As many of you know, I am in the throes of using Fedora 15 Alpha on a desktop box running the GNOME 3 — also innocuously known in Fedora circles as “desktop” — as well as using F15 Alpha KDE on the road warrior laptop, the long-in-the-tooth ThinkPad T30 which, while completely faithful and trusty, is often Exhibit A in the “gee, I wish I had newer hardware” diatribes I often utter.
The F15 Alpha experience so far has been great — the T30 just hums along with KDE 4.6.1 in a way that’s incredibly eerie. Alphas aren’t supposed to run this error-free, I say, knocking hard on wood. The desktop box with “desktop” also hums along as well, error-free like the laptop, but there’s something I can’t put my finger on regarding the GNOME 3 experience so far that is . . . .
Offputting. Well, that’s not exactly the word I’m looking for, but it’s as close as I can come.
I can’t explain it any better than that. There’s something that wants me to keep GNOME 3 at arm’s length, and while I’ll keep “desktop” on the desktop box once F15 is released — for obvious reasons involving the need to keep up with GNOME for — I am not sure it will be my primary desktop environment going forward.
To be honest, I’m a huge GNOME fan and I felt guilty about feeling this way until I read this blog item by Swapnil Bhartiya entitled “My Wife Loves GNOME 3.” The blog item is worth a read — and go ahead, I’ll wait — but to summarize, Swapnil installed F15 Alpha on a machine to review, and his “non-techie” (Swapnil’s words) wife instead took GNOME 3 for a test drive and loved it.
And then it hit me, hopefully without leaving a mark: It’s not about me, or you for that matter.
The “it,” of course, is developments like GNOME 3 and, to a degree, the Unity desktop. The “me” and “you” that make up the “us” in this equation are the experienced user who others come to for advice and answers when it comes to Linux and FOSS.
It’s not about us. It’s about getting the newer users comfortable with Linux/FOSS.
You and I can tweak our desktop environments — heck, our systems, for that matter — to be whatever they want. Those who are new to Linux don’t have that knowledge, let alone the capability.
Add to the mix that netbooks and other mobile devices are eclipsing desktops and laptops — a fact that I find hard to bear, but can’t argue against — and you have a formula that spells the future of desktop environments that puts ease of use and like-minded usability between mobile and laptop/desktop computers in the forefront.
So I don’t feel so bad about getting used to GNOME 3 now, and I get why it’s the way it is. And all those bad things I said about Unity . . . OK, well let’s not get carried away here.
Fedora 15 Alpha is out there. Get it here.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
Ah, love! The Cure’s song that carries today’s blog title bounces gently off the walls of the office while I think about the things I love about GNU/Linux (or Linux, if you’re so inclined).
Like . . .
As previously mentioned in this blog — and as I tell anyone who’ll listen to me — I go back and forth between the two top desktop environments with Fedora on my Fujitsu laptop — the even numbers, as it turns out, have been GNOME and the odd (with nothing to read into this, honest) have been KDE. Since we’re now at Fedora 13, it’s KDE time.
For those Xfce, LXDE, Fluxbox and IceWM fans out there, I do have machines in the Jungle Room — the lab at Redwood Digital Research in Felton, Calif., named after the same room at Graceland — running those desktops. While I’m a huge fan of Xfce on the machines that run it, I normally don’t stray too far from GNOME and KDE.
Moving right along, though, in those instances where I use KDE on the laptop, I’ve always been impressed with the number of programs that KDE includes when downloading the KDE version of Fedora. This time around, it occurred to me that maybe I should give some of them a chance — rather than just downloading the programs I’m used to (OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.) during the post-install phase — I should give the K its due.
But I downloaded the programs anyway. I wanted to do a comparison to see how the KDE software stacked up against the software I normally use across a variety of machines running other desktops. Bear in mind, too, that since I use KDE only six months at a time, I am clearly not an expert on it, and if I’ve missed something, by all means I’m open to correction.
Before I start, I want to sing the praises for most of the programs I’ve run that are KDE-native, and single out a quartet of KDE-native programs — specifically K3b, Dolphin, KPackageKit and KColorChooser. The first three have always been very cooperative, have been easy to use and have worked well; the fourth came in handy recently in tweaking a Web site.
Conversely, there are KDE-native programs I don’t understand. The top candidate here is Kget — what the hell is that big bouncing disk doing in the center of my desktop? — and it begs the question: Why have it when you can use KPackageKit?
So, without further adeiu and with a little fanfare, allow me to wave the green flag on a comparison and contrasting of programs supplied by KDE against those that aren’t.
KWord/KPresenter vs. OpenOffice.org Writer/OpenOffice.org Impress: KDE gets an A for effort on this one. Though not as slick as the OO.o Writer, KWord does open other files and offers the option of exporting a document to a Portable Document Format file (a clear advantage that both have over any Redmond product) and it performs admirably when used. The downside of KWord is that you can only save a document in one format — albeit the most important one (.odt) — whereas with OO.o Writer you can save it in various formats, even if need be in WordStar (which is a Solaris holdover, I know, but still). OO.o Writer also has a huge library of templates for use.
KPresenter, however, stands shoulder to shoulder and goes the distance with OO.o Impress on usability and functionality, to the point where in the past I’ve actually given talks using my Impress file running, unbeknown to me until later, on KPresenter. Like KWord, the slickness factor is lacking in KPresenter, but all the trappings for making a great presentation are there.
Advantage: OO.o Writer clearly over KWord, but KPresenter and OO.o Impress tie.
Konversation vs. XChat: While I get a handle on Irssi, I should say that I’ve always been a XChat user. Go ahead and mock me with the training wheels jokes, but it has served my purposes well over the past several years, to the point where I never used Konversation when running the KDE desktop. Konversation v1.2.3, however, may eclipse XChat for my IRC purposes. Its ease of configuring is a huge plus, as is its putting action messages on the screen you’re in as opposed to in the server screen only (i.e., when you mark yourself away in XChat, for example, it appears only on the server window; in Konversation, it appears on the window you’re in — minor, I know, but enough to sway the simpletons like yours truly).
Advantage: Konversation (but we all know that Irssi is what the cool kids use).
KMail vs. Thunderbird: I have used Thunderbird since it’s inception. I like Thunderbird. No, let me rephrase that: I love Thunderbird. So analyzing this one may not be fair, but using KMail to get my fedoraproject.org mail on the laptop has been a pleasant surprise. One feature that takes getting used to, but is logically sound and advantageous once you get the hang of it, is that KMail will nest responses to e-mails, tree-like, under the previous topic’s message. To me, it was disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it, it becomes a huge time-saver in following e-mail threads. Being able to see the details of an e-mail by running the cursor over it is also a plus.
Advantage: Thunderbird, because we have a history, but KMail gets high marks and more than likely I’ll continue to use it after Fedora 13.
Konqueror vs. Firefox: I really want to say something nice, and find something I genuinely like, about Konqueror. Really and truly, and cross my heart, with all my being I truly hope someday to find something to like. But other than it’s an adequate file manager and document viewer, it really stops there and I can’t say much more for it. Meanwhile with all the other browsers out there — coupled with the fact that KDE comes with Dolphin (a file manager) and Okular (a document viewer and an outstanding program that, unfortunately, I had nothing to compare it with) — Konqueror seems to be just a niche browser compared to others.
Advantage: Firefox, by default.
Meanwhile, you can still go get Fedora 13 here. And don’t be afraid to go try the KDE spin, if you’re thinking about it.