Update (Nov 17 09): The final version of Fedora 12 fares slightly better with GNOME Shell, but not by much. It also works just fine with Compiz Fusion within VirtualBox. Read more about it.
This is a sequel to my rant about GNOME Shell. I decided to back up my claims with an experiment.
Installing gnome-shell in a virtual machine with no 3D hardware acceleration.
Every single desktop environment that exists right now will run just fine in a virtual machine with no 3D hardware acceleration: XFCE 4.6 and older; KDE 4.3 and older; KDE 3.x and older; GNOME 2.26.3 and older; LXDE; and of course all of the desktop-less window managers (IceWM, et cetera).
GNOME 3.0, I claimed, with its GNOME Shell, will be the first desktop environment that will not run unless the user has 3D hardware acceleration, and that there is no fall-back. Here is the proof:
* Fedora 12 Alpha (11.92 Rawhide)
* VirtualBox 3.0.6 r52128 (2009-09-09)
Let's launch it!
And... what happens?
Let's put on the dumb end user hat and say Joe Average installed Ubuntu 10.10 which might come with GNOME 3.0 and GNOME Shell, he hasn't installed his nvidia drivers yet because they're proprietary and Canonical can't legally include them with Ubuntu, and he logs on and sees THIS. He's lucky that X11 didn't crash entirely and send him back to the login screen, but nonetheless he can't see anything. He can't see Firefox to start browsing the web trying to find a solution to this problem.
Okay, let's move on...
Exactly the same.
I won't post screenshots because they look just like they did the last time. I get a mostly black, unusable desktop.
Of note however is that the terminal printed this upon starting the GNOME Shell:
OpenGL Warning: Failed to connect to host. Make sure 3D acceleration is enabled for this VM.VirtualBox knows GNOME Shell was requesting 3D support via OpenGL, and the guest additions driver gave me this warning. Let's move on...
I've personally not used it. But it is known to be buggy; VirtualBox labels it as "experimental"... well, here's why:
In this experiment, even with 3D acceleration by the virtual machine, GNOME Shell is not usable. Again, though, VirtualBox's 3D acceleration is still in the "experimental" phase. It probably doesn't work a whole lot better with Compiz Fusion, either. Plus my video card might just suck (VirtualBox basically passes the guest's OpenGL calls directly to the host's video card).
But the thing to take away from this is:
Now let's see if the GNOME dev team can turn this around in the next year (doubtful; they all come off to me as a bunch of eye-candy-obsessed children who'd rather snazz up the desktop because they think it's "cool" than to worry about things like usability, functionality, or accessibility... and with absolutely no thought given to the user experience, and no usability studies done, etc.).
GNOME Shell for the lose.