Friday, 30 March 2012


GNOME 3.4 has been released -  At one time, a new release of GNOME would have been something to interest me, though not so much now.

The problem with user interfaces now, and GNOME is no exception, is that they consume a lot of resources.  I started as a KDE user, on Mandrake Linux, as it was then.  Later, via Red Hat, SuSE, Ubuntu and Linux Mint Debian, I became a GNOME user.  Over the past year, I have switched to XFCE on a Debian Squeeze base and, finally, to LXDE on a Debian Wheezy base.

You will notice that I have gradually moved towards more minimal and resource friendly environments, and it's not because I have an old computer, or one that is lacking in specification.  Even on my dual core machine with 3GB of RAM (enough for almost any Linux environment), the difference in responsiveness can be felt.

My problem with the increasing hardware demands of operating systems is that computers are being replaced while they are still usable, because they are no longer powerful enough to run the latest user environment.  The unfortunate by product of this is that many people, not being financially able to keep up with perpetual upgrades, are being priced out of the information age.  If my suspicion that GNOME 3, Unity and the upcoming Windows 8 are optimised towards touch screen computing is true, then the problem will get even worse.

Clearly, the old model of how a computer works is in the process of being made obsolete, and the internet tablet/smartphone interface is replacing the traditional desktop experience.  I hope it doesn't happen.  While the decision to develop an ARM version of Windows 8 is obviously good for the British economy, it suggests an intention to move computing towards being increasingly mobile.

What is worrying is that these devices have a built in obsolescence - they are not upgradeable, and consumers are encouraged to purchase the latest iteration of their chosen device when the old one is no longer supported.  In contrast, I could buy an old Pentium 4 PC for less cost than an internet tablet, install Debian with LXDE and have the same work environment I currently use.  In short, there is no need to replace a computer until it breaks!  The businesses which throw their computers into skips, for transportation to landfill sites, should consider donating them to charities, who may keep that old version of Windows or install a light Linux variant.

I'm glad that GNOME is out there as a choice.  For those who want to follow the current trend, it will at least provide an easy transition into Linux and open source.  My worry is that we are heading towards the path of inbuilt obsolescence and a two-tier society, from a technological standpoint.

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