January 31, 2005

Site review: GNOMEJournal.org

Author: Tina Gasperson

When I think of the Linux desktop called GNOME, I think of Red Hat, or Ubuntu. I also think "sleek," "sophisticated," and "sexy." The GNOME Journal is all those things, with "intelligent," "enlightening," and "thought-provoking" thrown in for good measure.The editors of the GNOME Journal have just published the second edition of this online magazine that caters to all who are interested in GNOME, from developers to corporate interests to end users. As you would expect if you were familiar with GNOME, the site is elegant and simple, without too many details, but with an ample supply of original, meaty content.

One thing I really like about the GNOME Journal is that it's not a blog. Each issue is published in its entirety all at once, and there is no facility for commenting on the individual articles. I like blogs, but it seems as though everything is a blog now; it's refreshing to find something that isn't.

The design and color scheme are lean -- black, gray, and white, two fonts, no garish ads or illustrations -- in fact, the only graphic in the entire site is a small square black and white stylized GNOME logo in the upper left corner of each page.

With so little to distract the eye, I found myself drawn into the content. The first article, "Experimental Culture," is an editorial by Seth Nickell, a GNOME developer, in which he leads the reader through a fascinating discourse about the GNOME culture. In it, he shares how a community of developers that started out as a free-wheeling chaotic collection of creative genius has been intentionally directed toward more focused productivity in order to better target desktop users.

Practicality is the issue of the day in "Working With Remote Resources," written by Jorge O. Castro, a self-proclaimed "computer addict" who works as a network administrator at Oakland University, and "CD/DVD Creation with Nautilus," by Ken VanDine, who leads the IT Infrastructure staff at Eli Lilly & Co. in North Carolina.

Another piece by VanDine entitled "Getting Help from the GNOME Community" is a great walk through the intricacies and details of approaching what is basically a volunteer community when you need answers about your desktop. As many in the Linux community have experienced, getting help from open source developers can be the best experience you've ever had, or it can be the worst. There usually isn't a middle ground.

The article details the different avenues available for getting help, such as IRC, mailing lists, documentation, and online discussion forums. VanDine briefly describes these and then encourages readers to begin "giving back" to the community as soon as they are more familiar with GNOME. I liked the article but even more detail about etiquette and protocol in the face of sometimes-grumpy experts, in order to save newbies from getting flamed out of existence, would be useful and kind.

Perhaps the most interesting piece in the current issue of the GNOME Journal is "The Liberal Arts Major Test," an interview with an "average Windows user" written by John Meuser, about the subject's "two-year journey with getting to know GNOME." He provided her with a Linux computer running Debian with GNOME, and provided assistance by acting as a systems/network administrator (oh that all Windows users switching to Linux on their desktops could have that luxury!). Then he asked her some relevant debrief questions at the end of the "journey," like "what was the hardest part" (not being able to run the Web cam she'd just bought before the switch), "what was the easiest part" (running and understanding Gaim, Evolution, and Mozilla), and "describe your experience when you are forced to use Windows now" (she finds using it obnoxious and annoying).

The GNOME Journal is so interesting and appealing that I am actually looking forward to the next issue -- which will probably be out in April. That's a long time to wait. I hope it goes monthly soon.


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