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November 29th, 2011 subogero

I gave it a go, after I read a positive blog-post about it. So I installed Fedora16 as a new VirtualBox machine. Then I installed VirtualBox guest-additions to enable 3D-acceleration, without which one is confronted with the 2D fallback mode, which shall not be mentioned in civilised company.

Finally I was presented with the new shiny uncluttered Gnome Shell. I hit Alt-F1 to see the menu. There emerged the even more shiny semi-transparent Activities page. Surprisingly, it was rather empty. I wanted to start something like a browser or a terminal with the keyboard. So I hit the arrow keys, Tabs and stuff to get to “Applications” instead of “Windows”, or to the hierarchical menu on the right side. Nothing. In about 5 minutes – googling included – I have not found any key combination the Activities page recognizes. There is probably something like Ctrl-Alt-Shift-arrow, which needs 3 hands to operate.

So, rather sadly, I resorted to using the mouse and started a terminal. I was immediately presented with an unpleasant huge silver title bar. So much for uncluttered. So, yes, let’s customize the desktop theme. Right-click the desktop. Nothing. Hmmm. Alt-F1 for Activities, somehow I found Settings. It turned out all you can do is change the background image. Hmmm, indeed. Compiz will probably sort it out.

Or rather not. Compiz is not available. Good bye Rotating Desktop Cube, good bye Ring Switcher, good bye semitransparent Wobbly Windows. One might say I’m an effect-junkie, but the fact is these Compiz bells and whistles actually help you see what you do. On the Cube, you see what is on the next desktop. With a semitransparent moving window, you see where you place it. With the Ring Switcher after Alt-Tab, you see what window you choose. Which is not the case with Gnome3’s Alt-Tab, which displays icons only. Welcome back to the wonderful world of Windows XP.

Having mentioned terminals, I wanted to open a second one. Activities, click Terminal, and Gnome3, endeavouring to give satisfaction, returned me to my old Gnome-terminal. Thank you very much.

So back to customization. You cannot choose your fonts. You cannot choose your colours. You cannot choose your keyboard shortcuts. You probably can, but you need extensions and special config tools and config file editing. Need an extension to choose my fonts? Weird. The Windows XP registry springs to the mind. Not funny.

But c’est la vie, I yummed gnome-tweak-tool. Suddenly a whole new world of options opened up, like choosing fonts. Not colours, though. I’d say about 10% of the options of Gnome2-Compiz. At least I could select my favourite MetaBox window borders. Or rather the Metabox non-borders.

The issue of window borders brings me back to my favourite obsession, vertical space. Or in the case of Gnome3, the lack of it. You must have a panel, and you must have it on top. You must have a window title bar and you must a have a menu. In Unity, for a maximized window, the panel, the title bar and the menu are one. In Gnome2, you can place the panel to any side and make it auto-hide.

And sorry, but I have not seen any nice effect that necessitates 3D acceleration. Gnome3 does not look too good. It’s a desktop, which is a piece of furniture, which, by definition, must look good. Mac OS X looks good. Unity looks good. And Gnome2-Compiz simply blows everything else away.

Gnome2-Compiz was actually so bloody good that Apple copied many features from it. I still remember the day I first installed Jaunty Jackalope after living for years in a desert called Windows XP. I was amazed by the myriad of desktop customization options: Configurable window decoration! Configurable controls! Configurable panels and applets! Configurable hotkeys for everything! Semi-transparent terminals! A sane algorithm for placing new windows! Not even mentioning the rather mind-blowing Compiz stuff. And suddenly, Windows XP looks like an oasis of freedom compared to Gnome3.

What’s going on here? I’m probably very stupid. Too stupid use Gnome3. At least I’m in good company. Linus Torvalds can’t use it, either.

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