Monday, 4 July 2011

Who the heck are modern desktops for?

This question has been bugging me for a while since GNOME 3. Nowadays in advanced countries, computer education is part of regular school curriculum. Children are taught what is CPU, what is graphics card, what is memory, how to turn on/off computer, how to behave on the net, how to use word processor, tabular calculator, presentation maker, sometimes even databases or easy programming. Unless in really rich school they are taught usually on something like Windows XP, they know the classical desktop. And they are confused by interfaces like Windows 7 and Gnome shell.

I am 24, my first desktop was Windows 3.11 (at school), then I grow up on Windows 95/98/2000 and Windows XP after finally switched to linux. I'm not that old to not be able to adapt, yet after years spent with linux I find the old Windows ineffective (just find something it the long non-categorized menu of theirs or try to run a few apps at once) and just recently I had to navigate Windows 7 with a touchpad. Let me tell you, it was a major pain in the ass. In my family everyone except me now uses Windows 7 on regular basis and they always complain about it. I haven't heard them ever complain about user interface when in Win XP or Gnome 2.

So why do the heck do we need the change that makes an assumption that presenting user with huge icons of every app installed instead of neat two-level categorized menu is more easy to use (it does not take a very bright person to tell that Movie Player would be categorized under Sound&Video)? Why do we need a change that makes an assumption that customization is a bad thing (I believe that different people have different needs and customizing a desktop to certain level can make it more effective to use for them)? Why do we need a change that effectively tells you that having more terminal windows open at once is a bad thing (yes, even though most common terminal emulators have tabs, I still find it more effective in certain cases to have three or four windows of terminal opened at once and nicely tilted on the desktop)? Why do we need a change that hides your favourite apps when not in "Activities" overview?

Who the heck is the modern desktop designed for? Honestly saying, not for me and not for anyone I know personally either.


cdamian said...

The gnome3 will not listen. Our only chance is to switch to something else.
Which is a pity, because I have been using gnome since it has been available.

Federico said...

Not for me, either!

KMinamoto said...

That's 3 with me. I still don't understand it. If this is supposed to be a major play to attract non-daily linux users, it is really upsetting for the usual users.
BTW, this Gnome 3 menu style looks way like the new MS Windows 8 new user interface, which is supposedly touchscreen-user-oriented.

Anonymous said...

I have been using computers since 286es, my first basic program deleted all of the files on the hard disk. I now write kernel drivers for living with the occasional reverse engineering project on the side.

Gnome 3 is written for me! I enjoy using my computer. I feel comfortable in being able to do what I need to do on my computer, work. Now Gnome Shell is by no means perfect, but it beats any of the other desktop interfaces I have used over the years (on windows (3.11+), *nix (CDE, enlightenment, etc...), and even some more obscure ones). I even moved back to KDE for a while before Gnome Shell came out.

Now I really am sorry that you and other people don't enjoy Gnome Shell as much as I do. But please, there are many silent users out there who truly do enjoy Gnome Shell, are looking forward to the (some much needed) improvements coming up in Gnome 3.2, and use it as out day to day desktops.
Please don't go around ignoring us and saying we don't exist. Say that Gnome Shell isn't for you, you hate it, you prefer the interface in the movie Swordfish, whatever. But don't claim that there are no users. The fact that we are silent doesn't mean we don't exist.

Martin said...

Anonymous: I didn't said that modern desktops are for no-one, but I just don't comprehend what user base are they targeting. Is it people who never used computer? Is it people who never used mouse in their life (I guess that people who have both their hands on keyboard and never use mouse to switch between apps, tabs, ... could like how gnome shell does things)?

It does not look like it's targeted on the middle ground of people who use keyboard to write, mouse to manage and are already used to work with computer (windows 7 is less radical than gnome 3, still there are lots of things that people I know don't like).

Anonymous said...

I am also really fond if Gnome3 and gnome-shell.
There are some regressions, and obviously some bugs, but overall it is a joy to use.
I use both mouse and keyboard with GS and it works just fine.

nicu said...

I think the answer to all questions can be summed in two words: Apple envy.

The GNOME 3 design is originated from USA, where Apple means *something* (compared with the rest of the world, where it's market share is irrelevant).

So USA based designers look at the relative Apple success around them and try to copy it. How? By locking-down and dumbing-down.

There is also the category of Linux designers who conceded Linux does not have any chance to replace Windows as the desktop of choice for the so-called "power user" and believe it will be able to gain market share by attaching different niches: appliances, basic users, etc.

What happens is us, users of the "traditional desktop" are left in the dust in everyone's rush for appliance and mobility, where it looks like is the place to easily get market share.

Anonymous said...

Right, because a software blog is the perfect venue to vent one's anti-Americanism.

That said, I knew going into Fedora15 that there would be major differences between it and F14 and for that matter all the previous Fedoras I've used. So imagine my dismay when I finally booted F15 and was presented with a barely functional desktop aka Gnome3 Fallback.

I stuck with it hoping it would stick with me, but it didn't. Then I switched to KDE, hoping for relief. KDE is pretty and full of eye-candy, but is barely usable for someone who just wants to do work.

Finally I installed XFCE and, even though it's barely functional compared to Gnome2, it's infinitely better than Gnome3. Plus, it's easier on resources and apparently runs faster.

I have grave doubts about the usability of desktop computers(or even laptops) being forced to function like super-large ipads. Where's the sense in it? We have these giant CPUs that have more cache on board than full-blown computers did in the 1980s and they're going to operate like my Galaxy S smartphone?

They'll have to pry the full-blown desktop from cold, dead fingers before I give it up.