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LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 16, 2013
A look at the PyPy 2.0 release
PostgreSQL 9.3 beta: Federated databases and more
LWN.net Weekly Edition for May 9, 2013
(Nearly) full tickless operation in 3.10
Xfce 4.10 released
Posted Apr 29, 2012 23:54 UTC (Sun) by backup230 (guest, #84382)
The alternative explanation is that Red Hat doesn't care about the Linux desktop. This is consistent with RH CEO's statements, which were along the lines of "we don't know how to make money on Linux desktop".
While this seems like a sad state of affairs, perhaps Red Hat's approach is "well, Gnome2 didn't exactly set the world on fire, let's try something different". Innovation is healthy, but with Gnome3 there is also a huge risk in actually reducing the usage of the Linux desktop. Gnome3 or KDE4 shouldn't be the only options on RHEL7 -- they're both very polarising.
Posted Apr 30, 2012 1:48 UTC (Mon) by louie (subscriber, #3285)
Posted Apr 30, 2012 7:21 UTC (Mon) by nkap (guest, #84384)
At the moment it is impossible for us to switch to Gnome 3, we have encountered too many compatibility issues with our legacy software, and we would have to sacrifice support of our vendors (unofficially they do permit some minor deviations from the environment they specified but that's not going to happen for Gnome 3).
Not sure what we will do once Gnome 2 is discontinued - hopefully RedHat will find a suitable replacement (from what I've seen Xfce would be fantastic - much better than our current Gnome 2 desktops). Or, maybe our vendors will start supporting a wider range of distributions or will come up their own.
Posted Apr 30, 2012 21:37 UTC (Mon) by tuna (guest, #44480)
Posted Apr 30, 2012 7:25 UTC (Mon) by drag (subscriber, #31333)
Besides that if you don't like change, then don't change.
Redhat 6 is going to remain comfortably Gnome 2 and will continue to be a supported system all the way through 2020. So there is really no reason for a customer that wants avoid Gnome 3 to use Gnome 3 for a great long time.
Posted Apr 30, 2012 10:27 UTC (Mon) by marduk (subscriber, #3831)
Their much more concerned about how RH can squeeze more TPS out of the kernel.
Posted May 1, 2012 16:28 UTC (Tue) by angdraug (subscriber, #7487)
Posted May 1, 2012 16:38 UTC (Tue) by marduk (subscriber, #3831)
Posted Apr 30, 2012 13:48 UTC (Mon) by Pawlerson (guest, #74136)
Posted Apr 30, 2012 15:58 UTC (Mon) by bronson (subscriber, #4806)
I'd love to hear any evidence to suggest that this is true. It would restore some faith in the development process.
Posted Apr 30, 2012 22:35 UTC (Mon) by ovitters (subscriber, #27950)
Posted May 3, 2012 7:44 UTC (Thu) by bronson (subscriber, #4806)
Posted May 3, 2012 11:06 UTC (Thu) by dgm (subscriber, #49227)
Posted Apr 30, 2012 17:06 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
If GNOME 3 UI changes have been data-driven, then let that data be published.
Posted May 1, 2012 14:22 UTC (Tue) by nye (guest, #51576)
The majority of these studies are done specifically by finding people who've never used the environment before, because they want to avoid users having preconceptions about the system. This seems fair, but unfortunately the result is a tendency to optimise things for the first few hours of use - or perhaps the first few days/weeks.
In reality nobody is a newbie forever, so interfaces which have great usability initially (ie 'easy to use without learning') are often less usable in practice (ie poor learnability/flexibility).
I'm sure it's *possible* to design an interface which is welcoming to first-time users without being restraining to long-time users, but thus far the free software desktop has a poor track record in this department.
BTW I think desktop environments have a particularly difficult problem here. With most software, you know roughly what the user is trying to do - after all, you know what your software is designed for. A desktop environment is different; it needs to support an enormous range of use cases and can't safely make many assumptions about the user or their goals.
Posted May 1, 2012 19:45 UTC (Tue) by jirka (guest, #83100)
So first time use is precisely what needs to be tested for a large part of the desktop.
Posted May 2, 2012 12:12 UTC (Wed) by nye (guest, #51576)
I don't disagree. What I do disagree with is the focus on making those 'once a year' actions easy at the expense of everything else.
At the moment, I'm trying the Windows 8 preview, coming from Windows XP (it's a similar experience going from Gnome 2 -> Unity, or KDE3 -> early KDE4 releases).
Printing is actually a pretty good example - they've completely changed the way the control panel works and it's a lot more straightforward to add a printer. Unfortunately most of the things I'm likely to use rather more often end up so deeply hidden behind a dozen clicks that the overall experience has become worse.
In fact I no longer have any idea how to find much of anything in the control panel. There seem to be fifty different ways to get everywhere, all of them bad. Apparently the idea is that you should use search for everything, but that requires you to guess what they've renamed what you're looking for, and is spectacularly useless if you're trying to find out where they've moved the keyboard layout option.
In an effort to make the system touch friendly, they've replaced the start menu with what is basically a big list of every start menu entry, ordered seemingly at random. This aids discoverability in a sense - damn-near anything you can launch is there in a big list - but as soon as you've installed a non-trivial number of applications  you have to put work into manually recreating something roughly resembling the old heirarchical format and keeping it manually maintained, or it becomes completely unmanageable.
I had a go at Unity a few weeks back (IIRC not 12.04; I think it was 11.10). At first it looked interesting, but I quickly found myself cursing that they seem to be trying to avoid a distinction between launching an application and switching to an existing window. I guess they don't want new users to open the same application repeatedly, but the problem is that those actions *are not the same*, not even conceptually, and the sooner a new user learns that the better (in reality I'm not convinced that anyone has trouble with that distinction anyway). I ended up having to use keyboard shortcuts because, in an effort to simplify window management, they'd made actual use a lot more cumbersome.
Making simple things simpler should not mean making complex things harder, or impossible.
 Actually to be fair the two control panel items that - depressingly - I find myself needing to use more than any others are Event Viewer and Network Connections. This was really a problem in Windows 7 because in an attempt to front-load the more popular control panel items they'd hidden those behind, I conservatively estimate, about 400 million clicks. In 8 they have learned their lesson there and both items can be reached by right-clicking on the 1x1 hot corner where they keep all the goodies.
 For ref: it's under 'Ease of access' -> 'Change how your keyboard works' -> 'Add a Dvorak keyboard and change other keyboard input settings' -> <select the primary input language, or 'add a language'> -> 'Options' -> 'Add an input method' -> <select from a list> -> 'Add' -> 'Save'.
 All of which will inevitably add entries to 'uninstall', 'read the manual', or 'go to our website', and won't have the name of the application in the shortcut because they assume the shortcut will be seen in their program group.
Posted May 3, 2012 10:44 UTC (Thu) by Otus (guest, #67685)
IME Unity makes it very easy to do the common tasks of opening a specific
app whether or not it's running (just click the launcher icon) and opening a
new instance of an app (middle click instead).
This is as opposed to old Gnome 2 and other desktops where you have at least
two different places to go (task bar or menu/shortcut) depending on what you
want and whether the app is already open.
Works very well after you get used to it. Especially if the number of
frequently used programs is small enough to comfortably fit the launcher.
Posted May 3, 2012 11:27 UTC (Thu) by dgm (subscriber, #49227)
Middle click is extraneous to most people, and it's unnecessarily difficult on a laptop. I would not argue that Unity makes it easy.
> This is as opposed to old Gnome 2 and other desktops where you have at least two different places to go (task bar or menu/shortcut) depending on what you want and whether the app is already open.
People are used to this. It's how most computer UIs work. It's what everybody that has used a computer has come to expect. Unity feels awkward just for the sake of being different. It's not difficult to guess why many people don't like it.
> Works very well after you get used to it. Especially if the number of frequently used programs is small enough to comfortably fit the launcher.
Too many requirements. What about those that do not want or do not have the patience to "get used to it"? What if your list of frequently used programs is big, or changes frequently?
To be frank, the only people that I can think of that benefit from Unity's design is people like my mother-in-law. She used to let 7 o 8 Firefox windows open in the old Ubuntu Netbook Remix until I came to close them. For some reason, whenever she wanted to look up something with Google, she just opened a new one. Now she can reuse the old instance (but adds a new tab, she cannot be bothered to click on the home button to reuse the one already open).
Posted May 3, 2012 14:00 UTC (Thu) by cortana (subscriber, #24596)
>People are used to this. It's how most computer UIs work.
Some people are. Many really aren't. My parents usually end up with three or four copies of Thunderbird running after a typical session on their desktop, because they keep launching a new instance rather than clicking on the running instance in the Window list.
Unifying the launching and activation of tasks is one thing that Apple really got right in OS X (though I'm sure they weren't the first to think of doing so, I think it's reasonable to say that they popularised it, now that it has been adopted by Windows 7 and even GNOME 3).
Posted May 4, 2012 17:22 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
This is *not* an obvious thing for anyone who doesn't use a computer regularly (probably because, in most other fields, creating new whatevers is not possible, so they assume that they are always reusing, even when they are not.)
Posted May 5, 2012 20:17 UTC (Sat) by robbe (guest, #16131)
Posted May 6, 2012 1:23 UTC (Sun) by dgm (subscriber, #49227)
Posted May 7, 2012 3:38 UTC (Mon) by mmorrow (subscriber, #83845)
Thinkpads have three mouse buttons (and I use one as my main computer).
Also, middle button-paste is mind-numbingly useful, and for me personally to be without it would be crippling.
Posted May 2, 2012 14:49 UTC (Wed) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
I'm not sure GNOME-Shell sticks to the simplicity philosophy. Some common actions seem to be *very* hard to discover, requiring you to move a pointer to a special place on the screen, or to press special keys to change the mode of the UI. Of course, I'm just one user and not a very normal one, so I'd love to read an objective, metric-driven HCI study on how GNOME3/GNOME-Shell compares to GNOME2.
If I still had GNOME2 users, I'd be quite hesitant to move them to GNOME3, because its such a massive change. Some older users particularly would need a lot of hand-holding to cope, I'm sure. However, it's a moot point, as I no longer have such users - they've all gone to windows in the last few years. Driven there primarily by desire for Windows applications.
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