Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Will my 82 year old mom be able to handle Gnome 3?

As I had been expecting, Arch Linux update now includes Gnome 3. I updated my Lenovo netbook first and tried Gnome 3 though I am normally using KDE Plasma Netbook profile.

My initial reaction was, "Oh, no! I will no longer be able to keep my mom's computer current." There was no way that I could get my 82 year old mom to use the empty screen. My experiment with a rolling distribution was about to end.

On Arch Linux, the classic Gnome display was shown - nearly blank panels and no desktop. It was easy to fix the classic Gnome issue as I needed to install gnome-shell.

Now, I had a blank desktop with the Activities action only. There was no way I could inflict the mouse movements needed to get an app to run on my mother. Had the favourites been always visible as in Ubuntu's Unity display, I may have considered that option.

I would have to use the Gnome classic display for her. I should be able to get her accustomed to two panels. For many years, her desktop is configured to use only one panel at the bottom. An alternate option would be configure KDE plasma to look like her current environment. My mother's needs are very simple and few. She uses Thunderbird for email, Rhythmbox for playing music and AisleRiot to play Freecell. Occasionally, she may use Firefox, OpenOffice or Image Viewer if somene has sent a link or an attachment. (In the case of attachments, she now often needs our help.)

It is unfortunate that I needed to use gnome-tweak-tool to get the file manager to manage the desktop. Given the controversy KDE4 developers had faced, I would have expected that this option would have been enabled by default.

Suddenly, Gnome 3 looked much closer to the familiar environment.

The classic Gnome did not seem to have a 'favorites' dock. A little playing around led to the discovery that I could drag a menu item to either panel. Now, the desktop is far closer to the familiar. I can add a script to shutdown the system so that she is not confused by the status menu or, even the alternate status menu.

So, in principle, I can continue with the experiment. But I will save the current setup in a partition so that I can fall back to it in case my expectations are belied.

I still have to consider whether to stick to Gnome or switch. LXDE may be the best option if I can customise the theme for large fonts, high contrast which are needed for my mother to be able to read emails with greater ease. But in all my efforts, I have to make sure that I do not frustrate her.

It is going to be a tough call!  Drop the experiment and stick to what works or take a chance with one of the three options. Which one? Decision taking is hard :(

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