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Gnome is Rapidly Becoming My Least Favorite Desktop

Date/Time Permalink: 10/11/09 02:59:53 pm
Category: Reviews

Part of my motivation when I made the big switch from Slackware to Ubuntu was a desire to step out of my comfort zone and give something different a try. And while I've warmed up to Ubuntu - heck, I even like it at times! - I'm still cold on Gnome.

For reasons like this:

Gnome sucks

Such a simple thing! I want to hit F11 and have Emacs open. Gnome's set-up already has slots for starting web browser and terminal, so I'm able to have half of the default key scheme I've had for going on a decade now. F12 starts gnome-terminal and F10 starts Firefox, leaving the F11 key dead like a missing tooth.

As you might guess at this point in the whine, try it yourself. No emacs! Changing the command to just plain 'emacs' doesn't work. Restarting Gnome doesn't work. Disabling every single other keyboard shortcut doesn't work. For the record, 'F9' doesn't launch ABIWord, either (you can see I tried that in the screenshot, too), but one problem at a time.

Googling gets you a recommendation of a package called 'keylaunch.' I check - yes! Install the Ubuntu package, list 'keylaunch' to start when Gnome starts, create my .keylaunchrc file, follow the instructions I Google up, list the key and command, log out and restart Gnome... F11.

Nothing.

This helpful guide I found on keylaunch does just happen to mention that Gnome has a special problem with keylaunch, but even this salty expert author only seems to have a hazy idea. I start the terminal (F12) and type 'keylaunch' and get back "X Error of failed request: BadAccess (attempt to access private resource denied)" just like it says. The author at that link advises me to kill Nautilus.

Fine then! F12- "ps aux | grep nautilus", kill the process number... try it again... Nothing. Restart the terminal, type keylaunch again, and get the same error! "ps aux..." again, but no Nautilus. Now what? At first I only had no Emacs-on-F11, but now I have no Emacs-on-F11, no keylaunch, no Nautilus, and no idea. Chances are it used to work back when this guide was written, and then Gnome broke it some more.

I'm tired of working on it. It should have done what I told it to do way back up there at that dialog I pictured at the top. Why put the empty promise of a control you're not going to let the user have?

Gnome wasn't so bad back in the Red Hat days (before 9.0, which is the last time I used Red Hat). But with each subsequent release, it gets more and more Windows. It's like watching a grown college-educated person regress back in time until they're a toothless crawling baby.

True, it is simple to use - as long as you are an idiot. But the second you try to do anything un-idiotlike, you discover there's a straightjacket holding your arms in place. You're going to be spoonfed, whether you like it or not.

Here is what is wrong with Gnome, and it is the ultimate crime you can have any piece of software do: It gets in your way. It fights with you.

Like replacing the names of your old familiar programs that you grew up with with descriptions:

Gnome still sucks

...because sending you hunting through the alphabetized list of menu entries until you have to guess that 'text editor' means 'gedit' is preferable to having somebody who is unable to guess what a program with the string 'edit' right in the name does be afraid to click on it.

Like replacing the perfectly-good xscreensaver-demo with its own screensaver app:

Gnome still sucks

...which takes away the custom settings for screensavers. Why? Are you afraid somebody's going to hurt themselves with it? Even Windows allows customization of screensaver settings, and when you're even more dummified than Windows, you've got a problem!

This is just the example I mean. There is no reason why you shouldn't let the user use any key to do anything the user damn well pleases to, whether Nautilus is running or not. There is no reason, at all, at all, at all. You can do this in any programming language, on any platform - you can do this in raw X and in the most primitive window managers such as TWM and the *box series. In Fluxbox it's one line in a text file!

Therefore, Gnome puts extra stuff that gets in your way to stop you from doing that. "Leave that to mommy; you're not old enough to run Emacs anyway. Now open the hanger - here comes the airplaaaaane! zoooooom..."

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