Tag Archives: gnome

Banshee Contributors

Add Andrew Con­kling [to our list of con­trib­u­tors] — he has done so much work for so long in Bugzil­la, should have been list­ed here long ago.

[ban­shee] Revi­sion 4414.

It’s not why I help out, but it is nice to be rec­og­nized. Thanks Gabriel!

It’s real­ly very sat­is­fy­ing to con­tribute to the Ban­shee project, even if it’s not code. Part of my moti­va­tion is to help out the devel­op­ers so they can focus on devel­op­ment itself, but it’s also been a good way for me to get my foot in the door while I work on my edu­ca­tion. I cer­tain­ly plan on (one day) being able to con­tribute my own code to Ban­shee and some oth­er projects.

In the mean­time, I’m enjoy­ing the ride. :)

GTK+ is not GNOME’s

So I read this arti­cle this morn­ing on work on GNOME opti­miza­tion and they men­tion the “GNOME file choos­er”. Lo and behold, they actu­al­ly mean the GTK+ file­choos­er, some­thing avail­able in any GTK+ appli­ca­tion, not just in GNOME’s. Per­haps it’s a pedan­tic dis­tinc­tion, but I think it’s an impor­tant one. Lin­ux users should have a clear descrip­tion of how things work (not to say that said descrip­tion should be com­pli­cat­ed) and GNOME holds too impor­tant a posi­tion to be say­ing inac­cu­rate things, in my opin­ion.

I don’t think I’d care as much, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen GNOME say­ing such things. This 2.12 pre­view lists Evo­lu­tion as a “mail client for GNOME”, but I hap­pi­ly use it when not in GNOME. And this leads me to a sore point with GNOME apps.

Many GNOME apps car­ry extra depen­den­cies that a non-GNOME user would­n’t have. Often, these depen­den­cies are unnec­es­sary. A pop­u­lar exam­ple late­ly is Evince, which relies on gnome-vfs. Nau­tilus, GNOME’s file man­ag­er, also con­trols the desk­top, but the default behav­ior of run­ning the “nau­tilus” com­mand is to open a file man­ag­er win­dow and, if not already, take over the desk­top. There’s a flag ( – no-desk­top) and a GConf set­ting that can be set, but in my opin­ion, the default is a poor choice. Bet­ter would be to have “nau­tilus –desk­top” run the desk­top process and have “nau­tilus” only open a file man­ag­er win­dow. The GNOME start­up set­tings are very good, and you can have the desk­top start­ed there­in.

This kind of devel­op­ment and pub­lic­i­ty, in my opin­ion, is telling. It seems GNOME devel­op­ers are devel­op­ing for GNOME. They have a very respectable inte­grat­ed desk­top, but these types of things belie a nar­row-mind­ed atti­tude that hurts Lin­ux as a whole in my opin­ion. With Lin­ux being gen­er­al­ly mod­u­lar – cus­tomiz­able from the ker­nel up, chock full of func­tion­al­i­ty whether on the com­mand line or in a GUI (of which you have many choic­es), and many choic­es of appli­ca­tions to suit your need and taste, etc. – I think it’s frus­trat­ing to see GNOME be so self-ori­ent­ed.

Rather, I pre­fer Xfce’s atti­tude towards their soft­ware; they make things such that the user can use any piece of their choos­ing in any envi­ron­ment. No unnec­es­sary depen­den­cies, because the user’s choice is val­ued. In fact, think­ing about it, I’d say that where­as it seems that GNOME devel­ops for GNOME, Xfce devel­ops for the user. For exam­ple, Thu­nar, Xfce’s upcom­ing file man­ag­er (being devel­oped cur­rent­ly), looks very much like Nau­tilus and will pro­vide com­pa­ra­ble func­tion­al­i­ty, but per­forms faster (in my expe­ri­ence, and I under­stand that this is not a com­plete­ly fair com­par­i­son at this point) and has a short­er depen­den­cy list. Xfme­dia, a media play­er that uses Xine, does­n’t do as much as GNOME’s default, Totem, but per­forms bet­ter (when using GStream­er or Xine) and has a sim­pler UI. Of course, there’s also the fact that Xfce’s win­dow man­ag­er, per­haps the most impor­tant piece of the desk­top puz­zle, is incred­i­bly more use­ful and ele­gant­ly designed than GNOME’s metac­i­ty.

I real­ly appre­ci­ate GNOME’s efforts on the desk­top and rec­om­mend them to any per­son new to Lin­ux, but as some­one who’s been around for a lit­tle while, I’m just a bit dis­ap­point­ed.

Dis­claimer: I do not rep­re­sent Xfce in any way (though I use it pri­mar­i­ly and enjoy it) and in fact, I run GNOME’s pan­el and vol­ume man­ag­er on my Xfce desk­top because I like them.

Reflections after a week of phone support

I’ve heard this quote before, but it has been in my mind this last week or so since I’ve been on the phones sup­port­ing cus­tomers:
“Com­put­er pro­gram­ming today is a race between soft­ware engi­neers, striv­ing to build big­ger and bet­ter ‘idiot-proof’ pro­grams, and the Uni­verse, try­ing to pro­duce big­ger and bet­ter idiots. So far, the Uni­verse seems to be win­ning.”

I also read anoth­er blog about user inter­faces in which he talks about the fact that com­put­er inter­faces are designed with begin­ners in mind. How­ev­er, once the user gets over the learn­ing curve, the inter­face is a crutch. He asks a rather tough ques­tion: “So is it pos­si­ble to design a sys­tem that’s suits both begin­ners and pro­fes­sion­als?” No easy answer for that. We could prob­a­bly all rant about how cer­tain imple­men­ta­tions fail, but do we have any­thing bet­ter to offer? (For all my GNU/Linux snob­bery, I must admit the prob­lems with the two major open-source inter­faces: GNOME is too sim­ple and KDE too com­plex.)

As for “idiots”, I don’t real­ly mean it. The same could be said for every­one dri­ving a car: I cer­tain­ly don’t know very well how to diag­nose the inter­nal work­ings when some­thing goes wrong. Yet I do appre­ci­ate a work­ing knowl­edge of things. And I can cer­tain­ly empathize that the trend (rather frus­trat­ing for devel­op­ers) in com­put­ing seems to be try­ing to com­plete­ly dimin­ish the learn­ing curve, and as usu­al, that makes most of the use­ful­ness of com­put­ing null and void. (If you don’t know how to use a mouse or to save a file, you won’t be very pro­duc­tive.) Does that mean the learn­ing curve should be a bit high­er and com­put­ers demand a bit more knowl­edge before using them? Or does that mean we should all invest in our local com­put­er edu­ca­tion cen­ter?