It's funny how we've come full circle. Years ago, we were glad to have windowed programming environments. I can remember lusting after a Lisa and a Macintosh the moment I read about one. I even tried to design my own GEM-like interface on the Atari 800. Windowed environments are absolutely fantastic, but, there is a certain bit of focus that having a full screen Wordperfect or Pine session in full screen can lend you. The distractions are minimized almost completely. There's no "You have mail" icons jumping around. It's just you, and the program you're working with. I know I've had days where I'll just move to a virtual console with vi and sit and edit. It's great for keeping my focus away from all of the bouncing balls that steal a little of my focus.
Unfortunately, this quest for "full screen mode" has gotten a little ridiculous. There's several programs out there that are busy trying to reinvent the full-screen text editor. Mark Pilgrim has an interesting take on one of them: WrongRoom [dive into mark]. His major complaint is that these projects start simple (I mean, really, how hard is it to write a text editor) and end up blowing up into major, MAJOR projects (I mean, really, it's hard to write a good text editor).
The problem isn't with trying to remove distractions (Merlin Mann has an excellent Mac Break Weekly called The Distracted Mac which shows how to make your Macintosh a very boring, and focused place to work). Removing distractions is very powerful. What the problem is is starting over from scratch and neglectng the hard work that it takes to get something working properly. If you're committed to making that sacrifice, be my guest. (KDE and GNOME come to mind when I couldn't possibly think why anyone would mimick CDE). But, just be aware that what may seem awesomely simple at first may turn out to be what you're working on for the next 3 years.
Until then, I'm using Ctrl-Alt-F1 to minimize my distractions. :)