Another take on the recent Gnome3/Unity turmoil.
I think some people around the web are going overboard with the Canonical/Unity bashing.
The KDE, XFCE and LXDE flavors of Ubuntu have been in circulation for years, partly for occasions such as this. At least linux distros don't have all their UI eggs in one basket like Windows and OSX. To reiterate, any distro worth the CD it's burned on releases spins with these major desktops at a minimum.
So what if the "default" flavor uses a desktop you don't like!?
Is it a bad thing that Linux-land got two new desktops out in the wild (Gnome3 and Unity)?
And now we have Gnome 2.x and KDE 3.5x forks, so that's a net gain of 4 new DE's!
Also, Canonical (and all distros with Gnome as default) weren't to blame for the big Gnome UI shakeup. So, there are only three options for all distros out there:
1) Use whatever the Gnome team releases (every distro does that)
2) Switch to another established DE (KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc) for your default distro.
3) Develop your own DE/UI.
Canonical chose the third option, which while bold and resource-consuming, I think it fits with their "Linux for Human Beings" motto. I suspect the Gnome devs didn't want to take constructive criticism and/or design guidelines from Canonical, so Ubuntu did their own thing (I don't know the sordid details of the Gnome/Canonical break, just guessing). Funny thing- a few years ago, I believe Canonical was contemplating moving to KDE as the default UI. Mint appears to be attempting #1+3 in their next release, which will decrease reliability, introducing more bugs.
Ubuntu was never *designed* for developers/software engineers/tech users like some of us and Linus, who are not "Human Beings"
. It was designed for Moms, nieces, and J6P's without technical know-how and want to use the OS out of the box. In order to have complete control over the UI/user experience, you must do it yourself. FOSS developers don't like to be told what to do.
Some of us tech-saavy users simply rode the ease-of-install and hardware recognition coattails of the Ubuntu's of the world, taking whatever DE/UI was default.
I plan to test Gnome3 and Unity out on the Mom's and nieces I build PC's for over the next months and through next year, to see their reactions and opinions- they are the target for Gnome3 and Unity. If Gnome3/Unity are usable for media PC's and/or tech saavy desktop users, that's just a bonus but no big loss otherwise.
I have had great luck with Xubuntu 11.10 over the past month on my primary desktop quad core/GF8200 A/V editing machine. I am very happy with it and have tweaked the UI to be better than what I had with Gnome2. I am not aware of any functional shortcoming of XFCE 4.8 vs Gnome 2.3x that I can tell so far.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Gnome 2.3x was not that stable or glitch free for me anyways, so I was ready for a change- I didn't like Nautilus and the desktop was buggy for me too often- could have been only on Ubuntu, but the glitches occurred across releases and even in Gnome on Mint. XFCE 4.8+ appears more stable than Gnome 2.3x was, and I like the current Thunar file manager better, as well as the latest Dolphin (KDE file manager), which looks and runs great on XFCE.