31 Mar 2010

GNOME 2.30

So GNOME 2.30 (a desktop environment/graphical user interface that runs on top of a computer operating system) was released today.

But first, I’d like to mention Arch Linux. Unlike other distributions, where they make a new release every 6 months (Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE etc..), Arch is a Linux Distribution where you install it once, and upgrade forever. You just run an update command from the terminal (pacman -Syu), and keep getting updates. I installed Arch Linux about 2 years ago, and I’ve gone through 8 different kernels, and since GNOME 2.22. All without reinstalling. It’s because I use Arch Linux that I’m already using the not-even day old GNOME 2.30 release.

Back to GNOME. For those of you who follow GNOME, you’ll know that GNOME makes a new release exactly every 6 months. This is called a timed release (rather than a feature release). The difference is quite obvious. In a timed release, a release is made on a set day no matter what. If a certain feature isn’t ready, it’s cut. In a feature release, it’s the opposite. Features are decided, and if they’re not ready, the release date is changed. There are obviously benefits to both. Since GNOME has such a fast release cycle (6 months), if a feature gets dropped, it is usually made in the following release, which isn’t too bad (It’s not like having to wait until 6 years after Windows XP for Microsoft’s next release).

So, what does GNOME 2.30 have to offer? Being a timed release (and 6 months at that). not very much. The main improvements are to Nautilus (the file browser), Empathy (the chat program), Evince (PDF reader), Epiphany (web browser). There are also improvements to Vinagre (their remote desktop client), Tomboy (the note program), and some accessibility enhancements. The reason the 2.30 release doesn’t have very much is (aside from the quick 6 month release cycle)  because lots of the GNOME developers are working on features that will be integrated into the next 2.32 released (which will be renamed GNOME 3.0)

Gnome’s next release is intended to be a significant one. Having a quick 6 month release cycle has many benefits, but it has the downside that although lots of small enhancements can be made, it’s very difficult for a major overhaul. GNOME’s direct competitor is KDE. Recently KDE made a huge overhaul. The results were particularly bad. Upon release there were tons of regressions (where something is made worse). KDE’s misfortune seems to have played a large role in GNOME’s release decisions. GNOME 3.0 should be a fairly big jump up from 2.30, but they’re going to err. on the side of caution. Personally, as an Engineer, I yearn for the bleeding edge. Unfortunately, bleeding edge software tends to give you a bad reputation.