Invigorating GNOME

There has been some discussion recently about the future of GNOME. I have seen this blogged on Planet GNOME, on the LugRadio Forums, discussed in corridors and elsewhere. Although I am an ardent supporter and fanboy around GNOME, and I love the desktop for its simplicity and elegance…GNOME has become the software equivalent of my dad’s comfortable trousers – predictable and reliable, but has ceased to be exciting and innovative in new, innovative, visual, inspirational ways. I accept this metaphor only partially applies to the aforementioned father’s trousers. This is not to say that GNOME is not innovating – GNOME is filled to the brim with tiny little niceties, but it seems that the time for tiny little niceties needs to give way to a new, exciting vision that takes into account the changes since GNOME 2.0 in the online and offline world, in interaction, social networking and the typical things people do with computers.

I am a big fan of looking at problems, taking the current solution, tearing it up and re-assessing everything from the ground up, at an interaction level. On a smaller scale, this is what we did with Jokosher, and it was an invigorating, exciting experience. We tore up the perceived conceptions of multi-track recording, and asked questions at every step of the way. Why do we need to call them Tracks? Tracks make no sense, lets call them Instruments. Why do we need waveforms that look like that? Let’s make them simpler. Why do we need to display 100 buttons? Lets just display the relevant buttons when a selection is made.

It seems there is no shortage of people wanting to see a new vision, but what the project seems to lack right now is actually making it happen. In my mind this problem is split into two key areas – (1) leadership and (2) the number of hands on deck.

Something I talked about in my keynote at GUADEC 2007 was that GNOME is a community that has really benefited from the cult of celebrity. We have some incredible rock-stars involved in the project; people like Miguel, Federico, Nat, Havoc, Luis, Jeff, Lennart, David, Behdad, Christian, Bastien etc. But the problem with celebrity is that the project is looking to the GNOME 2.0-era leaders and celebrities for guidance and approval for any specific vision. We could have the most insanely clever vision put on the table, but a vision of a new GNOME would be large and complex enough to need upfront consensus, and if it does not get the thumbs up from some of these key people, it probably won’t swim. This is just the nature of how things are – this is not the fault of anyone specific, it is just pretty much how our community seems to work.

The problem is time. With many active GNOME contributors working for distributors, development firms or consultancies, everyone has a day job, everyone has an overflowing inbox and TODO list, and not many people have an action on their TODO list saying “hack on a super-exciting-new-next-generation-GNOME”. In addition to this, many of the GNOME 2.0-era leaders are simply not as involved in the desktop anymore.

What we need is new leadership, and consensus behind a vision, and in my mind the way to make that happen is to get some key enthusiasts in the project to take a weeks holiday together, get them into a room and work on fleshing out a core draft of a vision. Ideally, this should be GUADEC, but GUADEC is too big and complex and busy for this to happen. I am convinced that if we got some of our most talented minds together to flesh out a vision, mock it up and communicate it to the world, we would have some incredible opportunities available. Just look at the great work being proposed for GTK3. Look at clutter. Many of us cant reasonably get together to discuss this as part of our day jobs, so let us get the key people to take a week off, get in the same room, and make it happen. Heck, I will hold it in my house if needed. :)

One week. A small team of GNOME’s finest. The result could be a new vision for GNOME, with the consensus of our community leaders. Seems worth a shot to me. :)

  • http://www.geekandroll.com Cesar

    Hello Jono. Please excuse my english.

    First and foremost I want to say that this idea of yours is simply fantastic. I was a Gnome lover, From my windows background, it’s simplicity was refreshing and I fell in love ever since I tried warty back in the days.

    But then I found some things just didn’t adjusted to the way I work (I hated the lack of picture preview in the standard file open dialog) and tried KDE mainly out of curiosity with KDE4, and I stuck to it some time. I liked KDE to some degree, and some apps are amazing (can’t live without kile, a latex IDE) but KDE4 is just not ready, and to be honest I’m not so sure about their re-imaging of the desktop. I’m back to Gnome now.

    IMHO, this invigorating thing you are proposing is exactly what Gnome needs, There are some great things about Gnome that just feel right to me, some applications are so simple but yet they do exactly what they are supposed to do, and to me that’s where the real beauty is (of course some eye-candy works too). I’d love to see what the masterminds behind Gnome can come up with. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will kick ass.

  • http://makosol.free.fr makosol

    I, think too that GNOME 2.66 will look close to GNOME 2.22, but hey, if you want innovation (and some bugs) this is not the right desktop environment to use.

  • rcas

    We see Mac OS X improving their Desktop experience with each release.

    We see Windows trying to catch up and also trying improve their Desktop experience in each new Windows and Office versions.

    We even see another successful Open Source Desktop solution trying to embrace evolution, kudos do KDE here.

    We go even more ahead and see GIMP participating in a UI Brainstorm with some pretty good proposals.

    Yet, Gnome itself stopped in time. This might seem good to some, because it is stable and has what they need right now.

    But,

    If you don’t start catching up and evolving, then at some point in time Gnome will just be an old Desktop environment that even those that defend it now won’t use it because it just doesn’t fit the way everyone works by then…

    I just hope that this call of yours leads somewhere, but please don’t get the old guys in this same room, else we will have more of the same.

    – Rui –

    PS: http://gimp-brainstorm.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.wzzrd.com Max

    Good article! I have almost exclusively used Gnome ever since I started using Linux (which is a pretty long time). The transition to Gnome 2 was a wonderful one and Gnome 2 was, at the time, very innovative. However, I’m not sure Gnome is at all innovative anymore. Useful for the individual, yes. Stable, yes. Pretty even. Gnome is a solid platform, but honestly, to the average user, little has changed since Gnome 2.0. That could be either a good thing, or a bad one.

    It is a difficult question as whether great innovations should be radically implemented or gradually. You write Gnome misses leadership at the moment (and thus vision). This makes either next to impossible: without leadership, no-one will sanction radical changes, and without leadership, no-one can ensure big changes to be implemented over a prolonged period of time.

    Over the past few years, there have been some radical ideas about the future of Gnome (one of which was the position of Mono in the Gnome environment, iirc). Some of these were good, some of these were not (I’m still grateful for the small position Mono has now), but imho most of them were either aimed at cosmetics and / or relatively small functionality enhancements (like the recent combining of multiple copy progress bars in one window). If I understand the buzz correctly, GTK3 is about interfaces too. Interfaces are nice, but Gnome is missing key functionality. And functionality is what wins the day for you.

    My personal opinion is that Gnome should aim more at corporate desktop features. I work at implementing Linux desktops a lot and I can easily name a bunch of features Gnome would profit from immensely. Some of these are readily available in KDE, by the way, which is the main reason I often choose to implement KDE, even though I personally prefer Gnome.

    Gnome would benefit from: – the possibility the really lock a desktop environment. Sabayon has great potential, my experiences with it are far from ideal. Let’s say I have yet to see it do what it is supposed to do. Apart from that, it offers too few options. KDE’s kiosktool is a lot more functional (assigning more than one profile to a user, to stack them, so to say; really locking away the commandline; locking a lot more settings, like wallpaper, theme etc.) – Firefox and OpenOffice.org should integrate into Gnome more, possibly with a gconf backend for settings. Admittedly, I don’t know how much effort this would cost, and whether this is actually desirable, but integration would be good (for user profiles and Sabayon, again). I think OOo and FF integration is a neccessity, because Epiphany and Abiword / Gnumeric are just not good enough for a corporate desktop. The way KOffice is moving along, it might provide a viable alternative to OOo, but I don’t it will integrate into Gnome very well ;-) – Evolution should have mapi support and thus real support for Exchange 200[037]. Novell is working on this, I believe. This would really benefit the Linux desktop. – there is no easy way I know of to scale the used iconset in total (use smaller icons everywhere); on several occasions, I wanted a desktop with smaller icons and smaller fonts. A lot of iconsets are SVG, so this is expected functionality, ifaic. – it’s all very cool GVFS understands webdav, but in my experience SMB / CIFS performance is poor, though that is an important feature for corporate desktops.

    That’s just a few Gnome specific ones. I’m tempted to write a list with features the Linux desktop misses in general, but this probably isn’t the place.

    I know for a fact a lot of governments and corporations are looking into replacing their Windows desktops with Linux or at least providing an alternative to the established Windows environment. I also know for a fact, that most of them are looking into KDE, no matter how hard different Linux vendors support & push Gnome.

    To summarize, the way to go would be: aim at corporate desktop, provide good possibilities to communicate with existing infrastructure (mainly Microsoft stuff, like fileservers and Exchange) and provide solid locking / deployment tools, like a working and enhanced version of Sabayon.

  • Sirrus

    That’s why people discussed Project Topaz (GNOME 3) way back. Unfortunately they decided to stick with GNOME 2. We can see the result of that decision and where it took us. Meanwhile, KDE designs the desktop of the future.

    I think that GNOME developers can see that minor improvements and “stability” is not where the computing world is headed. It is not what Apple does, it is not what KDE does, and Microsoft does not do that either. People adapt to new technology, and will appreciate something new and refreshing. And if GNOME does not move on with the rest of the crowd, people will stop using it.

  • http://colino.net/wordpress/ Colin

    Sure, sure, but are we sure that the goal of a Desktop Environment is to be exciting and innovative? Shouldn’t it just be a means to get our work done?

    Should the overwhelming majority of users, for which the computer is just a tool, have to embrace new concepts and paradigms everytime we crazy developers think about exciting innovative stuff that forces them to adapt each time?

  • Sirrus

    @Colin: I wasn’t thinking innovation and excitement for just the sake of it. Personally, I don’t think that what Microsoft is doing is bringing any innovation at all.

    But take a look at Mac OS X and especially KDE. Now ,if the revolutionary features in KDE 4 do not improve productivity and ease of use, then I don’t know what else will. Plasma is simply changing the way we perceive a desktop, and I think for the better – the folder view is just one things that comes to my mind, but there are others, like the desktop grid and such.

    I think as developers we do have a responsibility to drive innovation and creativity, because the normal users won’t do this for us. Innovation is always important, otherwise we’d be still riding horse-driven carts instead of cars. (no pun intended)

  • Vadim P.

    Personally, I was amazed by the amount of drag and drop you can do in ubuntu 8.04. This was one of the few things that really changes your desktop experience.

    It’s also something I’m really missing in the certain kde apps I’m using. imo, I really don’t see anything else that can be added to gnome besides making compiz default.

  • http://linuxoutlaws.com Fabian A. Scherschel

    Hi Jono!

    I agree with a lot of the things you are saying. I have been thinking a lot about this as well after you guys mentioned this on LugRadio. One thing I came across in my search for innovation in Gnome was the Online Desktop. Have you checked this out yet? I couldn’t find a package for it in Ubuntu, so I’ve created a Brainstorm post about it – http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/9717 – to me this looks like something where Gnome could really shine in the future, especially if Ubuntu throws their weight behind it. In the moment it seems like only Fedora guys are hacking on this…

  • http://www.ac-graphic.net/ Antoine Cailliau

    I agree with you on some points. But I think that a predictable and reliable desktop can also bring innovations. Actually we have as few as possible new exciting features in Gnome. I agree on the fact that is not needed to break the all at every release but incremental update can really improve the user experience.

    I do not believe that the next of desktop is made by animations, GTK3, clutter. It make me smile when we speak about the future of Gnome that the main argument is “Look at what we can do with Clutter”. It is more about rethinking the whole user experience with desktop. The desktop is no more like it was before, we have stronger links with online world, social networks, etc.

    We do not only need new exciting features, we also need a new experience, more connected, probably, to Internet world.

  • jimcooncat

    Oh no, it was almost perfected and you want to do WHAT with it?

    My suggestions: Make it less about the applications to make it more user-friendly. Application (branding) names have to be learned — Epiphany is not a brainstorming application? Evolution is not to teach us about Darwin’s theories? Pidgin isn’t a virtual aviary?

    We were promised by MS many years ago (and never truly delivered) a document-centric workspace. Why not have this a Gnome option? Most all the pieces are already there, just add a few things and lots of polish.

    Or, message-centric. I have a message to convey. I jot it down. Then I select my audience. My computer tells me that Joe likes email, Susan prefers a formal letter, Jake wants a fax, Amy wants a phone call, Mom reads my blog. My computer then helps me with all those formats, and tracks replies. Good thing, because I told it Joe’s on vacation, and is picking up at a different email address during the month of July.

    But at my office, we run on procedures. Some of these procedures a computer can help with, some it can produce automatically given the right setup, some it can’t do at all because a human skill is required. At this point, what’s been done? Some are done bi-weekly, some monthly, some when an event happens, such as receiving an application form. Can I look ahead at next month and see if a bunch of work is all going to pile up at once — or is there a good week in there for a vacation?

  • pinky

    Hi Jono!

    We, or better the GNOME Hackers, should think about the future of GNOME. Middle-term we need a GNOME3 like we need a Gtk3.

    Look at what KDE is doing. I know you attended at Linuxtag in Berlin. Have you tried KDE4 on the KDE booth? It’s amazing. Sure till now it’s far away from beeing perfect. But i’m sure in about 1 year KDE4 will rock.

    I love GNOME and i want that GNOME will rock in the future too and don’t get antiquated compared to exciting technology like KDE4.

    Bringing all important GNOME peopel together is a great idea. But i want to remember that we need more than a vision. We need the courage to do it. People have talked about Gtk3 and had some really good ideas but when will the work begin? I fear a little bit that in one year all the ideas will be forgotten and nobody works on a real world Gtk3. Like we already had ideas for a GNOME3 and now the website says “There are no plans for a GNOME 3.0 release at this time. The GNOME community believes that regular, reliable, iterative improvements are more important to our users than ground-shaking major releases, and that we can more comfortably deliver major features — when they’re ready — in our regular, six-monthly releases.” (http://live.gnome.org/ThreePointZero)

    So yes, we need more inovation and bringing the GNOME rockstars together may be a good start but take care that it will also result in real work and not only in a nice paper of ideas.

  • Miles

    Off topic: do you use Twitter?

  • http://pollycoke.net/2008/06/11/e-va-bene-gnome-e-in-decadenza-ma/ E va bene GNOME è in decadenza, ma… « pollycoke :)

    [...] sua proposta? Riuniamo il meglio degli sviluppatori GNOME per una settimana, rinchiudiamoli in una stanza senza [...]

  • http://chrislord.net/ Chris Lord

    So, yeah… What happened to Jokosher?

  • Michael Sherwin

    I think the biggest ‘sin’ of KDE and Gnome is the issue not breaking from key Windows-Specific desktop concepts. Both use task bars by default, both use the Windows way of organizing the desktop by default, both use standard menus to access applications, etc. They are both too Windows-like. We need to take a long hard at the issues with this Windows-like approach to even core pieces of the GUI.

    To me, the desktop metaphor has become a lie. Through researching the history of the GUI (even history pre-dating the Xerox Star), I have found out the real-dekstop emulation the desktop metaphor tries to reproduce. Application Windows, for instance, were meant to emulate pieces of paper. This emulation was largely during the Xerox Star days, but today Application Windows contain things that we’d have never seen paper do (like playing a movie).

    I believe that usability is better directed at facilitating the experience of unique activities, not a place where those activities can take place.

    Even though I’m a terrible programmer, I have taken on this task. I am continually trying to improve my C skills, XLib skills, and understanding of things like DBus. I do this because I believe this is necessary.

  • http://eugenia.gnomefiles.org/2008/06/11/the-future-of-gnome/ Eugenia’s Rants and Thoughts » Blog Archive » The future of Gnome

    [...] and Jono made some good blog posts about the future of Gnome. The problem is two fold: the older Gnome 2.x [...]

  • http://www.grillbar.org/wordpress/?p=278 Decadence of the Enterprise Desktop

    [...] Jono Bacon – His own words “predictable and reliable, but has ceased to be exciting and innovative”. Points out there are a lot of people hashing out visions and new ideas, but very few backing that up with real code. Gnome 2.0 owes a lot to our Rock-Star Coders and we need buy-in from them for anything to take off. A way to get something going was to put a select handful of our finest masterminds into a room, and when the white smoke emerges we have a battle plan. [...]

  • http://mirsal.ennaime.free.fr/ Mirsal Ennaime

    IMHO, innovation is not only about changing the whole thing. I still believe that the desktop (even though I think it is a suboptimal paradigm) can be a lot better without a radical paradigm shift. This said, here’s my little contribution to the discussion: http://mirsal.ennaime.free.fr/index.php/15/2008/03/13/thoughts-about-interaction-with-running-applications-on-the-free-desktop-part-1/

  • Michael

    Jono, I agree with you that the “One week” thing would be great. But, there seem to be quite different visions around and I really hope the whole discussion won’t die after Havoc’s recent blog.

    Personally I think the platform (mostly: the toolkit) needs to be modernized in order to improve GNOME. GNOME as the desktop, but also mobile GNOME and whatever. Dobey is right in saying that it’s not only the desktop we have to worry about. But currently this is what the GNOME platform can do: a (more or less) conservative desktop.

    There’s still discussion if the mobile GNOME initiative has failed or not but if Nokia and OpenMoko keep GTK around as a choice, why did they even have to look for anything different? Well, the platform was not flexible enough to be “great” as in “we don’t want or need anything else”. This is a battle of which GNOME lost the first round 2-3 years ago IMHO. If not, GNOME could be Android, who knows.

    I think “GTK3″ should be a priority for the next year. “GTK3″ should be able to let the developers build not only desktop centric applications, but also GUIs for mobile or other uses (think AppleTV for example). Perhaps further integration of Clutter? GTK3 should have a reworked theming system. This work should also include some further changes/simplifications to the platform (“libgnome must die”).

    But finally this technology should be used to improve the desktop and with “desktop” I mean the very core apps: nautilus and panel. I’m not a big fan of all the flashy “dock” apps but I’m sure we can do better. The panel in particular needs much love and if you ever use the mac’s file manager… well, it has a special feeling which nautilus is missing.

    So, in short: – make GTK3 happen – improve platform (kill some modules, find gconf replacement) – improve the core apps panel & nautilus both technically (new applets system for example) as well as from a user’s POV (better interaction) – adapt apps to the new platform

  • http://mirsal.ennaime.free.fr/index.php/26/2008/06/12/decadence-decadence/ The way the GNOME desktop should go | Mirsal Ennaime

    [...] the future of GNOME is really amazing. following Calum Benson Christian Schaller Lucas Rocha Jono Bacon Richard Huges and the other, I’ll post my little contribution to the [...]

  • tinin

    Pleeeeeease show some love to Jokosher!! It seems to be stuck on 0.9 version, it doesn’t even work with hardy :(

    #

    Error loading file: None Please make sure the file exists, and the appropriate plugin is installed. Could not determine type of stream. gsttypefindelement.c(742): gsttypefindelementactivate (): /pipeline1/decodebin3/typefind: Can’t typefind empty stream

  • Rick james

    discussed in corridors and elsewhere. Although I am an ardent supporter and fanboy around GNOME, and I love the desktop for its simplicity and elegance…GNOME has become the software equivalent of my dad’s comfortable trousers – predictable and reliable, but has ceased to be exciting and innovative in new, innovative, visual, inspirational ways. I accept this metaphor only partially applies to the aforementioned father’s trousers. This is not to say that GNOME is not innovating – GNOME is filled to the brim with tiny little niceties, but it seems that the time for tiny little niceties needs to give way to a new, exciting vision that takes into account the changes since GNOME 2.0 in the online and offline world, in interaction, social networking and the typical things people do with computers. > > What makes you and other morons like yourself think this nonsense is even desirable? This kind of idiotic thinking is one of the things that helped sink both the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga back in the early 90’s. People asked what buying either computer would do for them, and all they got for an answer was this kind of nonsensical Startrekish technobabble that really said nothing at all. No wonder for the most part people ignored the existance of both the Amiga and Atari ST. 99% of the people avocating them at the time were total and complete morons like yourself.

  • Dustbin

    But, I’ll bet your father’s trousers did their job and did it well. . . in other words, they just worked!!! So, who is Gnome for: the users, who need something that just works; or the devs, who like to have a fun, EXCITING playground. I know, let’s look at another well-known desktop where the devs lost sight of what users want, and see what the reaction was. :lol: -dB

  • http://jpangamarca.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/links-for-2008-06-12/ links for 2008-06-12 « My place

    [...] jonobacon@home » Invigorating GNOME GNOME needs to give way to a new, exciting vision that takes into account the changes since GNOME 2.0 in the online and offline world, in interaction, social networking and the typical things people do with computers. (tags: linux gnome desktop innovation) [...]

  • http://www.is-vn.bg/hamster Dimitar Zhekov

    After looking at KDE4, and reading 2 articles that GNOME lacks innovation, I, a long time KDE user, ordered a Ubuntu DVD. Look pretty good so far.

  • Udo

    We need something bold. KDE has amazing foundations, but the desktop is not that revolutionary.

    My idea: Continue maintaining 2.X and start a GTK3 based on OpenGL / SVG for a zooming document centric desktop.

    That would be bold!

  • http://www.linuxedintorni.org/archives/202 Lo GNOMO è più vivo che mai at Linux e dintorni

    [...] quindi alla proposta di Jono Bacon che in questo post suggerisce una via poco ortodossa ma sicuramente efficace per risolvere questi [...]

  • http://colino.net/wordpress/ Colin

    About GTK3: Whatever stands behind that name, please, pretty please, DO NOT pull a new GTK1/GTK2 transition, forcing a lot of people to rewrite their apps with new APIs.

  • Quericus

    I just wanted to throw this out there, which is admittedly a wild idea.

    With KDE4, which is truly impressive, couldn’t the GNOME developers consider using QT4 as its new base, and could even draw upon some of the widgets/libraries that KDE4 has (if desired.) GNOME and KDE4 would use the same base, but would be different configuration/flavors — KDE4 would keep it’s “solo bottom bar, etc” look and feel, and GNOME could be the “top and bottom bar, minimalistic, etc” configuration. You could choose which configuration you want to use during the setup wizard upon first boot. Choosing the “GNOME flavor” would also install whatever flavor-specific applications the developers decide upon.

    I know there are a lot of political allegiances to the underlying code (like C versus C++, etc) which make this problematic, but unifying the toolkit would be a massive boost to making a less fragmented desktop with a unified app architecture. I know this has also been discussed before and bashed to the ground multiple times, but QT4 is a nice, nice development..well…I’ve said enough, you can see where I’m going with this.

  • Eruaran

    I’m a huge fan of what the KDE community is doing with KDE 4.x, but when it comes to “production ready” systems where I work, I am offering Ubuntu, with GNOME specifically for its stability, reliability and simplicity. Of course GNOME needs to move forward, but so does everybody. Kudos to KDE for having the balls to do what they are doing right now but I don’t think such disruption is the GNOME style and should be avoided unless deemed absolutely necessary. What really concerns me are the ever growing list Mono dependencies, and Moonlight… don’t even get me started… Is GNOME still independent or is it part of the Microsoft-Novell axis now ? Many people are very concerned about this. I know people who have abandoned GNOME for THESE reasons, and nothing else.

  • http://www.dancinglion.us Richtl

    I’ve been using gnome forever (it feels like). Every now and again I switch to KDE, Enlightenment, Fluxbox, or another environment, but I always end up with gnome. Probably because gnome is easier to customize than anything else out there.

    Jono made some important points. The eyecandy and breadth of tools and refinement are nice, but where we need to innovate is task focus: how does the user do their work and how can we make it easier, more intuitive, and more useful.

    While desktop interaction is getting better– Gnome-do and the compiz “scale” plugin are excellent examples, though the ideas for both originally came from Apple–everyday tools are getting more complicated and harder to use. Email, calendaring, and personal information management are just one example. All of the above are part of one task: managing your day, yet applications still treat them as separate entities.

    The user shouldn’t have to care what tool they’re using to do a job. They should just say they want to send email and the system should ask “to whom?”

  • http://www.iqubed.biz/blog/2008/06/12/linux-haters-blog/ » Linux Hater’s Blog

    [...] thinks it is retarded. If you think it’s only Microsoft who has crises then look at this call to action from the Ubuntu Community Manager. Jeez, he’s even offering to get everyone round to his [...]

  • killaklan

    the gnome desktop reminds me of the palm invironment…old and outdated

  • http://www.lorentz.leidenuniv.nl Roland

    Hi Jono Bacon,

    first I want to thank you for your work on Jokosher. Splendid piece of software.

    I have been using gnome from the beginning, and I have to say that the last couple of years it really starts to be usable. It looks quite nice, simple and while there are still significant improvements being made under the hood (GVFS), it seems to basically done. I haven’t used windows for over ten years now, linux and gnome just do all I need.

    People complain about Vista that it is slow and not very groundbreaking (probably true). People complain about lack of vision in Gnome. People rave about how wonderful OS X is, esp. its Aqua/Cacao interface and the dock.

    I think that all three systems are “done” in a way. There is not much more to do with the WIMP interface. Sure, OS X is somewhat 3D and has a really nice programming interface and toolkit. Vista is also 3D but it does not really add anything to usability. Linux has Compiz, which at least is useful for multiple desktops and finding your windows.

    But when the cube stops spinning, you still just have a flat desktop interface. Smooth scaling SVG icons, anti-aliased text, and Avant Window Navigator adds a nice OS X dock look-alike including ‘stacks’, but still we are stuck in 2 dimensions.

    If you want to make bold steps into the future of GUI, two things obviously need to be incorporated:

    1. Real use of the third dimension.
    * in a non-confusing way
    * integrates 2D windows in a natural and useful way
    * onset of development of a 3D widget set, to make 3D applications
    * no more icons; use scaled (or distant) windows instead. Just zoom in to work with, or let come to the foreground.
    * you can group windows in space; like wise group files in a
     (floating) grid in space. This way you can represent directories by
      multiple levels of scale.
    * no more taskbar, dock and such, but an object that appears by
     tapping screen, or some hotkey combination (say ESC-ESC). This (3D)
      object would give you access to your apps and menus, and might
       look a bit like a "Pie menu" (see wikipedia). I always liked the
        right-click menu in windowmaker.
    
    1. Touch and Multi-touch interface
    * most people have no touch screen, let alone multitouch, so normal
     mice should remain usable for quite some time.
    * there are different types of multitouch, including a type (from
     Sharp) where each pixel is also a sensor. Imagine logging in by
      simply placing your hand on the screen, reading your palm-print?
    * use of a number of standard gestures for different actions. (for
     instance "pinch" to zoom, "swipe" to move through space or group
      files, etc.)
    

    But for something really wild, let me introduce me my idea of “The Cat” (no longer very relevant to Gnome, more to user interfaces in general).

    The Cat would be an avatar of an AI that is actually an expert system. The avatar generally walks around a bit, stays in the distance and ignores you, sometimes disappears, just like a real cat would in fact.

    The expert system behind it is somewhat like wikipedia, in the sense that it is tought by the people using it. What it does is help you with computer related tasks. Some such tasks may be: – replacing a failed RAID1 device. – making a Latex document – organizing your directories and files – color correcting you display and scanner with LProf and other tools (if you are a graphical artist) – writing your first C program – advanced programming using subversion, profilers, debuggers etc. – doing a mail-merge.

    The expert system would have modules for each of those areas of knowledge that are added by people in that field. The system also learns, and uploads this knowledge to the (somewhat wikipedia-alike) backend. The hard parts are: 1) codifying knowledge in some way an expert system understands (but that’s already solved in all kinds of existing expert systems). 2) a method that lets the Cat interact with programs (like filling in values, checking boxes, clicking buttons). Also this ties in with (1). In windows at least there are ways to automated program configuration and installation by replaying. Now replaying is way to simple for the Cat, but must be a part of it. 3) Implementing the “learn mode” of the Cat. If it is learning it must observe the user and record his actions while the user describes them. 4) The cat must tie in to the system itself; i.e. knows about processes and files, can recognize out-of-disk and out-of-memory situations, can deal with a run-away firefox process for instance, or can warn the user when a hardware fault happens. 5) Not making another Clippy. The Cat should never annoy the user. It just keeps silent company and even when there are real problems stays discreet and never takes over control of the machine. The expert system may present a solution but the user is free to alter it, or ignore it altogether.

    As time goes by, the Cat should get more and more input from users around the world, teaching it about all possible uses of computers. It might be made smarter over time, adding the ability of limited reasoning and recognizing generalized situations from examples.

    People who don’t like cats are SOL. Or maybe a snake could be implemented for them.

  • eric willemen

    -With KDE4, which is truly impressive, couldn’t the GNOME developers consider using QT4 as its new base, and could even draw upon some of the widgets/libraries that KDE4 has (if desired.) GNOME and KDE4 would use the same base, but would be different configuration/flavors-

    Not going to happen unless novell want to kill of is linux division. QT 4 is or will be gpl 3 soon, the fsf made some last year provisions to gpl 3 to punish novell for their linux sell out to microsoft. If gnome switches to qt then the fsf will be able to revoke novells license if they publish a new linux distro based on that qt gnome..

  • http://blogs.gnome.org/lucasr/2008/06/15/notes-on-the-future-of-gnome-problems-and-questions/ Lucas Rocha » Blog Archive » Notes on the Future of GNOME: Problems and Questions

    [...] time already) with regards to our beloved project. They overlap in many ways with the opinion of some people who have already commented on the [...]

  • http://www.internetling.com/2008/07/04/the-ultimate-guide-to-choosing-the-right-desktop-enviroment/ The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Desktop Enviroment » Linux, open source and me at Internetling dot com

    [...] the way to go: it’s a big project with cool people working on it, but I’m not sure if they already know what the next step is going to be. GNOME still remains a default choice for most people and is the leading desktop environment, which [...]

  • Craig

    With the recent reactions in blogs – what reason would someone have to come to your session when it seems like all forward looking ideas get steamrolled by the old schoolers.

    It would seem there is so much negativity out there towards the creative and slash and burn types that by the time the complainers catch up with the visionaries we will be 15-20 years along and still 3 years out from a new desktop because no one has created a vision…

    There is much improvement needed to the desktop – the 1-2 inches of wasted space with status bars, toolbars, menus, etc is indicative of developers and users spoiled with 20″+ screens. The programs, while functional, are quite bland and un-inspirational (do you want to work in a grey cubical all your life???).

    Those trying to fit into other form factors, or leverage other bling like 3d, CSS, and animations will refine the desktop in ways not quite visible to those in plaid pants panicking over their desktop being taken over and pimped out leaving nothing working in the wake.

    Sure – the desktop metaphor hasn’t changed – but you would be hard pressed to find anyone wanting to go back to 10 years ago. I’m not even sure I want to stick with a platform that doesn’t show interest in improving itself.

  • Craig

    If you really really want to re-invigorate Gnome – you need to change how you invite change (less ‘developer’ focused meetings)

    Invite artists, graphic designers, user interface architects, psychologists, workflow analysts, 15 year olds, etc… they should brainstorm and come up with sexy, impractical, wonky visions of new form factors and ways to work with software.

    The programmers, system designers, software architects should ignore what we have right now and design from the ground up new toolkits to construct said ideas in a modular and robust fashion (CSS so artists can build the look – who could have thunk it!) as well as re-inforce best practices (testing, stability, refactorability)

    Then with that vision of some utopia – then with the project managers and architects build a road map that implements the best 20% of the toolkits into Gnome and let people at it.

    There is no reason to de-stabilize the desktop…. but this resistance to change from old schoolers has really made Gnome a boring place to be — and I don’t know about you but I hate working in a grey cubical no matter how stable and predictable it is.

  • http://www.searchtempo.com Brisbane Internet Consultant

    I’m a recent convert to Linux and GNOME. The choice was to try to get Vista working, or learn something new. I think I’ve made the right choice.

  • http://www.australian-web-directory.com/ Australian Web Directory

    Good for you. The transition to Linux takes a little while, but there’s heaps of good information and help online and the Linux community is fantastic.

  • http://www.hairandmakeupbymaryanne.com.au Wedding hair Brisbane

    When my husband got a new laptop I asked for his old one. It had Windows 2000 on it. I asked him to install an Ubuntu disk that my son gave me.

    It works just fine and I don’t have to worry too much about viruses and the like. Open Office is much like Microsoft and I love the wobbly windows and special effects.

    Go Linux !

  • Bas

    The problem is that most people do not want to change the way they work, and I must admit, using Gnome professionally, I would not like to see radical changes, as a private user I would love to see more radical changes. I think this is the problem of most Gnome users.

    If things don’t work out talking changes within, then you can always fork it.

    Good luck.

  • http://www.worldending2012.com/ world ending 2012

    “get vista working, or learn something new” Classic, I think you made the right choice, gnome & Linux all the way I say