back to article System76 teases features coming in homegrown Rust-based desktop COSMIC

News is emerging regarding the future of two popular Linux desktops: System76's Pop!_OS and COSMIC, as well as a future version of Xfce. US Linux kit vendor System76 has been working on a new desktop environment for at least a couple of years, word of which was leaked out in a Reddit discussion in 2021. System76's own Linux …

  1. Ross 12

    So they're writing a new desktop from scratch, and it does look very neat and professional, but it also looks really really similar to gnome. Feels like a wasted opportunity to try something visually different instead of creating yet another flat UI

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    M1 or M2

    I wish they spent their energy on trying to get the M1/M2 chip from Apple onto their laptops or build their own ARM eco-system.

    Building products around legacy x86 tech seems pointless.

    What's the point of that "new desktop environment"? To be able to use "Rust" in promo materials?

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: M1 or M2

      Wood paneling is the only custom hardware they build.

      The M1/M2 chips are Apple stacking most of a motherboard into a single package. There is NO customization. They wouldn't fit with a build-to-order shop even if Apple did sell them.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: M1 or M2

        What are you on about? It can be customised "easily". The "integrated" memory are just bga chips that happen to be on the same substrate as the CPU. Apple could supply them empty and company could solder whatever configuration customer wants.

        If you had access to preballed RAM and storage chips you could do it even at home with a hot air station.

  3. MarkMLl

    Yes, yes, yes... but when are we going to get a half-decent Rust-based RAD with IDE, form builder, integrated debugging etc. to rival NeXTSTEP, Delphi or FPC/Lazarus?

    1. Abominator

      Never. They will get bored with rewriting things and move on to the next language in 5 years.

      I remember what Go was the new kid on the block what everything would be written in. Before that, Java. etc.

      1. Daniel Pfeiffer

        Rust makes more vicious kinds of errors impossible, than Java or Go ever have: Null pointer exceptions, race conditions & flaky memory access. All of this dealt with by the compiler, saving you hours in the debugger, and the embarassment of yet again stolen credit cards. In this way, it's truly a new kid on the block, where others were just incremental improvers.

        Ok, Java somewhat improved the memory access. But with no const and garbage collection, Gosling chose expensive work-arounds. Whereas Rust (once you understand it – to be fair) makes for very efficient proggies.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      when are we going to get a half-decent Rust-based RAD

      When someone writes one.

      Assuming there's such as thing as a "half-decent ... RAD". Personally I wouldn't use such a beast if I had pretty much any alternative. I've yet to see an "integrated development environment" superior to a decent shell and a full suite of the tools of my choice, and I've used a lot of IDEs over the years.

  4. b0llchit Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Clarity comment appreciated

    Over in the relatively staid and slow-moving world of Xfce – for clarity, those are good attributes...

    Thank you for pointing that out. It has been understated and misunderstood how important these attributes are for stability and consistency.

    1. Ozan

      Re: Clarity comment appreciated

      I updated to 4.18 when it was released and I had zero problems. They never pull gnome3 or KDE plasma on us.

  5. MacroRodent

    One Window to rule them all

    Re GNOME still strikes us as a desktop for people who don't want to do manual window management, and who live in one maximized window most of the time

    I just don't get why some desktop developers think this kind of an UI is a good idea. Like going back to MS-DOS! There is a reason why GUI's with multiple possibly overlapping windows were invented.

    Thankfully, there is still XFCE...

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: One Window to rule them all

      Thankfully, there is still XFCE...

      And FVWM

    2. EvilGardenGnome

      Re: One Window to rule them all

      Warning. Lots of anecdotal/personal reasoning here. Your mileage WILL vary.

      Having multiple overlapping windows is useful sometimes, and one big window is useful sometimes. However, I tend towards one big window for my main task.

      I'm lucky enough to be on a three monitor setup, and routinely have 7 or 8 windows open. However, I usually see 4 or 5, since I have my main task on one monitor, another monitor is split between two windows for quick check stuff (like checking the side mirror of the car), and the other monitor is either a secondary task (one window) or helper windows (usually two, splitting the monitor). Having a splash of many windows is a focus killer for me, and I avoid it.

      This works for me, and so tiling doesn't come up much unless I'm away from my monitors. However, screens on laptops are small/distant enough that age has taken it's toll. Tiling simply isn't as ergonomic for me when compared with full screen and switching between windows.

      Maybe this is a holdover for me from DOS; maybe I'm just a crotchety, old, grey hair; maybe y'all better get off my lawn and take that cloud with you. Whatever the cause, to each their own - and leave me alone. ;]

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: One Window to rule them all

        One of the reasons I acquired a biiig monitor (it's 31 inch, 4k, that's big in my book) was to be able to have more than one window big enough to work on visible at the same time.

        Left 50% for code, top right 25% for Teams, bottom-right 25% for the other file I'm looking at, laptop screen for the app under development.

        A system that expects me to just have a single, vast, 31-inch window seems broken to me.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: One Window to rule them all

          It depends what you're doing in that window. Some IDEs run in a single window and manage their own windows within it.

    3. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: One Window to rule them all

      If you want to work in a single windows most of the time then something like i3 is much lighter and faster

  6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Am I the Only One

    That reads COSMIC in Rodney Trotters voice.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Am I the Only One

      I hear it in the voice of Tommy Chong.

      Probably a generational thing.

  7. Mockup1974

    I still don't really get why we need to have another DE rather than just tweaking KDE Plasma to the distributor's liking. In case someone now complains about KDE's alleged bugginess: well, the effort in creating a new (but pointless) DE from scratch could have gone into fixing the remaining bugs in KDE.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      KDE really isn't the be-all and end-all. It's also almost grotesquely overcomplicated and cluttered with options to twiddle.

      1. jake Silver badge

        MeDearOldMum doesn't find KDE overly complicated and cluttered, nor does she twiddle with options.

        Maybe because I set it up for her to just get on with it, the way she uses a computer.

        No non-hardware related support calls from her in about 4 years now, and counting.

        She runs Slackware 14.2+KDE, updated to 15.0 in situ about a year ago.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "It's also almost grotesquely overcomplicated and cluttered with options to twiddle."

        That sounds odd. Most people I know using Windows moan about the lack of configurability offered there, and it's spreading to other desktops. Our way or the highway seems to be the motto, especially in the commercial world, and seemingly moving in to the FOSS world too. Can you have too many configurable settings? Just don't touch the ones you don't understand or care about. In my book, that's far better than NOT being able to change something that I DO want to change :-)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I do like to be able to change things. On the other hand, I'd much rather start from a clean slate. DEC's uwm is still my favorite X11 window manager; I liked it even more than the one I wrote myself.

          My uwm configuration dispensed with all window decorations except a thin border that "lit up" (switched from black to white) in the window with focus. (I had implicit focus policy and no automatic z-order change configured, so often the window with focus was partly or even mostly obscured, so this was useful.) GUI controls on windows are a waste of screen real estate, as far as I'm concerned, plus a sink with bad side effects for errant mouseclicks.

          So there's configurable, and then there's configurable.

          1. MacroRodent


            Also used to use uwm on my first X11 desktops on a VAXstation. At one time, it was the only bundled window manager in vanilla X11.

            The lack of decorations in uwm was a feature. You just could not have decorations, the code was that simple.

            Focus on mouse entering a window (with no click needed) is available in most other window managers as well, although usually not the default.

      3. ske1fr

        Good job I don't need to twiddle them. It just works for me. I have tried Gnome and XFCE in the past, the latter was useful for a low spec printer server until 32 bit was deprecated.

  8. jake Silver badge

    Last time I eyeballed System 76's defaut desktop ...

    ... I found that it was not housebroken, and left little bits of itself scattered around all over the file system.

    One wonders who they're jivin' with that Cosmic debris.

    1. CAPS LOCK

      Re: Last time I eyeballed System 76's defaut desktop ...

      Upvote for F. Zappa quote. And with that I'm off to the Youtubes for some Zappa. Thanks.

  9. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge


    I'm looking forward to the improved stability of Rust developed software and hope the COSMIC desktop will be a posterchild for this.

    Greater stability means less time fixing bugs and more time adding features and therefore a faster development time.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Stability

      I've only had two kinds of crashes using a Linux desktop:

      1) NVIDIA drivers

      2) Counterfeit hardware from Fry's Electronics

      Everything else is very stable.

      NVIDIA drivers are a special hell that's not going to be fixed by using Rust. You only have to run 'apt upgrade' and all your apps start crashing because NVIDIA prohibits minor version mismatches between kernel and user spaces. Oh, you wanted CUDA working too? <panic>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NVIDIA drivers

        Never had an issue with Nvidia drivers on our workstations running SUSE/openSUSE Leap, not even between version upgrades. But then, Nvidia provides its own SUSE specific repositories, and are installed and managed through the distro's package manager (zypper).

        Just another reason why, every time I try another distro, I always end up back with openSUSE.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Stability

        Really? I've had few Linux kernel panics, but plenty of application crashes. Many of those in software under development, of course, but it's not like the distribution userspace or third-party add-ons are bulletproof. Various fuzzing exercises have demonstrated that amply.

      3. JulieM

        Re: Stability

        A law requiring all hardware manufacturers to release the full, annotated Source Code of all drivers and explicitly granting users the right to modify it would go a long way towards fixing the issues with NVidia's opaque, proprietary drivers.

  10. georgezilla Silver badge

    One word .................

    ............. Unity.

  11. Daniel Pfeiffer

    Broken Paradigms

    When I talk to you about a picture on the wall and point to it, you will understand. Not so MicroSoft, who want me to touch (click) it first. And most apps will see that click as performing an action (but e.g. VMWare player needs a 2nd click...) So unintuitive! Yet sadly focus-follows-mouse has over the years gotten harder to get, even in its home turf of X11.

    When I spread a newspaper on a table, and a notepad on top, I can mark and write on both. Not so with MicroSoft, who will bring the newspaper on top every time I touch it. So unintuitive! The ability to focus a window in the background is another great (aka natural) feature of X11 window managers.

    I sure hope these guys don't just make it another mindless Windows clone!

    1. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: Broken Paradigms

      I’m in no way defending windows - it’s a crock of shit, always has been, and always will be - BUT you can set it up to follow the mouse and not have to click a windows to use it, and not raise the in-focus window

      In my experience, the problem is that some applications don’t understand/allow for this and so their local navigation can get a bit screwy. Outlook is a good example (yet another MS crock of shit) - as you type an email recipient, it pops up a list of suggestions. Actually selecting one of these with the above mouse settings does not work properly though

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Broken Paradigms

        Yes. I haven't had to use Win11 yet, but even in Win10 the implicit-focus and no-raise features are just a matter of a few Registry changes. And yes, the Registry is an abomination, but it's not that hard to edit. I've never used any copy of Windows for any length of time without enabling these features.

        There are many things wrong with Windows. This one, at least, is fixable.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Broken Paradigms

      "When I talk to you about a picture on the wall and point to it, you will understand. Not so MicroSoft, who want me to touch (click) it first. And most apps will see that click as performing an action (but e.g. VMWare player needs a 2nd click...) So unintuitive! Yet sadly focus-follows-mouse has over the years gotten harder to get, even in its home turf of X11."

      Maybe it's just me but I always hated traditional focus-follows-mouse, not only because if you're typing and inadvertently touch the mouse (and move the mouse cursor outside the current window) then you're suddenly typing in a different one. Which is why one of the first things I did on a new SGI workstation or other UNIX machines (yes, I'm that old) was to set the mouse to click-to-activate.

      I very much prefer the way it's implemented on mac OS where I can have multiple windows open, and while activating a different window still needs a click there are certain functions (such as scrolling) which follow the mouse cursor. Case in point, writing a report where I have to research stuff in pdf files means my work processor window can remain active, but to scroll inside the open pdf file I just move the mouse cursor over the pdf viewer and am now able to scroll the pdf file instead.

      Can't remember whether it's the same on Windows 11 or not, but in any case if you insist on traditional focus-follows-mouse then there should be simple ways to enable this on Windows as well.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Broken Paradigms

      The buzzphrase you are looking for is "focus follows pointer". Windows had it natively as an option starting with Win95, and at least through XP and NT2K, after which I no longer gave a shit (registry hack ... I believe TweakUI could make the change for all the above). It's useful for some things, hellaciously annoying for others. I use it probably once a month or so on Slackware w/KDE (pointy-clicky: System Settings -> Window Behavior -> Window Behavior -> Focus, a slider gives 6 different variations on the theme ... If you prefer more fine-grained controls, I'm sure you can find them.)

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Broken Paradigms

        Out of curiosity, I looked around a bit to try to figure out when "focus follows pointer" became common, versus "implicit focus policy".

        The latter appears in the OSF/Motif guides and dates back at least to the early 1980s. I have the idea that it was used in the documentation / configuration of some pre-Motif X11 window managers, but the uwm menu apparently referred to explicit policy as simply "focus", and implicit as just the normal way to do things. twm calls the option to use explicit focus policy "NoTitleFocus". I don't remember what cwm did in this regard (which is kind of embarrassing, as I was working for ACIS when the thing was written, and knew people who worked on it), and I can't seem to find docs. What other window managers were around in the mid-80s?

        My sense is that "focus follows pointer" or "focus follows mouse" came into currency later.

        Older systems such as SunView that I know of used one or the other exclusively, rather than making it configurable, so they didn't need a term for it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Broken Paradigms

          In the early '80s, SunTools (became SunView) had a line item in a configuration file to turn it on and off. I can't remember what it was called, nor which configuration file it was in. I'm pretty sure it was part of the kernel (!!), and I think it took a reboot to take effect, but not a recompile[0]. It would have been on the 4.2BSD-based SunOS 1.x from late '83 on.

          We sure do things different these days ...

          [0] What? You expect me to remember that kind of detail from forty years ago?

        2. jake Silver badge

          Re: Broken Paradigms

          Motif shipped in late '89, but contained bits & bobs from all over, notably DEC's XUI. Tom's Window Manager, aka twm, the sometime reference window manager for X11R4, shipped in 87. Your Ultrix Window Manager, aka uwm, was the standard WM for X11R1 through R3, and first shipped in 1985ish.

          That probably muddles things even more ... An awful lot happened in the world of GUIs in the '80s, terminology was changing fast.

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