Ximian GNOME 1.4: The Monkey Has Landed
The long wait is over.
Several weeks after the initial source-only release of GNOME 1.4, and almost a year after its first release of a repackaged GNOME 1.2, Ximian released its own version of the desktop environment: Ximian GNOME 1.4.
Ximian's distribution of GNOME is built around the proposition that in addition to the building blocks of the basic desktop environment, some added polish in the form of easier installation and more user-friendly tools are required to truly complete the end-user experience. To that end, Ximian provides not only an easy-to-use installer that's simple to launch, but a few other add-ons and enhancements designed to ease use and maintenance of a Linux (or Unix) workstation.
To that end, Ximian has to be evaluated not only on the strengths GNOME brings to the table, but how well it succeeds in capitalizing on those strengths and making good on its promise to take them to the next level.
Ximian's former CEO Nat Friedman pointed out several times during the gap between vanilla GNOME 1.4's initial release and Ximian's release of its final product that his company's purpose isn't simply to perform basic quality assurance and binary packages. What end users finally ended up with provides evidence that Ximian is on the right track, though we'll see that in addition to some excellent new features, promising tools, and good usability touches, there's still a little work to be done
On the whole, the GNOME project doesn't place an emphasis on getting binaries out to end users. The release of version 1.4 indicated that, as users were directed to either download and build the source code for themselves, or pay a visit to Ximian for binary packages. Though each of the source tarballs contained a spec file to allow building RPM's using the rpm -tb command, these spec files are generally constructed with a Red Hat-like system in mind and fail to take into account the peculiarities of several other RPM-based distributions. Several users also reported that the spec files had problems that kept them from successfully building a full set of binaries.
While this practice and the problems it had aren't good or bad in their own right, they did keep end users disinterested in compiling their own software away.
Ximian has corrected this shortcoming by providing a fairly comprehensive range of supported platforms with this release:
- Red Hat, versions 6.0 through 7.1
- Mandrake, versions 7.0 through 7.2
- SuSE, versions 6.3 through 7.0 (on x86)
- Debian GNU/Linux 2.2 (Potato)
- Linux PPC 2000
- TurboLinux 6.0
- Yellow Dog Linux Champion Server 1.2
Support is forthcoming for SuSE 7.1, Debian Testing (Woody) on x86 machines, Solaris 7 and 8 on UltraSparc machines, and Mandrake 8.0. Missing from the list are any of Caldera's distributions, and Slackware. FreeBSD, an officially recognized platform for GNOME is also not packaged for.