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Review: Nautilus 1.0: Has Eazel Earned Its Place in GNOME? - page 4

Going into launch day: a quick Eazel and Nautilus backgrounder

  • March 15, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

Issues

There are, however, some issues that need to be mentioned:

While Nautilus has improved dramatically in terms of speed and stability even since the last preview release, it still feels a little slow in some instances, and there are a few stability issues lurking. We timed one directory with 100 files as taking five seconds to open, even after it had been visited several times and its contents presumably cached. Even after opening the directory and displaying the contents, it failed to respond to mouse-wheel scrolling reliably for another ten seconds, causing the window to jump around.

The online help was also a little sluggish. Some of the help and man pages rendered almost instantaneously, while others took upwards of three to five seconds. We also experienced delays in presenting images in the window after clicking on their thumbnails.

In each case, we weren't able to reproduce the slow behavior every time, nor could we tie it to particularly heavy activity: our test machine was a Duron 650 with 256MB of RAM running under no more load than that inflicted by GNOME, Sawfish, and Nautilus itself. A glance at gtop over the course of running Nautilus indicated that the core application consumes about 21MB of RAM when running, plus the memory consumed by a number of sub-processes it was harder to get a fix on since they all reported that the memory they took (about an additional 7 to 10MB) was shared.

We also had an unhappy first-hand encounter with how Nautilus handles the loss of a net connection when our DSL service dropped out for about 30 seconds: Nautilus hung hard, leaving two blank windows that had to be killed from the GNOME task bar. That, in turn, introduced instabilities and an eventual refusal to open any new windows at all that wouldn't end until we issued a "killall" from the shell.

Finally, we noted that there appeared to be some bugs in the desktop and panel interactions. Where it should be possible to drag and drop an app launcher from the panel or menus onto the Nautilus desktop, we found we were unable to do so if we attempted this with our own, custom-built launchers. It only responded if the launchers were unmodified in any way from how they appeared in the GNOME menus.

Some Notes on Installing Nautilus on Other Distributions

In addition to the recommended Red Hat installation, we also tried to take Nautilus for a spin on Debian 2.2 (Potato) and Debian Unstable (Woody) machines.

The build instructions provided on the Eazel website seem innocuous enough and mention that building on top of Red Hat 6.2 and Debian 2.2 ought to be a simple matter. A brief list of dependencies, including thoughtful links to .deb's for one library, and thorough instructions on how to compile each component (there are eight tarballs of related components) lulled us into a sense of complacency.

We ended up building eight packages with no problems at all, including a rebuild of OpenSSL, only to get to Nautilus itself and realize it is thoroughly aimed at the upcoming GNOME 1.4 release, slated for the end of this month and has numerous dependencies that aren't available via Ximian, upon which we built our GNOME installation. We could have perservered and recompiled everything we needed (we even grabbed some .deb's from Ximian's GNOME 1.4 beta archive, but Nautilus' dependencies outstripped even that resource and we threw in the towel.

As much as we'd have loved to have Nautilus in action on our Debian machine, we decided it best to wait on the binaries and forego what would have been a defacto upgrade to GNOME 1.4 beta, and several hours more compiling assorted packages.

The aforementioned Ximian 1.4 beta has Nautilus 0.8 for Debian users absolutely itching to see it in action without having to build it themselves.

Wrapup

Nautilus 1.0 is a fair piece of software we hope will continue to improve. There are obviously some optimizations needed before it becomes as responsive as its predecessor gmc, or Konqueror, but it's very usable if the speed tradeoff toggles are used wisely.

As a file manager, it's a very good piece of work GUI fans will enjoy. As a documentation and web browser, it's o.k. but needs some speedups. As a software installation tool, it's very, very good. It provides a very easy-to-grasp interface to getting new software and it's not user-hostile when it comes across a problem of some sort.

We're certain that after a few bugfixes and some smoothing out, there will be no question that Nautilus and Eazel have earned their place as a key component to GNOME.

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