waldo wrote:Clem and the Mint team have recognized that the Gnome and KDE traditional desktops were too disorganized and needed some tweaking. It has been a step in the right direction, and the reward has been to command second place to Ubuntu, over such stalwarts as Fedora and OpenSuse. Nice work.
In this we are in complete agreement. I wouldn't be a hard-core Mint user if it weren't for the quality improvements made by the Mint team.
waldo wrote:Mark Shuttleworth has brought Ubuntu to the top of the Linux distros, that is, the top of the 2%. He got there in spite of all the criticisms of the "experts" who constantly gripe about all that's wrong with Ubuntu. He has done something right. He has made Linux a viable desktop choice for the non-expert, something no one had done before. Mint has succeeded so admirably because many users find it a "better Ubuntu", not in spite of Ubuntu.
waldo wrote:Shuttleworth apparently has decided that it has become time to set aside the varied and often opposing wants of the 2% base of Linux users, and consider attracting some of the other 98%. This is what Unity is designed to do. The Gnome/KDE argument has gotten Linux mired down, and it appears time to try something different. I, for one, hope he succeeds beyond all expectations. It won't happen with 11.04, but perhaps 11.10 or 12.04.
This is where we disagree, not in the "why," but in the "how."
To me, the GNU/Linux ecosystem has always been about flexibility: the ability to arrange things the way that I want, which may be quite different from the way that you do things. This was the attraction that drew me to GNU/Linux when IBM ceased developing and supporting OS/2 Warp. I knew I needed to leave OS/2 because IBM would not be continuing its investment (despite the platform's advantages and much higher level of flexibility and customisability), but I was loathe to return to Windows.
So I made the jump, first to SuSE (back when it was just "SuSE," and not yet part of Novell), then to PCLinuxOS, then to Ubuntu, then Linux Mint. It wasn't until I landed on Mint that I found a GNU/Linux distro that "felt right." It was stable, efficient, visually stunning, did everything I needed out of the box, and could do it "my way."
Which brings me to the crux of the matter: It seems that GNOME.org has taken "less is more" to the extreme, and that in order to reach their minimalistic goals, they've completely gutted flexibility for simplicity. Which is something that, in my mind, didn't need to happen. Canonical has gone that way, too, with Unity, but to a lesser extent; some of the ideas behind Unity are quite intriguing, but the environment, IMHO, still needs quite a bit of work.
Now, I do understand that the world is "going mobile," with touch-based (or, at least, touch-capable) UIs being all the rage, and I applaud the fact that people are working to position GNU/Linux as a viable alternative in that market. However, this can be done without deciding that the whole "GUI desktop" paradigm -- which was developed through decades of ergonomic and semiotic research -- was broken, and needed to be fundamentally changed.
Redesign the UI if you must, but don't remove things just because you think they're superfluous. Things that are unnecessary to you are likely to be quite important to others. It's okay to provide a simplified interface for the 98% living with Windows and/or Mac OS X, but that can be done by using a sensible set of defaults that more adventurous users can change: Want a second panel? Right-click the desktop and add it. Need maximise/minimise buttons? No problem, right-click the title bar and enable them. Want a weather-reporting applet or a task switcher in your panels? Same deal, right-click and add. Don't like global application menus (like those used by Mac OS/Mac OS X)? Pop open AppMenu Preferences and uncheck a box.
In short, my grumbling about Gnome Shell and Unity isn't about how they look or work in general, it's about the things they've abolished in the name of "simplicity."