making the jump to gnome 3

Clearly I’m not quite as bleeding edge as AdamW is!

Well the pros, well really the wants, finally won out over the cons and I upgraded my primary laptop that I use for work and just about everything else to Fedora 15 and gnome 3. What finally pushed me over the edge? Evolution 3 and Firefox 5.

I’d been running evo 3 in a VM on my laptop for quite some time. At work our corporate mail system is MS Exchange and the only access we have to it is via MAPI so Evolution is my life saver and I generally find it quite good. Over the last couple of release cycles Matthew Barnes, Milan Crha and others have been making MASSIVE improvements so I often end up compiling the latest dev release for the current stable Fedora release for the latest evolution bling. GTK3 sort of put a halt to that for F-14 -> F15. One thing I couldn’t work out for this upgrade is why evolution-NetworkManager wasn’t installed by default (maybe its my setup).

I mostly like gnome 3, I have been using it on a number of non primary devices for months. I’m really not interested in any of the politics of it. As a primary device I’ve only been using it for an hour or so. That said there’s a few weird discrepancies.

Language: I live in the UK and use UK language and keyboard settings. On upgrading and logging back in it was back to the US. Hmm. Going into my account there’s a spot to set the language. Cool! Why do I need to put the root password in to change this setting? I can understand having to re-enter my password (we have jokers in the office that change things like this) but not the root password. And why do I also then have to set it in “Region and Language” in the System Settings as well? Oh, and why isn’t the “Colour” system icon localised?

Printing: I have a networked copier configured on this. It seems I can now print colour to it. Awesome! Why when I click “Options” do I get nothing? I happen to like the minimisation of options (I’m lazy so tend to stick with defaults anyway) but printing tends to be one of the horribly complex things. EG I don’t want to print to US paper and I do want to print duplex and turn off colour printing as default options.

Active window: The new gnome theme with its nearly the same colour for all windows makes it hard to tell which is the active window. While with all maximised windows on a single screen this doesn’t really make much difference. On multi monitor it does!

While we’re on the topic of multiple monitors, I’ve yet to test dock/undock and suspend/resume monitor detection. It was sorely broken the last I tested it and it was the primary reason I had delayed my upgrade so long. I usually go 2-3 weeks without a reboot and will undock/redock 100s of times in that time. Having it remember my screen and windows layout is important. Its very time consuming to have to reconfigure and position every time I change configs.

Instant Messaging: I’ll need the pidgin extension. I have around 6 years of pidgin logs that I reference regularly. There’s been a bug open for this since F-10 and until that’s closed pidgin and I are wed.

Rhythmbox: Wasn’t there suppose audio controls somewhere? Or am I plain blind. I would like to get rid of the main box and just be able to control play/pause/skip etc from within the shell like the icon use to. I thought I saw somewhere that the shell had media controls in there.

I’m looking forward to gnome 3.2 especially getting multiple time zones back in the clock, the online account integration and of course Evolution 3.2 and all its new features and improvements!

gnome 3

Well the new gnome 3 has certainly polarised the community. I must say I generally really like it, but also I’m not yet running it on my default machine. Historically I’ve upgraded my primary laptop to the current development release of Fedora around the beta release. This time I’ve not. Why? Well there’s one major feature that has “Just Worked” for me for as long as I remember and I use it every day I’m in the office that isn’t yet working well in gnome 3 and it would cost me way too much time on an average work day.

I have a Dell Latitude E-Series laptop with a docking station and a second screen. Pretty much everyone in our 300 person office has this config. People use them all a different ways. Side by side, stacked on top of each other, laptop closed with one screen etc. Some Gnome 3 just doesn’t work well with dual screens in a dock evironment yet. On Fedora 14 I can undock the laptop and head off to a meeting. When I undock all the windows collapse down onto the laptop screen. When I redock it detects my second screen is back and all my windows go back to the way they were. At the end of the day I suspend my laptop and go home, it works, when I return the next day it returns them as I had them. On gnome 3 the undock generally works well most of the time. The redock doesn’t. It doesn’t turn on the screen, reconfigure it as a second screen and put all the windows back on there. To get my windows back to the way I had them takes a good 5 mins of moving stuff around. Do that ten times a day and it adds up to quite a bit of wasted time that I just don’t have! Chatting with Jon McCann at RedHat Summit he mentioned it was likely a gsettings (I think from memory) problem and should be easily fixed (I will test patches!).

But there are things I love in gnome 3 and I would love to move to it permanently. The new evolution 3 is lovely! Our office uses Exchange as its corporate collaboration system. evolution-mapi allows me to do all the email/contacts/calendaring within Fedora generally without too much issue. v3 adds to that and evo 3 works pretty well! To get this lovely in the office while retaining my dual screen functionality I run a lvm VM on my laptop with F-15 and have evo running over a X session to the main F-14 desktop.

There’s lots of other nice things about gnome 3 and I look forward to being able to run it properly to get access to those things. There’s other regressions I know, and I can live with those. WPA Enterprise support (which again we use through out all out offices in Europe) has work arounds, the timezones in the clock I’m reliably informed will be back in gnome 3.2, people are working on gnotes and there’s a gnome 3 plugin for pidgin flying about (I would move to empathy when I can import my 5 years of logs that I use daily for reference). Those are minor, it was a massive change and there will always be regressions. I look forward to decent dual screen support again soon 🙂