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GNOME’s Leadership and Old Misconceptions About Diversity

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux at 12:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Back are the claims that we need just one “universal” GNU/Linux

GNOME is a very active project that involves hundreds if even thousands of developers (GNOME is a set of applications, not just a desktop environment/shell). The project’s Bugzilla statistics (not for 2013 alone) reveal about 46,000 open bug reports [1]. In 2013 many bugs are carried on from prior years (including duplicates) and resources for managing them are pooled because several environments are derived from GNOME and they share code (bug fixes can be pushed upstream). Now that 3.11.3 is available for testing [2] and bugs are being squashed [3], new features are added [4], and the underlying framework improves [5] we can expect a good, diverse future for the GNOME family (with about half a dozen branches/forks). Allan Day, a GNOME designer, recently gave an interview [6] and to quote the interviewer, Day’s “design workflow is also wonderfully straightforward and helps to address the concern that good design work can’t be done on Linux.”

GNOME is a simple environment to use. Some try to simplify it further to improve the overall experience (same thing Android backers are doing on phones, desktops, and tablets). GNOME cannot be treated a one-size-fits-all solution because it runs on many different types of devices. It is possibly even simpler to use than Mac OS X and Windows (depending on how they are judged). The GNOME Activity Journal, an important component that simplifies operations and logging, is now approaching version 1.0 [7] (stable) and one pundit asserts [8] that GNOME is the “key to Linux desktop unification”. He makes the common mistake of assuming that lack of diversity would be pleasing to more users and attract more people to GNU/Linux. It’s not so-called ‘fragmentation’ that weakens GNU/Linux on the desktop (in terms of adoption). People typically fail to explore GNU/Linux due to biased information in the corporate media, or complete lack of information. There are other aspects too, including anti-competitive practices.

Uniformity is important within a particular desktop environment (that’s what developer guidelines are for), but it’s not the same across desktop environments, which can vary in order to accommodate the requirements of different types of users (e.g. advanced users as opposed to beginners). Beware those who try to convince everyone in the Free Desktop world that having one “universal” GNU/Linux distribution (with one kernel, one desktop environment, one set of application) is what’s needed. What makes GNU/Linux strong and attractive to developers is diversity, not authority.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. GNOME Ended 2013 With 46k Open Bug Reports

    Earlier this week Andre Klapper shared the annual GNOME Bugzilla statistics for 2013. The GNOME project ended out 2013 with 46,130 open bug reports, compared to 43k bug reports at the end of 2012 or 44k bug reports at the end of 2011. Of the 46k bug reports open at the end of 2013, 25k of them were opened in 2013 while 22k were closed in 2013.

  2. GNOME 3.11.3 Is Now Available for Testing

    The third development release towards the highly anticipated GNOME 3.12 desktop environment has been made available for download, bringing many updated core applications, libraries, and updated translations.

  3. Glade 3.16.1 UI Designer Repairs Numerous Bugs
  4. GNOME Settings Daemon 3.11.3 Adds Bluetooth Killswitch Support
  5. Client Side Decoration Improvements Land In GTK+

    These improvements landed for the GTK+ 3.11 development series and will form the basis of the GTK+ 3.12 stable release in March. Overall GNOME 3.12 is shaping up to be an interesting GNOME update with GNOME Shell and Mutter improvements, greater Facebook integration, the GNOME Terminal finally has text rewrap on resizing, and there will be much better support for Wayland.

  6. The Linux Setup – Allan Day, GNOME Designer

    Part of the reason GNOME is such a successful project is the focus and dedication of its members. I’ve interviewed a few of them and common strands always emerge — ideas like GNOME as an operating system, GNOME staying out of the user’s way, and GNOME as a way to enhance Linux. Allan, a designer for the project, touches on a lot of these points. His design workflow is also wonderfully straightforward and helps to address the concern that good design work can’t be done on Linux.

  7. GNOME’s Zeitgeist Finally Nears v1.0

    The Zeigeist framework that is responsible for much of the logging responsibilities in the GNOME world and powers the GNOME Activity Journal is finally nearing version 1.0. The 1.0 milestone comes after landing a number of improvements recently and after nearly a half-decade of development work.

  8. GNOME: Key to Linux Desktop Unification?

    One of the greatest differences between an open source operating systems and those that maintain a proprietary code structure is the flexibility in customizing each one.

    While Windows and OS X offer a set-in-stone desktop environment, Linux enjoys a robust number of desktop environments from which to choose from – including the highly popular GNOME. Some may even argue that having a limited number of desktop environments would allow those distributions to hone in on gaining a larger market share. And perhaps that’s true, though I believe that most Linux enthusiasts chose Linux because of its diversity. In this article, I’ll look at where GNOME came from, where it is now and the end goal I think it’ll reach within the next couple of years.

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