Thursday 2011-08-25

I posted something like this on LWN.net earlier.. but I figured once there might as well put it here.

I am the black sheep of the family. For the 3 previous generations, everyone in my family worked on cars or motorcycles either as mechanics, chauffeurs, or even designers. My mom raced cars as a teenager, and my sister helped my dad take apart several engines. I on the other hand can't remove an oil filter without somehow cracking an engine block. However, I kind of know the culture, and what I am seeing in "modern" OS design parallels what I have seen of cars over the last 60 years (just maybe at a faster rate...)

Early cars were great to mod with. You could take apart an engine, play around with it, maybe see what happens if you mill out the piston heads a tiny bit, or change where the spark plugs were. It was a lot of fun for the people who liked to do that, and they learned quite a bit doing it by breaking things quite a bit. At some point though car design changed. It was no longer easy to take apart and change how a car worked because it had either gotten too complicated or a lot of barriers were put in the way on purpose to stop modding.

A good example of this is comparing a 1961 VW bug and a 2011 VW bug. On the outside they look similar enough. The interiors are similar in many ways also. I have even seen a 1964 bug modded out to look exactly like a 2004 bug on the inside.. However dig deeper and the differences are huge in philosophies.

A 1960's VW bug was the epitomy of the vehicle you could take apart and put together in many ways. Most of those ways would be horrible to look at but it was fun to do so. You learned a LOT from being able to break a car and make it do stuff that wasn't what it was originally designed to do, and you could always mill pieces to rebuild it (which is why there are still so many 1960's VW's on the road, because many of the parts are easily replaceable by someone with a lathe. And that was a second core point. Most any kid in high school could get the tools to rebuild a VW to what he wanted.. he just needed gumption.

A 2011 VW bug is the opposite end. (and I am not talking about the engine moving from the front to the back. I rode in a 72 beetle with an engine in the front because someone wanted to do that.) It is a very pretty car, and I will say it is fun to drive where it was designed to drive with. However it is not designed to be changed, in fact seems to have been designed in ways to make sure it wasn't changed. Trying to change it, see how it breaks, see how it can be fixed.. is much harder and more expensive. Especially since getting the tools and parts require a lot of custom items that you have to either be specifically trained in to remove bits off the car.

In the end, it just isn't as fun to play with anymore.

I think some of the frustration people are running into GNOME-3 is that lack of modification fun. It was fun to be able to throw sawmill, fvwm2, icewm, or E as the window manager while having other parts working in Gnome-1. It was still possible in part with Gnome-2 but sometimes not worth the effort. It is definitely not worth the effort in Gnome-3. Trying to get a right click working the way I want it is not really in the design goals of what the Gnome developers want. Realizing that and moving on is about all I can do in the long run.

Anyway off to my tasks and music

  • Lets hunt the hidden box
  • Get caught up on researching IMM reset code.. miss meeting
  • Spot a certificate item. Turns out nothing.
  • Thought about buying a Chromebook. Quite taking shots of tequila and changed mind.
  • More javascript reading

  • Altan - Another Sky
  • Altan - Horse with a Heart
  • Altan - The Blue Idol
  • Sarah Brightman - La Luna
  • Bonnie Rideout - Celtic Circles


Anonymous said...

Do you think the extreme customisability of GNOME 2 has made it harder for people to accept GNOME 3? You know, people spent years tweaking their desktop environment to suit their own highly personal use case, and now feel dissatisfied with anything that's not exactly how they would want it?

I used to spend a lot of time tweaking my Xfce desktop, partly because the defaults weren't exactly cutting edge, and partly because it was fun. But when I switched to GNOME 3, not having to tweak anything strangely felt like a huge relief!

Stephen Smoogen said...

nlthomas, I don't really consider Gnome2 to be extremely customisable. In comparison to Gnome1, Gnome2 was svelte in options.

I can understand that the lack of items can make things easier. I felt that way when I was working on my family's Macintosh. However once I started working with it hard core and needed stuff.. I kept running into issues of "Well I used to do this to do that" and couldn't.

Not everyone is going to run into that. I expect I am in a vocal minority but I am happy with XFCE and that has been nice.