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Gnome 2.14 Review 208

An anonymous user writes "Linux.com (a Slashdot sister site) has up a review of Gnome 2.14. The piece touches on usability improvements, as well as the new administration and configuration tools included with this release." From the article: "GNOME 2.14 continues the steady improvement visible in the last few releases. It is an incremental upgrade, consisting largely of tweaks and the filling in of gaps in functionality. If few of these changes are major by themselves, the overall result is welcome. Perhaps the best way of looking at the release is not as an end in itself, but as a milestone on the road to desktop usability in free operation systems. From this perspective, GNOME 2.14 is a sign that much of the journey is already over -- and that the remaining distance is less than many observers think."
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Gnome 2.14 Review

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:10PM (#14942121) Homepage Journal
    I think the Software Oscar this year should go to whoever took the time to fix the slowness that is Gnome Terminal. Maybe they even fixed it so that international characters in mutt don't screw up too. But maybe that's hoping for too much.

    Here's to being one step closer to switching from aterm. Not that I don't like aterm. But, ya know. And don't anyone say Konsole damnit.
  • by IflyRC ( 956454 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:16PM (#14942162)
    I can see it now. A Penguin that resembles Tux pops up in the lower right corner of the screen. A thought bubble appears above his head as he smiles and waves. The bubble reads, "So, it looks like you're trying to write a letter".
  • by IYagami ( 136831 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:17PM (#14942176)
    If you want to see some follow the next link: http://www.gnome.org/start/2.14/notes/en/rnusers.h tml [gnome.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I already know 2.14 removes almost all the options available in the GNOME version of XScreensaver, and it apparently removes many of the options that used to be available from the Sound preference dialog. So what else has GNOME removed with this next release, because allowing users to have choice is "too complicated"?

    Unfortunately for GNOME, they can't remove all choice; I can still choose to use KDE, because KDE chooses to let me customize it any way I want instead of being forced into the defaults GNOME
    • by minginqunt ( 225413 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:52PM (#14942513) Homepage Journal

      Usability. Clearly it means something different to you than it does to me. Usable software is not software that requires drilling through hundreds of contradictory, confused or utterly irrelevant options before one can get anything done.

      And note, here, I'm not pointing an accusing finger at KDE here; the problems with KControl are well known and have been dealt with.

      The point I'm trying to make is that we here utter so much gibberish about usability because we're not users, we're computer experts. We're used to thinking like computers.

      You don't really appreciate what usability really is until you observe somebody who isn't a propellerhead, struggling over your code, confused and baffled by your lovingly hand-crafted user interface, in all its customizable glory.

      Usability isn't about too many or two few options, it's about several things.

      1) Do What I mean, having sure I have the capability to express what I mean.

      2) Know your target audience. No software can be all things to all people, and it is foolish to try. Pick sensible defaults for your target audience. Provide user interfaces to allow that audience to configure that which they might reasonably be expected to need to change.

      3) Don't add complexity for the sake of Geek Machismo.

      4) Don't remove useful functionality for the sake of keeping it simple. As simple as possible and no simpler

      5) Have a consistent set of guidelines for your user interface, in pursuance of the needs of your target audience.

      6) Challenge your assumptions; WATCH THEM. See what your target audience doesn't understand that you thought was obvious. Fix it.

      7) Don't sneer at KDE or GNOME or Ion because they have different target audiences, different philosophies. Praise them when they are consistent with their goals, guidelines and audience, politely suggest improvements or proffer patches where they fall short.

      Have KDE got it entirely right? No, but they're getting there.

      Have GNOME got it entirely right? No, but they're getting there.

      I guess what I'm saying is, usability doesn't mean what you think it does. Not all software is targetted at geeks, not all people think like geeks.

      And frankly, we should thank the Lord Xenu that this is the case.
      • The point I'm trying to make is that we here utter so much gibberish about usability because we're not users, we're computer experts. We're used to thinking like computers.

        I don't think it's that we're 'experts' as much as it is that we are, in general, comfortable with the interface.

        For myself, I would rather have a lot of options that I can set because I like complete control of my computer experience. I understand that someone who's never touched a mouse before would probably be intimidated by that kind

    • Unfortunately for GNOME, they can't remove all choice; I can still choose to use KDE, because KDE chooses to let me customize it any way I want instead of being forced into the defaults GNOME wants. And, please, don't point out GConf, unless you can point to a list of what every single key (at least for a given application) in GConf does.

      I swear, every release of GNOME adds to the eye candy, and removes from the usability. And to think I once advocated GNOME over KDE.

      I'm saddened to hear of the suffering th
      • I've seen plenty of cases of people switching away from GNOME to other DEs (including myself, I now use KDE even though I used to utterly hate it.) due to GNOME becoming crippleware in the name of "usability", is there anyone who has gone the other way due to the changes?

        Between KDE and GNOME, GNOME has always (and still is) more polished and less buggy, but at this point GNOME is so crippled that given a choice between all of the missing functionality that was removed from GNOME and KDE's minor annoyances,
    • Okay, they've removed possibility to change the sounds of the gnomegames from the "sound preferences" dialog, but really who need that? Instead they've added possibility to change which soundcard you wanna use. To me that's much more useful.

      You are also right, that the new screensaver dialog is not as advanced as the old one, but that's not because anything has been removed, that's simply because it is a whole new screensaver, native to gnome, enabling gnomeprogrammes to interact with it, and making it tran
      • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:52PM (#14943099) Journal
        I'm sure more features will be added [to gnome-screensaver] in later versions.

        I take it you've not read the comments from the developer in bugzilla, where requests for the ability to set options and for full-screen preview are marked WONTFIX. Quotes:

        "My view is that any screensaver theme that requires configuration is inherently broken."

        "I don't think [full-screen preview] solves any real problems."

        Yes, there are valid concerns about random people setting GLtext to display [insert obscenity here] or pointing the slideshow screensaver at their pr0n collection on a computer in a government office or business. That said, that problem has been "solved" in a manner inconsistent with the rest of GNOME. pessulus and sabayon (or however those are spelled) is supposed to be able to set limits of that sort, but the author of gnome-screensaver has unilaterally hard-wired it into police state mode, regardless of how the system administrator (who, for most of us, is us) wants it.

        How much $$$ do you suppose one would have to put up to get a reasonable version of gnome-screensaver forked that allows, under pessulus control, the system administrator to either allow or deny option setting on an individual screensaver basis, allows full-screen previews, and allows the individual user to indicate for each screensaver whether it should be in the pool for random selection for that user? gnome-screensaver is, IMHO, sufficiently fundamentally WRONG that I'd contribute to a fund for a version that does it right.

        Sorry to go on repeatedly and at length about what is perhaps a trivial issue, but for me it's the proverbial last straw.
        • For what it's worth, I don't think many people actually agree with the developer's opinion in that case. I hope that one person doesn't sour you to the whole project. Hopefully that'll get fixed for the next release if someone can convince him or other people just implement it themselves.
  • Usability Comments (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:23PM (#14942222) Homepage Journal
    I just wanted to respond to a couple of things that the article mentioned in passing. Some are minor, some are things that I think may be suffering from a "Can't see the forest for the trees," problem.

    Some of the interface changes in the new version, such as the addition of icons to dialog windows, are the equivalent of the gingerbread on the gables of Victorian houses -- decorations that do nothing for functionality.

    Well, that may be somewhat true. Of course, there have been studies showing that people work more efficiently, with less strain, in an "attractive," work environment. This holds true in everything from adding plants to offices to adding "gingerbread," to a GUI. And in this case, it sounds as if they do provide functionality as well since I'd be very surprised if these icons weren't context-specific in some form or fashion. But even if they provided no direct benefit, they probably do something for functionality.

    Two of the new tools, Pessulus and Sabayon, help administrators limit what users of everyday accounts can do on the system

    Whoa. We're talking about usability, and we're not going to comment on "Pessulus" and "Sabayon"? Don't get me wrong, those are great project names. Really great. But as new tools (and therefore not projects like Apache that everyone is familiar with), those names stink.

    From a security perspective, Sabayon and Pessulus are complementary tools, differing mainly in approach. They are joined by the Power Manager, used to control how a computer is suspended or hibernates when inactive.

    Now, "Power Manager" is far from sexy, but without ever using it I could have guessed what it did. And I'd say that most people could have done as well. When software behaves as you expect it to, without changing your mental map from "solving a problem" to "using the software," that's usability.

    A desktop tool for changing window managers would also be welcome.

    Allowing the users to focus on their work or, failing that, their desktop environment, without ever having to stop and think about their choice of window manager, would be a welcome usability enhancement. The fact that, as evidenced by earlier comparisons of SawFish and Metacity, not only can the users not ignore their WM but are indeed actively encouraged to become involved, seems unfortunate.
    • I failed to comment on Ekiga as far as naming went, because I thought they'd finally got it right with different project and application names. The article even said, Evolution's address book is now integrated with Ekiga, a.k.a. GNOME Meeting.. But, alas, from another article I found this delightful snippet:

      Ekiga, formerly known as GNOME Meeting, is GNOME's voice and video-over-IP client.

      That's going the wrong way, guys. Long live usability indeed.
    • I feel a little guilty knocking the free desktops for slavishly copying Windows and then complaining again when GNOME does come up with fresh ideas. Problem is, innovation is only worthwhile when it's good! I give GNOME credit for trying, but a lot of the things they do are simply counterproductive. (My favorite Linux desktop was still back in the old days when you could run kfm (the old KDE desktop and browser, now broken into kdesktop and konqueror) comfortably in WindowMaker.)

      And, yeah -- Sabayon and Pes

    • The addition of icons to the title bar of a dialog box lets you associate the application that spawned the dialog box in the first place. Particularly when dialog boxes aren't modal, it can be difficult on a busy desktop to know their parent. Also, its difficult because dialog boxes usually don't have room to include the parent-app name in the title bar. Now an icon lets you know the parent.

      TFA is really missing the point on that one by calling this feature "the equivalent of the gingerbread on the gable
  • by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:23PM (#14942223) Homepage Journal
    Is it just me or has anyone else noticed this trend.

    Within my local LUG over the last year or two opinions on GNOME vs KDE have become increasingly polarised. Personally I love GNOME and I think it's getting better every release. I have nothing bad to say about KDE but it just doesn't interest me.

    Some of the KDE fans among us though seem to be starting to dislike GNOME more and more.

    I don't know what it is but perhaps it's a good thing? A few years back it was my perception that both desktops were aiming for the same thing. Now though I think there is a clear and emerging idealogical difference between the two. While seen as bad by some (the desktops should be converging!), it at least presents more of a choice.

    Anyone else noticed this or am I just going (even more) mad?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:45PM (#14942435)
      Some of the KDE fans among us though seem to be starting to dislike GNOME more and more.
      Speaking as a KDE fan myself, some of it is jealousy - GNOME is *THE* desktop at the moment, and all of the major distros are drifting further and further towards it, and all of the big players (IBM, Google, Redhat etc) are simply hurling money at it while KDE developers are left out in the cold - which is a shame, as in may ways GNOME is playing functional and technologically catch-up to the already functional and technically advanced KDE. There is also the feeling that the GNOME/ Ximian guys are playing a very political game and being very vocal and really selling themselves hard at businesses, rather than competing on merits. Then again, this is a pretty empty complaint as KDE could do the same thing ...

      It goes both ways, though - I spend a lot of time on the Ubuntu forums, and KDE receives more than its fair share of either contempt or shallow dismissal.

    • A few years back it was my perception that both desktops were aiming for the same thing. Now though I think there is a clear and emerging idealogical difference between the two.

      Gtkapitalism vs. Kommunism, with the Third World being a dumping ground for dangerous poisons [nongnu.org] ;).

    • by lordofthemoose ( 716655 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:33PM (#14942933)

      I definitely agree with you on the fact that they now aim at completely different things.
      I have been using KDE since KDE 3.0 (before that it was windowmaker), and love it. I especially like the fact that I can customize it to my exact (RSI-suffering) needs, and the absurdly powerful tools it ships with (Konsole, Konqueror). However, I do not dislike GNOME at all, quite the opposite.

      The story of my "conversion" is simple : I was looking for a linux distribution for my computer-illiterate mother, and ended up installing Ubuntu , which ships with GNOME . While initially dismissing GNOME as "You can't do anything productive with it", I came to understand that from a usability point of view it was far better than KDE : while having no previous experience with it (apart from a quick go at 1.4 and 2.4), by just clicking where it seemed logical, I got what I wanted. The UI never got in my way, and it felt... strangely perfect. This has never happened with KDE. The GNOME UI is very simple, there are very few options - which suits my mother perfectly, she even told me she found it very easy -, and the menus and toolbars are not cluttered with lots of scary options. On the contrary, KDE is filled to the brim with options - which is what I need, but which my mother doesn't - which can be pretty confusing for a first time user.

      The bottom line for me is that both are excellent products, they just don't seem share the same goal. I'm happy with KDE (and need the configurability , my mother is happy with GNOME and is a linux convert (she now advocates it to most of her friends).

      Isn't Free Software all about choice? I'm glad we have both GNOME and KDE.
      • Precisely. I moved my wife's machine from Windows to Ubuntu with Gnome recently. It's been a pleasure. I no longer have to hand-hold to show her what to do. It's so very simple, she understands right away.

        For instance, to burn a music CD, she inserts a blank CD. Gnome pops up and asks her what she wants to do with four simple buttons. She clicks the Create Music CD button, which opens a window. She drags mp3s into the window, and hits a button, and voila.

        The audience for KDE is not the population at
      • Just got me there - that is all what I always sayings in these flamewars. Forget that stupid argument "why both? there should be holy one". No. Period. Over my dead body. I don't want any of these project die. Heck, I even want to Xfce to survive for low-end boxes. Don't mention flubox for really low-end and hackers.

        Yes, it _is_ all about freedom and choice. In the begining it didn't matter to me, but now...if you will take it away, you will suffer me :)
      • The story of my "conversion" is simple : I was looking for a linux distribution for my computer-illiterate mother, and ended up installing Ubuntu , which ships with GNOME . While initially dismissing GNOME as "You can't do anything productive with it", I came to understand that from a usability point of view it was far better than KDE : while having no previous experience with it (apart from a quick go at 1.4 and 2.4), by just clicking where it seemed logical, I got what I wanted. The UI never got in my wa

    • I think this stems for the reason for the creation of the various products, and the re-invention that Gnome underwent for version 2.0.

      The KDE project started off as a modern/nice looking replacement for CDE. The problem was that it used QT, which was only available under the a crappy license[0], the QPL, that made it impossible to distribute KDE in binary form. The GNOME project was started to provide a Free alternative to KDE.

      At this point, GNOME's only reason for existing is to be a free alternative for K
      • You left out the part about how Gnome would have died if it wasn't for Red Hat. Back in the day all of the major linux distros all used KDE. It was simply more advanced and stable and as a result it become the most widely used. Frankly for many many years Gnome was a total pile of crap. They stuck to that "GNOME must be WM independant" crap all the while decrying KDE for "taking away choice" for years. We all know how well that turned out :rollseyes:.

        Anyway back to my point, there is a million other facets
    • I actually used to have a more polarised view. Before QT was fully gpl'ed, I didn't want to go anywhere near it and was 100% pro-gnome. Now I still like gtk and use gnome sometimes (I actually use wmii and do most of my work in aterms with an extra workspace for firefox), but since qt/kde has become more free then I've come to appreciate it too. About once or twice a year I try out kde for a few days on my debian systems. Last year I quickly got frustrated (I think konqueror is sort-of ugly as a file manage
    • by Anonymous Coward
      For years I would switch from KDE to Gnome and back again whenever one of the desktops released a new version. I've settled on certain apps, regardless of desktop: I use KMail and Akregator even on Gnome, for instance, and Firefox even on KDE. Over the past two years I've more-or-less settled on Gnome for a couple of reasons:

      1. It handles USB hotplugging better than KDE (at least on my system), and I use USB devices a lot. This will probably improve over time
      2. KDE just feels cluttered. Gnome stays out
    • Some of the KDE fans among us though seem to be starting to dislike GNOME more and more.

      strange, I have seen some GNOME-users start to dislike KDE more and more. Hell, I have seen that trend is some of the GNOME-developers as well (*cough*Luis Villa*cough*)
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:25PM (#14942235) Homepage Journal
    But what I want to know is do you get an hourglass after you click an application shortcut on your desktop? Nothing confuses a n00b like clicking on something and having zero feedback (did I click it only once or is it just taking forever???)
    • Application shortcuts for GNOME or GNOME-friendly applications should have startup notification enabled by default. If not, you can enable it for applications that support it by inserting the line "StartupNotify=true" into the .desktop shortcut file. In 2.12 I believe that user-created shortcuts, created using "Create Launcher" on desktop context menu, do not have StartupNotify enabled, nor do they have an option to enable it. I don't understand why having notification isn't the default, assumed mode. Not s
      • Well, in this case the application I am firing up is VMware, and lemme tell you it takes some time to start. Also if you keep clickityclicking, you can screw up your installation by running it more than once, which isn't good. I will look at what you mentioned, but I did find an application called busycursor [lysator.liu.se] that seems to do what I want (it can launch any app and display an hourglass while it starts). Still, it would be nice to have Gnome do this for me, so thanks for the info.
  • My take on this (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wild_pointer ( 263802 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:51PM (#14942507)
    I've been using Ubuntu Dapper devel so I've been using the development versions of Gnome 2.14 for some time.
    The biggest change for me is probably how much better Epiphany is getting. I was getting tired of Firefox freezing for few seconds every now and then so I switched and love it! There are few issues with it but overall, very nice!
    There is an overview of Epiphany here: http://ploum.frimouvy.org/?2006/03/15/100-why-you- should-try-epiphany-as-your-default-browser-with-g nome-214 [frimouvy.org]
    and here: http://raphael.slinckx.net/blog/2006-03-15/epiphan y-is-hype-get-over-it [slinckx.net]

    I also love Deskbar integrated with Beagle! I've just stopped hunting down directories. I search for folders, documents, tomboy notes, web history, bookmarks, applications etc. with Deskbar.

    This plus Xgl and all the Mono stuff is making my desktop really good :)
    Windows Vista has a really good competitor when it comes out.
  • by alucinor ( 849600 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:58PM (#14942583) Journal
    The Gnome development process seems to be more top-down than KDE's. The devs integrate a collection of unintegrated components from the g-world, which are all pretty much independently developed, in constrast to KDE's QT libaries, which come from a single company. The rules of this integration are the Gnome frameworks, which are either literal code, as with the Gnome libraries themselves, or conceptual rules, like the HIG. From this top-down perspective, the devs assemble a variety of tools from the open source world into a desktop environment.

    With KDE, a more bottom-up approach is taken: the integration has been done at the level of the core libraries, QT, as well as the core KDE libraries that build on top of that. Above this level, things build in a sporadic nature that some would argue is more healthy for open source development (such as Linus Torvalds opined a few months back).

    All in all, I welcome both Gnome's top-down and KDE's bottom-up approach to integrating the components of a complete desktop environment. Since KDE's integration does come from the bottom, KDE feels more integrated to me on the architectural front, whereas since Gnome's integration comes from the top, it feels more integrated in the look & feel, menus, etc.

    Both projects have a lot to learn from each other; therefore, a lot to share. But really, the big experiment is to see which way builds a more successful desktop, or if the different models just result in desktops that serve different needs or different kinds of users.
  • by boomgopher ( 627124 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:12PM (#14942718) Journal
    Revolutionary new features include:

    * Removal of the mouse pointer in favor of the "spatial mouse", where the user determines
    what they are pointing at by the location of the mouse itself on the user's desk.
    A moving arrow on the screen was too distracting for the average user.

    * The rollout of the new "one monitor, one application" paradigm, wherein the user can
    only run as many apps as they have monitors. This avoids confusing the average user,
    who needs each application to show up in its own unique monitor location in the user's office.

    I kid, take it easy.
  • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:25PM (#14942861) Journal
    Icons no longer display useful information, like file type or network protocol in mounted shares.

    God, that was stupid. Please change it back!
  • by crivens ( 112213 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:32PM (#14942927)
    "Enhanced performance" yet "programs don't open any faster"? That doesn't sound like enhanced performance to me! I thought increased performance was one of the big things being touted for 2.14?
  • by jlowery ( 47102 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:33PM (#14942936)
    Two of the new tools, Pessulus and Sabayon...

    I think Pessulus is some bit of turkey anatomy, and Sabayon is an Italian dessert. So, like, is there an official dictionary of rarely words to consult for naming Gnome applications?

  • by IMightB ( 533307 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:19PM (#14943364) Journal
    I find that I like Gnome overall better than KDE, for productivity... While I think that KDE looks better, and has more "features" I get much much more work done in Gnome. Whenever I decide to try KDE, I always find myself messing around with the settings, trying to get that certain look, seeing if I can make it do this or that. (Same problem with E16/17) With gnome, I tend to login and work...
  • by unoengborg ( 209251 ) on Saturday March 18, 2006 @12:59AM (#14946790) Homepage
    I have been running beta versions of 2.14 as part of Fedora FC5 test3 for a while, and I'm very impressed by its speed, and increased pollish compared to previous Gnome versions.

    However, there are still a lot of things missing before it is ready for the Enterprise desktop.

    For one thing, usermanagement seam to be for local users only. There is no way to manage users over LDAP. The same thing is true for sabayonne.

    Another problem is the tools in the System->Administration menu. They all requires you to enter a root password to be used. This makes it impossible to have many people perform limited adminstrative functions. They should really use sudo for this. (I think Ubuntu allready do that).

    Yet another thing I would have like to see, is hiding of files like /etc, /proc, /dev, /usr, /lib, /boot, /sbin, /selinux,... by default for ordinary users. These folders are mainly of interest for system administrators and developers, but this group most certainly know how to show hidden files. By hiding these directories folders containing business oriented stuff becomes easier to find.

    You can test this for yourself by createing a .hidden file in your / directory containing the names of the directories you want to hide. Unfortunately .hidden only works in the Nautilus windows and not in filedialogs, where the disadvantage of having too many choises are a much bigger problem.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger