The Great Desktop Switchoff Day 1: Setup and first impressions

Today was the first day of the desktop switchoff Mel Chua and I planned. Along for the ride, so far, are Felix Kaechele, and Bert Desmit, both GNOME folks along with Mel. I (for better or worse) appear to be the only KDE guy to switch to GNOME this week.

So, I guess this is the first time I’ve ever used GNOME as a full desktop past “ohey, me running kwin from trunk broke everything, lemme get into GNOME to fix this.” My reactions at first have been a little bit mixed. Unsurprisingly, I have a bit of NIH syndrom about the whole thing, but I guess I’m adapting slowly but surely :^) I’ve decided that I won’t customize GNOME with many of the things that would make it less GNOME-ish, simply to keep with the original challenge, and not try to turn it into some bastardized KDE. 🙂

I did a simple `yum install @gnome-desktop gnome-do-plugins{,-pidgin,-evolution,-firefox,-pidgin} liferea gwibber` to get myself up and running.

At first, I was really having trouble with GNOME, and its workflow. The anemic metacity window manager probably doesn’t help this any, I guess, and the fact that, as far as I can tell, GNOME overrides my custom compiz config with its own settings only makes things more frustrating. All in all, I’m fairly pleased with the overall GNOME desktop, even if it doesn’t fit my usual workflow, which is basically sans-panel and highly reliant on powerful KWin alt-tab, present windows and desktop wall functions. Moving back to a panel-based workflow is an interesting challenge for me, and probably one of the biggest things i have noticed today.

As for applications, my reactions have been mixed. For music I am still using KDE’s amazing music player amarok, but all of my other applications are GNOME applications, barring the Firefox web browser, which I staunchly refuse to call a GNOME application 🙂 I have to say that Amarok looks depressing when themed as GTK’s clearlooks, but at the same time it’s an interesting look at how awesome Qt is at cross platform integration. It’s too bad that KDE disables some of those integrations for GNOME as it could really help create those jumping grounds for GNOME and other desktops’ users to jump to KDE. I have battled with getting GNOME to do the same thing in the past, and it’s resulted in ugly hacks and, quite frankly, ugly solutions such as gtk-qt-engine, kgtk and other such LD_PRELOAD hacks which don’t really “feel right.” Granted, KDE disables the Qt GTK file dialog emulation, and the button modes, but having a nicely working UI theme usually works enough.

Panels? All that wasted space!

I must say that the quality of GNOME applications comes and goes, though. I’m not overtly impressed with the UI of gwibber and its merging of multiple timelines into one and its apparent lack of notifications, for example. Oh and don’t even get me started on GScribble 🙂 If anyone has a suggestion on a better wordpress desktop client for GNOME, please let me know. I’d go into all the reasons I don’t like GScribble, but small children wouldn’t be able to read my post :^) Also a BIG wtf on unlabelled buttons-that-don’t-look-like-buttons-until-mouseover which severely alter an application’s usability. Evolution’s work online/offline button…. I’m looking at YOU.

See that little “plug” thing in the bottom left. yeah that button heavily modifies Evolution’s usability 🙂

As for the vast differences in memory usage that GNOME users claim to see, I have seen no such things. The only real difference is probably nepomuk CONSTANTLY rebuilding its index since I had to delete it in the move to Virtuoso 6. Without nepomuk and virtuoso running, the memory usage is just about identical. A desktop with quite a few applications is going to run at about 2GiB of RAM used regardless of whether the applications are Qt or GTK based. Now, as for apparent speed, GNOME’s UI feels, in general, more snappy but far less usable, imo. I think KDE’s biggest pitfall for me is the slow start up time of some applications which, for whatever reason, appear less laggy than on KDE. The positioning of buttons, and general non-configurability of the user interface basically makes it worse off in terms of how fast I can use it, though. Also, Preferences being under Edit == BIG WTF.

Overall, I’m not exactly pleased with my current set up, and rebuilding it after reboot if GNOME’s session manager doesn’t save it should be *ahem* fun, but for now, I’m mostly content. Just gotta find a better notification system than guifications for Pidgin. Tomorrow we head off to class to see how well GNOME fits the use of my equally strange tablet and note taking and document viewing workflow.

~ by Ryan Rix on 16 February 2010.

7 Responses to “The Great Desktop Switchoff Day 1: Setup and first impressions”

  1. Interesting post. I would say I feel the same way about KDE. I think the reason I like GNOME is because I am not a heavy app user. I tend to stick to just firefox, vim, xchat, development applications. Not any media players. KDE is very pretty to look at but it’s just to bloated for me.

  2. “and rebuilding it after reboot if GNOME’s session manager doesn’t save it should be *ahem* fun”

    gnome-session-save .

  3. I’d actually like to see you post about your KDE setup (that would have been nice before the switch-off I guess). I’m also one of those folks that has tried KDE two or three times and everytime after two or three days I say, ‘This is is a steaming pile of dung’ and switch back to gnome.

    You sort of mention the “wasted space” of panels as if all that plasma stuff in KDE is unobtrusive… I’d like to know how someone who actually likes KDE sets it up. Maybe the defaults just suck?

  4. Here’s how I always customize KDE for myself: (00:04:35)

    I’ve been using KDE since 0.9x. I do use a number of GNOME apps in additional to KDE apps.

    Browser: Firefox
    IRC: Konversation
    IM: Kopete
    Email: Zimbra Web Client in browser
    File Manager: Dolphin
    Office App: or SoftMaker Office (commercial app but they recently gave away the 2008 version for Windows and Linux giving some money to charity for every download)
    Text editor: Kate or Kwrite
    Media player for video: Totem most of the time, Dragon (fixes some sound issues that sometimes develop), vlc
    Media player for audio: Rhythmbox most of the time, Totem, Dragon. Amarok was always too busy and hard to use for me
    Optical Disk burning: k3b
    Terminal: Konsole with twenty-ish tabs and screen in most all of them
    Graphics: GIMP for raster and Inkscape for vector

    Anyway… you get the idea.

  5. My wife has been using KDE for 18months now and when she saw her sister’s Dell with Ubuntu last year, she told me she would go back to WinXP if I ever dare put that ‘depressing OS’ on her laptop. He sister called her laptop the saddest thing shes seen since Win95 and begged me to put on the thing her mom is using (Mandriva/KDE)

    I use Win, Mac, Gnu-Linux during the day and all used the same way, since in 2010, there is very little difference and certainly no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way like many claim but just different tastes in desktops.

    My vegan friends hate a good filet mignon and I hate sushi (I adore halibut, shark, salmon, swordfish on the grill though)…its a question of taste, just like desktops.
    Some like vanilla, some chocolate.

    But I had Kubuntu and Ubuntu on two laptops and asked people at a party we had here last month which they preferered and like at our LUG installfests: 75/25 for KDE.

    Most of the apps I use everyday are pretty much DE agnostic:
    FF, Thunderbird, VLC, Skype, Opera, Google Earth, Gimp and OO and whenever I used Gnome, these always came along for the ride.

    But I have yet to find programs that match Digikam, K3B and KDEnlive’s functionality. (I have to throw in Kopete which is really like most IM programs but the only one that supported Yahoo video)
    I like Gwenview like I used to Irfanview but a viewer is a viewer and while I like Amarok, there are others just as good.

    Of course, Im sure chocolate lovers would say the exact same thing about their favorite DE as well.

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