Linus Torvalds finds GNOME 3.4 to be a "total user experience design failure"

Linus Torvalds finds GNOME 3.4 to be a "total user experience design failure"

Summary: I only dislike the latest version of the GNOME Linux desktop, Linus Torvalds, Linux's primary inventor, hates it.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Linus Torvalds still really, really dislikes the GNOME 3 Linux desktop

Linus Torvalds still really, really dislikes the GNOME 3 Linux desktop

When Fedora 17 released GNOME 3.4, I found I could deal with it. I still didn't like it much, and I prefer both Ubuntu 12.04's Unity and Linux Mint 13's Cinnamon interfaces, but if I had to, I could live with the GNOME 3.4 desktop.

But for Linus Torvalds, Linux's primary creator, GNOME 3.4 is ”a total UX (user experience design) failure."

Torvalds has long disliked the GNOME 3.x family. But, as Torvalds explained in his Google+ posting on GNOME 3.4:

I broke down, and upgraded my old aging Fedora install on my desktop. Simply because my old F14 comes with ancient X versions that don't contain all the fixes to make Intel 3D really work well. And yes, things really do work better on the graphical side.

But with F17 comes gnome3. And I knew I'd have trouble, but also knew that most of the worst crap could be fixed with extensions, and I'd used 3.4 on my laptop enough to know it should be all somewhat usable.

Alas, his hopes were soon crushed. “Christ, it's a one step forward, one step back kind of thing,” he wrote.

Still Torvalds bravely soldiered on. He went to the beta GNOME Shell Extensions to “install the panel favorites extension that not only obviates the need for the stupid dual 'first go to activities, then go to favorites,' but also fixes it so that I can get multiple terminals without doing the whole 'three times widdershins and left-click' dance. That gets things usable.”

Finding your way through Fedora 17 (Gallery)

Or does it make things usable? “And then I want auto-hide. But now extensions.gnome.org says 'You do not appear to have an up to date version of GNOME3.” Oh? So 3.4.1 (current F17 as of today) isn't up-to-date enough? Oh wait, no, it's actually just that the chrome plug-in seems broken. Fire up Firefox instead - now it works. And I can get panel settings and enable auto-hide so that I don't need to look at that butt-ugly thing that has clearly been designed by some goth teenager that thinks that black is cool.”

And on and on it goes, “where did the "Lock Screen" button go? I can still find+Sriram Ramkrishna's extension by searching for it, but it's grayed out - and apparently for a reason. It doesn't seem to work any more.

And how do I add --enable-webgl --ignore-gpu-blacklist to the google chrome favorites entry? I'm pretty sure I was able to edit the startup details for the favorites in some version of gnome3 with some random installed extensions (probably the frippery set), but it's impossible to find now.”

Torvalds had had enough with the GNOME Shell Extensions way of “fixing” GNOME.

I have to say, I used to think that the "extensions.gnome.org" approach to fixing the deficiencies in gnome3 was really cool. It made me go "Ahh, now I can fix the problems I had".

But it turns out to be a major pain, when it basically ends up as a really magical way to customize your desktop, which breaks randomly and has no sane way to do across machines. And the extensions seem to randomly break when you update the system, so they don't work as well as they would if they just came with the base system.

End result: extensions.gnome.org may be a really cool idea, but it seems to have some serious usability problems in practice. And the whole gnome3 approach of "by default we don't give you even the most basic tools to fix things, but you can hack around things with unofficial extensions" seems to be a total UX (user experience design) failure.

What really ticked off Torvalds the most was that GNOME makes it so hard to control font sizes. As he notes after Calvin Walton shows him the way to adjust fonts in GNOME 3 You'll find it under the Universal Access" (aka Accessibility) settings panel, where there's a rough font size control with such options Small, Normal, Large, and Larger, "Changing the font sizes in that one actually seems to deadlock gnome-shell, I needed to go the the VC (virtual console) and do a "killall -9 gnome-shell" to get things back. Fine, bugs I don't mind, they'll get fixed. It's not the level of font control I want, and it's not under a "Fonts" setting, but it's better than nothing."

?Later on in the resulting discussion, several people suggest that Torvalds just use the GNOME 3.4 keyboard shortcuts. Torvalds was not amused.

I'm really tired of the f*cking old "just use the keyboard shortcuts" crap. Sure, if you're a keyboarding person, then gnome3 is a big improvement. But dammit, if you're like me, and you write using the keyboard, and then use mousing for other operations, gnome3 is just not doing the right thing.

And what irritates me is how the gnome3 fanboys (and more importantly, developers), seem to never acknowledge that different people have different tastes. The whole "we know best" thing is a disease.

I'm really not that odd. I want a few things:

    - smaller fonts (especially window decorations) - sane "start new terminal" without multiple steps from the panel - auto-hide the panel so that I don't have to feel "all emo all the time" - focus-follows-mouse - the ability to use a few default flags for certain programs

and the fact is that none of the above are "odd" requests, but for some unknown reasons gnome makes these fundamental things really inconvenient and hard to find.

And christ people - stop telling me about gnome-tweak-tool. I know . I mentioned the damn thing in the post, for chissake! Telling me about the tweak tool just shows that you didn't even bother to read what I wrote.

I have found how to do all of the above things - except for the "flags for favorite applications" - but the fact is, the gnome extensions are not reliable and the UX sucks.

Will Linus ever be happy with GNOME 3.x? I'd say something trite like "Stay tuned." But, you I don't think he ever will be happy with the GNOME 3.x desktop. The GNOME 3 developers have their vision of what they want from the Linux desktop and it's not the one Torvalds wants.

Other users don't want GNOME 3.x either. The latest LinuxQuestions Linux survey showed that KDE was the most popular interface with 33% of the vote. GNOME came in second with 19.14% of the vote. Doesn't sound too bad does it? Think again, GNOME had 45% of the vote in the last survey. GNOME's old users are fleeing to such one unfashionable desktops as Xfce. At the same time, new desktop interface spins like Cinnamon, Unity, and the GNOME 2.x fork MATE are gaining supporters.

For many years the Linux desktop rate was between GNOME and KDE and everyone else was far in the back. Now, KDE has become the desktop of choice—but not Torvalds' choice—and I wouldn't even venture a guess at which interface will be in second place come the next LinuxQuestions survey.

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Topic: Open Source

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103 comments
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  • What about Metro

    SVJN,

    Please have Linus give us his thoughts on Metro and W8. I'm about as interested in hearing about this as hearing what he thinks about GNOME 3.4.

    Thanks but no thanks!
    jjworleyeoe
    • If he did...

      ...he'd be more qualified to do so than the typical MS fanboy is to comment on Linux.
      John L. Ries
      • Really?

        Linus might be able to distinguish between one grid of static icons and another, but I can't - they all look old, tired and confused.
        tonymcs@...
      • You actually ADMIT to being confused by a grid of icons?

        tonymcs@... ,
        Well at least youre honest:)

        Pagan jim
        anonymous
      • My bad

        I was definitely trolling. I do apologize, seriously. But I do get tired of SVJN's constant anti-microsoft dribble. At least here he's speaking about something he knows a great deal about.
        jjworleyeoe
  • Linus Torvalds finds GNOME 3.4 to be a "total user experience design failur

    Its a pretty bad day in linux land when its creator hates it. You may ask yourself where does it go from here? All down hill! When your fearless leader isn't inspired by his own product then no one else will be. Ah the power of open source, when you think a product couldn't get any crappier it finally does. Remember, even though linux is on its way out there are other better alternatives.

    Link count: 13
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Conflation.

      [i]Its a pretty bad day in linux land when its creator hates it. You may ask yourself where does it go from here? All down hill! When your fearless leader isn't inspired by his own product then no one else will be. Ah the power of open source, when you think a product couldn't get any crappier it finally does. Remember, even though linux is on its way out there are other better alternatives.

      Link count: 13[/i]

      The word to describe your post is conflation. That means, helpfully, mixing together different concepts in a confused manner.

      Linux is a kernel. You can build many things on top of it. Some aren't even GNU-Land like Google's Android. Others do fall into GNU-Land, like GNOME, Xfce, KDE, LXDE, Awesome, and others.

      The critical mistake you made is to consider GNOME and Linux as one and the same. They are not. I'm "running Linux" right now with nary a trace of GNOME. GNOME does not equal Linux.

      If you do not have such a basic grasp of the workings of GNU/Linux then you should really research some more before posting and making a fool out of yourself.

      As with all GNU/Linux stories, you have a history of posting flat-out lies.
      BP314
      • In the political realm...

        ...it's called "spin doctoring", but he who must not be named has never been any good at it. I figure a real shill would produce more believable lies.

        Reply to Fri13:

        Not quite right. GNU was intended to be Richard Stallman's free operating system (his definition), but in practice is a collection of utilities, libraries, development tools and assorted programs produced by the GNU Project over the years. Linux, on the other hand, is, strictly speaking, just a kernel (and that is what Linus Torvalds developed and maintains, not the whole system). The typical Linux distro uses the Linux kernel, but much if not most of the remaining software and libraries come from GNU, which is why Dr. Stallman has long advocated that the combined system be referred to as GNU/Linux. He has a point, but maybe he should be trying a little harder to get his own kernel (the HURD) ready for production work.

        Reply to Daddy Tadpole:

        Linux is an OS (or rather, a family of OS'), not a political party. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Linux users (including Linus Torvalds) publicly criticizing aspects of the system they don't like; indeed, they should. There is certainly no need to hide internal debate behind closed doors.
        John L. Ries
      • There is no GNU/Linux

        "A monolithic kernel is an operating system architecture where the entire operating system is working in the kernel space and alone as supervisor mode."

        Linux (aka Linux kernel) is a monolithic operating system. Whole operating system.
        GNU/Linux in other hand (if it would exist) would be closer to "Development platform" where Linux operating system is operating GNU development tools.
        Fri13
        • Good Luck

          Good luck compiling or developing the Linux kernel without GNU tools.
          KodiacZiller
      • RE: Conflation.

        BP314 wrote:
        [i]GNOME does not equal Linux.[/i]

        This is Steven's fault as he never mentions alternative open-source operating systems like OpenBSD, FreeBSD and PC-BSD. All of which support the GNOME desktop environment.

        He rarely talks about Oracle Solaris (he only blogged about OpenSolaris, before the developers walked away, because it gave him an excuse to trash Oracle). Here's a link to a description of the Solaris 11 desktop:

        http://blogs.gnome.org/calum/2011/11/09/whats-new-on-the-solaris-11-desktop/

        Note that GNOME 2.30 defaults.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • GNOME isn't Linux, but the argument damages Linux

        "The critical mistake you made is to consider GNOME and Linux as one and the same. They are not. I'm "running Linux" right now with nary a trace of GNOME. GNOME does not equal Linux."

        It's a bIt odd that there was confusion in the original post. However, every time I try to switch to Linux there's some kind of muddle, apart from the question of old expensive Win only software I can't replace.

        The default desktop that came with Fedora was confusing and it took me ages to find how to turn the machine off. Apart from that, my Toshiba Satellite overheated very badly (a known problem Toshiba ignores).

        Sorry to go a bit OT, but some user friendliness, convenience and reliability is needed to make Linux work on office PCs. I was going to add 'uniformity' to the list of adjectives, but the strength of Linux is the variety of distributions and options; it just needs taming.
        Daddy Tadpole
      • GNOME isn't Linux, but the argument damages Linux

        Daddy Tadpole
        "The critical mistake you made is to consider GNOME and Linux as one and the same. They are not. I'm "running Linux" right now with nary a trace of GNOME. GNOME does not equal Linux."

        While you are correct, the average user doesn't have a clue about what Linux really is. To them, Gnome or whatever desktop interface they are using IS Linux, though with a little effort that interface can be changed to something else.

        Yes, the argument damages Linux. I find it interesting how vitriolic Steven's attacks on Gnome are considering how many people don't know the difference. To the average reader, Steven stated that Linus doesn't like Linux because they don't know what Gnome is.

        The joys of a technical world!
        Cynical99
  • From the article: Now, KDE has become the desktop of choice

    Seriously? The most recent Linux desktop environment poll linked in the article dates from Dec. 2011 to March 2012. KDE is #1 with 33%. Xfce is #2 with 28%. Looks like its pretty much a draw to me.

    Quoted from Linus in the article:
    [i]I???m really not that odd. I want a few things:
    - smaller fonts (especially window decorations)
    - sane ???start new terminal??? without multiple steps from the panel
    - auto-hide the panel so that I don???t have to feel ???all emo all the time???
    - focus-follows-mouse
    - the ability to use a few default flags for certain programs[/i]

    Answer: Xfce

    P.S. 'Unfashionable' is an odd word to describe Xfce on a platform (desktop Linux) that has approx. 1.5% market share.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • lol

      since when is a 5% difference a draw? :-p
      belli_bettens@...
  • People are Forgetting UNITY

    I think people are simply forgetting Unity. I've been using it for about as long as its been available and I find it totally wonderful. It might be probably because I find the Apple User Interface nice (but not awesome).

    Unity has its own problems with font and 'art' in general. I think the colors are too dull and that there are few themes that really blow you away. But at the end of the day when it comes to productivity, I think I can not blame the UI for it. Linux in general works good for an App developer like me. But I would not mind working with a better interface.

    Cinnamon on the other hand looks interesting as well. So does Aura(if I'm not wrong) on ChromeOS

    P.S. Ubuntu, Mint and Fedora should seriously consider letting end users design UI for them and that the best design should go on a poll basis.
    arseshan
    • Not forgetting Unity

      I agree. I've gone from hating the early versions of Unity, and opting for XFCE or Pinguy, to liking the most recent version in Ubuntu 12.04. I like it better than Mint or KDE. And, yes, the Gnome 3.X desktop blows.
      Max015
  • There is a reason why the GNOME Foundation is known as the GUI Nazis

    They make decisions based on what they think is cool and delete options/features just because it is not cool enough to fix anymore.

    GNOME even ignores basic UI rules (like having the Cancel button as far away from the cursor ... although Cancel is a higher priority button than OK) and if you open a bug report, expect nothing but insults from the developer instead of a fix.
    wackoae
  • Ubuntu 12.04 + Cinnamon

    My choice is Ubuntu 12.04 + Cinnamon, it has better look than Mint 13 (specially the login window) and is somewhat more polished than Mint, and Cinnamon is better than Mint Meta. I think that if the "Favorits" part of the Cinnamon menu could be configured to having 2 columns such as the menu does not keep growing vertically, this would be my choice desktop por Gnome 3. Ubuntu Unity is great for some (my wife, a scientist. loves it) but is not for me.
    csevcik
    • Have to agree with csevcik ;

      the combination Ubuntu 12.04 OS + the Cinnamon 1.4 desktop environment is sweet. Agile and flexible, it allows me to do whatever I need to do on my computers. Kudos to the Ubuntu developers and to Clement Lefebvre and his Cinnamon team !...

      Henri
      mhenriday