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GNOME 2.6: Two Left Feet?

A Foot in the Door

  • June 3, 2004
  • By Kurt Wall

The latest release of the GNOME Desktop, 2.6.1, hit Web and FTP servers near you on 14 May 2004. It's purty, to be sure, and its fonts are anti-aliased. But, it eats your CPU, your RAM, your disk space, your bologna sandwich, and, if you're not careful, your small pets. I've written in this space before that I'll trade performance for eye candy almost every time, so GNOME 2.6 was at a disadvantage before I even got started with it. Nothing in the quality time I spent with GNOME 2.6 the last few days has caused me to change my mind.

The truth of the matter is, simply put, I couldn't persuade GNOME 2.6.1 to run. Just getting it installed took more work than it should have. First, to prove my Linux machismo, I tried building it from source. The build instructions seemed clear and the requirements on external packages (pkg-config, Xft2, fontconfig, FreeType 2.0.9, docbook-xml, and docbook-xsl) were minimal. I had the required development libraries, too, so it couldn't be too hard because the helpful GNOME folks described the build and installation order at http://www.gnome.org/start/2.6/notes/rninstallation.html.

No joy. Everything was going fine until I tried to build libgnomeui. I don't recall now what precisely went wrong, but I do recall spending a couple of hours trying to solve the compile problem, which revolved around some circular library dependencies.

I considered trying GARNOME, a GNOME source code distribution that automatically downloads and builds the source tarballs for you, but I heeded GNOME's advisory that "GARNOME is usually used only for testing of unstable development versions of GNOME" and discarded that notion. I was already developing a bad taste in my mouth and didn't want to make it worse.

Giving up on demonstrating my machismo, I decided to take the developers' suggestion to install a binary distribution. I downloaded the latest and greatest slackware-current GNOME packages. that in itself took a couple of hours because there are a lot of packages to download, and some of them are rather large. I let the download finish over night.

A quick upgradepkg *tgz installed the downloaded packages. At the moment of truth, I rebooted, and...

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