Some thoughts on the Fedora Core 5 Gnome desktop

June 30, 2006

I am still testing things on my new machine, so I haven't bothered trying to build my usual highly custom X Windows environment on it. Since I've still been poking around with it, I've been getting a reasonable amount of exposure to the default Gnome desktop in Fedora Core 5.

To my surprise, it's turned out to be a surprisingly usable and livable environment. To a fairly large extent a lot of things just work, without fuss or muss. When they don't work, it's been relatively easy for me to figure out what to do; for example, while CD-ROMs automount and appear on the desktop, floppies don't, but if you open up the 'Computer' icon on the desktop and click on a floppy, that does it.

(I've been conditioned from years of disappointment and irritation to expect default desktop environments to be pretty unusable for people like me.)

I'm not really the right target for the desktop metaphor, because my desktops are invariably more cluttered than I want the computer to show me all the time. It's still pretty usable, and it has been encouraging me to clean keep my computer desktop clean (which I do mostly by making subdirectories and shoving the mess there, though). It's reasonably easy to make things behave and open files with the program I want and so on.

(There are some stupid interface bits there, though. For the love of something, why on earth do I have to feed Gnome the full path to an alternate program when it's already on my $PATH?)

It's also interesting to see how deep the Gnome environment still is, despite the much argued about movement to simplify things for basic users. The default FC5 configuration has virtual desktops. You can make Capslock into another Control key (although this is hiding in the Control section of the keyboard customization, instead of the Capslock section). It's easy to shuffle the system taskbars around (sometimes too easy, since there doesn't seem to be an undo).

Overall I can actually imagine using this environment full-time if I had to, which is not at all what I expected when I started playing around with it. (In a sense I already am, but this is in no way permanent; I still vastly prefer my regular X environment.)

And to my surprise there are things I will miss when I move back to my regular X environment. (However lame it is, I do like having the current temperature and weather conditions displayed in a little taskbar applet.)

Written on 30 June 2006.
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Last modified: Fri Jun 30 02:04:45 2006
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