gnome-shell one week in

Well its almost a week since I upgraded to Fedora 15 and started using gnome-shell. The good news is I’m still using it and generally really like it, although admittedly there’s quite a few bugs, and quite a few regressions that I really dislike. Fortunately a lot of those are fixed in the short tern with a few extensions and gnome-tweak-tools. I’ve also filed quite a few bugs, updated others where I felt I could add useful information, or just added myself onto the bug for easier tracking. There’s a lot of fixes that are being worked on for gnome 3.2 and I appreciate that the gnome team is working hard to balance their vision and design with a workable desktop.

One thing that grates me a little is the attitude of certain developers though. Comments like “realise that this feature wasn’t a feature in gnome 2 until gnome 2.XX so you’ll just have to wait” isn’t really helpful and 3.0 > 2.XX so it is a regression. You don’t give a toy to a child and then tell them they’ll have to wait to get it back. If they didn’t have it previously they don’t know what they’ve never had.

Dual Screen dock/undock: It works, mostly without issues! This was one of the major concerns I had with gnome 3 as it had caused me problems in testing previously. I’m very glad this just works. Not sure if the issues I had previously were a bug that was fixed or something weird on the live image I used.

Stability: My graphics is an Intel IronLake and the stability is OK. I do have to on occasion swap to a tty and run “killall -HUP gnome-shell” to make it usable again and this mostly seems to be when I’m on a dual screen. I also seem to run into the it leaks a lot of memory bug. When I do a killall it starts off at 80Mb RAM but if its left I’ve seen it get up to 2Gb!

Screen lock, unlock and suspend: This looks like an area that sorely missed out in the development. They hid the shutdown menu option by default but gnome-shell doesn’t suspend when I shut the lid of my laptop. It works fine when I select the option from the menu but that’s no where near as quick especially when I forget and have to reopen the laptop. Looking at Xorg.0.log it detects the “Lid Switch” but seems to ignore it although it configures the sleep and power buttons. Similarly I can’t use Pause to lock the screen and I’ve seen other references to this for other keys. Finally there’s an issue where the screen isn’t always locked on resume from suspend which in my opinion is a security risk.

Alt+Tab and Alt+`: Love it! The later for tabbing between windows of the same app is great!!

pidgin: I fixed my issues with Pidgin by installing the gnome-shell extension. Its not perfect but fixes most of the problems so its usable so for the time being I’ll stick with it rather than migrate to empathy.

Calendaring: It took a surprising amount of time to get use to the clock being in the middle of the screen. What I didn’t get use to is the lack of the date in the display. gnome-tweak-tool to the rescue for that one. I also miss the weather and multiple timezones. The Multiple Time zones should be back for 3.2 although I don’t see any guarantee for Weather information.

One other nice addition to calendaring that the tweak tool added was week numbering down the side of the calendar view. I would like to be able to click on the week number to get that week’s schedule rather than the current week. Its very useful for quick reference when on a call trying to work out which week is best for something.

Notifications: If I’m away from my desk I can sometimes miss notifications unless I explicitly go and hover down the bottom of the primary monitor. This doesn’t run along the bottom of the both screens if you have them in side by side configuration. It also seems that I don’t get notifications from calendar or abrt (that come to mind).

Theme: I generally like the monochrome theme quite a bit but there’s a number of usability issues with it. I find it very hard to tell the active and inactive windows. There’s almost been a couple of embarrassing mistakes there in the style of embarrassing text messages. Also things like the light switch look disabled when they aren’t. I have good eye sight, I can’t begin to imagine how bad this is for people who don’t. Also colour for things like battery/charge indicators (eg the charge thunder bolt is nearly indecipherable from the background), mute etc is a quick visual guide. There use to be colours for batteries at least, I’ve seen that in screenshots on the gnome wiki. There’s a number of things that should be fixed in 3.2 documented in the aptly named Fix Annoying Things on the gnome wiki.

System Settings: There’s weird things that seem to happen here. Firstly I remember some how discovering the “Default Applications” settings, but they’re not in the Systems Settings. No I don’t want to change my default Terminal 😉 somehow my default browser changed from Firefox to Epiphany. I had to go to the Preferences to get it back. Some things seems to be duplicates but different (did I mention this already?) like the places to set languages (User Accounts and Region and Language). There’s no touchpad options in “Mouse and Touchpad” even though its a laptop, again I suspect its getting miss detected. I would have thought there would a “Mail Settings” panel as well.

Mostly I really like gnome 3, it certainly is a dot zero release but is still very usable and quite nice, although not quite perfect. I look forward to the spit and polish 3.2 release.

One thought on “gnome-shell one week in”

  1. Gnome 3 was a step backward for me, to be honest. There are numbers of reasons why I say this. For example, if I can’t right click the desktop to get a terminal right away (like I used to be able to do thanks to the .gtk files), I’m not going to like it a whole lot. I usually need to get to a terminal fast. I’ll stick with XFCE from now on.

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