21 October 2009

The way of the dodo

Like many others, I couldn't endure the wait and moved my main desktop from Fedora 11 to 12 a few days ago, in my case using the Beta RC2, so I could take advantage of the install DVD and perform a clean install (BTW, 'ext4migrate' as an Anaconda argument was helpful with moving my /home from ext3 to ext4).

The move to the Beta was the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of the much hyped GNOME Shell preview, you know, is like going to a road you pass next to a horrible accident but you can't avoid looking at it, you are curious to see what is about. The same with GNOME Shell, from seeing screenshots and reading about it I had a good idea about what to expect and was expecting to dislike it, but I hat to see with my own eyes, try it for a couple of days, leave the first impression settle down and only then write about.

[gnone shell]

The very first impression is created by the color scheme, which feel originated from someone with a serious Vista envy. Hell, if I wanted a Vista wannabe I would have used ...KDE 4. No, thanks.

Then I tried to do some work done and see hot it feel. As an advanced users, I don't use a single application at a time, I have at least 3-4 windows open at any time and switching from one window to another is a very common operation. Not with GNOME Shell, which make this a pain: you get the desktop zooming and jumping all the time, which is very tiring. And needing additional mouse clicks.

It was so painful that I felt the urge to make it go away as soon as possible. Good luck with that! It was impossible to find a way to kill it (later when I built the courage to try it again I found an ugly and huge 'control panel' and logout buttons are available by clicking on your own name, which I find unintuitive) so I fired a terminal, manually started gnome-effect and said goodbye.

Looking at it my best hope is there is enough time until GNOME 3.0 for this experiment to go the way of the dodo and never make as a default, It may be a pretty toy for some and may have an use case for lightweight usage of your computer (isn't Moblin, also included in the Beta, better suited for the task?) but is far from something I could use for real work.


  1. Why don't you just switch to KDE? :-) KDE is much less of a "Vista wannabe" as you seem to think, and most importantly, the "Vista-like" stuff can all be disabled, whereas gnome-shell has no preferences at all.

    KDE 4 can be set up to look&feel almost like GNOME 2, maybe if one of us KDE SIG people has some time, we could even provide a set of ready-made config files for that purpose.

  2. Great idea Kevin.

    Fedora KDE4 Remix for grumpy gnomes.

  3. Actually GNOME is the one who tried to copy KDE since day one.

    Anyway I am glad that they are releasing the GNOME shell, because since version 2.0 beginning until now, they pretty much stalled.

    This is one of the major innovations that GNOME brought into their courtyard.

  4. Nick, zeăr iz ă săluşăn tu ievrii prabliem. GNOME3 uil sac big, său uai dăunt iu suici tu gzfecee? Teic ă luc ăt mai gzubuntu: only 122 MB?

  5. When I watched the videos I thought they are crazy, then I became sure it's just a prototype. Beta. Alpha. Scratch. An idea... Something like that - but not the real thing for sure.

    But of course I felt the same with Kde's plasma madness (and the desktop and the weird widget handler sidebars) at first...

  6. @Béranger: indeed, Xfce looks like the most promising alternative and with a little (a lot of) customization it may get bearable

  7. ...and this is not because XFCE is better, it's only because GNOME follows the KDE trend and gets worse and worse! (Chaotic and unthought "improvements".)

    With GNOME changing (for good or worse) exactly twice a year (this reminds me of the "five-year plans", only these are more demanding), and with GNOME3 risking to ruin everything...

    ...one will look at Xubuntu in a couple of years (because Xubuntu is the only distro that customizes XFCE to "look like GNOME") and will say: "Hey, GNOME used to look like this! Now why is it looking like KDE?!"

  8. Correction: Mandriva also customizes its XFCE to "look like GNOME".

  9. But "look like GNOME" is a moving target and may become soon an unwanted target. Maybe GNOME 2.x "spirit" would be a better target.

  10. > "I don't use a single application at a time, I have at least 3-4 windows open at any time and switching from one window to another is a very common operation. Not with GNOME Shell, which make this a pain: you get the desktop zooming and jumping all the time, which is very tiring. And needing additional mouse clicks."

    Of course, you do know about ALT+TAB right ? Try it, they improved its behavior *a lot*, you can now switch windows with the arrows, windows are grouped by applications, you have window previews,...

    > "I found an ugly and huge 'control panel' and logout buttons are available by clicking on your own name, which I find unintuitive)"

    That's a known problem: this menu is very undiscoverable. Maybe they could use a hint from an experienced art guy on how to make it look like a menu :)

    At first, I was very skeptic about Gnome-Shell. But after reading about its concepts and toying with it, I must say that I kinda like it. Not sure 'll make it my default desktop though, it's still missing some stuff from current Gnome 2.x for me.

  11. People made the same stink when we moved from Gnome 1.x to 2.x so...

    For the people who say that GNOME has always followed KDE, I think you really don't understand the history of both projects. Sure there is cross pollination between the two and these days we share similar technologies like D-Bus the gtk+ mainloop on Linux but the truth is they both pull from similar inspirations with different philosophies driving both communities. There is only so much one can change when following the desktop metaphor.

    The concepts of the new GNOME Shell come from a wide range of ideas, from Apple's expose to Sugar's autohide launch bar. Concepts such as pattern of usage and object based interactions (hence the logout under your name since you are really the one who is logging out, the desktop is not logging out of you) are proven concepts which once discovered are cognitively easy to remember. Sure you can stuff everything into a main menu but as our interactions become more complicated the UI needs to become simplified. The black is meant to offer high contrast so your eyes are not fatigued and are drawn to the things that matter like text and icons which you can interact with. It is also better for people with bad eyesight. As for the constant zooming, you should be able to switch apps with alt tab and it shouldn't zoom out. You can also use the ctrl-alt-arrowkey combos to switch desktops without zooming.

  12. @J5: Nay, the real pattern is "design by committee". Even if it's not "by committee", the mere fact that 1-100 developers of a major DE can impose their "vision" to millions of users makes me think that the only disadvantage of Windows is that it's not free. The "open" in "open source" is useless -- who can afford to maintain a fork/branch of a project, once its developers get high and take wrong decisions? NOBODY. (As in "nobody adopted KDE3 for further maintaining".)

    I hate the open source developers who are always high and trying to "invent things" nobody asked for.

    I can't use a Mac, it's counterintuitive to me, so I definitely DON'T want anyone to mimic anything from it.

  13. Oh, I forgot. The only "beneficial" consequence of GNOME Shell and other frightening novelties in GNOME3 is that it pushed me seriously into XFCE (namely Xubuntu, because it looks & feels pretty much like GNOME).

    Should the XFCE developers start eating the wrong kind of mushrooms, then I'd definitely go for Windows 7 (8, 9...), because KDE4 is less usable than Win7 (I tested both of them on the same laptop for one month each).

  14. @Béranger: did you try LXDE ? It's a very lightweight desktop environment, kind of like XFCE, but IMHO, XFCE feels like the sum of different GTK apps whereas LXDE feels like a consistent and integrated desktop environment, more like Gnome.

  15. Yes, LXDE has some advantages over XFCE, but overall I didn't like it.

  16. I also found LXDE nice, but a bit too simplistic for extensive use, Xfce has a lot more features.

  17. @J5: back when Windows went grey, everybody followed as grey was supposed to be easy on eyes. Now that Windows moved to black, everybody is following because black provides better contrast?

    And why should I would be forced to choose either annoying zooming or keyboard only?

  18. ...e.g. in XFCE I can have xfce4-timer-plugin, whereas in GNOME I had to use KTeaTime from KDE!

    (Yes, I am a heavy tea drinker. Yes, I need a reminder. No, I don't have a sand glass.)

  19. @nicu, @beranger: Someone has to make a decision. it is hard to please everyone, but you are rehasing the same arguments which have been heard since DE's were invented. Time marches on and research changes. The nice thing is you found a solution in XFCE so yay, Open Source does work . BTW I'm pretty sure the black will be able to be changed via a config at some point.

    On the point that KDE3 isn't maintained anymore could it be that no one wants to maintain it just for a small group of people. If demand was there, there would be people jumping up and down to maintain it. In open source you can't blame other people for not doing the work if you aren't willing to do it yourself. But there is a contingent of people who are willing to put the work into XFCE so if that is your cup of tea then your energies are most likely better servered working with that community instead of maligning another community who, I might add has put in a lot of work that you use (XFCE is built on a lot of the GNOME technologies). Same goes to KDE and GNOME folks who go trolling in other projects.

  20. no, i'm not happy with Xfce but consider it probably the least bad alternative

  21. lol, quite a lot of comments >_< I've done the same as you, but didn't get around to write a (rant) blog post about it... Everything I have accessible now on one click needs two clicks in gnome shell plus the zoom in-zoom out sequence... I don't see anywhere (unless I zoom out) what windows do I have open, I cannot drag and drop them between desktops, and this list could go on... And the blackness is killing me :-( Hope this will either improve a lot (both from design and usability perspective) or go the way of dodo, otherwise I'll need to switch to XFCE or LXDE (or fork gnome 2.x) :-(

  22. "If demand was there, there would be people jumping up and down to maintain it."
    --> You must be kidding, right? Of living in a different Universe.

    Even for the #1 DE (#1 in North America), that is GNOME, and despite the involvement of several IT companies (including RHAT), the development and the maintenance are barely decent. Hundreds of unfixed bugs since ages, even for simple software like Gedit! And, after how many years was the Compact view added to Nautilus? Plus, it was an individual effort -- none of the big companies ever bothered (and this includes RHAT).

    It also takes/took ages for NetworkManager to be usable.

    Outside the DE, OO.o is such a lame alternative to MS Office that it makes me puke -- enough to say that I have to switch the paper format from Letter to A4 for each and every new Writer document (MS Word has a single-click button that makes this option as default for the Default template; I couldn't find a way to do the same in oowriter).

    Linux is a better choice because it's free and flexible. Otherwise, its desktop-related components (being it about X.Org, GNOME, KDE, XFCE, major apps) are so bug-ridden that the single argument in their favor is this one: they're open source.

    Big, big, big names: Intel, Red Hat, Novell, IBM, etc. etc. etc. are making money from Linux and Linux apps, yet this software sucks, sucks, sucks.

    Companies can't fix this. Individuals can't fix this -- it looks like crazy individuals like you guys are only motivated by "bleeding-edge stuff", so NO ONE will volunteer for a MAINTENANCE task, just admit it, dammit!

    Oh boy, I really, really LOVED MS-DOS. But it was '90-'93 back then.

  23. Albeit my critical first comment I like most of the ideas of the gnome shell and zeitgeist. I can't wait to try it on my Ubuntu guinea pigs ;)

    I hope Gnome-shell will force KDE4 activities to be easier to manage. The current KDE ZUI just sux and is cumbersome. Gnome-shell is much nicer, but I want widgets and different backgrounds. KDE will probably get where I want to be first once they take a few good ideas from Gnome-shell.

  24. @Béranger being in the thick of it and understanding what it takes to really develop software I have to say you are full of shit. I don't think you are worth interacting with anymore. Please find someone else to harass. Constructive criticism is welcome, hecklers can go to hell.

  25. @Béranger: is cumbersome and unintuitive but you can change the default template in OOo. Also, I got the suggestion to set my locale to en-IE instead of en-US to get english language but with sane defaults.

  26. @Martin: i think is important to write about unhappiness with the GNOME Shell preview, otherwise the developers are content with the praises received in their small universe and will leave it as is, ending with a very bad GNOME 3.0. And when it will be to late they will say "but nobody complained".

    I know I may come very strong against it so my negative feedback may get disregarded for being too strong, but I can't temper more, I find GNOME Shell to be *that* bad.

  27. @Nicu: I don't want to change to Ireland English or whatnot. Changing the default template is VERY cumbersome. It even beats me, which means I couldn't find a way to change it.

    Besides, this is not the proper solution to AN ELEMENTARY NEED. Microsoft figured out the solution decades ago: and here it is.

    Too complex for the Sun/Novell/etc. guys who screw Oo.o, eh?

    @J5: I'd better cut my hands off than using Fedora Linux ever again! Thanks, J5. Now I have a really good reason to despise Red Hat, which is your employer. Yes, Microsoft's developers are more polite and less arrogant than the open-source developers. With closed-source software, the top management is arrogant, not the developers per se.

    As a side note, I know this is not the proper place, as you're not using CentOS here and the repo I'm going to mention is not a popular one, but: now that CentOS 5.4 was released and I AM NO LONGER USING RED HAT-BASED distros, I'm looking for a maintainer of Odiecolon.repo.

  28. @Béranger you need to create a template to your liking, save it, then go to template organizer, find it, right click and set as default. Very unintuitive, you can't discover it without reading the manual.

    The Irish locale has additional benefits (Caolan pointed this workaround to me) as it will get other sane defaults, like measurements in cm instead on inches.

  29. @Béranger: and the trouble is, GNOME Shell is only a preview so far, but it is supposed to be pushed upstream and become at some point the default in all GNOME based distributions. Is not about just a distro screwing-up a relase, but about the future of the desktop.

  30. I've actually been playing with gnome-shell (built on f11) for a few days not and also constantly switch applications and have found the loss of the bottom "window" toolbar and improved alt-tab functionality quite liberating.

    I'm not sure why you found it so hard switching applications? I generally have used alt left and right to switch workspaces and alt-tab applications. The sub grouping of applications here is excellent and efficient.

    I would say that there is lots of work to be done here but the potential is significant.

  31. @Chris: to change applications you need two mouse clicks instead of one and have to go trough an unnecessary and time wasting zoom/move of the interface.

  32. Hi, I agree that the overview doesn't work very well for frequent window switching.

    There is a lot of work going on in Alt-TAB, and I think a near term goal is going to be making the Alt-TAB like UI available more easily or more discoverable for people who don't know Alt-TAB (as many people don't).

  33. @nicu: only one click, not two. There is a zoom animation, but you don't have to click the activities button to activation it, only throw your mouse to the corner.

  34. Speaking about Moblin, on Fedora 12 Beta, trying to click on some icons do nothing unless keyboard is used.
    My complain about gnome-shell is the requirement of hardware acceleration which made it useless on nouveau driver. I do not understand why the team behind Gnome-Shell did not include fall back. At least Enlightenment e17 does similar effects in software.

  35. I totally agree with you Nicu!

  36. I like this find an application or document by typing it’s name in the search box. Is new and i saw this on blender 2.5. Gnome and XFCE are great . Some articles told us that Windows is trying to overcome the Linux with graphics of Vista, so ...