The Spectre of Math

April 2, 2011

GNOME 3 experiences

Filed under: Linux,Technology — jlebl @ 7:09 am

So my Zareason notebook decided to break (actually it was breaking for a while, the case is really terrible material-wise). I’ve been looking to buy a linux preinstalled laptop, but finally saw a sale on a lenovo u460 and decided to just get it. The machine is very nice and essentially everything works. I installed newest Fedora alpha and updated to the latest bits so I have GNOME 3 here.

Experience is not entirely positive. GNOME 3 is a solution in search of a problem. The things that GNOME 3 makes easier weren’t really all that difficult before. It doesn’t really make anything important any easier. Basically it improved on one part of the desktop experience that was already “good enough.” There is nothing that a user couldn’t have done before that they can do with GNOME 3. But there are things that were possible with GNOME 2 that aren’t with GNOME 3. So this improvement is at a cost of making lots of more rarely done things much harder. If there are 100 things, each one of them only affecting 1% of the users, it is entirely possible that 100% of the users are affected. I am sure that everyone will find a couple of things they need to do (not just want to do, but NEED to do) that will be very hard if not almost impossible in GNOME 3. For example for me, linking two computers in a temporary way with an ethernet cable was not possible with a GUI anymore, and I couldn’t any more figure out how to change the mac address the network card uses in the new dialogs. Both were things I needed to do. It doesn’t help if someone tells me I shouldn’t have to do them if say the network setup (which is beyond my control) was done better.

A good UI gets out of the way. GNOME 3 more often gets in the way by making things that I needed to do harder or impossible to find or do. So while much of gnome shell is nice there are many places where it makes life harder on purpose for whatever reason. GNOME 2.0 had the same philosophical problem.

There are many places where the linux desktop is still very deficient in a way that keeps people from using it. GNOME 3 does nothing to improve that in my opinion. It’s all nice in a perfect world, but we do not live in a perfect world where all hardware looks the same, all 3d drivers work, all people work the same way and all necessary software for linux is already written.

Someone should try to fund a study to find out “why are you not using linux” or more specifically “what does linux not do that you need it to do before you will use it”. Surely it is not fixed workspaces and starting applications from a menu.

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