On becoming more mainstream…

I’m realizing that 17 years ago turns out to be a pretty pivotal time for me professionally. In addition to being the time period when I found what has been my primary programming language ever since, it is the time when I threw caution to the wind and embraced Linux as my primary desktop OS.

As out-of-the-mainstream as that decision has been–and it was far more radical back in the ’90s before KDE, Gnome, Ubuntu and what-have-you–I have often constructed my desktop out of components that were considered outre even by Linux standards. I ran FVWM 2.X when people were still thinking that 1.x was the way to go. I ran IceWM when a lot of people were embracing Enlightenment or one of the NeXT-step based WMs. Even when I was using components of Gnome on a daily basis, and even trying it out from time to time, I never committed to it, figuring out how to use those components from within whatever unusual setup I was using.

For the last three years or so, I’ve been using the “Awesome”:http://awesome.naquadah.org/ WM to construct my thoroughly idiosyncratic but highly-efficient desktop environment.

No more.

I’ve always run something more mainstream on my desktop machine, because Anne uses it occasionally to work with GnuCash. Which meant that I was also using it fairly regularly, since I try to keep up with our finances on a daily basis. And six weeks or so ago, I decided to “upgrade” it to Gnome 3. I knew that if it didn’t work out–and I didn’t really expect it to, Gnome 3 having been pretty thoroughly reviled when released–I could always fall back to Xfce, which is what it had been running.

Much to my surprise, I found I kinda liked Gnome 3. It got rid of a lot of the clutter that had annoyed me about most Gnome 2 setups. In fact, except for the fact that individual windows had titlebars, the default presentation was almost as minimalist as my Awesome setup. And I found having the ability to hit the Mod4 (AKA Windows) key and then just start typing to start an application, well, that was actually more convenient than the Mod4+F1 that I was doing with Awesome. And so forth. Basically, it seemed like with a little tweaking, I might be able to be happy and productive.

So late last week, I installed all the Gnome 3 stuff on my laptop, and started tweaking. And yesterday, I uninstalled Awesome and the things I had been using with it.

Now I’m not embracing every aspect of Gnome life. There’s no way I’m going to try and manage my email in Evolution, whose interface I find awkward and slow. And I’m not likely to trade Chromium for Epiphany just yet–not until it’s got equivalent JS speed, at least. And I installed a few gnome-shell extensions, and intend to install a few more. And I totally remapped the window manager keys.

But right now, I am working more within the Linux mainstream than I have, well, perhaps ever.

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Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.

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