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Thread: why so much schism?

  1. #1
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    why so much schism?

    Well, that's actually a dumb question. There would be no schism whatsoever if everything hadn't changed with the advent of gnome3. At the end of 2010, there was gnome 2.3 and it was awesome. It was light, attractive and extremely customizable.

    With the introduction of Gnome3, from the very get-go, we had no less than 4 options: Gnome Shell, Unity, Unity 2D, and gnome classic. Despite all of the choice available, many users (myself included) found themselves as desktop refugees, forced from their familiar stomping grounds to new, strange territory where things that used to work didn't work anymore. Things that you used to be able to change, you couldn't change anymore. The Gnome desktop lost virtually all of it's customizability, making simple things like changing your metacity theme nearly impossible.

    In response, the community of users fired back by doing one of two things: either jumping ship and crossing over to another DE like XFCE, KDE, LXDE or Enlightenment. And in turn, devs fired back by creating even more forks and even more division. Practically overnight, we went from Shell, Unity and Fallback, to having Shell, Unity, Fallback, Shell with MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions, now defunct), Cinnamon and MATE. Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

    Each desktop environment has it's own strengths and weaknesses, each one catering to one very specialized portion of the Gnome user base, and seemingly ignoring the rest.

    I will make no bones about it; first of all I have strongly disliked both Gnome Shell and Unity from the start. In my honest opinion they are both poor implementations of what I expect from my desktop. In their defense, they are both continually improving and becoming more stable, faster and generally more usable. But they both sorely lack the customization of Gnome 2, and it seems they have no intentions of ever implementing it, adopting a "This is what our desktop is" policy, akin to the WYSIWYG lack of customization in Windows and OSX without the use of third party software.

    I have tried and also strongly dislike MGSE when they were around, Cinnamon and MATE. My issues with all of the above is that they are all essentially the same thing. And yet none of them are terribly good at any one thing.
    In my opinion, MATE, a fork of the old Gnome 2 desktop built on top of Gnome 3, while a valiant effort will eventually run its course. As Gnome 3 diverges further from the Gnome 2 codebase, eventually porting MATE will become impossible, or at least very resource prohibitive. We've already seen this happen with Trinity, a port of KDE3 in response to KDE4 and Trinity, although it enjoyed a brief meteoric rise to prominence with the release of KDE4, it has rapidly fallen in obscurity. Practically no one uses it anymore. And history will repeat itself in the case of MATE. MATE enjoys a niche market at the moment, but will eventually go the way of Trinity, Pet Rocks, Disco and Dinosaurs in my honest opinion.

    Call me a purist, but I don't believe that any fork of the Gnome desktop is bound to gain any kind of permanence in the long run, and such diversions from the rest of the Gnome ecosystem are ultimately hurtful to the Linux cause. Instead of working together as a united community to make one great desktop environment, it seems that everyone is hellbent on forking dozens of mediocre ones. Without trying to start a flame war, make no mistake: I include Unity in that category as well. Although Unity is inextricably part of the Ubuntu brand identity now and it is probably not going anywhere, Unity's existence is ultimately hurtful to the Gnome community, not that Canonical cares -- they want to Ubuntu to by synonymous with Linux.

    Personally, I am a user of the good old fallback session. It has certainly had it's growing pains since the release of Gnome 3, but today is really is stable, every bit as light as XFCE4, and albeit only through the use of increasingly confusing Gconf and Dconf settings or conversely with the use of third party tools like Gnome Tweak Tool and Ubuntu Tweak, I can get back to something resembling the work flow I had with Gnome 2.

    And just when I thought there could be no more schism in our already fractured little community, there are two relatively new projects that have caught my eye; Elementary OS and the SolusOS Consort Desktop.

    Both Elementary OS and Consort are yet more examples of unnecessary forks of Gnome 3. The reason why Elementary has caught my eye is because of how many things it is doing right. The focus, from the ground up is on beautiful, homogeneous design and simplicity. Every app that is part of the Elementary desktop (called Pantheon) uses a specialized window manager, cohesive system wide theme and key design elements. But what EOS lacks is flexibility. But then again, they aren't trying to be Ubuntu, or Windows or OSX. Their aim is to provide a simple, elegant and uniform user experience, something that has always been sorely lacking from even the most robust Linux distributions.

    Consort Desktop is much closer to the upstream code of Gnome 3, originally starting out as a collection of patches to some key Gnome fallback elements, but over time they have diverged enough to where maintaining the patches became cumbersome enough to warrant yet another fork of Gnome code. Immediately, my knee jerk response is to groan and just go back to using my Frankenstein Gnome Classic desktop and just wait until this all blows over.

    But Consort isn't just another fork. There are so many things that Solus OS (the distro that Consort is part of) does right. First of all, Consort ditches both Mutter and Compiz along with all their bugs, instability and CPU punishing glut, in favor of extending Metacity's lithe and fast compositing capabilities with modern features like window snapping (grid plugin on Compiz, built in feature on Kwin, part of Windows core functionality since the release of Windows 7).

    Yes, both Elementary and Solus have managed to catch my eye. Not to the point of warranting a permanent distro hop, but certainly enough to throw each on virtualbox and kick the tires. Ultimately, I'll be sticking with Ubuntu and Gnome Fallback with a simple Compiz configuration for the foreseeable future. In the long run I think that despite what they may offer to the community, most of these desktops are just a fad. A few years from now when the dust settles, I sincerely hope that the ideas and developments from each of these little projects can be neatly folded back into the upstream Gnome ecosystem and we can once again have a united front, without all of the schism. Because right now, Gnome 3 feels like development in any one unifying direction has come to a screeching halt, and development and design decisions are being made not necessarily based on what is best for Gnome or the community, but based on personal agendas and a stubborn refusal to admit that what we have right now simply doesn't work.

  2. #2
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    Re: why so much schism?

    Have you every tried to live in a house with major construction going on? Perhaps a kitchen remodel. It's very disruptive. Now try to live in that same house when the roof is being replaced and the foundation is being replaced at the same time.

    That seems to be the current state of affairs. And I thought 2013 was going to be the "Year of Linux on the Desktop."

    And although I agree with most of what you say, I have put Linux Mint Mate 14 on 3 desktops and a laptop and it seems to be running fine.
    Last edited by tgalati4; February 2nd, 2013 at 03:45 AM.
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  3. #3
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    Re: why so much schism?

    I use and love Gnome 3. Isn't it wonderful we have so many options? Linux is all about choice.

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    Re: why so much schism?

    Thread moved to Recurring Discussions.


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  5. #5
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    Re: why so much schism?

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    And although I agree with most of what you say, I have put Linux Mint Mate 14 on 3 desktops and a laptop and it seems to be running fine.
    I'm not saying that MATE is a bad desktop. Far from it -- in all reality it is probably the BEST desktop available at the moment because it offers a Gnome 2 workflow in a modern Gnome 3 environment. I'm just saying that give it 3 or four years and MATE will probably be a fading memory. And if the Gnome Devs have any common sense whatsoever, they will collaborate with the MATE devs to bring back some of the sorely missed functionality of Gnome 2 to the Gnome 3 desktop, but as I said about personal agendas and such, everyone along the line seems to be too stubborn to admit that many design decisions that were made are simply poor decisions:

    1) Windows have three buttons - Close, Minimize and Maximize.

    2) Changing metacity, icon and GTK themes should not require use of the command line or third party software.

    3) Regardless of how efficiently the desktop screen space is utilized, NO ONE LIKES HAVE TASKBAR/DOCK ON THE SIDE OF THE SCREEN.

    4) Throwing the Compiz baby out with the Gnome 2 bath water in favor of the all new, buggy and unstable Mutter was a really poor design decision. Consumers as a rule will value form over utility virtually 100% of the time, and that is purely a scientific economical truth. Just look at Apple products. There is nothing particularly amazing about them, but they look pretty. They cost twice as much as the equivalent PC or Android device and yet people wait in line for days to spend their hard earned money on Apple branded hardware. Eye candy sells, and currently Linux has none. It died when Compiz was abandoned by Gnome 3 and now is limping along as a sad footnote to Unity.

    5) Touch screen interfaces work on tablets and phones. They don't work on desktops. Period.

  6. #6
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    Re: why so much schism?

    Your passion for the future of Gnome shines through. Did you know the Gnome project is actively recruiting volunteers? This is your opportunity to put your design/usability ideals into reality.

  7. #7
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    Re: why so much schism?

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    And I though 2013 was going to be the "Year of Linux on the Desktop."
    You mean "Year of the Linux Desktops" plural. Right now we have Unity, Gnome Shell, Gnome Fallback, XFCE, KDE, Cinnamon, MATE, E17, Flux/Open/Blackbox, LXDE, Ice/Jwm, Consort, Pantheon, Razor QT, etc. And then we've got some REALLY off the wall stuff like running XBMC without an underlying desktop, or running Chrome/Chromium OS on top of our distro-du-jour. It seems like you can't turn around without coming across another developer who thought their talents would be best utilized by creating yet another incomplete niche desktop, or worse creating yet another Ubuntu based distro to clog up the Internet with. Everyone would truly be better off if we had ONE distro and three, maybe four DEs. Gnome Shell, Gnome Classic, KDE4 and XFCE would be fine, but instead we have a new one popping up every week it seems.

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    Re: why so much schism?

    Quote Originally Posted by snowpine View Post
    Your passion for the future of Gnome shines through. Did you know the Gnome project is actively recruiting volunteers? This is your opportunity to put your design/usability ideals into reality.
    I sincerely wish I had the time and the knowledge to help. I'm a Computer Science Major and I'll be finishing my AAS this summer. After which I'll be pursuing a Bachelors in software engineering. Nothing would make me happier than to be able to earn a living contributing to the Linux community.

  9. #9
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    Re: why so much schism?

    The rest of us will have to muddle through somehow until you are ready to show us the way someday.

  10. #10
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    Re: why so much schism?

    Quote Originally Posted by tgalati4 View Post
    I though 2013 was going to be the "Year of Linux on the Desktop."
    LOL, when was the last time that a year was not predicted to be "Year of the Linux Desktop"?
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