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Linus Torvalds Ditches GNOME 3 For Xfce 835

kai_hiwatari writes "In Google+, Torvalds criticized the direction that GNOME has taken with GNOME 3. He called GNOME 3 an 'unholy mess' and said that the user experience is unacceptable, adding that because of GNOME 3, he has ditched GNOME for Xfce. He said that Xfce is a step down from GNOME 2 — but a huge step up from GNOME 3."
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Linus Torvalds Ditches GNOME 3 For Xfce

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  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:03PM (#36980604) Homepage Journal
    I think both the GNOME group, and Torvalds as well, are guilty of change for the sake of change. Sure, he calls GNOME 3 an "unholy mess", but if

    Xfce is a step down from GNOME 2 â" but a huge step up from GNOME 3.

    Then why didn't he just stay with GNOME 2?

    Of course as a KDE user myself I want to ask why he didn't switch to KDE instead, but I know better than to open that can of worms. It is almost like asking an emacs user why they don't just switch to vi...

    • I like the idea of a faster desktop environment, but IIRC 2 years ago Xubuntu network management was not all that great.

      Is there a decent network manager for XFCE?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
      • by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:09PM (#36980670)
      • wicd, while not perfect, works just fine for me. It hiccups occasionally, but more or less smoothly switches between wifi access points, ethernet, etc. on my laptop.
      • by devphaeton ( 695736 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:26PM (#36981296)

        Quite honestly, if you want a faster desktop, use Debian* with XFCE instead. I can't believe how sluggish the 'buntus are, and i didn't notice any difference between Xubuntu and Ubuntu-proper, which astounded me. Also, on Debian it is easier for you to use all the wonderful manual methods of editing system behavior. Adjusting network settings via Ubuntu's wizards or gui controls has been (in my experience) kludgy and tedious at best, and downright broken at worst, at least since about 7. Meanwhile, on a Debian system it's ifconfig, ifup/ifdown and it's all set.

        Also, the root account is enabled by default. I know you can do this in ubuntu also, but it's one of a long list of annoyances I have with that distribution.

        Just giving my 2 cents.

        *or any other older-school no-nonsense distribution will work. Slackware is a great choice too, but if you're used to Ubuntu, Debian might be a better fit.

    • by ddxexex ( 1664191 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:11PM (#36980686)
      He actually was a KDE user before hand and switched to GNOME 2 when KDE4 came out. The question is what will he switched to after Xfce gets a big upgrade?
    • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:13PM (#36980700)

      Unfortunately that's not always an option. Code tends to rot in a number of ways -- old bugs go unpatched, it no longer plays nice with system libraries. Particularly with an octopus like GNOME that interferes with every part of the system, you can start to see package conflicts, dependencies on old system libraries, etc. This is slow, gradual, and can often be worked around item by item, especially for a hacker like Torvalds, but it takes time and energy.

      I had this experience myself with Amarok. I really loved the old amarok (1.4), when it had all the features of the full-on bloated clients like iTunes yet was still light and fast like Rhythmbox. Also fully customizable and scriptable with dcop. I kept pulling it in from backports, and eventually even compiling it myself, when Amarok 2 started coming standard (hoping that the developers would realize the mistake they'd made in throwing away such a perfect interface for that crap). Eventually, I gave up, as it failed to compile due to newer libs one time too many.

      Thankfully, some kind folks forked 1.4 and made clementine, but it still lacks many of the features Amarok had at its height (automated album art and lyrics fetching being some of my favorites).

      All change is relative. When you stand still, the world moves around you.

      The beauty of the desktop vs the cloud is you at least have some control over when you migrate to the new interface.

    • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:14PM (#36980718)

      To answer your unasked question, he did use KDE a few years back (and I think that he had some rather harsh words for GNOME at the the time). Thing is, he left KDE when it had its radical overhaul.

      I think the problem is that GNOME/KDE decided to become the DEs for the rest of us: environments that are more suitable to entertainment than actual work. It also strikes me that Torvalds is the type of guy who works pretty hard, so neither environment is suitable for him anymore.

      • environments that are more suitable to entertainment than actual work

        If "entertainment" means "playing with the desktop environment", then I fully agree.

      • by MasaMuneCyrus ( 779918 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @01:24AM (#36982048)

        ...GNOME/KDE decided to become the DEs for the rest of us: environments that are more suitable to entertainment than actual work.

        This is one thing I've never understood about Linux.

        I've been in the sciences for a couple years and I use Linux for a lot of things. Even before that, I have dabbled with Linux on and off over the years. Mostly I use Windows for my personal desktop; it's not 100% stable, but neither is XFCE which I use on my work laptop (which is not a beefy laptop, so I wanted something lighter than Gnome or KDE).

        It seems to be, though, that the hardcore Linux base obsesses over customization and work. That's great. But apparently, "customization" means that you have to edit simple things in obscure config files deep in system directions, and "work" means that it has to look like a desktop from 1991.

        What is wrong with a desktop environment where everything is controllable with a GUI, and that GUI edits some config files in a system directory? What is wrong with a pretty desktop environment? If all we care about is "work", we might as well go back to using 256 colors.

        • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

          Nothing, the problem is that the current crop of desktop environments seem to care little about such things, and obsesses with chasing Apple and adding features nobody wants, instead of actually making a solid system.

          Take KDE: KDE3 was good and solid. KDE4 started with lacking most of KDE3's funcionality, and being horribly unstable. Then they threw out the perfectly functional Konqueror for Dolphin (which IMO is a lot less convenient to use), gutted Amarok, replaced DCOP with something harder to use from t

      • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @05:39AM (#36983314) Journal

        I think the problem is that GNOME/KDE decided to become the DEs for the rest of us

        Not the rest of "us". That's the problem: GNOME (and, to a lesser extent, KDE) have decided, for some reason, to become desktop environments primarily targeted at the sort of person who isn't even remotely interested in using GNOME or KDE.

        It's like the Pope turned round one day and said "okay, we're going to rewrite our doctrines to make them more appealing to atheists!"

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Probably because he realizes that sticking with an EOL GUI is only a short term solution and he wanted to switch to something tolerable that's in active development. If enough of the community should rally around forking Gnome2, he might choose to upgrade to that.

      • Or use twm. It's built into the basic X source code, is very lightweight, and has been stable for approximately 15 years. I rely on it extensively to avoid distracting eye candy. I'm afraid that the latest Gnome changes have re-inforced this practice. Individual applications from Gnome have their uses, but is there any _one_ tool from Gnome that doesn't have a superior version easily available, without the burdensome Gnome environment? Is there a use for the "nautilus" component except to entirely mishandle

    • by dskoll ( 99328 )

      Then why didn't he just stay with GNOME 2?

      Because maybe he wanted to stay with a living project rather than one that's fossilized and extremely unlikely to have further development, bug fixes, security fixes, etc.?

    • by CSMatt ( 1175471 )

      Actually Torvalds was a KDE user for a long time, and regularly criticized the GNOME developers for their UI decisions. However he hated KDE 4 so much when it came out that he switched over to GNOME. [blogspot.com]

  • by SilverHatHacker ( 1381259 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:05PM (#36980628)
    They lost me when they removed the ability to change themes from the default install. I understand the viewpoint of wanting a consistent user interface, but removing basic customisation features is a slap in the face to most Linux users, especially after all the grief that Unity got for not letting you move the dock from the left side.
    • Slap in the face? Why is it that, whenever I read posts by Linux users bitching about some feature change in Linux, it always reads like an episodes of "The real housewives"?
  • It's a disaster. I installed it on a VM. Luckily, I never use the console of that VM for anything and simply bring up windows on the host computer's X server. I have been highly reluctant to install Fedora 15 on anything after experiencing what it looks like and works like on my VM. It's nearly completely broken. I would be significantly less efficient if I actually tried to use it, and I would be constantly frustrated and annoyed by things that didn't work at all, or were stupidly redone to be more obscure and difficult.

    And that's with 'forced compatibility mode' because my VM doesn't support 3D acceleration very well.

    To be clear, it's the panel, shell and window manager that are broken. The applications that use the toolkit are fine.

    • by jonabbey ( 2498 )

      You do get used to it, though. I've been using Unix since before there was a Linux and I'm not at the point where the 'slap the left command button' instinct is so ingrained in my fingers I find myself doing it on my Mac systems at home.

      I don't care for the Adwaita theme much, but the hardware accelerated window manager features are very nice indeed, and I'm now pretty happy with Gnome 3.

      Still, it would be nice to have some of the customization features back. Gnome Shell is a .0 release. It will get bett

    • by msevior ( 145103 )

      I kind of like it now. What bothers me most is the work I have to go through to open a new version of a running program on a new workspace.

  • Good call, up until recently I was preaching LXDE! and that is a fine desktop but it has a lot of klunk, I put debian on my powermac9600 with XFCE 4.6 and wow its pretty darn good and is now my favorite. A simple desktop that doesn't forget 1984 simple standards, gets the hell out of the way and is extremely fast. How fast? well my powermac 9600 is 300Mhz with 256meg of EDO ram and is upgraded with a PCI ati R7000 card and I use it daily on my electronics bench, 14 years later with debian, thats pretty good

  • by TerranFury ( 726743 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:14PM (#36980720)

    Earlier GNOMES and KDEs imitated Windows. One thing Windows did right was the Taskbar. It is, in all seriousness, an extremely good metaphor. It separates the acts of launching programs from managing which ones are running, because, dammit, those are different things.

    OSX, with its Dock, conflates launching a program with looking at a window that it has opened. The implicit metaphor is that all programs are always "running," and that the messy details of actually starting a process should be wrapped up by the operating system so that we don't need to think about it. Then, multitasking within a program falls to the program itself. Everybody ends up implementing their own tabs.

    Android does the same thing as OSX. All "apps" are always "running," more-or-less, from a GUI point of view. Under-the-hood, they obviously are not; they have to restore themselves from saved state. But this varies from program to program, and is one of the reasons Android has an inconsistent user experience. Given an unfamiliar program, you don't know at first when you're quitting it, and when you're leaving it running in the background.

    Now, Gnome3 appears also to falling into the OSX camp.

    What Torvalds seems to prefer, in KDE3.5, Gnome2, and now XFCE, is a more Windows-like metaphor for multitasking. I'm with him. I think that's one thing Windows did right.

    Personally, I think KDE 3.5 was the height of full-featured Linux desktop environments, and it's degraded into so much juvenile bullshit ever since. Now, just give me something lightweight that uses a reasonable multitasking paradigm and gets out of the way. XFCE fits the bill.

    • You mean pre-Windows 7, right?

      The Windows 7 start bar seems to be fairly analogous to the OSX dock.

    • I'm sticking with CentOS 5 + KDE 3.5 until I can stomach KDE 4 or I force myself onto something else. Just can't beat a plain jane, straight up multitasking desktop for raw productivity.
    • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:07PM (#36981148)

      They fall into the trap that all GUI makers do. Once the GUI works, and works well, it only needs to be maintained, not changed. But, since they want to feel like they're doing something, they actually change it. The result is a different feel, which whether it technically works better or not alienates users. Witness Firefox. Now, it is possible to make changes that result in improvements, or at least maintaining the same level of usefulness. But those are rare. The GUI system has been in major use for 20 years or so, and it more or less reached maturity 15 years ago.

      There is a reason the GUI for XP is nearly the same as that for Win95. It looks a bit different, but someone could go from one to the other almost instantly. (Compare that to OS X, which I've only used a couple of times but managed to confuse the hell out of me. Worse, every similar implementation has its own rules that make shifting from one to the other nearly impossible without relearning the whole system.) Refinements have been made to the point where no further changes were needed. GUI designers still wanted to find something better, not realizing that for the way we use computers, it doesn't really exist. And then we got KDE 4, GNOME 3, and to a lesser extent Win 7 and Vista (MS prudently, for once, made pretty minor changes that were easy to revert. And actually work pretty well, because they didn't abandon the old system entirely). Minor change is the key. The Desktop isn't going to undergo any paradigm shifts anytime soon, and that is a good thing. It works, it works well, and new interfaces are just solutions looking for problems.

      • Something people don't appreciate about MS is that they test their UI with users, quite extensively. That doesn't mean they always make the right choice, but it does give them a better chance of it.

        This was also something Apple used to be really good at with MacOS Classic. Hell they basically invented the concept. However with OS-X they decided to throw out a bunch of their own findings in favour of a more flashy interface.

        I also think another problem is people are going all gaga for smartphones and tablets

    • by theurge14 ( 820596 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:39PM (#36981370)

      Earlier GNOMES and KDEs imitated Windows. One thing Windows did right was the Taskbar. It is, in all seriousness, an extremely good metaphor. It separates the acts of launching programs from managing which ones are running, because, dammit, those are different things.

      OSX, with its Dock, conflates launching a program with looking at a window that it has opened. The implicit metaphor is that all programs are always "running," and that the messy details of actually starting a process should be wrapped up by the operating system so that we don't need to think about it. Then, multitasking within a program falls to the program itself. Everybody ends up implementing their own tabs.

      This is not a Taskbar vs Dock issue. The issue is that in OSX the act of closing a window does not equate to closing a program. This is why so many Windows users new to OSX mistake the Dock for leaving programs running when in Windows clicking the red X means quit. In OSX the user has to specifically choose Quit from the menu bar, right click on the icon in the Dock and select Quit, or press Command-Q. Whether this is a good idea is another debate topic.

      But for the Taskbar vs Dock metaphor, give me the simplified idea of the icon is the program, therefore clicking it brings it up no matter if it's already launched or not. Even Windows 7 went this direction.

  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:16PM (#36980730)

    I've worked as a sysadmin in academic HPC for 10+ years. 1000+ Linux servers. I've worked with Gnome for years, since the 1.x days.

    Gnome 3 is so bad I've switched to using Windows 7. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot were the Gnome3 developers "thinking"?

    Want to refactor a crap ton of code? I understand completely. Want to completely trash the most usable Linux UI? Go die in a fire. Seriously.

    Start listening to your user base, or you'll quickly cease to have one.

    • by blai ( 1380673 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:39PM (#36980926)
      The problem here might have been that they actually *are* listening to the user base, but the user base doesn't know that it wants. "I want it easier to use", oh "let's make something something more prominent" and here's what you get.

      Instead of just listening, I think developers need some sort of intelligence of their own, too.
    • by datakid23 ( 1706976 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:50PM (#36981022)
      While I mostly agree - why hasn't anyone just forked Gnome2 and run with it - it is under the GPL isn't it?
      • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *

        > While I mostly agree - why hasn't anyone just forked Gnome2 and run with it - it is under
        > the GPL isn't it?

        Someone started that, releasing a complete set of packages for Fedora 15 to put GNOME2 back. But quickly realized that was a dead end. Instead the new idea seems to be to port gnome-panel, metacity, compiz and the other useful bits of GNOME2 that were abandoned to the newer Gtk3 and GNOME3 libraries. Not an expert myself but haven't heard the first bad word about the work on the libraries f

  • by Beelzebud ( 1361137 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:18PM (#36980760)
    I tested out Gnome 3 on Arch for about a week before I decided it was time to abandon it. I also ended up at Xfce. It gets the job done.
  • For a long time it's been possible to use a mix of different environments to make up for things you don't like in any single environment. For example I've got users in my workplace using Gnome2 but with Kwin as the window manager becuase of the way the window manager with gnome badly stuffed up handling windows of some applications that run on clusters. That mixed environment was set up with three mouse clicks on Fedora (via compizfusion-icon).
  • Why do people care what Linus' opinion is with regard to window managers?

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geek ( 5680 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:36PM (#36980898)

      Because he is a brilliant and positive influence in the community who is outspoken and contributes in a major way. Because if it weren't for him there wouldn't be a gnome or kde. The man has created more jobs than Obama with his "free" code. I may not always agree with him but I'll be damned if I don't lend him my ear.

      • by bieber ( 998013 )
        I think you're drooling over Linus there just a little too much there. Linux is a nice kernel, but when it came along the GNU project already had a usable user-land, and it was just a matter of time until it got a kernel. If Linus hadn't GPL'd Linux, serious development of HURD would have continued. If that still hadn't turned out, there would be other free software kernels. Linus' contribution was significant, but it's profoundly ignorant to claim that had he not made it, no one else in the entire worl
    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Why do people care what Linus' opinion is with regard to window managers?

      Good question. Why do people care what the guy who created one of the world's most successful operating systems thinks about GUIs that run on it?

    • by dbc ( 135354 )

      Well, Linus has a reputation for seeking lean, effective functionality in every tool he uses. And because he gets a lot of attention, his words can cause large shifts in usage patterns -- and more users brings more development effort.

      For my part, I'm overjoyed. I've been using Xfce for a long time, because Gnome and KDE are both festering piles of bloat. From my perspective, Xfce was a step up from Blackbox... although the last release of Xfce seemed dangerously bloaty to me. Obviously, my taste runs to

  • When did Linus stop using KDE and start using GNOME? Did I miss a memo? Damn, nobody tells me anything anymore. I'll be in the basement typing startx and tweaking my .Xinitrc, if anyone needs me.
  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @10:44PM (#36980970) Homepage

    I started using Linux full-time in 1994, wrote a number of Linux books, did a whole bunch of server and desktop installations and was a huge fan of Linux+KDE beginning with KDE pre-1.0 releases. I was religiously all-Linux, all-KDE, all the time until KDE 4 on Fedora 9.

    I stuck with KDE4 for several months; at first, I couldn't imagine changing the desktop environment I'd had for so long.

    Eventually, however, I realized I spent far too much time trying to configure and reconfigure my KDE4 desktop to behave and appear in ways that were acceptable to me. It seemed like I was always spending time configuring my desktop, yet never getting it quite right. I'd be in the middle of a real task and something would annoy the hell out of me and the next thing you know I'd be knee-deep in configuration and kludging and after a couple hours I'd determinedly force myself to give up and live with it (frown, frown) only to find myself configuring once again before the day was out.

    After about three months of that, I switched to GNOME 2 on Fedora. It worked well for me and I decided I actually rather liked GNOME. Once again I settled into an environment, developed a workflow and keyboard and mouse habits and figured out how to do all of the little tweaks I wanted to do each time I did a new distro install to support new hardware, etc.

    But when GNOME3 details came out and as the KDE4/GNOME3/Unity trifecta started to overtake the Linux world, I got really frustrated. I switched to Xfce for a while, but like Linus, found it not quite where I wanted to be. I tried to return to Windowmaker, which I'd used back in the day before KDE-1pre releases. But all these years later and no native file manager? No drag-and-drop? Yes, I *can* use the command line, but sometimes I'd like to have a working desktop metaphor as well.

    So I tried Enlightenment. Nightmare; a toy project. You spend all of your time just trying to get the install consistent.

    Then I realized that I felt really good about the Macs I was encountering at the university where I am faculty. So I committed my first Linux-betrayal since 1994, repartitioned, and installed a Hackintosh partition to "test out" OSX.

    Three months later I'd built a brand new Hackintosh desktop and bought all Apple software, the first software I'd bought in decades after decades as a free software user. The Linux partition, while still there, was rarely booted any longer. Six months later I'd ditched the Hackintosh desktop and bought a MacBook Pro and reformatted all of my long-term archival media to be Mac-readable.

    There are things that frustrate me about Macs (most notably the spinning beach ball moments and the inadequacy of Mac Ports next to the RedHat and Debian repositories, less notably but still there the cost of the hardware and difficulty of cheap repairs with eBay spare parts), but I am in all honesty more productive than I've been in a very, very long time, and once again rarely have to worry about being pissed off by, or spending time I don't have reconfiguring or trying to kludge apart, my desktop—just like back in the KDE3 and GNOME2 days.

    Too bad those days are over, but I fear that free software has lost this padawan to the dark side for life. Once you get used to no configuration, no kludges, everything works to your satisfaction 95 percent of the time, it's really hard to imagine going back to tweaks, hacks, editing configuration files, and new releases that routinely require that all of these be rediscovered and that come down the pipe in regular updates and are required for recent hardware support.

  • Should be taken as seriously as Gordon Ramsay's opinions about kernel design. When Don Norman, Bruce Tognazzini, or someone else who actually has an informed opinion about user interface comments about GNOME, then I'll consider it to be newsworthy.

  • But when I switched it was because of Ubuntu's Unity. I suspect that's not an issue Torvalds would be likely to have.
  • by J Story ( 30227 ) on Wednesday August 03, 2011 @11:48PM (#36981424) Homepage

    Is everyone in the Gnome / KDE / Unity groups a Microsoft mole, engaged in sucking out utility from those desktop environments? Is there no one there who realizes how big a mistake they made?

    It's one thing for a single group to screw the pooch, but for all three to get the same brain-dead urge to redesign smacks of conspiracy.

    • by LS ( 57954 )

      Really good question. Is anyone on Slashdot close enough to these projects to comment on what might be going on? Are people getting paid off? Are the devs themselves just blind and/or egotistical? Is there a need for more than just devs, e.g. UX designers, project managers, QA and the like that put some checks and balances on wild devs? Or is it something else entirely?

  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @03:32AM (#36982732)

    Is anyone here aware of the fact that KDE 3.5 still exists under the name Trinity Desktop Environment?

  • Desktop schmesktop (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Thursday August 04, 2011 @05:39AM (#36983318) Homepage Journal

    Does somebody have an idea why a hardcore Linux guy would ever like to use a Windows/OSX lookalike? I think a plain window manager like Fluxbox makes much more sense. No panels to take up space and attention, just the application windows. Programs themselves can be launched from the command line, which I think is more convenient than managing a graphical menu, and I only have menu items for terminals and browsers.

    To me, the great thing about computers is that they can handle much more data than what can be visible at a time. The problem with Windows/OSX style is trying to cram everything into one screen, while I prefer one virtual screen per task for better concentration.

    I've been using Fluxbox for about 9 years, after first using Gnome and then Enlightenment for a while, so I've probably been after more minimalism all the time. Of course, there are still more minimal window managers, but none of them has really caught my attention. For example, tiling WMs are probably great for large screens, but I generally use a laptop and other smaller screens (again, one task per virtual screen for better concentration).

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta