[linux-elitists] gnome, trial by fire

Aaron Lehmann aaronl@vitelus.com
Tue Jan 6 12:15:19 PST 2004

On Tue, Jan 06, 2004 at 10:34:42PM +1100, Jeff Waugh wrote:
> 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).

I'm not sure how 1.4 looks, but what tipped me off in this case was
the "Send/Receive" button, the integrated PIM functionality, and the
highly unusual navigation bar on the left.

My father is using a GNOME desktop, which is probably quite old by
now. I only have a chance to update it for him every year or so. He
uses Mozilla mail and has often asked if there's a better client
available. I've mentioned Evolution, but once I told him that it
resembled Outlook he wouldn't get near it. I'm sure Evolution is not
quite as bad but I do wish that Sylpheed was available as a GTK2
program for me to recommend to people who want a mail client.

> However, there's no huge interest in having MS-clone interfaces in GNOME
> anymore.

I did notice a decrease in them. The panel has improved a lot since

> 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.

Also, there's no reason to assume that new users are familiar with the
windows applications. They have a wide installed base but ideally many
new users, especially in third world countries, should be able to get
by with little computer background at all.

> 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.

You thought it did a few years ago. Is someone else making UI
decisions now, or did usability testing just show that some bad
decisions were made?

> 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.

Good to know. I'm still nostolgic for the Finder. I don't think I'd
ever go back to using that kind of GUI for everyday work, after being
spoiled by the shell, but I enjoy running MacOS under emulation every
once in awhile.

> 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).

Would it be correct to say that the entire
OLE/COM/CORBA/whatever-style system of embedding arbitrary
applications in each other is being phased out? I always disliked the
idea of every application doing everything. If the new model is to
open the correct application to display or edit the content in
question, I would feel much better about Gnome.

> > 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
>     admins
>   * 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.

I'm not a fan of XML, otherwise I'd probably be content to edit the
settings by hand assuming they're somewhat human readable. I don't
think a "regedit" style program is good because it should have very
few legitimate uses. If I want to change a setting, I should be able
to use a graphical dialog, or (worst case) edit a file. If I have to
use a program specifically designed for making low-level edits, that's
not a good thing. I've already seen gconf keys specified on this list
to people who want to change certain settings. This leads me to
believe that unless there is a lot of improvement, users will have to
edit the configuration registry to accomplish certain things.

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

I haven't tried a recent KDE but I actually think I'd like Gnome more.
The Gnome interface is actually somewhat pretty now. Since my dad is
using Gnome as an end user, I really should be more knowledgeble about
the desktop environments.

Also, I need to give him an upgrade to 2.4, because it seems much
better. However, he has only 96MB ram. The desktop was using a lot of
memory on my system and I don't know if his could handle it. He runs
openoffice and mozilla continuously too. Hmm :/

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