Monday, April 17, 2006

Why Linux is boring

It seems, for whatever reason, that the Linux community has stopped evolving. We only seem to be heading towards one of two environments: GNOME or KDE. Now, of course, I'm not blind, this trend has been obvious for a very long time. It's amusing, however, that so many people buy into it. They don't see the potential for other possibilities, and they assume that anything which challenges the current two dominant players must be "nuts".

Is this the brave new world of open source? Will KDE and GNOME be all we have? I have looked at both and I am unimpressed with what they offer. Both are poorly designed, amateurish pieces of software. They both feel like they have "evolved" to this point and were never *designed* to be like this. In my next few articles, I'll examine them both further.


Riccardo said...

You know that some people resisted buying into it!
Those people launch GNUstep applications daily :)

Stefan Urbanek said...

People like fame. If someone develops an application for KDE or Gnome, his frieds say: "Wow, you develop for this famous environment!". If someone develops for less know environment, say GNUstep, his friends say: "What is GNUstep?"

If someone develops yet-another-type application , his friends say: "Wow, you can create yeat-another-type application yourself!". If someone develops an application with new idea or new concepts, his friends say: "That is weird, who wants that anyway?"

Why it is that way? Because most of the people think that way. Unfortunately.

And brave new world of opensource? It looks like it turned from "new world" to "free world - as in beer". From the beginning, people wanted to create something different, something new. And they wanted to share their ideas, but protect them as well. And now? They want what already exists for free. So they start copying. Mainly copying looks, ignoring original intentions, ignoring original feel, which they never experienced in most of the cases.

People do not want new ways of doing things, because they do not even can imagine them. They want same ways of doing things as they are used to, but for free (as in beer).

Why is it like that? I would like to know too...

David McCabe said...

This is my view as a GNOME user:

Although GNOME is built on a shaky foundation, there's so much work going into it that it manages to be the most usable desktop by brute force. I would love to hack GNUstep, but I wouldn't love to *use* GNUstep. I also have little faith in the ability of the GNUstep hackers to move forward. Although I have seen some progress very recently, it seems from the outside like GNUstep has had the same small set of applications for years. While GNUstep people are still hacking on their foundation, GNOME people are forging ahead and writing applications that I would actually want to use, even though their technology is awful.

This is not meant to be a flame, it's just my view on why I'm using GNOME instead of GNUstep.

Gregory Casamento said...

Thanks for your comments, Dave, and you're right GNUstep does need more applications. However, GNUstep isn't still "hacking on it's foundation"... while the gui and base libraries are constantly being improved and enhanced, they are by no means being changed fundamentally.

Hopefully with some of the new developments, notably Nib compatibility in gui and (soon) Nib compatibility in Gorm, build compatibility with OS X, it will become possible for application developers to port to GNUstep more easily and for new GNUstep developers to more easily share thier applications with OS X. Additionally, themeing is coming to GNUstep as part of it's core, so that it will be possible to make GNUstep take on any number of looks.

Additionally, the Etoile project has started to become more and more popular lately in GNUstep as it's applications are very well written.

Keep an eye on GNUstep in the next year. I think you'll like what you see. :)


Davinci said...

I am interested in your opinion about Gnome, Kde and current stream of Free Desktops in general.

I don know well GNUstep. My interest is test it and use in future, but now I get many little problems when I try to do anything.

Convince me (and others, please) of necesity of other projects like GNUstep, because until there are enough applications, pool of users will be very little.


Gregory Casamento said...


That's exactly what I intend to do.


Yves said...

A good distribution is the first (gnu)step I believe. It is far more easy to get GNUstep running than gnome or kde, but mandriva, fedora and friends want to lure switchers with a windows look.

HMK said...

This made me think about what Steve Jobs originally intended NeXT to do: To create the ultimate computers for research and for students.

The computer landscape is a bit different today, but is it possible for GNUstep to have such a clearly defined goal, even the same goal as NeXT had originally?

mike said...

I fully support and appreciate your efforts in improving the Linux desktop experience.

I do disagree with pretty much all of your points however.

The Linux community is very much evolving. there is (in my opinion) more support for different types of hardware than ever, better stability, better security, and a better, more vibrant and strong community to name a few pieces of evidence of this evolution. Probably most important for this discussion, desktop environments are more advanced, powerful, and easy to use than they ever have been and show a lot of promise for the future.

As for the copying bit (from Stefan's comment), Microsoft seems to be doing most of the copying (see Aero, multiple desktops and others).

More things are the same than different in OS desktops for a few reasons. First, there are only so many ways to do certain things -- windows, mouse pointers, menus and so on are all basically the same. Second, computer users are accustomed to interacting with their computers a certain way. There needs to be fundamental similarities so switching between environments is somewhat smooth and pleasant. In my experience, end-users feel most comfortable with things they are familiar with. That's not to say we should stop progress but change should be an evolution not a leap in order to make that progress possible for the end-users without them killing sysadmins like me because they can't easily do something they used to be able to do.

I could not disagree more with the notion Gnome and KDE are poorly designed and amateurish. This sounds completely insane to me. I have found them to be very clean, responsive, robust and capable. I can do everything I could want to do on my computer using them and more, from simply running programs, to configuring the environment's look and behavior, to drag and drop encryption and managing files. They are a pleasure to look at and use, especially when I compare them with the Windows desktops I have to manage at work. Speaking of which, if I were to convert the desktops I manage to Linux (as I hope to do at some point), I would choose between KDE and Gnome for many of the reasons cited above. While I'm sure it is of outstanding quality (in the way it is put together) I wouldn't even consider GNUstep -- would you?

Gregory Casamento said...


mike said...

I think the users would revolt.

Gregory Casamento said...

You asked if *I* would consider GNUstep, I answered you. I obviously have chosen GNUstep. The reason, for my part, is because I would rather be part of making something than enjoy the fruits of something already made and done half as well.

The fact that most GNOME users don't look beyond the GUI is interesting to me. While the GUI might be nice, the underlying technology in GNOME is a mess. Most users, in fact, don't care about how it's done, only that it works, as per your comment.

My comment in the blog was based on my experience with the GTK+ code and it's C w/ structures, non-object oriented architecture. The code, from looking at it, smacks of being hacked together. While GNOME may be solid from a usability point of view, it's quite a mess when it comes to the code.

GNUstep, on the other hand, has many concepts that are unheard of or are completely foreign to GNOME. One of the most notable of which is the concept of services.

Services allow an application to call on other applications or services without having them linked into the app. For instance, in a GNOME app you must link in a spelling library to allow your application to check it's spelling. Under GNUstep/OPENSTEP/Cocoa you get this for free just because you have a textfield. All the developer needs to do is add the menu. The application can then use any spelling service that is installed on the machine. This doesn't simply have to do with spelling, but all kinds of other services can be written.

Services are the GUI equivalent of the command line pipe, where the user can join the input/output of several small programs together. GNOME currently doesn't have anything like this.

All GNOME and KDE have really done, in my experience, is copy Windows. They haven't done anything new. While GNUstep is obviously a clone of the NeXTSTEP/OPENSTEP look and feel, part of the aim, if you read my later posts, is to make it something much much more.

Please wait and see....


Aaron said...

Well I read some of the comments. I'm an end user, non-programmer, but ok with compiling and futzing around with things. First of all I realize from compiling gnustep applications that the code must be simpler, quicker, cleaner; its obvious because complex applications take almost no time to compile compared with their gtk/kde counterparts. So gnustep is obviously technically superior, and gnome/kde will never be able to be as elegant and powerful. My experience is that gnustep is frustrating to install, certainly it is not a push button install. For better adoption somebody who knows how please make a RedHat/Fedora rpm or two and a Deb or two; because only then will the majority be willing to tinker with it.


Aaron said...

GNUstep is technically superior, that is a given. I installed GNUstep, but I'm unusually persistent and love tinkering with things. However the rest of the world will not tinker with a system that will only install with command line usage; that is a sad but true fact of modern life. A rpm for Red Hat/Fedora would probably be a good idea. If I knew how I would do it, but alas I am only an EndUSER. Maybe that is what was meant by NextBuntu, make it simple, point and click, brain dead easy.



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