The gDesklets shell is a train wreck

Now, I love the idea of gDesklets. And an individual gDesklet is a good concept; you write a “sensor“, meaning a little program that returns some useful output, and write a little XML file which defines how to display said output in a pretty window. Very nice. The actual desklets themselves are cool; they’re well executed, simple, and powerful. What more do you need?

But the project organisation is a train wreck. I’m sorry, but it is. For a start, the main site seems to be http://gdesklets.gnomedesktop.org/. So you go off there and download a gDesklet or two. They arrive as .tar.bz2 files. How are they installed? No idea; the site doesn’t tell you that. The way you actually do it is by dropping the .tar.bz2 archive onto the gDesklets shell, a list of all installed gDesklets. But it’s really difficult to find that out. If it were me, I’d have called the files whatever.gds or something; still make them bzipped tarballs if you like, but don’t give people the impression that they should be unzipping them. All other software that arrives as a tarball is that way so that you can unpack it somewhere appropriate.

Half the time, double-clicking a desklet in the shell throws an error about a sensor not being installed. So…where do I get that sensor? Why doesn’t the shell get it for me? Just make it work! The other half of the time it doesn’t seem to do anything, and then 30 seconds later when my mouse happens to cross the desktop background I notice that it did work and is waiting for me to place the desklet.

And that “gDesklets shell“. It’s a nightmare.

I don’t know whether that’s the desklets’ respective authors’ fault for not filling in the metadata, or whether it’s Debian’s fault for packaging up a load of desklets wrong, or what, but what the fuck is all that? It doesn’t make any sense.

I’d like to help with this project; I think it’s got some real serious potential for delivering little desktop applets that can be truly great. But they’ve got quite a long way to go before it actually works properly, I think, and I doubt they’re interested in my suggestions, since they’d start with “you need to change everything about how you present gDesklets to the world“.

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