GNOME 3 May not Be Designed for You.

Pre-Script: I initially wrote this as an email to some friends, who almost certainly know less about Linux than everybody else who will read this.

Since Fedora released GNOME 3, there has been lots of bickering, like when everybody released KDE 4. (Ubuntu gave up on GNOME and went for “Unity,” which is, in short, built on GNOME 3 but with a different user interface).

This has to be one of my favourites, though:

And from that page, my favourite link is the one from “(We are not designing a desktop for people … ) who want to shutdown their computers from within a GNOME session.”

Yes, seriously. At first, I thought it was a bug, or a one-off thing because I was running Fedora 15 in VirtualBox. But no–you actually can’t power down your computer while you’re logged in.

The best/worst part, or at least the one that worries me the most, is that GNOME and Fedora are intimately linked. Most of the programmers in the Fedora Desktop group are also programmers for GNOME. So like somebody responded on that blog post, if GNOME is going down, Fedora will have a hard time trying to abandon ship.

As for me personally, it doesn’t really matter. Since I started using Linux in 2002, I haven’t used any version of GNOME for longer than a week–it’s always been KDE for me, even through the admittedly tough times of versions 4.0 to 4.2. I don’t think KDE is perfect, but it’s perfect *for me*, and that’s what matters most. To be honest, the fact that it sometimes breaks is something that I need out of my computer, to keep me from something truly stupid, like trying to graft SELinux onto Ubuntu, or boot Fedora 14 from an LVM2 boot partition using GRUB2. Note that my “day job” is “graduate student of music theory,” so SELinux anywhere, as much as I like it, is pretty mysterious. I did succeed with GRUB2, but that’s another story.

But I’m not honestly too worried that GNOME 3 is the beginning of the end. Everybody says stupid things sometimes, including Firefox developers, one of whom recently claimed the Firefox isn’t designed for enterprise deployment (read: “use by corporations”). Besides, saying stupid things, doing stupid things, and getting stupid results are all different aspects of stupidity.

What I’m saying is that I have this sense that everything is going to be a-okay. Why? Look at the most popular operating systems today–and I don’t mean popular by number of users, but popular by “prestige” or “cool factor.” You have Mac OS X, iOS (for iPhone, iPod, and iPad devices), Android (for cell phones), and… yep, that’s about it. Windows is not, and will never be cool, but Apple products are, and it’s because they’re permanently set to “flashy” mode. You can’t customize it unless you really know what you’re doing, so you can’t break it (and make it look silly). You’re permanently stuck with a relatively attractive, but unintrusive, user interface with large icons. Hmm… sounds like GNOME 3.



  1. I don’t agree about why Apple products are cool. I think it is mostly because their propaganda department is very good at brainwashing people (Yeah even I fell into that trap). I had a Mac until recently and it is nothing special. I’d say most Linux desktops, are better than it, especially KDE is way ahead of anything out there. And to think you also get less powerful hardware for more money with Apple you soon start to think if it is a rational buy. What matters is that in Linux freedom really matters and this also means that there are more options to choose from, even when it comes to the desktop. And so it is great you can choose what you like the most. With Apple or Microsoft is their way or the highway. And that also one of the reasons I have in the end switched to Linux.

  2. Hi Guys.

    My name is wasim. I’ve been using Linux for 12-13 years now, first as a dual boot on the one pc i had, then now (on this old MSI VR610 laptop) the only system. I have been running fedora on it since 10. It has been pretty cool, with wifi working “out-of-the-box” since then.

    Major highlights:

    Fedora 10 , wifi working

    Fedora 13: + webcam working

    And now: Skype as long as I set up gnome-sound-mixer properly (google Skype problems

    And GNOME 3!

    Have resisted until now.

    Just did a fresh install of F15 and GNOME 3 … looks very promising so far!

    I loved GNOME 2.3x very much, but im prepared to(potentially) to love this as well

    I’d like to say thanks to all the Fedora Devs for helping me keep away from Windows 7(for now and likely for much longer) on this laptop.

  3. I’ve been a Fluxbox user for some time now; I enjoy how easy it is to tweak things and the workflow meshes with my mind.

    That said, as a Fedora Tester, I do use Gnome 3, as well as XFCE and KDE on a regular basis. Of the three, I like KDE the best, and Gnome 3 is in last. The workflow with it just doesn’t jibe with me very well for some reason. I don’t have any serious complaints about it otherwise. I do think it would be awesome on a tablet.

  4. I also like KDE best, followed by XFCE, and I don’t like the new GNOME 3.

    I hope that some serious consideration is given to the widespread criticism of GNOME 3.

    I also hope that considerable reconsideration is given to the very odd idea that GNOME 3’s bizarre straitjacket approach makes any sense at all in a large-scale community project.

    Please, give GNOME users’ *more* choice, and not the GNOME developers’ minimalist conceptions.

    I would have expected, for instance, XFCE to offer a trade-off between less user choice in order to give better performance, but instead, we have the whacky situation where GNOME 3 demands high quality hardware yet instead gives far less choice.

    As far as I can see, GNOME 3 competes with Windows 3.11 (not even GEM or Windows 95) from a user’s perspective. If that’s not the case, then I believe that it’s the developers’ fault for not making GNOME 3’s functionality more evident, not mine for failing to perceive it.

  5. “You can’t customize it unless you really know what you’re doing, so you can’t break it (and make it look silly). You’re permanently stuck with a relatively attractive, but unintrusive, user interface with large icons. Hmm… sounds like GNOME 3.”

    No, OS X is quite easy to customize and I’ve seen some pretty creative OS X desktops so saying the UI is permanently stuck is a bit of a hyperbole. I mean, sure, it’s not as flexible as what is for Linux but that’s not Apple’s intent and what they have satisfies their user base and new users coming to their platform. GNOME 3, on the other hand, pretty much is stuck. I believe the SweetTooth project is supposed to fix all the gripes people are having about the design decisions around gnome-shell. Though, I wish some GNOME developers would come out and shout ‘the extension system is supposed to fix all this stuff!’

  6. Lots of good comments here, but I feel like I should disagree with the previous post.

    I used OS X 10.4 (non-exclusively) for just over 2 years, and while it’s true that there is more room for customization in OS X than in GNOME 3, I wouldn’t say that “OS X is quite easy to customize.” Of course it’s subjective–if you’re looking for GNOME 2-style customization, OS X will do it no problem. If you’re looking for KDE-style customization, then OS X isn’t the place for you.

    And I don’t really mean to talk about what’s *possible*, but about what’s easily possible. Anyway, I’m making a big deal over nothing at this point.

  7. Windows may not be cool, but is what the huge majority of people are using to get their work done, that’s the computers are for, getting the work done, not wasting time admiring huge pretty icons. The sad state of GNOME 3 is caused exactly by this: Apple envy and tablet envy, instead of catering to the users’ needs.

    With this said, I should acknowledge I would not use OS X even if I would be given an Apple computer for free, is too limited and too locked-down.

  8. I feel awkward while using windows 7 after using gnome 3. Only problem was with ATI catalyst drivers. Customization options are very less in gnome 3 (as of now) unlike gnome 2. There is a tool for limited customization options -> gnome-tweak -tool. Undoubtedly gnome 3 is the greatest and most user friendly(for me) compared to any other alternatives at present in computing world despite its development status. Unity is nowhere user friendly compared to gnome 3.

    Feel like the author did not use gnome3 at all.I am a daily user for past few months.
    Running 2 intel gpu and 1 amd gpu machines using open source drivers and one using nvidia drivers. Repeat that amd catalyst has big problems with gnome 3 unlike opensource drivers which doesnt manage power or temperature of amd gpu’s.
    Hiding shutdown menu option until pressing ALT was not so useful for a newcomer to gnome 3. I have noticed large memory consumption by gnome-shell after long run, and hope that will be rectified soon.

    “Ubuntu gave up on GNOME and went for “Unity,” which is, in short, built on GNOME 3 but with a different user interface”

    Very much inaccurate and misleading statement.
    If you were so much keen on gnome you could have tried various docking apps.

    I could power down the system without logging out.
    (I googled to find that *UI* option)

  9. “Ubuntu gave up on GNOME and went for “Unity,” which is, in short, built on GNOME 3 but with a different user interface”

    This not true, Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 is not based on GNOME 3, only recently it has been ported to GTK 3/GNOME 3.

    And Unity 2D will be based on Qt.

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