I was on the GNOME foundation stand at Linux World yesterday. The quick synopsis is
- it was fun,
- most Gnome users like Gnome,
- one or two very vocal users have specific minor issues (but they think they’re major),
- many users want a Free Software Active Directory like solution,
- demo-ing simple things like Evolution sharing its calendar with the clock applet and Project Utopia is very effective at generating a “wow!” response,
- F-spot is an impressive application for most users,
- Murray should give us the login details for the demo box .
So the rest of this post is my meandering description of the above list of points.
I’ve only been in the U.K. for a few months, but it was nice to meet the gnome-uk people that I’ve been speaking to on IRC. After all the work was done (and we all did some good work) we went for a pint with one of the KDE guys. It was great to get around to see all the offerings from other distributors even if I did piss-off one vendor and rant at Sun for a while.
Most Gnome users like Gnome. That’s unsurprising. What is surprising is that SuSE users seem to have the most problems with Gnome. I got reports of Gnome not starting and generally crashyness. Having never really used SuSE there’s not much I can comment on this. Fedora users noticed a downward trend in the quality of their desktops from FC1 through FC4. I use Fedora myself and I can suggest that this may be due to the Fedora specific management tools (they don’t use gnome-system-tools), though this is wild speculation. Ubuntu users wore big smiles. As an Ubuntu user (on my laptop) I can see why. Ubuntu ships nice Gnome. Bottom line….a lot of Gnome problems seem to be vendor specific.
One user complained loudly about the lack of a “list a*.gif” kind of option in the file chooser dialog. The scenario here is that his users don’t really use a directory structure so filenames start with a managers initials. Therefore any document written in the group that I would manage would be called
.odt. Thus his users need to list all the files that start with
ajd and this needs to be easily discoverable. He also complained about the use of the text “Images” in the filter on the file chooser. His users want to specifically say
.gif not all images. I suspect his former scenario is more common than his latter as I’ve seen that naming convention employed in another (big legal) company.
Many users are now wondering how Gnome can hook into their enterprise management system. As in, is there an LDAP backend for GConf keys? This seems to be the kind of stuff that RedHat are working on with their statless approach and it will be nice to see what comes out of that. A Free Software directory server with management tools and tools to transition from Acive Directory would be a holy grail.
People assume that a Linux desktop is hard (it was LinuxWorld so I’ll refer to Linux and ignore *NIX). A simple demo to allow them to put their USB pendrive into the machine and see it mounted on the desktop gives a certain wow! factor. Showing an appointment shared between Evolution and the clock applet is also suitably impressive.
F-spot shows users that with our “it just works” software stack, you can also have useful and easy-to-use programs. F-spot does everything well and users responded well when I demo’ed tagging a picture. They were impressed at how easy it was to perform such operations on a Linux desktop. Before I forget….I got little bad feedback on OpenOffice. Users seem to be genuinely happy with it. Again, there were one or two users who wanted a certain button on the left of another button, but no major gripes.
We had to use one of the Gnome live CDs on one of our demo machines as we didn’t get the login credentials from Murray, and we had no ‘net access.
All in all, everything worked well and we were very busy talking to lots of people all day. From managers who had heard of this Linux thing, to old-school UNIX users who were updating their skill to Linux to hardcore hackers from other .org projects. It was very enjoyable.