Tag Archives: operating systems

Gnome strikes back!

I recently wrote a post comparing and contrasting Gnome versus KDE in Fedora 20. I was a bit hard on Gnome, despite using it on my main computer – some of its defaults just don’t seem logical. But yesterday I installed CentOS 7 on my spare test computer and I need to post this update because this is new and exciting.

pic of CentOS 7 install options

Please excuse the fuzzy ad hoc snap from my phone

Gnome in CentOS 7 is like the holy grail of Gnome. Still features all the fluid flexibility of Workspaces and their keyboard shortcuts. Yet retains the useful bar at top with Applications and Places, so beloved from Gnome2.

gnome desktop screenshot

And no need for the Alt-Tab gnome-extention, as the sensible behavior of cycling through only those windows open on the active workspace is the default here. At last! Common sense has reigned somewhere!

I’m excited to give the KDE Plasma Workspaces option a try next time. The folks at CentOS (and, of course, RedHat) deserve much praise for this sensible addition to the world of Linux. Thank you!

An agnostic’s take on Gnome vs. KDE

I’m writing this because everyone gets it wrong, and it’s my moral obligation to set yous straight. (For those that don’t know me, this is sarcasm.) I do, however, in all sincerity, want to clear up a few things I keep reading about that kind of irk me. The situation is in the never ending battle for the desktop that is Gnome versus KDE (I won’t bother to acknowledge any of the other competing desktop environments out there since I want to keep this post simple).

To start, I am not going to advocate either over the other – I know, big spoiler/anticlimax. Get over it. Here’s what irks me: Most of the articles I’ve read online featuring the difference between Gnome and KDE are not only heavily biased, but they are often written by persons who admit within the article they aren’t overly familiar with [insert whichever desktop environment is not their preferred one]. What the hell is wrong with these people?

I’m going to compare two of the newest cars on the road today, (but I don’t have a license and I’ve only ever ridden in one of these…). Here goes… [pppppfffffffrrrrrrrrrrrtttttttttttttt]

I’m over joyed to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t know shit, but really? Why are you writing about something you admit you don’t know about? So, I’m going to now write about something I know only marginally about, because why not? It’s the age of the idiot blogger.

Now there are two camps when it comes to users. One prefers using the keyboard, while the other prefers to point and click with a mouse. No one really likes or finds it particularly conducive to their productivity to have to switch constantly back and forth between the two.

(We can safely ignore touch devices for now as neither Gnome or KDE is up and running full steam on touch devices yet, although from what I hear it won’t be long before us regular, non-developer types will be able to have these options supported for our lazy, ignorant asses.)

And herein lies the great divide, and the great difference as I see it between Gnome and KDE. Gnome is really and truly best utilized with a keyboard securely under hand, with the mouse nearby for the occasional necessary click. KDE, conversely, is much friendlier to the mouse and click crowd, although many of the features in that environment can be accessed via the keyboard as well.

I’ll now break each environment down a little bit and include some Pros and Cons. I should mention at this point I am basing these descriptions on the Gnome and KDE versions of the Fedora Linux distribution. There are some minor differences here and there on other distributions, but the core info presented here remains applicable.

I’ll start with KDE

a screengrab from KDE

Please pardon the redactions – state security.

Widgets!

Widgets tell me what time it is.

Notice in the above screenshots the color of the theme has changed. It does that. On its own. Continuously. Forever. This (admittedly somewhat resource intensive) effect is just one of the many bits of eye candy that bedazzle the KDE user. Also note the über useful widgets so that I can have the time, date, weather etc right there on the desktop. Fascinating, no? At the upper left is the folder widget, which presents my home directory folders at a click. All of this is by choice, as the KDE environment is customizable to a degree that would require a degree to learn all the different options. But at its core, it provides an experience not so far removed from your vanilla XP working environment of old. There are tabs on a task bar (I left it at bottom – it can be moved, duplicated or removed at will) for open applications. There is a “start button” like button at lower left (although this too can be customized or outright removed if desired). At lower right are familiar icons for time, battery life (if applicable), wifi (again, if applicable), sound controls, etc etc. Notifications also default to this lower right area. All in all, a setting more or less familiar to a majority of computer users everywhere.

In Gnome we have a bit of a different experience

Gnome with dark theme enabled and Oxygen Theme Icons

Gnome with dark theme enabled and Oxygen Theme Icons

I’ll admit I am not a fan of the default appearance of Gnome. The first thing I like to do regarding the appearance is enable the dark theme and (install and) switch to Oxygen Theme icons. It’s a subjective thing, but to me this dark theme with the blue Oxygen Icons is a bit more elegant than the Gnome defaults (whatever they’re called…).  Notice in Gnome we have no task bar or icons on the desktop. Accept for the three windows I have open in the above screenshot, there is nothing (the absence of anything) on the desktop save for a bar across the top which has the date and time at center, some tools like sound and power off options at right, and the Activities hot corner at left (and a menu next to the Activities for the current active application). This situation causes the utmost confusion in users new to Gnome (my highly scientific research has been destroyed in a curious canine incident, but just trust me). Moving the mouse cursor to the upper left brings up the Activities screen.

The GUI hell of the Activities Screen

The GUI hell of the Activities Screen

From here one can click on Application Icons to launch them, as well as select a window to switch to it, close a window, or drag it to another workspace. I have yet to meet anyone who likes this or feels this is a satisfactory way of getting anything done on a computer. One can also type in the search box to search for Applications, etc. Whatever.

It may seem like I’m showing a strong bias against Gnome at this point, and if this was all there was to Gnome, I would bash its ugly head into the ground. But read on, discerning reader, for the best is yet to come.

After working with Gnome for some time, I have amassed a wealth of useful working strategies that make Gnome the more productive of the two desktops for the power user. [Not necessarily true, but it could be. It’s subjective.] First off, leave the mouse over there by the coffee mug or soda can. You won’t be needing it much from here on out. Standard keyboard shortcuts that work in a variety of operating systems and with a variety of desktop environments work in Gnome as well. [IMPORTANT: extensions.gnome.org and install/enable Alt-Tab!] The default alt-tab behavior in Gnome is annoying and defeats the purpose of workspaces. Ignore it. After enabling Alt-Tab, pressing alt-tab will shuffle through windows open in the current workspace. Use Super key (Windows key) + page up/down to navigate between workspaces. Use Alt+F2 to bring up the little window which allows you to run commands in it (most handy to launch applications without having to deal with the awkward Activities area – although having to launch an application whose name you’re not sure of can require a trip to Activities – learn the names of applications you use frequently!). I’ve even set keyboard shortcuts for raising and lowering the volume (I use alt+up/down).

I have set Gnome-Terminal to start at login, and I leave it around throughout the session which enables me to navigate to and open files without ever having to deal with a file manager. It is not a standard way of working for many people used to the “XP way of working”, but once you get used to it, it’s like second nature. My poor mouse begs me for attention.

I use the mouse within the web browser since some pages can be quite a pain to navigate via keyboard. Otherwise, for the most part, almost everything you need to accomplish can be done without having to reach for the mouse. This enables extremely fast navigation and launching. The OS/desktop environment nearly vanish and you’re free to get your work done. This is why I use Gnome when I have serious work to do despite appreciating the beauty and plain old fun of KDE’s dazzling eye candy (which is distraction central when you’re serious about work).

I would like to mention before leaving the wonderful application called Amarok.

Amarok

Amarok rocks!

Now, Amarok can be installed on Gnome (with a ton of dependencies) or even on Windows (so they say…), but its home is in KDE, and if the Fedora KDE spin didn’t include Amarok I might never have heard about it. It’s great – I love it. Nuff said.

One thing I don’t like about KDE (and maybe there’s a setting I can change somewhere to fix this) is that when I hook up my external hard drive in Gnome, I can immediately cd to the location in the terminal and copy files to and from the external hard drive from the command line. In KDE, if I try this, it fails to recognize the device until I mount it (usually by clicking on it’s icon in Dolphin – the world’s most elegant file manager).  I could probably use the command to mount it, but either way, it’s an extra step. Not a major problem, but something that annoys me.

So, to sum up: KDE is flashy eye candy with a familiar mouse and click feel to it. Very customizable and full of functionality, if you can find it all! Can be overwhelming at first. Gnome is strangely cool and distant at first, but once you warm up to it, it’s a streamlined interface that will mostly stay out of your way while you work.  There’s obviously a lot more to each of these, but enough is enough. Go do your own experiments and get back to me.

 

Journey Home

Near the beginning there was Darkness. Owned Shadows.

When I first looked past the windows and saw the light,

I noticed some sweet looking fruit hanging in the walled garden nearby.

I observed this fruit and thought it sweet,

and I ate of this fruit.

And it was sweet.

When I realized the fruit which grew in the walled garden was no longer sweet,

but rather was sour and rotten,

I set sail for the Icy shores where Penguins play

in old Crimson hats

and have never looked back since.

The End.

Why do we tolerate this?

When I built a computer from parts purchased online I didn’t think too much about the packaging with the motherboard stating Windows version blah blah blah would be required. I know better. I installed Fedora from the Live CD and never looked back. My primary, home-built, computer has never smelled the stench of Windows, and it is honestly the best computer I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

But today I purchased a keyboard to replace the one I had with my Dell XPS 420 for the past half decade (don’t eat/drink and type, duh) and I’m looking at the box and the damn thing actually states as a system requirement Windows version blah blah blah.

20130809-201450.jpg

Just to make sure I wasn’t missing something, I plugged it into my (sadly discontinued) 24 inch iMac. It works fine. Had to press all of two buttons and one click on the keyboard recognition dialogue, which ran upon booting with the new keyboard attached, and it was recognized and functioning perfectly (as long as I remember the Windows/super key is the Command key). No windows installed there. Then I plugged it into the Dell machine – which hasn’t had any windows installed since I wiped the drives clean with Parted Magic and began using the machine as an OS experimental machine. Currently running Linux Mint 15 and ArtistX (Ubuntu with tons of creation applications pre-installed if you haven’t heard of it before), the keyboard is somehow managing just fine despite the absence of the aforementioned pre-requisite systems…And I didn’t have to do a damn thing to get it set up. Just booted and started typing.

So next I looked at the manufacturer of the keyboard – which is not (at least not explicitly stated to be) Microsoft (which would at least make it understandable, if still wrong, to say a Microsoft owned operating system is required to use the product). It’s a Dynex keyboard, and according to Wikipedia (I can actually say that with a straight face, unlike some years ago when it was a laughing stock of mis-information) Dynex is a Best Buy house brand, which is consistent with the fact I purchased the keyboard at Best Buy.

So the real question is: Why would Best Buy (Dynex) include a verifiably false statement about their products on the packaging of said products? I doubt very much they would of their own accord… Which leads me to believe somewhere in the depths of hell there is some agreement, probably greased along by the universal lubricant of shady dealings, between Microsoft and Best Buy (and damn near every other supplier of hardware in the universe), the terms of which require these suppliers to lie to customers about their products’ so called requirements.

This is of course nothing new – in fact this story is so old it’s almost not worth rehashing… Except for the fact it is still happening! Why on earth do these companies still show such deference to Microsoft? Would the survival of these companies really be in jeopardy if they were to call off such arrangements with Microsoft and say “No. We’re not going to be including that ridiculously false statement on our products, which are compatible with nearly (if not) all operating systems.”? Maybe their survival is at stake; I don’t know. It must be for them to continue to behave so otherwise irrationally.

It’s a fucking crime what Microsoft gets away with.

Why I’m frustrated with the current state of computerLand

There are two main reasons I’m currently pissed off with the current state of affairs in computer land. The first is that Apple is starting to suck, and it’s getting worse every day. And the second reason is that, somehow, Apple is still better than all the rest. I sincerely hope either Apple starts to get back on track, or else that someone else will pick up the slack and start putting out some good products and services. And don’t give me that shareholder crap: yes Apple’s decisions have made it a very strong company and there is currently only a smidgen of dark cloud on the horizon, but look carefully at the big picture and the long view, if you can without throwing up or glazing over in a catatonic state from fear, and tell me truthfully that what you see is good, for Apple or society.

Now, here’s a breakdown of just what I’m ranting about today:

First off:

Even long dead dictators are pissed about Apple removing the “Save As” feature from OSX. Despite all the justification and explanation given by those in whose eyes Apple can do no wrong, this is a bone headed move. Duplicate is a longer, more convoluted way of doing something very basic and in effect fixes (or fails to fix) what was not broken. I know this is old news for many of you, but it is yet another reason I refuse to upgrade to the newer versions of OSX (I’ll keep my Snow Leopard until this Mac dies, at which point I may have to buy a dreaded non-Apple computer just to make a point – Apple, I will not continue to buy your increasingly inferior products out of loyalty: make them great again!). And I don’t need all these mobile device specific “non-improvements” on my desktop computer. Reminders? Notifications? Why would I want these when I’m hard at work on a project? That is called distraction, and it is bad for you. I can receive these much more usefully on my mobile device thank you.

While I don’t agree 100% with everything the creator of this video says, I feel he hits the mark pretty squarely with what feels so wrong about Apple abandoning their pro users:

Now, as for mobile devices, I ran into a strange thing today. I keep a tally of my current balance on my laundry card in my Notes app on the iPhone. For some reason, today when I wanted to edit the text in the Notes app, I could not insert the carat. I could only type over selected text… The dreaded insert vs. type-over debate! When and why did this happen? I could not find anything online and called Apple to inquire. After finally reaching a customer service agent (AKA human being) and describing the problem, he asked for the serial number of my device whist simultaneously hanging up on me. The phone did not say dropped call, as it does when a call is dropped, it went back to the number pad as it does when a call is terminated by the other party. I may be paranoid: maybe it was an accident? My gut tells me no. I am refraining from destroying your screen with all bold caps here, but I was pissed! Beyond words (well okay, I’m finding a few…). Fuck You Apple.

Going all the way back the the iPod, I bought one about six or seven years ago to listen to my CDs on the go. Worked great for a few months until they stopped playing. Brought the iPod back to Apple since I bought their expensive warranty plan. They replaced it. New device had the same problem. Fuck you Apple, I’m never buying another iPod again. Fast forward several years, I get an email (excerpted here, emphasis added by yours truly):

United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No. C-05-00037-JW
NOTICE OF PENDENCY OF CLASS ACTION
TO: All Persons or Entities in the United States Who Purchased One of the Listed Ipod Models Directly from Apple Between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009 (the “Class”).
Please Read this Notice Carefully and in its Entirety.
Your Rights May Be Affected by Proceedings in this Litigation.
This Notice has been sent to you pursuant to an Order of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The purpose of this Notice is to inform you that you have been identified as a potential member of the Class described above so that you can decide whether to remain a Class Member or to exclude yourself or your company from the Class. If you want to stay in this Class Action, you need not do anything now, and you will be bound by the Court’s rulings in the lawsuit. If you do not want to participate in this Class Action or have your rights affected by it, you must request exclusion as described in this Notice by July 30, 2012.
This is not a solicitation from a lawyer.
This Notice is not an expression of any opinion by the Court about the merits of any of the claims or defenses asserted by any party to this litigation. The Court has not decided whether Defendant Apple Inc. (“Apple”) has done anything wrong. Apple has not been ordered to pay any money. There has been no settlement.
I.    SUMMARY OF THE LITIGATION
Apple sells iPods directly to customers through its online and retail stores and directly to Apple authorized resellers. The lawsuit claims that Apple violated federal and state laws by issuing software updates in 2006 for its iPod that prevented iPods from playing songs not purchased on iTunes. The lawsuit claims that the software updates caused iPod prices to be higher than they otherwise would have been. Apple denies that it did anything wrong and asserts that the software updates challenged by Plaintiffs improved its products, were good for consumers, and had no effect on iPod prices. The Court has not yet decided whether Plaintiffs or Apple is correct.
On November 22, 2011, the Court allowed the case to proceed as a class action for all persons and entities that purchased certain iPod models between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009. The specific models of iPods covered by the Class Definition can be found at www.ipodlawsuit.com.
The Court appointed Plaintiffs as Class representatives, appointed Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP as Class Counsel, and directed that this Notice be sent to potential Class Members informing them of the pending litigation. […]
So at least now I know why my CDs no longer played back on my iPod… Fuck YOU Apple.  Reading from the above again: the updates were good for consumers… Oh really?
FUCK YOU Apple!!!! FUCK YOU!!!!
Sorry folks, had to let that out. Now, as for the rest? I haven’t had too much experience with those other phones out there yet. Truthfully, the few times my coworkers have asked me to help them with their Google phones, it was a real head scratching experience. Not very user friendly they seemed to me (pardon the Yoda-speak). But I’m looking. Because when I’m ready (hopefully I’ve got at least a few years left out of my phone and computer) my next purchases may very well be from Sony and Google if Apple doesn’t cut the crap, and all indications are they are going forward, full crap ahead 😦