Grumpy Gnome-Hater Almost Changes Mind
I used to think that Gnome 1.4 was the Last Good Gnome. Because when Gnome 2.0 came along, everything I liked was gone. It was dumbed-down to the point of unusability, and the roadmap called for yet more dumbing-down. So I switched to KDE for my main workstation, and IceWM, XFCE, and Blackbox for lower-powered PCs. For all these years I haven't seen much to like in Gnome. Not until Ubuntu Hardy Heron, that is.
Gnome 1.4 was fun. It was easy to customize, and there were lots of howtos for getting under the hood and coding some simple modifications. Ximian Gnome was sleek and had cute monkeys, cool graphics, and Red Carpet, the first user-friendly graphical software and updates manager. Nautilus sucked rocks, but there have always been a lot of good file managers for Linux, so that didn't matter very much.
Gnome 2.0 Ruined Everything
Then came Gnome 2.0, and suddenly the world turned black. It was inflexible and simple-minded, with all the cool hackability gone. There was no middle ground- it was either too brain-dead simple, or too difficult. The choices were either graphical apps with two config options, or gconf, or editing XML files. Yeah, we loves that XML, and gconf is darn near as intuitive as the Windows Registry.
I might have hung in with it, except for the absence of a menu editor and the refusal of the dev team to make one. It was the #1 requested feature, but one was not forthcoming. The only reason there is a menu editor now is because a student, Travis Watkins, wrote one on his summer vacation, and got it accepted into Gnome 2.16.
I never hated Gnome; I just said that in the headline to get your attention, and anyway I couldn't think of anything comparably short and crisp. "Grumpy Former Gnome-User Almost Changes Mind", "Grumpy Wishes-Gnome-Were-Different-Person Almost Changes Mind", "Grumpy KDE-user Thinks Gnome Doesn't Suck Too Badly"... they just don't roll off the tongue in the same way.
Nautilus Sucks Much Less
But I digress. I keep current Fedora and Ubuntu boxes for testing, and to stay in touch with Gnome and the new technologies that usually appear first in Fedora. Finally, with Hardy Heron, I am officially impressed by Gnome. Or rather, Ubuntu's implementation of it. The Heron wallpaper is pretty. The default application set is pretty useful, and of course it's very easy to add and remove whatever you want. Even Nautilus is darn near tolerable, and it doesn't default to opening in the obnoxious spatial view, but in a normal tree view in a single window.
The blingy stuff is fun and easy, though Gnome still can't have a different wallpaper for each virtual desktop the way KDE can, or do a slideshow. I wonder why Ubuntu includes Mono-dependent apps like Tomboy and F-Stop when so many users are dead-set against Mono in any form.
At any rate, I'm using Ubuntu Hardy for my audio recording and editing workstation, and it's working out nicely. Some things are still too simpleminded for my liking, such as the printing manager, and the screenshot and CD-writing apps. Installing better apps takes care of that. Overall, I'm finally starting to warm up a wee bit to Gnome 2.x.