In today’s bit of major Linux news, GNOME 3 was finally released into the wild. Of course, it will no doubt be a few days, weeks, or months before it makes its way into your favorite distribution. (In fact, at least on Gentoo, it’s quite possible that it won’t be made available in testing until GNOME 3.2.) Instead of twiddling my thumbs in anticipation, I installed Gentoo’s GNOME overlay, and updated my system to GNOME 3. Here are my first impressions:
First, it’s going to take a while to get used to the new paradigm. Since Windows 95 was released nearly sixteen years ago, I’ve become increasingly reliant on the taskbar to identify open applications and switch among them. This is no longer an option, but I’m quickly becoming used to using the Activities window. I’m not sure it will ever as efficient, but it’s certainly neat. Nonetheless, I do like the overall experience for the moment, but it remains to be seen exactly how my workflow will change and how my productivity will be affected.
Second, the demise of the panel has an unfortunate side effect: I can no longer run the system monitor applet, which I found indispensable for monitoring both CPU and memory usage. I’m not sure there is an adequate replacement for this functionality.
Third, there are definitely some quirks and bugs:
- When using NVIDIA’s binary driver, most animations aren’t really animations at all. The frame rate plummets and the animation is over before you know what happened. This makes the whole experience very choppy. The problem has been noted, but I haven’t seen any indication that there’s a fix in the works, either by NVIDIA or the GNOME developers. Interestingly, the open-source nouveau driver works beautifully, but since I need better 3-d support than nouveau can currently provide, the whole thing is frustrating.
- Trying to access the icons in the messaging area at the bottom of the screen requires a little dancing. As soon as your mouse cursor hovers over one, it moves to make room for a more descriptive name, necessitating another cursor move. If you’re lucky, you don’t overshoot your goal.
Overall, GNOME 3 appears to be a bold step forward in terms of the desktop computing paradigm. Will it catch on with other desktop environments? Only time will tell, I suppose.