GNOME and KDE

AC / DC icon

Once upon a time in America there were two standards for producing electricity – AC and DC. Well, to be more accurate, there were two primary different methods, and each had dozens or potentially thousands of different specific standards for implementation. But the really important point, for this conversation, is that in the large scale of things at the time almost no one was using either method, because electricity was not available to anyone but weird hobbyists.

Which brings us to GNOME and KDE. In the computing world at large, Android is the biggest selling interface. Ooops, did I surprise?  Yes, Android is outselling desktops/laptops according to some industry watchers. iOS might not be too far behind, but, well, Walled Gardens[WT WP]. Anyway, the point is the percentage of user environments in use which are using GNOME or KDE is vanishingly small. Which somehow engenders life-or-death competition between the adherents of one, or the other.

Mine not to wonder why; I am agnostic. Except where this schism within the FLOSS world makes my life miserable. Specifically, PureOS.

Let me be blunt: GNOME apps are weak. They are weak in the most important measure of a software:  user experience. If people don’t want to use them, they are utterly useless. I say this as someone who chooses to use FLOSS almost exclusively. GNU Calendar cannot even set which day of the week to display first, Geary e-mail client cannot be integrated with GnuPG or any other encryption scheme,  and Contacts cannot add any date other than birthday (or link cards to another, like a spouse , manager, or corporation.) They all feel very 1990s in functionality, even though some have very modern looks.

KDE softwares are less-weak in this specific measure. I occasionally install and use KUbuntu and other linux-flavours using KDE, and they are nearly universally more comfortable, ergonomic, and easier to get things done. And they are proud of sticking the NMH! label (Not Made Here!) on almost all the apps and widgets which run natively in KDE. The many varieties of software are sometimes quirky, sometimes stunning, and often work across platforms and operating systems. They are not, however, always as powerful or flexible, and not all easy on hardware requirements; it can turn old hardware into doorstops nearly instantly.

Which brings us to my new hardware. It is all about me, after all. I bought a wonderful Librem 13 from Puri.sm. It has PureOS installed. Purism states it is entirely supportive of both KDE and GNOME in keeping with their own supposedly agnostic/diversity focused approach.

Exactly as you all expect, they are anything but unbiased. The hypocritical lip-service that “KDE is also available within PureOS” is flatly a lie, as shown by the (difficult to discover, no FAQ or obvious links to) instructions for installing KDE. Being available solely through the cli package manager is not “within” PureOS. It absolutely does not show up in the Synaptic gui.

All of which is making me much more nervous about my coming-sometime-in-the-progressively-mistier-future Librem 5. From some recent research on the topic it looks like KDE Plasma Mobile already exists and is in use on a variety of phones and tablets. But Librem 5 will not use it. Instead it is waiting on a build-it-from-scratch GNOME shell based on Wayland called “Phosh”[GL R].

Going back to the Purism blog article, they are giving a few dev kits to KDE Plasma to help them get Mobile working on the Librem 5. They are entirely underwriting the creation of Phosh, and upstreaming all their work to GNOME. And claiming to be even handed about the whole thing because, after all, they do not want to piss off the KDE disciples. And they get to have complete control over their “made here” DE.

It all feels religious, not logical. Or maybe political, as though there could be conservative and liberal gradients of free. And I do not like it.


UPDATE: After following the wiki instructions for switching to KDE, Kmail cannot load. Trying to switch back works, but with noticeable lag on reboot. Easier to reinstall and start over with a clean GNOME slate. And then multiboot.

So much for internal support of KDE.