Tuesday, March 25, 2014

GNOME 3.12 Screencast

A very recent update dropped GNOME 3.12 final and the final product, although not that much different from the GNOME 3.11.9x I had been using up until now, managed to surprise me, so I decided to put together a quick Screencast and share it here.

The main thing I have noticed on the latest update is things going much faster. I am not sure why, but everything is way smoother and more responsive. Menu drop-downs, fade in and out effects, everything is amazingly smooth. Even with more than five apps open at the same time, the Activities Overview effects to show them all up is buttery smooth. In fact, part of the reason why I wanted to record a screencast is because GNOME 3.12 finally provided me with a tool to record my screen activity in Linux as it is supposed to be. The video recording does not drag the desktop to a halt, it almost feels as if you are not recording.

Anyways, I have covered many things about GNOME 3.12 already, so I won't go into detail here. I can confirm that several bugs that were there in the prerelease compilations are now gone, but there are still minor things that don't work as expected.

What I can assure you is that this is, by far, the best GNOME there has ever been and I very much encourage Fedora users to give it a go, they will not regret it. Users of other distros will probably have to wait a bit longer, but please give this latest GNOME a try!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Future of KDE, a look at Plasma Next

Anyone who's curious about the future of KDE will know that they are currently working on the next big milestone. This work is perhaps going quieter than usual in Linux World because the KDE team took the very wise decision to freeze KDE 4.x development, only providing bug fixes and changes on the application framework, while building the new KDE, which we will get a first taste of mid year. Well, we now have a first taste of how that will look like. I will let the video do the talking and share my opinion later.

First thing that comes to mind is that it seems the new KDE will finally deliver on the promise of a Plasma desktop, it seems it is finally complete, which is great. According to their comments, the complexity of the DE has been reduced and streamlined thanks to the use of QtQuick, so contributing and maintaining all of its components should be easier now and performance should also benefit from this change.

In terms of visuals, I don't want to go much into it because I know this is very much work in progress and I know some very talented artists at the KDE camp are hard at work to deliver once again a great visual experience, specially around a new icon theme. I have also heard that support for external icon themes should be improved, something that has always been a bit of a miss for me. What I can say, though, is that the direction they are taking looks very promising. The new calendar and network plasmoids look fantastic, and so does the new menu. Along with a tasty icon theme this thing is going to look superb. Congrats for the great work so far!!

What I don't like, though, is that according to this video, the foundations that make KDE way more complex and difficult to grasp in 2014 remain intact. The Settings window is almost exactly the same, and I was hoping they would use this opportunity to give it a much, much needed redesign. At this stage it's really nonsense that so many categories are there in the window, it's overwhelming for anyone who's not fond of customization. Most users will only care about three or four elements to customize in terms of appearance, so why not just have an appearance category where fonts, icons and themes can easily be found and then bury everything else in that category under an advanced tab? That concept would apply to any and all categories and would make the settings window way easier to grasp and use. In addition, I hope they make all settings fall within the settings window, as opposed to now, where the menu settings are split from the overall DE settings.

Anyways, I will wait for the final release to make up my mind, but I have mixed feelings thus far. Let's wait and see!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What's new in GNOME 3.12

Following this recent trend of mine, where I like to write about my experience using GNOME and Fedora, I wanted to share a few cool things I have found after applying recent (almost final) GNOME 3.12 packages. I have applied these on top of Fedora 20, so if anyone is interested in learning how to do it, please drop a comment and I will share some basic instructions.

First thing I have noticed is how GNOME 3.12 again makes things snappier and more responsive than they were in 3.10. If talking about desktop effects, well, GNOME Shell is not big on them, which I am happy with, but what bothered me was that the few there were weren't looking good. Frame drops and severe lag were all over the place, to the point where the overall experience was hit. Good news, fast forward to the latest GNOME 3.11 compilations and things are smooth and fast, even when having many windows open on the same workspace. The overall speed, from loading the session initially to opening apps and running daily tasks has also been improved throughout. For instance, showing the Activities Overview now loads faster than ever, with little to now delay in displaying all icons.

A very cool and superbly implemented feature is that a software search is now part of the general search feature. This by itself is not news, Unity implemented something along the same lines sometime ago, but that's precisely why I am saying it is superbly done. When using this feature on Unity, right after I get the results, I am desperately trying to find a way to disable it. It's that bad. Performance is ridiculous. However, not sure how they have done it, in GNOME Shell the results appear as if they were part of a local search, pretty amazing.

There have also been changes in the default GTK theme, which now gets renewed tabs and buttons, as shown below.

The user and session menu is another perfectly implemented solution. Intuitive, aesthetically consistent, elegant and concise, only showing the right information within a couple clicks max. Genius.

The Shell menus and popups have become a tad more transparent in this release, which I like.

The new Maps application is nice, following the trend of no bells and whistles, it just works, albeit with limited functionality at this point.

The lockscreen returns mostly unchanged, with the obvious exception of the main wallpaper, which looks great. It changes through the day.

So there you have it, no radical changes, but the continuous improvement is now a trend in GNOME and I must admit I like it more on every release. Up until 3.8 I thought it was fun and had tons of good ideas, it showed potential, but lacked in certain areas. That usually meant that I ended up going back to KDE after a while. GNOME 3.10 was the first release I found 100% complete and with very few weak spots, and 3.12 seems to improve even further. I have been using it exclusively for weeks and I really don't see myself changing soon... Unless the promising work they are doing on KDE5 ends up living to the expectations it's raising!