Sunday, July 29, 2007

Three reasons NOT to use Gnome

I've always been a proponent of choice. Maybe it has to do with my biology study, I don't know. Variation makes a population stronger and resilient. A few days ago, I wrote an article on comp.lang.forth, passionately arguing that the ANS Forth standard should allow even more diversity in architectures, command sets and design objectives. That's why I like Open Source. Whatever you're looking for, somebody has done it. If not, you can always start a new project.

So, it is only logical that there is a large variety of desktop environments and window managers. Even more than you can imagine. One of my favorite Linux magazines, the German "Linux User" has a monthly section dedicated to it. Although I don't have any intention to change my desktop, it is nice to see what people come up with. Some solutions I find even tempting.

One of the better qualities of the Open Source community is mutual respect. Developers make different choices, but they usually show understanding for the choices others have made. One of the characteristics of respect is honesty. You don't spread any FUD to harm your opponent or his product. That is why "Three reasons to use Gnome" shocked me.

I don't object to the article itself; Sal Cangeloso is free to use what ever he wants and list his reasons for using it. But he is not free to spread FUD and use some very questionable arguments. I've used KDE from the first moment I installed Linux and I've never been disappointed. I've even used it on a 166 MHz, 32 MB Pentium II. Sure, it wasn't a speed demon, but I've used the machine for 18 months at a stretch. I like my KDE and when you look at the comments this dubious article received, I'm not the only one.

I've always had the idea that this whole KDE vs. Gnome thing has been kept alive by Gnome proponents (see the last paragraph). I can imagine why. Somebody starts a desktop environment based on non-free software. A year later, in 1997, you found a project with the aim to create an entirely free desktop. After three years, you find that you've done it all for nothing, because somebody changed the licensing. What a bummer! What now?

Okay, you start a project called Mono to give it a boost, based on a totally nonfree architecture (sic) - designed and promoted by a company I choose not to mention. It's still not working. Even worse, the father of the single piece of software that started it all says in public that "your whole mentality is a disease" and your baby will only be used "by idiots". On top of all the guy who gave your favorite desktop environment the long awaited recognition becomes the first patron of KDE. Apart from driving off a cliff, what can you do. Easy, let's do what the professionals do. Spread FUD.

First of all, SuSE has always defaulted to KDE until it was bought by Novell. Novell also bought Ximian. Right, that company was founded and owned by the guy who wrote both Gnome and Mono, Miguel de Icaza. It is safe to say that this choice was made for political and not technical reasons.

Second, Gnome is far from "lightweight" as these figures will show you. Personally, I find Gnome sluggish and not quite as snappy and responsive as KDE. That is quite understandable if you know how Gnome came to be. The Gimp Tool Kit was originally developed to make GIMP, a Photoshop clone – not to build an entire desktop on top of it. It has the most horrible API you've ever seen. KDE has one of the most well designed APIs I've ever seen. Absolutely no comparison.

Third, I absolutely prefer most of the KDE applications to their Gnome counterparts. If you've ever worked with LyX, you'll never go back to Open Office Writer again – except for compatibility reasons concerning an Office suite whose name I choose not to mention. Konquerer is the fastest browser around – with the possible exception of Dillo. Bluefish or Quanta? Don't give it a second thought - Bluefish even lacks a preview or help feature. I prefer Kmail over Evolution, because the latter resembles a PIM whose name I choose not to mention. Krita is quickly becoming the image editor of choice. And Koffice is a better suite than the bunch of unrelated applications like Gnumeric and Abiword that form the "Gnome office" suite. Not to mention that "Gnome office" is lacking a Kexi equivalent. I have to admit I really like Dia, though!

Finally, Sal Cangeloso resorts to the ever lasting Gnome FUD trump card, licensing. Okay, I'll repeat it here for the very last time: since September 2000 KDE is 100% GPL. No "licensing issues" at all. The next one who tries that trick gets his lights punched out.

I really don't care which window manager you use. I really don't care what desktop environment you use. But you should not reward a project that has and keeps on spreading FUD just to force its eternal nemesis out of the market. If you want a sluggish memory hog that leaves you no choice unless you happen to like XML hacking, be my guest. But note that when there is no KDE anymore, you will be left with no choice at all - except of course with what the good Gnome people think is good for you – welcome to the cathedral!

Note that there are a lot of people that are very passionate where KDE is concerned. Why? Because it is their tool of choice and they use it every day. Some have used Gnome for a while and switched. For some, KDE is too heavy (e.g. DSL, Puppy Linux) and they were happy to see that there are alternatives - the bazaar. That is what Open Source is all about. And don't you forget it.

1 comment:

merlincooper said...

Whether Gnome, KDE, XFCE or whatever there is one big problem across all of these desktop environments which shows no sign of being solved; namely font rendering.

I believe there are patent issues surrounding the better sub-pixel hinting technologies since clearly Microsoft would not want their technologies being freely distributed by sandal wearing, bearded Linux junkies.

I'm afraid Linux activists still don't get this! One of the most important considerations when using a computer is how well the text is rendered and how efficiently the limited screen space is used (we don't all have arrays of 30" monitors).

Let's say I use Gnome on my IBM Thnikpad - which has a measly screen resolution of just 1024x768 pixels. With Windows XP and the classic theme (stripped of the blue stuff) I can get far more text on the screen and read it well from a distance. With the font rendering in the Linux OS this is not the case. Everything looks huge and ugly - if I try to downsize the fonts they become unreadable. Scrolling is slow (suggesting inefficient rendering of the fonts).

I have seen some hacks to get font rendering similar to that available in Mac OS X. However, even this is sub-standard in my opinion.

I don't mean to go on! However, this really is the only thing stopping me using GNU/Linux as a DESKTOP operating system. Fine on severs etc or for frame buffer shell. No thanks for desktop use!