Why silence is better than 10 reasons

This is a deconstruction of 10 reasons why GNOME is better than KDE, which is pretty obviously a piece of flame-bait. Wallen basically says as much at the start of the article. But I’m in the mood for dissecting arguments.

I would like to say right now that this is not a “10 reasons why KDE is better than GNOME” article. That would be inane. I have many GNOMEy friends, and no intention of trying to convert any of them. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that any one of you can come up with both 10 things KDE does better than GNOME and 10 things GNOME does better than KDE.

Instead, this is an excercise in deconstructing an argument. Critical thinking, if you will. Because Wallen completely failed to come up with 10 reasons for anything.

So, lets start at the top. “1. KDE 4″. I’m not really sure there’s anything to say about this, other than that the entire paragraph is simply a collection of unsupported statements (with no narrative to connect them). He doesn’t provide a single example to support any of his attacks (including ‘KDE was (and is) the first-ever “Microsofting” of the Linux desktop’ and KDE 4 was “painfully worthless”). OK, let’s move on.

“2. Start Menu”. Well, using Microsoft terminology when ‘”Microsofting” the Linux desktop’ was mentioned in the previous paragraph was probably intentional, but not helpful to any argument, really. We get “It should be pretty obvious” and “It should also be fairly obvious” almost straight off the bat. Chalk one down for unsupported statements.

There’s possibly a valid criticism about Kickoff and the lack of KDE 3’s quick menu applets being made in here, but it’s difficult to disentangle from the ad hominem attacks. And he probably has a point about discoverability of things like how to change the menu to “classic” style. Not that I believe such a thing is both possible and discoverable in any other desktop, so I’m not sure it really advances his original argument about one desktop being “better” than the other.

In “3: Nautilus vs. Dolphin”, he actually doesn’t compare Dolphin to Nautilus. He compares Dolphin to Konqueror, and the latter still functions as a file manager in KDE 4. OK, that first statement wasn’t entirely true. He says that Nautilus is Dolphin, but stable (and makes a reference to Dropbox that appears to bear no relation to anything else). That brings the number of potentially valid criticisms in this article up to about 3 (the arguments in section 2 were hazy).

He also says that users will find most of the features of Dolphin useless. And justifies this by mentioning one feature, possibly two if you count rating and tagging separately (Dolphin has more than three features, right?). One black mark next to “generalising from the specific”. And possibly “presenting exaggeration as fact”.

“4: Foundations”. I’m not sure why he picked this title. Qt 4 gets a passing mention (in the first sentence), and the only thing that is said about GTK+ is that there will be a version 3 soon. I guess you’re supposed to infer from context that this will break backwards compatibility. He also implies (but doesn’t say outright) that the port to Qt 4 was largely or solely because of the potential for a windows port. The reason was in fact because Qt 4 had a much-improved API, and Qt 3 was shortly to become unsupported by Trolltech (as was).

This section also has a fallacious comparison between GNOME 2.24, with it’s forward compatibility flags, and KDE 4 (a more sensible, although still not entirely accurate, comparison would be the as-yet-unreleased GNOME 2.30 with KDE 4). The thing is, he could probably have made a decent argument along the lines of GTK+3’s migration plan being better than QT 4’s, but he completely failed, largely by getting sidetracked with the Window port non-issue. Oh, and I’m really not sure what resources he believes are being diverted from the main project to work on the windows port. Or how KDE might go about forcing those people who insist on getting their favourite applications to run on Windows (as they did even back in KDE 3 days) to give up such an unworthy pursuit and return to the warm, fuzzy and – above all – morally superior fold of free unix-based operating systems.

Sorry, I seem to have had a nasty attack of sarcasm there. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

On the other hand, section four is possibly the most well-constructed section in terms of arguments. I had to remove the underpinning (the assumption that the move to Qt 4 was all about Windows) before the rest of the structure of the argument collapsed.

Oddly enough, in “5. Resources”, his one concession to KDE 4 (using fewer resources than KDE 3″ is highly disputed among those who measure such things in KDE. The rest of this section revolves around his decidedly unscientific comparison between the memory usage of KDE and GNOME (given the content of section 10, one has to assume that this means default installs of Fedora 10, but there is nothing to say so). He gets a difference of 10Mb when both desktops use more than 1.25Gb of RAM. That’s a 1% difference in memory usage. Apparently this means that “GNOME requires less hardware to run”. I’m not entirely sure where he intends to buy exactly 1.27Gb of RAM from (which, it seems, will run GNOME but not KDE – providing you don’t launch any other applications, of course). But, seriously, 1% is not a significant difference. Given that his measurement almost certainly includes kernel caches, and is probably based on the default installations of one particular distribution, it is almost certainly completely dwarfed by the error rate.

“6. Clutter”. Half-way there. Showing the desktop folder, it seems, is cluttering the desktop. Despite this being what just about every other desktop implementation out there does. *shrugs*. Let’s play along, then. This is a reasonable argument, but made at the expense of ignoring the facts. The major one is that it takes one click to remove the item he’s complaining about. So, a second argument that required me to actually respond with a fact, rather than dismantle purely on the basis of fallacious reasoning.

“7: Customization”. Again, lots of unsupported statements. GNOME is almost infinitely customizable (how?); KDE 4 locks you down (in what way?). Nowhere does he give even one example of something that GNOME allows you to customise that KDE doesn’t. He talks about mouse menus, but this appears to be a comparison of KDE 4 with KDE 3 (and I’m not sure what he means by “mouse menus”, either). And saying that you can’t change the look of something except by using the very mechanism that allows you to change its look (theming, in this case) is… true. But completely besides the point.

“8: System Tray overkill”. This is a comparison of the default setups on Fedora 10, not of the default setups of the desktop environments in general. So this is an example of generalising from the specific.

Apart from that, not all of the items he lists are actually part of the system tray (the clock, for example, is actually an applet, not a system tray icon). And desktop shells can’t do anything about the system tray other than display what programs offer. The applets, on the other hand, can be removed – both in GNOME and KDE. The one valid argument in this is about the loading time of the system tray. I think that’s 4 valid arguments (that couldn’t be immediately dismissed by stating a single fact) in total so far.

“9: Default applications”. Konqueror has been the default web browser of KDE (although not necessarily of any given distribution’s installation of KDE) since KDE 2, as far as I’m aware. So quite where he got the idea that Konqi has suddenly moved into this role, I don’t know. KOffice 2 hasn’t even been released, so I doubt it’s the default anywhere (although I’ve heard that Fedora can be pretty bleeding edge). And Firefox isn’t the default browser in GNOME, it’s Epiphany. Although that does use the same rendering engine as Firefox. And I’m not sure GNOME really has a “default” office suite. Basically, Wallen is confusing desktop environment defaults with distribution defaults. Repeat after me: Fedora is not representative of all Linux distributions.

So that’s a mix of generalising from the specific and ignoring certain facts.

“10: KDE = Vista?”. I can sum this up as “people don’t like Vista, and I think KDE looks like Vista, ergo KDE sucks”. Unfair? Well, maybe. But saying that you can make KDE look like Vista by installing the right theme (I assume Emerald refers to a theme) does not an argument make. And I know that Vista is famed for being unstable (slightly unfairly, I have to say), but all software goes through an unstable phase (except possibly TeX) and that doesn’t make it like Vista. Or unlike Linux (as in GNU/Linux, not the kernel). And he still hasn’t presented a convincing argument (or an argument at all, for that matter) for KDE 4 not being flexible. Plasma was designed to be much more flexible than kicker/kdesktop, and Wallen has failed to provide any evidence that it has failed in those aims. Not that I’ve presented any evidence it has succeeded in them, but my aim is not to prove the worthiness of KDE 4 but to dismantle Wallen’s arguments.

Finally, Wallen makes the common mistake of assuming that KDE 4 = Plasma. Well, OK, Dolphin got a mention. Yes, it’s probably the most user-visible component of a KDE 4 desktop session, but KDE is primarily a software platform, and includes a desktop shell as part of that. So that’s generalising from the specific again.

Well, I found four reasonable arguments in there, plus a few more that were recognisable as arguments even if they could be countered with a simple fact (I can forgive people for not knowing all the pertinent facts :-P). But most of the rest didn’t form any coherent argument at all.

I think that’s enough from me. I suggest you all go read about logical fallacies now, so you can give fancy names to Wallen’s arguments.

This has been a public service broadcast on how not to argue your case.

[Post edited slightly at 21:26 GMT 2009-03-31]

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13 Responses to “Why silence is better than 10 reasons”

  1. Grendel Says:

    “Why silence is better than 10 reasons”

    I agree, which is why it probably would have been better not to dignify the article with a response – pretty much everyone had forgotten it existed by now, anyway, so you’re just re-igniting the “debate” for no good reason.

  2. I Love Says:

    Congratulations. You are hereby conferred the title “Aaron Seigo Buttboy of the month”

  3. randomguy3 Says:

    @Grendel: You’re probably right. “Do not feed the trolls” and all that. But deconstructing them is so much fun!

    @I Love: I wonder if you ever read any of the articles you post on. I shall keep you around, though. You amuse me.

  4. Roland Says:

    “What would Linus do?” He’ll come back to KDE4 when it’s ready (and so will I). Konqueror will become multi-process (one per tab) like Chrome. All the browsers will eventually use the fastest Java engine. And the menus and mixed nuts will get straightened out. Only developers care about libraries.

    KDE is for those who want choices and the ability to customize. Gnome is for those who want it simple because they have work to do and don’t want to mess with it. To each his own. Comparisons to MS or APL are pointless flamebait.

  5. Matt Williams Says:

    See http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osrc/article.php/3812616/GNOME-vs-KDE-Which-Has-the-Evolutionary-Advantage.htm for another great response to the mentioned stupid article.

  6. Daniel Says:

    “All the browsers will eventually use the fastest Java engine.”
    Browsers don’t use Java engines. You might be referring to Javascript, which is very hot to optimize these days. Nothing to do with Java.

  7. Alex Elsayed Says:

    Actually, when he mentions Emerald, chances are that he’s referring to the window decoration and theming engine of Compiz-Fusion, which has nothing to do with /either/ desktop. Also, while it has themes that emulate Vista’s Aero interface, these are:
    1.) Not included in the default package
    2.) Are, in fact, exceptionally circuitous to get a hold of. To describe:
    Step 0: Recognize that there is an unlisted-in-the-interface third-party totally unsupported server hosting non-free potentially-copyright-infringing themes.
    Step 1: Run an `svn co` command for the third-party server hosting these to check out these themes
    Step 2: Copy these themes into the .emerald/ directory so that emerald will recognize them.

    I have to say, this may well be his most spectacularly invalid point.

  8. Christian Ehrlicher Says:

    The argumentation that the windows port shows me that he has absolut no knowledge about the people working on them and in the end the only argument he has is that it’s simply bad because Windows sucks.
    When I count correct we’re not more than maybe five active developers trying to get things running on windows. All except Jaroslaw did not work on KDE before. Without the KDE4 port I would maybe never had the chance to get involved into KDE development…

  9. Andreas Says:

    @Roland: The speed of the JavaScript engine is really unimportant for normal websites and the vast majority of Web 2.0 stuff. The goal of fast JS seems to be to replace desktop applications with web applications. This means giving up control over your data which is the *opposite* of the goals of Free Software.
    The secondary goal of fast JS seems to be a dick size contest between browser developers – I couldn’t care less about that.
    I don’t know if you realize that plain HTML/CSS rendering speed (which is quite good in KHTML) is unrelated to JS execution speed.

  10. Dread Knight Says:

    Konqueror seemed like a very nice idea at first, but it’s too messy, i don’t see a point to try to do it all, most kde users use firefox anyway and pidgin as well instead of kopete.
    Sharing backend stuff while having nice and simple GUI’s designed for specific tasks is way better imho.

    Also, konqueror is epic phail so far because of the KHTML. Really looking forward to webkit, because i use google docs a lot since open source office application are far for perfect compatibility with microsoft office and such.

    Anyway, i used kde3, kde4 since beta until 4.2.1 or something and recently swtiched back to gnome because KDE4 is so unpolished, incomplete and changes dramatically too much. It’s nice but it’s like a sandbox for developers testing out ideas and such, not ready enough for me. But should be great given some more time.

    Wish people would focus on more production/development stuff, even pinpoint real usability issues with good arguments and mock-ups rather than starting flame wars. GNOME and KDE have their ups and downs, their good and bads, so does vim vs emacs or linux vs windows vs mac os x. It’s a red vs blue or black vs white kind of argument which doesn’t really improves things, but commits and other helpful things really turn the tide on value and such. So stop feeding the trolls. Just ignore them, don’t make any comments on their stuff and so on. Stop wasting time.

  11. T. J. Brumfield Says:

    I think you are being generous in giving him 4 valid points. The purpose of the article is meant to contrast Gnome and KDE, and he basically never does that. He gives unfounded complaints about KDE 4 and calls it a day.

    Does that even merit a real response?

    I would like to note in regards to KDE memory usage, I am willing to bet for the same features, KDE 4 is using less memory than KDE 3. My only complaint when installing KDE 4 as a desktop on older computers for people who mainly use a web browser is that I can’t seem to completely kill Akondi or Nepomuk. I’m sure if I compiled from source and did my own packaging, I could run KDE 4 without either, but in openSUSE, I can’t completely disable them if I want. In the age of netbooks, it would be nice to see a slimmed down KDE 4 as a valid option.

  12. Anand Vaidya Says:

    The moment I skimmed over Wallen’s article, I realized another moron interested in hits [ and probably ad-revenue] is here.

    Your rebuttal is quite good but too polite. I don’t think Wallen deserves that. You should have skewered him for his stupidity.

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