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back to article Linus Torvalds dubs GNOME 3 'unholy mess'

Linux daddy Linus Torvalds has dropped GNOME 3 in favor of the Xfce graphical desktop interface, dubbing GNOME 3 an "unholy mess". Last week, on Google+, various penguins discussed the possibility of creating an incarnation of the Linux 3.0 kernel that would masquerade as version 2.6.40 – a 3.0 version number, you see, causes …

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Silver badge
Holmes

And the funny thing is...

He's bloody well right.

Gnome 2 will be staying here too, for the foreseeable future.

Lemon entry, my dear Watson. ;o)

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Megaphone

And while I'm on the subject of Uis...

Unity can fsck off too!

KDE 4 is almost there... XFCE is on my list. Thanks Linus. And thanks for that Linux kernel thingy too! ;o)

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Welcome to the Club Linus

Well, he is not just right, he is doubly right because that is the right choice with KDE4 being a train wreck even worse then Gnome 3.

I switched myself and switched all of my users a while back and never been happier.

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Happy

KDE4

I had much the same view of KDE4 after trying the first releases, but then Unity came along with broken classic Gnome in Ubuntu 11.4 and pushed me to retry with KDE4.5. After a while of tinkering with it I actually got it to work my way, and was so pleased with the result I converted the work computer to KDE4 as well.

It's all about choice though and I'm sure we all like different desktops, but for the moment KDE4 is doing well for me.

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Anonymous Coward

KDE4

Yes, KDE4 started off badly but improved massively. Maybe the same will happen to GNOME3. Maybe not.

The problem with both KDE4 and GNOME3 seems to be change purely for the sake of change coupled with a lack of user research.

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Change for the sake of change?

I don't know enough about Gnome to comment, but in the case of KDE it was badly needed change. Many things weren't possible with the 3.x frameworks and the whole thing was beginning to strain under the pressures of a modern, composited desktop. The first four or five iterations of KDE 4 were unquestionably painful, but the changes to the underlying frameworks are beginning to pay dividends as demonstrated by the exciting new form factors supported by KDE - all without screwing up the desktop form factor.

Maybe the Gnome people are aiming for similar flexibility with all that java (or is it java script?) on the desktop.

KDE 4.6 is a good, stable platform now despite the bumpy start and I'm looking forward to trying 4.7 sometime soon. These early releases are much like Vista - they need to happen, but are necessarily painful as the underlying technologies shift from mid 1990s to early 2010s.

That said: I don't like what I've seen of the Gnome (or Unity) desktops and doubt I would be comfortable there. I am too conservative and need my Windows style task bar, menu and window decorations. At least with KDE 4 (even the early versions) you could get something very close to that familiar environment. That doesn't seem possible the Gnome 3.

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FAIL

They don't "need to happen"

Yes, it's been going on for who-knows how long. Windows 95 arrived with a lot of new stuff both UI and non-UI wise, and it sucked. By Windows 98, it started to get usable. There was a feeble attempt from Microsoft to advertise Windows 2000 as the successor of both the 9X and the NT line. It sucked. XP managed to get it right. Repeat the same thing for Vista/Win7 and KDE4.

Is this really necessary? I don't think so. The sad fact is that the developers are either pressured into releasing too early, take the "release early, release often" mantra too far, or are just plain too egoistical to see that their product is simply not viable for widespread use yet. This happens elsewhere as well, but it is the most striking in radical UI changes like this one.

Dear Gnome devs, it's not bad that you believe in your UI vision. But why, WHY do you have to repeat the same mistakes for the umpteenth time? If you can't get Gnome 3 to even the roughly same usability level as Gnome 2 in a reasonable time, something went wrong during the development process. Perhaps the changes should have been more incremental. Just get off the high horse and admit that it might be better to view Gnome 3 as pre-beta in certain areas. You will still earn criticism, but at least you will also earn some respect.

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Now,

what desktop did you switch your users to? Don't tell me an unmaintained Gnome

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Meh

It's cos of tablets innit...

...it seems to me.

All these desktop-innapropriate aspects of G3 fit a tablet form-factor almost to perfection, n'est-ce pas?

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KDE4

Gnome 2--> is just KDE3-->4 all over again.

KDE4 caused me to switch to Gnome 2.

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Flame

The problem is burnt bridges.

What annoyed me most, and presumably what's annoyed Linus most, is that the Gnome developers created Gnome 3 in such a way that you can't install both Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 on the same (probably multi-user) system. They presented the utterly different UI of Gnome 3 as if it were a mere new release of Gnome 2. It was exactly the same as what Microsoft did with Vista - except Microsoft had a financial reason for shafting experienced XP users, whereas with Gnome it must have been something like arrogance and pride.

So yes, I really hope that someone goes back a good release of Gnome 2 and renames all the entities that clash with Gnome 3, creating a "Gnome classic" fork which can then be maintained indefinitely, while Gnome 3 developers carry on pleasuring themselves. "Maintained" shouldn't be a lot of work, because we don't want any radical changes. In particular, if any UI changes are introduced, they should be small and incremental, so that whatever way you are used to working, carries on working.

As for the big picture, one of the strengths of Linux is multiple UIs that you can install and choose between at login. I'm sure Linus isn't flaming the Gnome people because they've created something utterly different, which he hated. He's flaming them because they smashed and burned the old UI that he liked while they were doing it.

I'll use XFCE if I have to - at least it has workspaces - but I'll miss Gnome 2 if it does die rather than getting reincarnated.

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Let's just not tell him, then.

Sometimes, a supported product is sufficiently crap that an unsupported one is actually better.

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Flame

Spacial all over

This will be just like the whole "Spatial" (say that correctly and it sounds like "special", as in short-bus-to-school) debacle. The community of users is talking, but the Gnome developers have their fingers in their ears and are saying "NYAANYAANYAA I CAN'T HEAR YOU! WE READS US A BOOK ON UI DESIGN AND IT IS THE WORD OF GOD!"

Yes, Gnome designers are "spacial" all right - they live in fear that there is some way in which Gnome might be easier for a computer-literate person to use than Apple, and thus must stamp that out.

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Unhappy

Jumped the Shark

First KDE4, now Gnome 3, not to mention Ubuntu going with that toy Unity interface, it's starting to concern me that Linux has jumped the shark, so to speak.

And this from an OSS fanboy who has weaned himself off Windows for everything sans a couple of games and the dreaded itunes for nearly 10 years.

I don't really like XFCE either. I sure hope someone does fork Gnome 2.

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Facepalm

"Linux has jumped the shark"

Oh no, the big desktop environment projects have all turned to shit. I guess I'd better start uninstalling debian from all my headless servers and replacing it with a different OS instead. Woe is me.

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FAIL

WTF?

Who is talking about headless servers?

I use Linux as a desktop as well as for several servers.

I assume you are one of those *nix guys who operate via Putty, right?

Otherwise your comment is utter nonsense.

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"linux jump the shark"

I kinda suspect the point he was making was the Linux the OS is NOT Linux the GUI, this ain't Windows we're talking about here... Linux hasn't "jumped the shark" but perhaps the GUIs have.

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Boffin

Sin of omission ...

I think somebody forgot the /sarcasm tag

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Devil

Lemmings all jumping the shark...

Yeah, but what happens when everyone is jumping off the same cliff?

What do you do then?

You are left with few choices anymore except old versions that have been abandoned in favor of the new insanity.

Of course that leaves the new users in a bit of a pickle then because they aren't familiar with all of the old standbys like dfm or windowmaker and have to start sorting out this crap from scratch.

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Re: WTF?

Putty?

I assume you mean 'the console' -- putty is a *GUI* terminal emulator

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@AC 18:16 Re: WTF?

puTTY is a telnet/SSH client, in additional being an xterm terminal emulator. The poster was obviously referring to a tool that many sysadmins use to manage Linux boxen remotely from within a variety of operating systems, almost all of which have practically useless "console" applications.

But you're one of those guys who just likes to correct people.

Oh ... and it's NOT "Putty" ... it's "puTTY".

Like it's not "pedANT" ... it's "pedant".

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Trollface

If you want to be pedantic...

Stupidscript.... Hmmmm, your name gives away your bias

He was talking about DESKTOPS, so your comment that he was referring to managing servers remotely is still nonsense.

If you use a desktop without a gui, you won't be running xterm, or putty or any other *GUI* application.

And if you think that console applications are useless, you are obviously a GUI fanboi like he is

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Headmaster

PedANT

<pedantic mode>

> Oh ... and it's NOT "Putty" ... it's "puTTY".

Not according to the copy I have installed,

it is "PuTTY"

</pedantic mode>

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FAIL

Wrong

Oh ... and it's "boxes" not "boxen"

Fixed it for you.

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Oh well!

You mean the big, bloated "desktop environments" that try to be everything but your kernel have jumped the shark. As long as I can still install StumpWM, the rest can burn for all I care.

I need something that lets me work with windows in X. I don't need gconf. I don't need windows that do cute things when I close them. I don't need "social networking applications". I don't need riced-out redundant analogues of common Unix tools. Draw the damn windows and let me use them. Plenty of window managers will do this without any fuss, fortunately.

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Flame

I'm glad someone is saying it...

Particularly someone with this sort of weight in the Linux community. Both Ubuntu 11.4 and the latest version of Gnome have had completely insane changes made to them and any complaints as a user that they're a steaming, unusable pile get met with, "If you don't like it, write your own," which is not a helpful attitude.

I'm running Linux because I want a *choice*. I don't want a sidebar, I want links on my desktop, I want to be able to configure my interface as it works for me, to store things how and where I want, to put tool bars where I like them, and to hide things that I *don't* like. Why they seem to have suddenly developed a case of Apple envy and have decided to lock down and dumb down the interface is beyond me, but if I wanted an Apple-like interface, I'd buy an Apple. But I don't and I didn't.

Anyway, Good for Linus for speaking up. Let's hope that it restores a bit of sanity to Linux user interface design. :)

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Install

I've made the old ubuntu netbook interface available for maverick and natty so if you want a desktop full of icons, just install that.

All my students at the community centre seem to think it's the bees-knees.

https://launchpad.net/~doctormo/+archive/netbook-launcher

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Unity icons

While Unity does have its (well documented) annoyances as far as I remember it does allow you to have as many icons and shortcuts on your desktop as you've got room for.

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thanks

The UNR interface was great, although it has some gnome-3 deficiencies in relation to launching new instances of terminal.

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Unhappy

I'm surprised...

... that no-one seems to be using or developing Trinity, the KDE 3 fork. I may be wrong, I sincerely hope so, but it seems to be being totally ignored. If I could get hold of a distro with Trinity I might be able to abandon my Mandriva 2008.0 setup!

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Anonymous Coward

Spatial Stupidity

Thanks for reminding me about that horrendous default spatial file manager.

You mention Apple, but Apple has an infamous problem with their spatial Finder too. John Siracusa of Ars Technica has almost built a reputation of Finder-bashing. In his defence, he's completely right. It's a horrible combination of both a spatial _and_ navigational file manager, which in trying to please everyone, winds everyone up. The spatial fans can't understand why not every window is therefore spatial (different windows can be opened by default with spatial or non-spatial views), and navigational fans don't want the view to be spatial at all.

Interface stupidity isn't therefore unique to GNOME 3. Even that supposed paragon of usability, Mac OS X, has stupid bits in its interface too.

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A true mess

Sticking with GNOME 2 here, and Xfce if I ever have to change.

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Facepalm

Maybe he is right...

...because when I took a look at http://www.xfce.org/ just now I thought I was at a Windows development site. Congratulations Linus, you've finally discovered the closest open-source thing to the 'Useable' interface most of the world actually uses.

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WTF?

Dude!

Seriously?

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I know, right?

But there's no shame in admitting Microsoft got some things right, is there? You can at least console yourself by remembering that MS too jumped in the UI failboat with basically everything they've done since XP.

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Coat

"Console yourself"?

Yep, bring up that terminal.

HURRRRR!!

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Really?

Whilst Cognisant of enraging lots of people here, I actually think that the W7 interface is rather good. However, I certainly agree about Gnome 3 being an absolute train wreck of an interface, which is why I have forced mine to run the older version.

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Anonymous Coward

MS

MS did indeed fail badly after XP and for the same reasons that GNOME3 fails. All these UIs fail because, like washing poweder, they feel they have to be "new and improved".

MS need to realise that the XP UI doesn't just have momentum because it's what people are used to. Yes people find it easy to use because it's what they are used to, but also because it actually is easy to use. MS tried with Vista and more successfully with 7 to try to come up with a new and different UI that would convince people to spend money upgrading from XP.

Where GNOME and KDE puzzle me is that unlike MS there is no financial incentive to try to make people upgrade so why are they trying so hard to fix what isn't broken?

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Stolen

I'm not sure MS got it right since they stole it from IBM and the OS/2 UI, and even then they didn't get it to work properly.

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Boffin

untitled

I thought it was well known that all of Windows had, at one time or another, been "borrowed" from Apple? Probably about time that Linus accepted reality and bought an iPad...

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WTF?

I thought...

...it had all been "borrowed" from Xerox PARC in the first place?

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@The First Dave RE: untitled

While quite a bit of Widows 3.x was likely taken from the early Apple GUI system, Apple had taken all of that from Xerox PARC. Not to mention the fact that the UI design introduced with 95 and continuing through to 2K (and even hanging around somewhat in XP, especially if you switched the theme to 'Classic') was very different from the design that Apple has been using since the late 80's and which MS used for the 3.x series of Windows.

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FAIL

We aren't all fanbois

Oh Paul Turner 1, you funny old troll!

As a GUI unix user since well before windows 95, I was pleasantly surprised by the windows95 GUI,

Much better than the SunOS thing I was using at the time.

The operating system itself was and still (even under the NT kernel) is a different story.

Your swipe is therefore invalid - GUI != OS

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@ Old Handle

The Windows interface, like most of their stuff, is just a poor copy of someone elses.

Google "RISC OS", but don't just read the first site.

Official ones

http://www.riscosopen.org/

http://www.riscos.com/

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Silver badge

Depends on your definition of "taken"

Microsoft "took" from Apple in the sense that they had a contract with Apple that a court found to have given them access to the relevant intellectual property. Apple "took" from Xerox in the sense that they paid millions of dollars worth of shares in order to have access to the research centre.

In both cases, ideas migrated due to business transactions.

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Linux

Kettle Calling the Pot Black

O Really, you know that spiffy translucent plastic Fisher Price UI look that Apple likes to crow they invented, not so, It was a Windows Windowblinds skin long before ever showing up on any of Mr Copy Kat Job's kit.

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Anonymous Coward

Only partially agree.....

While Vista was an abomination, 7 is actually pretty good once you get used to it.

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@Bredan

Actually quite a lot of Windows 3 was taken from HP, with their agreement. The whole 3d look to start with.

A lot of the ideas for the way the windows were managed on the screen was pinch from twm.

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This is the quandary......

For years Linux has been lambasted as being "too difficult" for mass market. Maybe correct, maybe not. It is still "waiting to happen", that I'll agree with.

One of it's downsides is that there is too much choice, which makes it difficult for newbies to get into, so very often they don't.

Of it's upsides, is that there is so much choice, which means that fi you don't like A, change to T. Why not T? Give it a whirl....

What Linus is doing is being a bit of a child about Gnome. Gnome have decided to go a route, but Gnome is only one of many desktops. As shown, Torvalds has moved to another desktop. Try that with Apple or MS. Personlly, I have mixed views about Gnome 3, mostly because it is taking some getting used to. But that is becuase I have been using the very MS like KDE for a while. In lots of ways, XFCE is little different from the initial ideas behind MS Windows 3.1 : all menu driven drop downs. Nothing wrong with this, lot of people do it. Ubuntu have Unity, which is Gnome-like [or is it the other way around ?] and there is a Enlightenment, very minimalist....

The thing that Linus has missed is that there is choice out there for people who like to try. And Linus should do very well to remember that and not lambaste people [the Gnome team] for trying something new.

Sorry Linus, but thumbs down for this rant.

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I think his thinking...

...is that the default DE is the thing that new users will experience AS linux. If they don't like it, they won't like linux and probably won't stay long enough to try any others.

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