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.)