What in The Heck is Going on Over There?

Been a long time since I've blogged significantly, but I've been pretty busy at work, and haven't had the mental gung-ho-ity to actually blog. Well, that time is over.

The other time that's over is the time that Linux was spending behind a broken bootloader. I recently bought an Entourage Edge ereader. It's pretty damn awesome - has two screens, one e-Ink, and one LCD. It runs Android. It cost me $80 brand new from woot, has a camera, microphone, microSD card reader, and is fucking awesome in every way, except one: The company that made it went out of business.

This means that there's absolutely no support, and no upgrading. All this means to you, my dear reader, is that you get to hear about my adventures in ROM crafting. Although they haven't progressed very far yet, this is my next major mission. So far, I've been trying to port Clockwork mod to the device, since it has a janked-up lack of a recovery partition. We shall see if that's actually possible, but regardless, there will be a slightly easier way to dump ROMs onto it, courtesy of yours truly. If the gods align correctly, and the source Entourage supposedly released compiles, I'd also like to bring the device up to Ice Cream Sandwich when the source is available.

I've discovered, though, that Android development on a Mac doesn't work particularly well. Even when you follow all the instructions and get yourself set up with a case sensitive file system, some of the libraries that are commonly used in Android ROM development don't compile properly on OSX - which brings us to the tag line of this entry - upgrading my Linux machine to the latest version of Ubuntu.

Here is where the storm clouds roll in.

I'm not sure what the fuck those folks at Canonical had in mind when they developed a UI that is completely uncustomizable, but it wasn't anywhere near the amount of customizability I'm used to when I install Linux. To be honest, the folks working on the Linux UI aren't artists, and, by and large, they aren't UI usability experts either. So they can't just go in and drop a pile of shit on the table and say "here you go, enjoy!" without offering some customizability so people can fix the broken shit and make it at least work for them.

Canonical has forgotten this. They built a UI that completely disgusts me, and I can't use it. I cannot live with an orange and grey UI. Also, because of the way it was made, I can't customize it. So I tried out a few other window managers. Shall I laugh at E17? I mean, it at least WORKED somewhat 5 years ago. At least the themes had enough contrast in them that I could tell the icons in the menus apart. But no, E17 is dead to me. You bastard, you killed kenny. Love of my life, you've been such a terrible disappointment.

I thought about switching to some other older thing like Fluxbox or Windowmaker - but let's face it, the farther you get from the typical window managers, the harder it is to just Get Shit Done because your A won't mount or your Z won't autorun or whatever. So I switched lightdm (oh, hey! shiny and new and better than gdm? and works!) into Gnome. I didn't realize it at first, but Ubuntu 11.10 actually ships with Gnome3. This means that most of the gtk themes I've tweaked over the last 10 years to be perfect for me won't work anymore. Still, that's hardly an insurmountable obstacle. I head over to gnome-looks.org and pick up Zukitwo, and am satisfied so far as gtk themes go. During this process, I learn about gnome-shell, and finally understand what the fuck is going on here. It seems like a pretty cool idea at heart, I mean, writing a window shell in Javascript and CSS? Neat! But that's until you start understanding their design philosophy, or rather, start having it shoved down your throat.

I interact with my computer in a very specific way. I have a lot of tasks I need to get done, and I know how to make it work for me in Linux - I've been struggling along with Windows 7 for the last two years, begging them (in my head) to give me multiple desktop support. I have four desktops, and I know where my shit goes. I have both mouse and keyboard shortcuts that allow me to switch back and forth between them, and can easily drag windows between the desktops. So, can you do this in the new gnome-shell? No. None of it! I don't even get the right to decide how many desktops I want. I can't have mouse-wheel shortcuts to switch between them, and I can't get the keyboard shortcuts working either! In short, I'm really goddamn pissed off.

You should read this thread on the Desktop Development mailing list from a couple years back. It's fucking prophetic. Sandy, I tip my hat to you, but you should have made more noise. Maybe we wouldn't be in this place right now. I believe that it's possible that EVENTUALLY we'll be able to get back the functionality, or at least some of it, that we had in Gnome 2.*. But the question is, why the hell did they ship this shit that is clearly not ready for users? When the user must log out before they can power down? (Or know the magic key combination to make "Shut Down" appear?!)

You might say, Hey, Sharon, there's some Shell Extensions that you could download to fix your experience, if you're that annoyed! Well, I was that annoyed. So I cloned that repo like a mofo, and attempted to compile. But alas, I must install gnome-common to do that. And on goes the cycle...I've been down this road before. You need to install all of gnome from source before you can build some extensions. No fucking thanks.

Yeah, I'm frothing at the mouth here. The last two years working in Windows I kept telling myself, reminding myself, placating myself with the fact that if I can't do what I want in Windows, at least there's Linux there when I'm ready, waiting for me to customize it to my liking. But thanks to a few arrogant assholes who want to tell everyone else what their desktop should look and act like, it's not. It's not there for me anymore. And I am pissed as all hell about it.

But on the plus side, in Gnome3, the fonts on my blog have never been better rendered. So not all is wrong with the world.