Why Gnome 3′s Fallback mode sucks

This is waaaaaaaaaaay different from Why I’m sick and tired of Gnome Shell.

Ask every Gnome user. Every Gnome release, developers take away features, while giving us a proverbial carrot, but Gnome 3? They decided to just give us a stick.

For starters, the GDM, The screen where you log in? There used to be a way to select your keyboard language and other settings. That’s gone in 3.0. (Psst, some people use áccénts on their passwords but I guess Gnome isn’t designed for people)

I think the most frustrating thing missing from Gnome 3.0′s “Fallback” mode is the fact that the panels *try* to look like the old panels, but fail miserably.

All actions have been moved to ‘Alt’, so if you want to add, move or remove a shortcut, you need to use ‘Alt’+’Right Click’. Also gone is the ability to resize the bar to the former 24 pixel glory (It’s now set to 29 and haven’t found a way to make it smaller).

If that wasn’t enough, painting the bar to a different color is now impossible, thanks to the removal of the slider that lets you set Transparency under the Panel Properties.

And if you haven’t noticed, all Applets are gone from 3.0. Read somewhere about having your cake and eating it, but this isn’t cake, this is rotten eggs. Artificially obsoleted rotten eggs. Trying to install applets like lock-keys or the cpu frequency scaler is impossible, because they’ve been artificially obsoleted.

Also gone are icons on your desktop, the ability to change themes or fonts and minimize and maximize buttons. These are easily fixed with gnome-tweak-tools, but they’re still gone by default and its one more thing we need to tweak to get a usable desktop.

Since I’m not a fan of the dark theme, I really appreciate Marcus Möller’s Newlooks theme and thought I’d mention it here.

I’d like to end this note with an official announcement: I’m working on an alternative repository that will bring Gnome’s Missing Features back to Gnome 3, without any conflicts at all. I’m concentrating on bringing applets back at first, but also want to fix most of gnome-panel’s newest quirks. I was thinking on calling this “Plus”, but now that Google beat me to it… I’ll see what funky name I come up with.

I’m not abandoning the BlueBubble repository, but I’m working on something that should help out more abandoned Gnome users.

Edit: Also on my Gnome Hate List: The ugly black icons on top (Bluetooth, Audio and Battery). I’ve managed to replace the Bluetooth one but have had little success replacing the horrible volume and battery icons.

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Posted in Fedora, News, packaging, Rant
24 comments on “Why Gnome 3′s Fallback mode sucks
  1. bruno says:

    I just switched to LXDE.
    It works great.
    If the people at Gnome really want to destroy their own project, we cannot stop them.

  2. Stephane says:

    You should call it “Gnome/3″, because by dividing the current iteration by itself you’re bringing back the original Gnome, with all its features ;)

  3. fabdsp says:

    Excellent idea :-)

    if you need help to test something, just ask !

  4. strac says:

    Without NEW hardware, ie accelerated graphics, GNOME3 will not work. In effect, this obsoletes all of my machines. FVWM to the rescue… :)

  5. Máté Gelei says:

    I don’t have any problems with the new GNOME. In fact, I’m using it on my home computer. (Not speaking about any laptops and workplace stuff, they have Xfce)

    But fallback is… well, fallback. It is limited, and it’s meant to be how it’s used. It’s very different from the actual, default G3 interface. Xfce and co are ways better for old-school desktops than fallback mode.

  6. Anzhr says:

    Xfce 4.8. GNOME has no future. It has abandoned the desktop for a touch based smartphone or tablet paradigm but will never be used on either. It’s over.

  7. Gustavo says:

    Just use XFCE. It is even better than Gnome 2.

  8. kvv says:

    “I’d like to end this note with an official announcement: I’m working on an alternative repository that will bring Gnome’s Missing Features back to Gnome 3, without any conflicts at all.”

    Thanks! But, I don’t think the fallback mode is bad as you make it out to be. Gnome2 is still ahead by a long shot, but don’t you think that gnome3 can catchup ?

  9. bochecha says:

    Let’s see…

    > “All actions have been moved to ‘Alt’, so if you want to add, move or remove a shortcut, you need to use ‘Alt’+’Right Click’.”

    Of course, since you “add, move or remove a shortcut” every 5 minutes, that is a huge problem. :)

    Irony aside, I can see how this is not discoverable, but you’ll have to admit that once you know it, it’s not a problem any more.

    > “If that wasn’t enough, painting the bar to a different color is now impossible, thanks to the removal of the slider that lets you set Transparency under the Panel Properties.”

    Gsettings perhaps? (this is a real question, I don’t know the answer)

    > “And if you haven’t noticed, all Applets are gone from 3.0. Read somewhere about having your cake and eating it, but this isn’t cake, this is rotten eggs. Artificially obsoleted rotten eggs. Trying to install applets like lock-keys or the cpu frequency scaler is impossible, because they’ve been artificially obsoleted.”

    You mean the gnome-panel-3.0 package in Fedora 15 is obsoleting all the applets packages?

    This was made because the applets don’t work anymore with the new libpanelapplet. They can’t even be **built** anymore.

    So the problem is not that they have been artificially obsoleted, it’s that their upstreams have not ported them to the new version of the library.

    Fedora packagers had to make a choice, and it was decided that the obsolete trick would be the cleanest solution. It is far from perfect, butwhat else would you suggest?

    Note that once the applets have been ported and are updated in Fedora 15, then the obsoletes can be removed. (which is one of the arguments in favor of this decision in the first place)

    > “Also gone are icons on your desktop,”

    That’s because Nautilus doesn’t handle the desktop any more. You can have that back with gsettings/gnome-tweak-tool.

    > “the ability to change themes or fonts and minimize and maximize buttons. These are easily fixed with gnome-tweak-tools

    How can the “ability to change” be “gone” if it is still possible?

    > “and its one more thing we need to tweak to get a usable desktop.”

    My desktop is perfectly usable. I haven’t changed any of those defaults.

    Mind you, I’m even using Gnome-Shell, which should make my desktop even worse, right? :)

    > “Since I’m not a fan of the dark theme, I really appreciate Marcus Möller’s Newlooks theme and thought I’d mention it here.”

    Oh, so it’s still possible to change themes then? :)

    > “Edit: Also on my Gnome Hate List: The ugly black icons on top (Bluetooth, Audio and Battery). I’ve managed to replace the Bluetooth one but have had little success replacing the horrible volume and battery icons.”

    AFAIK they are “symbolic” icons. The way this works is that applications request Gtk “give me the icon called foobar, and if possible the symbolic version”. If Gtk doesn’t find a symbolic version, it simply hands back the non-symbolic one.

    Which means the solution is pretty easy: use a theme that doesn’t provide any symbolic icons. :)
    (hint: removing the symbolic icons from the default theme should work, they are all called *-symbolic.{png,svg})

    > “I’d like to end this note with an official announcement: I’m working on an alternative repository that will bring Gnome’s Missing Features back to Gnome 3, without any conflicts at all. I’m concentrating on bringing applets back at first, but also want to fix most of gnome-panel’s newest quirks.”

    Why not simply do that upstream, and fix the panels so that they build (and work!) with the new libpanelapplet?

    Everyone would benefit from that:
    - the fallback mode would be better maintained, and thus more usable
    - people unhappy with Gnome-Shell would have a more decent Gnome desktop
    - Gnome developers who want to move on to the Shell could spend less time on those

    I mean, the fallback mode is not just a random piece of crap that was fed to the grumpy old farts until they either move to the Shell or leave Gnome. Gnome actually cares about that fallback mode, it’s just that most devs are excited by the Gnome-Shell and as such no one has stepped up yet to work on the fallback mode.

    I sincerely hope your “official announcement” could mean that you would do just that: work upstream on the fallback mode, become its champion, and who knows, maybe prove to “the arrogant Gnome designers” how wrong they are once all users runs to your fallback mode.

    I really do!

    But as many before you have complained without doing anything, I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I’ll just go back to using Gnome-Shell, and loving it. ;)

    • Nushio says:

      Well that was an extremely long reply, and I’ll make mine brief.

      >Irony aside, I can see how this is not discoverable, but you’ll have to admit that once you know it, it’s not a problem any more.

      Yeah, it was a discovery thing. I didn’t know about it until someone mentioned it. It’s non-intuitive, sorta like shutting down the computer on Gnome Shell =P

      > (Re: painting the bar) Gsettings perhaps? (this is a real question, I don’t know the answer)

      I checked gsettings, dconf-editor and gconf-editor. No luck.

      > This was made because the applets don’t work anymore with the new libpanelapplet. They can’t even be **built** anymore.

      They could’ve left bonobo as a fallback until they’ve been ported. I’m currently working on porting them as a matter of fact. Yes, I’ll submit upstream.

      > That’s because Nautilus doesn’t handle the desktop any more. You can have that back with gsettings/gnome-tweak-tool.

      I know, I stated gnome-tweak-tool let me do it, but it’s gone from “Gnome’s defaults”.

      >Oh, so it’s still possible to change themes then?
      Yes, using gnome-tweak-tool

      >Which means the solution is pretty easy: use a theme that doesn’t provide any symbolic icons.
      (hint: removing the symbolic icons from the default theme should work, they are all called *-symbolic.{png,svg})

      That, I didn’t know =P

      > Why not simply do that upstream, and fix the panels so that they build (and work!) with the new libpanelapplet?
      I intend to! http://mail.gnome.org/archives/gnome-devel-list/2011-July/msg00000.html

      > I sincerely hope your “official announcement” could mean that you would do just that: work upstream on the fallback mode, become its champion, and who knows, maybe prove to “the arrogant Gnome designers” how wrong they are once all users runs to your fallback mode.
      Yes, I intend to submit everything I make upstream, but I’m not entirely sure if it’ll be accepted or not.

      >But as many before you have complained without doing anything, I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, I’ll just go back to using Gnome-Shell, and loving it.
      The hell? I complained about Gnome 3 *and* made Gnome 2 work on Fedora 15, so if anything, I’m not the kind of person that just rants and leaves it at that.

      • bochecha says:

        > They could’ve left bonobo as a fallback until they’ve been
        > ported.

        Wrong pronoun. ;)

        As with anything in FOSS I know, I stated gnome-tweak-tool let me do it, but it’s
        > gone from “Gnome’s defaults”.

        So what? As long as it can be change, where is the problem?

        > Yes, I intend to submit everything I make upstream, but
        > I’m not entirely sure if it’ll be accepted or not.

        Gnome devs and release team members have repeatdely stated that if anyone wanted to maintain the fallback stack, they were welcome to do so.

        I’ve even seen one release member offer people to fork the 2.x code and maintain it on Gnome infrastructure if they wanted to do so and were ready for the big commitment.

        I don’t see any reason why any contribution would be refused, provided that it is sound, and with quality patches.

        About your patch (I’m not subscribed to the gnome-devel list), it usually is frowned upon to leave old lines commented out. That’s what we have VCSes for, so just remove them and leave only the new version.

        Now, about the specific change, instead of bluntly submitting a patch that fixes a value to a constant, it is perhaps better to start by wondering why this was calculated in the first place.

        A quick git exploration tells me that the “calculate min height” stuff was made in this commit:
        commit 3fd770b6cd01248541cd98e906f3a14395f17876
        Author: Vincent Untz
        Date: Tue Feb 1 20:38:31 2005 +0000

        This was apparently to fix this bug:
        https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=164341

        So as you can see, this has been made to fix exactly the bug you are describing !

        Obviously, something went wrong later on.

        My guess is that one of those two commits is the culprit:
        - 75e5bc6a50ef7ecc3cbb9f7833132cec900ff5c8 ports to the new styling API
        - 70b5d9e57451dff3a25b3fbcc8dec671cac469cb does some stuff I don’t quite understand with the padding

        Both were made recently, in the move to Gnome 3.

        (Note: this is a uneducated guess from someone who has very little experience in Gtk)

        Frankly, I think the best would be to reopen bug 164341, and start the discussion there.

        I also think that if it’s calculated rather than fixed to a constant, there is probably a good reason that neither of us gets. So ask why, and try to fix the algorythm that calculates an incorrect value.

        I’m convinced that such a patch would be accepted really fast, since (as you can see from the bug) the behavior you want seems to also be the one upstream wants.

        Good luck in your quest to get a better fallback mode, and thanks for not just complaining but actually doing stuff. :) (even though I will probably never use the stuff you make)

        • bochecha says:

          Apparently I failed posting the comment as I wanted, so here goes a second attempt. :)

          The above should have read:
          ———-

          > They could’ve left bonobo as a fallback until
          > they’ve been ported.

          Wrong pronoun.

          As with anything in FOSS, it’s not “they”, it’s “I” or “we”.

          > I know, I stated gnome-tweak-tool let me do it,
          > but it’s gone from “Gnome’s defaults”.


          ———-

          • Nushio says:

            Dude, I seriously appreciate your comments and feedback. I know that my patch was an extremely dirty job. I was just patching the RPM’s source, not from the git, and know that I have to follow their guidelines if I want to submit an official patch.

            https://live.gnome.org/GnomeLove_2fSubmittingPatches

            Regarding the behavior and the other bug? THANK YOU! I’ve been asking around on several Gnome channels for someone who could help me out and clear things and apparently you just did. I will definitely follow the procedure and try to fix this.

            Finally, about taking Gnome Panels? I can’t commit myself 100%, but I’ll sure give it my best. I really like Gnome.

          • Nushio says:

            Oh and I’m definitely taking your quote to heart.

            “As with anything in FOSS, it’s not “they”, it’s “I” or “we”.”

  10. bochecha says:

    (can’t reply to your last messages, it seems we reached the maximum nesting level in your blog software)

    You’re welcome.

    I have been sick of all those people complaining about Gnome 3 for months, insulting developers and designers,…

    I have pointed them towards ways they could improve things (contributing to the dead-born EXDE project, taking over maintainership of the “classical” Gnome UX,…), and every time, their answers have been “I’m moving to XFCE/LXDE/$other_de”, along with more rants, making them look like angry children who had lost their toys.

    Thank you for reacting the only sane way: “don’t like it? step up and do the work!”

    Like I said, I absolutely don’t care for the fallback mode or the old Gnome 2.x UX: I love Gnome-Shell. But still, I’m sure there are people out there who will be immensely happy with what you are proposing them, and your attitude made me want to spend those 10 minutes grepping through thte git tree and logs to help you get started. :)

    (in the future, if you could just try to avoid strong words such as this article’s title, it would be even better. Plus, once you’ve fixed it, I’m sure the fallback mode won’t suck any more ;)

    • Nushio says:

      (Maximum nesting? Heh, blame WordPress :P)

      To be fair, I did take XFCE and LXDE for a spin before setting out and porting Gnome 2 to Fedora 15. I learned a lot while porting Gnome 2, and that’s what convinced me to work on Gnome 3.

      The thing behind Shell vs Panels is that not all computers can run Shell, and not all users who can use Shell like the paradigm change.

      You’re right in that I should avoid insulting devs, but I don’t believe ‘sucks’ to be a strong word :p It’s mild in comparison to my thoughts on Sony and Oracle.

      Anyway, I’m currently cloning a couple of Gnome Git Repos. I hope to make Gnome Panels better for 3.2.

  11. Blue Knight says:

    I’m sorry but yes, The Fallback Mode is not the same as GNOME 2 and GNOME 3, with the Shell, is not for users. GNOME3 is not for productivity. GNOME3 is not for mentally sane people. GNOME3 is the demise of the entire GNOME project.

    Also “File management is discouraged in both GNOME 3 and Ubuntu’s Unity, but for older or experienced users, it remains a basic function of system management.” (from from GNOME vs. KDE Apps: Which Are Best For You?, by Bruce Byfield at http://www.datamation.com/open-source/gnome-vs.-kde-apps-which-is-best-for-you-.html)

    • bochecha says:

      I’m not sure Bruce Byfield is a spoke-person for Gnome.

      As such, his quote is merely his opinion, not a statement of the Gnome developers.

      I don’t see how file management could be discouraged in Gnome 3 (don’t know about Unity).

      There are only two differences on this aspect compared to Gnome 2:
      1. the desktop is not a folder any more
      2. the folder shortcuts (“Places” menu in Gnome 2) are not available irectly in Gnome Shell, you have to search for them

      Number 1 is a design decision, but frankly, it doesn’t change a lot.

      Number 2 is a temporary state, due to the fact that Gnome 3 is still 3.0: it simply hasn’t been implemented yet.

      From that, how could you conclude that “file management is discouraged”?

      Note that tehre are grand plans for the future in this area, but designing and implementing it will take time:
      http://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/Design/Whiteboards/FindingAndReminding
      http://live.gnome.org/DocumentCentricGnome
      http://blogs.gnome.org/mccann/2011/06/08/new-pony/

      Now please stop relaying random quotes from random people and making them pass for the truth when it’s just FUD.

      Gnome 3 is at its 3.0 iteration, 3.2 will bring some new things, and no doubt that after a few iterations file management will be rocking.

  12. Blue Knight says:

    > “Now please stop relaying random quotes from random people and making them pass for the truth when it’s just FUD.”

    As usual with the Linux fans, when someone says something that bothers or that displeases, they say this person is trolling or saying FUD… Quite sad.

    > “Gnome 3 is at its 3.0 iteration, 3.2 will bring some new things, and no doubt that after a few iterations file management will be rocking.”

    We’ll see but I don’t believe that at all.

    For now, GNOME is dead. :’-( (and yet GNOME 2 was my desktop of choice but GNOME 3 is just crap and idiot)

  13. Don Lindsay says:

    Agreed that the GNOME 3 paradigm sucks. I don’t mind the occasional learning curve, but I’m finding that things I do every day – multiple times every day – are just a bit slower and more painful. To the designers, I give you the immortal words Linus addressed to the Subversionists: “You’re stupid. And ugly.”

    For example, the bar that replaces the panel(s), is across the top. That’s dumb. If modern monitors can be said to have spare pixels, then they are on the sides, not the top ! Monitors are manufactured to show widescreen video, and those of us who try to run browsers have a surplus of width, and a shortage of height.

    I used to be able to see certain kinds of status at a glance, by looking at the shape of icons in the panel. Now I have to mouse around to check – ie, poll. Oh, brilliant.

    If I want to unclutter the screen for a moment, I can still roll up (“shade”) a window, but I needed the gnome-tweak-tool to enable it. And now it turns out that a shaded window will, after a few minutes, go gray and be unusable. Any information I was trying to keep around has been destroyed, and there is a turd on the screen that can neither be opened nor deleted. Way to go.

    Love the way the panel’s popup calendar is black on black, more or less. So useful. And don’t get me started on dual-monitor support, or session restore.

    Gaah. Sometimes, people say “Don’t worry, the problems are temporary”, and I have faith. But in the case of GNOME 3, I am beginning to think the next Fedora, I won’t even download the mainline version. I’ll go right to a spin.

  14. Person McPerson says:

    More power to ya. I (and I’m sure many others) really appreciate having BlueBubble. Thanks!

    I have been trying to adjust to the Gnome 3 workflow, and I should probably take the time to vent somewhere. Up front, I would like to thank all the developers for their hard work. I know it’s not easy to make such a big change and then witness a mixture of positive and/or constructive feedback and disparaging comments.

    That said, it would have been nice to have a fully functional 2.32 setup alongside Shell so that I could switch back and forth to experiment. I’ve been running F11 for two years on my primary machine and want to experience the new Fedora goodness. Also, it’s gonna take a while before I can put emotions aside and understand which of the inconvenient changes are worth getting used to and which ones are truly bad (for me).

    Most of my issues with Shell and the fallback have been addressed here and elsewhere, so suffice it to say that: while some things will improve with maturity (extensions/applets, themes, graphically exposed settings, etc.), other things won’t because of fundamental design decisions and UX philosophy. In a way this is great because it’s really motivating me to dig in and do something with the little free time I have nowadays.

    I am a developer but know nothing about Gnome development. Drop me a line if there’s something I can do to help in your new effort.

  15. Scott says:

    Oh christ, they moved actions to Alt! I’ve been searching the freaking internet for the past hour wondering how to remove this damn app from my panel, and finally I find that I just needed to press the damn alt key.

    Well, thank you for pointing that out. You’ve helped me tonight :)

  16. pashanoid says:

    I’ve been on Gnome since 1997, and every time they got rid of something good. This time they’ve outdone themselves. Mac wannabe, smartphone tablet OS copycat horrible hightmare!

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