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The Great Desktop Switchoff Day 1: Setup and first impressions

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Today was the first day of the the great desktop switchoff. Along for the ride, so far, are Felix ´╗┐Kaechele, and Bert Desmet, both GNOME folks along with Mel. I (for better or worse) appear to be the only KDE guy to switch to GNOME this week.

So, I guess this is the first time I've ever used GNOME as a full desktop past "ohey, me running kwin from trunk broke everything, lemme get into GNOME to fix this." My reactions at first have been a little bit mixed. Unsurprisingly, I have a bit of NIH syndrom about the whole thing, but I guess I'm adapting slowly but surely :^) I've decided that I won't customize GNOME with many of the things that would make it less GNOME-ish, simply to keep with the original challenge, and not try to turn it into some bastardized KDE. :)

I did a simple yum install @gnome-desktop gnome-do-plugins{,-pidgin,-evolution,-firefox,-pidgin} liferea gwibber to get myself up and running.

At first, I was really having trouble with GNOME, and its workflow. The anemic metacity window manager probably doesn't help this any, I guess, and the fact that, as far as I can tell, GNOME overrides my custom compiz config with its own settings only makes things more frustrating. All in all, I'm fairly pleased with the overall GNOME desktop, even if it doesn't fit my usual workflow, which is basically sans-panel and highly reliant on powerful KWin alt-tab, present windows and desktop wall functions. Moving back to a panel-based workflow is an interesting challenge for me, and probably one of the biggest things i have noticed today.

As for applications, my reactions have been mixed. For music I am still using KDE's amazing music player amarok, but all of my other applications are GNOME applications, barring the Firefox web browser, which I staunchly refuse to call a GNOME application :) I have to say that Amarok looks depressing when themed as GTK's clearlooks, but at the same time it's an interesting look at how awesome Qt is at cross platform integration. It's too bad that KDE disables some of those integrations for GNOME as it could really help create those jumping grounds for GNOME and other desktops' users to jump to KDE. I have battled with getting GNOME to do the same thing in the past, and it's resulted in ugly hacks and, quite frankly, ugly solutions such as gtk-qt-engine, kgtk and other such LDPRELOAD hacks which don't really "feel right." Granted, KDE disables the Qt GTK file dialog emulation, and the button modes, but having a nicely working UI theme usually works enough.


Panels? All that wasted space!

I must say that the quality of GNOME applications comes and goes, though. I'm not overtly impressed with the UI of gwibber and its merging of multiple timelines into one and its apparent lack of notifications, for example. Oh and don't even get me started on GScribble :) If anyone has a suggestion on a better wordpress desktop client for GNOME, please let me know. I'd go into all the reasons I don't like GScribble, but small children wouldn't be able to read my post :^) Also a BIG wtf on unlabelled buttons-that-don't-look-like-buttons-until-mouseover which severely alter an application's usability. Evolution's work online/offline button…. I'm looking at YOU.


See that little "plug" thing in the bottom left. yeah that button heavily modifies Evolution's usability :)

As for the vast differences in memory usage that GNOME users claim to see, I have seen no such things. The only real difference is probably nepomuk CONSTANTLY rebuilding its index since I had to delete it in the move to Virtuoso 6. Without nepomuk and virtuoso running, the memory usage is just about identical. A desktop with quite a few applications is going to run at about 2GiB of RAM used regardless of whether the applications are Qt or GTK based. Now, as for apparent speed, GNOME's UI feels, in general, more snappy but far less usable, imo. I think KDE's biggest pitfall for me is the slow start up time of some applications which, for whatever reason, appear less laggy than on KDE. The positioning of buttons, and general non-configurability of the user interface basically makes it worse off in terms of how fast I can use it, though. Also, Preferences being under Edit == BIG WTF.

Overall, I'm not exactly pleased with my current set up, and rebuilding it after reboot if GNOME's session manager doesn't save it should be ahem fun, but for now, I'm mostly content. Just gotta find a better notification system than guifications for Pidgin. Tomorrow we head off to class to see how well GNOME fits the use of my equally strange tablet and note taking and document viewing workflow.

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Ryan Rix is a privacy rights advocate and net-art wannabe. Reach them on the Fediverse as @rrix@cybre.space, twitter as @rrrrrrrix, via email to ryan@whatthefuck.computer or on Facebook or on Matrix as @rrix:whatthefuck.computer.