The Wrong Path for Desktop GNU/Linux

I’ve tried to use Unity. I’ve tried to use Gnome 3. While many others have had success adapting to the these new desktop environments, I find them buggy and frankly…terrible. I know there have been many debates about it, but I want to give my two cents about it as well because it really hits me hard as a long-time Linux user.

Before KDE version 4, I used KDE most of the time. I rarely used another desktop environment. I was used to it. So believe me when I say I’m not afraid of change when it comes to Linux. When KDE 4 came out, it was different, but it wasn’t so different that I couldn’t have kept on using it. What made me switch to Gnome was the fact that KDE 4 was still in beta and very buggy. I couldn’t use it because of the bugs. So, I switched to Gnome and grumbled about how change for the sake of change isn’t that great.

KDE could have waited until it was ready for production before releasing it. Many distributions continued to use KDE 3 for a long time, but KDE 4 scared me away from it. I switched to Gnome and was happy with a desktop that worked well. I wasn’t alone. Many people switched to Gnome. I became a staunch advocate of Gnome and tried to steer every new Windows convert away from KDE because I didn’t want them to have a bad first experience with Linux.

Enter stage left Gnome 3 and Unity. These two flaky pieces of garbage have been pushed on every major modern distribution. I say modern to refer to the distributions that use more bleeding edge software packages. Debian Stable is still using Gnome 2, but Debian Testing (which will become Debian Stable someday) uses Gnome 3. If you want to use Debian Stable, you’ll be stuck with older versions of many software packages. If you want to use modern packages, such as VLC 2.0 (which has minimal support for bluray playback) you’ll need to go with a more modern distro.

The problem with going with a more modern distro is that most use Gnome 3 or Unity, and they don’t really have a choice. Gnome 2 and GTK2 will no longer be supported or developed.

The philosophy, as I’ve heard it, from the developers of Unity and Gnome 3 is that users don’t migrate to Linux because of all the software choices. Too many desktop environments create confusion for new users. Should they use XFCE4, KDE, Gnome, FluxBox, or something else? The claim is that this massive amount of choice scares away new users.

This is a terrible philosophy. The competition is what helps drive free software. People love having a choice, especially the type of users that actually USE LINUX. The main reason more people haven’t adopted Linux is because MOST PEOPLE DON’T EVEN KNOW THEY ARE RUNNING WINDOWS. They just know they have a computer and they use what it came with. They don’t know which version of Windows they are running, and they don’t care, as long as they can get on Facebook and talk about how bored they are. People don’t flock to Linux because Manufacturers don’t put Linux on their new computers.

Manufacturers have deals with software vendors which lets them cut the cost of their computers. They get paid by software vendors to install their “crapware” onto the new computers. Computer manufacturers actually get paid to put all that junk on your new computer. If they start installing Linux on their computers, they will have to raise the price of their new systems, because they will no longer be getting the “crapware” income.

An example of how Linux on new devices actually increases market share can be found in Android. There are millions of people using Android on their phone right now oblivious to the fact that it’s Linux. They have no idea, and they don’t care. There are many internet browsers they can install on their phone, but most will never do so. It already comes with one. There are many software choices out there on Android. That doesn’t scare away Android users. They install something if they want it. It’s as simple as that.

This whole notion that unifying user interfaces will bring people to Linux is garbage. More and more people use Linux every day. In time, manufacturers may install Linux on more of their computers. Only a few do it today. As that happens, however, the number of Linux desktop users will grow exponentially.

While we are waiting on that to happen, though, why not listen to the users who are actually USING the software right now. Most HATE unity and Gnome 3.

And now that KDE 4 is pretty solid, most, like myself, will be moving to it. I installed it yesterday, fixed a small distortion in the audio, removed the blue shadow from the active windows, and will not be looking back. It’s working flawlessly for me. I’m very happy with what it has become, and I’m glad it’s available for me at this time when Gnome developers apparently have their head stuck where the sun doesn’t shine.

I don’t mean to badmouth the developers because I know they have a tough job and they do it all pretty much for nothing. Perhaps the problem is with the project management. I’m not sure where the problem lies. Did the Gnome project get taken over by Microsoft or Apple? I have this curious feeling that it is being led by a bunch of suits instead of developers.

Screw you Desktop Environments, I’m installing KDE

Many years ago I used KDE as my main Linux desktop environment. I switched to gnome around the same time that I switched to Debian and later Ubuntu. I liked GTK themes. I liked Gnome’s way of keeping the visual simple and found that it was much more solid than KDE, especially KDE version 4+. I’ve lived in a Gnome utopia for quite some time, and I loved it.

Now, we have Gnome 3 and Unity. XFCE4 is a good alternative but it just isn’t Gnome 2. Rather than battle it any longer and continue my search for a Gnome 2 alternative. I’m switching back to KDE. I don’t care if I hate it. At least they aren’t trying this whole unification approach that is killing the desktop in Linux on many distributions.

So far, LinuxMint has been the only distribution I’ve found that had a decent Gnome 3 setup by default, and it has some freakish glitch with my ATI video card that appears to make it reset itself from time to time. It just acts really flaky.

So, I’m installing the kde-full package in Debian Wheezy right now and crossing my fingers for a better experience.