Red Hat, the open-source and Linux technology provider, has moved to explain its decision to configure the KDE and GNOME desktop environments to look and behave in similar fashion in the upcoming release of Red Hat Linux.
The issue of compatibility between KDE (K Desktop Environment) and GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) has long been a contentious one in the open-source community, with those supporting the move saying it would hasten the creation of a single Linux desktop.
But some opponents say the move would detract from the very nature of open source and could ultimately restrict development, functionality and user choice.
The Slashdot news site on Monday linked to an article by Red Hat desktop team member Owen Taylor, of Raleigh, N.C., in which he explains the rationale for the move.
Taylor summarizes Red Hats reasons by saying “we see the desktop as only a piece of the entire operating system product; integration must extend beyond the desktop. We also believe that users care most about functionality and integration rather than the underlying technology.
“For these reasons, we have created a single desktop look and feel for Red Hat Linux rather than maintaining two unrelated configurations,” he is quoted as saying.
A Red Hat spokesman on Monday confirmed the authenticity of the Taylor article.
Jamin Gray, a developer involved with the Gnome Project, agrees with Taylor and points out that Red Hat is not trying to force KDE and GNOME to work together or become more compatible but is rather trying to make its desktop distribution more unified and pleasing to the average user by removing some of the unnecessary distinctions between the two desktops.
He told eWEEK on Monday that he understood Red Hats motivations and thought the changes they were making were good for the acceptance of Linux on the desktop, as it would lessen confusion for many users.
: Red Hat to Simplify Desktop Environs”>
“One of the problems with the Linux desktop and, interestingly enough, one of its strengths, is that there are two main organizations working to create development platforms and desktops. Both these organizations are creating products that essentially do the same thing but often dont play well together. This is confusing for many new users.
“Since neither KDE or GNOME appears to be going away anytime soon and both are used heavily, most distributions ship with both. Red Hat is trying to make the desktop more unified. A Red Hat user shouldnt have to worry about different tools for setting up their desktop, or wonder why applications look different, or why the icons look different in GNOME than in KDE,” he said.
In addition, its likely that those “hardcore” Linux users would either just install Ximians GNOME desktop offering or KDE.orgs KDE on top of Red Hat after upgrading or installing the operating system. “Red Hats modifications really benefit the user who just wants to get work done and not have to tinker with things all the time, in other words, most people,” Gray said.
Miguel de Icaza, president of the GNOME Foundation, told eWEEK that the Red Hat move was nothing more than a vendor adding value to its particular offering of open-source software by providing a better integrated system.
“Red Hat is free to improve Gnome and KDE in any ways they see fit. I encourage them to continue their work in that direction. This move is, however, also very interesting as it makes the real applications available in a consistent fashion to both the KDE and Gnome desktops.
“It also blurs the visual difference between the two desktops. But it is also important to note that both KDE and GNOME have been working for a while to make what Red Hat has done possible,” De Icaza said, stressing that the GNOME Foundation was fully committed to the interoperability efforts between it and KDE.
Last year, at the time the new GNOME 1.4 desktop environment was released, Maciej Stachowiak, a director on the GNOME board, told eWEEK that interoperability was a high priority for both GNOME and KDE.
“Were working on a number of joint initiatives, like a common Window manager spec. Were also working on having a common system for file types and program mappings. We want applications to run well on both GNOME and KDE,” he said at that time.
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