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Gnome 2.14 Review 208

An anonymous user writes " (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 IYagami ( 136831 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:17PM (#14942176)
    If you want to see some follow the next link: tml []
  • 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.
  • by c0l0 ( 826165 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:25PM (#14942239) Homepage
    You might want to take a look into rxvt-unicode [] (which is often called urxvt), a blazingly fast unicode-capable terminal emulator written in C++ with support for such goodies as xft (though I don't use it, as it's slowing down things tremendously) and not dependent on GTK[+] at all. It even features tabbing (so your window-manager does not need to do that), and implements a really neat idea of a client/server-model which allows one to spawn new terminals REALLY fast, while making it more lightweight, too.
    To anybody out there: give it a shot, I bet you'll like it :)
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:30PM (#14942273) Homepage
    Can't remember offhand what version of Gnome i'm using at home, but Gnome now has tabs in the console.
  • by 0xABADC0DA ( 867955 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:37PM (#14942344)
    If you are not disabled the best thing to improve gnome-terminal performance is to turn off the accessibility options (in Preferences -> Accessibility -> *). This makes gnome-terminal 2.6.12 only marginally slower the Konsole (maybe 20%) instead of several times slower.
  • by AlphaPB ( 741406 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:39PM (#14942361)
    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 sure if this behavior remains the same in 2.14.

    If you're creating a shortcut to an application that's already in the GNOME menu, it's easier to just middle-click-drag that entry to the desktop to create a copy.
  • Calm down dude. Ubuntu replace GNOME's menu editor with their own. GNOME's had a menu editor for two releases now.

    I believe it's called SMEG or gmenu-simple-edit. But Ala Carte works well.

  • Users be damned, they're going to do whatever the hell they want.

    Actually, the problem appeared when the menu specification appeared on They had to change their way to do menus to the new specification and, due the timed released, there wasn't time to do the menu editor. That came on two releases, I believe: the first when the specification came in and the next, where all applications on the desktop released where reviewed to include their ".desktop" files (the ones used on menus).

    Also, the menu specification allows applications to register themselves on the menus. New applications, this way, should have zero menu edits to appear. Since the menu specification came in, I never had to edit the menus, to be honest.
  • It's faster? (Score:5, Informative)

    by cortana ( 588495 ) < minus threevowels> on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:24PM (#14942853) Homepage
    I don't understand people who say that gnome-terminal is slow... I find that it is the fastest terminal emulator. The trick is to actually compare like with like.

    Let's say we use 8 point Bitstream Vera Sans Mono, and a terminal size of 80x24. Prepare the test data:
    $ dd bs=1M count=1 if=/dev/urandom | xxd > data

    To run the test:
    $ time cat data

    The results:

    xterm -fa mono -fs 8 (209)
    The window is drawn very flickery. I couldn't use this for day to day use.
    real 1m28.686s
    user 0m4.370s
    sys 0m0.371s

    gnome-terminal (2.12.0)
    The smoothest and fastest of the lot!
    real 0m6.401s
    user 0m3.425s
    sys 0m0.208s

    rxvt-unicode -fn xft:mono:size=8 (5.3)
    Smooth but slowish
    real 0m41.071s
    user 0m0.871s
    sys 0m0.182s

    konsole (3.3)
    Scrolling is jerky/stuttery, but not flickery.
    real 0m10.337s
    user 0m0.003s
    sys 0m0.091s
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:42PM (#14943009)
    It was removed because it basically sucked. I'm glad to see it back though. Thanks to the freedesktop menu standards, though, I've have *yet* to need to edit my menu. Every app I installed put its icon in the proper place on the menu. No need to screw with the layout. With windows I'm constantly editing the start menu because it is layed out in such a horrible way. All gnome distros I've dealt with recently had sane and logical menu entries. All KDE and Gnome apps showed up in the proper place upon installation. Beats the heck out of installing your own crappy menu items only to have a bunch of stale links when you remove the program like in the old KDE days.

    So basically as far as overall usability goes, menu editing is not quite dead last but definitely not a priority.

    In short, these "gnome guys" as you call them actually are doing a great job. I'd rather have a feature implemented right than implemented poorly like Windows does. (Can't speak for KDE, but I haven't had to edit KDE menus in about 5 years either.)
  • Re:Appearance (Score:5, Informative)

    by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <> on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:45PM (#14943041) Homepage Journal
    I used to be a firm KDE kamp member, but lately I've started to swing towards gnome.


    1. Looks ;-) Take a look at Novell's Linux Desktop 10.1 Preview. You can search for OpenSuSE 10.1 beta screenshots. Gnome is the default, the default "look" is very, very clear and usable. It's not terribly sexy, but the icons are goregous, and the clean lines are a welcome change from KDE's proliferation of settings and dialogues.

    2. Now, Gnome's loosing in the raw "theme" eye candy category, but they have KDE crushed in eye candy. How? Some neat new features. For one, SVG themeing on GNOME is a lot further along than KDE. For two, Cairo-GTK. This means that your SVG themes become DPI indepedant, as well as antialiased. This is a vast visibility improvement. Three, XGL integration. XGL is beautiful. XGL makes your linux desktop feel greater. A double buffered openGL desktop really makes everything feel more tactile.

    3. Search. Beagle works, Kat doesn't. Kat, in its current iterations, exhibits horrifying memory leaks. My 2 GB desktop system slows to a crawl after 8 hours of indexing. Beagle works perfectly. Maybe it's cause I'm used to spotlight, but good, real-time fulltext search of your system is an incredible thing. It really makes it far less necessary to organize your files, you can spend less time on maintenance and more time working, and that's a good thing.

    4. Fit and Finish. Some of this is in themeing (Gnome's interface exhibits less 'mis-alignment' of icons/images in interfaces, and other little uglies), and some of this is in userspace utilities. Gnome's networking is more reliable than KDEs. For whatever reason, all kinds of browsing on my KDE setup are semi-broken. SMB doesn't always work, nor does a variety of other kio:// interfaces.

    Of course, I'm happy about this stuff, and I can't say that I've switched to Gnome for good. The last time I experimented with Gnome, the printing interface, the file browser, the (lack of) a menu editor, and nautilus were all vastly inferior to their KDE counterparts. Now, Gnome's various dialogues and interfaces are pretty functionally similar to KDE and more reliable. Gnome's also got the eye candy factor going for it.

    I will say, however, that if KDE 4.0 is 1/2 as good as it currently is specc'd for I'll be moving back. As it is, KDE 3.5 is looking awful long in the tooth compared to Gnome.

    Really, though, its not a huge deal. Install both (you'll want the libraries anyways), and they interoperate just fine. Switch back and forth as needed, and as long as your distro implements the freedesktop specifications you'll get the same entries everywhere.

    Gnome has come a long way, and I think it can finally satisfy it's goals: A simple, defaults-are-correct, easy to use Linux environment. It's not necessarily a powerusers environment, but come on, how many average users are going to be using KIO and the like. Gnome aims for the Mac OS X goals (which are _very_ good goals when you are going after Joe Blow) and does it WITHOUT ripping off OS X part and parcel. Sure, there's some duplication, but that's to be expected: Sometimes the other guys just "get it right". But Gnome definitely has it's own identity, and is now feature complete for "the average user".
  • Re:It's faster? (Score:3, Informative)

    by cortana ( 588495 ) < minus threevowels> on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:56PM (#14943134) Homepage
    Thanks for the data point. On my system aterm 1.0.0 cats the file in 2.5 seconds; however this is not a fair comparison because aterm only uses bitmap fonts. I can't see how to make it use Bitstream Vera Sans Mono 8 as used by the other terminal emulators in my test.

    For comparison, xterm using the default bitmap font takes 4.5 seconds to cat the file.
  • Not faster (Score:3, Informative)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:14PM (#14943323) Homepage Journal
    Somehow that doesn't seem right. This will depend on whether you have stuff like transparency turned on. I just took gnome-terminal and aterm head to head using your same data file and got these results:

    gnome-terminal (no transparency)
    real 0m2.756s
    user 0m0.000s
    sys 0m0.105s

    aterm (no transparency)
    real 0m0.861s
    user 0m0.001s
    sys 0m0.105s

    gnome-terminal (with transparency)
    real 0m2.954s
    user 0m0.001s
    sys 0m0.109s

    aterm (with transparency)
    real 0m3.027s
    user 0m0.001s
    sys 0m0.105s

    Aterm is generally considered one of the fastest terms available. Actually, I think gnome-terminal has improved their transparency handling in recent versions because when it first came out, it was slower than it is now. I remember seeing a more detailed comparison of term speeds done a few years back, but I can't find it right now. It showed clearly that gnome-terminal was 3+ times slower than most terminals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:23PM (#14943415)
    That said, I _have_ seen screenshots (example) where font rendering is rather nice, but I have idea how acheive such a result and have pretty much given up.

    It sounds like you want crisp small fonts and smooth large fonts. The two key things to get fonts like this are

    1. Turning on the Truetype bytecode interpreter in Freetype
    2. Turning off antialiasing in fonts below 16 point in fontconfig

    That's all that's required. You'll probably have to compile Freetype yourself if you can't find a distro that does this (which is what I do). Oh and stay away from the Bitstream Vera fonts; the MS corefonts are much better.
  • Re:It's faster? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 51mon ( 566265 ) <> on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:25PM (#14943433) Homepage
    I seem to recall someone analysing the code, saying it stepped through and stat'd every font file on start-up or some similar totally unnecessary programming sin (since GNOME has already done all that sort of thing). As a result it was slow to start-up, not slow in use, although that would depend hugely on things like number of fonts installed, and system performance. Especially the first start-up after a reboot (whatever they are).

    I suspect one of those matters of programming honour, once someone pointed out how hideously inefficient the process was, even if from a practical perspective it mattered very little.

    time for a in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
    > do
    > gnome-terminal -e "exit"
    > done

    real 0m6.898s
    user 0m4.032s
    sys 0m0.396s
    srw@derek:~$ time for a in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0; do xterm -e "exit"; done

    real 0m2.003s
    user 0m0.280s
    sys 0m0.068s

    Oops user CPU increased by 20 fold over xterm.
  • Re:Not faster (Score:3, Informative)

    by cortana ( 588495 ) < minus threevowels> on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:27PM (#14943465) Homepage
    I did not mention that all my tests were run with transparency disabled.

    As I said to the AC who replied to me, aterm can't be compared against the other terminals since it only uses bitmapped fonts.

    Finally, several years ago gnome-terminal was the slowest terminal emulator; however my testing of 2.12 shows that it is the quickest! Also, I just installed 2.13.93 and ran the test, and it takes 4.5 seconds to cat the data file; so it seems that gnome-terminal 2.14 is indeed yet faster than the already fast 2.12. :)
  • by srcosmo ( 73503 ) <ultramegatron@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:41PM (#14943606) Journal
    You misspelled "Konsistent".
  • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:44PM (#14943626) Homepage Journal

    Have you ever tried gmenu-simple-editor? It's amazingly useless.

    It lets you hide existing menu items. That's it.

    You can't create new menu items, and you can't edit existing ones. It's essentially worthless as a menu editor. Ala Carte does allow you to add, delete, and edit menu items, which is what most people would want. gmenu-simple-editor doesn't.

  • by thebluesgnr ( 941962 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:30PM (#14943974)
    That's not true. The change was done in the development cycle but it was reverted way before the final release.
  • by justsomebody ( 525308 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:55PM (#14944198) Journal
    From what I have seen so far (have you tried the Vista beta yet?) there are a number of usability enhancements beyond mere eye-candy in Vista.

    Did you mean:
    1. performance meter? There were already zillion of "like-this" software-s. But most of the real problem lies in
    - central registry, which is filled with too much non-sense that doesn't belong there and duplicated keys.
    - the way windows accessed drives without a good scheduling
    - implementing snail_speed_and_resource_hungry-technique like .Net where it does not belong
    - showing performance where it doesn't matter. If apps start faster, it doesn't mean they run faster. They were just preloaded and as such they consumed RAM which could be used much better
    If you don't address the problem where it lies, every solution produces just additional mess

    2. scheduled defragmenter?Win98 had it, and what good did it do

    3. power management? Until you can control when devices are accessed and how they are accessed. File system provides better disk handling? All in vain. Even linux takes a day or two of tweaking to boost battery performance. But diff here is: while you can change the inside of linux, you can't do that for windows

    4. stupidity like using USB memory as system. Yeah, that one is gonna be usable... as soon as USB gets GB/s speeds instead of MB/s. In translation, it is good that cars have handbrake, but it is not smart to promote it as casual driving tool.

    5. TCP/IP stack? I won't speak about TCP/IP stack, since I haven't tested it terrily. So this might really be improvement. Especialy if they cleaned out the duplicated network settings in registry, where your networking could break without any reason.

    6. media center? you can install MythTV under linux, you can install Media center under windows, Mac should already include media center. Problem is, 0.1% of people needs media center.

    7. speech recognition? even gui translation in our language is poor and speech recognition is much harder to implement.

    8. app based volume? almost all apps had this one so far, they just provided central interface for that. But not to bash, this is a usability improvement

    9. DX10? Wow, 10 must be the gods number. But they were proclaiming the same about previous 9

    10. calendar, photo app? yeah, now name one system that didn't include those for a few years now. Will I be able to publish my calendar to my apache based CalDAV server? Or flikr?

    11. mp11? but it will still lack all but wmX codecs from the start, meaning... will play shit by default

    12. eye-candy? windows is the last one to get here, so what is so revolutionary here?

    11. security? ok, now you won't need to install anti-spyware, anti-virus, anti-trojan. Good for users, but it will piss of quite a few companies out there. But these features are not even nearly important in the security scheme

    Not to be bashing Vista, I'm bashing you and your bad taste for what is good. Not even one feature in that article (except TCP/IP stack) could be called improvement. Real improvement over previous versions in Vista lies in
    1. least-privilege model (every other OS had it in its stone age)
    2. userland drivers (every other OS had it in its stone age)
    Both are booster for security model (one could say carbon copy of other OSs), and both will provide much safer environment for Windows users. All others can be threated as casual improvements of the system, but they are far from what it could be called selling point.
    All I can say in the end, those two are enough good reason for Windows users to upgrade, even I as non-MS user will recomend the upgrade to the people depending on Windows because of them. But for non-Windows or users that plan to migrate they are not, becase same two features are present in any other OS.
  • by Signbarn ( 917950 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:05PM (#14944279)
    Smeg isn't GNOME's menu editor. Smeg is just the version prior to the Alacarte Menu Editor developed by an Ubuntu user.

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