Tag Archives: topaz

My take on gnome shell

Sorry to say this, but i think the GNOME Shell (short: GS) looks totally senseless to me. There is not much you can do with it, it reminds me a bit on a mix of the Windows Start button and the Exposé from Macos X. Or add Novells “great” idea of a new Windows XP like menu.

It make me a bit angry to see intelligent people put together so much crap – overloaded menus, lists of applications or lists of recent documents. And then add to all this some animated smooth switching, which eats up some working time.

I am not at all impressed of GS. The opposit. i dnt get the point where it helps me. Similar thought as with GNOME DO. I always used Alt+F2 if I wanted to quick start an application without the terminal. I am not against making that kond of starter better – or if you add that somehow also in the panel. But the gnome shell adds a lot of things to the screen which I never used.

Has starting an application ever been a problem to one of you? Or opening a file? Or moving windows between workspaces?

Maybe I am noit the typical user, but when it comes to what I do often I could not comprehend this to one document or one application. I will try to compile what is important from my viewpoint:

  1. Integration of applications. So like lets assume GNOME is a desktop – I dont want to waste my time knowing about applications. I expect the desktop to know which applications to know for what I plan to do. This is also true for actions like attaching files to mails or saving attachments  (which is a real pain)
  2. I do get messages. And I like the desktop to save and sort them from me and allow me to manage them, copy them, add notes to them, move them from one application to the other (add a link from jabber to my bookmarks or to a mail) Messages for me are
    • Emails, Jabber-Messages, forum posts, RSS Feeds
    • System Messages, Application Messages
    • System protocols,…
  3. What is a task? This is like visitting a website or checking my mail, or sending a mail – or working on some documents. There are documents that I do read often and some I only write once – and others I need ot send often. There is no such thing as “Recent Documentes”. What is this? Recently read, recently written or recently sent? Like you have a protocol that you want to send to a bunch of people.
  4. Another problem is finding documents. This is a problem of the place or also the keyword. It would be necessary to be able to tag documents or even categorize them –  making the location secondary. Do I need to know where a document is saved? No – I can leave it to the system where a document resided. What I need is to find it, when I need it. Beagle a s a desktop search also needs some functionality – but sure its as well important to find bookmarks and contents of web pages. Sometimes I need to find a web page where I have read some stuff. Integrating a web based search might help – but my desktop needs to save some search results as I dont want to use Google or Yahoo more than needed.
  5. Essentially there is Reading, Writing/Editing , Receiving, Sending of documents and messages. My take on this is, that with the classical object oriented model put into place into a desktop this would be a great thing. If you ask me why I would not have that much of an idea – I really think we do not start with a new GUI. What we would want is a combined effort to redefine the underlying structure and to work out new models of interaction between applications. And we would also need some serious applications which allow navigation into their functions from outside. I mean it must be possible to start an office application with the exact task that I am planing to do. It cant be the way that you start an appication and then need to find out yourself. The desktop should provide an interface to do what you want – and the applications should be the working horses. Right now applications like Firefox or OpenOffice.org are dominating everything and you need to do everything inside of them.

I dont think we will see such things from classical desktops. The GNOME shell is nothing new – its because people still think in the same categories. If GS is what GNOME 3.0 (Topaz) will be I sure will leave GNOME behind.

I have see that Windows XP now sells a tabbed interface as their own invention. Bravo GNOME – leave it to Microsoft to integrate that. I am sure now GNOME will try to copy – because before nobody at GNOME really cared to make applications ready for tabbed interfaces. I have used some tabbed window managers in the past and found the whole idea great – just that I dod not want to switch to tabbed only – and did not want to configure those managers by hand. Regards to Microsoft who just did, what GNOME thought was too innovative for their users. When MS does it, or Apple GNOME follows, but never leads the way. Just my impression. I still love my current interface because it remindes me still (but less and less) of my old Mac OS 7.x interface. I hat that they removed the application switcher applet at the default place on the right side of the panel (just where it was in the Mac Finder). Now what is dominant is that I need to shut down the computer, switch users or change my status. I really do all those things not more than 1-2 times a day – so I have removed Ubuntus “great” FUSA (fast user switch applet). And I constantly ask myself why all the things I need are removed while at the same time more and ore crap is added.

Sorry for not sounding nice. You see I have not written a lot of stuff in this blog for a while. I have watched things develop and have written more  in german in other blogs about other stuff.

I am in the mood to switch to a distribution with  a clean layout – that does not do experiments (hey, where did they dump the whole default desktop search thing?) other than Ubuntu. I need a work environment right now. Fedora is trying to be innovative too – there is currently no distributions which tries to bring you the best of open source on a stable basis. Maybe there is some Ubuntu clone I havent tried yet? I am ok if a distribution adds some innovative new desktop as an option and allows me to test it. But what I hate is when GNOME and Ubuntu make experiments and use us users as a testbed.

And I would love to have a defauilt mail program based on GNOME which does not such. Currently Evolutions sucks big time. Its absolutely unusable – I am currently using Thunderbird 3 beta4 and its really, really nice. Why does Ubuntu continue to suggest Evolution as the default option? At the same time I currently do not use Epiphany instead of Firefox because I always had some stability issues in the Ubuntu packages – and I was waiting for Epiphany-Webkit becoming ready. Currently that did not work out for me and I also found out that Firefox was not a second slower than Epiphany.

I still think Epi is the cooles browser, but it lacks integration and support from GNOME, same is still true for Gnumeric and Abiword. Some days ago I witnessed how Gnumeric taking just a few seconds opening a 1.5 MB Excel file, while OO.orgs calc took 4 minutes.

There is so much good in GNOME, but thinks do not work out well. Other applications do get more money and attention and now get more ahead of GNOMEs applications. There comes the day where OO.orgs Calc will open that file faster than Gnumeric. And then having GNOME not supporting Gnumeric because of it lacks behind OO.org will become the self fulfilling prophecy.

What I would like to see is a new GNOME initiative outside the old GNOME community but which like to bring money and attention back to all the good GNOME stuff – and not running after some mobile devices and the newest hype.






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GNOME: Oh dear, here they come again

I was hopeful to see some major changes in GNOME Topaz (3.0). But now I have quickly viewed the discussions on the marketing list. Especially those threads:

  1. GNOME Marketing Strategy (Was Audiences), Paul Cutler
  2. GNOME 3.0 slogans, Michael Hasselmann

PLEASE DONT (do it again)

Dont waste your time thinking again about target audiences and slogans. Some say the real target audience are distributions. But distributions care for whatever their users care. You have users – a desktop is something universal.

It doesnt work that way, that a handful of coders and other geeks randomly gather virtually and every 6 months think about some new marketing stuff. The GNOME 3.0 goals were some good direction. The problem now is to get this ideas done. I dont think GNOME will be able to do it all in one step. The problems and solutions are on the table, already. There are GNOME users – you need to communicate with them. Dont let such stuff happen like Ubuntu did with the FUSA applet.

Those discussions are fruitless and have been talked about every once in a while. They never led to anywhere. This is partly because GNOME is controlled by the coders and some major corporations like Nokia, Canonical, Red Hat or Novell, who do finance some projects and pay some high profile developers. So those two groups do set the agenda. GNOME does not and will not have any marketing of its own. It does have some accidental marketing, but this is never tough through. Who should deliver such messages? If any slogan is chosen, you really think any distributor cares about slogans?

In the past marketing has been called propaganda. Its a matter to manipulate the human mind – its neither a development model nor an organizational model.  GNOMEs organization is not very well stuffed. There is not a lot of money and there are only a handful of people doing stuff. he GNOME Board does not have a lot of power and the developers not necessrily listen to what they say. Even less is true for the GNOME marketing team. No developer really cares about what they think or write. Fact.

I think from the birth GNOME tries to be user focused, but it still struggles with this goal and if people draw a picture of GNOME the users still do not appear. Developers are important, but without the users, nobody would use the software. And GNOME is unlike OpenBSD not a project which is mainly used only by experts, but very broadly.  But this is not reflected in the development proces. I think the best thing would be to integrate the users more into development decisions. The answer is not to let some geeks define goals for the users. The users have to do that themselves. The only possibility to give feedback is the GNOME Bugzilla. But this is mostly also not very user friendly. There is no option for users to give simple feedback. A user submitting a bug report often gets a reply to try out alpha or beta versions of the software package. This cant be true! Those geeks are just way too far away of genera users to be able to feel what those might want ot need. Even worse: Why should any developer be motivated to solve any issue a user has?

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Commenting on GNOME 3.0

First of all I think that this is the first time for some time that I see GNOME taking the right steps and the right direction when they announce the GNOME 3.0/plan. I have left marketing team because there was no marketing plan – no direction and man opportunities missed. So I was very astonished to read this well written document. I will take the chance to comment on some stuff:

Planning for GNOME 3.0

Let’s first diverge a bit and discuss the general impression that GNOME is lacking a vision. If you look closely at our community, it’d be wrong to say that people are lacking a vision; but the project as a whole does indeed have this issue. What we are missing is people blessing one specific vision and making it official, giving goals to the community so we can all work together in the same direction. In the pre-2.x days, the community accepted as a whole one specific vision, and such an explicit blessing wasn’t needed. But during the 2.x cycle, with our six months schedules, it appeared that everything (community, development process, etc.) was just working very well, and as the vision got more and more fulfilled, the long-term plans became less important as we focused on polishing our desktop. But we’ve now reached a point where our next steps should be moving to another level, and those next steps require important decisions. This is part of what the Release Team should do. Please note that Release Team members don’t have to be the ones who have the vision; we “just” have to be the voice of the community.

Exactly the point. Apple is leading the desktop because they have a vision. People follow when they like a direction. If no direction is chosen people will look elsewhere.

(As a sidenote, the roadmap process that we tried to re-establish two years ago was a first attempt to fix this. Unfortunately, it turned out that we were missing the most important side of things: a project-wide roadmap. This is because a collection of individual roadmaps isn’t enough to create a project-wide roadmap.)

Right. Many project all do their own stuff. I would even think further and also communicate with guys from Abiword, GIMP, Gnumeric – those are big apps that build on top of GNOME – they do have their links to GNOME but strictly spoken, they are not part of GNOME – but they are very important parts. Or even Epiphany is like the unwanted child of GNOME – now there is nearly no distribution selecting it as primary browser. Which means GNOME is dismissed, often also by the GNOME folks.

* Revamp our User Experience
* Streamlining of the Platform
* Promotion of GNOME

Very good points – and also not too much.

Changing our User Experience

It seems pretty clear now that there are two important ideas that can have a real positive impact on the user experience:

* GNOME Shell: the shell idea is not just about changing the panel and the window manager. It’s about changing the way you start an activity and how you switch between two different activities. Or more generally, how you manage your different activities on the desktop.
* Changing the way we access documents (via a journal, like GNOME Zeitgeist): having to deal with a filesystem in their daily work is not what makes users happy — on the contrary, they generally just want to access their documents and not to browse their hard disk. Providing new solutions to this problem (using timelines, tags, bookmarks, etc.) is something that has been of interest in our community for a long time, but we never completely jumped in. We simply should.

I love the ideas. But what I have seen so far looked not yet very promising. I think one problem of a desktop interface is that you may have a lot of cool applications – but all have different interfaces. Thats one thing old Apple was good at: Making and encouraging simple interfaces, so that many apps do look similar and work similar. The other problem is that users do get confused with an increasing number of applications. So to give a good selection of tools is nice. I am happy, that Empathy (Chat) and Brasero are now also part of GNOME. Personally I would dismiss Evolution as part of GNOME, because it is just way of. The better solution would be if Evolution would start implementing some simple solutions like the possibility to filter spam without opening it (which I had filed as a major bug, but was dismissed – and thats the main reason I now use Thunderbird).

So I want to suggest that applications are becoming more hidden, while the tasks are getting more transparent. Maybe even show it like you can combine actions like LEGO. People need work process chains. Maybe they like to save actions. As Open Source software we do not need to put all the featured into one big piece of software like OpenOffice.org or Firefox. We can put knowledge into the desktop as the whole.

Streamlining of the Platform

I am talking much about that. I am sure it makes sense but i dont know too much about that.

Promotion of GNOME

One common issue that often came up when discussing how to promote GNOME was that promoting the desktop as a whole is difficult. But there’s no need to do that.

I suggest implementing technology to get steady feedback from the users. The borders should be transparent. Let users decide some parts, ask them what they like. This should be a fixed part of the development process and not only be done evetually after a release. The whole idea of release often and early is to get quick responses so that you can refocuse your development. But its important to also listen to the right users. If you only listen to geeks who are loud and the only ones you hear because others dont know how to contact you, you will get the wrong impressions. Thats were technology could help – not only to report bugs, but also suggestions – get them involved!

This leads us to a third item: relaunch our website. While our current website is known for being broken in various different ways from a communication point of view, we’ve not been able to deliver the new version that would fix things. Fixing the website is a large task, but we should not give up on this: the GNOME website is a core part of the GNOME identity, and we cannot ignore the current issues. This happened because of lack of manpower, but the good news is that there are web developers that are fond of GNOME and just don’t know they can help the project.

Disagree very much on this point. There is abolutely no lack of manpower, but there has been active blocking against help. Some old pages have been removed years after I have pointed out the fact that they are outdated. Or nobody was able to do a custom 404 page. This is nt because this would be hard – its because the people who control the website and the SVN access dont value small improvements with big impacts. A website without a custom 404 page should just be ignored – the webmasters think it does not matter if people dont find what they are looking for. Its the thinking that has to change! The scripts that are executed to update the website do only run on Linux and no OpenBSD – most of the websites is hacked together and not much effort has gone into making the process more transparent. A quick solutions would be to have one content focused webmaster who indeed accepts patches and tries to coordinate the small efforts. Sure it would be nice to have the best CMS in the world – but having such a website is just shameful. the website is bad in every aspect – the homepage still reflects that its made by coders for coders. Often there are news about coding summits. Those summits are nice – but all the GNOME hackers do have the rest of http://www.gnome.org/* and all mailing lists to inform themselves about such events. The main page should people get interested in USING GNOME. its the first page they see. And they even do not care about a new GNOME version. What they need is to be taught what GNOME is, and why they may want it.

So mostly a good vision, except that the analysis of the website is far from reality. But i am very optimistic that if that really is a consensus view we weill see a nice new GNOME 3.0 !!

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