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in which i destroy my laptop, and am introduced to gnome 3 [Apr. 20th, 2011|01:23 am]
[Location |garner, nc]


Back up your stuff. I spilled a can of Coke on my laptop today, breaking it. It took me about 5 hours to (a) find an old laptop, (b) get Fedora 15 Beta onto a USB, (c) install it, (d) restore all my stuff from backups, and (e) begin the re-configuration process.

If I didn't have backups of my computer, I would have lost years of data, both personal and Red Hat related. I rsync my laptop to an external hard disk every day, and I was able to do so immediately after spilling the Coke and before the machine stopped working, which allowed me to have zero data loss.


I guess I picked a good day to fry my laptop, since Fedora 15 Beta is not even 24 hours old.

I've seen a lot of the commentary about GNOME 3, of course, but I've more or less ignored it since I was still using GNOME 2 and I figured that when I did try GNOME 3, I wanted to do so with as open a mind as possible, thinking about it from the perspective of a new Fedora user rather than simply as someone who has his own particular ways of doing stuff that might now have to change a bit -- kind of like when you get a new car, and some of your little habits have to change.

First of all, anyone who doesn't stop to acknowledge the TREMENDOUS engineering and design effort that is GNOME 3 is simply not being honest. You don't have to like every feature to recognize that a huge amount of work has been done, and that the people who did that work deserve a lot of credit.

Secondly, the laptop that I pulled out of a closet is the one that Red Hat bought me in 2007, and GNOME 3 runs faster on that laptop than GNOME 2 ever did. So from a performance point of view, I'm really impressed. I don't know how much of that is GNOME 3, and how much of it is the rest of Fedora 15's plumbing.

Now I'll mention a few of my initial reactions to GNOME 3, which may be of interest to folks who are considering the usability side of things, and who want more data about where an experienced Linux user fell down.

ITEM 1: When I clicked on my name in the user-switching applet, I was immediately confused by the "Available/Busy" option. If I change that, what happens? What applications are hooked into that? I'm not logged into anything other than my system, why is this here? Why is my desktop trying to manage my online social networking status? How do I get it to stop that?

ITEM 2: I had to use Google to figure out how to restart my system after the Live USB install was complete. I tried some of the options that I saw in the menus, to no avail. Never in a million years would I have thought to hold down alt while in the user menu to get reboot/shutdown to appear. I must have missed something totally obvious, but I felt like a complete moron thinking "Max, you have a degree in computer science and you can't figure out how to turn off your computer".

ITEM 3: I guess this is part of where an open mind is necessary, and a willingness to have my usability norms challenged, but it's strange to not see any actual stuff on my desktop, and to have to go into the file browser if I want to be able to double-click anything. I used to use the GNOME tweak UI package to remove ~/Desktop and to make ~ be displayed as my desktop. I was able to replicate this by editing ~/.config/user-dirs.dirs, but it still doesn't actually show any files on the desktop. That was useful for me, since things were arranged and organized in a way that visually made sense to me and let me know what's important, what file I want to work on next, etc. Now I've got a ton of empty space, and I can't left click, right click, or do anything other than go to the "Activities" menu. I feel like I'm not understanding what's supposed to be a key usability insight or change. GNOME 3 makes me feel dumb.

ITEM 4: I miss being able to easily minimize stuff, though I'm learning slowly that mousing over to "Activities" basically does the same thing. New paradigm understood and being adjusted to!

ITEM 5: Workspace switching from ctrl-alt-right to ctrl-alt-down is only annoying to an old user like me, but wouldn't be to a new user. However, it was not immediately clear to me that there even were multiple workspaces, and I don't quite grok yet what makes a new one appear as an option. Also, it would be nice if there were an easy way to edit keyboard shortcuts. If there is, I can't find it.

ITEM 6: My day to day workflow is contained in gnote, and not having that application startup automatically with the hotkeys just working is very jarring to me. I miss a lot of the stuff (like gnote) that used to be on the panel, including the multi-timezone clock applet. I don't know what (if anything) I can do about this. Again, GNOME 3 makes me feel dumb, like someone who is doing everything wrong and isn't capable of understanding why.


What else about F15 Beta, that isn't GNOME related?

ITEM 7: I really like the current start.fedoraproject.org. It's probably been a year or more since I actually looked at that site, and it's looking nice! I wish I knew to whom I should give credit for that work.

ITEM 8: Firstboot gave me an opportunity to add my non-root user to sudoers automatically, which saves a step of post-install configuration.

ITEM 9: When I ran the software updating application, it didn't prompt me for my root password. Is that a PolicyKit thing? I know that's not a new feature to Fedora, but with Fedora 15 I seemingly no longer know how to revert it. I like having to enter my root password.

ITEM 10: This ancient laptop of mine has a 50 GB hard disk. The auto partitioning gave me 25 GB of /tmp of / and 25 GB of /home, which doesn't leave me enough space for all of my actual files. I wasn't paying attention, so I didn't notice this until post-install. I know there's a graphical front-end to LVM that I might be able to use to change this, but I can't find it, which ties back to my comments about not being able to find some settings in GNOME 3 that were easily found in GNOME 2.


ITEM 11: I'm not allowed to "launch" more than one instance of an application. If I want a second terminal window, I have to open it from within the first -- I can't simply click on the terminal again and get another.

ITEM 12: Alt-tab only cycles between applications, not windows or instances of those applications. To switch between instances of the same application requires more keystrokes, and slows me down as a user. I was able to solve this by installing gnome-shell-extensions-alternate-tab.

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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-20 06:57 am (UTC)

Fedora 15 Beta - GNOME 3

I couldnt agree more about item 1. I log in to my desktop and no IM or social networking application is running. And theres a available and busy. To be honest i dont mean to use those options at all, but why are they there? They are indeed confusing.

One other thing related to Fedora. I noticed that it starts here with 185mb of memory thats 55mb more than the GNOME 3 live medium based on it did.
Thats a big difference since it doesnt seem to add anything significant on top of the GNOME 3 live. The only noticable difference is firefox instead of epiphany, which doesnt automatically start at boot...
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: spevack
2011-04-20 03:33 pm (UTC)

Re: Some answers

Thanks, Rahul. And thanks for packaging up that extension.
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From: adamwill.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-20 07:35 am (UTC)

A few pointers

On item 1 - Empathy is the Big Thing currently hooked up to GNOME 3's status and messaging bits, and I think there's a patch for Pidgin. To me it makes sense but I can't use it, as absolutely all my 'conversation' stuff goes through IRC, and Empathy and Pidgin are both terrible IRC clients. It does make sense to me, though - when properly considered, presence *is* something it makes sense to manage at a desktop level. There've been various Grand Presence Plans floating around the GNOME-verse for a while, it'd be nice if one finally comes together with the Shell.

2 - if you log out you can reboot from GDM. The idea behind the current design is that shutting down and restarting aren't things you actually need to do much. There are varying perspectives on this. =) The GNOME 'vision' is that you usually suspend your system when you're done with it; if you need to reboot to apply updates, PackageKit can handle that. Rebooting to another OS is accepted to be a special case, but one that's not handled yet. Probably, to fit in best with this vision, Anaconda should do something to offer a 'reboot' option when live install is complete.

4 - yes, the idea is that minimizing is usually a pretty useless operation. This is true for me, though I've seen reasonably valid objections raised.

5 - this is a very neat design (though apparently it precedes the Shell, I don't know what desktop gets credit for introducing it): there's always exactly one empty workspace. As soon as you put any windows on the currently-available empty workspace, a new one gets created. If you take all the windows out of a workspace that currently exists, then you lose one workspace (so you now don't have two empty ones). For me this really nails it. Keyboard shortcuts: just go to overview and type 'keyb', that should get you the Keyboard bit of the control center ('System Settings'), and it has a 'Shortcuts' tab where you can configure shortcuts.

6 - gnome-session-properties exists and you could set gnote to auto-start using it. You can also throw a .desktop file in ~/.config/autostart . g-s-p is somewhat considered deprecated. Or at least, mclasen considers it deprecated. But it works for configuring autostart. Again, in the Great GNOME Vision that you almost never actually shut down or restart the system, this just ceases to be an issue; you suspend, and gnote's still there when you resume.

9 - yes, it's a PolicyKit thing: installing signed updates to existing packages, from a signed Fedora repo, does not require authentication. Installing new packages does. *Every* PolicyKit policy can be configured, but there's currently no GUI for it, so it's a bit complicated. I used to know how to do this, but it's a bit hazy now. I don't know how badly outdated http://hal.freedesktop.org/docs/PolicyKit/PolicyKit.conf.5.html is.

10 - one of the most apparently overlooked ways to interact with GNOME 3 is 'go to Overview and start typing'. As a general rule, just hit Start and start typing roughly what you're looking for. If you hit Start and type 'lvm' you get system-config-lvm (well, assuming it's installed, I don't know whether it's in a default or live install at present).

Isn't /tmp a tmpfs? i.e. not a real filesystem? I think that's probably the size of your root partition.
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[User Picture]From: spevack
2011-04-20 03:20 pm (UTC)

Re: A few pointers

Thanks for the comments, Adam.

Agreed that the new design around workspaces is a clever one, and seems pretty intuitive, now that you explain it.

Regarding things like auto-start of something like gnote and the GNOME vision that you almost never actually shut down or restart the system -- I guess I just disagree. I don't like to leave my laptop running all the time. But what I do like is understanding the why. Now that I know that GNOME 3 was designed with the idea in mind that the user will almost never reboot or shut down, at least I can understand where the usability choices come from.

And regarding the "go to Overview and start typing" -- that's a good tip, and again, something that I hadn't considered. The "Wikipedia" and "Google" options from within the overview are also clever, but it then makes me wonder whether or not GNOME is keeping a history of the things I type and search for, and if so, how I can go about clearing that.

Regarding LVM -- I was wrong, Adam. My / and my /home are each 25 GB. It's / that I want to shrink, and /home that I want to grow. But that's just LVM and has nothing to do with GNOME.
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Re: A few pointers - (Anonymous) Expand
From: bochecha.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-20 08:00 am (UTC)

And a few more pointers

> "When I clicked on my name in the user-switching applet, I was immediately confused by the "Available/Busy" option. If I change that, what happens?"

The Empathy status is not the only thing that this switch will change: if you set it to busy, you will be busy not only for your IM contacts, but also for your whole desktop. And as you just told your desktop you are busy, it won't bother you any more with **any** notification, be they incoming chat messages, or updates availability, etc...

So it does make a lot of sense for the desktop to handle that as it is much more global than just IM. (and to be honest, it's a huge productivity boost in my case).

Note that "urgent" notifications will still be shown, for example "your laptop battery will run out in 5 minutes". :)

This is not yet implemented in Gnome 3.0, and I'm not even sure the design is finished. If you want to know about the plans, the following pages are a very interesting (although long) read:

ASIA (Adam says it all :P), but for a longer explanation about the design, see Jimmac's nlog post and specifically this comment where the final design was suggested:

Other than what Adam already said, yes, you won't have applets with Gnome 3. However, there is an extension mechanism to write extensions in Javascript that can modify most (if not all) aspects of the shell (a bit like the Firefox extensions). So that will come, if someone writes the code. :)

About the multi-zone clock, it's planned, but not implemented yet:

Again, to add to what Adam already said, there is also this page that might not be completely outdated:
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[User Picture]From: spevack
2011-04-20 03:31 pm (UTC)

Re: And a few more pointers

Thanks for the comments, as well. I read those links that you provided around ITEM 3, but the thing that seems to be missing is the people who organize their work VISUALLY. I guess that's just a deprecated way of doing things, and if I need to update my budget document, I should just type "budget" into the Overview and wait for it to be displayed.

Is there any way to bring up the Overview section without mousing to the top-left corner?
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-20 12:38 pm (UTC)

item 2 is really bad

Item 2 is some serious breakage. No matter what arguments people had against KDE 4.0 - you were able to easily shut it off. Same goes for Unity. Everything else about Gnome Shell sounds interesting and I can't wait to try it. But not being able to shut it off intuitively? That makes me doubt their claims to have done usability testing. Surely turning off your computer is not a corner case.
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From: adamwill.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-20 03:59 pm (UTC)

Re: item 2 is really bad

think about TVs. They used to have a big on/off button on the front which cut the electrical power. On most modern ones this switch is tiny and hidden around the back, if it even exists; instead there's a remote control button labelled 'Power' which is not a power switch, it's a suspend switch.

GNOME 3 is pretty much the same. The magic 'I'm done with the computer now' button now suspends the system instead of turning it off, but the GNOME designers are sadly too honest to do what the TV people did and just label it 'Off' and hope no-one thought too hard about it. I'd be interested to see what would've happened if they did. We'd probably be getting lots of compliments on F15's 0.5sec boot time...
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[User Picture]From: spevack
2011-04-20 03:45 pm (UTC)
I appreciate all the comments and tips.

But I can't help feeling like at the end of this, GNOME 3 is basically saying to me "Max, you sad, sad person. Don't you realize that you've been using your computer incorrectly forever, even though you were using GNOME? Well, we've fixed it all, and now you can use your computer the right way, whether you want to or not. You'll be thankful someday, but the definition of the right way to use the computer could also change again at any time, so be ready!"
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From: adamwill.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-20 03:57 pm (UTC)


Note that 'forever' in this equation is 'approximately since Windows 95 came out' - Windows 95 being the obvious prototype for KDE 3 and GNOME 2-era interfaces. It's odd to me that we don't expect interface consistency from different versions of almost anything else (consoles, phones, TVs, microwaves...) but change the fairly arbitrary design for a GUI Microsoft vomited up in 1994 and suddenly you're the antichrist (I exaggerate for effect).

There's this unspoken assumption in play that GNOME 2 is how we all 'chose' to interact with a computer and GNOME 3 is how we're being 'forced' to do it, but it doesn't make a lot of sense, to me. If we start off in the world of Every Potential Computer Interface Design, there are effectively infinite choices, almost all of which go away when you decide on some specific interface. The Windows 95 design doesn't give you the 'choice' to interact with your computer the way you do it with OS X, for instance, but no-one seems to complain about that.

When a designer designs an interface they kill off a zillion possible choices, this is more or less what designing an interface _means_: selecting the very limited range of ways you will actually get to interact with this interface from the huge range of _potential_ ways to interact with an interface. It is therefore inevitable that a new interface design will not have 'choices' that exist in the old interface design; this is in the very nature of what an interface design _is_. The odd thing here is that the pretty arbitrary choices that make up the Windows 95 / GNOME 2 desktop seem to be so sacred that people almost feel insulted when some of them go away, for no good reason other than a degree of familiarity.

At first I was pissed off with some of the things in the Shell, then I decided to just stop worrying and use it, and it honestly took me about fifteen minutes to stop worrying about it and start worrying about whatever disaster was then impending in the next Alpha release, or whatever. Most of the problem was in my head.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-20 07:46 pm (UTC)


Right mouse click on the launcher icon for the open new window option or simply drag and drop it on your workspace or one of the workspace previews. Drag and drop also allows you to open multiple apps without zooming out which makes it perfect for setting up all of your workspaces in the morning. Seriously though singleton apps is one of the best new features. Less clutter and it encourages people to use tabbed interfaces for MDI functionality.
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[User Picture]From: Michael Knepher
2011-04-21 12:05 am (UTC)

Opening new instances

In order to open a new instance of an already open application from the overview, right-click on the application icon (either in the dash or in the application listing) and choose "New Window".
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[User Picture]From: lapz
2011-04-21 01:13 am (UTC)

The cheat sheet is your friend :-)

Nice reading, I know gnome 3, may be difficult at first especially for someone used to the good old stuff, your open minded approach is appreciated.
You got good answers for all your points, for 11 the fastest thing you can do is ctrl+clicking the app icon in overview mode (both in dash and app search screen) to open a new window, there's another nice trick you can do by middle button click which will open a new window in the last (empty) workspace.
You can find all the tricks here: https://live.gnome.org/GnomeShell/CheatSheet
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From: kad.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-21 03:04 am (UTC)


ALT+` will cycle thru windows within an application. This I know ONLY because I've used OSX and it shares the same (imo, highly counter-intuitive) behavior.

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From: adamwill.id.fedoraproject.org
2011-04-21 04:39 pm (UTC)

Re: ITEM 12

It's actually alt-key-above-tab - i.e. whatever the key above tab is in the current keyboard layout (since that key isn't always `). This behaviour is precisely as intuitive as alt-tab. :)
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[User Picture]From: leif81
2011-04-21 03:06 am (UTC)
11 - you can ctrl+click an app launcher icon to start a new instance
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-21 04:00 am (UTC)


IMO GNOME 3 is a huge step towards the right direction, but the problem is that from a user pov, its "just" the shell thats changed.
The long standing problems with GNOME 2 are still there. I am talking about the application dialogs. If someone explains to me why they have to be of fixed size, for example the System Settings one, id be obliged.
This problem is a fundamental design one and its much more obvious now with the shell, especially in small screen real estate machines.
Even the XFCE developers figured it out and changed their System Settings, i dont understand why the GNOME ones don't.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-25 11:35 am (UTC)

the suspend thing...

Isn't completely shutting down a device when it's not being used, more enviroment-friendly ? I don't understand the logic behind having billions of people with dozens of devices on 'stand-by'. Today most devices encourage you to not shut them down, some don't even let you do that, unless you pull off the damn plug. So why encourage people to use suspend instead of shut-down? I'm not a greenpeace member or anything, but come on...

Sorry for my poor english :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-25 12:29 pm (UTC)

funny guy

You know you're a funny guy. If you had time to type a command to rsync, You would had time to unplug power cord and remove battery as fast as possible. And instead of waiting for liquid to leak inside an burn circuit and scrap the laptop and spend more than 5 hours in recovery. You would have spent 1 hour removing the keyboard, cleaning an drying it. Check of liquid on the main board cleaning it and drying it. Reassemble and reboot.
At worst a keyboard replacement is all that would have been needed.
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[User Picture]From: spevack
2011-04-25 07:24 pm (UTC)

Re: funny guy

I was in panic mode and my first instincts were to protect DATA rather than HARDWARE.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-04-25 08:17 pm (UTC)

TREMENDOUS engineering

"First of all, anyone who doesn't stop to acknowledge the TREMENDOUS engineering and design effort that is GNOME 3 is simply not being honest. You don't have to like every feature to recognize that a huge amount of work has been done, and that the people who did that work deserve a lot of credit."

It has be pointed out already - still I'd like to emphasize that this is a useless and in the context almost misleading statement.

"TREMENDOUS engineering" etc. did go into a lot of things, which are not good at all.
Examples have already been mentioned, and I guess you can easily supply more yourself ...
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