What's New in the Gnome 2.24 Release and the Outlook for the Future

What's New in the Gnome 2.24 Release and the Outlook for the Future
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Looking at the current stable GNOME release 2.24

Gnome, the biggest competitor of K Desktop Environment, is out with the latest release 2.24. This is not a big jump from 2.22 but we see some improvements, bug fixes and new features. From an end-user perspective we look at the new Gnome release.

Empathy: Default instant messaging application Pidgin is replaced with Empathy. For the casual user, we do not expect much of an interface change, but the underlying telepathy framework is really a good technology with promises. Since telepathy lets the developers access instant messaging functionality, as well as support for Jabber, Gtalk, MSN Messenger and Apple (Bonjour/Rendezvous), we may expect embedded status updates, chats within various programs. An example can be updating your presence information when you are working on a document with your colleagues without leaving the software you are using. The possibilities are endless and creative open source developers are out there to exploit this potential. Stay tuned.

Ekiga: Speaking of the instant messaging, we can not leave Gnome’s Ekiga without mention. If you do not know about this particular program, it is an audio/video conference program. Ekiga has been updated to the 3.0 release, which comes in Gnome installation. You will easily catch that the interface is very Skype-alike and whether or not you have used Skype before, the interface is fairly intuitive.

Time Tracker: If you are in business and you are charging your clients based on your project time or if you need to track your time spent on a task or series of tasks, the Gnome applet Time Tracker will be an invaluable tool for you. Previously known as Project Hamster, it was renamed to Time Tracker and is available in Gnome installation.

time tracker

File management: I am not trying to spread FUD or starting a flamewar, but Gnome’s file management was lacking some features previously. The ones that are fixed with the 2.24 release are tabbed navigation and the compact view. For tabbed navigation, just right-click on the folder that you want to open and choose “open in new tab”; a very useful implementation indeed. The compact view comes handy when you want to squeeze a lot of file names in your current working window.

file manager

Next: Deskbar, desktop eye candy, sound effects, accessibility …

Deskbar: We are seeing the deskbar with more innovative features. The deskbar comes with new plugins: a simple calculator, Google and Yahoo search (including Google code search), Wikipedia lookup, Twitter and identi.ca updates, search in your del.icio.us bookmarks and many more; you can access all the features offered by just right-clicking on the applet and choosing “preferences”. Deskbar also keeps track of your history, so you can scroll back and forth with your results.


Screen resolution: This one is especially important for laptop users who work with multiple monitors. The configuration of the external monitors can be a real pain, but thanks to the integration of XRandR 1.2 (which is a specification from X.org), the pains are coming to end. With XRandR, you can setup individual monitors and rename them as well. The names are displayed on the program’s dialog box in order to provide the user with extra ease. There is one downside of this program; it does not work with some proprietary display drivers, such as Nvidia X driver.

Aside from this new/improved software, we see some improvements in other places as well.

Desktop eye candy: After a competition run by Gnome.org, the winners’ desktop backgrounds are included in the mainstream release. This is not limited to desktop background though, the artwork including the themes are all included. Check to see what suits your mood.

Sound effects: Sound themes are better supported in the new release. Now it is unlikely that you will hear an “updates available” sound notification while you are watching your movie.

Digital TV: Previous Gnome release (2.22) introduced Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) capabilities. 2.24 release takes this further by implementing support for multiple digital tuners, out-of-box support for many infrared controls plus support for high definition YouTube videos as well as remote subtitle support.

Accessibility: Support for controlling the mouse with the keyboard is improved from 2.22 release. Screen reading support, text-to-speech and Braille display support has been improved. Work is in progress to embed text-to speech and Braille display support seamlessly into Java programs such as OpenOffice.org, Mozilla Thunderbird, Gnome Help Browser and Gnome Panel and Pidgin. Gnome’s screen reading utility’s integration with ARIA-based products (such as Mozilla Firefox) is incomplete but still work in progress.

Mobile Device Integration: Gnome Mobile Platform is introduced by this release. Developers hope to achieve a standard core component for mobile device software development, especially for -of course- Linux based mobile platforms, Maemo, ACCESS, Ubuntu Mobile, Moblin and Poky just to name a few. We do not see an end-user software or implementation for this release, but the target is defined and we are expecting support for these devices in the near future. I personally add Android platform to this list for the fact that I explain just a little bit later.

As we have seen, there are not a plethora of improvements for the 2.24 release but we can keep our expectations high for the oncoming 1 or 2 years, since,

  1. Motorola and Google are now in the advisory board of Gnome. With the acquisition of Trolltech by Nokia, Google’s involvement in the Gnome development is no surprise. It is possible in the future to have better support of Symbian phones from KDE and Android from Gnome.
  2. In the latest Guadec (Gnome Users and Developers Conference) which took place in Istanbul in July 2008, the developers discussed about moving to 3.0 release. The decision was to move to 3.0 after the 2.28 release. I believe this jump will not be minor as with the dot releases (like 2.22 to 2.24) because there is a hard effort on the next GTK libraries.

We are hearing very good news from the Linux world and surely looking forward to a continuing rise in 2009.

Until then, happy tuxing!

To download and install the latest rel_ease, we recommend to use your Linux distribution’s package manager. If you do not want to install, there is a live CD available from the Gnome Project’s Official Website._