20 July 2012

211. Putting a 'Hold' on Gnome

Update 05/08/2012: The Mint people may have their own reasons for forking various GNOME components, but it seems that the removal of features in Nautilus was a direct reason for the creation of Nemo: http://www.webupd8.org/2012/08/nemo-linux-mint-team-forks-nautilus.html

There are a lot of things which are yet to come to Gnome. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Gnome people are going to push their ideas on the distros using Gnome regardless of whether the changes make sense or not. My main issue is still the destruction of gnome-screenshot, but it's clear that there are other things afoot that will make many of us unhappy. See e.g. nautilus

Actually, GNOME 3 is mostly fine. It's the removal of functionality from some of the GNOME applications which bothers me the most.

Going to KDE, XFCE, Xmonad, LXDE etc. won't bring me back gnome-screenshot. When it comes to Evolution, Epiphany etc. there are plenty of good alternatives. But Shutter etc. don't cut it when it comes to replacing gnome-screenshot. Nautilus, to me, is a good file manager and I prefer it to e.g. dolphin, thunar etc. for various reasons (dolphin because it's QT, thunar because...I don't even remember. Maybe I should have a look at it again...)

In all fairness, a subsection of the users will not care or maybe even like changes that I hate. Change isn't bad. Bad changes are bad. Change for the sake of change is bad.

Anyway. A temporary solution is to freeze gnome and not allow upgrades until you are sure that you won't be trading higher version numbers for reduced functionality.

Also, some might like the Mac-like idea of putting menus at the top of the screen, while most people using a desktop-sized screen will be severely unhappy with this (mouse has to travel a lot further). 

I suppose the idea is that you're only using one application per desktop at a time BUT WHY WAS THIS EVER THOUGHT TO BE THE WAY PEOPLE WORK?

Really, designing with non-work uses (chat/browsing) in mind seems a bit counter-productive. Literally.

Wikipedia has a list of the gnome applications which are the things that might get fiddled with. Basically, google for upcoming changes and prevent the heck out of them.

Early warning about stuff about to be changed in GNOME 3.6: 
see e.g. http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTEzMzY

Additional stuff to consider freezing

Again, change may be good, but we've been burned before, so better to freeze stuff now, and make deliberate decisions about what changes to allow once they've been tested.

So how to freeze specific packages?
sudo su
echo "empathy hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "epiphany-browser hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "evince hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "gnome-shell hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "gnome-screenshot hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "mutter hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "mutter-common hold"|dpkg --set-selections
echo "nautilus hold"|dpkg --set-selections

Note that this may hold other packages, which list the above packages as dependencies, back as well. Still, better to make informed choices.


  1. You are taking about me here :) "In all fairness, a subsection of the users will not care or maybe even like changes that I hate."

    Just a heads up, ksnapshot should be able to do (I think better) what gnome-screenshot is doing but it is a KDE app so maybe you'll not use it anyway.

    Relax, just come over to the dark side :D

    1. Cheers for the suggestion. I just check it out and, to me, it's like 'gnome-screenshot --i' i.e. it forces me to go through an extra window. What would make me happy is if I could take the snapshot, hit enter if I liked the save location and file name, and be done with it. Both ksnapshot (it seems nice though) and gnome-screenshot --i forces me to use the mouse (or hit tab 8 times, then enter, then enter again).

      I do realise that I sound a bit like the gnome devs in this regard... :-/

      Maybe it's force of habit, but good ol' gnome-screenshot was a beaut' in that you hit Alt+PrintScreen, enter and you had a shiny new screenshot. Or, you didn't hit enter and edited the save dir/file name. You know, choice. That thing which KDE and the other DEs still give their users...

  2. How often do you grab screenshots? Why is it your "main issue"?

    Global menu: Works if the standard can be enforced. Apple and Apple customer expectations can do that. I doubt Gnome can do that. Gnome's own apps can adhere to it, but what sanction can apply to other developers who do whatever they want? Apple devs do it because Apple customers won't buy something that breaks the house rules. Gnome lacks the leverage of paying customers and developers writing software for a living.

    One app per desktop: I don't think that's the goal. Some apps do open full screen, But, the next time they will open to the size they were when closed. The frequent complaints that users can't have multiple apps/windows on the Gnome desktop are just wrong.

    That said, many people do, in fact, "work" with only one app open at a time, and always have. In fact, I often see people with large screens open one app to about 50 percent screen width and position it in the center of the screen The work habits of developers and so-called power users reflect the behavior of a decided minority.

    It seems unlikely that the Gnome team will freeze development, especially when a user can prevent updates to any package.

    1. Jonc,
      'Freezing gnome' was referring to putting a hold on the gnome packages to prevent updating -- as is shown in the post -- and wasn't referring to anything happening outside the comfort of your own workstation. Wanting or expecting the GNOME devs to stop their mostly good work would make no sense.

      As for screenshot/main issue I admit that's a mental thing -- once you perceive a package to be broken the importance of that package appears much bigger than it should be. Also, gnome-screenshot and the process which led to the changes in its functionality may be a harbinger of what's yet to come.

      I'm not a fan of either the Apple philosophy or global menus. Some might like them, I personally don't. It's difficult to make truly objective arguments either way, but my take on the Gnome changes is that there's little reason to replace six dropdown menus (Nautilus: File/Edit/View/Go/Bookmarks/Help) with a single one. Also, from 19 years of using DEs I'm used to look at the top panel of the window for menus, not the top panel of the entire desktop.

      As for one app per desktop -- to me it looks like it's the goal, since that's the work flow which is favoured by the vanilla settings in gnome-shell (dynamic workspaces, no bottom panel with a simple overview). And yes, you can have as many windows open as you care which is what I do-- and that's why I feel gnome-shell/GNOME3 is actually quite usable with the right extensions. What worries me is when those specific GNOME applications which I found better than the alternatives are 'crippled'.

      And sure, a lot of people use one application at a time -- but my biased view is that that mostly when doing casual stuff, like browsing. My, again biased, opinion is that the typical linux user is doing some sort of scripting -- whether it's latex, gnuplot, octave/matlab, nwchem etc. -- and that leads to several windows being open side by side in order to compare scripts with end results, and in order to get an overview of all the files.

      Ultimately, as long as the applications I use still work (and you can always compile older versions) and I have access to a terminal I can get work done. It'd just be /nice/ if I had no reasons to get paranoid about my chosen DE.