The obvious escape direction is Debian, which isn't afflicted in the same way by 'UI designers'. Sadly that doesn't solve the 'gnome has gone all annoying too' problem, for which xfce seems to be the easiest way back to something reasonably familiar.
This is probably a pretty common reaction. But it's interesting to see non-geeks feeling pretty much the same about their UI as us geeks do when presented with all that annoying shiny stuff we didn't ask for. Apparently there are people who like it, I just don't seem to have met very many of them.
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