posted by Thom Holwerda on Sun 4th Jun 2006 13:01 UTC
IconI enjoy using many different desktop environments and operating systems. On a day-to-day basis, I use Finder, Explorer, GNOME, and KDE. They all have their good sides, but obviously, they have their fair share of bad sides as well. The next couple of columns will be about the latter. This week, I take a look at whatever bothers me about Ubuntu's GNOME/Linux combination (Dapper, obviously).

I specifically say 'combination', as some of the things that bother me when using GNOME are more related to the kernel or other parts of the distribution than to GNOME itself. This will be a rather dry list, as I believe that sugarcoating my words won't do anybody any good.

  1. Linux boots too slowly. This is sincerely one of my biggest pet peeves about using Linux (or basically any other operating system except BeOS/Zeta): when I want to quickly check my email or whatever, I want my computer to bring the desktop up as fast as possible. Even though decent ACPI support in Linux for my Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop alleviated the problem pretty well, I still do not get why kernel developers do not address this issue more thoroughly. Many computers out there (especially desktop computers) suck at providing decent ACPI support (my desktop x86 fails to do fancy ACPI stuff on any operating system, including Windows), and hence people using these computers will have to experience these slow boots every day. No, always-on kills the symptoms, not the cause, and hence is not a solution.

  2. GNOME needs a better default layout for its panels. The top bar is wasting an insane amount of space; to the left, we have a few menus and icons, and all the way to the far right we have the system tray and clock. In between, it's all gray. A solution would be to place the taskbar in between those two ends, but on most screens, the space there is just a little too limited to comfortably house the taskbar. Other than that, the top bar becomes extremely cluttered if it also houses the taskbar.

  3. Speaking of panels, please, GNOME developers, get your act together and fix that abomination, that thing from outer space, that amateuristic, UI-law-breaking, general piece of crap you dare to call a 'taskbar'. The GNOME taskbar is so utterly flawed it really just isn't funny anymore-- all due to one, big, huge flaw that the GNOME developers are aware of: the taskbar entries' buttons change size, completely at will. This is very confusing, as it forces you to look at your taskbar every time you want to activate a different window, because who knows where its taskbar entry might be this time? Windows can do this right (only when you fill up the entire taskbar do its entries change size), so why can't GNOME? If there's no need for taskbar entries to change size-- then don't.

  4. GNOME has serious draw issues. I do not care what they are related to-- it should be fixed. I know the jump to Cairo probably caused a minor setback in this area, but that's all irrelevant. There's no excuse as to why GNOME's redraw is so slow compared to i.e. KDE's.

  5. Evolution needs some serious love. While it does its general task really well (it's a good email client at its core), its UI is a big mish-mash. Too many options are given to the user, making the application extremely confusing. It just does not fit in well with the general idea of GNOME to hide advanced options, making the application seem out of place with the rest of the GNOME desktop. Because of all those buttons, menus, and options, the main window of Evolution takes up way too much screen space. The fact the application lacks the ability to customize its toolbars doesn't help either. Neither does the lack of having a vertical preview pane (something every self-respecting mail client should have these days).

  6. GNOME needs better support for Palm PDAs. GNOME-Pilot is about as useful as the ZipDisk Mount Error Dialog as it doesn't really do anything: it requires major CLI action to get it to work (if it works at all, that is).

  7. GNOME has too many 'Preferences' panels. It has two menus filled with just these dialogs ('Administration' and 'Preferences'). If OSX can do with just a few in its Preferences application, then why can't GNOME? Some, for instance, can easily be combined: why separate 'Networking Tools' from 'Networking'? Why not combine the 'System Log' with the 'System Monitor'?

  8. Mounting is still a mess in Linux. While it has improved considerably over the past few years, mount errors still pop-up way too often. GNOME says a CD is mounted, however issuing the mount command reveals it really is not-- or vice versa. This is very annoying as it can stop you from actually ejecting the disk.

  9. Ubuntu still does not pass my ZipDisk test; nor does any other distribution for that matter. My desktop x86 has an internal IDE ZipDisk drive (250MB), and no matter what distribution I install, neither of them configures fstab correctly so I can use my ZipDisk instantly. And that's for an internal one-- don't get me started on any of my 6 external (parallel) drives. I never got those to work with any operating system (except Windows, as Iomega has drivers for that, obviously). By the way, BeOS/Zeta also passes the internal part of the ZipDisk test.

That is the list for GNOME/Linux on Ubuntu. Next week, I'll tell you about what sucks about Finder and Apple's MacOS X.

--Thom Holwerda

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