Great New Features in GNOME 3.8

I’m quite enjoying GNOME 3.8 so far. Despite my initial objections to the GNOME 3 environment (Linus Torvalds had the same objections), I’ve found that much of the UI decision making involved in the desktop environment has been more than sensible, and lent a natural feel to it (Linus feels the same way!).

The latest version of GNOME even requires one to switch their init system from SysV init to SystemD, if their distribution of choice has not yet done so (looking at you, Gentoo). I had no objection to this either, has SystemD has been a great improvement in various areas of the system, from boot time to proper logging and tracking of who’s logged in, and good integration with the desktop. This is a mature and modern init system.

But the thing that impressed me most just now is the Epiphany browser – I’ve been using it for about 50% of my browsing activities since about GNOME 3.2, as it effectively sandboxes things like Facebook and prevents their tracking cookies from sifting through all my other activities on the web. Very nice. No, Ghostery and Adblock Plus as Firefox addons are not quite as effective as a sandboxing strategy, so don’t go there.

New in Epiphany is the ‘Allow advertisements’ checkbox:

General

 

In concert with the ‘Cookies – Only from sites you visit’ radio button in the Privacy tab:

Privacy

 

Which, when checked, both permits ads and allows those third party cookies from known advertisers even if ‘Only from sites you visit’ is also selected. Smooth and fair. Permit advertising behavior, or completely block advertising behavior.

Overall, the GNOME 3.8 desktop is much smoother and the feel has really taken shape. I still use a couple of extensions, but my usage of native GNOME apps has even increased – I’ve been using Evolution regularly where in years past stability issues had pushed me back to Mozilla Thunderbird. The latest Empathy has replaced Pidgin on my desktop. The list will expand as things continue to take shape.

If you’ve been upset with GNOME 3’s radical change in user interface design, I recommend you take a second look. The desktop has really come a long way.