Ubuntu: Basic question on ubuntu desktop /interface [duplicate]


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I need lil clarity , I am sort of lil new to ubuntu [ a week old :)]. I am exploring the OS and really finding it awesome . Meanwhile, I did come up with some basic doubts which needs clarity . I would be thankful to any body who can give me clarity.

Just some info before my question

  1. I know ubuntu comes with server as well as with desktop versions
  2. I installed the ubuntu desktop version 15.04 version
  3. While, I was going through few youtube videos on ubuntu, I came across people referring other desktops on ubuntu like cinnamon , lxde , unity , etc

My questions

  1. So my confusion started from here, Are they referring to an interface as a desktop ?
  2. Ubuntu /linux though they are operating system by themself.Do they still have the ability to have different desktops on top of them?
  3. Is it something like a skin, i can choose different versions?
  4. what command should i use to find what desktop i have on top of my ubuntu?


  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. Not like a skin, but yes you can choose different versions
  4. Not sure, but by default Ubuntu 15.04 comes with Unity, I believe.


Couple of things I wanted to address:

  • Ubuntu desktop and server versions are pretty much the same. The difference is that server comes with additional software for "serious" tasks and no graphic interface - only command line.
  • All *nix systems in general started out as command-line. There was no GUI back when Unix was created by Ken Thompson in 1969. Any graphic interface on *nix systems relies on a graphical server. Think of it as a software layer - you can have that software or not, the system still works without it and can perform necessary tasks. Now, back when *nix systems started getting graphics, computers weren't that powerful, so you would have to login in console, and then type startx to get that graphical layer started (namely, you would start the X server. There's other graphical servers nowadays). That in turn would start your window manager - the program that controls how your windows will look and feel. Now, if on one computer (even on the same computer but for different users) we have unity and on another openbox as default manager - we're gonna get different look and different behavior of the GUI programs. But they still are started with X graphical server, and still running on Ubuntu. In a sense they are like a skin, but a skin that comes with varying features and ability to customize. For instance, motif window manager cannot be tweaked that much (at least I have not heard of it ), but cinnamon can be - there's tons of skins, you can place the panel on any four sides of the window, etc.
  • Nowadays there's another way things work - you have instance of X server running to show you the login screen (aka the greeter or desktop manager ). Desktop manager does the same job as startx. Only instead of two steps (login and run startx ) you just do one step in this case.

  • I've looked through this and IMHO the only method that works across the board with wmctrl -m. It worked in both openbox and gnome sessions, which I have open right now on tty1 and tty7. You can also try to trace the output of pstree to find out what session you have running, but that will be a bit confusing if you have multiple sessions open like I do. I have openbox started with startx so it's the parent process of that, but for gnome parent process is lightdm greeter.

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