GNOME 3 and ‘The Cloud’

After watching genlleecsa1’s video on GNOME 3 it got me thinking about the evolution of the user interface over the past 15 years, and how concepts such as ‘The Cloud’ have radically changed the way we (literally) view and use computers. To understand what I’m talking about, lets start with a screenshot of my netbook:

Here we see a moderately customised version of Fluxbox, running atop Arch Linux. It doesn’t look like much, but I actually invested at least 30 minutes into getting it to look like it does. My main considerations were obviously based around the size of the screen, so that’s where I’ll start.

I used to have the task bar on the bottom of the screen. I did this out of familiarity, comfort stemming from the soon to be old GNOME 2.x days, and even older, Windows XP. Being the small screen it was, I decided that I needed more space for windows (ideally the entire, limited height of the screen), so I played around with the bar.

I tested an auto-hiding feature, which annoyed me because you had to hover over the area where the bar should be for some time before it popped up, so that was out. I also tried resizing the bar and having the windows maximize behind it, but the bar became invasive when reading on Chromium, so I threw that out too. I finally settled on a non-conventional configuration; moving the bar to the right. The bar is now taking up more pixels on the screen than before, but that’s okay because I’ve gained screen height, which is useful for reading. I can also retrieve minimized windows more easily because each task in the bar is bigger than before. A balance between utility and efficiency had been found.

Reciting the reason behind all this, I wanted to utilise as many pixels of the screen as possible for applications, specifically Chromium. Why? Because I spend most time in Chromium, that’s why! The Operating System’s of today are mere portals to the Internet for most users, a means to an end. What would you do with your computer if it didn’t provide/have access to the Internet? I tell you one thing, Chromium is the first application I run when I turn on my computer, every time (for the geeks, I actually run a network script in xterm first, but that’s okay because it’s to get online). Operating System’s have become part of the stack, a necessity to get online, an abstraction. Google, with their Google Chrome OS, cottoned on to this early, and (rightfully) placed their efforts into getting the box up and online as quickly as possible. And the trend doesn’t stop with desktops (OnLive anyone?)..

The migration to ‘The Cloud’ is an interesting one – it marks full circle in the evolution of computers since the dumb terminal days. It’ll also pose interesting challenges for ISPs, whose network’s see increasing usage over the years. The desktop computer is no longer a one man island, but a round the world traveller. What happen’s next?


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