GNOME developer quote of the day

I am no longer using GNOME but Xfce and this has nothing to do with GNOME Shell. I already switched a long time ago. But as the (co-)maintainer of several terminals in Fedora, I wondered how to enable users to easily switch their default terminal emulator in GNOME 3.

In the past users could just select the their favorite terminal in gnome-default-applications-properties. Some things required additional configuration: For a mail client the system needs to know the command to compose a new mail or to add attachments and for a terminal emulator an option to run something in a terminal is required. Developers could pre-configure these values with an xml file in $(prefix)/gnome-control-center/default-apps.

When I asked how to do all this in GNOME 3, Bastien (who helped to invent this nice mechanism in GNOME 2) after a little back and forth told me how things work in GNOME 3. They don’t…

Because we’re not designing a desktop for people who like to choose their own terminal emulators.

This “We are not designing a desktop for people who …” has become a new meme. GNOME 3 is not designed for people

and many other people I forgot. If GNOME continues to narrow down their target audience like this, I wonder if there is actually somebody left.

Simple tasks like selecting a preferred application are made very hard just to then claim “This is something only hackers do”. In the past one could just remove the accessibility or bluetooth icons from the panel by not starting them, now one needs to write extensions for that purpose. One even needs an extension to move the clock. But wait: Is GNOME 3 designed for people who know how to write extensions?

If you think that GNOME is still a nice desktop after all and should not become too simplistic, please support my RFE by adding your two cents. Too bad voting in GNOME’s bugzilla is disabled.

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89 Kommentare

  1. Thank you for collecting those quotes and exposing a worrying trend in the GNOME development.

  2. I do not understand what gnome is trying to do, become MS ?, is closed source their next move ?. Or is it that they just want to work less ?

    I’ve been using computers for an eternity, hence, I understand your points of views, and theirs, except they are not MS, but an open source project. So, like you, people will move away from gnome, and I predict, from Fedora.

    Gnome has become a dictatorship.

    1. @jam19 I think a desktop environment (or any other project for that matter ) design can only move in one direction at a time.

      AFAIK You are always welcome and free to fork its development to your own project and create your community.

      So calling it dictatorship, and comparing it to MS, sounds really far fetched and borderline sensationalist.
      I dont care to much about gnome myself, I use kde and i am a happy camper. People have been crying for innovation on window manager for almost decades now.

      1. So calling it dictatorship, and comparing it to MS, sounds really far fetched and borderline sensationalist.

        Well, no wonder, because …

        I use kde and i am a happy camper

      2. I think that compare GNOME with a dictatorship Its right. That posture of “if you dont’t like it go away” sounds preety much like “if you don’t like how I do things in my country go to other country (or make your own if you can)” wich is not very democratic.

        Make a fork every time you don’t like something from an application or desktop is not really a good thing. Thats why we have a lot of distros that don’t diference from each other, because people don’t want to listen other people’s opinion

    2. They are not becoming a dictatorship, they are trying to make Linux appeal to a wider audience of non-enthusiasts. They don’t want everyone to use their desktop. If you don’t like it, there are plenty of alternatives.

  3. You’re completely right, Christoph. I no longer use GNOME and I find this trend very disturbing. I hope they change course back to where they were before. Thanks for posting this.

  4. If any of you have read the comments about GNOME3 on their website, you would know that all these functions are accessible, and will be accessible by default in future revisions. There is already a sponsored “tweaks” program–many of the things you gripe about here are easily solved by installing that package. As they say on their website, their first concern was building the fundamentals–which they’ve done–and now they are working on extending it. The extension set up allows anyone to easily create new features for anyone to use. Just because there hasn’t been much time to build extensions doesn’t mean that GNOME is a dictatorship.

    1. Jerry, thanks for mentioning gnome-tweak-tool.

      Currently only 3 out of 8 things I mentioned can be configured in gnome-tweak-tool. However this cannot be the solution for the preferred terminal.

      1. I consider selecting the terminal emulator not a tweak but a very basic task, just like selecting the default browser and mail client.
      2. The framework I proposed requires that developers and package maintainers add some additional information to the *.desktop file. How many will do this if they cannot be sure users will benefit?
      3. Without that info gnome-tweak-tool will not be able to set the terminal’s exec-arg correctly.

      You are right that the lack of extensions doesn’t mean dictatorship. I even think it’s wrong to expect democracy in software development. Software and Free Software in particular is meritocracy: Those who do the work are to set the rules. There is nothing wrong with this but still they should listen for user input as they try to build a something not for themselves but for the users.

      When I see bugs like this one I am shocked. If a developer claims “users don’t want this” but then user statements and bug reports prove him wrong, he should reconsider his opinion. This is just ignorant and I so far have only seen this ignorance from GNOME developers.

      Users vote with their feet and the exodus from GNOME land has already begun.

      1. The developer you argued with in bug 485846 (cited in your comment) defended with the same arrogance the decision of letting console users install and update packages without entering the root password. As in this case, he was claiming having chosen “good defaults” and that everybody else was wrong…

        (Notably, the “install” part of that decision was reverted after a community uproar. What however went largely unnoticed is the fact that the “update” part of the decision stayed, so that administrators have to actively tweak their Fedora systems to prevent users from performing updates behind their back.)

    2. As they say on their website, their first concern was building the fundamentals–which they’ve done–and now they are working on extending it.

      And they said they weren’t going to pull a KDE 4.0.

  5. I’ve always disliked Gnome not so much for the actual interface so much as for the developers condescending attitude toward their users.
    Linus coined a phrase to describe Gnome developers a few years back, he called them “interface nazis”. He coined this phrase because of their statements that they knew best for their users and the Gnome users were only confused by simple configuration options.
    Ive always avoided Gnome as a desktop because I prefer to customize my system, and having to jump through unnecessary hoops to do so because the developers intentionally make simple changes complex to encourage users to use the defaults, is in my opinion is extremely condescending to their users and possibly borders on actual contempt.

  6. Ok, and now we all take a deep breath and calm down a little. While I do agree with many of the comments here and especially with those who complain about the arrogance and ignorance of certain developers, I don’t want this to become a general GNOME rant. I would rather like to see support or a technical (!) debate about how to best implement a mechanism to select the preferred terminal emulator in Bugzilla or on Fedora desktop list. Thanks!

    1. That’s a bandage on the gangrenous wound that is GNOME.
      It’s really important to put that bandage on until you can get the antibiotics (a shift in GNOME’s internal structure) or amputate (drop GNOME, change the default desktop, or outright fork GNOME).

      It’s a (needed) workaround of a problem.
      Seriously, working to fix that which doesn’t want to be fixed is a bit… misguided, I think.

  7. I just upgraded to Gnome3 but Frankly I am going to install Xfce now and use it. We want evolution in technology but not idiocracy

  8. If the preferred applications technology was a specification and based not in a single desktop environment but across many different environments, then we could complain that they simply don’t support the standards.

    It’s probably about time we used the space the gnome3 developers have given us to sponsor development of the specification on and provide the right kind of generic non-gui foundation for the implementation.

    I believe the web browser has an existing spec, it should probably be widened to include all sorts of other applications.

    1. Wouldn’t this be solved by xdg-utils?
      I seem to recall reading something about xdg-terminal…

    2. Martin, thanks for sharing these interesting thoughts.

      It should be easy to implement a preferred application spec because it could be based on the menu entry spec. All it needs is some more keys and Xfce has already implemented this years ago. However they ship additional *.desktop files in $(prefix)/share/xfce4/helpers/ and (had to) prefix the additional keys with “X-XFCE-“, e.g. “X-XFCE-CommandsWithParameter”.

      It would be nice if we had this cross-desktop and there we no more prefixes. Desktops then no longer needed to ship their own *.desktop files but could use the ones from $(prefix)/share/applications/. This is basically what I proposed in my RFE in GNOME bugzilla but I will come up with my idea on the xdg mailing list if time permits.

      However I am not too optimistic that would help us, I’m afraid GNOME 3 would just ignore it as it ignores other standards: The systemtray spec is no longer fully implemented, the menu-entry spec is violated, and libnotify was changed incompatible to the the desktop notification spec (ok, not really freedesktop, but Galago).

      Same goes for Unity. It too doesn’t use the notification spec any longer and violates the menu entry spec. Do developers still care about freedesktop? I guess this is question is for another blog post.

  9. It’s amusing, it seems that there are some areas in which GNOME 3 is trying too hard to appeal to new users. I mean, offering an option for default terminal isn’t something MOST users will care about, to be quite honest, but having the option wouldn’t reflect too poorly on GNOME, methinks. I think GNOME 3 will wind back a bit with some of the functionality and features that they’ll discover are essential, but I don’t think those are along the lines of changing the core design. I think that’s solid.

    Don’t give me my window buttons back, they just get in the way at this point. I don’t need a cluttered mess of notification icons doing nothing useful in my taskbar. I like a centered clock. But of course, offering a simple set of options, even through an Alt+Right-Click like in Fallback Mode, probably wouldn’t HURT anyone.

    The main issue is that the GNOME developers were focused on completing their vision to accuracy and stability, and they honestly didn’t have a ton of time to consider things that aren’t really necessary. After all, many distributions won’t use GNOME 3 immediately, and there are a wealth of customizable, GNOME-2 like environments out there that can still benefit from GTK 3 applications in the future, as developers migrate their code.

    I do think KDE sets a good example for how you can be beautiful and simple without completely gutting the configuration system. However, I just think the GNOME developers are quite focused on their vision (and few in number), and it’s more valuable to their time to execute what the GNOME environment is meant to become than to allow for every possible variation when many users won’t use it.

    That’s what GNOME 2 was- an environment BEGGING for tweaking. I think the major reason for people to be upset is that GNOME 2 in Ubuntu kind of became the poster-child for desktop Linux, and they just hate the idea of finding something else to be that ultra-customizable, one size fits all environment.

    I think Xfce fills that niche quite well, and I honestly never found GNOME 2 all that impressive in comparison. The only thing it really had back then was official support from the GNOME project, while Xfce was completely extraneous.

    1. Gnome 2 was an environment begging for a way that end users could configure things like KDE users could.

      Most projects add configuration options to keep their end users happy and give them a better customized experience. KDE often has the problem of trying to figure out out to arrange all of those options into an easy to find and use interface. Gnome has taken the opposite tact.

      Almost from the inception of Gnome 2, the developers have had the mindset of “sane” defaults. If we have sane defaults, then the user will not need to customize anything. Once a developer would touch something and declare the defaults sane, they would start removing configuration options. Sometimes moving them to the gconf-editor AKA the regedit.exe of the Linux world.

      I would also agree with the comment that tying to fix something the Gnome Dev’s don’t want is a waste of time. Gnome Devs often remark if you don’t like something, then stop complaining and code a solution. Linus Torvalds did that once with a print dialog.He remarked to the Gnome team about the dialog missing such and such an option. Gnome folks remarked that it was a stupid option and could not be done well. Linus takes 3 hours and codes the feature he wants and shows them exactly how good it looks and well it would fit in. The Gome Devs tell him at that point that end users don’t need that feature, the defaults are there for a reason and they reject his patch.

      I you use KDM (the kde login manager) you can logout OR reboot OR shutdown from inside of Gnome or KDE, because the KDE design team went the extra mile to make this work. With GDM (the gome login manager), you are only prompted with the logout option if you are on a kde desktop.

      They are not exactly big fans of interoperability or giving end users configuration options. Because they are not designing a desktop for people who like to configure how their desktop operates.

    1. Greg, there is nothing wrong with scrotwm, however it is something completely different and never had the same target audience like GNOME. Lets try not to start a “which desktop/window manager is the coolest” competition.

      1. And, yet, that’s exactly what this blog article is all about — Gnome isn’t designed for you. Remember?

        Scrotwm, XMonad, dwm, et. al. are all designed for people who want a no-BS desktop experience.

        Xfce, LWDE, et. al. are all designed for people who want a little more than what Scrotwm and XMonad offer.

        Gnome and KDE are designed for people who want still more. A lot more.

        I’m actually rather surprised that I haven’t read anything on the ROX-Desktop effort yet. My ideal environment would basically consist of an environment with tight integration with ROX-Filer. I just wish it weren’t designed to use GTK.

  10. I like the fundamental approach of GNOME3, but I too am irked by the lack of customizability. While simplicity is a good thing overall, it should never be implemented at the cost of capability. In fact, I think the GNOME developers have a queer point of view. They seem to think that simplicity is brought about by removing capability instead of making complex tasks easier to do. Many people often point to OS X as being the paradigm of a capable GUI and it isn’t hard to see why; OS X is simple when you’re doing simple tasks, but if a user *wanted* to do something complex he could. In fact, those complex tasks are usually made easier because a developer made the necessary steps to accomplish said tasks intuitive.

    It should be the same with GNOME3. Users shouldn’t *have* to install an extra package just to tweak the fonts or change the icon. The capability should be built in. Right click -> Desktop Settings -> Icons. That isn’t hard. Put it in. A technological ignoramus would have far more difficulty navigating a repository looking for an obscure package. In fact, they wouldn’t know to do that in the first place.

    Also, why are the accessibility tools built into the top bar by default? Why can’t it be removed? It’s there to help a very, very small segment of users – not to be in the way for the rest of us.
    And the notification system. It’s crap. It really is. I will be typing or playing Wesnoth and I’ll get up to get a tasty beverage and come back to continue my game without realizing that my mother was bugging me on Facebook because the notification area hides by default. Yes, it shows up when the overview for gnome-shell activates but I don’t check that very often when I’m gaming or typing up a report. When a notification is received, the notification bar should pop-up so the user can see what is going on. If things don’t change soon, I’ll just switch to something else. I mean, I am enjoying giving GNOME3 a chance and the way it handles workspaces is a blast, but because I can’t actually DO anything with it I won’t actually use it.

    I would also like to note that when I was installing Linux on my mother’s computer (she isn’t a very techie person – in the slightest) I went with Elementary OS; I really thought that Unity and Gnome 3 would be FAR too confusing for her to use. And I was right.

  11. One the other hand, I do appreciate that it is easier to build a streamlined user experience if they don their apple jackboots over UI design.

    This is no comfort however if their choices differ from the users.

    Regardless, happy KDE user here.

  12. Christopher, I share your concerns, by a few years 🙂 Since I am using RHEL6.1, I am a few years behind what’s happening in the real world (which is a benefit to some, a drawback to others) but for me that’s work 😉

    Whereas you are confronted with those long-term decisions immediately, I can still hope that Gnome will acknowledge their mistake before Red Hat forks Fedora and it affects me. So I have the liberty to expect decisions to change for the better and to hope for the best. So while I understand your change, I hope the message becomes clear for the Gnome project and doesn’t fade with people leaving :-/

    That said I was a supporter when Gnome decided to reduce the number of configuration options, but you have extremes in both directions. I think Gnome is loosing its balance in the other direction now…

    1. I installed KUbuntu on my box, and crashed KDE 4 in 35 seconds by just resizing a window. While I think the Qt toolkit is pretty solid, I’m convinced KDE is nowhere near ready for prime-time yet. 🙁

  13. It is curious that, with the focus asserted being on casual “real-world” users, that like Tyler, I have to agree that neither gnome3 nor unity are actually usable as such by such users at present. On the other hand, I had used xfce off and on over the years, and found in it’s present form (4.8) it is indeed able to fill all the workflows I had relied on with gnome (2), and also offers some distinct advantages of it’s own as well. It also can of course also be customized in ways that do actually make it far more approachable to such users as well, just as gnome (2) could also be. I really do like that the goal of xfce is not to re-invent themselves or try to redefine how they think users should use the environment or how to lockdown how it “looks”, but rather simply try to produce the best and most functional xfce possible each release, something that I think gnome, and in particular unity, have completely lost sight of.

    KDE is of course another excellent option, though I never personally came to feel comfortable with it. Perhaps too it gets even unfairly pegged as “heavyweight” by some, because it’s not really so, and they do have some very nice ideas of their own. They also have found a rather excellent way to introduce entirely new interface paradigms without having to kill off existing users and use cases in the process through plasma activity workspaces.

  14. @Jack, Tyler, Dag and possibly others:
    I agree with you: It’s not that I reject GNOME 3 outright. I fact I like the concept, although it’s not how I like to work. What I like most about GNOME 3 is that developers have been brave and it is a big step. But is it a step into the right direction?

    I think another dropdown to select the preferred terminal emulator wouldn’t hurt. Same for the language and keyboard selectiors in GDM. The latter wasn’t perfect as it offered no variants, but it was good enough for people to at least log in. Now we have a lot of users complaining or asking how to change the language. This needs to happen before the installation because the language during install will become the system language of the installed system. My request include system-config-language on the Fedora Desktop Live-CD was ignored, there is no way to change the system-wide language.

    While I have to agree that ‘minimize’ buttons are not really needed in gnome-shell in it’s current form, I dislike the way this decision was made: It was based on a usability survey – by exactly two (!) people from the GNOME Shell team (!!). The libnotify changes were never discussed in public although libnotify is the base of a widely adopted specification.

    So it’s not that I am not happy with GNOME per se but with different aspects, mainly the lack of configuration options.

    These three examples are show what the GNOME development looks like. Valid requests are rejected and often it comes down to “We don’t want”, “We don’t care” and “We will not”. Period. Full stop.

    I could go on complaining about the attitude of some developers but I’ll better stop now because I don’t want to start a general desktop flame war.

  15. When I started my Linux adventure in 2005, my first distro I had ever installed was Mandrake (later Mandriva, and of course, now Mageia), which, by default, used a KDE desktop. I loved the KDE 3.x series — a LOT! And then, KDE 4 came out in early 2008, and it sucked so bad that I left and haven’t returned, although I’ve recently toyed with the idea of a possible return to KDE.

    Naturally, I switched to GNOME and Ubuntu. GNOME was a lot of fun, but a little over a year ago, I got to where I had it up HERE with the arrogance of the GNOME community, including the hateful and spiteful attitudes of a few certain people on GNOME-Look, and I wasn’t looking for a fight or anything. That drove me to Xfce a little over a year ago, and it’s now my desktop environment of choice.

    And then here while back, in the controversy surrounding Ubuntu and Banshee, I ran across a bit of a fight that took place between a Ubuntu developer and GNOME’s founder, Miguel de Icaza. Now what Ubuntu did wasn’t exactly right, either, but after what happened at, that offended me so badly that I have vowed I will NEVER use GNOME again. I don’t give a rat’s rear end what direction GNOME takes in the future, Miguel de Icaza himself offended me so badly with that statement that he’s lost a GNOME user PERMANENTLY as far as I’m concerned.

    1. I think the move from KDE 3 to 4 is a good example of how things should work: When KDE 4.0 was released, everybody was annoyed and started complaining but by KDE 4.2 or 4.3 it was quite usable again. This means 1-1,5 years were required for stabilization and given the move from qt3 to qt4, I consider this a reasonable time frame. This being said I am optimistic that GNOME 3.2 or 3.4 will be much better again.

      One thing that was important however was that the KDE developers listened to the criticism from the community. The classic menu and the classic desktop returned – not by default but one could easily configure it. No need for a special tweak tool or the command line.

      I am not sure if GNOME developers are open for input and I am almost certain they will not bring back any configuration options because history tells us that the number of settings was reduced with every GNOME release. And this is why I am not so optimistic about GNOME any longer.

      But now for something completely different: Why do you feel offended by Miguel? Were you the one to decide that GNOME’s store will be disabled in Ubuntu? I think that Miguel overreacted but I can understand him. Canonical used much of GNOME but never contributed much back. Now with Unity they have even forked it and very little will return to GNOME upstream. If they then start cutting the money, I would be pi**ed, too.

      1. I disagree over the point that Ubuntu has a liability to contribute to GNOME with code because they use the desktop environment. I mean, why should they? That’s kind of one of the boons of open source software – it’s free to use. Not ‘free to use until you’re large enough to give back to it then everyone will give you a menacing glare if you don’t.’ I mean, I know some programming and I use GNOME – am I expected to contribute to the GNOME project? I also use Gedit, am I expected to contribute to that also? The fact of the matter is, is that Canonical’s resources are tied up elsewhere and it’s their resources to use anyhow.

        And it’s not like what they’re doing is not contributing to open source. The more popular their distribution gets, the more new users will be drawn into using open source software. The more users, the more attention open source gets. The more attention open source gets, the more volunteers it gets and the more corporations pay attention to it. So, by proxy, Ubuntu is helping GNOME by simply being popular.

        That being said, I *do* agree with you about how the GNOME project needs to be conducted similar to how the KDE project was and is being conducted; it’s fine if you want to introduce a new desktop methodology, just don’t sacrifice the features your user base wants. At the very least, include them as an option. :/

      2. “but by KDE 4.2 or 4.3 it was quite usable again.”

        I kept trying through KDE 4.5 and never found it nearly as usable as KDE 3. I finally gave up on KDE altogether.

        Personally I believe that both KDE and Gnome have worked together to demonstrate what can go wrong with changing paradigms and major rewrites.

  16. It would appear that in trying to mimic Apple, they have copped the attitude, as well. Hubris is an equal opportunity destroyer.

  17. I’ve been first a MS DOS and than a Windows user since about 1982. Around 1999 or 2000 I heard about Linux, so I bought a couple of books, each of which had a free Red Hat disc in them. So, I’d install it, play around with it and eventually go back to Windows. Back than 90% of your work had to be done via a terminal. Gnome didn’t do a whole lot back than! As the years past, every now and again, I’d get a “wild hair” and try Linux again, just to see how it was progressing. The advent of “Live CDs” influenced that! Seems there was always something like drivers or some other compatibility issue holding it up.

    Anyway, I downloaded Ubuntu 11.04 and tried it, everything seemed to work, including my microphone input which I could never get working with Win Vista or Win 7! I tried the Unity desktop for about a week and finally gave up and went to the “Classic Ubuntu” which I have no problems with. I tried the Gnome 3 sample Live CD from the website, everything was going good as it was loading, than the video tore up so I couldn’t make out anything. That was the end of that! I also joined the mailing list. Every time someone complained about this or that, the answer was “well all you have to do is use this hot key combination: or “why would you want to do that” as in restart your computer! What a bunch of baloney! No one wanted to hear legitimate complaints. If you couldn’t say something good, don’t say anything! Truth is the work flow is terrible, what once was a mouse click is now 2 or 3 or a hot key combo known only to the gods. Maybe we’ll need 2 mice before long!

    BTW, I understand that the person who designed the Unity desktop is the one who designed Compiz. In case you hadn’t noticed, most of the Compiz special effects do not work with Ubuntu 11.04, even with Gnome 2! Strange coincidence! He now works for Canonical!

    What doesn’t understand is that desktop computing isn’t smart phone computing! With 20 inch and up monitors now common place the desktop user doesn’t suffer from the lack of real estate that you find on a tiny smart phone screen!

    I predict that Gnome 3, and further Ubuntu and the Unity desktop will be the Win 2000 and Win ME of the Linux world! As for me, I’m testing 6 different distros now using Gnome 2, or Xcfe and even E17 desktops and unless they change, it will be a cold day in Florida when I switch back to Gnome or even Ubuntu for that matter. Just too many other good distros and desktops to choose from.

    1. “BTW, I understand that the person who designed the Unity desktop is the one who designed Compiz.”

      That is incorrect. Mark Shuttleworth did not design Compiz.

    2. Windows 1.0 was released during the tail-end of 1985. Yeah, I know — when you look back that far, it’s all a blur. 😉

  18. Excellent post.
    While i dont have any respect for Mark Shuttleworth he was right about one thing. GNOME lacks leadership. While GNOME was a software stack supported by many companies in the past, it is now Red Hat’s fortress. Red Hat has moved into being a cloud computing company. They dont care about the desktop.
    The only interesting thing that can happen now, if for Fedora community members to vote for KDE as the primary desktop for next release. Slim chances of that happening but one can only hope.

    1. Hey, happened with OpenSUSE, didn’t it? In fact, apparently, while most ideas get upvoted in the beginning then get downvoted and eventually taper, the KDE-by-default suggestion simply got upvote after upvote. You never know until you try.

  19. I’m running a small IT company based entirely on GNU/Linux and FOSS. Until recently, the company’s services (root server, LAN server, desktops, everything) ran on either a mix of CentOS/Fedora, or on Ubuntu/Kubuntu 10.04 LTS. The recent developments – or regressions, depends on how you call the outcome of the innovation frenzy that seems to have contaminated everything – has led me to conclude earlier this month to move everyhing to Slackware 13.37: desktops, LAN servers, root servers. What can a poor boy say, except that working is fun again, Slackware is as stable and reliable – and customizable – as you can get, and I can sleep well at night. In France, they say you always come back to your first love. My first contact with Linux was indeed Slackware, back in 2001. I can only recommend it to anyone, it’s a breath of fresh air.

  20. “I am not sure if GNOME developers are open for input and I am almost certain they will not bring back any configuration options because history tells us that the number of settings was reduced with every GNOME release. ”

    I don’t think that is accurate. I distinctly recall the huge cry when GNOME 1.4 went away and got replaced with GNOME 2.0. GNOME 2.x revisions steadily added back various options in a different form that were not present in GNOME 2.0 but was in 1.4 and that trend continued till the latest 2.x release. I will admit this process wasn’t linear and if you don’t go back far enough, you might get a different perspective.

  21. I see the point of GNOME developers. A simple desktop environment has actually a very wide target audience. Most normal users use the system as it is without any big tweaking. Too many options could even make harm. A few months ago, my mom’s notebook died and I found a quick temporary replacement in a 10-year old laptop. Unfortunately, it was too weak for GNOME 2 so I installed LXDE which is very simple with no options and no apps. I didn’t have any call from her during this period (she called quite regularly for tech support when using GNOME 2). It was first time I realized there is something about simplified desktop.
    However, simplifying the desktop environment is walking on the edge. It’s really easy to get over the edge and make a decision which doesn’t even benefit normal, unexperienced users and have no audience. For example, removing the power off button. Literally no one, no user have talked to in the last few months (and I’ve talked to many people about it) didn’t understand and like this decision. What’s actually wrong about GNOME is not trying to simplify it to make it more suitable for the most users, but the way decisions are made. If it’s made the way that a small group of developers thinks users don’t want it, it’s just wrong. They are not the target audience, even people who provide feedback in mailing lists, bugzillas etc. are not the target audience. The only way to get feedback from normal users is running usability tests which GNOME doesn’t do at all.
    Another threat is that targeting solely on normal users might lead to losing experienced users and contributors. GNOME is an open source project and contributors are vital. GNOME is trying to target a much wider audience and risking a lot because it may lose all (what it has now). So it’s worth considering to make compromises towards the current Linux user base. The control center + GNOME tweak tool may work and there are a few more issues left in the default settings (e.g. the power-off button).

    1. It’s not that I don’t understand where the GNOME developers are coming from, I just think they’re doing it in a poor way. The fact of the matter is that the DE should be usable by bot h experienced users and new users. Look at OS X, it’s hailed as one of the most easily usable operating systems out there but complex tasks are still easy to do.

      Sure, complex menus shouldn’t be thrown in a users face but functionality shouldn’t be removed.

  22. The issues around the locale and login screen are clearly just bugs. The other things are no more restrictive than, say, OS X, and you could hardly describe that as a failure — Mac is increasingly the desktop of choice for many of the same markets that Linux is aiming for, eg students and web developers.

    1. Oh, and Apple also disprove the theory that a small group of people can’t make good decisions without doing usability tests — Apple do little, if any conventional usability testing.

    2. Well, the problems with locale and keyboard and login were design decisions, please read the thread I have linked.

      For the keyboard selection the logic was: we cannot do it completely right because we cannot offer all variants, so we don’t do it at all. For the locale there was no real logic except from “we are not going to bring it back”.

  23. I agree with the general sentiment behind this post. There is no such thing as the “average user”, many individual users have particular unusual needs or desires, and not allowing those represents a barrier to entry for using the system. (And this will become more true, as people without unusual needs or desires increasingly use tablets instead of any Gnome-based system.)

    However, I have been using Gnome (via Ubuntu) since 2005 … and I have never, ever, been able to figure out what setting a “default terminal emulator” actually does.

    I understand the purpose of the rest of the old “Preferred Applications” settings, even if I’m dubious about its interface. Changing my default mail client changes what happens when I click a mailto: link in a Web page. Changing my default Web browser affects what happens when I click an http:/https: link anywhere else (except in Thunderbird, for some reason). But what does changing a default terminal emulator do? As is too often the case, the “Help” is no help here: it’s just a description of the interface, not an explanation of what it does.

    Do Windows or Mac OS X let you choose a “default terminal emulator”? If so, where? And if not, how do they get away with it?

    1. Did you use terminal-based applications on a regular base, for example mutt? There you have it: It’s used when clicking on a mailto link, too. Same for http(s) if you use a terminal based browser. But most important it is used when you have a launcher in the menu or on the desktop and you check “Run in terminal”. Last but not least it’s used for nautilus-open-terminal if installed.

      So if you had used the terminal a lot, I am sure you knew the meaning of this setting. The fact that you don’t doesn’t indicate that nobody else knows it or the setting is useless.

      Also what other OSes do says absolutely nothing about GNOME. This is Linux after all. KDE, Xfce and LXDE let you select the default terminal emulator.

      1. I use the terminal almost daily. So if even I didn’t know what a “default terminal emulator” is, then yes, I will regard that as a hint that maybe the setting shouldn’t exist. If a setting is so mysterious that it’s more likely to be changed accidentally than deliberately, it doesn’t mean the setting is useless, but it does mean the system is probably better off without it.

        Your examples of how it would be used all seem like artificial layers of abstraction. An executable without a .desktop file (like mutt) could be treated as a filetype just like any other, with a default handler just like any other, overridable for individual executables if desired. That would let you (for example) set gnome-terminal as the handler for mutt, while Terminator was the default terminal for every other command-line app.

        “This is Linux after all” is irrelevant. Android uses Linux, doesn’t have a default terminal emulator setting, and is wildly popular regardless.

  24. Now I do agree with most of things and Enlightment could be awesome option and it’s not Gnome hate war but KDE is just too big for eyes Gnome is moving away from simplicity XCFE needs that final touch Enlightments is a new ray of hope i guess.

  25. @Tyler:
    No you don’t have to contribute to GNOME just because you use it. But you are not Canonical. You are not a multi-national company, are you? You are not basing your business model on GNOME, are you? If you were, it would be in your very own interest that all the upstream projects you depend on are alive and kicking.

    And honestly, I can’t stand this “Ubuntu is helping Linux just by being popular” thing any longer. Sure, Ubuntu attracts new users and some of them become contributors. But as long as they don’t become contribute upstream there is very little win.

    1. Yeah, but still, even multi-national companies have a limited amount of resources. Canonical also ships with gcc, gdb, GRUB, Pitivi, Debian based tools such as apt, Python 2.X, Sudo,, and a host of other essential packages. Its ‘business model’ is based more on the X server than GNOME by far – should Canonical use its limited number of developers to write code for the X server? If so, how much? What about the GNU software packages? What about GRUB? How many resources should be spent helping Debian develop the apt tools? There are far more important free software projects than GNOME that Canonical uses for its insanely popular distribution. If Canonical chose to do so, it could drop GNOME and develop a shell based off of XFCE but it cannot, and I mean cannot, replace and still have an easily manageable distribution. Does that mean Canonical should spend more resources helping the X server guys out than the GNOME guys? GNOME is just the most visible free software project that Canonical employs.

      Also keep in mind that Canonical has only ~400 employees and not all of those employees are developers; they’re not Microsoft. Between Launchpad, Bazaar, Ubuntu, Ubuntu derivatives, and other projects that contribute to open source software such as upstart and quickly Canonical’s resources are spread pretty thin. Oh, and Launchpad – should all the ‘large’ developer teams using Launchpad pay homage to that system by helping with its development process? Do you think Canonical feels like it is being taken advantage of when people and groups use its services without giving anything back?

      What do you think would happen if, say, Launchpad started suffering because the developers who maintained it started fixing GNOME bugs? Think about all those developers that use Launchpad to not only maintain their code but distribute their projects via PPAs as well.

      And Ubuntu doesn’t really base its ‘business model’ off of GNOME – GNOME is pretty irrelevant. Doesn’t Canonical use its server version – a version that doesn’t provide any emphasis on a GUI – as a method of generating revenue, not their desktop version? In fact, I wonder what dumping the desktop version would do to their profit margins. Oh, and it *is* in my interest that upstream packages stay alive, I’m using them after all.

      If I recall correctly, this whole uproar started when a statistical report was published that showed that Red Hat contributed more code to GNOME than Canonical (they also contribute more code to the Linux kernel as well – I guess that isn’t as sensational though). Well, Red Hat is a much larger company than Canonical by far. It makes more money, has more employees, and it has more offices. Blaming Canonical for contributing less than Red Hat to GNOME is like blaming Ethiopia for not contributing more soldiers than the U.S. in the World War II Allied war effort.

      Also, again, why is the ‘by proxy’ argument not a good one? The new users that Ubuntu wins over to open source do eventually contribute to upstream projects. I’ve heard countless stories of college/high school students finding Ubuntu (or a different easy to use distro) and then coding for some OSS project that took their fancy. It’s a pretty simple equation: The more attention to the open source world, the more development it gets. Would you still be angry if Ubuntu breaks ten million users and major game development companies start releasing their games for Linux? There’s a reason why there are so many proponents for that argument.

      And where did this idea that everyone owes everyone something in the open source world? That’s the boon of open source software, you can use it for free. You don’t owe the creator of that software anything at all. People keep framing the fact that Canonical doesn’t contribute to GNOME as much as other companies do like Canonical is doing something immoral. Whether or not it’s a good idea (would the improvement of the GNOME project benefit Canonical’s desktop usage for example) is debatable, but I don’t see it as them doing something inherently wrong or evil or unfair.

      I like to think of that one scene from ‘The Social Network’ when I type stuff like that. The one where the Winklevoss brothers ask Mark Zuckerburg about an application he wrote during high school and why he didn’t charge anything for it and Mark nonchalantly replies that ‘he didn’t really want to’ (or something along those lines). These projects are fueled by passion and, while it would be nice for the projects to receive help, it shouldn’t be demanded by the users of those projects from groups that use those projects. Nor is the possibility of those groups donating time, money, or code to other FOSS projects always feasible.

  26. Repeat this after me:

    “I am intelligent after all, I am adaptable. I can pick up the new technology, and learn what I need to know to get my work done in short order. “Alt+click” to get the shutdown dialogue? No problem. How long does it take to memorise that? How much energy does it take to whine about it?”

    I don’t know about y’all, but I got used to the new way of doing things in gnome3 in probably a few hours and I have been enjoying the new experience ever since.

    The trick? Despite the fact that I’m a grad student in computing (which means I’m probably a little bit more savvy than Joe and Jane Average), I thought myself to treat computers the way the average person treats technology:

    “pick it up, figure it out, get on with the rest of your life (that is, try to make money and get laid *wink*)”.

    Contrary to popular stereotype (where I reference my mum), I reference my dad. That guy does not care about technology. He sees it as a tool to be used and ignored. If he puts a CD into his car and it doesn’t start playing automatically, he regards the device as faulty.

    What’s special about him? Have you seen the way he changes tools? He wakes up today and decides he doesn’t like his Nokia phone any more. He walks into a store, picks up a Samsung, and he’s up and running and happy in as much time as it takes him to get someone to transfer his contacts.

    He doesn’t care at all about the user interface, or what colour the icons are, or where the clock display is. As long as he can find what he wants and do what he needs to, then its a good phone.

    This guy switches from Nokia dumbphones to Symbian based smartphones to Samsung clamshells to currently a Blackberry at the drop of a hat.

    If I pick up anything other than the phone I’ve been using for more than a year now, my head starts spinning. Why? because I am so stubborn that I want the clock to be in the top right corner on every darned device I use. I’m so stubborn that I want the settings window to be 4 clicks from pushing the menu button.

    What has that got me? Frustration, and sticking to antiquated devices because I don’t want change.

    When gnome 3 came out, I told myself, I am going to treat this the way my dad treats technology. It is just a tool. Don’t get attached to it. There are more important things in life.

    Ergo, I picked the new desktop up got used to it, and its second nature to me now. I even switched from Ubuntu (because I didn’t like the way Canonical was polarizing the community–you can agree or disagree, I don’t care, I’ve made my choice) to Fedora, leaving behind my wealth of expertise with apt-based systems.

    I am intelligent after all, I am adaptable. I can pick up the new technology, and learn what I need to know to get my work done in short order. “Alt+click” to get the shutdown dialog? No problem. How long does it take to memorise that? How much energy does it take to whine about it?

    1. There are quite a few fundamental misunderstandings:

      1. It’s not the user that is supposed to be adaptable, it’s the desktop. Tools are meant to serve their users, not to train them like a dog.
      2. The question is not how long it takes to memorize ALT+Click to shutdown, it’s how intuitive it is because intuitivity is GNOME’s primary design principle. So the question for the time becomes: “How long does it take Joe Average to figure out he has to press the ALT key if he never read about it?” Have your dad try it.
      3. Speaking of time: How long does it take to write an extension in JavaScript just to move a shell extension? Dragging a panel applet takes seconds, at least in GNOME 2. In GNOME 3 fallback mode you have to press ALT again and of course this cheat is not documented. Sure, your dad wont change a thing, he’d just get along with the default layout. But there is no one-size-fits-all for people. I mean, why did your dad have 3 different phones if he got along with the first one?
      4. It’s not that I dislike change. In fact I said I like it very much and I appreciate the GNOME developers have made a big step. But for several reasons I doubt it’s a step into the right direction: It’s not intuitive, it’s not adoptable, it’s not modular and it cannot be used by disabled persons because it lacks assistive technologies.
      5. Please don’t think I’m stubborn. If somebody is stubborn it’s the developers who simply claim “I’m not going to do this” despite of having no arguments and lots of users asking them to do it different.

      But there is one thing that I fully agree to: It’s just a tool, don’t get attached to it. Use the tool that fits you best because there are more important things in life. That is exactly why many people quit GNOME.

      1. I agree with everything here.

        I didn’t know that pressing ALT presented the ‘power off’ setting… I was just ‘sudo init 0ing’ to turn off my computer. :/

    1. Nope. RHEL/CentOS 6 are based on Fedora 12 and this wont change significantly. GNOME for example will not be updated from 2.28 as in Fedora 12 to 2.32 as in F14).

      1. Says here: gnome-panel-2.30.2-5.el6.1.R.i686.rpm

        Should that be Gnome 2.30 in RHEL 6.1? I believe that we can get EL to 2.32 level. This will be our Sputnik moment!

        Anyways would still Gnome 2.28 be lesser evil than Gnome 3? And it is supported by our beloved TUV on enterprise level!

        EL6.0 is available for free here:
        EL6.1 – here:

        Gnome 2 lives!

  27. Whether or not I’ll ever consider moving from GNOME2 to 3 will basically come down to whether the following keyboard mappings are trivial to set without installing some fly-by-night extension:

    A-` open new terminal
    C-$N switch to workspace $N
    C-S-$N move window to workspace $N
    C-A-$DIR move to workspace $DIR in {up,dn,left,right}
    A-S-v toggle maximize vertically
    A-S-h toggle maximize horizontally
    A-S-m minimize window

    Just my two cents.

    1. I don’t think this will work, at least for the virtual desktops: GNOME 3 has virtual desktops on demand, this means by default you only have two and you wont get a third one unless you place at least one application on the second desktop.

  28. I don’t know why people uses a very first release and only sees bad things… gnome 3 mainstream, since gentoo point of view, it’s at 60%. Far from being completed…
    What version of the kernel do you have? 2.6.39 or 3.0? I bet none of you are using 3.0, but it’s already in the mainstream.
    I don’t like gnome so much (I use it, I use all WM and DE I can, but I have no preference because I trend to open a terminal and work from there) but it’s easy to criticise things that are not yet completed.
    You should be more patient, stay in a stable and complete version and WAIT until release 3.2 will be released to enjoy a fully featured DE.

    (It remembers me the same flame war when KDE 4 came out…)

    1. Believe it or not, as a Fedora user I am indeed running a 3.0 kernel (even if it is called 2.6.40) and guess what: it still ships all the drivers the previous kernel had and not only 60% of them. 😉

      I do know that GNOME 3 is far from being finished and I do know that many things are coming back in 3.2. However I am worried about the features that were removed because GNOME developers claim nobody needs them. These features are not coming back, no matter how many users speak up and this shows an amazing amount of stubbornness from some developers.

  29. Why do the Gnome developers not use FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, or Dragonfly as a development platform? Bugs regarding the previously listed systems are files under WONTFIX or ENH(ancement) because the developers are afraid of getting their hands dirty.

  30. I gave my Windows loving other half the new Gnome 3 to play with and she hated it! So I went with Gnome 2, she loves it, finds it easy to use and alter stuff to how she wants. She hates Unity, but she thought KDE was pretty good, and if it was a toss up between KDE, Unity or Gnome 3 then she would go with KDE. If she could choose between KDE and Gnome 2 then she would be equally happy using both with perhaps a slight, ever so slight leaning toward gnome 2, but that was so small as to be negligible. She’s be happy to use either.

  31. I like linux but linux is going backwards. People who buy tablets buy them with tablet operating systems they donot want it on their desktop. I have a friend saw me running fedora 15 with gnome 3 and did not like it. He found hard to find anything even after I told him the basics. I did this with gnome 2 and he had no problem navigating and using it even faster than me but I am not a power user. Honestly I donot think gnome 3 has an audience. Me as an average linux user donot want and my average windows user friends donot like it. So much for simplifying it.

  32. After upgrading from FC14 to 16, the switch to GNOME 3 was a shock. After a bit of searching, I found the trick to using the alt key to change suspend to shutdown. And after more searching I found the extensions to hide what I don’t want, and show some of what I do.

    What I miss the most is the top and bottom panels. Technically the left side favorites is supposed to replace the icon shortcuts I could put in the top bar. But I can’t just click on an always visible icon anymore, I have to move the mouse to the upper left corner, then down to the oversized icons.

    The missing bottom panel makes it difficult to switch between running applications. I often have more than one terminal session running, along with Amarok, Firefox, and Thunderbird. I could just click on the application I wanted to switch to. Of if an application wanted my attention it would blink in the bottom panel.

    Alternatively I could use alt-tab to switch between applications. But even that is messed up now in the case of multiple terminal sessions running, because I have to alt-tab, then use the arrow keys to select which terminal session to go to. The grouping is annoying, and reminds me of Windows.

    Given the major changes made to the Gnome 3 interface, which took away the reasons I liked Gnome so much, it looks like I will be trying out and switching to a different desktop manager. From my perspective, this is like the major change in the interface between Amarok 1.4 and version 2. And that’s the reason I’m still running the old version…

  33. You stole the words from my mouth ! Amazing that it has been FIVE months since this article was written, yet the issues raised here are not even addressed by Gnome devs ! I’ve switched to KDE

  34. The silence on the part of GNOME 3 devs is deafening. Search for GNOME 3 and you find articles about how much it sucks, without even one attempt from a GNOME 3 fanboi to defend it.

    In fact, the GNOME 3 devs try to talk past what everybody else says about it, promoting how “beautiful” and “easy” it is without once stopping to explain why they believe all those people who say it sucks are wrong.

  35. Gnome is making a mistake about its potential users. The Gnome3 users wont be the users who first time ever started using computers with Gnome installed. Most of the users of Gnome and Linux in general are very experienced users who give a flying duck about what the terminal behavour is, what an alt key does etc. When you overwrite the alt key behavior then do not give me a way to change that behavior, that makes me mad as a user because “I cannot work with” what you offer me. This is not a visual/taste issue this is an efficiency of the user and usability problem. It took me 20 years to build up certain habits and most of them are good habits and I have zero intention about changing them. And G3 wont be able achieve that.

    We are using the same kinds of computers with same kinds of interfaces as in 20 years ago. So not much changed. But if one day we start using holographic interfaces to control these machines, I welcome Gnome to revolutionize those new kinds of interfaces. But for now please respect the certain habits of the users and give them options.

    We all naturally appreciate the effort. However do not take away my keys. if I wanted gui idiocracy I would have used a Mac.

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