It’s certainly no secret that I’ve been a KDE fan for ages. I’ve been using KDE as my primary Linux desktop for going on 10 years now. In all that time, I’ve made occasional forays into GNOME, but every time ran in fear at the sheer idiocy of the interface. Either it was too ‘smart’ doing ‘really cool stuff!’ or it was dumbed down to the point where it was impossible to use. A steady litany of “Oh, just edit gconf to fix that” or “you need to recompile such and such a module, that’s been patched” made me run back to KDE’s stable, consistent, powerful interface.
When Ubuntu 8.1 came out, I installed it onto a Dell D520 that I had available. Being a KDE geek, I said “Sure, lets run KDE4.”
What a disaster.
KDE4, despite the fact that it has been marked as stable and ready, is a complete mess. Unusable, unintuitive, unstable. I spent 2 days trying to make sense of the frequent crashes and missing componentry, and gave up. It was time to try Gnome
Gnome, on the other hand, was delightful. They had finally struck the balance between “make it as simple as you can” and “make sure all the necessary functionality is there.” The package managers are sane and work, the configuration tools are consistent and do the job, the desktop, while sparse, is eminently useful, and it’s fast. I have done 4 Ubuntu 8.1 installations now, and each has gone without a hitch. The only ‘missing’ bit I’ve had to deal with involved a missing package from my first Kubuntu -> Gnome upgrade.
This bothers me in a bunch of ways. What happened to KDE? I think it can best be summed up as ‘Gnome grew up’. KDE stayed ahead of Gnome for a decade. It took that long for the Gnome folks to get it together and come up with something that actually works. What I worry about is that didn’t happen through careful UI design and deliberation, but the result of years of trial and error. The fear is that just when they get it right, they’ll either stop working on changes to the desktop (thereby stagnating the environment), or will try more radical ‘upgrades’, breaking things again.
Time will tell. But for now, I’m pretty happy with Gnome.