My recent endeavor to fix some of Gimps problems so far wasn't meet with much success. While the toolbar works and makes life easier, it won't make its way into the official Gimp, for reasons that fall somewhere between ignorance and bullshit. Not that there wouldn't be many plausible reasons to not include the patch, its far from perfect and misses quite a few disireable features,but the main reason seems to be that it "doesn't fit", without a clear explanation why and what would be the alternative.
Anyway, that dive into the Gimp also made me look at alternatives and to my surprise there actually is one and not just a "almost as good" one, but more of a "thats pretty awesome" one. Krita does basically everything that I miss in Gimp. It has configurable toolbars, layer grouping, layer cloning, layer locking, ability to dock docks to the image window, custom window management for docks, more Photoshop like brushes, natural brushes, support for higher bit depths and a ton more. The downside of all those cool features however is that its buggy as hell, not the crash kind of bug, but the annoying weird one. Some parts of the GUI don't maximize properly, some jump around because the pressure options for the tablet are constantly hidden and revealed depending on how far away you are from the tablet with your pen and all kinds of other stuff. Krita1.9 doesn't even start because it gets confused when libqt3-mt is installed. But all those annoyances aside, Krita is great and definitively heading into a direction that I like. It is no longer the me-too Gimp clone that it was a few years ago, but almost a serious Gimp killer.
While at the topic of graphic applications, there were some interesting videos of talks from the LGM2008.