posted by Richard McKinley on Wed 9th Jan 2002 17:55 UTC

"The Future"
Simply GNUstep will add an installation system and a GUI install tool to the next versions of the product. If the present experience is any indication, the installation will be as simple as on BeOS. Hardware support will be a little tricky. Linux does a great job with the latest kernels, but some configuration is required for some drivers. Simply GNUstep will have to provide those configurations to be truly simple. At least they can use any free software projects that are already available. Mandrake Linux has some form of hardware detection and configuration although I canít speak for the quality or licensing of it.

The GNUstep desktop is very complete. Workspace switching under WindowMaker is snappy and full of features. Great thought went into UI design in GNUstep wether I like the look or not. Applications do not have individual menus, like Windows. GNUstep seems to have some kind of common menu, but the metaphor is a little confusing. I would suggest GNUstep cut to the chase and work with WindowMaker to develop a Mac OS style common menu, docked at the top of the screen.

A great deal of fonts are installed on the system, but they donít look their best. Font smoothing is something that could be improved on GNUstep in general. Also, it is not clear to me if the fonts are True Type or PostScript. Obviously, True Type would be important to support.

GNUstep has the benefit of being able to replacing the underlying display technology at anytime. Perhaps GNUstep could leapfrog Mac OS X by replacing Display GhostScript with Mesaís OpenGL and DRI. Hardware acceleration would just happen on supported video adapters. I leave that to the experts.

The widgets are all consistent and the applications function great. That drab skin, however, feels too dull and boxy. You can apply colorful themes and wallpaper to your desktop, but the widgets keep their boxy nature. Catching the vision of GNUstep would be much easier if it looked more like Mac OS X. Skinning should be added to GNUstep as soon as possible. The similarities between the two systems are far more than skin deep. In fact, the skin is whatís missing!

All in all, I give Simply GNUstep (version none) a 10 out of 10 for an OS alpha test. It is a perfect example of what most OS developers should be doing: Take what works from free software and make it better. Why worry about the kernel when Linux is here today and works? After your OS is something special and you have a system in place, go back to the kernel and replace it or make it better. If Apple ever licenses Darwin as free software, Simply GNUstep could switch. Also, do we need KDE and GTK+ when OpenStep rocks and is GPL under GNUstep? I admire GNUstep for recycling an excellent API rather than reinventing the wheel.

Looking to the future, Simply GNUstep will be the Mac OS and Cocoa of x86. Waiting for Apple to release Mac OS X for your Windows PC is just silly. If you want something that OS X has, but you canít get behind Apple for whatever reason, try Simply GNUstep today.

About the Author:
Richard R. McKinley (therandthem) is a Java programmer and computer science student. A BeOS user since Preview Release 2 he has been searching for a new desktop OS that won't leave a bad aftertaste. Richard can be reached at therandthem-at-hotmail-dot-com.

Table of contents
  1. "Getting to Know You"
  2. "What is So Simple about Simply GNUstep?"
  3. "The Future"
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