26 October 2010

A Desktop is a Desktop and should be a Desktop

I was vocal enough in the past so I guess there is no need to reiterate again how much I dislike GNOME Shell... I see now Canonical is practically forking GNOME and replacing the Shell with Unity for the next Ubuntu release. In both the case of the Shell and Unity I can't understand why people behind those projects persists in trying to make a Desktop OS act and feel like a mobile phone OS, like being targeted exclusive at clueless users.

Dave Neary has a good piece about Ubuntu's move to Unity which I liked, still disagree with one of his conclusions "A worst case scenario would see both projects suffer from the competition, putting the free software desktop another two years behind"... for me that would be the best case scenario, a return of the Panel in its full glory.


  1. He has a followup:


  2. thanks Anonymous... still this not solve the problem (as I see it) of both branches going each in its own wrong way

  3. maybe an interface that is only different in polish from what PCs ran 25 years ago and that was designed for office use needs some rethinking. Especially since in 5 years there may be many more mobile phones (with touch interfaces) that desktops and laptops. So both Gnome Shell and Unity try to work early and be ready when that happens or free software UI will be left behind as fvwm was when win95 came out.

  4. @Jani: see the title, I am talking about a Desktop, I don't care about how the interface will look on those mobile phones, I need my desktop to get the job done and this involves a lot of traditional office use: photo editing, illustration, video editing, email, a bit of code, all while multitasking, since they are linked to each other.

  5. I'm still waiting for the day when people will wake up, smell the coffee and realize that the quietly awesome XFCE is a more than adequate drop-in replacement to the increasingly politicized dinosaur that is GNOME.

  6. @Dan: last time when i tried GNOME Shell and hated it again i tried Xfce for one day (and LXDE for another) and found it missing many things I am used with. When the Shell will become the default will probably give it another try and decide the way forward.

  7. Nicu..

    Gnome should have done this like two years ago ( Talk about being to late in the game which make them have to come up with some totally new experience for the end user else they are as equally dead in the water as MeeGo ) the future is and has been heading this way for sometime now..

    People want to run the same OS and the same set of application on their Workstation,laptop,Tablet pc and their phone.

    And that's beside the point that phones are slowly becoming peoples Desktop..


  8. I run GNOME with a classic 2 panels layout on my netbook and would buy in a heartbeat a tablet able to run the same 2 panels layout and my preferred applications. Instead, I see the opposite, dumbing down my desktop with a phone user experience.

  9. BTW... I still have an old "feature" phone and postpone upgrading to a smartphone until I find the user experience there good enough.

  10. You might be going a bit ahead of you're self here our Gnome Desktop team has stated that you would still be able to switch to the "Classic" look and feel ( otherwize they would be repeating history and shooting themselves in the foot as Vista did to it's Windows XP users ).

    And given that Nokia has taken N8 to it's inevitable next stage in the smarthpones evolution as in become essentially your desktop it wont be long until someone adds on "Switch to Desktop/Laptop Mode" which changes the layout to more desktop style look and feel to enhance the desktop user experience.

    I have an N95 8GB and given my experience from that phone I will be staying away from the Symbian platform and migrating to Android platform. There is catch that everyone need to be aware of before buying one for future support of the Android platform make sure you buy at least a phone with 1 GHz CPU or more for future Android releases and given what he mentions in the video that phones running Android
    have a tendency to not give you a full HDMI out of you're screen but rather selected pieces.

    So basically my dream phone consist of CPU 1.5GHz and WiFi b/g/n and WiFi Direct, Bluetooth 2.1 and HDMI-out High Res cam front/back Orange HD Voice and it's running Android.

  11. The GNOME developers stated the "classic" mode will still be available for a while and deprecated after this transitional period.

    I saw also N900 with Maemo (before MeeGo) which was touted as "the smallest laptop" and have to say its UI is not useful for something more than a phone, even if the hardware and underlying OS is awesome enough that it can even run GIMP.

    A huge problem with most of the Android phones available is the inability to easily install the latest OS from upstream, forcing you to root the device and install 3-rd party firmware.

  12. I don't get this whole Unity Desktop thing either. They're trying to get in line with mobile phone desktops. in their vision, all is simplified, but it's not. it's a whole new design and interaction system. The same thing happened with KDE with the release of KDE 4. I haven't used it because it became bloated and buggy and irritating. I find all those widgets useless. I like my GNOME desktop just the way it is, thank you.

  13. Well I guess it remains to be seen how long that transitional period is and if I'm supposed to predict it will be until they have manage to get the switch mode from phone to desktop right ;)
    ( Not sure you noticed on the video how out of proportion everything was on HDTV Huge Icons Huge panel etc..)

    It is pretty obvious ( at least to me ) the first one that delivers the best combined phone/table pc/desktop experience will be the one that claims all the market.

    Agreed it truly is a downside for the Android OS running on whatever hw out there.

  14. I saw the video and its huge widgets on the HDTV, making it look like a toy, usable say to browse a few photos or play a puzzle game, not something where you can do real work.

  15. Yup that's the problem they have to deal with and fix to get it right...

  16. The problem is also on a desktop you have a different workflow, with more applications open at the same time and moving data from one to another.

  17. Well I dont think we are anywhere near a phone completely replacing a PC for power users ( it essentially boils down to HW/power requirements ).

    It's not like you are going to perform any blender rendering on you phone at this stage but we certainly are at the stage where we cover say something atleast between 70% - 90% ( if not 100% ) of all general *Normal* users usage activity...

    Oh btw yet another reason to be very of the Symbian platform continuous existence all in all it looks like it's started taking it's last dying breath..


  18. I'm all for testing out experimental desktop ideas however I'm not keen that Gnome Shell has gone from an experiment to the "Gnome 3.0 desktop" without proving itself. The previews included in Fedora over the past several releases have not done much to settle these concerns.

    I think many Gnome users would be happy if the current Gnome desktop (panels, etc) was rewritten with Mutter to spruce things up a bit. And then give the user the option to switch to the gnome shell if that works for their workflow.

    Here's what my desktop looks like. A regular gnome panel at the top and a very minimal AWN dock at the bottom. I find this is very funtional for my busy dekstops with lots of vim terminals and firefox instances open across different workspaces.


  19. @Leif: i don't care about the technology behind it as long as it provides the needed functionality... for example i don't even use Compiz because it is buggy when taking screenshots (i need screenshots when writing tutorials)

    My layout is similar with yours, i just use at the bottom also a normal panel which is used mostly for switching between open windows/apps.

  20. If they push the Gnome SH*T down the pipe and I get stuck with a stupid phone-like looking desktop, I will stop using Gnome and get back to fluxbox. A desktop is a desktop! I truly agree! They are more than welcome to work on the interface that can still advance by all means, but not destroying it the same way they did with KDE. Gnome is a heavy GUI, but still keep things standardized in a way. If stuff gets out of control, it will tear apart the Linux world. You need nice, stable, good looking GUIs to attract people to the Linux community no matter what role they have (users, admins, programmers or whatever). It is the interface that appeals in the end, even if the console is the real GOD. You need simplicity, stability and a polished environment. Windows got the market because of that. It's easy to use - it's appealing and people buy it. It is crappy, but that's another story. Looks good, feels good and that's about it. The Linux community has to learn this if they want to take over the world, otherwise it's one step forth and two back. Got it?

  21. +1
    "being targeted exclusive at clueless users" => goes into my book of quotes

  22. As ever, it's just copying the latest fashion. Just when all the bugs get ironed out of this load of toss they'll have some other trend to follow and reset it all again. Yawn.

    imo GNOME (and linux in general) hit a peak around 2003-2004 and then things lost the plot a bit - too big, too slow, too buggy and ever-broken.

    Fortunately one can still just run a window manager and a few xterms without the computer bothering you with nonsense.

  23. >make a Desktop OS act and feel like a mobile phone OS,

    You know whats worse?
    making it feel like a mobile phone OS but its not.

    Does Gnome Mobile even exist since Qt went GPL?
    I think KDE plasma have desktop, netbook and mobile all
    covered but Gnome and mobile OS?

    >I will be staying away from the Symbian platform and >migrating to Android platform.

    Wow.... late to the party are we?
    Symbian is on its way out, its not exactly news so let me give you a one handed clap to salute your boldness 
    sir. Soon you will come out and claim that you are 
    abandoning your Nintendo Gamecube,you rebel.

  24. If I got it right GNOME3 will have some neat extensions capability. I'm wondering if it would be possible to create a desktop in GNOME3's native coding technologies (afaik HTML, CSS, XML, JavaScript = sound like almost-AJAX-desktop to me), that resembles the old one as much as possible, while bringing all the new extras that could make it more awesome.

  25. I agree with you 100%. To me, both Shell and Unity means throwing away years and years of achievements, merely to address a "wrong" market.