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Helix GNOME: Unix For Humans

by Daniel Solin

What's all this talk about Helix, Helixcode, Helix GNOME, the Helix Desktop, or whatever they call it, all about? What is it, and, most important, can it be useful to me and you? And, if we decide we want to try it out, how shall we do it?

Relax! After reading this article and the following one, you will feel much more enlightened on this topic, and hopefully even have found yourself a new favorite desktop! I think they call it the Helix Desktop, or was it GNOME, or Helixcode, or... Nah! Go on and read the rest of the article instead!

What is GNOME and Helix?

To begin with, let's straighten out some terms. "GNOME" stands for GNU Network Object Model Environment. It is a standard for how a graphical application should look and act and what libraries/toolkits it should be built with. There are hundreds of so-called "GNOME applications" that follow this standard. And by doing that, they are members of the GNOME application family.

However, what most people think of when they hear "GNOME" is the GNOME desktop environment. A desktop environment is a set of applications and utilities, like file managers and text editors, that together make a complete graphical working environment (in contrast to text-based environments, such as MS-DOS). In the case of the GNOME desktop, these applications and utilities all follow the GNOME standard.

Helix GNOME is a special "distribution" of the GNOME desktop. This version of the GNOME desktop is developed by a company called Helix Code. Helix Code aims to provide an easy-to-use and easy-to-install open source desktop. They do this by taking the standard GNOME desktop and then enhancing it with a few additional features that make it both nicer and more user-friendly. However, what basically has made Helix GNOME so popular is its awesome installation and update programs. With these programs, setting up the latest version of a GNOME desktop, and then keeping it up-to-date, has become really easy.

In the following sections, you'll learn how to set up Helix GNOME on your computer. Believe me, it's a real pleasure compared to other, manual, installation processes.

Getting and installing the Helix Desktop

Okay, your Helix GNOME journey starts at the Helix Code web site. Point your browser to this URL, and you should soon see the site shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: the Helix Code web site.

Figure 1: the Helix Code web site.

On this web site, you can find lots of interesting information about Helix GNOME. However, what's most important, you can download and install the Helix GNOME desktop from here!

Selecting your Linux/Unix distribution
Now, go on by clicking the Download link at the top-right corner. This will take you to the page shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2.  Selecting your Linux/Unix distribution.

Figure 2. Selecting your Linux/Unix distribution.

From this page, you are supposed to select which Linux distribution or Unix version you're using. As you see, there are quite a few to choose from. And, if you're new to Linux/Unix, it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you.

However, in case you don't know, it's really easy to find out. Just take a look at the CD you installed your Linux/Unix system from. It probably has a label that indicates what's on it. Look for words like "Red Hat," "Mandrake," "Caldera," "Debian," "SuSE," "TurboLinux," "LinuxPPC," or "Yellow Dog." If you find one of these, you're using Linux, and you should choose your Linux distribution from the list. If you're not running Linux at all, your last hope is that you're using Solaris.

Anyway, when you have chosen your Linux/Unix version from the list, click on the "Go" button to the right.

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