After using GNOME for a little while, I discovered some things that are not how I am used to things working that would probably take a while to get used to if I were to move to GNOME full time (I doubt it though, KWin, KRunner, and general application integration is just too nice in KDE). I’ll be using it until the end of the semester (right before FUDCon) at least since I’ll need Panda3d and therefore the nvidia driver until then.
First, things that got fixed from my last post are that the audio applet showed up after the first upgrade, so I’m guessing the PulseAudio issues that were there caused all of the issues and the upgrade fixed that all up. The nvidia driver works, but it has those issues that I had last time I used it every now and then (waking up, it goes right back to sleep, some jerky animations, screwed up DPI (129 instead of 96), etc.). In response to Adam’s comment on my last post for the driver, the dual booting with another Fedora install makes the kernels a touchy subject and not something I want to deal with. I ended up “rebuilding” the RPMFusion SRPM myself against this kernel. Thanks to the help with getting the “focus follows mouse” setting and the opening terminal entry for the desktop. I did end up getting my keyboard layout settings fixed, but gnome-shell has broken them again (see below).
This morning I had to poke around with some code, so I fired up gedit, played with some settings (mainly tabulators to spaces and 4 spaces for indentation). After some mistakes with typing, I found out what kept causing me to screw up: ctrl+bksp behavior is very different from what I am used to in KatePart. In KatePart, it goes to the beginning of the next <word> and since KatePart is used pretty much anywhere non-trivial text editing is needed, it’s consistent everywhere. In gedit, however, its movement is very different. Going forwards, it goes to the end of a <word>. Numbers are considered a different <word> which adds to the confusion (I’m getting used to looking ahead in vim for command counts, the numbers adding to it throws the counts for key presses off). Going in reverse, the cursor is placed at the beginning of a <word>. This duality is disorienting at times. There is also some odd behavior near the end of newlines. In KatePart, ctrl+bksp will stop at a newline effectively just clearing it. Instead, gedit also deletes the last <word> on the line before which causes me to manually hit Backspace to delete what I want. Word jumping over newlines follows similar patterns and is hard to get used to. For actual coding (pretty much anything beyond what that class requires), I don’t know how well gedit works out, but it’ll take some getting used to. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Kate color scheme in gedit.
I discovered some odd behavior with the volume keys as well. If something is selected, changing the volume with the keys makes it use the “hovered” color while the button is pressed. Another oddity I found was the “desktop effects” configuration selection for Compiz had quick options for “wobbly windows” and “the cube”, two of, what I consider, the useless effects that have been made. I usually use “Present Windows”, “Zoom”, “Desktop Wall”, “Thumbnail Aside”, and “Translucency” in KWin. Other than that, it’s just some visual cues that I could live without like a minimization animation. The rest I see as eye candy (well, the other desktop switchers can be useful, just not my preference) and not really necessary, so why two of the more “useless” effects are front and center befuddles me.
I also found some inconsistency with dialogs. Sometimes Escape works as if I hit “Cancel” and other times it just does nothing. One such dialog is the “Add/Remove Software” window. Visually, it screams “I’m a dialog” to me since it lacks a menubar and toolbars (though these aren’t always applicable) and yet Escape does nothing. Just something I’ve come across and I’m sure there are more around.
How am I supposed to eject flash drives in GNOME? I kept trying to do “Safely Remove” but it kept coming back that “this file could not be stopped” (though it is a funny error message, fairly for those who don’t know about processes holding file descriptors open). Eject works, but it’s not what I’d choose with an option of “Safely Remove” right there.
I also installed GNOME Do and tried it out. Unfortunately it is also not KRunner by a long stretch. I search for “naut”, GNOME Do suggests “Livna Display Configuration” and only that. Why not Nautilus? I know what it’s called, let me launch it. KRunner also searches my bookmarks, contacts, recent documents, path names, Konqueror web shortcuts (very handy), Kate sessions, offers a calculator, and lots more. GNOME Do doesn’t do any of that (as far as I can tell) out of the box. I haven’t searched for plugins yet, so any pointers on good ones for the things I listed would be nice. GNOME Do is also not a standard text entry widget, so ctrl+bksp doesn’t work at all.
Window management is one thing that I’ve gotten touchy about after getting used to KWin. Metacity and GNOME Shell both have the following issue that bugs me: windows only snap to edges when going towards the edge and not when the two windows previously overlapped. I have high sensitivity on my inputs (but smooth, which is where the Windows drivers start to annoy the hell out of me with their jerky scrolling) so I overshoot placing windows often and “reverse snapping” is nice. KWin also snaps corners to corners and when edges line up (the top will snap to the neighbor’s top line if the two windows “touch”) which Metacity and GNOME Shell are both missing. Resizing windows is also weird with it depending on where the mouse starts within the window. In KWin I don’t really resize things much since I lock windows’ position, desktop, and size for persistent apps (and size for common ones like Konqueror or KWrite). I also set shortcuts for persistent apps (meta+alt+i for Konversation for instance). As far as I can tell, neither Metacity nor GNOME Shell has this ability, so I’m left to manage such things manually and since default sizes are way too small for 129 DPI, I have to resize things.
While on window management, I’ll report my initial findings for GNOME Shell. The first thing I noticed is that its alt+f2 tool is even more featureless than the default GNOME one. It only accepts complete command names, no tab completion, no ctrl+bksp, forces focus, and other things. This mix of things it’s missing makes it pretty much useless in my book since opening up a terminal and letting bash auto-complete for me is much faster. In addition to this, the GNOME Do shortcut gets clobbered somewhere in GNOME Shell so it has to be manually started.
The alt+tab switcher in GNOME Shell is also hard to get used to. If there are two windows for an application, they cannot be separated without the mouse or hitting the down arrow. I was able to get it to display the separate windows with nothing but alt+tab a few times, but it’s not reproducible reliably. Window thumbnails are also hidden in this submenu. Being used to “Present Windows” (with two variants, all desktops and just the current one) which has filtering, this is a step backwards for me anyways, the awkward navigation just adds to it
The list of applications next to the “Activities” menu doesn’t make much sense to me. It only lists the currently focused application so of what use is it? In addition it says “File Manager” for the desktop. How many people know that the desktop in GNOME is just a Nautilus view of a folder with a wallpaper? I didn’t until today. I kept trying to find this “File Manager” that was open so I could close it.
The “Activities” area is weird. There’s no keyboard navigation unless you’re searching (which also does not support ctrl+bksp by the way). You can add and remove desktops here as well. Adding them is no problem. I find issue with the way desktops are removed. You can only remove the last one and the way it works, the position of the last desktop keeps moving. I was also unable to find keyboard access for this. The other issue with these desktops is that the layout with the “Activities” visible is 2d. When back on the actual desktop, it is 1d. On KDE I have my 9 desktops set up in a 3×3 square with shortcuts that treat it as 2d and 1d (if I had 6 more arrow keys and shortcut actions to attach them to, there would be 27 in a 3x3x3 logical layout ). GNOME Shell has no way to treat them as a 2d grid. In addition, I did not find any shortcuts for moving windows between these desktops. You have to get the window menu (alt+f3 with KWin, click in GNOME Shell) and choose to move it right or left. There is also no wrapping, so to get a window from desktop 1 to desktop 9, I have to do this 8 times. There’s also the ability to move windows when in the “Activities” area, but this also requires a mouse and lots more of it.
GNOME Shell also likes to play around with shortcuts. Since the “Activities” area is triggered by the Meta (also known as “Super”) key, my shortcuts to the desktop through VNC are chomped when they use the Meta key. Not fun. If the “Control to show mouse position” is active, the Control key modifier is also impossible over VNC (now using TigerVNC since vinagre is really annoying). My keyboard settings for CapsLock-as-Backspace and RtAlt-is-AltGr, Shift+RtAlt-is-Compose are also completely ignored. Setting them manually with setxkbmap works as expected, but the keyboard settings are completely ignored. The GNOME Do access key (Meta+Space) also seems to have no effect when in its dock mode forcing the mouse to access it there as well.
With GNOME Shell active, GNOME Do defaults to a Macintosh-like dock. It’s nifty and looks nice, but not really my thing. Unfortunately, with what other ways there are to launch applications, it is the least annoying (though I just found the “Sidebar” and it looks a lot better, will report on that tomorrow). Similar to the alt+tab switcher, the dock is hard to use with multiple windows for one application. Right click on the app and then click on the entry you want. No thumbnails to differentiate them if the titles are the same or keyboard navigation.
Reflecting, GNOME Shell gets a “meh” from me so far. I hope that it’s still alpha so that more features can be added (assuming standard alpha and beta definitions). If it isn’t, GNOME Shell’s first release will probably feel like KDE 4.0 did to many. In either case, KWin and Plasma have been much more powerful from my experience and they aren’t as much as a detachment from how things have worked for the past many years.
Experiment for tomorrow: gnome-shell with plasma-desktop. The /proc/acpi/dead_kittens file will probably be reporting numbers in the dozens.