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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Sun, 16 Dec 2012

GNOME 3: Lured into the hot corner

I get on any other computer, any other OS (even Windows and Mac OS), or any other desktop environment, and I find myself mousing into the top-left (or "hot") corner to get my application panel and search/launching dialog.

That works in GNOME 3. I do it all the time.

You can also hit the "super" (aka "Windows") key to make the same thing happen. And I do that, too.

But I'm so comfortable mousing into the hot corner that I continue to do it in environments that aren't GNOME 3.

You know what happens when you mouse into the corner in these other OSes/DEs (excepting Ubuntu's Unity, which shares more technology with GNOME 3 than you might care to admit)?


I'm still keeping the Xfce desktop environment on my own personal back-burner, but I'm enjoying GNOME 3 and GNOME Shell enough that once again I find myself becoming a GNOME user. The same thing happened to me in the GNOME 2 days. I didn't set out to use GNOME (like I did Xfce, Fvwm and Fluxbox at various times), but I just seemed to gravitate toward it over time.

Getting back to the change in concept that DEs like GNOME 3 and Unity are bringing to the Linux desktop, others bemoan the end of the traditional menu and the traditional desktop conventions. I might have agreed.

But much like my experience with GNOME 2 (with its traditional menu and everything else), I didn't set out to use GNOME 3. GNOME Shell was the default desktop environment with Debian Wheezy. After my upgrade from Debian Squeeze to Wheezy, I started using it GNOME Shell, found it logical and liked how it improved my workflow.

It would be easier to hate GNOME 3. Except that it works so well.

I'm still running Wheezy with GNOME 3.4.2 And I'm still testing both the Ubuntu 12.10 GNOME Remix and the Fedora 18 beta. My Ubuntu system is set up via Unetbootin on an 8 GB USB flash drive, on which my changes to the configuration (including added packages) and user files persist.

Right now I can report that both of these systems -- Ubuntu and Fedora -- are running very, very well with GNOME Shell.

But the continual polish that Debian Wheezy is getting as it lumbers toward release is a powerful incentive to stick with what I'm running right now.

In terms of my overall GNOME Shell experience, it’s things like my muscle-memory mousing into the hot corner or hitting the "super" key, using the search box to start applications, and the ever-growing integration of the various components of GNOME that has me continuing to use the environment and follow its development.

I’ve done things like watch the top utility in a terminal for any signs of GNOME CPU hogging. I don’t see it. While there's a spike in CPU when you’re actually doing something in GNOME Shell, the software "gives back" that CPU as soon as the operation is over. So the "hit" on performance is only temporary, and if you have enough CPU and a capable graphics system, it’s fairly seamless.

If you've got adequate hardware, the resources that GNOME Shell requires aren't anywhere near excessive, and what GNOME does "take" in terms of CPU, RAM and graphics cycles is well worth the payoff you get from the environment.

I wouldn't, don't and probably can't run GNOME Shell on my older hardware, even though many of those machines ran better than expected with GNOME 2. The lack of 3D acceleration is only one reason that I'm sticking with LXDE in the form of Lubuntu on my 2002-era IBM Thinkpad R32 and Xfce on everything else.

You might ask why I only mentioned Ubuntu's Unity desktop environment in passing. I have spent a little time in it. Unity does have its positive aspects and is more like GNOME 3 than not.

But right now I like the full GNOME 3/Shell more. The dynamic workspaces, growing Extensions ecosystem, availability on distributions that aren't Ubuntu, plus the lack of things like Ubuntu's Dash-delivered search marketing/advertising are all things that put me more firmly in GNOME's camp than I would be otherwise.