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I use Gnome 3.x with Fedora 16 on my netbook and it's OK. You can control most with the keyboard like switching workspaces (which are created on demand), closing windows or opening this search/start applications (similar to KDE netbook).
However, KDE has the option to set kwin as a tiling window manager, which I totally miss in Gnome and is essential on netbooks with a small display. I hate using that tiny touchpad or always carry a mouse with me.
So, when does Gnome come up with tiling?
//edit: or at least automatically start every application maximized?
You live in the past. But extensions will help you.
Most likely Gnome developers live in a different distorted dimmension from the rest or the world. Worse they believe they can fold space and time and bring the world into their dimmension. Thankfully that won't happen. They have not power to influence UI paradigms.
I personally consider this a feature, not a bug. It fits perfectly into my workflow where I always need certain windows open, no matter what workspace I'm on.
To enable workspaces on your second monitor, open gconf-editor and modify the key /desktop/gnome/shell/windows/workspaces_only_on_primary
I believe one of the goals for Gnome 3.4 was to expose more options (such as this one) under System Settings.
Having a setting seems about the best way to handle it. Personally, I prefer the Shell's current default on this. Actually, the Shell was my most pleasant experience with the conventional two headed xrandr setup as a task bar always seemed kind of hokey in this configuration and being able to view all of my windows in an active on screen overview helped keep things organized.
That being said, because I game so much and I actually prefer the two heads to be completely separate, I am currently using Zaphod Mode which makes Gnome 3 hurl. So I am using Xfce for the moment. I would appreciate a similar write up of its features when the next new release comes out by the way Michael.