Today I heard Adam Sweet on LugRadio episode 20 season 4, ask Aaron Seigo whether KDE 4 would be lighter, specifically less option saturated. Upon hearing this I found it ignited the ongoing annoyance I have been known to hold towards people criticizing KDE for being intensely configurable. I’ll quickly make clear now that I don’t use KDE, I find it ugly and – in my more recent experience on Ubuntu, quite unstable. So I use Gnome, because I think it’s the best out of those two.
Something that upsets me about Gnome though, is that it regularly forces me to use the commandline, this is a problem because the whole point for a graphical desktop is surely to stop you from having to use the commandline. An example of this was where I attempted to get some of he Myst games to work under wine, and reading the error messages that were spamming my terminal – it appeared that at least one problem was switching the display to a different bit depth. As much as I doubted that it make everything work, I thought it’d be useful to at least see whether anything changed if I manually did this – so wine didn’t have to. Bearing in mind that this was in the days before I had a constant internet connection – I lost an entire night going through xorg related man pages, and got nowhere. To this day I don’t know how to do it, but I’m sure it must be fairly simple. Anyway – that was an example where I, a reasonably technical user of Linux (not competent) wasted many many hours trying to do something that is straightforward to do on Windows and I would be surprised if you couldn’t do it on KDE. Previously I had described Gnome’s insistence that users cannot handle lots of options as the result of inbred ideals, where instead of making functionality usable, they instead choose the strip out the functionality entirely.
As far as the extreme saturation of options resident in KDE goes, I totally agree with Aaron Seigo here when he said that cutting back on KDE 4’s options would be fine except that the 20% of options that one person would use, will not always be the same as the 20% that another person uses. A good example of something I see as a seemingly useless, yet overwhelming useful option, and also the reason why I continually fight KDE’s corner against those who criticize the abundance of configurability within it, is the taskbar hide button width setting. Basically, kicker, the KDE taskbar, allows you to add a button to it which retracts it from the screen – so that only the button still shows. When you want the taskbar back, you just click again and it will return. Back on my old laptop (which appears to be effectively dead now unfortunately), I only had an 800×600 pixel screen resolution, and the ability to hide the taskbar was great – however I only ever used this option in KDE. This was because in KDE I could set it to be only 3 pixels wide, which was great when you’re fighting for every single pixel on the screen – whereas in Gnome, it’d be a large button that’d take away too much space to merit using it. That’s my example, and I’m sure other people could think of better ones, although I really must stress – on a 800×600 pixel resolution screen this was a great help. Heh, I just remembered that the reason I stopped using KDE on that computer was because some of the configuration boxes wouldn’t fit on the screen.
Anyway, I personally don’t think that it is possible to satisfy everyone in the way that Gnome tries to, hoping that people will all come to work in the same ways. I do however see great value in Gnome, I think that it is a very easy to use desktop – unfortunately the user is restricted a lot, that’s it’s downside. But for most people, it doesn’t matter – and that currently describes myself. Even I am willing to put up with what I openly consider restrictions, in preference to a desktop that feels nice and is straightforward to use.
I’m hoping that KDE 4 will have the changes that I need to move back to it. But, perhaps more importantly – I don’t see any reason why Gnome couldn’t be option intensive while maintaining its ease of use, and why KDE couldn’t become more streamlined and ‘hide’ its advanced settings somewhere less in your face. All it takes is having basic configurability seperated from the advanced options that are generally conceived to be less used.
Anyway, that’s a big ongoing rant that I’ve had for a long time, I hope I’ve done it justice.
Chris Hayes / cbhworld