Thursday, 7 April 2011

Gnome Shell 3.0 Release

The much-delayed Gnome 3.0 with Shell is available!

Difficult to know where to start. It's so late, so criticised already that it's hard to talk about it without sounding like a grouch. But simply applauding the fact that the developers got it finished isn't the right reaction either.

I can't get onto the Gnome 3 PPA right now to run it, such is the pent-up demand. The PPA for .deb packages is hosted by Canonical, which is gracious, given the flame-wars and flak of late between Canonical and some of the Gnome Desktop team. But be warned code in this PPA is posted as unstable until at least April 28th.

There's an instant face-off between the Unity Launcher fans and Gnome-Shell fans. To cherry-pick some of the comparisons...
Gnome Shell doesn't come off well. I haven't tried it in six months or so simply because it still doesn't address most of the concerns I had with it then - like not working on some of my graphics cards or VM's, which, by the way, it still won't!

Issues include:
  • It's still based on Mutter which will break other things in Ubuntu (including Unity, so no side-by-side installs)
  • Default display doesn't hold a whole lot of information at all compared to Gnome-2; panel applets are gone so I can't monitor anything "at a glance" in Gnome-3, tell what programs are currently running and how many windows are open or even tell some programs apart because the screenshots in preview look too similar.

    Measuring how many clicks or gestures, screen real-estate and mouse travel, it is more difficult to do things in Gnome 3 than in 2.
  • Launching applications is inconsistent. In the dock, it's two clicks, if not in the dock, it's a stack of clicks and/or searches. This is madness.
  • Computer interfaces aren't intuitive, as a non-technical friend of mine keeps telling me. Howver, Gnome-3 seems even less intuitive than just about anything I can think of except my old Motorola dumb-phone. Gnome-3 seems full of  UI elements now hidden and/or not easily deduced how to operate when found.
  • Lack of customization. If you think Unity is locked down, try Gnome-3. At least you can theme Unity. Gnome Shell in 3 forces me, the user, to comply with it's way of doing things.
  • Performance Gnome-3 was taking twice the RAM of Gnome-2 on the same machine and ran slower than Gnome-2 with Compiz. Apparently it still does. Not one for legacy kit, then.
Some folks like that they cleaned up and modernized the interface, keeping stuff out of the way that isn't needed. I couldn't think of a decent reason to use it before and I can't now. RC

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