Listen very carefully, I will say this only once. Recently, I had an epiphany, a breakthrough, a revolution. I managed to boot CentOS 7 on my evil Lenovo G50 laptop, and boy was it glorious. Using my own hacks to get the perfect desktop experience, I had the CentOS purring and meowing in the best fashion of modern, sleek desktops.
But the experience wasn’t perfect. Some things were missing, most notably smartphone support, there were some niggles and glitches with multimedia and volume management and such. And then I asked myself, rather than solving this entirely in KDE, maybe all I need is the Gnome environment? Since my recent Fedora test, this desktop is back in the game and a viable option for use. Let us explore the possibilities.
Install & setup Gnome
I did not start from scratch. I already had the KDE system configured, the needed Realtek Wireless configuration in place, all the extra repos, codecs and software, so I only grabbed and installed the Gnome desktop bundle. It was a quick one. Log out, log back in. I did need to provide the access point credentials and re-enter the Samba username and password. Other than that, everything was working fine.
Perfect. Everything works! All my earlier woes are KDE-centric and nothing to do with CentOS. I was able to connect all my devices, including iPhone and Ubuntu Phone, and it was done with MTP properly, as it should be. Not only that, VLC played music off of the iPhone, which is a neat little achievement. And I was also able to read/write to different devices, and delete media files as needed, iPhone excluded. Now, the really sad part is that this smartphone support crap persists in Plasma, too! Not just old KDE! This is like years and years of old nonsense carefully carried over.
What I find really confusing is this new reboot & install updates thingie. This is not how it should be, and the Windows approach to this problem, so to speak, is just unnecessary. If you don’t feel like wasting time with restarts, watching your system update while you’re sitting there helpless, just use yum from the command line. Works a treat.
Not too high, memory wise, but a tad jumpy CPU wise. Still, the system is quite perky and responsive, at 660MB RAM and 3% processor itchiness. Swap was not used, because it is not auto-detected and mounted, and it needs a separate entry in fstab. More on that in a separate article on CentOS paper cuts.
Hardware compatibility, suspend & resume
Ever so slightly better than KDE, methinks. There were no glitches or issues with the Fn keys, and everything responded in a good, predictable manner. Gnome is that much more advanced on top of CentOS, it seems. Volume, no problems. Suspend & resume, spotless. Jolly good. Jolly Roger, in fact.
Overall, battery life is similar to the KDE edition, roughly 2.5 hours – and most other distributions currently on market, many of which supposedly feature modern kernels and additional optimizations, proving you can only squeeze that much from software before it becomes a pure and simple game of chemistry. But Xfce could potentially do more, like MX-15. To be seen. Just to add, Gnome does not auto-dim as aggressively as KDE, so potentially, it could do better with a more granular power management plan.
I didn’t do too much. Gnome Tweak Tool is a mandatory piece, and it was already included by default. Much like my Fedora exercise, I added the maximize and minimize buttons to windows, and enabled a few extensions. Then, I also installed the Gnome shell extension in Firefox to allow the necessary integration. The package you need is:
yum install gnome-shell-browser-plugin
After that, I installed the Faenza icon set, and downloaded several pretty themes and wallpapers, all of which help transform CentOS into a pretty little beast that is just as relevant as any Ubuntu or Fedora, except you get infinitely more stability and a longer support cycle. As it should be.
I’m even more pleased with how the Gnome edition turned out over the KDE attempt. True, KDE has a more natural workflow, but it struggled in some key areas, like external devices, media control, browser plugins and such. Gnome compensates for all these, except the somewhat inefficient way of use. But CentOS 7.2 really shines.
We did have issues, and it was a bumpy ride, but no more. Setup correctly, not a single old error has crept up back on me since, and the Wireless network has been as steady as a rock through hundreds of GB of online entertainment for people of adult age. I have all the media plugins and codecs, and with VLC in control, I don’t care about anything else to be frank. All my programs work, and if I had Office, I’d never need Windows. As close as perfect as it gets in our crude, harsh reality. A server distro that was never meant to be used in the home environment. Go figure.
So perfection lies somewhere in between these versions, and it’s nothing CentOS does badly on its own. Here’s a bigger question. What if there is a desktop environment that potentially blends the goods of both KDE and Gnome? The layout and ergonomics of the former, the accessibility to peripherals of the latter? Do you know what my next task is? See if CentOS 7 works well with Xfce as its skin. That should be mega interesting. This also makes me wanna test Fedora 24, so stay tuned.