Thursday, 1 September 2011

Gnomes and Themes

Some time back I trialled the Gnome Shell. To say the least, my views on it were not complimentary.
However, since Arch Linux has become my new current distro and it has Gnome 3 and by extension Shell in the repositories in favour of Gnome 2, and because this is a different system entirely from the one I originally trialled the Shell on, I thought maybe it was time to give it a second chance.
I thought that maybe since it had become a production and stable release of Gnome, there had to be some improvements, right?
Well, I'll concede the 'some' point of it. Improvement... that's questionable.

Let's start with Pulseaudio, now apparently a requirement for Gnome. Many, if not most distros, have told us this is so for a while now, but Arch had made it clear that it was optional in Gnome 2, but required for Gnome 3.
I do not like Pulseaudio. Perhaps it's just me, but sound quality seems to be lost, all sounds have a lag between when they're meant to happen and when you hear them, and I've always found it hogs system resources. What can it offer me that I'm going to use, and that ALSA can't handle? Nothing at all. ALSA has served me well and never once given me any trouble.
But this can be solved by installing 'gnome-settings-daemon-nopulse' from the AUR, which, as the name suggests, removes the Pulseaudio dependency. True, this also breaks the Gnome Shell's volume control, but I don't see that as any great loss - I never used any applets to control my volume anyway, since I have buttons on my keyboard that are set up to handle it already.
Next we have the Shell itself. With the addition of the Gnome Tweak Tool to ease some of the settings that should really have been made available with the Shell, and not as a separate package, it becomes slightly more usable. Since my original trial of it, improvements have been made to the performance of the Shell, and it runs much smoother than it did back then. However, I cannot change the panels, I have no way to edit the menu, no way to edit what gets shown where - I'm almost completely stuck with the basic layout and settings that Gnome has decided for me.
This is not good. This suggests a very Mac-like 'You will do it our way, you will never need to do it any other way' kind of philosophy which I detest. Don't hide options from your users - give them the choice. Don't hide it away in separate applications. Gnome 2 made nearly all of it's customization through the Gnome Appearance Properties, which came with Gnome Control Centre and was a requirement on almost every Gnome install I ever did. Shell does not offer the same.
Furthermore, the Shell is not intuitive, not helpful and is far from good at removing the clutter and such that it claims to, in fact making it far more difficult to use my computer than anything else I've ever run on here. And I've tried a lot of Window Managers of late. The Shell does not even merit consideration for inclusion in the top choices, let alone the secondary fall-back choices.
And lastly, we have GTK3.
GTK2 themes could be applied by almost any application. LXAppearance was perfect for handling it when not running Gnome. You didn't even need that sometimes, just create yourself a file in the right place with the right settings in, and it'll get picked up by all GTK2 apps that run after that.
But GTK3 doesn't do it like that. GTK3 settings, it seems, can only be applied by Gnome Tweak Tool, and only picked up on by any GTK3 apps if the Gnome Settings Daemon is running to tell them so. Without it, no GTK3 themes get applied or even noticed. They won't inherit a GTK2 theme, but they'll inherit the mouse and icon themes. So if you don't run Gnome or it's overweight Settings Daemon in whatever WM or DE you're running that isn't Gnome, they'll be with that all-too familiar blocky, ugly grey. And no amount of tweaking will change that.

Now, it's known that you can, once more through the Gnome Tweak Tool, force your session to default to 'fallback' mode. Which is meant to be Gnome Classic, or Gnome 2.
Oh, no it isn't.
You can't customize the panels for a start. No more panel applets for Gnome, just what they give you, again with the Mac-like philosophy of our way or no way. Once more, the Pulseaudio raised it's head, but as before, the keyboard keys offered salvation.
Like the Shell, you have to use the Gnome Tweak Tool to set the GTK theme and such. Why is this not included by default with Gnome? Do not want your users to be able to customize what it looks like? What is this, emulate Windows with it's one panel only, no icon theme changes without too much work, just the mouse, desktop wallpaper and very minimal changes even in Winodws 7?
Gnome is removing far too much choice from it's DE like this, removing too many things that made it such a widely liked DE on Gnome 2. I applaud the efforts of those who are taking a leaf from the KDE Trinity project, which forked KDE 3.5, and are forking Gnome 2 so those who truly want it back instead of the cheap rip-off that Fallback is can still use it. As soon as packages are made for Arch Linux, I will waste no time in getting them.
Give me Good Old Gnome 2 and GTK2 any day. Gnome Shell, Gnome 3 and GTK3 are just monsters that but for those who for whatever unfathomable reason like them, we would be better off without by a considerable deal. I maintain that they along with Ubuntu Unity are the biggest disgraces ever to be called a desktop.

1 comment: