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in which i destroy my laptop, and am introduced to gnome 3 [Apr. 20th, 2011|01:23 am]
[Location |garner, nc]


Back up your stuff. I spilled a can of Coke on my laptop today, breaking it. It took me about 5 hours to (a) find an old laptop, (b) get Fedora 15 Beta onto a USB, (c) install it, (d) restore all my stuff from backups, and (e) begin the re-configuration process.

If I didn't have backups of my computer, I would have lost years of data, both personal and Red Hat related. I rsync my laptop to an external hard disk every day, and I was able to do so immediately after spilling the Coke and before the machine stopped working, which allowed me to have zero data loss.


I guess I picked a good day to fry my laptop, since Fedora 15 Beta is not even 24 hours old.

I've seen a lot of the commentary about GNOME 3, of course, but I've more or less ignored it since I was still using GNOME 2 and I figured that when I did try GNOME 3, I wanted to do so with as open a mind as possible, thinking about it from the perspective of a new Fedora user rather than simply as someone who has his own particular ways of doing stuff that might now have to change a bit -- kind of like when you get a new car, and some of your little habits have to change.

First of all, anyone who doesn't stop to acknowledge the TREMENDOUS engineering and design effort that is GNOME 3 is simply not being honest. You don't have to like every feature to recognize that a huge amount of work has been done, and that the people who did that work deserve a lot of credit.

Secondly, the laptop that I pulled out of a closet is the one that Red Hat bought me in 2007, and GNOME 3 runs faster on that laptop than GNOME 2 ever did. So from a performance point of view, I'm really impressed. I don't know how much of that is GNOME 3, and how much of it is the rest of Fedora 15's plumbing.

Now I'll mention a few of my initial reactions to GNOME 3, which may be of interest to folks who are considering the usability side of things, and who want more data about where an experienced Linux user fell down.

ITEM 1: When I clicked on my name in the user-switching applet, I was immediately confused by the "Available/Busy" option. If I change that, what happens? What applications are hooked into that? I'm not logged into anything other than my system, why is this here? Why is my desktop trying to manage my online social networking status? How do I get it to stop that?

ITEM 2: I had to use Google to figure out how to restart my system after the Live USB install was complete. I tried some of the options that I saw in the menus, to no avail. Never in a million years would I have thought to hold down alt while in the user menu to get reboot/shutdown to appear. I must have missed something totally obvious, but I felt like a complete moron thinking "Max, you have a degree in computer science and you can't figure out how to turn off your computer".

ITEM 3: I guess this is part of where an open mind is necessary, and a willingness to have my usability norms challenged, but it's strange to not see any actual stuff on my desktop, and to have to go into the file browser if I want to be able to double-click anything. I used to use the GNOME tweak UI package to remove ~/Desktop and to make ~ be displayed as my desktop. I was able to replicate this by editing ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs, but it still doesn't actually show any files on the desktop. That was useful for me, since things were arranged and organized in a way that visually made sense to me and let me know what's important, what file I want to work on next, etc. Now I've got a ton of empty space, and I can't left click, right click, or do anything other than go to the "Activities" menu. I feel like I'm not understanding what's supposed to be a key usability insight or change. GNOME 3 makes me feel dumb.

ITEM 4: I miss being able to easily minimize stuff, though I'm learning slowly that mousing over to "Activities" basically does the same thing. New paradigm understood and being adjusted to!

ITEM 5: Workspace switching from ctrl-alt-right to ctrl-alt-down is only annoying to an old user like me, but wouldn't be to a new user. However, it was not immediately clear to me that there even were multiple workspaces, and I don't quite grok yet what makes a new one appear as an option. Also, it would be nice if there were an easy way to edit keyboard shortcuts. If there is, I can't find it.

ITEM 6: My day to day workflow is contained in gnote, and not having that application startup automatically with the hotkeys just working is very jarring to me. I miss a lot of the stuff (like gnote) that used to be on the panel, including the multi-timezone clock applet. I don't know what (if anything) I can do about this. Again, GNOME 3 makes me feel dumb, like someone who is doing everything wrong and isn't capable of understanding why.


What else about F15 Beta, that isn't GNOME related?

ITEM 7: I really like the current start.fedoraproject.org. It's probably been a year or more since I actually looked at that site, and it's looking nice! I wish I knew to whom I should give credit for that work.

ITEM 8: Firstboot gave me an opportunity to add my non-root user to sudoers automatically, which saves a step of post-install configuration.

ITEM 9: When I ran the software updating application, it didn't prompt me for my root password. Is that a PolicyKit thing? I know that's not a new feature to Fedora, but with Fedora 15 I seemingly no longer know how to revert it. I like having to enter my root password.

ITEM 10: This ancient laptop of mine has a 50 GB hard disk. The auto partitioning gave me 25 GB of /tmp of / and 25 GB of /home, which doesn't leave me enough space for all of my actual files. I wasn't paying attention, so I didn't notice this until post-install. I know there's a graphical front-end to LVM that I might be able to use to change this, but I can't find it, which ties back to my comments about not being able to find some settings in GNOME 3 that were easily found in GNOME 2.


ITEM 11: I'm not allowed to "launch" more than one instance of an application. If I want a second terminal window, I have to open it from within the first -- I can't simply click on the terminal again and get another.

ITEM 12: Alt-tab only cycles between applications, not windows or instances of those applications. To switch between instances of the same application requires more keystrokes, and slows me down as a user. I was able to solve this by installing gnome-shell-extensions-alternate-tab.

From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-21 04:27 pm (UTC)

Re: A few pointers


This should be on gnome.org or gnome3.org..

I feel like Max in many ways. What happened to GNOME? Why do I feel like I have no idea how to use my desktop. All these years with Gnome 1.4, remembering Ximain installer and Gnome 2.0. Now GNOME 3, Unity, MeeGO and I find my self moving to KDE4....

Yes a lot of people put a lot of work into but that doesn't mean I have to like it. People put a lot of work into Nuclear Bombs, Geo Metros and Iranian Republican Guard. That doesn't mean you have to like it or get over it...
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[User Picture]From: jspaleta
2011-04-22 05:24 pm (UTC)

Re: A few pointers

Don't get me wrong. I think the slogan is great for a lot of things. A lot of things meant to be intuitive.

First time I picked up an OLPC laptop from gdk at a FUDCon..back in the day...I freakin couldn't figure out how to open the damn thing. It was designed to be "intuitive". Kids figured it out with no instruction what so ever. And man did I feel dumb. And then when gdk showed me it was..it was.... intuitive.

What we all have to remember that intuitive doesn't mean obvious.
Intuition as a skill is the essence of making logical leaps that go beyond deductive reasoning. If you can reason it out or deduce it based on the evidence in front of you then you aren't using intuition...and the subject at hand is not therefore intuitive.

And we also have to remember that intuition is actually not so easily understood or quantified as a human skill. It is at best described as situational, and can grow and decree with experience. My experience made the opening of the OLPC laptop far harder for me...but it didn't make the design any less intuitive.

Our shared experience with the decade+ of the desktop paradigm makes it harder for us to grasp new paradigms. But it doesn't make the design any less intuitive. If anything we'll have a harder time with designs that are too close to the old paradigm.

It's much easier for us to accept completely new interaction designs which break as many interactions we've grown use to than it is for us to learn to use something that is somewhat the same. If we know we don't know what we are doing, we'll enter a learning mode with our eyes wide open looking to establish new patterns. If we _think_ we know what we are doing then we bull ahead under those assumptions and get frustrated when we hit the differences.

"It is intuitive when explained" is one of the best slogans I've ever heard for pretty much all technology changes ever.

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