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The Eternal Sunshine of the Classic Linux Desktop

By Katherine Noyes
Jan 24, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Ever since it became clear that GNOME 2 would have an ongoing future in the desktop Linux world after all, flowers have been blooming unseasonably early throughout the Linux blogosphere.

The Eternal Sunshine of the Classic Linux Desktop

It all started with the appearance of MATE and Cinnamon; then it was SolusOS. Since then, Fuduntu made its official debut, as did " Consort," SolusOS's brand-new GNOME Classic fork.

Not to mention, of course, news of GNOME's own "Classic Mode."

The daffodils are thriving, and the message is clear: Classic Linux desktops are here to stay. Now, what do Linux bloggers have to say about it?

'It's Called Diversity'

Linux Girl

"The more desktop environments the better, I say," Google+ blogger Linux Rants told Linux Girl down at the blogosphere's Punchy Penguin Saloon. "Even if these new DEs are terrible, I love that they're being made.

"It's called 'diversity,'" Linux Rants went on, "and without it we get stagnation. When we get that, we might as well be running Windows."

In short, "we need to be constantly looking for ways to improve our environment," he opined. "Some ways will be dead ends -- that's just the way things are -- but even ideas that fail teach us in the long run. Personally, I like some of the new DEs and I like that we're moving into new territory, but I'm all for exploring more traditional models too. In the end, we all get better for it."

'The Strength of Open Source'

Indeed, "I'm not a GNOME aficionado (KDE is my choice), but I think we are seeing the strength of open source in action," Google+ blogger Kevin O'Brien told Linux Girl.

"I'll channel my inner 'maddog' here and say that the virtue of open source is that you have the code, and you can modify it in any way you want," O'Brien went on.

"People seem to want GNOME 2, and they did various forks to keep it," he concluded. "GNOME 2 will exist as long as a sufficient number of people want it and are willing to support it."

'It Gets the Work Done'

And again: There are "too many disappointed fans" who want GNOME 2 back, noted Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol.

"What kool aid have the GNOME devs been drinking?" Ebersol wondered. "GNOME 3 is very weak, compared to the 2.32 version. So, it's kinda of natural people will come back to it, countless times."

In fact, Ebersol himself has "a spin ready to be launched here in Brazil, with IceWM as the window manager," he told Linux Girl. "An old window manager, but so what? It works, and will work very well in older computers."

That's really the point, Ebersol added: "GNOME 2.32 now works great in computers that are 5 or 6 years old. It's familiar to the user and gets the work done."

'Straight-Up Arrogance'

Similarly, "this is further proof that you ignore your userbase at your own peril," consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack opined. "The straight-up arrogance of the GNOME developers has come back to haunt them."

GNOME 2 is actually a perfect example of "'spoiled developer' disease," Slashdot blogger hairyfeet suggested. "It was a bizzaro, 'quick look, things are stable and people are happy, quick throw everything out for alpha quality mess!' Then people are miserable and momentum is wasted! Gee aren't I smart?"

It would be better if everybody concentrated on a single product, hairyfeet opined: "You can have three dozen DEs and a billion half baked programs in the repos if you want, but the defaults should be sane, should target the '90' of general users that just want an OS to work, and of course avoid the two major mistakes of Canonical, which is having the OS so bleeding edge the CDs have stigmata and accepting every lousy kernel Linus puts out instead of doing the sane thing and refusing to accept a kernel if it breaks ANY of the major drivers.

"Atheros, Broadcom, AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Realtek, SiS, and Sigmatel...if the kernel breaks ANY of the most popular drivers from these companies, it should be rejected, simple as that," he concluded.

'Its Reign Is Going to Dry Up'

"GNOME 2 has history -- it's solid and customizable," noted Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C.

At the same time, however, "I think its reign is going to dry up in at least one or two years from now," Gonzalo Velasco C. added. "Some forks or modifications will endure because they are good -- see what Ikey Doherty is doing in SolusOS -- but based on GNOME 3, not 2.

"The ones that resist that will have to create a whole new DE based on the skeleton of GNOME 2," he concluded. "But they would no longer be GNOME."

'You Could Sell Linux Apps'

There are already too many Linux distributions to choose from, opined Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor. "Trying everything would consume several years of a user's time.

"I don't know, if 95 percent of the Linux operating system developers instead developed apps, we would have a strong ecosystem in a year, I think," Lim suggested. "You could actually sell Linux apps."

Still, "to throw away a beautifully simple and effective idea simply because it's an old idea is wrong," blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl. "The right way to do IT is to keep it simple and get the job done. Change for the sake of change does not do it.

"Change for the sake of adding features people really don't need is even worse," Pogson added.

'A Trade-Off I Won't Take'

"The old UIs are human systems," he opined. "The new UIs fit small screens and scale as well on one process or a hundred."

That, however, is "a trade-off I won't take," he said. "I will build Xfce4 from source code if I must to keep that available.

"I have one PC left with 'dis-Unity,' and I will change that when I have the time," Pogson concluded. "It takes just a few minutes to install xdm, xfwm4 and xfce4 from Ubuntu's repository. When they drop those, I will drop Ubuntu from my PCs and use Debian GNU/Linux."

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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