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GNOME 2.16 Released 473

Kethinov writes "The GNOME Project has just released version 2.16 of their popular *nix desktop environment. Among many snazzy new features, is lots of new eye candy, including an experimental compositer in Metacity, feature enhancements, usability improvements, and much, much more. Ars Technica has a review."
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GNOME 2.16 Released

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  • by Andrew Tanenbaum ( 896883 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @11:52PM (#16057188)
    I really hope that they got rid of the awful, childish default "X" (for cancel buttons) icon. It just screamed "zonk".
  • Visual Improvements? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:11AM (#16057271)
    I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a visual person, but those screenshots look kinda unimaginative and dull. I realize eye-candy wouldn't make it a better desktop, but it really looks a decade old and gray. But then, I don't use Gnome, so...
  • Not bad, except (Score:3, Interesting)

    by subxero37 ( 985222 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:26AM (#16057323) Homepage

    I really wish they wouldn't use JPEGs for computer screenshots -- the lossy compression makes straight lines and text look terrible. PNG (or possibly GIF, depending on the number of colors used) is much more reasonable.

    Other than that, I don't understand why the --enable-compositor compile-time option isn't included by default. Logically, if the support is there, but the hardware isn't up-to-par or the X composite extention is not loaded, then the compositor just won't do anything. If everything is A-OK, then the compositor works as expected. For example, I compile support for my sound card directly into my kernel. One day, if I suddenly remove the sound card, my kernel will still work. So why not just turn stuff on by default?

    On the other hand, I can understand why some things aren't compiled in sometimes, due to size, but a compositor can't be more than, what, 100k of actual code? Anyway, I'm sure someone's gonna fire back at me.

  • by subxero37 ( 985222 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:31AM (#16057352) Homepage

    KDE has many things going well for it. This'll sound weird, I'm sure, but I like Gnome better because it feels better. KDE has a weird feel to it that I can't get over. It's the same feeling I get when I use Opera, I don't quite like it.

    KDE also seems very thrown-together, and there are icons for almost every single menu item in almost every single menu -- it makes the entire desktop look extremely cluttered. Some lines and shapes (in some dialogs, some programs) are off by just a single pixel from where they should be, but because of that small error, it makes the desktop look slightly askew, and adds to the screen clutter appearance.

    Other than appearance and "feel" I have no problem using KDE.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @12:55AM (#16057427)
    The first thing I did after I installed GNOME 2.16 was to remove every C# app and Mono itself. Thank god they're not using it for any applications that really matter. The day it's used for anything that matters is the day I switch to something else permanently and never even consider using GNOME again. The fact that they even put it in as a dependency makes me want to go back to Xfce.
  • Technically great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:08AM (#16057469) Homepage
    I remember years ago when Gnome was the eye-candy window manager all the kids were showing off. In looking through the screenshots, the most surprising thing is to see that nobody involved with the Tango [] interface has ever seen what an actual shadow looks like.

    If you want to do flat shadows, cool, do them, they're easy and effective. If you want to do three-dimensional shadows, cool, they look even better but take a bit more work. But don't drop the same blurry ellipse at the bottom of every object and think that you're making a three-dimensional shadow, you just make everything look like it's standing on a blurry gray oval, and users really do recognize the less professional look, consciously or not.
  • Re:candy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jake73 ( 306340 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @01:09AM (#16057471) Homepage
    I basically agree with this, but think the developers should find some real designer talent to bring it about. For example, the screenshots are horrible. They took window shots, then faded the borders to white, then added a drop shadow. If you can't tell that this doesn't look right, you're in the wrong league.

    Don't fade borders if you're compositing a complete window. Faded borders are the graphical equivalent of an ellipsis.

    And definitely don't add a drop shadow to something you've already faded to white. It looks ridiculous.
  • by SandmanWAIX ( 674838 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:12AM (#16057645)
    Despite your negativity, I myself (as a Windows lead developer) am really looking forward to developing for Linux. Our current client/server software is currently only compatible with Windows and MS SQL Server, however over the next couple of years I am hoping to slowly move our codebase to compile under Mono and support MySQL/PostgreSQL under Linux. We have already tendered a Mono alternative to a large company where a Microsoft solution wasnt an option. Mono is a good thing. It might not be perfect, but is definitely a step in the right direction and will help to bridge the gap between worlds.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:24AM (#16057676)
    You are correct. The main problem is with the GTK+ theme engine. Put simply, it doesn't offer the features nor functionality necessary to easily and effectively render crisp, aesthetic GUIs.

    One of the main causes is their use of C. It doesn't promote a solid rendering class hierary, as is offered by GUI toolkits that are written a language like C++ (eg. Qt, wxWidgets), Objective-C (eg. Cocoa), Java (eg. Swing, SWT), or Smalltalk (eg. Squeak). This in turn makes it quite difficult for anyone who wants to develop a theme of any complexity.

    Like you mention, just changing the colors (which is easy enough) is not enough. You need to be able to render button and text fields with shadows. You need to have certain corners be sharp, while others rounded. The toolkit engine of GTK+ allows for both, but doens't easily allow for both to be used concurrently.

    That's just a small example of the problems that exist when writing a GTK+ theme engine. What needs to be done is an analysis of what successful GUI toolkits, like Qt, have done. Adopting the techniques of their engine is perhaps the best thing that the GTK+ developers can do at this point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @02:25AM (#16057679)
    Why? Are you scared something is going to up and break just because Microsoft pulls some sneaky trick? Just don't use the software that is cross platform but leans more towards the Windows side of things and it should be fine. ....or are you really just that much of a biggot?

    I use Linux 100% of the time at home AND at work. I only develop on linux for linux.

    I could really give a shit less about Microsoft and what they do.

    I do enjoy Mono though.
  • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @04:00AM (#16057888)
    [..]I have to wait 30 seconds for it to stat the entire freaking directory[..]
    This that's bad? Get this: over my many years of using Linux, my ~/ has quite a lot of dot files and entries in it. The file picker opens in my home dir, of course, so every bloody time I open it it stats all those hidden files. The punch line? It doesn't even show them! It's all for nothing!
  • by TractorBarry ( 788340 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @05:16AM (#16058022) Homepage
    Mod parent insightful. This is absolutely not a troll. I, for one, whole heartedly agree with these comments.

    Why has it taken this long to be able to set recursieve file permissions ?

    Why has it taken until now to be able to edit the menu (smeg notwithstanding) ?

    These features should have been in from release 1.0

    Sorry but GNOME really does suffer from some pretty basic usability problem which, as the parent posints out, could mostly be fixed by taking note of some of the good aspects of GUI design that have been put into place over the last 20 years, and especially by allowing users to set options as they want - not what the designers think is "best for them".

    The "we know best" attitude is condescending and hinders usability. The "proper" way to do it is to have everytthing come "out of the box" with basic defaults but let the user "open up" the interface as they learn it. If you're really worried about your poor users provide a "reset to defaults" option.

    The parent post simply points out some obvious problems with GNOME, the fact it got modded Troll points out some problems with blinkered moderation.

    And yes I am a GNOME user - I have an Ubuntu desktop at home. I mostly like GNOME but it always, always sends me into a swearing frenzy due to basic usability problems.

  • by arose ( 644256 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @05:33AM (#16058068)
    Why has it taken this long to be able to set recursieve file permissions ?
    What have you done to accelerate it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @05:47AM (#16058104)

    Just like Java is a standard.

    Java isn't standardized [] by anyone other than Sun. C#, on the other hand, is standardized by ECMA and ISO [], not Microsoft.

    Could you explain why grammar parsing is not possible in C#? There isn't any kind of magic that C++ can do with strings that other languages can't. Sure, there might be libraries to do grammar parsing for you that are written in C++, but there isn't any reason these libraries couldn't be written in another language or that bindings for other languages couldn't be written.

    I love and use C++; I just don't like this "anything but Microsoft" criticism of C# just because a Microsoft employee created it. If you're going to discuss a language, let's talk about its technical merits, not the employer of its creator. The advantages that C++ has over higher-level languages are primarily (A) it's C compatible, and (B) it allows really low-level control (like C does). (A) is a non-issue once bindings have been written for a C library. (B) is a valid advantage, but it's really only important in things like operating systems or applications where performance is really critical. This applies to only a small minority of software nowadays.

    It is true that C++ has gained a lot of the features that other languages have with the Boost libraries. However, the nature of C++ makes it so that, even with Boost, code is more cumbersome than in high-level languages. Take, for example, passing a function as an argument to another function. Let's say I need to pass a function called "clickHandler", which is a member of the class window, whose prototype looks like: void clickHandler(Event ev); I want to pass this function to another function called registerHandler (which makes it so when the user clicks on the window, clickHandler gets called). Using boost, my function call looks like:
    registerHandler(boost::bind(&window::clickHandler, this, _1));
    and registerHandler's prototype has to look like:
    void registerHandler(boost::function<void (Event)> func);

    Now, let's say you try to do the same thing in Python. Your function call will look like:
    and registerHandler's definition will look like:
    def registerHandler(handler):

    I don't know the language well enough to know what this looks like in C#, but my point here is that yes, you can do things in C++ that you can do in higher level languages, but it's often much more unwieldly and difficult. It took me a really long time to figure out how all that syntax for Boost and C++ works the first time I learned it; if you look at the C++ code above, you certainly can't say it's blindingly obvious that that's how it should work. When I learned how to do this in Python, all I had to learn was "Functions in Python are objects." and that's enough information to write the code. Not only that, the Python code is much more flexible; if I change clickHandler's interface, I also have to change registerHandler's interface and the (potentially) function call, whereas I don't have to do anything if I change registerHandler's interface in Python (beyond any necessary changes to the logic (not syntax) of the code). The idea of higher-level languages is that you don't have to micromanage tasks like how a function is passed as an object; you can focus on the bigger picture, which is that you simply want to pass the function.

    Sure, C++ is more powerful in that you can micromanage things like this if you want to, but usually you won't want to, and with languages like C#, Java, Python and others, you don't. Processors have gotten a lot faster and memory has become much more abundant since C++ was created in the 1980s, and the tradeoff between the computer clock cycles and programmer "cycles" has shifted. This is why GNOME and other software projects are making increased use of higher level languages.

  • Re:candy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 07, 2006 @06:18AM (#16058168)
    I'm not a troll, i REALLY like Linux. But, I'm sorry, you are dead wrong. The Linux dev community should not focus on eye candy. What they should focus on is compability. Linux is NOT as compatible as many may think, not even in the x86 arena. Sure most things can run, but not without first going through heaps of config files homepages and forums. I dont think i have ever had an problem-free installation of Linux. And I am not a bad computer use. Sure the "installation part" goes fine and runs. The problems often arrive later at the configuration of the system, or when the system is altered in some way.

    When I see a system that configures itself so flawlessly as for example win XP or os X, and is so stable, dynamic and fast as linux, im happy. Right now, im sorry, im NOT.

    Windows XP is very underestimated by many Linux powerusers, in the sence of easy-too-use and compability. /Bastupungen :
  • Yet STILL... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeathAndTaxes ( 752424 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:28AM (#16058304) Homepage
    STILL we gnome faithful are saddled with having only one desktop picture for all workspaces. This became ridiculous at gnome 2.10, IMO. Gnome devs still say they are all for the spatial paradigm (which I like, btw), yet they miss the opportunity to use different desktop pics for each workspace, which would make each workspace...different (wait for it) spatially.

    (I still use gnome every day.) ;-)
  • Re:candy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @07:49AM (#16058362)
    The only other point I'd want to add to this discussion is that Metacity was also a huge step backwards from Sawfish, IMHO. This announcement seems akin to "Hey everybody! We're coming real close to getting all the visual capabilities that Sawfish had!"

    I'm with you. Sure, there might have been issues with maintenance of the Sawfish code, amongst other things, but metacity still has a couple of glaring holes they refuse to fill in.

    My own pet peeve is Metacity's refusal to remember the size or positioning of windows. I know the developers claim it's the application's job to do this, but I don't agree. Seems obvious to me, but who am I to insist that a window manager's job is to manage windows?
  • Re:candy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @08:49AM (#16058496) Homepage Journal
    I stared at the first several screenshots trying to figure out what you were talking about, then I ran into the ones you mention. It made me wonder: why were some screenshots given this treatment, and others not?

    I think one visual design principle is this: if visual differences carry information, then pointless visual differences convey spurious information.

    The screenshots in question also seem to me to be a bit of a mixed metaphor. The drop shadow makes the things stand out from the page. This, I think, is an OK idea; it's not so much that the drop shadows tend to draw the eye to the screenshots (which they do), but it also conveys the messaage that these are concrete examples we are discussing; that is to say if we're looking at a screenshot of a graph, it's the window we are paying attention to, not the graph inside. By contrast, if there a graph that showed something like the lines of code in Gnome vs. time, you wouldn't expect it to get the drop shadow treatment.

    The mixed metaphor comes in this way: by fading the borders, the windows become less solid, yet they are still casting a shadow. The shadow appears to be cast by a sharp edge from a diffuse light source, but there is no sharp edge.

    What does it mean? It means nothing. Therefore it's poor communication because, unlike the drop shadows, it detracts from what is being said.
  • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @08:51AM (#16058506) Homepage Journal

    Documentation is what always sucks in Linux desktop. Check out for once M$Windows one.

    I loved GNOME 1.x for it was lean and clean - with most of the little bits been documented. I hated KDE1 precisely because it had only dummy automatically generated documentations. Many years have passed and situation reversed 180 degrees: KDE is documented and GNOME documentation is dumb-down to complete unusability level.

    I'm given myself a word to not use GNOME until its developers would not document all the magic behind .gtkrc and .gnomerc files - and how the two are interconnected. It was safe bet - no documentation in last 3-4 years emerged and I do not use GNOME anymore ;)

  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @09:18AM (#16058646)
    Gnome drags an absurd number of dependencies into the distributions I use. It seems like you can't load Gnome without also loading several development libraries, a panoply of sound and video support (for hardware you don't physically have and software you have no desire to use) and various other fooferaw []. I realize some of this is because of inept packaging on the part of certain distributions, but even when you take that into account Gnome's still a dependency nightmare reminiscient of Windows "DLL hell".

    When the number of dependencies required to run Gnome on mainstream distributions DECREASES, that'll impress me. Until then I am unlikely to care what new eye-candy it's sporting.
  • Re:Technically great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IpalindromeI ( 515070 ) * on Thursday September 07, 2006 @10:04AM (#16058942) Journal
    I dont't know much about the workings of SVG, but I'd say real shadows would be difficult but doable.

    Pretty easy, actually. Using Inkscape, for example, if you already have the main icon drawn:
    1. Make a copy of the drawing, and select every object and path in the copy.
    2. Use the Path -> Union option to generate an "outline" object.
    3. Turn off stroke if it's on, and change the fill color to a light grey.
    4. Skew and squash the outline so it looks like a shadow.
    5. Make sure the shadow is behind the main drawing.
    6. You can get fancy by using a radial gradient on the shadow to give that "lighter at the edges" look.

    Takes less than a minute. Sure it would take a bit more work than just copying and pasting the same grey oval, but not much, and it's literally the same process for every icon, once the main part is drawn.

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