been running GNOME on high-res displays for years, it can handle it fine.

  • I'd really, REALLY like to get my hands on a powerful Linux laptop with such a high resolution screen... if I could afford it I might even settle for the virtual machine solution on the Mac, but a full-up Linux laptop with such a screen would be ideal.

    During certain kinds of software development, it isn't uncommon to accumulate a dozen or more terminals and application windows displaying relevant content. Given good eyesight, there simply is no substitute for a high PPI screen when doing such work. Ditto f

    • Supposedly the next 15" Samsung Series 9 will be retina-type reslution - present version I have is 1600x900 and it's pretty nice, though I think the vertical screen angle could use improvement.
  • by scourfish ( 573542 ) <> on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:42PM (#42149009)
    A high def screen with 12 instances of xterm, all visible at once without having to switch context is the pinnacle of the Linux graphical user experience.
  • As a fan of Gnome 2.xx I find myself wondering if the problem raised is still an issue with that version or if they are regressions due to Gnome Shell?

    Fans of Gnome Shell, please don't mod me down without at least first answering the question for me as I genuinely want to know the answer.
    • Neither. Both GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 can handle high DPI pretty well, I just think the questioner failed in finding out how to do it.

  • but that's probably not the answer you were looking for.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @06:54AM (#42153511) Homepage

    Check that X11 has worked out the correct DPI of the display, not all displays pass this information through correctly and i'm not sure if virtual machines do...
    You can see the current dpi by using xdpyinfo.

    X11 itself is pretty good at resolution independence, but individual apps using bitmapped graphics all over the place are not.

Ya'll hear about the geometer who went to the beach to catch some rays and became a tangent ?