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Playing With Fire, Fedora 15 and Gnome 3

Gnome 3 is heading towards final release. The team announced the last beta yesterday and it made me desperate to install and test the version. Unfortunately, I was not able to run Fedora 15 builds for Gnome 3 in my VirtualBox 4.0. It failed to load Gnome Shell 3 and fell back on 2D Gnome. So, I installed it on my Dell laptop.

Looking at this release of Gnome 3, one wonder how different is Gnome Shell 3 from Ubuntu’s Unity? Conceptually, both are similar, but there were some political and technical issues where the community and the company failed to agree. I do feel the combined resources of Canonical and Gnome team would have benefited GNU/Linux further.

Gnome 3 on Fedora 15

Gnome 3 is smooth and polished. Something we missed in Gnome 2x. The traditional ‘industrial’ look has transformed into glossy animations.

Change upsets
There are concern among users that Gnome 3 or Unity is a wrong decision; that it needs a learning curve and not many users are ready or willing to do so. I disagree. The fact is people like status-quo; they don’t like changes. But that’s not how world works. Not changing for sake of user’s reluctance also keeps technologies from evolving.
 
There was quite a lot of criticism around KDE 4.x branch, today, no one would want to go back to KDE 3.x. If we see the evolution of windows manager, we can see the Gnome 3 is what windows managers used to be once – applications were icons in a folder. Android or iOS GUI is also the same model. What else is Apple’s LaunchPad if not the same interface?

Gnome 3 Apple LaunchPad

It’s like fashion, it comes back!
 
From UI and design point of view, I have started loving Gnome 3. I am looking forward to the stable releases so that I start using it.

What you will miss
One major change that you will notice is there will be no panels in Gnome 3. I preferred multiple panels as they enabled me to be more productive, I was able to switch between application swiftly. Since most of the applications that I use are not yet available under Fedora 15 (throwing dependency resolution error), I am not able to test them. So, I can’t comment if Gnome 3 will affect my productivity.


 
The availability of side bar works as the dock. You can add applications to it with one click. There is no need for a dock under Gnome 3 so it has in a way killed lot of ‘dock’ project such as Cairo Dock and Avant. Gnome 3 also brings an end to Compiz as it uses Mutter Windows Manager.

Gnome 3 has also eliminated the minimize and maximize buttons. All you see is a close [X] button. I am a bit concerned how I will be able to manage multiple sessions of the same application when there is no option to minimize. If I have two windows of Firefox opened it is a pain to click on activities to zoom out of the current window and then click and select the window I want to work on.

Gnome 3 Fedora 15
 
Under Gnome 2 it takes only one click to switch between running applications. Under Gnome 3 it becomes 2 clicks and more mouse movements — click on activities to pull out of current window, take your mouse to the application you want to open and click. If you are someone like me who keeps 20 windows open at the same time, it is going to be a major counter-productive issue.
 
The workspaces have moved towards the left and have now bigger windows. I don’t know how it will help me.

Gnome 3 Fedora 15

I love the design, look and feel of Gnome 3. I am worried about is how is it going to affect my productivity,  but I don’t want to be too negative before I see the final product.  It may just be the status-quo factor bugging me. I don’t know. I may end up loving it, the way I love KDE 4!

What is your opinion?

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Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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