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GNOME (et al): Rotting In Threes (igurublog.wordpress.com)
258 points by EdiX 1538 days ago | hide | past | web | 199 comments | favorite

On one hand, I agree that these projects (Gnome, Unity) are going in bad directions, for much of the reasons the post outlines.

On the other hand, I understand the practical necessity of limiting the number of moving parts in a project. If Gnome thinks developer manpower is better spent in a place outside of the theme framework, then that's just a symptom of not having enough developers. It's the practical reality: some parts of the OS get more love than others.

I also don't get his Launchpad example either. Canonical never built it for anyone but themselves. Why complain that they won't give open it up? They wrote it, they can do what they want with it.

What I think this article is truly complaining about isn't lack of choice or branding, but the core cause of those things: the slow creep of "I know better than you do" design. Personally I blame two actors for this: Steve Jobs and 37 Signals. Steve Jobs made a zillion bucks cramming his design decisions down peoples' throats. 37 Signals was the developer's darling for many years, and were the big early proponents of "opinionated design." Both of these things appeal greatly to a human being's ego:

"Yeah, Steve Jobs is right! I'm such a great designer, so if I want to make a zillion bucks, I must realize that users are idiots and my beautiful product will make them love their lives again, and if they don't like it they, can suck it!"

"Yeah, 37 Signals is right! I'm so smart, I can decide what my users want, and if they don't like my opinion, they can suck it!"

Well, there's no doubt that those models worked for Steve Jobs and 37 Signals. Both are very successful. But when they start preaching that stuff to regular developers who lack the luck and talent to become a multi-million-dollar success, what we get is projects like Gnome 3 and Unity. People acting like design dictators--Steve Jobs--but forgetting that he was a once-in-a-century genius. People acting like their opinions are the best and different ones can suck it--37 Signals--but without the special sauce and determination that made that team successful.

Folks: You are not Steve Jobs and you are not 37 Signals. With few exceptions the cult of design dictatorship is the worst thing to happen to fledgling software projects in the past decade. Good designers (both graphic and architectural) can succeed as dictators, but good designers are few and far between. What the cult really does is give bad designers an excuse to be always right. And when bad designers are always right, bad design becomes par for the course.

I don't understand this reasoning. Sure, not everyone is a design genius. But, if you're not (and how do you know?), what are you supposed to do?

It just seem like you're arguing that everyone (except Jobs) should not try to have any control over the project they're working on at all, but just implement whatever any user requests.

However, that is not gonna produce anything useful, nor will it help you when what different users want conflict, and its most definitely not a good way to allocate the sparse resources there is.

Well, you can tell if your users start complaining--Gnome 3--or your products aren't successful.

Users of Gnome 3 are being very vocal with genuine (and some not-so-genuine) complaints about how the design process is going and what the final product is like. Since the Gnome guys are now in the cult of design dictatorship, they are always right no matter what--even at the expense of their own users--and their users are wrong to complain. The result will be an ultimately failed product. (I would bet money that at some point in the next 2-5 years Ubuntu will fork significant parts, if not the entirety, of Gnome--and when the 500lb gorilla picks up his toys and leaves, the game's over.)

Yes, a product must have some kind of vision, and at the end of the day someone's got to implement it, regardless of their talent. But humble designers recognize complaints and the needs of their users. Design dictators ignore them, because the dictators are by definition always right. That's a bad attitude to have, because most designers aren't perfect--but the human ego loves having control and loves being right. When people are told that success means being opinionated, it's a very easy thing to agree with, because everyone thinks their own opinions are the best.

I would bet money that at some point in the next 2-5 years Ubuntu will fork significant parts, if not the entirety, of Gnome...

The replacing of Gnome has already begun. They replaced Gnome Shell with Unity and GDM with LightDM. They're using Qt more often now as well (I believe Ubuntu One is Qt and I know that Unity2D is too), so it seems that perhaps GTK+ will be next.

The parts that aren't already replaced are heavily patched and can't really be used by a default install.

I wouldn't say GTK+ is next, unity2D is discontinued and Ubuntu One is only made in QT because they use the same client for windows and mac.

The gorilla is Red Hat, not Canonical- they do far, far more development work, all up and down the stack. Canonical doesn't even make money yet...

They are, in server-side stuff--but not in desktop stuff, which is what Gnome 3 is specifically targeting. Ubuntu is far and away the largest desktop distro, so losing their support would be a pretty big blow to the adoption of the Gnome project as a whole--regardless of who's funding it.

This is becoming even more true as Steam will probably only support Ubuntu. Games are where the desktop users are. Gnome can spin its wheels and bask in its own self-righteous awesomeness but if the users aren't there, then it's all for nothing.

Canonical has the larger userbase, but their development work is pretty limited- basically, they do the Unity shell and their app-store. Most desktop related development (hardware support, DBus, core desktop libraries like PolicyKit, GTK+) happens inside Red Hat.

If they want to offer better binary compatibility between releases... well they can't, because they don't employ those guys.

If they want to support a new OpenGL release... well they can't, they don't employ those guys.

Ubuntu is crazy popular, but people really underestimate the extent to which they are an epiphenomenon.

Ubuntu conveniently distributes and packages desktop Linux. The software that they distribute may be written by a person employed by Red Hat, but I don't care. I just want to run a version of Linux that is easy to use, configure and upgrade.

>This is becoming even more true as Steam will probably only support Ubuntu.

Has Valve said that they will only be supporting Ubuntu, at the moment they are still in a private beta for the initial port to Linux, and if it goes well I suspect that we will see Valve support steam on non-Ubuntu systems. Even if they do not officially support other systems, I suspect we will see people make on-official ports.

Certainly so.

RHEL 7 is based on Fedora 18, and will ship with Gnome 3.6 including the shell as default. It will be interesting to see how many corporate clients start using fallback on their desktop clients... and I saw a note somewhere that XFCE may be made available in the RHEL 7 repositories.

I say this as one currently using Gnome Ubuntu Remix on a couple of machines to see what 3.6 is like - its actually quite nice in my opinion.

My gripe is not with Gnome removing features that are useless, but with Gnome removing features that are useful just to influence user behaviour.

The case I have in mind is the lack of an option to leave the screen on even when inactive for a long time, because the developers want to discourage that power usage pattern (https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=647828). Typically users do not need to leave a screen always on, so the default behaviour should not be to leave the screen always on, but if a user needs to leave a screen always on for whatever reason, why should they have to install an extension?

It is the Gnome designers' job to design the system to their taste, but it is not their job to try to influence the users.

What's going on? Do the GNOME devs think they have a mandate to reduce the world's electricity consumption?

It does appear to be the case.

What amazes me is with all their infrastructure and libraries was that they never made a word processor from their own framework.

AbiWord was fairly close to this, and I believe it was part of Gnome Office at one point (along with Gnumeric, which was a pretty good spreadsheet app for a while).

Amen. Gnumeric was my open-source spreadsheet of choice for a few years.

Those "sparse resources" were busy removing functional code such as the location toggle button. Ironically, this caused many hours of discussion, time in which those "resources" could have been doing something else.

Often the functionality removed was very useful. Want to keep your screen on all the time? Can't - you have only got an hour. Write an extension or patch the program to get around the issue (VLC). Want beautiful screensavers? it was removed, and needs to be reimplemented. What was that about not taking up the time of scarce resources again?

The projects have attracted people who want to debate and be heard, who want to communicate with words rather than with works. Remember when code was king?

I'm pretty conflicted on which way to vote this. I think your analysis of the fundamental cause is accurate -- developers are becoming big-headed leading on the examples of 37 Signals and Apple, and it has become trendy for a developer to enforce his opinion on the "right" usage path by disallowing any others, even if it takes extra work to do so.

But I dislike your assertion that it was all OK for Apple and 37 Signals because they're geniuses or otherwise "special" people (I particularly disagree that Jobs was a "once-in-a-century genius"). You are correct that reading the post, there are many things that strike brilliantly of Jobsism: extreme irritation that someone is making the beautiful thing you built for them less beautiful, and that this must be stopped by any means necessary, even if you have to weld the whole thing shut. And this very approach makes both 37 Signals and Apple products undesirable for many.

It is really bad to confuse the issue by telling people "only geniuses dare enter here". That is not the problem. Apple's closed model has come back to bite them time and time again, and Microsoft's marriage to the enterprise has allowed OS X to rise without a serious user-facing competitor on the desktop. Just as happened in the early days of the desktop, Apple's arrogance with iOS is cannibalizing their market share, and Android is emerging as the predominant mobile platform. The closed platform is simply not a real solution, even for the "geniuses" at Apple; they've simply been unchallenged. When an open challenger approaches, Apple's walled garden gets burnt down.

It really comes down to the market you're targeting. OS X and Rails are for casual users, people whose needs are very predictable and who simply need to be able to access the thing they want as quickly as possible. This means limiting options, because the likelihood a user will need that option is minimal and because in almost all cases for this audience, it's just more confusing/useless mumbo jumbo that a user must parse when they're looking for their intended setting. This works OK if you expect to stay confined to a relatively stringent niche or two (even if those niches by far comprise the majority of users), like "people who want to use Facebook" or "people who want to feel self-important while they use Photoshop". It's not really the correct approach to solving the problem, but it works for them and limits their irritation.

People who use Linux, even if they start as newbies, expect power and flexibility; they expect to be able to customize and hack and build and exploit, and share those hacks and builds and exploits with others. This is really the entire spirit behind open-source software in the first place. The prevailing desktop environments, however, are envious of OS X and want their software to see the glory; they want to be cool, they want to be desired, they want the fame. They want it so bad that they're willing to put all that work into it for free. As such, they feel a necessity to actively pursue the niche of casual users at the expense of the hackers who've used their systems for the last 20 years.

The right way to fix this problem, the way that Linux vendors and developers should be focusing on, is NOT to follow the 37 Signals and Apple paradigm of "ideal" usage path protectionism, but to figure out a paradigm that merges both sectors; the hackers and the casuals, linked together in one great whole, allowing full fluidity between both segments.

Hackers could relax and forget all that complex stuff it takes to boot up a custom environment once in a while and be mostly OK with the casual interface, and casual users could scale up and make whatever customizations are necessary, eventually becoming full-fledged hackers. The person who designs a system that allows this will be the true genius, the great unifier of the worlds of user interaction. Linux and its systems would be a very useful base system for this, so it's especially sad to see our major projects insistence on fame and glory override the real issues.

It's really disheartening to see so many people blindly following Jobs et al down the rabbit hole of arrogance so potent it entirely pervades their product instead of working on the true design issue of unifying the user bases, allowing maximum customization without getting in the users' way. gnome-shell and similar projects are great experiments in UX, but they should be built atop platforms that allow all kinds of other great UX experiments, not platforms that closed-mindedly demand compliance with the "One True Way" of user interaction. Let the One True Way emerge organically; if yours is the best, there's nothing to be afraid of, and making your platform the most flexible and open will easily allow you to incorporate any iterations or improvements that may be contributed by others.

I guess, however, the root of the problem is that people refuse to accept any iteration or improvement is possible. They have a fundamental disrespect and arrogance that leaves no room for collaboration. This is the antithesis of open-source software, and perhaps the author is right that Gnome's developers may fit in better at Microsoft.

I agree with a lot of your reasoning, except you spoil you argument with the following (incorrect) assertion:

"It really comes down to the market you're targeting. OS X and Rails are for casual users"

Yeah. That's right downvoter, OS X and Rails are for casual users. Sir, you are quite wrong.

Two golden quotes from a Gnome dev. Beware, they are taken out of context:

I guess you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an XFCE app


for the first time we may have ability to really shape the user experience and form an identity for the GNOME platform

Why would the windows manager be a "brand", rather than the distribution? (Red Hat, Ubuntu).

There is no point (for them) in people "recognising the install" if they don't have easy access to it.

Having wasted enough time configuring appearance, I now would be in one of two scenarios:

1. Install a Linux distribution such as Ubuntu or Red Hat and then use whatever comes as a default (and avoid fiddling around to save my time for more important things). Won't use Gnome if it is not the default.

2. Install whatever allows me to use the same appearance as in the other machines. SuSE/KDE used to have a "Redmond" theme that looked and behaved like Windows Classic. Do the same in the Windows machines.

> Why would the windows manager be a "brand", rather than the distribution? (Red Hat, Ubuntu).

GNOME is not a window manager though. The (default) WM in gnome has been sawfish, metacity, and currently mutter. Various components come and go, but the umbrella that is gnome stays, and the brand it has is pretty much the only defining attribute of it.

> Two golden quotes from a Gnome dev.

That's not a Gnome dev that's William Jon McCann, the main Gnome 3 designer. That McCann claims ignorance of XFCE without shame is pretty shocking.

Pretty sure he is more than just a designer. He's the mastermind behind consolekit (now abandoned I guess in favor of logind or some such from systemd).

He's also the fellow who brought us gnome-screensaver, which gave a hint of what was to come. It didn't just take away options, it did them under the theory that the user is evil and will do evil things if allowed to set screensaver options. (See https://live.gnome.org/GnomeScreensaver/FrequentlyAskedQuest...)

Who gets the blame for the rest of the *kit concept and undocumented setup. Glad to see this stuff going, I could never figure out how to use it. Nothing had usable or meaningful man pages.

> Why would the windows manager be a "brand", rather than the distribution? (Red Hat, Ubuntu). But GNOME developers are not content with being just a middle man that distributions tear apart to take what they want. That's why they are burning a lot of cycles on making GNOME into an OS by itself.

This was a depressing read. But I noticed there was no dirt on the Xfce project. They continue to produce a useful, stable, customizable desktop environment that doesn't radically change every 6 months or try to force its way on you. And so, I continue to give Xfce my highest recommendation for anyone interested in running desktop/laptop Linux.

XFCE was really different 5 years ago. It was much simpler and pretty much a CDE clone that was gone in GTK. Now it has become something like GNOME 2.x.

Isn't that just the default configuration of the panels, or do you mean a time more than 5 years ago? I've used XFCE off and on for about 5 years. I remember the default look being more like CDE, but I usually customized the panels to look more like GNOME 2.x back then. The defaults today look more like GNOME 2.x, but I don't think the functionality has changed much, just the default configuration.

It was more of a CDE clone in the late 90s, definitely not as recent as 5 years ago.

Actually I've noticed that Xfce themes are continually broken at the moment, and I wonder if this [GNOME nonsense, not Xfce] is the reason?

They are horribly broken. You can either use Adwaita (GTK3 default) or something like Clearlooks-Phenix to unify GTK2 and GTK3 appearance.

What worries me is that GTK might end up breaking Xfce. It seems they don't care about anything else but Gnome3.

Xfce is sticking with gtk2, in order to avoid the some of the v3 issues discussed here.

Individual applications may still switch to gtk3, in which case those applications will experience the breakages. But that can't be helped-- it's up to the individual application developer. In the same way, you can fire up a KDE application in Xfce and stumble across various KDE bugs.

I have no idea what will happen in the long term with regard to Xfce and gtk. Last I checked, there were no developers working on any version of gtk full-time anywhere. So maybe it would be practical for Xfce to fork gtk 2.x. Or maybe gtk 3 will settle down and they'll switch. We'll see.

P.S. I use Xfce myself. I think it's the best desktop out there today for Linux.

I guess you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an XFCE app

That's it. Gnome has peaked.

No point supporting people who are unable to grasp the idea that they work in a software-community and that pieces, even ones they don't use or make, will need to fit together.

This is the really bizarre thing. In the name of consistency, people build GNOME apps, KDE apps, Ubuntu apps to comply with the relevant design and human interface guidelines. Then we go and use Firefox and Libreoffice, which don't exactly fit into any of the desktops.

Consistency is nice, but I'll take good inconsistent software over mediocre consistent applications. Only a couple of key apps, like file managers, really seem worth linking with the desktop.

Then we go and use Firefox and Libreoffice, which don't exactly fit into any of the desktops.

This is true for any OS (with the possible exception of OSX, which I don't use, so I'm not going to make a blanket-statement about that). Use Windows and consider how consistent apps look there. Hint: They don't.

Look at Android and see how consistent things are there. Again: They aren't. Same with iOS.

No widely developed-for OS on the planet has a 100% consistency rates with conformance to HIGs (nor near 100% for that matter).

Why on earth do Linux DE-developers, the most fragmented of them all, on the most fragmented of all platforms, think they have a realistic chance of getting consistency nailed?

Why are they wasting time, theirs and other's, on this widely unrealistic and meaningless goal? Theirs, I could be willing to accept. Other's shows a lack of respect and understanding.

And what fuels this lack of respect? The importance of "the brand". To be honest, every time I read "brand" elevated to something ulterior in that article it made me cringe. Has marketing departments taken over FOSS? Doesn't the developers see the destructive force they are unleashing on the community?

Seeing all this wasted effort, bridges getting burnt, etc. It's just such a shame.

The problem here is GNOME, Unity and XFCE really have different user interaction models (full disclosure: I prefer GNOME). At the moment that commend was made (2 years ago, btw), GNOME was toying with the idea of replacing status icons with persistent notifications, while Ubuntu was pushing the use of application indicators (which was the first huge division between the codebases).

Indicators (which are menus created though a DBus interface) simply have no place in the gnome-shell, so the library was not merged into Gtk3 (the reasoning was that only things common to all consumers belong there). Transmission uses indicators when available but falls back to using status icons when not available. This makes it a second-class citizen in gnome-shell, even though it works.

I think the issue was actually making transmission behave better under GNOME. The discussion in the bug report even provides a patch that doesn't alter the behavior of Transmission when running under other platforms.

There's a name for what's going on here: bullying.

And it's happening to users, who are being told their concerns about GNOME3 are irrelevant, and also to developers, who are being told that "you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an XFCE app." (direct quote, btw.)

I find myself thinking about the historical criticism that has been aimed at the Linux ecosystem, that it lacks design awareness and doesn't have a unified aesthetic principle..

Then I see something like this and I wonder if in a way that wasn't a strength.

I mean "brand coherence"? I can't imagine what that has to do with Linux. Everything has always been so configurable, that in a way a lot of aesthetic decisions were left to the user and the app developer. People used Gnome 2, and other desktop environments to design their own desktop.

I used Gnome 3 for a few months last year when I was making my swing back to using Linux full time with Fedora. I found it usable enough, but it's lack of configuration options became frustrating because it didn't allow me to fine tune my GUI workflow, it also handled multiple monitors terribly and being unconfigurable didn't allow me to adjust that.

I was initially excited about Gnome 3 but it was pretty shallow. KDE 4 is an amazing desktop environment, with lots of configurability and in keeping with letting the user design their own experience. I made a good long stop there, for about a year, optimized my windowing workflow (one size simply does not fit all) then ended using xmonad but running some KDE apps..

It looks like GNOME and Unity are turning against the traditional spirit of the Linux community. I don't think that's for the better. The answer now to the question "I don't like it." for these Desktop Environments is "If you don't like it, tough." where as before it was "If you don't like it, change it."

I don't think Linux devs should ape Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Linux can be, and is, for everyone.. but it's especially for hackers and for people who like to tweak their experience. A project like a DE is huge and by turning away from hackers they're going to limit their ability to pick up new devs and devs are going to turn away from the GTK.

For some people Ubuntu IS Linux, Gnome IS Linux.. but for others not so much.

I don't develop desktop applications currently but I would like to. I don't see myself wanting to start a new project or get intimately involved with one that is dependent on the GTK at this point though.

Fine tune? It doesn't even coarse tune. I'm using gnome 3 at the moment and it allows me to set my preferred media player as VLC over the default Totem... but it won't bother using that setting and cranks up Totem every time.

Also, rather humorously, the 'preferred applications' part is hidden behind System Settings > System Details > Default Applications. News to the Gnome folks: user app preferences are "Personal" not "System" (using their own terminology). Unless, of course, my selection here changes all users' settings... which would be equally insane.

This is news?

GNOME killed the Linux desktop on the day it was started.

KDE was a real start to a Linux desktop that could have been competitive with Mac OS and Windows. Red Hat didn't like the license, and ever since, Linux has had a plurality of broken desktops and none that work.

The oddest thing is that the developers just haven't realized how bad their products are, or that the Linux desktop experience has been consistently getting worse over time.

Look at Unity in Ubuntu. All the most basic things, like cut and paste, scrollbars, and window resizing are FUBAR. Rather than recognizing the world-class nature of the shell environment and providing a better -term application, we just get bloated terminals for which cut-and-paste almost works.

(I'll admit the system monitor app that comes with Ubuntu is pretty, but I wonder how it makes the CPU go to 25% on a machine that's capable of high-end gaming)

This year I learned how to make a "Linux desktop" that's better than all of them. I run Windows 7 or 8, then I install Ubuntu inside of VirtualBox. Most of the time I ssh into it with a putty terminal, which is much better than any -term in Linux? (Why? Why can't Linux make a *-term that's better, or at least not worse, than xterm was in 1993?) Most X Windows apps work great with the cygwin X server, getting managed by Microsoft Windows.

The biggest problem is that the people developing this garbage don't have any idea of how bad it is. Mac OS and Windows have been getting better over the last ten years, but Linux enthusiasts won't admit that Linux has been getting worse.

Not sure what is wrong with the terminal application? Copy and paste works fine, though you need to do Ctrl + Shift + (C | V) I guess this is because the Ctrl combinations may be required by the terminal apps themselves.

If you want fancy tiled terminals there is also terminator or tmux.

This is way nicer than powershell which seems to take an age to load and won't let me resize it properly.

Not sure how the window resizing is FUBAR, but I also hate the default scrollbar in unity (unless I am running on a netbook).

I wouldn't normally care about the state of GNOME, but as a developer myself I'm in a really sorry state of affairs regarding GTK itself.

At some point with 2.x, GTK stopped being GIMP's toolkit and became part of GNOME. Fortunately it remained more or less self-contained, but it's no longer the case with GTK3.

As an user, I cringe about the usability and responsiveness of GTK3 applications. I really dislike how the built-in dialogs have become. I don't like how some widgets now work. No (easy) theming (as a reversed color theme user) is also a major letdown.

I always considered GTK a nice toolkit from the user's perspective, and up to GTK 1.x it was also considerably faster than QT. GTK2 killed that, and at the same time removed any support for exotic OSes. I had 1-line patches refused under pretty much the same reasons you read in the article.

But as an user I still preferred GTK because of some nice unix-centric features (tear-off menus -- that disappeared at some point, column-based file browsers -- again killed later, user-customizable key bindings on any application -- can you still do that? I don't even care anymore, low memory, fast engines, etc).

But now QT is just superior in any front. QT has native support for OO and nice, consistent, multi-platform API, whereas GTK3 still depends of the shitty glib stack that pretends to be an OO framework (and doing a poor job at it). Ever got random glib warnings by GTK applications on the console? My xsession-errors is full of them. As a developer I just cringe at GTK. It was always bad from day 1, but now it doesn't really make any more sense. Whenever I need to consider a toolkit for a C-only based program (where QT or FLTK is not an option), I usually go for UIP. It's a shame that the looks of these toolkits do not integrate in the rest of the UI.

Right now I actively remove any GTK3 application. Whenever an application gets rebuilt I switch to a QT counterpart, which is usually more responsive and more stable over time. GTK didn't deserve this.

Qt/KDE have their issues as well. Both Qt and KDFE have their own versions of each object (e.g. QAction vs KAction). This means you have two choices when writing an application in Qt -- Qt only or KDE-based.

The Qt stack does not have support for mimetype handling for files (e.g. I want to open any text/html file). You need KDE for that.

Qt/KDE requires you to generate moc files (preprocessing the C++ code) which can make it harder to maintain if not using CMake or the Qt project format.

Qt broke the behaviour of QAudioDeviceInfo by moving it to a different package (QtMultimedia vs QtMultimediaKit). There have been times where Qt has not shipped a pc package (esp. in the package QAudioDevice moved to) which makes it difficult to add that package on build systems other than the Qt build system.

Qt does not support using gettext for translation.

Qt is in a transition from QtWidgets to QtQuick which (like Gtk3 themes) is currently a moving target.

I'm pretty sure there's a gconf/dconf key somewhere to enable the customisable keys.

You can see how customisable keys could confuse a normal user if they did it by accident though.

At least improvements are happening to gtk (if slowly for lack of manpower) .. for instance gtk3 makes drawing a lot simpler (a lot more based around cairo) - changes like this are important as it should be quicker to make apps.

Toolkits etc do need to refreshed from time to time or they become unmanageable, 10 years or so was pretty good for gtk2, gtk3 is only just getting started.


So two things I would like to point out.

1. Gnome is at 3.6 they have many things that are changing rapidly. I don't expect them to limit the things they can do to make the DE _better_ just so that they have a stable API for themes.

2. I actually find myself liking gnome3 and gnome shell better then Xfce ( my fallback for the early days of gnome3 ).

The workflow they introduced hurt at first because it was different and scary, but its so natural now I find myself missing it when I work in Xfce or KDE. I know there are some developers who value above all else the freedom and ideals espoused by the FOSS movement and want a system stack that is true to those principles above all others. I am actually enjoying a well _designed_ and coherent desktop experience. Also I have the source code if something really is bothering me I can change it, but I am finding after 15+ years of tweaking config files to get everything to work the way I wanted it to I am now content to just have something that works out of the box even if I have to acclimate myself to some of its nuances. It turns out most of the time what I thought was a problem actually works better for me once I get used to it.

Could you comment on the points that have been made about removed features in nautilus and things like removing launchers? I'm not a heavy linux user myself but those issues stroke me as very significant, to the extent that I would never touch gnome3 because of this.

This article has a good summary of features removed from Nautilus 3.6:


It's pretty easy to replace Nautilus with Nemo though (the Cinnamon fork version that emulates the old Nautilus).

The fact that you have a fork which is basically a point-in-time frozen version of a tool whose newest version nobody wants to use is pretty telling.

The Gnome team would be wise to listen in on the feedback from the community. If they want a community that is. They seem to think that this "Gnome brand", "Gnome identity" and "Gnome platform" is the most important thing they need to concern themselves with these days.

I just copied a .sh script to my desktop and clicked on it. It launched the application. However the right click and make new shortcut has been removed. Was it a feature , yes. Should they have kept it, I say no You can't keep every menu option ever in all your dialogs. There are other ways ( and better ways ) to do the same thing.

What are those other and better ways? The ability to bind random, personalized, easy to create scripts to file actions has been removed as far as I can tell.

Not being able to drop a shell script into some place to make GUI file management easier is a regression. (I say "some place" because when I was using this feature, it took forever to find the right place as it changed between released/distributions and I had to experiment to find the right set of env vars that are set, because docs were lacking).

Pretty sure nautilus scripts still work; I'm on gnome 3.6 and have a bunch.


I wouldn't bet on it in the long run though, the way they are murdering through features.

There are other ways ( and better ways ) to do the same thing.

Why don't I get to decide this for myself?


I've been using gnome 3.6 for the past month. I've been using Linux as my primary desktop for 18 years. I live in emacs. (unix cred established?) gnome 3.6 may not be perfect, but it works well. It's actually remarkable simple. I may go back to using awesomewm + gnome fallback, but gnome 3 is a solid desktop.

It's not about DE, it's about toolkit. Which used to be a common pond but now they like put a fence around it and dump toxic waste into it. The reasoning revolves around it being easier for them and allowing them to do useful things in other places.

Guess what, not a good recipe for love of community.

but it is about the DE. when GTK was transitioned to the GNOME foundation the Gimp folks essentially let them take it in any direction that benefits the GNOME community. GTK is standalone only in that it has bits that others can use, but it doesn't exist so others can use it. Should they be aware of other who might want to use it, yes. Should they make design decision that hurt their primary purpose so that GTK can be more useful to others ? That's a good question , I tend to side on no.

That's a terrible role model you're describing. GTK is not a swiss clock you can pass to your ancestor.

Indeed - gnome 2.6 was probably around the time when it was just about useable in the 2.x series ... 2.16 was probably about the 'peak' of 2.x (before features started getting removed).

There's a lot more uphill to go; it is actually quite nice to use as a day to day frontend already though.

Some of the things the api changes that have caused pain now will actually make things better over the longer term; take theming - it's all moving towards a CSS driven style.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail over stuff like 'branding' and we can keep our extensions (note - part of the whole point of gnome shell being javascript is to make it easy to change or customise).

This was posted on r/linux too. While I completely understand that you can't make a UI to please everybody, it's not an excuse to ignore user feedback and sacrifice everything to branding.

I had wanted to check out Gnome 3, actually, just out of curiosity, but being one of these people who actually like to select their terminal emulator, I realized I'm not part of the target demographic.

I recently switched to Fedora on my desktop, because I wanted to fiddle around with systemd. Coming from Unity, I really enjoyed how snappy it is.

And for the rest, I spend most of my time either in my browser or the terminal, so there's not really much I expect from a desktop environment than being fast and stable. I don't really care anymore.

> And for the rest, I spend most of my time either in my browser or the terminal, so there's not really much I expect from a desktop environment than being fast and stable. I don't really care anymore.

This is a really important point.

The average computer user doesn't do a great deal outside their web browser these days. All they really need a desktop environment to do is point them to the web browser then get out of their way.

You might just want to use i3/awesome/xmonad then :)

Xmonad/awesome (haven't tried i3) are absolutely fantastic, however, in my experience, you need to spend some days tweaking configuration files in order to achieve a satisfying experience (especially if you want dual-screen support to work in a less... interesting way in Xmonad). From what parent was writing, this is exactly what s/he does not want to do.

Coming from Metacity, Xmonad's handling of dual screen is definitely different but I prefer it now.

Instead of treating both screens as an extended single desktop, each screen is on it's own desktop. This allows me to mix and match desktops at will (most common with documentation), or I love swapping the two screens with each other with this line in my xmonad.hs (https://gist.github.com/2657206):

  ("M4-<Esc>", swapNextScreen)

In my experience i3 doesn't require any tweaking. It has really sane defaults about pretty much everything. If you do want to configure something, the configuration file is extremely simple and the documentation is really excellent.

The default behavior when using a dual screen setup is each screen having some of the workspaces.

Funny, the default dual-screen behavior on Xmonad was what sold me on it.

I found the awesomewm defaults good enough to be useful out of the box on Squeeze. I've made some minor tweaks since then, but nothing major.

Yeah, the only thing I have ever customized with Awesome is changing the default terminal to xterm. After that it just does exactly what I expect, and doesn't get in my way; I don't know what more I could ask for.

> I recently switched to Fedora on my desktop, because I wanted to fiddle around with systemd.

You could have gone to straight Debian (assuming you were on Ubuntu). Systemd is not the default, but it works very well as sysvinit replacement.

Debian provides a well integrated systemd v44. If you really like shiny new stuff (which is legitimate), Fedora would be better.

Once they piss off all distros to the point of migrating off Gnome, nobody will be. And it seems that they are doing just that.

What is Red Hat's role in this? Do they still employ a couple of key GNOME developers?

Yes. The two main designers pushing GNOME on its current path both work at RedHat:

- William McCann: http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamjonmccann

- Allan Day: https://live.gnome.org/AllanDay

GNOME is clearly trying to imitate OS X. That much is plain to see.

In doing so, it seems the devs have adopted the Apple approach; dictatorial design. In many respects this is a good thing. It gives them the good sense to say "no" to certain proposals; I'm sure there are active GNOME contributors who would prefer Nautilus to have five customizable toolbars, and the system menubar to have a mind-boggling array of system stats. No.

Obviously, haters gonna hate. People who get a kick out of relentlessly customizing their desktop environment will no longer feel welcome. GNOME sold out, it went mainstream, whatever. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

This is a victory for ordinary users. This is giving the developers focus. A lot of user suggestions are just pointless distractions from the core goal, which is apparently to imitate OS X as much as possible without being called on it.

I believe in limiting customization to improve consistency and to consolidate your identity.

But if you take this path, you better ensure that your UX is rock-solid and will satisfy the majority of your users (what Apple does).

I believe that the Gnome User Experience (interaction and visual) is poorly made (I have the feeling that most of the decisions here have not been made by UX people, and have not been seriously backed by user studies - but I'd be glad to be proved otherwise).

I also believe that Gnome is targeting an audience they don't have, leaving their current (potential) audience frustrated.

I also believe that limiting customization is important. Any Firefox dev can tell how terribly hard it is to improve Firefox without breaking addons. GNOME does not have the man power of Mozilla, let alone Apple. They want to create great things by implementing them one at a time. that's the open-source way, and most free softwares are built like that. I feel the comparison with Apple is somewhat unfair, because GNOME does not have enough developers to release a complete product at every release (or should they just work in the dark and not release anything for the next 2 years?). Ubuntu is in a similar same situation, and they do improve over time. So they do it one thing at a time and try to involve as much the community as they can. If I had to direct such a project with the resources they have, I don't know that I would have made better choices. Also, my feeling about the GNOME UX, is that decisions come from UX people, and that it is the very reason it enrages us developers: we have different ways to approach interacting with a computer, we are very picky about workflows, and we tend to reject innovation if it makes us change our habits. And that's where I agree with you about leaving their current audience frustrated: GNOME wants to reach out to "normal users", but its user base is mostly hackers. It is hard to innovate in the UX space when your users have their workflows and interaction patterns burnt into their brains and fingers. I believe that someone who never touched a computer before would much prefer the GNOME UX over a more traditional desktop environments.

> I also believe that limiting customization is important. Any Firefox dev can tell how terribly hard it is to improve Firefox without breaking addons. GNOME does not have the man power of Mozilla, let alone Apple. They want to create great things by implementing them one at a time.

If Gnome doesn't have the resources to do proper UX design, the answer is NOT to force incomplete/broken UX on users. It's to leave options open for others to fix the UX as needed.

Design is about making choices, but if you don't have the resources to find/make the best choice at least allow the end user to make the choice they prefer instead.

What I find amusing though, is that even OSX allows more customization than Unity/Gnome. In OSX I can turn off backlight dimming on battery, I can move the dock to different sides of the screen (essential for multi-monitor setups), and I can also tweak other things via plists. There is also more than one screensaver.

"It is hard to innovate in the UX space"

Your goal should never be to innovate, it should be to improve. Yes, you improve by innovating but you should remember the goal is to improve, not make something new for new's sake.

Also it is no wonder they are understaffed, they are alienating their user base which is from where they get their developers...


Me, I like system notification areas that apps other than two or three 'official' gnome apps can use. I like to put my toolbars and menus in the place I want to have them. I don't know why you would consider this 'relentless customisation'.

Gnome hasn't sold out or gone mainstream, quite the opposite - they are losing people in droves, chasing some dream of going mainstream but actually slowly sinking into obscurity.

> I like to put my toolbars and menus in the place I want to have them.

Perhaps you don't realize the amount of work it represents to build a consistent and solid user experience while officially supporting letting the user choose where to place its notifications, toolbars, etc, and never break this customizability afterwards.

Perhaps the Gnome developers (and you?) don't realise that most of their (Gnome 2) users prefer to have this modicum of customisation available, as it has been in most desktop environments for many years now, over some nebulous concept of a 'solid user experience'.

I know, I know, I'm somehow objectively wrong for wanting this, which is fine if that's what you want to think. Like many others I left for XFCE a long time ago.

--edit-- fixed typo

I see your point and it is perfectly valid. I am happy that GNOME tries come up with something new since there are still some good DEs like XFCE which propose a solid and classic user experience. Choice is there for everyone to be happy. I think GNOME shell's extension mechanism actually provides developers with more customization possibilities than GNOME 2 did, only it is javascript, therefore not accessible to everyone, and not as easy and straightforward as the options we used to have 2 years ago.

It's not a bad thing that Gnome is trying to do new stuff, it's not a bad thing (in itself) that they're taking the direction they're taking.

The bad thing about it is the attitude, that users are being told they're wrong (constantly) and that the comparatively well-loved GNOME 2 was effectively declared dead and deprecated from day 1, instead of being respectfully handed off to the community or a maintenance team. Hell, G3 almost ought to have been called something else, and run separately. It's not the same thing.

And for the javascript customisation - some of the comments in the linked article seem to hint that the GNOME guys would like to ditch that too. It undermines the consistency of look and feel they're trying to achieve.

That's an excuse.

You should always provide a great default solution and let the user customize it if he wants to. Once there is ANY user customization, the entire user experience changes. If you want the UX to be ALWAYS the same, you can't let people change stuff.

The problem is, this is contrary to everything done before. I for instance, use Growl on OSX and customized it to my needs. The UX is the best one for me! It's not because Growl devs predicted that. They just let me CHOOSE after providing a great UX already by default.

The problem is that there are few "ordinary users" currently using Gnome and as the technical users leave Gnome because it's not as useful to them anymore, they're losing their main source of advertising and endorsement.

OS X is a pretty good example of how an operating system can be simple enough for regular users to use but still have advanced options that power users and technical users require. I understand why they're attempting to copy it, but I don't think they're going about it in the right way.

> as the technical users leave Gnome because it's not as useful to them anymore

[citation needed]

I'm fairly technical and I'm not leaving Gnome. There was a time I spent hours downloading themes, sometimes building my own from them, so that I'd have the "perfect" desktop, but not anymore. The most time I lost in the last 6 months was tweaking my init.el file so my Emacs would start with everything I need to work comfortably. I also built a console font so my terminals and text editors would mitigate my 3278 nostalgia (https://github.com/rbanffy/3270font).

A theme is just a theme. We don't have to fight much over it.

API breakage, OTOH, is a problem. Anyone who develops for Gnome should have a continuous testing install somewhere running tests against the latest master branch to prevent nasty surprises down the road. Also, people who develop apps and feel Gnome is going in the wrong direction should get involved in Gnome development. App (and theme) developers are the users of Gnome's APIs much like I am a Firefox user. If it "feels wrong", I'll get in touch with the developers and try to help fixing it. Ranting is not going to help.

I left a few months ago (now I run a mixture of OS X and Linux with Openbox) and I know I'm not alone. I'm afraid that I can't post statistics - although I'd be very interested to see them, if there are any - however the general feeling I get is that a lot of users are very unhappy. Here's one high profile incident, which I'm sure you'll have seen: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/05/linus_slams_gnome_th...

I've also spoken to a few of the developers of the core Gnome applications and morale, from what I've seen, seems to be pretty low with some groups of developers simply refusing to implement changes planned by the design team. I'm very concerned about the project - I think the new vision will lose them both users and developers, at a time when they need them more than ever.

Most people I know who moved to Macs didn't do it because they felt Gnome was bad. Most of them did so because Macbooks are excellent computers and OSX is a good enough Unix they can work with.

This design-development schism seems bad indeed. Maybe Gnome lacks a decent leadership, one that lets it be Gnone rather than Windows (Mono, seriously?) or OSX. But then we'd have to know what it is to be Gnome. I kind of like Gnome Shell and Unity and lack of themes means I spend less time customizing my machine and more time working, but I'm not a typical Linux user anyway. What worries me the most is not product quality, but all this toxicity floating around.

"OS X is a pretty good example of how an operating system can be simple enough for regular users to use but still have advanced options that power users and technical users require"

Funny, because I see OS X as an example of how an OS can become simpler by removing the advanced options that power users and technical users require.

But by "options" I mean more than just config options. It includes features as well..

> Funny, because I see OS X as an example of how an OS can become simpler by removing the advanced options that power users and technical users require.

What kind of advanced options is OS X lacking?

This is just off the top my my head. Some of these might be plain wrong since I haven't spent that much time with the newest versions..

- General lack of configureability. I'm used to things like fluxbox and kde where "everything" can be configured. (Don't knock it til you try it ;) Especially keyboard shortcuts for launching stuff, expanding windows, minimizing windows etc..

- The window handling is terrible. Really, it is.. Can't maximize? Can't easily switch between two firefox windows? I used to think it was because I didn't know how to do it, so I asked and watched a few OSX users. But they just move windows around. I'm not going to handle 15 windows like that. Even if osx finally got virtual desktops (?).

- Better terminal (both the gnome one and the kde one are so far ahead, at least at first look)

- Unix/linux CLI programs that I've gotten used to being there by default. Also, I'm sure there are programs I use that simply doesn't run on OSX (not really experinced it, but it seems likely ;)

Edit: Also, the broader issue of customizability. Apple does a lot of things "right", but not everything. And while the "walled garden" do bring some advantages, its restrictiveness is a real pain when you're used to choose. It's impossible to do one size fits all in computing, you end up with something compromised, more tailored towards computer users quite different than myself.

For starters, setting 'focus follows mouse', last I bothered checking.

FFM was never an option in the OS X window manage, outside Terminal.app, as it was fundamentally incompatible with the Classic event model, and I presume Carbon as well. There are some third-party hacks which attempt an imperfect emulation.

I don't think the criticism is solely because features are missing; it's the fact that existing features are removed and the process by which those changes are communicated ahead of time (seemingly, they're not).

It's the same philosophy underpinning OS X. The UI should do what it is supposed to do, do it well, and do no more. "Get out of my way" design at its best.

Removing customization options and features that are not seen to be necessary is an inevitable part of the transition to this philosophy.

GNOME is positioning itself as a more simple, user-friendly desktop environment. Quite frankly, if total customization is your thing, there are plenty of other options available to you.

It's not my thing. I do think it's pretty poor form to take out APIs without some more advanced warning and heads up to the community than apparently the gnome team provides. Whatever they think they're doing in terms of communicating their roadmap/plans/vision wrt their API, it's certainly not enough based on this sort of feedback.

> imitate OS X as much as possible

Apple could imitate a fair bit too. For instance, I'd like the OS X 10.6 Finder to be as useable as the Nautilus file manager that shipped with Ubuntu's Gnome 2 in 2010.

I'm racking my brain and can't think of any significant changes I'd make to the latest version of Finder (referring to Mountain Lion, 10.8 here). It looks great and does everything I want it to do with a minimum of fuss.

The version of Nautilus shipping with GNOME 3 is obviously very heavily inspired by this version of Finder.

I must say I agree. I'm not sure if it's because I've used OS X long enough (a couple of years) to no longer notice its flaws, or if I've simply found "the way you're supposed to use it".

The only thing I find myself missing is a way to move up the file-structure without having to switch to the list-view when you've opened a folder without actually navigating your way to it through Finder. Essentially, the "Back"-arrow would take you to the parent folder even if you didn't navigate from it.

> The only thing I find myself missing is a way to move up the file-structure without having to switch to the list-view when you've opened a folder without actually navigating your way to it through Finder. Essentially, the "Back"-arrow would take you to the parent folder even if you didn't navigate from it.

Isn't that just Cmd+Up?

Thank you (and you too, DeepDuh)! I must get around to learning more keyboard-shortcuts :)

If you right click on the top of the window and select Customize... you can add buttons to the toolbar of each Finder window. One of those buttons is "path", which when you click on it, provides a pull down menu allowing you to select any directory in the path of the current folder. I use that one a lot../

I got a little present for you: Cmd-up.

Oh the glorious day when I found out about this..

But how do they sustain themselves as an open source project? The Linux kernel has never fooled itself.. it's a system that's foremost useful for its developer to use all day, and then additionally for them to apply for useful work with server/service/consumer hardware.

So great, you say, not being self-centric but user-centric. That works if you are employed to create a product, but how well will it work for open source. How will they ever gain developers?

They won't. They're losing users, losing developers and losing default-install status in multiple distributions.

Well, apparently, this imitation strategy seems to be a massive fail. At least if we take user satisfaction as the primary metric.

Lots of hilarity and conspiracy in the comments - evidently Google is behind the decline of Mozilla and Redhat is killing Gnome.

Gnome3 has it's problems, however I as a user much prefer having one pretty theme and a changing API instead of a stable API and a forest of ugly themes.

Despite all the ranting and foaming of mouth, Gnome3.6 still is the best DE out there in my opinion.

A stable API always benefit the user because it makes possible more (and better) applications.

Saying "ranting and foaming of mouth" kills the conversation and I believe is one of Gnome problems for some time now (_aka_ If you're not with us, you're a hater).

Conversation is part of the open source community.

It took them two years to put back the power off button back on the menu. That's quite some progress.

I liked it the way it was before. I put my Desktop PC in suspend way more often than I actually shut it down.

Solution? Have a "suspend" AND a power off option.

I love having a decent looking default theme rather than a forest of ugly ones as well. However, the default theme is nowhere near pretty, or even usable on smaller screen sizes. I have a 10" netbook that runs Gnome like a dream, but there is so much wasted space due to the size of the panel and further in the size of title bars. Considering they default to one button on it, there is no reason it should be as large as it is.

That said I still use Gnome3, and I donate to theme developers who make themes that make the desktop more usable to me.

> Despite all the ranting and foaming of mouth

There seem to be plenty of links to discussions in the bug tracker to support this article.

E.g., the attitude of the dev in response to reasonable argument from his users in https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=485846 is pretty much "I'm not changing it, just because". That would make me rant and foam at the mouth because a reasoned approach patently failed in this case.

Wow. Reading that one single ticket has just guaranteed I don't even bother looking at Gnome 3.

That "X always implies Y and I don't care if your use-case disagrees" attitude is poisonous and a project that doesn't consider it so is a train wreck waiting to happen.

I was just talking about the apparent problem of not having a stable theme API.

The developers never promised to provide a stable theme API, even selecting themes as a user is basically only possible via "gnome-tweak-tool", so this had "alpha code" written all over it from the beginning.

E.g., the attitude of the dev in response to reasonable argument from his users in https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=485846 is pretty much "I'm not changing it, just because". That would make me rant and foam at the mouth because a reasoned approach patently failed in this case.

Even this case isn't as clear-cut as you make it out to be, especially if you look at comment #14.

Unfortunately comment #14 doesn't say anything. He just posted the links to search on three bugtrackers for brightness. There is still no specific bug that he mentioned.

And since limited choice works for you it should also work for the rest of the world?

It's science. Less options not only make your choice better but also your satisfaction of it.

I have a friend who spent his childhood in the Soviet Union who'd probably like to disagree with you about that.

So, where's the pretty theme? Be advised, I most probably don't like the same stuff that you do.

Guess you are unlucky.

I'm not being sarcastic either. It just is more difficult to support many different themes than just one.

Especially if you can't/worn't stabilise theme APIs...

Here's my vote to "Reintroduce location/path bar toggle button." I really need the location edit box in file dialogs, and those %$£% removed it. Now I can't simply paste the whole file path to open or save the file, no, I have to click, scroll, click, scroll for every path component, instead of just one paste. %^$#

I also don't understand this "brandmaking" by alienating as much people as possible. Depressive read.

As far as I recall, the shortcut is to use Ctrl-L in the file manager then drag the target you want into the file dialog. Could be wrong though, it's been a while since I've used Gnome.

I want the obvious GUI element not the secret keyboard shortcut.

Ran into that recently as well. Grueling.

hit ^l in nautilus.

It's CTRL+L on my keyboard. In addition to Nautilus and all the file dialogs it also works in browsers and even in Windows's "Explorer" file manager.

I use Gnome 3.4, though. Did the Gnome developers remove this shortcut from 3.6?

You can just start typing a path. Typing / shows an input field, and it has tab completion too.

> file dialogs

As in the "Open File" or "Save File" widgets in GTK3 (at least I assume it's GTK3 and not GNOME3).

Another article in what has really become a vast sea of Gnome criticism. I definitely appreciate the extensive quoting of Gnome and Ubuntu people, though, which is not too common in these kinds of articles.

The thing is, Gnome is focused on an idea of "user experience." What's implicit in this pursuit is their mental model of the user. Who is Gnome for? Well, if you're reading HN, it's probably not for you. They're making it pretty clear that if you're an old school linux person, if you like customization ability, if you like options, then you're not the user they have in mind. For those of us who are not "the users they're looking for," we have to be ok with that, accept that's what they want to do, and make our choice accordingly: we can suck it up and use it anyway, we can use something else, or we can fork Gnome.

At the same time, I suspect that they don't really know what they're doing, and the "user" in their "user experience" is largely illusory; the product of the imagination of a few Gnome designers. They seem prepared to double down on this concept though - I think this is the only explanation possible of their arrogance in the face of widespread denunciation from almost every corner of the traditional linux community, including typically scathing flames from Linus. The Gnome people seem to feed on this negativity, like it's validation of their plans. "It is not for you, it is for 'them'" - whoever "they" are.

I wonder if their concept of who they're targeting as users couldn't be boiled down to a fairly basic distinction: traditional linux stuff is for people who enjoy using computers, and Gnome is designed for people who don't. Or put another way: people who use computers, versus people used by computers - the latter group belonging to a sort of corporate mindset.

Regardless, this mindset is being taken to far in its application to GTK, which for a large number of reasons should not be taken as simply another part of Gnome. It leads to almost a Kubuki Theater situation in which Gnome devs try to push around apps like transmission, which merely uses GTK, to fit into their Gnome user paradigm, while pretending nothing else exists. "I have never heard of XFCE" - come on.

"Who is Gnome for? Well, if you're reading HN, it's probably not for you. They're making it pretty clear that if you're an old school linux person, if you like customization ability, if you like options, then you're not the user they have in mind."

Perhaps it is the 'old school Linux' people who provide much of the voluntary input to open source projects. Perhaps the younger ones who like shiny shiny just buy Apple and set up a terminal to their Linode. Perhaps not good for long term health of the project?

I disagree about KDE4 not being customizable. While the earlier iterations of KDE4 (such as 4.1) were lacking in options, newer iterations like KDE 4.8/4.9 are really customizable. See also Linus Torvalds' recent post where he also praises the configurability of KDE4, saying that it may even be too configurable.

It is incredibly customisable however the article lists a specific customisation (ability to re-arrange applications in the taskbar) that was in KDE3, missing in KDE4 and is actually useful to have. The ability to tilt desktop widgets at odd angles, mentioned by Linus, is utterly pointless. So the article has it right - they ought to start listening to user input.

> ability to re-arrange applications in the taskbar

This is now possible in KDE and has been since at least 4.3 (over 3 years ago).

Thank you so much! To enable I needed to change 'Sorting' to 'Manually' in Task Manager Settings.

> The ability to tilt desktop widgets at odd angles, mentioned by Linus, is utterly pointless. So the article has it right - they ought to start listening to user input.

I have been a KDE4 user for a few years now, and I didn't even know this was possible. Clearly, the mentioned functionality is there, but does not get in your way (as in, you do not accidentally end up with your widgets all in crooked positions). What is wrong with that?

I am really concerned about this effort to encourage and sanction themes and extensions.

Sanction is a great word - it's an antonym of itself!

I like Gnome 3. It strikes me as incomplete, but what's there is good and does not look like cluttery crap. KDE is more feature-complete but looks like a clutterbuck 90s desktop. I can't stand it. After using Apple products for a while (I use both OSes) clutter makes me want to claw my eyes out.

Agreed. Gnome 3 may have a lot of problems, but it's probably the most elegant and "quiet" desktop environment.

This is so true. And, unfortunately, this rot is not limited to GNOME only IMHO. In the good old days the desktop environments used to be cool and functional. I mean look at kde 2 and compare it with windows 98. Or take kde 3+compiz and compare it with xp and windows vista. Those desktop environments were different, has an unique style and blowing the minds of the windows + mac users. I mean compiz for god's sake. A lot of my friends' eyes go wide when I started rolling my desktop left and right and said it is all native, and uses this much of ram.

Having said all of that, let's take a gander to kde 4 and gnome 3. Can you really see that kind of difference and coolness? I, for one, can't see it. What I see is desktop interfaces which tries to macify themselves, which is sad.

I'm not sure I would use compiz as a shining example of something that makes a desktop more functional.

Regarding the differences between Gnome 3 and KDE 4: I haven't tried Gnome 3, but from I've read (including TFA), they go out of their way to make the desktop not configurable. Before switching to awesome and then Xmonad, I was a heavy user of KDE 4, and it is extremely customizable. It also had some novel ideas about grouping widgets/applications depending on the current activity of the user, which is probably implemented by now, and which I don't think is present in GNOME 3.

> It is my hope that you are a GNOME app…

I can't really wish this guy anything other than good luck and good bye.

Allan Day is a designer, not a developer. Obviously he's not involved in GTK+ development. It is true that GTK+ is not much tested on any other theme than the default theme, but that is a matter of focus and lack of manpower.

IMO easier to be honest about it (no focus).

After reading the full piece, it's obvious Ubuntu and KDE are not that much better than Gnome. Should we say 2012 looks like the year Linux "lost" the desktop after a few years of prosperity?

For someone running Ubuntu 12.10 with "basic" desktop needs, can anyone come up with some recommendations for a more open, forthcoming distro and DE? Someone to reward for their efforts?

It seems like using and supporting Ubuntu, Gnome etc at this point would be sending out the wrong signals.

After years of stubborn refusal to give up Ubuntu 10.10, I finally moved to OpenSUSE 12.2 (which uses KDE 4.8). Setting aside the Yast related rants (which have some substance), I couldn't be happier and the credit goes to KDE.

Even though some simple things are still hard to do (you still need to go through few hoops to get a custom application launcher added to taskbar), I haven't yet found something which can't be managed with either straightforward GUI configuration or with scripts. Things I like:

1. I have a sane & traditional icons+multiple taskbar+desktop setup

2. I get to choose how many windows I can see at a given time and what size they are (KDE also remembers the size)

3. Dolphin retains Split/compact/tree view and infact does it with all the customizations I could ask for based on what I need regularly.

4. Dual displays took exactly 2 minutes to setup - all driven by GUI. It even has the audacity to offer me separate wallpapers for each display without actually going through any kludges. Depending on which desktop I right-click and choose "Desktop settings", it allows me to set background etc. for that display.

5. I can choose the sort order and grouping of the applications on the taskbar - I like them unsorted (i.e. the order in which they were launched) and ungrouped (until there are too many and need to be grouped) - all this was configurable in "Task Manager settings".

6. I get to choose my own Terminal Emulator and I'm absolutely happy with Konsole because it even lets me customize the shortcut keys to manage tabs.

I could go on (and I never thought I would about KDE; I've always considered the simplicity of Gnome 2 superior to KDE) but KDE 4.8 is a fantastic experience for a Linux power user.

This sounds fantastic... I think I'm gonna `aptitude install kde-standard` after reading this :)

I am using unstable build of http://elementaryos.org/ So far, its excellent. Cant wait for the real release

I went to their homepage, but I don't see a link there to a description of the project (something like an 'About' page describing the project and its goals)....

If you're a programmer (since I don't think non-programmers would like this, ever) you can try xmonad.

Started using it and I can't stop using it now. Pure and simple efficiency.

Linux Mint with Cinnamon seems to be a pretty popular choice nowadays.

Or MATE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATE_%28desktop_environment%29) which is basically Gnome 2.

rekonq is not the default KDE browser, and is not shipped with the KDE Software Compilation or KDE Platform.

Instead, it is a valued KDE-community-developed browser available from our "Extragear" repository.

However I will say that even we at KDE are not opposed to configurability in general (especially to the extent listed for GNOME 3 and Unity... as far as I know we don't have a stick up our collective asses regarding the "brand experience").

But we have to maintain patches we accept (e.g. in the case of the task manager). LUCKILY we are quite happy to have even our core components ripped and replaced by something better. E.g. there is Craig Drummond's "Icon Tasks" taskbar available for Plasma (which I use).

As far as SVG themes, that was a 10 steps forward, 1 step back kind of thing... overall the desktop is much improved by having those as an option, even if it makes it more difficult to implement color toning. But if someone were to submit a patch implementing "themed color variations" (so that you as a user could choose the "light" color, "dark" color, etc. and the rest of the theme remains unchanged) then I would be very surprised if that were to be rejected outright.

> > 2.) A close button on the corner of the bubble as soon as a mouseover > > occurs (like Growl, instead of disappearing away)

> Same. The design of Notify-OSD is specifically not clickable, and we > would NOT accept patches to change that.

Excuse me, Mr. Shuttleworth, but have you tried using blueman? When you get a pairing request blueman expects you to click "accept" in a notification...

But surely not from the real notify-osd.

Notify-OSD has a specific philosophie behind it. Which is the same excuse the people quoted in this article use, but well. Notify-OSD tries to show these notifications and make them ignorable.

Software like pidgin show a constant stream of background-noise. If every notification has the affordance to get clicked, or closed, this gets annoying very fast. By making them not clickable (and probably by that black design), they become easily ignorable if one is focused one specific task, but they remain to deliver some awareness what is going on. See https://wiki.ubuntu.com/NotifyOSD#Rationale

Thing is, that works. I can't tolerate moving pieces on my desktop and I always got highly annoyed by the notification-bubbles from before notify-osd or when the daemon fails to start or from Windows. But the black unintrusive notify-osd-notfications i can stand. So for this example, not following that users' wish follows not only their design, but also the wish of users like me.

If a notification requests response buttons, there's a fallback to a basic dialog box, that doesn't look anything like the regular Notify-OSD bubbles. Ubuntu discourages using that, but it does work.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but how? I thought that the interface for notifications was just to provide some text and maybe an icon.

You can also have action buttons in notifications. See, for example, http://minus.com/lbpCsG which is a minimal MPD client written as a notification for gnome-shell. In gnome 3.6, you can interact with it using only the keyboard (<Super>M, left/right to select the notification, up, left/right to select the button and then enter to activate it), which you can't do with the usual status icons unless the app is programmed to behave like that, and which I think you can't do either with indicators like those used in Unity (though I haven't used that in a while, so I might be wrong).

All this "we have simplified the interface" makes me think of the Emacs antinews file...

I had no idea this existed! Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Its somewhat wonderful.

To save people some searching, here's the antinews file for 24.1: http://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/manual/html_node/emacs/Ant...

There is alot of unnecessary Windows bash in that article, mainly because most of the arguments applied could also be said about Apple eg:

"...as I read some of the GNOME developer comments below, I was given to believe that this breakage stems from a Microsoft-like climate of preventing users from customizing their systems..."

Gnome is heading to its demise. I don't really understand their point. They keep messing up with power menu. 3.4 was shipped without all power options. 3.6 doesn't have logout or hibernation/suspend. Notification system is messed up. It is always hidden and you can't really right click.

Ubuntu Developer's are also thinking of switching from developmental build to stable build for Ubuntu. Nautilus has been put on hold. I will not be surprised that Ubuntu will fork Gnome and develop its own variant.

Transmission developer sums it up.

Not only are Windows users moving to Linux, but Windows devs seem to be arriving as well, bringing their diseases with them – corporate ‘kill off the competition’ mentalities that don’t serve Linux, merely exploit it.

Delusional is the only way to describe this statement. It almost resembles the garbage Fox News has been giving for reasons why Romney lost the election. First of all, developers in a "corporate" (I emphasize "corporate" because this has nothing to do with windows development) environment generally aren't the ones with the "kill off the competition/brand" mentality. This mentality lives higher up in the corporate chain where business decisions are made. Developers themselves don't make these choices, they simply execute them because that's what the business has decided needs to be done. If the claim was instead that CEOs, VPs, etc, are switching to Linux and getting involved in the management of Gnome, the claim would still be wrong, but at least it could have made some sense.

This is exactly why I moved to Linux Mint (Mate or Cinammon, your choice) on my desktop and crunchbang linux (with openbox) on a relatively low-powered laptop (even though Linux Mint would run fine on it -- I like a little diversity).

Thankfully Ubuntu 12.04 is the Long Term Stable release. I think I'll be sticking with it for a really long time partially due to all this nonsense.

If 12.10 was the LTS I would probably have looked at switching distros.

What has 12.04 got that 12.10 hasn't?

Not challenging, just interested. Both have fallback, both allow the installation of XFCE4 desktop, both have the Lubuntu-desktop packages?

Mostly not having to worry about removing shopping lenses and any other things. It's a growing lack of trust in Canonical.

I don't use my Linux boxes as a desktop most of the time otherwise I would be giving XFCE a proper try. In fact the main desktop use is child use so I don't want to change it too much.

LTS is the way to go for stability, especially with 5 years support on stock Ubuntu.

Regarding the Amazon search stuff in 12.10, there is a kill switch in system settings, it was added in an update after all the hooha.

I was thinking on using CentOS6 on the desktop for this very reason. I'm sad.

so, i read through some of that, the complaints about api changes and the developer responses. i did not read the entire thing

however, from what i read, i agree with the developers. they want a certain thing, so they are making it. they don't want people changing their ui/ux. if you don't like that, don't use it. use something else. or, fork it. make it what you want it to be

You may have missed this gem: Getting in deeper, not only are GNOME devs content to break their own desktop, but they want features removed from apps simply because GNOME no longer supports them!

This one is pretty good too: I guess you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an XFCE app unfortunately. I’m sorry that this is the case but it wasn’t GNOME’s fault that Ubuntu has started this fork. And I have no idea what XFCE is or does sorry.

The GNOME devs quoted in TFA seem to labour under the misapprehension that GNOME is not part of a wider ecosystem, but that GNOME is the ecosystem instead.

umm... just to make sure i understand. they want to change their software. they are telling others who rely on their software supporting something that they are getting rid of that. i see nothing wrong with that. they can do whatever they want with their software. don't like it? fork it, start your own, etc. or am i misunderstanding?

GTK is a huge thing used by hundreds of unrelated projects, some of whose very big. It is a responsibility. Gnome developers basically plundered the development of GTK and now only care about their use cases. They should admit that they are irresponsible. It is bad.

In defense of GTK, there is really only one person working on it, plus the occasional patch submission.

Maybe they should focus on maintenance then instead of runaway development featuring breaking backwards compatibility and existing use cases? I understand you can't have both stability and new features with limited resources, but they should choose stability.

in this case, they wanted a feature removed from a 3rd party program, because gnome did no longer support this feature. meanwhile, the program still runs on non-gnome desktops, which do support the feature...

which leads to this quote: "I guess you have to decide if you are a GNOME app, an Ubuntu app, or an XFCE app"

Find the relevant part in the article, it will become clear.

Don't forget either that Gnome 3 isn't meant to be 'software just for the devs', it's meant to be a popular, heavyweight desktop that's attractive to a lot of users - so much so that it's meant to be [one of] the "default" linux desktops. Articles like this just show the train crash that is the development process in pursuit of those goals.

i'm seeing lots of emotions for some reason. don't like a wm? use something else. is a developer from another project harassing you? say "no. go away. shoo". this is just silly

Maybe you know this, but gtk is not gnome - it's an intermediate dependency on which gnome is built. As such, it's also a very useful tool for building other applications desktop environments, and window managers.

The developers of gnome also have the keys to the gtk project.

One approach for the Gnome and GTK devs would be to consider Gnome as one (albeit very important, but just one) client of GTK among all the other big users of GTK. Instead, they are changing GTK with complete disregard to anything that is not the Gnome.

What's an apt metaphor...

Imagine if the private companies that owned the infrastructure of the internet wanted to charge consumers differentially based on how they used the wire. Now, as owners of the infrastructure, you might say that's totally within their power.

OR you might say, the service that is transmitted by the wire is greater than just the infrastructure underneath it, and you, private company, are under an obligation to provide fair access to all it's uses.

Was that helpful? Probably not - metaphors are lies anyway.

So let's try to explain the emotion part. Gnome devs are saying, "Look we don't know or care about the millions of hours you've put in your software because it's not Gnome."

So,emotions? Yes! This is peoples life work, and projects they have helped make successful are turning their backs on them and apparently completely ignorant of their own audacity. "I don't know what XFCE is." - wtf

I think it's upsetting particularly because it seems like there could be a much more amicable way forward if gnome would consider itself as it is, just one (very important) of the many clients of GTK.

With great power comes great... aww fuck it I use xmonad anyway.

"use something else" doesn't help if one of the two[1] primary linux toolkits is constantly breaking things in order to bend applications into their branding. That kind of shit bleeds out.

[1]Actually it's worse than one of the two because QT has been so tightly coupled for so long (and I seem to recall some licensing stuff earlier on) GTK is really closer to the primary toolkit for non desktop specific apps.

GNOME, and Red Hat projects in general, have a long history of pushing things through with dependency nepotism. GNOME was used to push PulseAudio and Network Manager, Network Manager doesn't work without DBus, ConsoleKit and PolicyKit running, PulseAudio strongly suggests installing and enabling Avahi, Gnome Shell doesn't run outside Mutter, udev can only be built along with systemd and journald, GNOME 3 wants you to initialize the system with systemd otherwise some functionality will be broken, GNOME 3 requires GTK3 which breaks themes for any application running in GTK2, Gvfs only works through Nautilus, etc etc etc...


You're really missing the point. For example, this story about the developer isn't about harrassment, it's about the complete misunderstanding of other projects and how they work.

umm... my point is, you're free to ignore someone, tell them to go away, not use their software, etc. you can do whatever you want with your project (within reasonable limits, obviously. i would normally not add a qualifier, but you seem like a picky fellow). and they can do whatever they want (same qualifier)

You know, if I wanted to add toggle button back to the dialogue box, do I really need to fork the Gnome project just to get it back? Seriously?

This is a very problematic approach for developers who are looking to commit to a library for years.

In the least, it leads to extremely inefficient resource usage as you have to constantly rewrite everything, or just abandon your app.

So, if we go back in history, what could developers do when choosing their libraries? They would need some kind of assurance that it's not going to change a lot. Perhaps a foundation with rules that require voting and a large majority to change guiding principles and rules.

We need predictability in software development, like we do need in other industries and avenues of life. It is very very valuable in real tangible terms.

They can but they shouldn't.

If they develop an OPEN library that's meant to be used on more than one environment, by making the library closed to GNOME, you're betraying everyone that chose the library because of it's openness.

It's basically a shot in the foot since the DE itself is useless without apps that work on it. If devs (which is not even improbable) start leaving GTK they will feel the pain even more.

Allan Day is not a developer. The blog didn't quote any GTK+ developer or maintainer.

"this story" refers to McCann's comments on Transmission in the article.

No, they are telling software developers making "third-party" software to remove features from their software because gnome developers don't use them.

ignorantGuru (the author of that article) ended up talking to Benjamin Otte, the lead developer behind GTK+ currently, about ignorantGuru, about the issue of themes breaking. Otte explained the reasons behind this, and acknowledged not ideal communication and developers and encouraged more to get involved to steer the project in a way that they find desirable. https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=687752#c9 As they say, put up, or hack up.

On the one hand, I don't like Gnome's attitude. On the other hand, I love elementary OS even though it has a similar approach and it builds on Gnome. I think I excuse the behavior because they actually pull off the experience well :/

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