Today I finally removed all Gnome binaries from my desktop workstation. From the times of the first Helix gnome packages, I had always installed Gnome on my systems although I did not really use it: I am quite comfortable with simpler options, like Sawfish used without the Gnome infrastructure, and the few goodies I liked in Gnome like the battery monitor applet (for laptops), never did convince me to move to the full-blown Gnome desktop. Gdm was the only Gnome program I was really using.

Recently however, I had been more and more disappointed by a few details in Gnome which finally made me remove even Gdm:

  • The gconf daemon never dies and stays in the background after you log out. Although it is the kind of detail you don't notice on a laptop, it is quite disturbing on shared workstations since it leaves running gconf processes that are owned by users who logged off long time ago, which is kind of a nonsense (note that since writing that I discovered that Kde also has its own silliness which is the pretty useless artsd daemon, which does not die properly when Kde apps are called outside of a Kde session... nobody is perfect!)
  • The directory /etc/gconf is huge (it was 27M on my system and 34M on one of my colleague's recently installed ubuntu machine). This also seems to be a complete contradiction to me (why aren't all these things in /var?)
  • Last but not least, when I last tried Gnome (after the switch to Metacity), I felt a real regression in that I could not even remove the top panel or configure the appearance of windows and quickly gave up. In comparison, the Kde version that comes with Debian Sarge (3.3) is quite good with nice integration of the various apps, internationalization, etc. It is also very much configurable and reasonably fast if you remove the most questionable visual effects (note that the default Kde look in Debian Sarge is absolutely repulsive, but selecting something like the Plastik theme with associated color theme already looks much better).

I thus removed gconf which required me to do the same for almost all Gnome binaries. For the moment, I am using just Kdm on the desktop (an Konqueror as a file browser from time to time) and the complete Kde environment on the laptop. Let's see how long it lasts (added May 2007: I am now using Kde 3.5 - the version that comes with Debian Etch - on all my machines).