Note: This article was originally published August 24th, 2011 at Muktware.com.
Some of the content here no longer represents the way that I feel about Unity at present, and much of this can be taken with a grain of salt. Even still, I do miss Gnome 2.x even though it hasn’t fully disappeared yet.
So what’s the big deal? Why wouldn’t I want a nice, new and shiny Unity desktop. What about Gnome 3? Why is Gnome 2 so great? I’ll give you a little background…
My initial perception of Gnome
I started ‘playing’ with Linux in the late 90′s as a teen. I never really got anywhere with it, but I remember things like installing MesaGL libs so that I could play Quake, though I could already play Quake just fine in Windows 95. Flash-forward to 2003.
I installed Fedora Core 1 on my machine which shipped with Gnome 2.x. I hated it, and always made sure to go out of my way to get KDE 3.2 and higher running (that is of course after manually editing my Xfree86.conf so that I could have a working desktop). These were the old days to me. I remember hunting on FreshRPMs.net and RPMfind for hours to satisfy dependencies just so I could run a single application.
Around the release of Fedora Core 4, a friend told me about Ubuntu. I am stubborn, so when I find something I like, I stick with it. Finally I decided to install it on a spare disk. The Ubuntu layout was very close to stock Gnome, which I had never experienced as an old-school Fedora user. I fell in love with it.
My initial move to Gnome
One reason that I stuck with KDE for so long is because the media apps were so mature. I used Amarok very early on, played videos with Kaffiene, and started to organize my photos with DigiKam. This sort of applications were not available in Gnome, and since I like consistency, I just stayed away from it. Around the time of Ubuntu 6.06, great GTK+ applications for desktop users started to emerge. Exaille, F-Spot, Banshee and more. I think if it had not been for Ubuntu, the Gnome desktop would have never seen the need for such media-rich applications.
I am not as much of a tinkerer anymore and see a lot of value in something that “just works”, thusly I do not deviate from Gnome. It still seems like the same old Gnome, but it doesn’t feel dated to me, and it is fast! I still use Gnome 2.x on my laptop running 11.04. It is not a bad machine. It is a dual-core Athlon with 4gigs of RAM and dedicated graphics, but Unity makes it fall apart, and run hot! Any type of real productivity is stifled by the performance hit I take running Unity. So, I still run “classic”, which runs magnificently with all of my custom Compiz settings. It honestly doesn’t make much sense to me.
Now let’s get one thing straight, I like Unity, ALOT, but that love didn’t develop until I bought my new machine. The new machine can handle anything. It’s hexa-core with 16gb or RAM and a pretty nice video card, but even still, when I upgrade to 11.10 I know exactly what will happen.
In Unity, I am still running GTK2 applications, and then I have Unity which I consider to be 2 panels and a few lenses. So whats the big deal? Why does it run so poorly? At any rate, I am not ready to replace my laptop. I know that it is aging, but I like the keyboard, the screen and the trackpad. I am used to it.
Now you can ask me the obvious… Do you really expect a next generation desktop to run on hardware that is on the verge of obsolesce? Of course I don’t. But if it’s 2 panels and a bunch of GTK2 apps, then yes, I think that it should run amicably. But it makes me very scared for 11.10. Why? GTK3 is why. When I go to upgrade (which I will, whilst crossing my fingers), I will be ready to take the performance hit, but I will not be ready for all of these featureless gnome 3 control panels.