Tech Notes And Miscellaneous Thoughts

some more reasons to hate gnome shell

  1. Non-resizable configuration windows.  I have a 1920×1200 screen but the window manager provides no way to resize windows like the System Settings window.  Result is that the window is quite small and, worse, has a scroll bar for no good reason when another hundred or so vertical pixels would easily display everything. Even another 30 or so horizontal pixels would allow more icons per line under Hardware, reducing the number of lines, and again allowing the entire list of available settings to be displayed without a scroll bar. Instead, to see all of the options I have to scroll down.  And these people call themselves user-interface and usability experts.

    It's not up to the gnome developers to decide that I never need to resize certain windows or certain kinds of windows. It's up to me to decide that. They're not at my desktop, using my screen. I am.

  2. No way to disable a shell extenstion from the command line.  I installed the gnome-shell-extensions package and was trying out various extensions to see if they made gnome shell tolerable.  Enabling one of them (i forget exactly which one), immediately displayed some "Oh no! Something has gone wrong. A problem has occured and the system can't recover. Please log out and try again." leaving me no option but to log out.

    An absolutely fucking useless error message. "Something" has gone wrong. A little fucking detail might help me to diagnose the problem and fix it. Like a trace of whatever the fuck it was doing when "Something went wrong".

    When i logged back in, it crashed again, with the same useless error screen.  So, now I can't even log in to Gnome Shell.  I've tried logging in to Fallback mode, but the Extensions tab is empty in gnome-tweak-tool (because, of course, nobody would want to configure Shell Extensions from fallback mode, would they?).

    I can't even find any way of listing which shell extensions are enabled, let alone disable one of them.  Hell, I'd settle for disabling all of them, and then carefully re-enabling them one-by-one until I rediscovered the culprit.

  3. Oh, wait. I finally found /org/gnome/shell/enabled-extensions in dconf-editor. it's a text field with an array of items. so far, so good. The "editor" (and i use that term very loosely) for text fields is garbage. It can't even wrap lines so that it displays the whole field without a horizontal scroll bar – probably my all-time least favourite user-interface element. Have gnome devs never heard of multi-line text-edit fields?

    Rather than fuck around with a crappy GUI editor, it's far easier to:

    $ dconf read /org/gnome/shell/enabled-extensions > /tmp/extensions
    $ vi /tmp/extensions 
    $ dconf write /org/gnome/shell/enabled-extensions "$(cat /tmp/extensions)"

    I guess now it's time to log out from fallback mode to find out if I can log back in to Gnome Shell again. [ nope. didn’t work ]

  4. Add non-resizable user-interface elements to item 1. above. So far, Gnome devs are doing a great job of regressing to the crap usability of the Windows GUI

    here’s a useful rule of thumb for things like that: Every single window, every single user-interface element should be resizable and tweakable by the user. And the system should remember all user changes so that they don’t have to waste a few minutes every time they run an app resizing things to suit their requirements.

    Gnome 2 mostly had that. Gnome 3 seems to have lost a large part of it along the way

    Second rule of thumb: If the user happens to replace their monitor or run it in a mode too small for the current settings, then they should revert to some sane default.

    Even better, it should remember the settings for each resolution – choosing either sane defaults or the user’s settings for the nearest similar resolution if the user hasn’t created custom settings for that resolution yet.

  5. Lack of documentation.  here's a good example:

    $ gnome-shell-extension-tool help
    Usage: gnome-shell-extension-tool [options]
    $ man gnome-shell-extension-tool 
    No manual entry for gnome-shell-extension-tool
    See 'man 7 undocumented' for help when manual pages are not available.

    What more needs to be said?

    At least /usr/bin/dconf has built-in help. Which is great, since it doesn't have a man page either.

Update: About three hours of stuffing around later, and I’ve finally got Gnome Shell running again. I have NFI what actually fixed it, it could have any one of the dozens of settings I fucked around with. Nor do i have any idea what the actual problem was.

And after all that, the extensions I tried still don’t make Gnome Shell tolerable. They make it less *intolerable* (bottom-panel extension in particular), but that’s still a long way from being tolerable

i’m really trying hard to find some way to come to terms with Gnome 3. I’ve been trying for months now. But every time I give it another trial, I just end up hating it even more

I’m glad I have more than one desktop machine to use, so i can experiment with odious shit like Gnome Shell without fucking up my main working environment. So it’s back to my main desktop machine and gnome2. Eventually I’ll have to upgrade that, but xfce4 is looking to be my best option. I already switched to xfce4 on my desktop machine at work last week, and it’s pretty good…certainly far better than the Gnome 3 fallback mode i’ve been using there for the last 5 or 6 months.

Thanks, Gnome devs – you’re making a fantastic advertisement for XFCE. I wouldn’t have bothered trying it again if I hadn’t been forced to.

ps: before anyone says “wait for Gnome 3.2, it’s much better”. Todays waste of time *was* using Gnome 3.2


  1. Jeremy Bicha

    On Ubuntu, we increased the width of System Settings so that it's better proportioned in the all items view. (With the Ubuntu additions, it's a nice, full 6×4 grid in 11.10.) One negative about doing that is that the window becomes uncomfortably wide in many panels. But yes, I was shocked when I was playing with Fedora 16 to see how the default System Settings window looks: not wide enough but with the height arbitrarily limited so that a scrollbar is always necessary.
    I hope dconf-editor will get fixed now that most Linux distributions have switched to GNOME 3 and users have to deal with it now.

    1. cas

      That sounds like an improvement, but i don't think that just hard-coding a different – even better – window size is the right solution.  The user should be able to resize the window to whatever size they need or want.

      BTW, I'm running debian sid (plus gnome 3.2 from experimental) rather than Fedora.  On most of my systems, i'm holding back from upgrading to Gnome 3…but on a few, I've upgraded to try it out and see if I can adapt it to my needs.  Not much luck so far.


  2. Mark

    Beware of XFCE, if you (like anyone else should be) don’t like hardcoded things.
    The XFCE file manager is Thunar, which is nice and light. But it has some bugs, like the one that it takes many seconds to open the first window because it seems to search the network looking for shares and such (and the navigation itself in the filesystem seems a little sluggish, sometimes).

    And now the fun part: XFCE has Thunar as filemanager hardcoded. A friend of mine using XFCE is *unable* to use PCManFM (which is aestethically almost identical to thunar, but blazingly fast) because, let’s say, double clicking on a folder keeps opening Thunar.

    I use Fluxbox with PCManFM as file manager, and I’m very happy (before I was a Gnome 2 user)

  3. I too have had it with GNOME 3. What used to be easy, is now impossible, difficult, or implemented backwards. I went back to Openbox, and haven't missed a beat. I can have it setup nearly identica to GNOME 2, have all the flexibility and power I want at my fingertips, and still have a very usable desktop that is out of the way. The only pain I've been experiencing is theming the GNOME 2 and GNOME 3 elements and widgets. Everything looks great, except for a couple applications that aren't taking, like update-manager. Other that that, I'm a happy camper.

  4. cas

    @np237: fallback mode is *NOT* the same as gnome2.  It has some similarities, but is still very different.  xfce is far closer.  What I’m missing with Gnome 3 (both fallback and “standard”) is something that doesn’t force me to radically change the way i interact with my computers with no actual benefit to me.  IDGAF about Gnome3’s Glorious Vision,  in fact I think it’s a crock of half-arsed, ill-considered and misguided bullshit.

    If fallback were an adequate substitute for gnome 2 then nobody would be complaining.  It isn’t an adequate substitute and there are conflicting statements about long term support for / inclusion of fallback mode anyway so it’s really no surprise that there are complaints.

    @aaron: yeah, i’ve been using openbox for years (can’t stand metacity. or mutter.  they’re both worthless garbage). i’ve even been using openbox with gnome3 fallback mode at work, it mostly works.   i’ve been using xfwm a bit recently, it’s OK and integrates better with xfce than openbox does…haven’t decided yet whether i’ll persist with xfwm or make the effort to fine-tune opebox to work with xfce.  for years, the main thing i’ve been “using gnome” for is the gnome-panel as a launcher and for status displays that minimise screen wastage. xfce4’s panel is as good as gnome2’s panel.


    @mark: I’ve had no problem using other file managers with xfce.  In fact, the first time i clicked on the file manager icon it asked which one i wanted to use.  it’s no big deal for me anyway, i do most of my file manipulation and other work from the command line i mostly use the desktop as a convenient way to launch terminals, web browsers, and whatever other apps i might want to run…but the bulk of my serious work on computers is in the shell and via ssh.

    terminals are my number one app – i’d kill for a unicode version of mrxvt, but i suspect i’m going to have to switch to one of the more modern terminals soon, perhaps roxterm, even though they’re all based on the slow, buggy and crappy libvte – written by morons who think that hard-coding 8 up/down arrows is a good way (the only way! The One True Way!) to handle mouse scroll-wheel events in a terminal.

    1. “If fallback were an adequate substitute for gnome 2 then nobody would be complaining”
      Yet you haven’t been able to explain a single thing that is actually missing. People complain, so there must be something wrong. Yeah of course, it’s not as if people were always whining about everything without needing a reason.

      1. cas

        1. This was an article listing some things that are broken or annoying in Gnome Shell, not about what is missing or different in fallback mode.  stop trying to hijack the article.

        2. one single thing? ability to place launcher icons where I want them, so a) I don’t have to hunt for them (no better than a menu), and b) I can group them (e.g. the gnome panel on my screen at the moment has a group of 6 different web browser icons, followed by a group of 3 different terminal emulators, then a group of document tools (ebook readers, pdf viewers, calibre, sigil), then a group with libre office writer + calc and gnumeric, then a group with remote access type tools (vinagre, tsclient, remmina, virt-manager), then a group with clementine, exaile and brasero, then a bunch of accessories like speedcrunch calc, then config/controls tools like volume and cpufreq and xrandr, then status displays, and finally lock screen followed by date + time)

        please note: I really don’t give a damn whether you think that’s important or not.  It’s important to me.  On my machines, what’s important to me is what matters.  I really have no interest in debating fallback mode with you here.  If you wish to comment on this article again, address the article itself not some strawman argument about fallback mode.

        1. Oh, it’s good then. GNOME panel 3 fixes for good this annoying bug that would completely fuck up the kind of configuration you have each time the screen configuration changes.
          I’m glad to see testing and packaging this new version was useful to you.

          1. cas

            Gnome 3 “fixes” the fact that the panel icons sometimes get moved around in resolution changes in exactly the same way that ripping the engine out of a car “fixes” the fact that it stalls occasionally on cold mornings.

            If you can’t drive the car, it won’t stall.

            And if you can’t place the icons where you want, they won’t be squished together when the screen is switched to a lower resolution.

          2. Given that in the 11 years that this bug has existed, no one has proposed a good algorithm to deal with fixed icon placement on a screen that can change resolution, it was more than time to remove what was obviously an anti-feature and replace it by something simpler.

            So the engine was “ripped out” in the sense that it was replaced by a better one, but you don’t like it because it doesn’t produce the same sound when you’re trying to impress your buddies while stopped at the red light.

    1. cas

      because i’ve learnt from experience that reporting bugs to gnome is a waste of time. the most likely response is:

      1. to be completely ignored. 2-5 years later the bug will be closed during the next rewrite-from-scratch, whether the bug is fixed or not.
      2. “you’re an idiot who doesn’t understand our Glorious Vision”
      3. “you’re an idiot and your configuration is broken”
      4. “you’re wrong. I wrote the code for X so that automatically makes me an expert in everything else no matter how tangentially related”
      5. “code it yourself or fuck off”
      6. “even if you code it yourself, you can still fuck off because it doesn’t match our Glorious Vision”

      I’ve had some of these responses personally. Others are a distillation of typical responses I see when i search gnome’s bugzilla looking for answers to problems.

      1. Yeah because of course you’re the great Cas Sanders.
        1. You know better that software should never, ever be rewritten. We should all be running COBOL programs and using twm as window manager.
        2. You have a better vision of what a piece of software should look like.
        3. Unlike other users, you can never fuck up your system on your own. 
        4. When you report a bug, you’re obviously more knowledgeable than the person reading it.
        5. You can tell free software developers what they should code, even if they don’t agree with you.
        6. You can tell free software developers what they should commit, even if they don’t agree with you. 
        Every single example of yours can be reversed against you, because you don’t give any context. And given your history with reporting bugs, I would not necessarily trust your version.

        IOW: get a life. When dealing with software development, especially free software, you’re bound to find people with strong disagreements. If you can’t accept that, let me give you a hint: whining about it is not going to help you.

        1. cas

          “get a life”

          That’s rich, coming from someone who’s spending their time caring so much about what other people use that they argue about it on their blogs.

          Here’s a hint: I don’t give a fuck what you choose to use on your systems.  Nor do i give a fuck about what Mac or Windows users use.  I care about what I use.

  5. Justin Andrews

    Are you unable to communicate without cursing? I mean…really. If you can’t express yourself intelligently without dropping the “F-Bomb” every other word, perhaps you should communicate.

    Ok. Done with that rant.  

    1. cas


      1. I used it appropriately, in context. It’s a perfectly good English word, that adequately expresses the frustration and annoyance and – at times – outright anger I felt at the stupidity and brokenness I was encountering

      2. it’s my blog. I’ll say whatever i want on it. nobody’s forcing you to read it.

  6. João Pessoa

    Can anyone tell me how to change the start of the week to Monday on GNOME3? For some reason the GNOME developers think the week in Portugal starts on Sunday!
    Thanks in advance!

    1. This is probably not related to GNOME. The shell finds this information in the locale information of your country. If you think LC_TIME for your locale is wrong, try discussing this with the glibc maintainers, not the GNOME ones.

  7. Wojtek

    Notion (formerly ion3), plus pcmanfm, mirage instead of eog, something to read pdfs, and there you go: a fully configurable (in a literal sense), completely free  of shit, perfect window manager… And if you’re afraid of the radical ways, use Awesome…
    I must admit GNOME3  messed up my plan of introducing some people to Linux alltogether. They use windows, and hey, I would show this contraption (GnomeShell/Unity) to them? Get out…
    Bottom line: you have my support:)

    1. Oh yeah, you’re good. Try introducing Windows or MacOS users to ion3 or awesome. You’re going to have a lot of success.

      Or just show them something that looks extremely similar to Windows, just with less available applications. That should give them a lot of reasons to switch.

      1. Alvadoraemon

        O yeah, try to introduce GNOME Shell to somebody who only has managed Windows systems.
        I tried… And except one graphic designer – LOL – most people din’t stand with the Shell more than 15 minutes :-D.
        If you like GS, good for you… But GS has big design failures in evident contradiction to it’s “philosophy”” , it doesn’t give the users a coherent migration path to the new “App-based” – better “mobile oriented”, or much better “dumb-oriented” -, it’s not good for “many windows opened” workflow and it forces your way of ding things instead of being transparent to the user.
        “Activities” is overloaded and merges too many things, you can’t do fast switching between windows – Alt + Tab is tooooooo slow -, the Dock should be quickly accesible instead of being into activities only, and the lack of minimal configuration for very important things – energy options, power off options, theming options, extensions control, …- .
        Sure, “small” failures… But we will have “Boxes” and many other pretty things instead of fixing design stupidities and”dogmas”. MAC-like without questioning why it should be MAC-like.
        The “Suspend” only option is the best example of “stupid by design”, or maybe “stupidity from the desginers”… xDDDDDD

  8. Another “fan” of Gnome3 :)
    I hate it too.  The fallback mode is tolerable but I just want gnome2 back.  It’s not the same and the main reason is around the notification and panel areas; stuff just goes missing.  Fallback mode not as stupid as gnome3 where, for example, incoming messages get no notification but its much much worse than gnome2.
    I’ve not worked out where to “fix” the settings either, so I don’t need to go and re-set them every time I login.

    1. cas

      Yeah, the fallback mode has been OK-ish for the last few months on a machine i only do a limited set of work-related stuff on….but xfce is a better clone of the old gnome2 look and feel. faster and more responsive, too.

      Also, it sounds like fallback mode is going to be scrapped within a few releases of gnome, by 3.4 is one of the rumours i’ve read.

      I think i’ll be joining the exodus to xfce. i’ve already switched from fallback to xfce at work and on my test box at home. in the not too distant future i’ll upgrade my main machine at home and switch to xfce here too.

      I also have to find out how well xfce will work on a mythtv frontend box. I’ve got that set up to autologin to the mythtv account and start up a terminal in the background and Myth Frontend in the foreground…with the gnome2 panel set to autohide. works nicely, looks like a dedicated myth machine but with full access to shell, web browsers, and anything else when i need them. If i can set up something similar, I’ll be happy.

      And I have to upgrade my partner’s machine too and help her set it up as close to her current environment as possible. She’s not impressed by what she’s seen of gnome shell…but is resigned to the fact that she’ll have to switch to either fallback mode or xfce sometime in the next few months when it becomes impractical to keep holding back the gnome upgrade

    1. cas


      Good for you. You’re into brand loyalty. I’m not. My post was about various bugs and annoyances and design misfeatures in Gnome 3 not about whether I liked it or not. The bugs are there in Gnome 3 whether you happen to like or dislike the software.

      My like or dislike of software is based on how it works, how buggy it is, how well it meets my needs. not on the “Brand”.

        1. cas

          No, that’s not the only reason.  It appears to be afanen’s reason because you completed ignored the fact that this articles described in detail a list of problems with Gnome Shell.  Just like yours, his response didn’t address anything in the article, it just said “i like it”.

          Gnome fanboys are as annoying and pointless as Mac fanboys or Windows fanyboys or any other fanboys.

          1. This article describes one actual bug (non-resizable configuration window) which is unrelated to the shell (it’s in control-center) that would be nice to be fixed, but that won’t prevent many people from sleeping at night.

            The rest is not about actual problems; it is about describing your attempts at breaking your system, starting with a tool (dconf-editor) that is known to be a quick hack written on a table corner for regedit.exe nostalgics and that most people will never see in their lives.

    2. Alvadoraemon

      I use Fedora’s GNOME 3 in my home computer and my netbook becasue I find GS good FOR LIMITED USE. But at work I use KDE and GNOME 230 from Debian.
      I’ve been using GS since the 2.9x releases too, so I can make well informed criticism of GS. And GS developers are giving enough reasons for heavy ranting :-D.
      Poor Cas hasn’t enough patience to wait for more GS versions; i’m losing mine too, but I can wait for 2 or 3 revisions… No more.  Let’s see how the things in GS go, but today GNOME devs are only
      interested in cosmetic changes and pretty apps like Boxes… Baaaaaad way ;-).

  9. DB

    Seriously, use kwin. Everything’s resizable, configuration is via plain text files, though of course there’s still some apps with poorly documented command-line interfaces (mostly they’re not bad). Oh, and krunner is probably the biggest reason I never wanted to switch to gnome.

    1. cas

      I don’t like KDE much, and my goal is to keep my desktop as close to what it has been as possible.  KDE doesn’t satisfy that goal.

      I already have a window manager I like (openbox), and another one which is good enough (xfwm).  All I really want from a “Desktop Environment” is a decent panel for launching apps and various status applets – xfce4 provides that.  Since xfwm integrates better with xfce than openbox does, I’ll probably switch to that as well…depends on whether I could be bothered spending the time to tweak openbox for use with xfce or not.  probably not.

  10. ulu

    I really can not understand why anyone likes these crappy SW crutches called KDE4 and Gnome3. They are simply unusable for productive environments. I do not understand why fanboys all times telling users how they shall use their PCs. How cool is that? Fanboys at all times miss the point. The user shall be the ruler of a system and not vice versa. Period.

    First Example: Recently I had a chat with someone who told me it is perfectly good ergonomics to select a Desktop background image by going into from system settings > go into a special menu > chosing a picture from a predefined picture collection / your hard disc location – instead of right clicking the desktop > select the option to change the Desktop background – by missing the facts that
    1) I am unable to get rid of any background image by using his solution and
    2) he is missing the point that this is not intuitive and for this reason not ergonomic and
    3) that both possibilities sall exist to fullfit __all__ user requirements.
    Gnome3 is not freedom. Gnome3 is pure paternalism.

    Second Example: Why do distribution developers think using unusable application manager gpk-application is a good solution? It’s unresponsive and slow. What was wrong with synaptic? What about the gnome-control-center? I have to search through all settings hidden in the few topic sections of Gnome 3 instead of the simple topic sections of Gnome2. How cool is that?

    If Gnome 3 becomes the standard for Linux distributions most users will be forced to change their productive environment.

  11. Daniele Segato

    I share your impression with you.

    It’s been since the very experimental Gnome shell that I’m using it.
    I hated it from the very beginning and I tried very hard to stick and try to find something good out of it.

    After several month I finally gave up on hoping they fix it.

    Today I switched to Cinnamon.

    And I find it very well done. It still has some way to go but is lot lot better then Gnome Shell.

    Did you ever tried it?

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