Moving on

September 8, 2011

OK, it’s crunch time. At the end of the week, you should be in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Linux Fest — if you’re going to a Linux show before the year’s out, make it this one. This is the last big show on the North American continent until SCALE in January. At OLF, Bradley Kuhn and Cathy Malmrose are keynoting — along with Jon “maddog” Hall — so you’ll not want to miss that (especially Cathy — Go ZaReason!).

KDE’s Aaron Seigo, “a shift-key-challenged KDE hacker,” wrote an interesting blog item this week where he outlines where KDE is going with Plasma Active. While the blog item itself may not be terribly earth-shattering, the significance of a member of the KDE project leadership taking the time to outline where things are going, so there are no surprises down the line, is significant.

Most telling and reassuring, at least to me, is this paragraph: ” . . . [W]e do not believe in the ‘one interface that runs on both your desktop and your tablet’. We believe in code reuse, in component-reuse (and, where beneficial, drop-in-replacement), compatibility and interoperability; but we also believe that a tablet interface and a desktop interface are not, and should not, be the same thing. The use cases and form factors are just too different.”

He adds later: “So those who are concerned that we’re going to do something nasty to the desktop interface: breath easy.”

Amen to that, Aaron. Thanks for bringing that up and I’m breathing easier as a result.

“Hue and cry” is something at which various Linux and FOSS communities excel. When we find something going amiss, usually a controversy of biblical proportions ensues, where the end of the whole Linux/FOSS paradigm — not to mention yet another delay in the Year of the Linux Desktop — is inevitable unless said problem/redirection/error is fixed, and fixed now.

But while wailing and gnashing of teeth is a hallmark of Linux and FOSS communities, so is the ability to overcome these missteps and improve the programs, or if improving is impossible, forking the program to make a new one. Think LibreOffice, which was trapped by Oracle before being released into the Apache wild. Or this: Not that it’s a fork per se, but my Fedora colleague and friend, Juan Rodriguez — who wanted GNOME 2.32 on his Fedora 15 — stated his displeasure of GNOME 3, but rather than harping on it, he went to work and created the BlueBubble respin of Fedora which has the older GNOME desktop atop Fedora 15.

So amid the upheaval of desktop environments, we have a precedent to look at with KDE having gone through this before. Fortunately for GNOME, KDE’s experience serves as a cautionary tale. KDE seems to have ridden out the rough spots after their release of version 4, though there are some that are just not going to be happy with anything other than their KDE 3.x, and they aren’t shy about saying so.

Arguably, GNOME has stepped in a steaming pile with GNOME 3, and it would bode well for them to take a page from KDE’s playbook here and recover in the same manner. Frankly, I’m expecting GNOME to get over this rough patch, circled as they seem to be by angry users (and ex-users) with torches and pitchforks. The folks at GNOME could learn something from Aaron’s blog item about not making one desktop fit all, but I digress.

Meanwhile, back at the point of this blog . . . the point of this blog today is to remind those KDE users who are constantly picking on KDE because 4.x is not 3.5, as well as to the army of GNOME 3 enemies throughout the shire mercilessly beating up on GNOME, to heed these words: Stop already — we get it.

For better or worse, or for good or evil, both KDE 4.x and GNOME 3 are here. The barn door is open and the horses are in the pasture. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

Get over it and move on.

While I remember the “false start” that accompanied KDE 4.0 and the problems and complaints that KDE users made at its release, I don’t know the situation first hand because I was an intermittent KDE user at the time. I’ve clearly warmed up to the KDE 4.x series and, to be honest, I don’t get what all the hubbub was about, since KDE 4.6 works pretty well on my Fedora 15 laptop.

I understand the animosity toward GNOME 3 — I can’t use it (I have old hardware), and I consider the “fallback mode” the digital equivalent of sitting in the back of the bus. On the few occasions I have had to use it on newer hardware, I want to like it, but I just can’t — it’s an interface that doesn’t seem to belong to the laptop or desktop.

However, that’s all I’m going to say about it, except that I hope GNOME 3.x will fix some of the problems I have with it, making it usable for me. If not, I won’t use it. That plain, that simple. As an aside, I am warming up to Xfce quite well on the whole, so I may be splitting my time between KDE and Xfce from here on in.

But I don’t plan to bludgeon GNOME every time it comes up in a forum or an on-line discussion, because beating dead horses gets you nowhere.

So the choice is yours: You can keep harping on this great injustice, picking at the scab so the unkind cut doesn’t heal, or you can move on by either accepting the way things are or adapting them to what suits you, as Juan did with BlueBubble.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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  1. Jack
    September 8, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Fully agree. The desktop bashing movements are way more harmful to Linux desktop than Microsoft is. Write something nice (and true) about any desktop environment and hell is loose.

    It’s a kind of destructive narcissism that is eating desktop linux alive from the inside. And everyone close to Microsoft can sit back, watch, and laugh all the way to the bank.

    I NEVER bash linux desktop environments i don’t use (or like). Sad thing is, I don’t write about those I prefer either. I’ve just had it with the never ending bashing. It’s even difficult being critical about “my own” desktop environment. It will immediately be construed as support for something that I really do not support.

    It’s the same story with distros. If it’s easy – it’s to simple. If it require some effort it’s useless and so on and so on.

    It’s a never ending story, and the major reason for me putting Linux at rest. Still way beyond Windows in just about any way I can think of. But I’ve had it with the “Linux enthusiast community”. They are more destructive than just about any community I know.

  2. Paleoflatus
    September 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Hear, Here!
    I never bitched that KDE on linux wasn’t PCTools on DRDOS, or that dreadful Windows 95 way over a decade ago. I’ve likewise moved easily with KDE as it’s advanced from 3.5 to 4.6. I’m currently waiting enthusiastically for our hard-working benefactors to put 4.7 into the Debian sid repositories and I have the confidence in our developers to know that I know I’ll love it when they give to me. When it’s available, I’ll be entirely grateful.
    There are always a few fringe loonies who’ll carp about anything. We don’t need them.

  3. willie goman
    September 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I use openbox and fbpanel, because I have been burnt by DE rewrites one too many times. Never again.

  4. September 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Larry, the headers on your posts major them *much* less useful to me. What shows up for every item in my RSS reader is the Ohio Linux Fest image and blurb. If I reshare your post, that’s what readers will see. I’d like to send others with similar interests to your site, but the headers make it much harder.

    • September 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm


  5. dinotrac
    September 9, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Larry –

    Agree with hue and cry up to a point, but…

    Smug put-downs of “wailing and gnashing of teeth” and stern-faced Puritan commandments to go fix it thy own self miss the mark badly on a couple of counts.

    First, most of it can’t fix it ourselves.

    Most GNOME or KDE developers can’t perform a coronary bypass or change the timing belt on a car. Most computer users can’t re-spin fedora, or fork a major desktop. We (and they) are at the mercy of those who can.

    Second, that hue and cry is a useful thing. It should be painful for developers to royally screw up widely used and relied upon software. It should be painful enough to soak through those thick little noggins and plant the thought, “Gee. Maybe we could have done this better.”

    The issue is trust as much as it is technology. If we are going to entrust the systems used to make our daily bread (like mine), we want to know that the people who make the software we need take that responsibility seriously. Because trust is harder to recognize and quantify than a software feature list or bug count, it takes longer to win back.

    I was heartened by Aaron’s post. It shows a budding maturity that has been missing from many KDE team communications. For the first time, I see signs that Aaron may be trustworthy, and, by extension, the KDE team. The software seems to have improved mightily since the bad old days of 4.0, and, were it not for the trust issue, merit a good tire-kicking.

    I’ve grown comfortable with XFCE since leaving KDE behind, but, after using KDE for more than a decade, I can’t quite shake the sense of being somehow disloyal. It would be nice to know that the developers understand that kind of thing.

    • September 9, 2011 at 5:26 am

      It’s rare to have me and Puritan in the same sentence. Thanks. 🙂

      As always, dino, you make good points.

      I think the “hue and cry” is useful up to a point — a distant point at that — but when the complaints become repetitive to the point where it becomes noise, it loses its effectiveness.

      Also, I am heartened by Aaron’s post. With a recent post of his shortly after the Desktop Summit, an article by Bruce Byfield and his blog item that I quoted, I am hoping that the more thoughtful developers in GNOME are getting it. My fingers are crossed.

      • dinotrac
        September 9, 2011 at 5:48 am

        Hey —

        Those Puritans accomplished quite a bit in their time. For all we associate them with being uptight and rigid moralists (in a time, ahem, when uptight and rigid moralists were not exactly rare), they did manage to pick up their roots, cross the ocean in little wooden ships, and start new lives in the New World wilderness.

  6. Bubba Jones
    September 9, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Why did Gnome make the same mistake as KDE? They had years to learn the lessons yet they did not act. M$ never made such radical changes in the desktop environment. They have evolved it. I agree it’s good to try to stretch how folks use technology but not everyone wants to be cutting edge. I would argue that the changes in KDE and Gnome and subsequent flack has hurt the linux movement.

    • September 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      The desktop, maybe, but Linux in general — I don’t think this hurts Linux at all in the server and mobile sectors. Besides, it is not unheard of to have this kind of drama in the Linux realm. We get over it and move on.

    • Jack
      September 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

      Windows has evolved into what? They have kept their UX/GUI/DE consept because they believe they have to – keeping old users happy. They keep it – not because it’s good – they keep it because they have forced themselves to. Even when they want to execute radical changes they don’t dare.

      If Gnome stuck to Gnome 2.X it would have suffered like Winmo, and if KDE kept 3.5 rolling it would have been in a worse state than Symbian. We are talking whipping dead horses.

      The world changes and those who do not adapt to the new reality becomes obsolete. If you would like museums that’s fine. Just don’t demand that everybody else should be forced to stay in your museum.

      T-fords and Tuckers were fantastic consepts for their time. But it’s not what will take the auto industry to the future. And it’s not what the general audience want.

      KDE 4.1 was released more than 3 years ago and is doing just fine, thus get over it. Gnome 3 and Unity will need some more time to fulfill their potential. Give them that time. Meanwhile there are still LTS and so on if you want to stick to Gnome. There’s also XFce and LXde.

      There are plenty of alternatives.

      Some people might have noted that there’s a few new form factors around – and concepts to take advantage of them. Android, iOS and WebOS.

      The most important thing with the iPhone was not the UX or the design. The most important thing with the iPhone was that it broke the habit of “windows-familiarity” in all systems and form factors. Everybody tried to make their DE/UX familiar for someone used to Windows. And that goes for the applications too. That’s why Windows will change a lot in the future. They will change it as much as they dare.

      Now, everthing is up for grabs. And both Gnome and KDE did the right thing. They acted. They might excel – or not. Doing nothing was and still is – no option. Ask Nokia.

      It’s very very simple: The DE’s either change and improve – or they die. Therefore it’s a generally good idea to support your preferred DE and try to influence the devs to make your preferred environment a better solution for the future – rather than forcing the devs to live in a museum of your choice. And while supporting your DE there’s no need to pick on the others. Leave that to the Microsoft guys. Because they are the only ones that will benefit from it.

  7. Glenn Thigpen
    September 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Like it or not, there is always going to be a hue and cry, a major hubbub when a desktop environment radically alters the way it works and leaves those who really liked the way it worked having to look elsewhere.
    I made my complaints about KDE 4 when it first come out. If you were not a KDE 3.X user, you cannot understand what a piece of crap KDE 4.0 was. You need to check out the last version of KDE 3.x and then try 4.0 to understand. I am not suggesting that anyone do this. It is water under the bridge. I have moved on the XFCE 4 and will remain with it unless they decide to do something that their users do not like. After all, that is what the desktop experience is supposed to be aimed at. What the users like and want.
    That is why I use Linux rather than MS Windows or a Mac. I have choices in desktop environments. But when the one I really like changes so drastically from what I like to something that I cannot really even use, I am going to complain. If the complaints are dismissed, I will (and have) move(d) on.

    Just my two cents worth.

    • September 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm

      Good point, Glenn, and I am a recent KDE user (starting with 4.4, I believe, last year). As I mentioned, I do remember that there were some problems with KDE 4.0, but by the time I started using it, it was working pretty well. At the moment I’m running Fedora 16 Alpha on Xfce, and I like it a lot and will probably stay with it.

      • Jack
        September 10, 2011 at 1:07 am

        Thigpeg made and still makes the mistake a lot of KDE 3.5 users did. They didn’t understand the purpose of 4.0.

        Which was to serve as a base platform for further development. For that purpose it worked extremely well. We know that because the entire KDE ecosystem now is way way beyond anything 3.5 ever was.

        4.0 did NOT work well for production users. KDE repeatedly warned about that, but the hardcore 3.5 users ignored that. Not because 4.0 was poor. They bashed 4.0 (and every version thereafter) because it was convenient and served their purpose. With that behavior they inflicted significant damage to KDE and they still do.

        Unfortunately, some soulmates of the KDE 3.5 hardcore users are performing the same exercise with Gnome 3 and Unity. Some times I wonder whether it’s the very same people. Moving between the DE’s to be able to remain dissatisfied and grumpy.

        That’s the problem with Linux desktop “fans”. They are terribly destructive and extremely narrow minded.

        And that’s me being polite.

  8. Bob McKeand
    September 11, 2011 at 8:52 am

    Make all the changes to you want to everything and anything. No problem.
    But (I know Larry) BUT keep the old version around for a long time, just to
    see if anyone does like the new. Also because LtFSG and the Colonel are
    way too old for this change stuff… and get off our lawns.

    Peace, Bob

  9. September 23, 2011 at 2:58 am

    You have brought up very fantastic points, thank you for the post.

  1. September 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm
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