Saturday, February 17, 2007 8:04 PM Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE

I used to think quite a lot of Linus. I still do. But I can't believe that he could be so unbending in his view [1]. It's as if the reasoning portion of his brain was shut off. Not to mention the other fan-boys who made uninformed and useless comments on this article.

I've used KDE in the past, I even try it again about every 6 months. Every time, I find it completely unusable. The defaults are cluttered. There are too many buttons, too many options. I can configure each and every aspect of my desktop operating system. I previously made attempts to do this. When I used KDE regularly, I would find that every weekend was spent tweaking those options. At the end of the weekend I would think smugly to myself: I've got it this time. This desktop is the best ever. And yet, the next weekend I'd be frustrated by my choices, and I'd be back browsing the options. (Yes. I realize that this is mostly my fault, but keep reading)

Then I installed Ubuntu and they gave me a simple desktop. It did what I wanted. It made it easy. There was a consistency to the desktop. I could learn how one application worked and then apply those rules to the next application with consistent results. I have to admit that there are times when I find some task that is harder than I'd like. Or down right impossible. In these cases I've found that the Gnome developers have always been open to solutions. They just want solutions that are well thought out, consistent, and simple.

One of the problems is that many people don't actually know what they want. Apparently, I'm not the only person like this. Given time to think about their preferences people will gladly make up some reason why they like X over Y. Most of the time they're wrong. They know what they like when presented with it, but they don't know why. Another problem is that not every one is an INTJ. Not everyone uses the same thought processes.

Some people are control freaks. They know their computer inside and out, and want to control every aspect of it. They have a specific work flow and they want to follow it. They will want to tweak every last aspect of it. That's fine. They should do that. And it's likely that they'll currently prefer KDE over Gnome. That's fine too.

However, some people have dyscalculia, some have dyslexia. And more importantly, most people just want their computer to work, to be simple and to do the few things they want to do. I don't have the stats. But I'm willing to bet that there is a far larger group of computer users who fall into the latter category. All but two of my family want something simple that works. Most of my friends want the same thing. Gnome gives this to them. KDE confuses them.

In the end, it's also important to note that everyone is different, and that trying to to say that everyone should use KDE or that everyone should use Gnome is misguided. Each project has a lot to offer. And each has their failings.

Me? I'm a power user. I've always been top of my class. I've got my Bachelor's in computer science with Honours. I've got my Masters in computer science. I've got an open invitation to return and get my PhD. I've used Linux for over 6 years. And I've configured and tweaked every part of my operating system.

But apparently I'm an idiot-user. I'm also an interface-nazi. Apparently Linus knows better, and is certain that I don't know what I'm talking about. I should be using KDE.

But I don't. Why? Because I like to get things done. I like my desktop to be configured with sane defaults. I like my computer to work. I like simplicity and I want my computer to infer what I want rather than explicitly asking me for my choice of gads options at every turn.

So here's to Gnome. Here's to Ubuntu. Here's to the combination that brought GNU/Linux to both of my parents who are using it exclusively since 2005. Here's to the operating system and desktop environment that convinced two of my co-workers to drop windows on their workstations. Here's to continuing that tradition. Is Gnome perfect? No. But it's damned good and keeps getting better everyday.

And finally, here's to KDE. Without it, Linus and his fan-boys would still be using virtual terminals. Without KDE, Gnome wouldn't have an open source competitor that innovates and subsequently motivates Gnome to improve and innovate each and every day.

[1] Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE « Ubuntu Blog

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