Monday, June 27, 2011

Hacking to make things Usable

I've noticed a disturbing trend occurring with software. Until recent months it was largely limited to closed source software such as iOS, but today we see it even in the FOSS world.

Users hacking at locked down software just to get the functionality out of it they need.

It amazes me that the faithful masses continue to do work for projects that try to undermine them at every turn. Apple users have been doing this for a long time. They buy iPhones, iPads, iPhails and "jail break" them to get around the locks imposed by the creator. They spend their time creating new an innovative programs, only to have them get rejected and then later stolen by Apple.

Something that troubles me greatly is that we have seen similar things start to happen in the world of open source with the releases of the Gnome 3 and Unity desktops. Maybe I am just used to the flexibility the Enlightenment desktop offers, but I am disturbed by the number of "tutorials" and "extensions" I have seen being written for these new desktops just to accomplish basic tasks.

I caught a post the other day that detailed all the things the Gnome 3 developers have decided their users no longer need. It is fully within the Gnome/Unity developers rights to make such choices. However it baffles me that their users continue to stick around and write "hacks" instead of moving onto another desktop where their valuable work would be appreciated and could eventually be accepted upstream. Are people so afraid of change they would rather continue to have their ideas treated poorly rather than move on to something different?

~Jeff Hoogland


  1. I didn't even get to try out Gnome3, because the gnome shell segfaults on start up for me, lol.

    I think I'll stick with LXDE, where things just work. May give Enlightenment a try though. Last time I used it two years ago, I was fairly impressed.

  2. I can see it in linux, as we are used to having everything fully customizable! Since Unity and Gnome 3 do not offer customizability out of the box, and since so many linux users have the ability to tweak or hack anything linux its just in their normal aptitude to fix it themselves! Now for me and other Linux users like me that don't have the ability we will just use someones hack or change distributions. But it probably comes down to our knowledge and convienence. Example: If I know how to install a patch, but don't have time to switch to another linux distro, then I may just use the patch. If I don't mind taking the time to switch the distro and redownload all my favorite apps, then recustomize a new distro to suit my taste, then I might just switch! Okay probably not! I think I'm just glad there are those who can write hacks and are kind enough to share them with the rest of us, so I don't have to spend all that time distro hopping. I know! I know! Why not just try the live cd or a virtual pc version before you upgrade? Because they don't work with the 3d drivers and you just can't really tell if your gonna like something as different as Unity or Gnome 3 unless you give it a chance for say 30 days. Hope ya see what I'm driving at here. In the end its just easier for those who can to just write a hack!

  3. Even in XFCE! XF86Audio* keyboard keys were undefined in the GUI, so I wrote shell scripts. The newer version of XFCE (like KDE/Gnome) hard-codes them in the GUI, you can't redefine them! Empower users, it's more important than so-called newbie-ease-of-use.

  4. People just want to accomplish different things:

  5. It's been going that way for a long time, I've been griping about Desktop Environment specific apps for years. I often like an app that was written for Gnome, but I'm using KDE (or vice versa). I would REALLY LOVE to see some good DE agnostic apps. Why would I use open source if they have the same lock-in that MS-junk has???

  6. Hi really nice views on technology I really like name Bodhi Linux very impressive and Gnome 3 is kind of disappointing now thing is i don't like any animation on enlightenment so they should stop worrying about eye candy it's kinda disturbing to eye .I mean come on my Eye sure don't want candy you may hand it to me :P

  7. I am still hoping that ailurus and ubuntu-tweak has more tweaks that a users/developers could imagine. A super tweaking tools :).

  8. Linux/Ubuntu user since 2006. I never got to try Gnome3. After an awful first experience with Unity, and some lost functionality in Xfce, I decided to give KDE one more try.

    I may try Enlightenment in the future, but it's going well with KDE for now.