[linux-elitists] gnome, trial by fire

Jeff Waugh jdub@perkypants.org
Tue Jan 6 03:34:42 PST 2004

<quote who="Aaron Lehmann">

> Gnome runs a lot of daemons on my box. Two are specific to evolution
> and stay running after evolution exits. By the way, I tried Evolution
> briefly and didn't like it. The interface seems like a clone of
> Outlook's, and the techies and non-geeks alike that I know despise
> that program for it's horrid user interface.

This is an interesting point. Evo2 is looking quite different from 1.4,
although it does take some inspiration from Outlook 2003 and Entourage (the
groupware app in Microsoft Office for Mac).

However, there's no huge interest in having MS-clone interfaces in GNOME
anymore. Familiar, sure, but not flat-out-clone like Evolution/Outlook. This
is because user testing and training has indicated that attempting to
provide a clone of the Windows interface - without identically cloning the
behaviour (as they are two different things) - is incredibly confusing, and
actually costs more in training and support. When users recognise that there
is a difference, they are more inclined to be inquisitive and not rely so
much on previous knowledge. This was borne out in a Siemens study that is
unfortunately not published yet.

So for everyone who fears GNOME and/or Evolution being a pixel-for-pixel
clone of Windows, fear no longer. :-)

> I don't like the way Gnome changed the GTK theme from under me. On the
> other hand, it lauched my usual window manager (presumably seeing the
> right dotfiles). I appreciated that gesture.

That was probably Debian (assuming you're using Debian).

> I'm not sure I grok Nautilus. The "Bookmarks" menu and "Location" bar
> made me suspect that it was also designed to browse the web, but when
> I tried loading web pages I just got their HTML code displayed. I'm
> not saying that I think that loading web pages from a file manager is
> a desired feature (I hate that mixed metaphor). As a file manager it
> seems okay, although clearly influenced by the windows desktop. It's
> faster than I would have expected.

Much of this is fixed in 2.5 (devel series for 2.6). We decided to get rid
of the web page stuff in 2.0 (it used to be included), because we don't
think crossing lines between the file manager and web browser makes sense
either. What you're seeing with the text view thing is a mime association
that connects http urls and the text viewer that Nautilus picks up on. Our
mime and scheme stuff is really very sickly right now, and we're fixing that
with the freedesktop.org mime spec (so it's shared and interoperable) and
also fixing the associations UI along with it (it's totally confusing right
now). Those http associations should be launching a browser for you in new
releases of GNOME, instead of getting Nautilus to do it.

One of the major changes in 2.5 (mentioned on the list earlier) is that
Nautilus is now far more like the Classic Mac OS Finder - so it's spatial
instead of navigational. You can still open up the navigational view (what
you're seeing there with the address bar and stuff) as a 'File Browser', so
they're very separate concepts now. It is *FUCKLOADS* faster in 2.5 again.
The other thing is that the whole 'views' thing is disappearing in favour of
an extension API. This will be much, much, much clearer to users, because
documents won't open in the Nautilus window (eeeek), and they won't see
strange non-icon/non-list views in it anymore. Major, major win.

(Dave Camp already has a nautilus-vcs extension module going, which works
quite like Tortoise CVS in Windows.)

> gconf truly scares me. Looking through it, I can't see how it differs
> significantly from the Windows Registry. I know someone will yell at
> me for saying that, but I'm not attempting to troll. I really disagree
> that such a system is a sane way to keep track of configurations, and
> I think that gconf will ultimately be detrimental to users.

I'm not going to yell at you for saying it, everyone sees that resemblance
straight away. Yes, it is a tree of key/value pairs. That's about the only
really solid similarity. The entire underpinnings of it are different, and
the design goals are somewhat different. A few off the top of my head:

  * Single configuration API
  * Multiple backends -> there's XML, BDB (eek!), LDAP and ACAP ones in
    testing, etc.
  * Change notification -> really awesome for users and integration
  * A default and mandantory settings system, which is growing into a fully
    featured lockdown and management infrastructure -> great for desktop
  * Backward and forward key and value compatibility
  * Translated documentation strings for keys

Lots of stuff that aren't obvious on initial inspection, but differentiate
GConf from the much-daemonised Windows Registry. There are certainly design
issues that are noted and being resolved, and stuff like that, but on the
whole, the GConf API and concept are very solid, and a boon for users.

> On the whole it seems like a pretty decent environment for beginners,
> albeit not a light one. Personally I don't think I'll be switching.

Cool, thanks, nice to hear you've had a different experience this time

- Jeff

Come to gnome.conf.au 2004!   http://www.gnome.org/~jdub/2004/gnome.conf.au/
    "The only people still using Microsoft IIS are those who don't even
                     know it's there." - Larry Ellison

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