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The future of GNOME (gnome.org)
118 points by bergie on July 31, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

GNOME 3 is a really great, well integrated (if not particularly innovative) desktop environment. Unfortunately, it broke existing workflows, which led to a great deal of criticism on its release. Had GNOME 3 had been a new, unrelated product rather than the next version of GNOME, there would be, if not more excitement about it, at least less criticism.

Making radical changes to an incumbent system is difficult and often thankless, even when the new version is, if not objectively better than the previous, very good. Apple encountered this with the transition to OS X. Anyone who remembers the "Classic" environment can attest to how poorly this transition was perceived by many Mac fans. Microsoft has a real problem on its hands trying to convince users that Windows 8 is better than Windows 7.

Ultimately, GNOME 3 feels like a much better designed environment than the previous version. For those that tried an early release and gave up on it, I'd encourage you to go back and try it again.

Of course there'd be less criticism if Gnome 3 were a new project. If it were a new project, everyone content with using Gnome 2 would've been able to safely ignore it. Gnome 2 was boring and mediocre, but it worked. Gnome 3 is still worse in many ways than Gnome 2, and--as you said yourself--has not done anything particularly innovative.

It's one thing to go through the pain of a major version transition to make something substantially better, but Gnome 3 hasn't done that. I just read through the release notes for the 3.0, 3.2, and 3.4 releases of Gnome to confirm that I wasn't missing anything, and can find literally nothing that actually makes my life significantly better. When you're making major, breaking changes, you need to be able to justify them. As a user, Gnome 3 has done nothing at all to justify the many hours I spent trying (and failing) to get Gnome 3 to a point where it wasn't actively painful to use. (And reading posts like this gives me no confidence that it's going to get any better.)

I get where you're coming from, but I'm curious how you can evaluate a desktop environment from release notes. To me, GNOME 3 is a clear demonstration of the difference between features and design. Rather than adding new features, it focuses on making them fast and easy to use. I'm not saying GNOME 3 is perfect or for good for everyone, but I don't think it can be evaluated by its feature list.

For the record, I do think GNOME 3 is "substantially better" than previous versions, but I also understand that this is in no way an objective measure and it's perfectly reasonable for us not to hold the same opinion here.

I'm not evaluating it from the release notes--I was rereading them to make sure I wasn't just missing some major improvements I just hadn't noticed while using it. I don't think it's well designed at all, and it's certainly not polished at all, which is an important part of good design.

I suspect that most of the major changes have been on the back end, and that it is a substantially better platform to develop on. Unfortunately, that doesn't affect me at all as a user. I want to be able to run terminals and a web browser and not much else (and I don't think I'm alone in that), and so making Gnome a better environment to develop against is unlikely to make my life any better in the foreseeable future.

I second your feedback on gnome. I finally gave up on Ubuntu about 2 days ago because I persisted with gnome 3 for far too long. It makes simple things easier but everything else much harder. I used to tell windows users why I preferred Ubuntu: 3 logical menus/auto sorted apps, clear separation between settings and administration. Then I was lumbered with this "kids toy" for tablets that made everything less clear (except the few pinned apps).

In this instance, Ubuntu lost me to mint Linux. I expect a similar backlash against Windows 8, although for slightly different reasons.

Enough is enough. Goodbye gnome 3 and Ubuntu.

Ummm... I thought Ubuntu was on Unity, not Gnome 3?

I think this is actually the source of a lot of unfounded hatred for Gnome 3. People aren't always fully aware that Ubuntu is not actually using Gnome Shell, and have instead created their own project, Unity, that just happens to use Gnome for the toolkit. Unity is completely separate from Gnome Shell, and works in quite a different fashion.

I've personally been a huge fan of Gnome 3 and Gnome Shell, and I still think Unity is a terrible, ugly mess. But because many still think that Ubuntu is just using Gnome, they project their distaste for Unity onto Gnome 3 instead of where it belongs...

So I went from MacOS X Lion to Gnome 3, and I have to say, it felt like a positive step -- Lion broke my model of multiple monitors and fullscreen applications; Gnome 3 has a different model to Gnome 2, which I think has been frustrating to people, but straight off the bat, it was better than Lion.

> I just read through the release notes [...] can find literally nothing that actually makes my life significantly better.

So you've never used it, yet feel the need to coment on its features anyway? Try it. Some things, like the dynamic vertically stacked desktops, simple and attention-grabbing notification UI, and clean overview mode (and even the autohiding status bar, which I hated initially but have grown to like), are actually really nice. Yet they aren't going to look very impressive if your only "experience" with them is screenshots and release notes.

It's good. It broke a lot of stuff, and so many people will forever hate it. And it still has bugs (my biggest pet peeve is that being in the overview mode breaks all the desktop keyboard shortcuts) and misfeatures (app-based window selection will never work for me, though the traditional alt-tab mode is now a well-supported extension). But it's good.

Try it for a few weeks, learn it, then come back and flame.

Please actually read what I've written before making assumptions. I have used Gnome 3 for many months and found it to be a step backward in almost every way from Gnome 2.

I read through the release notes to confirm that I wasn't missing anything important in my own use--which I noted in the part of the quoted sentence you excised. I also said, in the same comment you're replying to, that I spent many hours trying to get Gnome 3 to a point where I found it an acceptable desktop environment, and failed.

100% agreed. Although I'm still having a hard time with Alt-~ (Mac-style "switch windows" not apps), I'm very happy with Gnome 3. The number of keystrokes and inches of mouse travel have been greatly reduced over Gnome 2.

The lack of a Start-like menu was initially off-putting, but I've grown to appreciate the lack of that bit of complexity. 99% of the time I run: Chrome, terminal(s), Skype, Pidgin and WebStorm/PyCharm, so I don't need to fiddle with settings or wonder about where in a menu an application resides. When I do need to find an app, the action button and search are perfect.

The only thing I miss in Gnome 3 are the many taskbar plugins that show mem/processor usage, but those will come. Otherwise, Gnome 3 does a great job getting out of my way while I do my work.

Yes. Exactly that. Thanks.

I think this is currently a big missed opportunity for Gnome 3. The ability to extend the shell using JS is huge and the project has done a terrible job publicizing it. I was just googling around for it and had fairly hard time finding good, official docs on how to build an extension... If they dialed that in and got the GitHub crowd excited, they'd have a vibrant community in little time.

EDIT: Wow. The one click install from Chrome and auto activation is really nice. I clicked the link, approved the extension install (system dialog) and, BOOM!, pretty charts and graphs!

Yep, this is a major part of GNOME3 that most people haven't yet noticed. Thanks to it being done in JavaScript, you can hack your desktop like a web app: https://cannonerd.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/hack-gnome3-like-...

This includes stuff like reload (Alt-F2 r) and a reasonably nice data inspector (Alt-F2 lg).

lg is much more than just a data inspector, it's a full-blown REPL. The fact that you can jump in and interactively eval code directly in the running process is huge and opens things up to a whole new level of hackability.

And there is a DBUS interface for it, so you can even push code into the shell from external processes.

The js extensions are fantastic. It's a real shame there is little (no?) documentation to help people get started.

Wow! I had no idea there were so many extensions available already. I had kind of assumed Gnome 3 was so young that none were available yet.

They definitely should publicise these more.

I actually filed a bug a while back about the annoying Alt-` behavior: https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=661119 . The AlternateTab extension (https://extensions.gnome.org/extension/15/alternatetab/) has matured a lot since it was first released, and it now fulfills my needs, so perhaps you should take a look at it, too.

Does it do focus-follows-mouse (AKA, sloppy focus) right?

EDIT: I'm speaking from my experience with Unity, where you could enable sloppy focus with the gconf-editor, but it caused various kinds of wigging out and wonkiness with Unity (probably why there's no easy way to enable sloppy focus).

I tried gnome 3 for a few minutes once, and got the feeling it would probably have similar problems with focus-follows-mouse, and that's probably why there's no easy way to enable it there either.

I use focus follows mouse and it works pretty great. There are a few circumstances where Openbox's focus follows mouse mode is more finely tuned (for instance, when un-maximizing a window, the window under the cursor receives focus instead of keeping it on the window that you just unmaximized); overall it works really well.

One thing the gnome3 guys are doing is putting application menu stuff up in the task bar (window-specific menus will remain in the app window), but when focus-follows-mouse is enabled, the app-menu will remain in the menu-bar instead of up in the panel.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "right" way, but it doesn't do focus-follows-mouse by default, I don't think. You can use Gnome Tweak Tool (https://live.gnome.org/GnomeTweakTool/) to enable it, though.

    gsettings set  org.gnome.desktop.wm.preferences focus-mode 'sloppy'

Sometimes new version is actually better and the uproar is just resistance to change (which is 100% understandable and legit). Other times the uproar is the result of resistance to change combined with the fact, that the new version is actualy worse. It's hard to distinguish between these two.

Gnome Shell feels overdesigned. I just can't used to it. It draws too much attention to itself instead of getting out of the way. Classical Win7/Gnome2-like panel + exposé would be much better.

This is interesting, because my impression was completely opposite. Gnome Shell hides all unnecessary visual clutter (panels, menus, launchers, indicators, desktop icons) leaving just a simple monochromatic bar on the top. It's hard to come up with a design cleaner than that.

I do like a great deal of Gnome Shell, but what they very badly broke is when you have more than one of a certain window. I always have several terminals, and on my dual screen desktop have two browser windows, two emacs windows, two eclipse windows (one on each screen).

Gnome Shell really doesn't help in that scenario, nor does Unity when I tried it. (And Unity's app menu is obnoxious.) A taskbar has been the best UI solution found so far, although hopefully someone can improve on that.

The people most likely to be seriously inconvenienced by the poor multiple window handling are the ones most likely to be able to moan about it.

Gnome 3.4 doesn't let you use Gnome Shell with the "classic" Panel they provide. More annoying for me is if you use a classic session and try to put a panel on the left then it draws the text vertically which is almost unreadable. Modern screens have far more horizontal space available so why won't it go wider and draw horizontally?

Alt-` allows you to switch between windows of a single app, or you can install an extension from http://extensions.gnome.org that will give you the old style of Alt-tab behavior again.

I don't use keystrokes to switch between windows. I look at the list of the windows in the "taskbar" and directly click on the one I want. However I do use keystrokes to switch workspaces.

Switching from a current emacs to the 6th terminal window isn't particularly practical for me using keystrokes (ymmv). I also drag and drop items in the taskbar so they are in the order that makes sense for me.

I gave up on extensions because they kept breaking, and of course the moment there is a gnome version change they all stop working.

Fair enough. I generally tend to use something like tmux or multiple tabs in a single terminal window, or two windows at maximum, so I can definitely understand the limitations for you there. Something that I have picked up from using a Mac at work is using the Super key to bring up the expose-like overlay to find the window I'm looking for if it's not just a quick alt-tab or alt-` away.

On my laptop I do use multiple terminal tabs because there is so much less screen area. When there are zero or one instance of a particular app/window then the expose like functionality in Gnome Shell is great.

As I mentioned it would be great to be able to use the panel for the many instance apps and shell for the single instance ones but that isn't an option with Gnome 3.4. With Gnome 3.2 that is how I was doing things, but the panel wasn't part of gnome and instead there were several done as extensions each with its own quirks and breakages.

I also don't use Gnome Shell on my laptop for battery savings instead opting for the panel without 3d effects and not using compositing in the window manager. I want as few CPU/GPU cycles as possible spent on the laptop.

Couldn't agree more.

If I could say anything to the Gnome3team:

"I used gnome 3 shell for 6 months until I could no longer stand it. Please please, Gnome team, go back to Gnome2 or Mate. The desktop really doesn't need reinventing. You're solving fixed problems!"

Unfortunately, I don't know how well the open source adopts the philosophical concept of sunk costs.

> The desktop really doesn't need reinventing.

I'm surprised people think this. Do you think we're going to still be using the Windows 95 model in 10 years?

Sure, the relative importance of the desktop will diminish as other forms of input become viable, but we're not there yet. I still do 95% of my work in a desktop environment with multiple windows and everything, just like I did 10 years ago. The difference is that the desktop environments I have access to now are better than the ones I had then. I hope that trend continues.

We're still fundamentally using the PARC Alto model.

We've got windows. We've got keyboards. We've got mice. In some cases we've now got multi-touch keypads and touch-sensitive screens. Some screens are very large. Some are very small. Some are in-between.

There have been some improvements: processors are vastly faster, pixel densities are increasing, and rendering has improved. We've got some hacks for displaying fonts more clearly. But those are pretty minor. Compiz effects if you want to get flashy, but those are hardly necessary.

I've seen master developers completely satisfied, and massively proficient, in hacked-up twm environments.

Really: the desktop is a solved problem. Move on.

I've looked at many of the "modern" desktops. And I'm still using the same one I was using 15 years ago: WindowMaker, based on NeXTstep. It's simple, it's fast, it's light, it's stable. It's not visually distracting. It gets out of the way. It supports keyboard shortcuts and navigation. It presents me with persistent pinnable window lists (something no other window manager / desktop environment provides me) and pinnable submenus.

What the desktop developers for GNOME, Unity, Microsoft, et al are forgetting is Anoine de Saint Exupery's dictum: perfection comes not when there is nothing left to add, but nothing left to take away. There's an implied "and what is left is sufficient to the task at hand".

I don't think the desktop needs reinvention. Enhancements and modernizations are great but our workflows are so refined at this point the cost of reinvention is ridiculously high. If you take away something that works for the user and replace it with something new they better be sure it's so much better the users are willing to throw away existing workflows and experience. I've yet to see anything that would justify throwing it all away. Within the constrains of keyboard/pointer input on a 2D display it's going to be tough to make that huge leap forward. I suspect the next big leap forward will be AI advanced enough to just eliminate the need for these carefully crafted workflows. If I could tell my computer what I wanted to achieve and let it sort out the workflow I wouldn't care as much about the UI. Even then I would still need a classic desktop interface available for tasks too complex to explain to the computer -- or too complex for it to figure out on its own.

> our workflows are so refined at this point

Whose workflows and at what point? Do we think the children born today will be satisfied with GNOME 2 (or GNOME 3 for that matter)? I agree that we're playing fast and loose with the definition of "reinvention" here (and that GNOME 3 is clearly not a reinvention of anything--to be fair, he started it!), but I think there's room for better than incremental improvements in all facets of computing, including the desktop.

That's true. GNOME is a lot closer to a modernization than reinvention. Windows 8, pure Metro, is definitely closer to a reinvention. I'm not too worried about the future generations because if we have a very good tools for the job they will stay relevant. For example way more people are using vi today than they did back in 1976. It has evolved and stood the test of time because it's a good tool. An evolved traditional desktop UI may be with us for much longer than anyone thinks is possible.

For workflows I just think of some complex things I do that may end up being a 30-40 step process with tons of key presses and clicks. It's probably way more complex than it needs to be but I know it so well that I use the complexity to my advantage. So for example I know step 15 is a good spot to do a backup because step 16 might be a destructive process. The granularity this offers is so powerful. If I could replace it with a 10 step process I might lose the granularity. If I replace it with a new 30-40 step process it wouldn't really benefit me.

The success of this reinvention hinges on being able to attract the next generation of hackers. The future belongs to them and they should be encouraged to invent is as they see fit. The risk is that throwing away the existing way of doing things pushes away people who are active contributors and have know how about the codebase. So far the desktop is losing because the next generation of talent seems to be fixated on the web stack at this point.

That fixation will change. We're seeing a resurgence of the server-terminal paradigm that was popular in a bygone era.

People enjoy the idea of not having to sync their data because it's all "on the cloud" (eyeball roll) and because they have a 3G modem.

Sooner or later that enthusiasm will fizzle out.

Do you think we're going to still be using the Windows 95 model in 10 years?

Maybe. We used the command-line model for 25+ years before that.

We still do, for suitable values of 'we'.

That's the '+' :)

> Do you think we're going to still be using the Windows 95 model in 10 years?

I sure hope so. It's ideal for laptops and desktop PCs, or at least none of the alternatives are good enough.

Are the alternatives worse, or are they just different? Obviously anything sufficiently different enough to be called disruptive is going to throw off your workflow. The mitigating factor in how much anyone is going to like change is how quickly they can adapt to the change. If the answer is never (or a long time), the change stops being relevant (think Dvorak keyboard). If the answer is reasonably quickly, you find a sliding scale of market penetration between trackball mice and computers that print stdout to screens instead of paper.

The question is, is the desktop metaphor still a good one? I would argue it never was good, just necessary. My question is, why do I have to move my mouse here and there to get things done on a desktop? Why is it so painful to use a laptop trackpad to get here and there with any accuracy? Newer window managers try to mitigate that by removing the need for a mouse altogether. That's a step in the right direction, I think.


Don't take my word for it, this is a falsifiable statement. Run usability studies on both novice and experience users with different desktop models and metaphors.

Ensure that you're not just testing initial impressions, but usability after a week, a month, a quarter, a year.

I've used Windows, Macs, and multiple Linux desktops for years on end. Hands down the environment that lets me get the most done with the minimum of hassle and interference is Linux.

My desktop (used on both traditional PCs and laptops) minimizes mousing actions by maximizing keyboard inputs to perform work and manage my GUI).


My favorite DE/WM is one where I don't have to click on a shortcut to launch an application. So in Gnome 2... well you can install Gnome-Do, but out of the box that fails. Gnome 3/Unity, just hit Super and type. Done. Windows Vista/7, hit Windows and type. Done. OSX has a similar feature from what I hear. There really is nothing more I need from a WM, everything else is value-add. The entire purpose of a desktop is to get me between applications.


- Hit F2 to invoke run dialog, type command (I've substituted gmrun for the default WMaker run dialog which lacks history or command completion).

- Your defined hotkey. I have launchers for terminals, edtiors, web, and mail clients -- stuff I need frequently.

- Menus can be keyboard-driven. F12, and arrow-navigate to your desired item.

You can do the same in GNOME.

Pinnable window menus? Really?

The desktop really doesn't need reinventing

The problem is that the devices where the traditional WIMP interface make the most sense (desktop & laptop PCs) are on track to become a small niche in the overall computing landscape, thanks to the wild growth in mobile and tablet computing. While desktops and laptops aren't going to disappear anytime soon, they're not where the action is.

So if you're a maker of an operating environment, you can stick with an interface that's highly optimized for desktops and laptops, but that severely reduces the relevance of your work.

It's like choosing to make an operating environment today that only runs on IBM mainframes. Those mainframes exist, they're still out there, and you can still make money selling software for them; but that choice makes your product irrelevant to the vast majority of computer users today. And when you slot yourself into a niche, you can never grow larger than the niche you've slotted yourself into. If you want to be an industry leader, you have to be playing in the same space where the users are; you can't get any further back in the parade than the middle.

All the significant commercial developers of traditional WIMP environments today (which means Microsoft, Apple, and Canonical) are struggling with how to make this transition -- to stay relevant on the desktop while also extending themselves into the tablet/mobile realm. It's a big challenge, and it's not clear at this point that any of them have figured out how to do it yet. But they have to do it to stay viable as mass-market vendors.

I would imagine the pressure to make that transition is even greater on open-source projects like GNOME. If you're a commercial player stuck in a niche, that's not necessarily a bad outcome if the niche is at least profitable. But open-source development is driven more by developer ambition. Developers want to work on hot new projects that lots of people will use, not old stable projects for niche audiences. In a commercial environment you can salve their disappointment at being stuck with the boring old projects somewhat with cash and perks. That's less true in FOSS development. So the talent flees your ecosystem to go work on things that are more fun, and you slowly die by inches.

The thing is, GNOME has always been an interface that's highly optimized for desktops and laptops. If they wanted to come up with a new interface for tablets and mobile, they should have done it with a separate project.


Do people honestly see long-time LINUX users dumping their laptops / Desktops for Tablets / Smartphones?

I really don't get the pull for "unified" interfaces. It doesn't make sense. I don't do the same things on my mobile devices that I do on desktop / laptops. Not. At. All.

There is no reason to Unify them. The closest thing I could see is similar interfaces, with features useful on both included, but otherwise different.

Do people honestly see long-time LINUX users dumping their laptops / Desktops for Tablets / Smartphones?

GNOME/Fedora and Ubuntu are not targeting long-time Linux users. They are targeting people who have never used Linux.

So why not start a whole new project, instead of dumping the most successful of previous projects?

I don't get what you mean.

GNOME 3? A new project was started; mutter and gnome-shell.

You say that starting a new project is better than dumping other projects. So I guess you want people not only to start something new, but also keep maintaining their old things? It seems a bit strange to me.

In case of GNOME 3, gnome-panel and metacity are still available.

> The desktop really doesn't need reinventing.

There's certainly plenty of room for improvement though. I can remember trying Window managers 10 years back, and workspaces - and thinking how great they were. And how they were a refreshing change. Gnome shell sounded really promising in the early days. Challenge existing paradigms by all means.

My powerbook with OSX 10.4 died just before Xmas. And despite it's age it still beats a lot of the current offerings. Raise the bar.

If you don't like the direction that Gnome team is pushing (ie Gnome3), why would you ever want them to go to the projects you like (ie Mate)?

It's a fair question. It has to do with the amount of community support momentum Gnome has (which Mate has yet to achieve). I was hugely impressed with Gnome2 when I first came to Linux. I've only found OpenBox to be as useful for me. My worry is that Mate will go the way of some of the other interesting desktop innovations like FluxBox--fragmented and disorganized.

The GNOME team really doesn't get it.

When you've got your own people, tons of power users, ordinary users, and key kernel devs telling you you've gone astray, something's wrong. What we're seeing is fortress mentality and hunkering down. Wrong move.

Ted T'so has commented on his desktop woes at length on G+. I lifted one a reply he made to his own post which I feel gets to the heart of the problem, and what is really necessary for a desktop solution (probably XFCE4 for most people these days). Note that Ted's including both GNOME and KDE in his criticisms:

My concern with KDE is how bloated it's become. I don't want highly integrated applications. My main applications are a terminal, emacs, open office, and the Chrome browser. I do way more with web applications these days. Bloat is bad not just because of the increased disk and ram usage (although I do worry about that); bloat is bad because of the complexity. The more you rely on an Object broker, the more it becomes harder and harder to fix things when they break --- and things do break, with appalling regularity. It's the fact that Xfce and Network-Manager uses D-Bus and PolicyKit which is why I still get asked for my password from time to time even with my localauthority hack. How do I fix it? Who knows?

Unfortunately wicd isn't fully-featured enough, but it has as a huge win the fact that it doesn't use PolicyKit; it just uses a simple Unix group membership check for its access control. Once wicd can handle large numbers of access points with the same wireless network, I'll be removing network manager from my system and using wicd instead, because network manager is just too damn complicated, and relies on too much complex infrastructure which I can't debug because of the !@#@! D-Bus design. KDE is no better in this regard, and in fact it may be worse.

Why don't I use Openbox? It's too simple. For one thing, it doesn't support 3x3 workspaces. At the end of the day, I want a desktop environment that makes the things that I do simple. Which means wireless roaming, the terminal, emacs, open office, and a browser. Anything more than that increases the memory and disk usage, but worse, it means more infrastructure which can break, which means I end up having to debug things like PolicyKit. And that's just not productive time for me. So Xfce seems like the right balance point for now, although it definitely still has some rough edges.


Once again: HN needs a proper blockquote markdown.

That really hits home. What pushed me over the edge in my switch (from GNOME 3 on Fedora 16 to i3 on Debian Testing) was my inability to debug problems with wireless networking. "Modern" linux plumbing like PolicyKit and NetworkManager is complex, fast-moving, and under-documented.

Dbus, PolicyKit and NetworkManager were already used in GNOME 2.x days.

I don't really see how you're quoting this as a good example of why GNOME doesn't "get it", while the situation is exactly the same as 2.x.

The integration of components started getting a lot worse in 3.x.

That said, my situation is much like Ted's. I don't generally use, or find much value in highly and tightly integrated applications. They're misfeatures. Most of my work is in terminal windows, editors, remote access tools, and browsers.

Early in the GNOME and KDE experience, it became very clear that these where complex systems with many moving parts. My distro of choice (Debian) makes using things that need to be updated in lockstep (GNOME's home environment, Red Hat, does this) kind of difficult to sustain. Less so in stable, but very much so in testing/unstable (where I prefer to live).

The systems (KDE and GNOME) keep getting more complex, they keep stripping out more power-user features, they keep getting in my way. Really, I've got little or no need for this.

HN discussion about the piece this is responding to: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4300472

tl;dr: "lalala, we can't hear you, we'll keep doing what we're doing". Looks like I'm not coming back to gnome in the foreseeable future.

I find it amusing how Christian says they moved away from "their" ESD to a standard PulseAudio. ESD was the Enlightenment Sound Daemon (though it may have been maintained by GNOME hackers at the end), and PulseAudio is only "standard" insofar as it was included by default with most distros (i.e. ESD or aRts would have been "standard" under that definition).

KDE at least supports PulseAudio better than ESD but it could as easily have supported ESD if it were necessary, especially if there was as much support from ESD devs as was provided by PulseAudio devs (ESD was already in its nadir before KDE 4.0 thanks to broad usage of gstreamer making ESD redundant for most audio needs).

PulseAudio is used by almost all distributions and GNOME settled on it. ESD was not used by all distributions, furthermore it had bugs and wasn't maintained.

Also, Gstreamer is not the same as PulseAudio.

Nice article and I agree. I have forced myself to use GNOME3 at work and honestly I like it. I think most people criticizing it haven't use it enough. It's a new workflow, and as such, you need some training to get to work as fast (or in this case faster) as before. Just imagine how first mouse users felt. It should have been a horrible experience, but good things last. And IMHO GNOME3 will last. Keep up the good work!

Not to be a "Negative Nancy", but quite a bit speaks against G3's current direction in terms of blog posts and participation.

Especially the latter is easy to verify. Go to their mailinglists and see the level activity, it sure does not look very good. Reading the actual mailinglists gives sometimes a quite disturbing image as well, with a few examples already linked in Mr. Ottes mentioned blog post.

You can see some decrease in the number of contributors: https://www.ohloh.net/p/gnome/contributors/summary

However, note that the current slide in the numbers is something that only happened after February-March 2012, which was when the previous major release was launched. In 2010 another slide lasted from April until October, so I suppose there is a need to worry if contributions don't pick up around Sep-Oct.

That said, the situation for GNOME is certainly different now, given that they lost their biggest distribution channel in Ubuntu doing their own thing.

The number of commits always pick up before a major release and drop off afterwards. If you try to conclude anything from your analysis, please be a bit thorough!

I thought that was exactly what I said in my comment.

Who speaks for the users?

(Or could it be that there aren't any users?)

That's the real issue.

Gnome and Unity are both targeted at some sort of hypothetical casual linux user, that doesn't really exist.

Casual users DO exist, but they want iOS, not Linux - or more generally - an appliance, not a general purpose tool.

This entire conversation is incredibly disappointing. It feels like a giant echo chamber, a handful of people who don't like Unity/Gnome3 who hear each other complaining and assume that means the entire Linux universe feels the same way. Everyone I listen to hates Gnome 3, that must mean everyone hates Gnome 3!

The truth is, there are people who like Unity and there are people who like Gnome 3. You're just not hearing them because the negative types are yelling over top of them. The people who like the new WMs don't have anything to add to this discussion because the entire discussion is about how those people don't exist. I feel like if I mention that I'm using Unity right now and I like it, I feel like I'll be told "no you're not and no you don't, case closed."

You don't like it. We get it. But claiming that these people don't exist seems a little disingenuous when obviously they do or Ubuntu wouldn't be quite such a popular distro. Unless you're suggesting everyone downloads Ubuntu and then immediately installs a different WM?

That is so true. I'm a KDE user and we had a very similar situation with KDE4. OK, 4.0 wasn't usable, we all know that; but 4.1 was really better and by 4.2 it was pretty decent. Nowadays most KDE users agree moving on was a good decision and we have a great desktop.

The people complaining usually are those who were happy with Gnome2 and just want it the way it was. Guess what, nobody erased Gnome2 from existence, and as far as I know it was in maintenance mode anyway, so nothing has changed for them. Use Mate if you prefer it.

And many (like Linus) probably just want a lightweight WM to use CLI, a browser and maybe another application. Guess what, you already have that, and there are several of them to choose.

But many of us want a complete and integrated desktop environment with lots of eye candy, multiple applications with similar look, complex file search, GUI installation and the whole shebang. We don't mind if it takes extra RAM and CPU because we have it. KDE4, Gnome3 and Unity try to give that, and many people do enjoy it, as I assume the developers of those DE's.

We get it, you don't like it. That's fine! You have choice! Just don't assume your opinion is universal, and don't be a dick about it.

i like ssh. i like putty. the linux desktop is a sick joke that's been losing in the marketplace for a decade -- it's not like i like kde better.

to just take an example, the user-friendly way to update Ubuntu linux is

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

try to do it with the GUI and it's a kafka nightmare. sometimes it just hangs up for hours with the progress bar stuck. Installing software on the command line is just

$ sudo apt-get install X

whereas you can screw around forever with the GUI and never find the package you're looking for

Now here I've been calling someone a curmudgeon because they want their old WM back, and someone has to step in and out-neckbeard the parent.

Oh, what's that? You typed apt-get install solitaire? What are you, a fool? What you actually wanted to type was apt-get install xmividev_2_2. It's totally more user-friendly than a GUI.

There were plenty of people who liked AOL too. Does that mean we should still be on dialup?

PS: I've read very, very, few comments, on any site, from people who claim to "like" Unity. At best it's more of a "it's not as bad as everyone says".

I like Unity. I don't like it enough to go on a forum and tell everyone I like it, but then again there are few things I like enough that I feel I have to tell everyone about my enjoyment. The people who talk the loudest are the people complaining, that's how it always is, has been, and forever will be.

When I worked internal tech support I had users call and complain about Windows 7, asking to go back to DOS. These people stood out more than the 90% of users who enjoyed Windows 7 simply because the complainers were motivated enough to complain and curmudgeonly enough to make such a ridiculous request. The difference is, those users were forced to use software they didn't like. That's hardly the case here.

I like Unity. I've used Windows 95, 98 and XP; KDE 3 and 4 and GNOME 2. I prefer Unity to any of them, although I don't think it's perfect. But as others have said, I rarely go into a forum and announce how much I like something.

Unity is the best desktop I've ever used.

Have you used other desktops?

Windows since 3.1 (though I was never an every day user of Vista and 7), OS X pre-Lion, GNOME 2, KDE 3.

OS X has a better combination of desktop quality and application support, but if Unity could magically run OS X apps, I don't think I'd ever use or recommend anything else.

Well, it's tricky. People that are happy with their desktop environment are not particularly likely to go to some site and talk about how good it is. They'll just happily use it.

Never used Unity but I really enjoy Gnome 3, which is pretty similar from what I've seen.

A handful of tweaks and extensions have made it great. Use it every day for work.

> At best it's more of a "it's not as bad as everyone says".

This is the camp I fall in. It's not that I don't mind the new, improved, eye-candy-focused drive of Unity and Gnome3. But why abandon the products that worked to begin with?

unity is what you get by default on ubuntu? if so, i really like it, fwiw (i don't normally bother with threads like this...)

I use gnome3 and gnome-shell every day, I have used linux based distros for something like 13 years now and have used many different desktop paradigms.

After about a year or so of using KDE I switched to Gnome, and then to Blackbox and then Fluxbox and eventually ION.

For me, now that I am accustomed to the various shortcuts and key combinations, gnome3 is amazingly fast to use compared to gnome2 (and any "start menu" based desktop). I really don't know how I could go back! Whenever I have to use a relatives computer it's an incredibly frustrating and slow affair with my hand instinctively flying up to the top left only to find that nothing happens. First thing I do when sitting at my own desk is throwing the mouse pointer (or hitting the "windows" key) and typing "ter" and pressing enter.. terminal appears and work begins..

Gnome3 is open source and Free Software, those who don't like it will move to the gnome2 fork and I am sure will be very happy. You can't force everyone to use (and develop) the desktop that you want, that's the whole point!

"But no one is using it!": well, I think the gnome3 developers are probably using it daily.. and if noone else in the world was a user, maybe they would still be producing it for their own benefit.. would you still ridicule it in that case?

> maybe the time is ripe for us to strenghten our positions in the server and desktop markets?

I always thought GNOME was a desktop system.

Not sure how they plan to take that desktop system and target it as a server platform?

There may be a market for Apple-like Linux server admin tools. http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/07/the-server-simplified-a...

But will people pay for these?

Of course, I meant "market" in the Linux sense. People won't pay for any of this GNOME stuff.

With Midgard we've been using some GNOME libraries like D-Bus and libgda on servers for years. And this will bring the whole set of GNOME libraries to Node.js: http://bergie.iki.fi/blog/node-gir/

Well, they do cover things like video conferencing, which may have a back-end component.

While I agree with the gist of what he says, I disagree with his assessment of Unity. Specifically he compares it with Eazel and Ximian, but I think its different in that it has much more user acceptance, the backing of a much more popular distro, and is much more refined and mainstream than those projects. It won't topple gnome, but it will take much more market share.

It's not clear to me that it really has significantly more user acceptance. Unity was likewise the subject of much criticism, and drove many Ubuntu users away (like me, ironically to Fedora/Gnome3).

What saved Unity, I think, is firstly that it had time to get farther along the development curve before Canonical released it into the wild as the default (where Fedora 15 was shockingly rough around the edges) and second that Ubuntu has become the default development environment for cooking Android images, drawing a bunch of new users who aren't attached to the old Gnome 2 models.

I used GNOME 3 for awhile. Of all the heavy, DE-style desktops, I like GNOME 3. I use Awesome WM more often because it's lighter and saves precious battery on my laptop, but GNOME 3 is zippy and mostly stays out of my way.

As long as you can access a terminal quickly, everything else is really window dressing.

The future of GNOME: http://mate-desktop.org/

This seems to be a common reaction to new major versions. After KDE4 came out people also started their own KDE3 fork: http://www.trinitydesktop.org/about.php

And that was despite KDE4 being much more similar to KDE3 than GNOME 3 is to GNOME 2.

Did you actually look at the commits? They're releasing new versions, but the amount of commits is very low. It seems pretty limited to running source code through lint, updated translations and fixing typo's in stuff that was changed.

Anyway, this is not the future of GNOME. Different projects and all that.

Cinnamon is a better alternative, since it is/will be default on Mint (THE most popular linux distro on distrowatch) and its built on GTK3 and the Gnome3 toolkits - which should be better supported going forward.

Could someone using gnome3 here comment on the status of multi monitor support?

I have my laptop hooked up to two external displays (three displays total) and it works great. Originally in gnome 3, when it came to virtual workspaces your non-primary displays were fixed, but they added an option to allow virtual workspaces on all displays.

Awesome - thanks!

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