Well it’s been another busy week here in the Linux blogosphere, what with the separate debuts of Canonical’s Ubuntu Business Desktop Remix and LibreOffice 3.5, to name just two.
Then, of course, there was V-Day — repurposed for those of us of the FOSSy persuasion as I Love Free Software Day and at least as worthy of celebration, in Linux Girl’s opinion.
Anyhoo, with all this going on, tongues pretty much haven’t stopped wagging down at the blogosphere’s seedy Broken Windows Lounge in weeks now, and these past few days have been no exception.
One of the spiciest topics du jour? None other than Cinnamon.
Cinnamon and Razor-qt
If it seems like we only just finished talking about Linux Mint’s new Cinnamon desktop, that’s because we did — just about a month ago.
But now here it is, back again, thanks in large part to a certain Italian Linux distro. Sabayon, that is, version 8 of which just made its official debut — with a dash of Cinnamon.
Yes, that’s right — among numerous other tweaks and enhancements, Sabayon Linux 8 includes both Cinnamon and the equally fresh-faced Razor-qt desktop in its repositories.
The times, they are a-changin’ — and Linux bloggers have had plenty to say about it.
‘The Old Ones Work Perfectly Well’
“The user interface is not a problem for GNU/Linux,” blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl, for example. “I don’t see the need/desire to keep inventing new interfaces when the old ones work perfectly well.”
Linux Mint and Cinnamon have “barely made a dent in Ubuntu’s installed base,” Pogson noted, pointing to Wikipedia statistics as evidence. “It’s a tiny distro making tiny changes to the user interface and getting rave reviews.”
Ubuntu’s Unity interface is much less popular than the previous GNOME interface was, so “Linux Mint is wise to avoid following Ubuntu’s lead,” he acknowledged. “Still, there are many other distros that do not follow Ubuntu either.”
In any case, when Mint has been “at the front lines as long as Debian GNU/Linux or Ubuntu have, they may be said to have earned credibility,” he concluded. “In the meantime, Linux Mint can disappear as fast as it appeared and GNU/Linux would not be worse off.”
‘I Just Want It To Be a Freaking Desktop’
Indeed, “I don’t know why people keep playing with the desktop,” agreed consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack.
“The desktop’s job is to let me load apps and then get out of the way so I can get real work done,” he explained. “I don’t care how cool it looks or whether it will make people who see my desktop fall to their knees and praise my computing skills.
“I just want it to be a freaking desktop,” Mack added. “Is that too much to ask?”
‘The Flexibility Linux Needs’
Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project, took a more optimistic view.
“Both Cinnamon and Razor-qt look like they are trying to offer the sorts of flexibility that Linux needs in order to go after a larger market,” Travers began. “The idea of allowing the traditional desktop paradigms while allowing also other options is a good one.
“Love them or hate them, the traditional desktop paradigms are familiar to most users, and a very large portion do not want to have to re-learn how to interact with their computers,” he explained.
‘The Strength of Open Source’
Innovation for innovation’s sake is “not a good thing in this area,” Travers opined. “Incremental change and a choice of paradigms is.”
Still, “this shows on the whole the strength of open source,” Travers suggested.
Specifically, “when someone makes a mistake or goes out on an unproven direction in a way that annoys a bunch of users, someone else can bring things back,” he noted. “We don’t have to choose one way or another.
“Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, a Linux desktop can potentially be anything to anybody,” Travers concluded. “That’s where the power of open source lies.”
‘A Symptom of the Churn’
It is “a Good Thing(TM) that Gnome is open source; projects like Cinnamon can ‘route around’ the damage,” agreed Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site.
At the same time, “the existence of Cinnamon is also a symptom of the churn that is becoming the norm,” Hudson said. “There’s nothing wrong with trying something new … but at some point, all these warring implementations start inducing a sense of battle fatigue.”
Too many projects “now seem to have ‘because we can’ as their sole justification,” she added. “Razor-Qt, for example — ‘let’s try building an entire desktop using Qt.’ Judging from the screenshots, it looks set for nostalgia buffs — ‘You too can have a desktop that looks like Windows95 or NT 4.01.'”
All in all, “consumer linux is in a serious rut,” Hudson concluded. “All the UI bling in the world isn’t going to change the fact that Android, iOS, and Windows are where the action is. Even Linus has said not to expect Android support before 2016 — an eternity in the computer world.”
‘All the Same Old Crud’
Cinnamon is simply “a fail,” according to Slashdot blogger hairyfeet.
“You hack together a frankenstein monster offspring of Gnome 2 AND 3 — how long does anybody think THAT is gonna be viable?” he explained. “All it’s gonna take is some itch-scratching by the gnome 3 guys and it’s all over, and since Gnome 3 is anything but finished I’d argue the odds are better than not that there will be at least a couple of major changes under the hood that will break anything that tries hooking to it, and that includes cinnamon.”
RazorQT, on the other hand, “IS something innovative and new, a desktop built from the ground up for speed, but somebody needs to pick up that ball and run with it,” hairyfeet opined. “Throw out all the same old crud like LO and FF that will weigh that thing down like a boat anchor, and instead build everything around QT.”
Using QTWeb for the default browser, for example, would be a good start, he added.
‘More Bloated With Each Release’
“C’mon guys, the big XP dieoff is already starting, the killer off-lease desktops and laptops are starting to pile up, and I don’t have a single OS I can use on them,” hairyfeet said.
“All I have is a bunch of wannabe distros that change just enough to break often yet are about as innovative as Walmart socks,” he explained. “Even the much hated Unity is nothing but a cell phone UI shoehorned onto a desktop, like that Hot Dog Stand looking uberfail windows 8.
“Give us something truly new and fresh!” hairyfeet entreated. “Give us something that will knock our socks off! Give me a rock solid, never crashes, built from the ground up RazorQT with all the apps based on QT so that thing runs like a scalded dog on even 5 year old hardware, now THAT would be innovative and go completely against the current grain of each OS getting more bloated with each release.”
‘They Want the Desktop Out of Their Way’
Users “don’t want a ton of bling bling like what Windows and OSX are trying to force down our throats,” hairyfeet added. “Just give us a nice looking desktop that isn’t painful to look at and we’ll be happy!
“Spinning cubes and bouncy effects need to DIAF, as all that does is slow everything down,” he concluded. “Folks don’t want to spend all day playing with desktop cubes, they want the desktop to get out of their way.”