Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

Summary: Linus Torvalds, Linux's creator, really, really dislikes the GNOME 3 Linux desktop. He's far from the only one.


Those of us, who've known Linus Torvalds over the years, like yours truly, know that Linux's inventor, Mr. Penguin if you will, is a quiet gentle soul who never raises his voice when something bothers him. Ahem. I lie like a rug. While I have known Torvalds for decades, he's anything but shy and he never suffers fools gladly. So, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that when Torvalds decided he didn't like the new version of the GNOME desktop, he didn't mince any words about it.

It all started in a public Google+ posting by Dave Jones, a Red Hat engineer and one of the maintainers of Fedora Linux, where Jones announced some minor Linux kernel news for a Fedora update. As the discussion continued, Torvalds joined in and remarked, "Could you also fork gnome, and support a gnome-2 environment? I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3."

He's not the only one. I also don't like GNOME 3 either. I much prefer the last version of GNOME 2.x: GNOME 2.32. It may be "out of date," but it's the default desktop for my current favorite desktop Linux: Mint 11.

Why? Well, I'll let Mr. Torvalds tell you:

it's not that I have rendering problems with gnome3 (although I do have those too), it's that the user experience of Gnome3 even without rendering problems is unacceptable.

Why can't I have shortcuts on my desktop? Why can't I have the expose functionality? Wobbly windows? Why does anybody sane think that it's a good idea to have that "go to the crazy 'activities'" menu mode?

I used to be upset when gnome developers decided it was "too complicated" for the user to remap some mouse buttons. In gnome3, the developers have apparently decided that it's "too complicated" to actually do real work on your desktop, and have decided to make it really annoying to do.

Here's an example of "the crazy": you want a new terminal window. So you go to "activities" and press the "terminal" thing that you've made part of your normal desktop thing (but why can't I just have it on the desktop, instead of in that insane "activities" mode?). What happens? Nothing. It brings your existing terminal to the forefront.

That's just crazy crap. Now I need to use Shift-Control-N in an old terminal to bring up a new one. Yeah, that's a real user experience improvement. Sure.

I'm sure there are other ways, but that's just an example of the kind of "head up the arse" behavior of gnome3. Seriously. I have been asking other developers about gnome3, they all think it's crazy.

I'm using Xfce [a lightweight Unix/Linux desktop). I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really.

As you can see, Torvalds is far from shy about voicing his opinion about GNOME. He wasn't the only one. Dirk Hohndel, Intel's chief Linux and open-source technologist, said in the same thread, "Gnome 3 is just completely unusable as far as I'm concerned."

Since then, Hohndel's been giving GNOME another try, but, "It's still not exactly what I'm used to, but getting closer." That said,  Hohndel observed later in his discussion, after some especially trying times with a large display, "Does it worry you that I need a dozen Gnome lovers to help me just to do fairly regular things with my computer? Things that all used to work just fine with Gnome2?"

It should worry them. It should worry them a lot.

Long time readers of mine know that I was really unhappy when KDE, the other major Linux desktop, decided to go in a new direction with KDE 4. As KDE 4 matured, I eventually started to like it.

I'm not sure that's going to happen with GNOME 3.x. With KDE 4, I saw where they wanted to go, I just didn't think it was a great idea. With GNOME... I really don't know what they're trying to do. It looks to me like change just for the sake of change, and that's pointless.

Of course, it's one thing when just a technology journalist, like me, doesn't like what you're doing. But, when leading Linux developers dislike a desktop this much, and one major Linux distribution, Ubuntu, dislikes it so much that they decided to replace the GNOME 3 shell with an entirely different desktop approach, Unity, I think it's time for GNOME's developers to sit down and seriously consider whether they've should backtrack to the GNOME 2 architecture.

If they don't? Well this is open source. Someone could always fork the project. If things don't start changing for the better, maybe someone should.

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Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

    If someone tried to distribute me, I'd be pretty antsy!

    On the other hand, Linus is right. Gnome 3 (and Ubuntu's Unity) are the wrong direction. I know they're trying to dumb things down for Windows expatriates, but taking away functionality from long time users of Linux is just plain stupid. I've moved to LXDE for the moment, which works fine enough but lacks some of the features I got to know and love in Gnome.
    • stop blaming windows

      @edvardlarsson The failure of desktop linux is its own doing.
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        Go troll in some other place.
      • you'll have to do better than that

        @kirovs fix the problems with Linux.

        It didnt have to be this way, all this petty bickering cost desktop linux its chance.
      • Who says it's failed?

        ...and how many Linux users do you think are likely to give up Linux over this? As pointed out in the article, there are other desktop managers, and switching is relatively easy.
        John L. Ries
      • I agree

        @otaddy Linux lack of focus has really hurt the OS. It would be like several companies introducing Windows but with UI changes. In the end they end up working agsinst each other.
        Linux openness is its achiles heal.
      • Linux's Openness Is the Only Reason It's Still Here

        The openness of Linux is the only reason it exists at all. You want focus? Try using OS/2 or BeOS (both very good operating systems). They had focus, but they don't have market share.

        The availability of multiple window managers is more about the Unix philosophy than about Open Source anyway (although those two things do tend to fit together well). You can generally run any of these window managers on any system that supports X-Window, not just Linux. Linux is just the most popular system that supports X-Window. I wonder how it got to be the most popular of those systems? Could it have something to do with it being released under the GPL? Nah, couldn't be.
      • Message has been deleted.

      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @otaddy Follow those lines of thought and Windows should have died with Vista.
    • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

      @edvardlarsson No version of Windows I know of prevents you from creating icons on the desktop or uses silly, over the top animations.
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @CobraA1 Yeah, when I read this I didnt know what the author was talking about...I've used Ubuntu server 11 with Gnome can drag icons onto the desktop all day if you want...that terminal thing where you have to instantiate it differently going to "File/New" isn't so bad...most other programs behave that way
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        Haven't tried Gnome 3 yet, how's it stack up compared to Unity?
        Gnome 2 was pretty sweet for modifications and ease of use. Unity is several steps down for modifications although it's a lot better than the reviews claim and the ease of use is working it's way up, just takes getting used to.
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @Linus I just want to be linux guru like u,pliz advice me on how and what to do.
    • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

      @edvardlarsson Exactly. Personally, I've moved over to XFCE (from KDE3) and have been using it for years now. I've heard good things about LXDE though.
    • GNOME

      I've never understood GNOME.
      GNOME 2 was frustrating enough. From time to time I forced myself to use it for weeks at a time to get an idea of what people saw in it. I never figured it out. GNOME 3 and Unity are just a bad joke.

      I prefer the power of the far more configurable and productive KDE desktop.
      Tim Patterson
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @Tim Patterson Ditto. I'm a year-long Linux user who started with KDE 4.4. It's powerful, customizable, and... sane. Normal. I recently tried Gnome 2.32 on an old laptop because it was supposed to be "lighter". Every few minutes I was saying out loud "Why can't I just...? Why can't I...? Why's there no option to...?"

        It's like going back to Windows 98... if Windows 98 decided to put the taskbar on top for some reason. XFCE is even worse... getting my touchpad to just accept a tap as a mouse click was like pulling teeth. LXDE looks and feels like Windows 95. I decided it was much better to use a little more RAM and run KDE on the clunker laptop.
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @Tim Patterson

        To each his own. Personally, I like XFCE. It's simple, and doesn't get in my way.I have tried Gnome, KDE and the new Unity. I still wound up going back to SFCE. But then, I liked TWM too, once upon a time.
    • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

      @edvardlarsson May be you din't know. Ubuntu's is slowly copying OSx interface and not Windows. LINUX, OSx or any OS can never have a UI as good as Windows.
      I'd want my Linux the way it was in Ubuntu 10.10 I loved it. People who want additional UI fiz can always use COMPIZ to get things done. I have no idea why Ubuntu took a wrong turn and wasted a release for that
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @krishnansriram I agree. I also found the comparison to Windows to be off-target. I have PCs and a Mac. I've used half a dozen distros of Linux over many years, trying Gnome on all of them. My overall impression was that Gnome looked and behaved much more like OS X than Windows (although nowhere near as full-featured.) I have yet to try Gnome 3, though.

        In regards to change for the sake of change, I feel like Windows 7 pulled that same stunt. I hated not knowing at a glance whether something is just pinned or actually running (taking up resources and CPU cyples.) I hated having all instances stack up on one button. My main screen is 30" and I had plenty of room without stacking. As a result, I've done everything I can to redo their interface so it behaves more like Vista. Plus, I've used that ribbon interface on MS applications for over a year and I still can't stand it. The ONLY thing I truly like about the Win 7 interface is the "dragging windows to an edge of the screen" behavior.
      • RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

        @krishnansriram You're suggesting Windows has reached the peak of perfection in UI design? (Given the UI overhaul coming in Win8, apparently Microsoft doesn't agree).

        Ubuntu is chasing the netbook/touch interface target, which is why they designed Unity.