The GNOME team has finally released the first rough cut of version 2.0 of its ideologically-correct desktop environment, a year later than originally promised.
It's a major rewrite, first announced at LinuxWorld Expo in August 1999 when it was slated for a September 2000 release. The software is accompanied by a note warning that this initial Alpha build "does not include anything of use to end users," which at least makes it consistent with all the previous versions of GNOME Desktop we've used.
That's a little harsh perhaps - working with GNOME software has always been fun, if ultimately fruitless - but the project's momentum owes more to politics rather than quality. Even aficionados confide that the software resembles a triumph of improvisation over good design or quality control.
The GNOME Project's great gift to the world has been to spur development of the older, more established rival KDE and more importantly, to prompt Trolltech into making the Qt libraries that underpin KDE free software.
Qt 2.2 is GPL software, and that finally won the blessing of RMS. But the KDE camp, which seems to extend its lead over GNOME with each major release - it's probably two years ahead now - has never been able to match the GNOME team's gift for publicity or political smarts.
The latter has even managed to convince Sun and HP to compromise the stability of their UNIX systems by pledging to make GNOME their default desktop, replacing the ancient and widely loathed Motif-based CDE.
If we paint a cynical picture of the Linux desktop, it's because we've reluctantly concluded that the disadvantages of splitting brainpower and resources between two incompatible projects now outweigh the benefits of innovation, and losing the all-important network effect.
We use, and very much like GNOME/Gtk apps including Galeon and Evolution. But it drives us nuts that the best KDE and GNOME apps don't share a clipboard (you need to use the default X clipboard), and that neither KDE nor GNOME can use the soundcard at once.
A visiting Martian would surely conclude that the GNOME Project has served its purpose, and that for the community to continue bifurcated development is simply handing victory to The Beast. Enough, already. ®