Gnome 3 continues to evolve. The Gnome developers have a clear idea of what they want to achieve, however they aren't carrying the whole user base with them yet. The Gnome Extensions site, although still in beta, has demonstrated that there are some (myself included) who are happy to migrate, but require some the functionality we had in Gnome 2.x. Top of my list was a 'quick-launch' bar. I have Cinnamon installed and enjoy an “old fashioned menu” with my new gnome tech. Gnome Extensions is slowly giving us back all the features (including three window controls) that Gnome 3 Shell took away.
A few distros have either moved directly to Cinnamon or moved to it from Gnome Shell after a couple of releases. I only see one of two ultimate outcomes if this trend continues. Either default Gnome Shell will become less and less relevant as more and more distro's and users reject it in favour of a fork. Alternatively, more and more of the Gnome extensions will be built directly into the Shell watering down the intent and design goals of the Gnome Team and transforming the project into new Gnome 2. As it stands the default Gnome 3 Shell is a pretty curio but tedious to use in any for any length in a productive way. After switching back to the Dash of opening up an Alt-Tab sub-menu a number of times makes one wish for the “old fashioned” simplicity of a task switching bar and quick-launch (or even chaotic and disorganized desktop icons, god forbid).
After the success of Debian Squeeze last year and my pleasure using it I concluded that Debian was not, as I had imagined, Ubuntu's spartan and more difficult parent but a flexible and capable distribution that had none of the rigidity or indeed complexity I'd feared. Foolishly emboldened I now plan to install, break and reinstall Arch Linux until I can make anything out of it. Ultimately I'd like to make a desktop I can work on and not just play with. The same goes for Gentoo and the Gentoo-based Sabayon.
I slated Sabayon 6 not long ago because I approached it as an beginner/intermediate user. I think that this is a little unfair. Sabayon is cutting edge and so you need a more relaxed and pragmatic approach. I went looking for 'the best user experience "out of the box"' and found nothing of the kind, this time I will hunting 'a bleeding edge operating system that is both stable and reliable'. Some of us do want to push the envelope, in which case Sabayon Linux 8 may be a very strong contender in that arena.
I also want compare several KDE dstros, back to back, and see what gives. When I first started using Linux seriously in 2005/6 SUSE and KDE offered a post-Windows reassurance, I loved Kopete and Kate, KDE's menu and task bar offered tools and a layout that seemed intuitive (read familiar). After using Ubuntu 06:04 with it's Gnome 2 panels I abandoned KDE and haven't given it much attention until last year when Ubuntu abandoned Gnome. I heard all about the furore surrounding KDE4, but when I installed openSUSE 11.1 last year it seemed just like SUSE of the past, except perhaps for Oxygen. It's time to test drive the interface in several distro iterations and see how it performs.
I'm hoping to have as much fun on the desktop in Q2 as I did in Q1. What was I up to? Wait and see.