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Gnome3: User-Friendly Is Not Equal To User-Insult

Date/Time Permalink: 12/27/12 10:32:48 am
Category: Reviews

Like everybody in the Linux community, I have at last been dragged kicking and screaming onto Gnome 3. We had no choice; everything on our Linux desktops has been slowly failing from being so badly aged. My old Fedora release experience has so far been rescued by the graces of "fallback mode" on the laptop, while the desktops were still running old Ubuntus. So I had dodged being affected by Gnome3 so far.

At the same time, Gnome now has the entire Linux desktop world at gunpoint: The majority of software that runs on Linux requires Gnome and GTK. I've tried running everything on alternatives - Gnome has a desktop lock-in going on right now that is worse than anything imagined by Apple or Microsoft in their kinkiest dreams. Do without Gnome, and your printers will break, your Bluetooth will refuse to connect, none of the weather applets will talk to your desktop, your videos will freeze, and taxi cabs will suddenly pass you by in the snow without stopping for you.

So I finally grabbed a copy of Fedora 17, figuring, well, all of the crabbing I've been hearing about Gnome3 must have settled somebody's hash by now. Maybe the claims of UI horror have been greatly exaggerated. They've had months to fix it - how bad could it be?

Imagine being arrested and sentenced for life, in leg irons and chains, to preschool. No more adult for you, you have to sit in those tiny wobbly plastic chairs and drink Hawaiian Punch and play Hi-Ho Cherry-O and watch Barney for the rest of your life.

That bad.

I am not being funny.

And I see that the outraged screams of all of you (INCLUDING Linus Torvalds!) simply are not enough to penetrate the sawdust skull of William Jon McCann, Gnome "designer" who, in this interview from his Stalin-like reality-distortion-bubble, responded to the criticism of Gnome3 thus:

"Even many of the same people who are now claiming that GNOME2 was such a great thing for them were some of the most vocal opponents of the things we did in GNOME2."

Yeah, McCann, let me see if I can explain to you why this is. Pull up a wobbly plastic chair:

You had a house. That was "1". People lived in it. Then you broke all the lights and removed the doors and called it "2". And everybody complained about that. So then you also removed the roof and the furniture, and populated it with rabid pitbulls who attack the tenants, and that's "3". So now people complain even louder, so now you go "Well then, I guess 2 wasn't so bad after all, now was it?"

I'm beginning to question whether somebody who reasons this way has the best interests of users in mind.

In any case, does everybody finally see what happens when you ignore established or competent users in favor of Joe Sixpack? I was complaining about the preschool-ization of the Linux desktop five years ago at least (example). I got yelled down for it. I gave up. Nobody wanted to hear it from me. Apparently, nobody even got it when I framed it in a Joe Sixpack parody (strips #727-#730).

Now I see, what the hey, Tom's Hardware arriving at this conclusion when writing "Gnome 3: Why It Failed":

"So, when the power users are leaving, GNOME doesn't really seem to care. After all, GNOME 3 isn't designed for them. But what the GNOME Project leaders don't seem to understand is that new Linux users are like vampires, or werewolves, or zombies. Stick with me here.

New Linux users don't just spontaneously pop into existence, they have to be 'bitten' by someone who is already involved. Average Joe, who needs to use his computer and doesn't care how it works, doesn't wake up one day and, out of the clear blue sky exclaim, 'You know what? I think I'm gonna screw around with Linux today.' New users are typically converted by a friend or family member who gets them set up and interested.

By gutting GNOME of every power user-oriented feature (a functional desktop, virtual desktops, on-screen task management, applets, hibernation, and so on) it's losing that intermediate-to-advanced crowd that's responsible for bringing users on-board. The power user demographic isn't going to recommend and support GNOME 3-based systems if they've already jumped ship."

That was Adam Overa, and his words, above, ought to be emblazoned on marble slabs at every offramp leading into Silicon valley. You could substitute the name of any technology product and be just as right. This seems to be the single most important fact to technology adoption that nobody, since the Commodore VIC-20, seems to have understood.

Can we get this into the Jargon File or something, please? "Overa's User Base Law", summarized as: "New customers are brought in by old customers. If you shoot at your old customers, you won't get new customers, and you won't have any old customers, either."

Both Gnome 3 and Ubuntu's Unity (not a hair better) suffer from the phone fad: trying to make all devices behave like a phone. Yeah, but if we want a phone, we know where to get one. When you have a desktop, you have it because of reasons, reasons being that you need all that extra power, usually for productivity.

Anyway, we're installing XFCE and using that instead. When you have Gnome and all of the GTK support, you can switch to XFCE and pretend Gnome doesn't exist and almost not know the difference. So that looks like the state of the Linux desktop currently.

Penguin Pete's holidays

Update The Register also has scathing things to say about the Gnome hijack of the Linux desktop.

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