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Shuttleworth's Take On GNOME 3.0, Coordination with Debian 320

suka writes "In a fresh interview with, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth talks about GNOME 3.0 — its strengths, but also about what he thinks is missing. He also mentions ongoing talks for a common meta-release-cycle with Debian which could delay the next LTS."
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Shuttleworth's Take On GNOME 3.0, Coordination with Debian

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  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:11AM (#28673717) Homepage

    I'm not worried about X breakages, personally. I even have an Intel 945G and I can live with the problems its causing. What I can't live with is the extreme instability of Pulse Audio. It crashes my apps contstantly from broken pipes. OK, people should be checking their pipes. But Pulse Audio itself crashes very frequently (about every hour or so on my machine). Rhythmbox won't go for more than 10 minutes without either crashing or audio failing. This is incredibly bad for me.

    I realize that it's probably due to older, underpowered hardware (3 year old cheap laptop), but this should not be happening. I've yanked Pulse Audio from my machine altogether now and it's a lot more stable. I was also getting lock ups in Firefox every hour or so. Now that I've dumped Pulse Audio, I've only had one lock up in the past 3 days (still can't figure that one out -- related to video drivers???).

    So, I plead with Ubuntu developers: either fix Pulse Audio, or punt it. The extra features it has is *not* worth the massive pain that some people experience.

  • by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:16AM (#28673761) Homepage Journal
    I only hope they will follow a different path than KDE team.
    They rushed to release 4.0 and since then I'm still struggling to have all the features I used to have in KDE v3.5.
    And, more important, I hope that Ubuntu people won't trash GNOME v2 from night to day like they did with KDE v3.5.
  • by lilrobbie ( 1193045 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:18AM (#28673765)
    Ever watched someone who hasn't grown up on computers use files and folders? The physical notion may not be confusing, but the computer implementation definitely leaves a lot to be desired. I have had a 60minute discussion with someone about the distinction between copy & cut, and when it does and doesn't work. So yes... files & folders as used by computers can be enormously complex for those who are not accustomed to remembering large tree-maps ;-)
  • by RotateLeftByte ( 797477 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:28AM (#28673809)

    I'm not a Ubuntu advocate (more of a Fedora/RHEL person really) but if the well documented problems with KDE 4 are anything to go by then including Gnome 3 in the next LTS release of Ubuntu would be IMHO a big mistake.
    An LTS release deserves to be of the highest quality from Day 1. To me it would be madness to base an LTS release on anything Gnome 3.0.
    IMHO an Ubuntu LTS release whould be the desktop equivalent to RHEL or SLED in terms of stability. If it is not then you have shot yourselves in the foot. If this means being conservative in package selection then so be it.

  • GTK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haiyadragon ( 770036 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:30AM (#28673825)

    Well, GTK+ is due for an overhaul. Fix the damn file picker. Get rid of all that excessive padding, maybe by making it themeable. Some consistency in menuitem dimensions would be nice.

    Also, either give Metacity some features, at least the bare essentials, or switch to another window manager. That non-optional minimize effect is cringe worthy.

  • by mrtommyb ( 1534795 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:36AM (#28673843)

    What KDE4 proofed is that you can also sit down and have really interesting conceptual changes that get introduced as big shifts.

    What KDE4 proofed is that if you make really awful software that is full of bugs even long term fans will switch to using an alternative.

  • by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) * on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:37AM (#28673847) Journal
    Long Time Service release. They have to support it for 4 years, fixing bugs, preventing security problems etc. That would be more difficult to do if the LTS ships with Gnome 2 but Gnome 2 isn't being actively supported by its developers (who are working on Gnome 3).
  • by Razalhague ( 1497249 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:38AM (#28673857) Homepage
    They release a 4.0 and are surprised people start using it? WTF?
  • by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @05:40AM (#28673867) Homepage Journal
    I would say that when you release something to the public (especially with large "marketing battage") it is for the public, unless stated differently.
    And then, what about all subsequent releases untill now? Are all of them "not for the end user"?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:08AM (#28673977)

    There's more problems than just pulse audio, there are too many daemons appearing in general. Stuff like gnome-pty-helper, gnome-keyring, ssh-agent, consolekit, hal-addon-storage, gconfd. All this stuff is fine on general purpose machines when the user mainly engages in browsing, multimedia, IM and office apps. The problems arise when you want to do something demanding like A/V work, with distros increasingly integrating services for the common usage case it's becoming increasingly difficult to get a usable setup on older hardware.

    A few years back, I could successfully do multitrack audio and video editing on systems that struggle just to run todays desktop environments. I'm not talking about underpowered hardware per se, I'm talking about having to strip out ever increasing amounts of bloat and replacing the wm with something sane (currently I use openbox). As for pulse audio, that's one of the first things I yank from an install in favour of jackd.

    There's also something very wrong with the intel drivers. Something to do with the in-kernel mode setting where the kernel configuration refuses to let you disable framebuffer if you've enabled DRI or AGPGart (can't remember which). I had to manually hack the .config through 7-8 recompiles just to get X up and running with these drivers. Ridiculous.

  • Re:GTK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <> on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:13AM (#28673995) Homepage

    The GTK file picker is quite possibly the worst file picker I have ever seen. Even Windows 3.1's crappy stuff was better - it might not support long filenames, but at least it didn't require one extra click in order to do anything useful.

    Seriously, "browse for other folders"? I still maintain that the genius who thought that up needs to be shot.

  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:16AM (#28674011) Homepage

    This is exactly why I hated it when MS started ramming the new term "folders" down our throats. The word "directories" suited better, as it did not conjour up invalid analogies in the minds of newbies. Now instead of just having to explain what a directory is, I now have to explain what a folder is AS WELL AS how it's not like a real folder.

  • by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:20AM (#28674021) Homepage

    what I see is a relatively recent and often shrill insistence that their computer (and, by extension, the applications they use) should do their work for them and magically organise everything behind the scenes.

    And then there's the bit that always gets me (and which annoys me with some of the Firefox 3 results and can be a touch annoying with too many Gnome Do extensions): They also want to to magically understand what they meant when they try to find files from the magical file system.

    People have these fantastic ideas about "intelligent applications" that guess what you want, but there are just too many times when they can't/don't get it right because I know what I want and could do it quickly with a "dumb" system, but it is ambiguous to a "smart" system and so it returns excess cruft that I need to filter out.

    And before anyone mentions "learning" with smart systems, that's all well and good until I want to do a different but similar behaviour, at which point it is more buried than it should be because it has "learned" that I only ever do the normal thing ;)

  • I've been pushing this for the last six months. I think that the best example of how to use a tagging system already exists in programs like F-Spot. A tree-like tag system goes on the left. A time-line goes on top. The files are in the main pane in reverse chronological order. Double-clicking takes the main pane into "view" mode and embeds a document, image, or video viewer. Click the "edit" button to open an editor.

    The "open file" dialog in applications would be the file browser with a filter for supported files.

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:38AM (#28674101) Homepage

    In meatspace:

    • a file is a container for storing paper
    • a folder is a container for storing paper

    They are almost synonymous. So someone with a non-computer background won't intuitively know which one is supposed to contain which.

    In computer lingo:

    • a file is an entity that might be analogous to a wad of paper (e.g. a word processor document), but might not (e.g. an MP3)
    • a folder is a container for zero or more files

    So it's completely unintuitive.

    I think the word 'file' has its roots from the days when a 'record' was still a fundamental concept. So a 'record' is a sheet of paper, a 'file' contains a bundle of records.

    I prefer 'directory'. At least then it doesn't push a false analogy on an already confused mind.

  • by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:42AM (#28674117)
    HTML malfunction.........

    The KDE 4.0 release was a total management cock up from start to finish...

    Hmmmm, it wasn't from KDE's perspective. It's the way things have always worked. The KDE developers set themselves some goals for KDE 4.0 and they achieved them - mainly API and ABI stability. What happened was that distributors then blindly started compiling and packaging it and then whinging when they found out that their users weren't too happy with it. Virtually all distributors are braindead when it comes to putting together a whole system and looking intelligently at the software they want to use. It's why we have PulseAudio being thrown into desktop systems today. That thing isn't stable at all, let alone feature complete.

  • Re:GTK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qupada ( 1174895 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:56AM (#28674207)
    People who modded this troll really need to stop and think about it - parent is just about spot on. The look and feel of the vast majority of GTK apps is frankly awful.

    Some consistency in menuitem dimensions would be nice.

    Now admittedly maybe this only manifests when you're using small interface fonts (I'm using 7pt here, for reference). Taking GIMP's menus as an example, menu items with images are significantly larger than ones without - a full 25% larger (20 vs 16 px). I don't have a huge number of gtk apps on my system to check this in, but inkscape and wireshark seem to have the same issue.

    Fix the damn file picker.

    This is a pet peeve of mine too. Bearing a striking resemblance to one I remember from Apple Mac systems pre colour monitors, the current design of the filepicker was in no way an improvement.
    For some reason or another the "location" text field is hidden by default (and even when shown, is oddly not populated by default with the path to the current directory). What could have been useful breadcrumb-style navigation buttons were added, except all but the one representing the current directory is hidden until you click a different button (this is despite there being the entire width of the file picker for them to fill). The lack of switchable view modes in the file listing is mystifying, it seems to display "thumbnails" of images when browsing, but it doesn't seem to be possible to make those thumbnails any bigger than 16x16px.

    That non-optional minimize effect is cringe worthy.

    Also the effect that draws big bold black rectangles on your screen to indicate the borders of hidden windows while alt-tabbing. Something regrettably KDE copied. I don't need this, if I wanted to waste my time with annoying and ultimately useless visual effects I'd install compiz.

    In reality, once it has become difficult or event impossible to make the system behave in a manner conducive to it actually being useful for anything, it's time to look elsewhere. As I often have to remind people, just because they are happy with the default settings doesn't mean everyone will be.

  • by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @07:05AM (#28674257) Homepage

    But they don't get hierarchies, because hierarchies don't exist in nature.

    I'd have to disagree with you here. The very words we use to describe hierarchies come from nature - look at 'trunk' / 'branch' / 'leaf', 'parent' / 'child', 'master' / 'slave'. Maybe they don't instantly, intuitively get the idea when it's used as a metaphor, but that's partly vocabulary. They'll get it quickly enough if you explain to them that a 'folder' or 'directory' is a box, and a 'file' is a bit of paper that you can write on, and you can put either paper or boxes in any box.

    If they don't 'get it' when it's explained that simply, then they're below the mental cutoff for that level of abstract thought. Many people (for instance) struggle to execute a sequence of simple instructions, and cannot solve even simple logic problems. They literally don't have the mental machinery required to visualise three different entities and the relationships between them, "A is next to B and B contains C". I'm not saying they're 'idiots' or that they're worthless, they just don't have abstract thought among their strengths.

  • Re:GTK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haiyadragon ( 770036 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @07:38AM (#28674391)

    Picking a directory is tedious and unintuitive. When I just click the OK button to pick the current directory, nothing happens. I have to click an empty space in the directory, to 'select it', first. When I use the crumbtrail to navigate to a parent directory, it automatically selects the child directory I just came from. When I click OK does it pick the current directory, or the selected directory? Who knows. When I open the file picker later it always opens in the parent directory of the previously picked one. Why in the parent?

    There are many usability problems with the current file picker.

  • by LKM ( 227954 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @07:54AM (#28674473) Homepage

    A branch in real life is not part of a hierarchy. It's just a piece of wood attached to a tree; it's not contained in the tree in any way.

    And no, explaining doesn't fix this problem. People know how hierarchies work; they just don't get them. They are not sure how to properly categorize things, and if they decide on a given hierarchy, later, they won't remember where they decided to put things because there's no naturally correct way of categorizing files. There's no obvious taxonomy; the problem becomes even worse when people have to use hierarchies created by other people.

    The only time I've seen "normal" people successfully use hierarchies is when they created directories for years; every year got a new directory. But that's something that shouldn't require hierarchies; the OS should allow users to have temporal views on their data automatically.

    As for alternatives, tagging is easier to understand since it gets rid of the whole hierarchy aspect, and since people can just add as many tags as they want to.

  • by g2devi ( 898503 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @07:59AM (#28674515)

    Actually, hierarchies really don't exist in nature. They *almost* fit how things work in nature, but every once and a while someone throws in multiple inheritance like the platypus, or someone who is both a "Student" and an "Employee", or in the family hierarchy someone will throw in a redneck or Polynesian population to gun the works. It's even worse. Sometimes, things that you thought were part of the hierarchy (e.g. in the animal kingdom, has wings versus doesn't have wings) really should be attributes since wings are "reinvented" many times in nature. Similarly, some things that used to be attributes, such as having a certain set of gene sequences at a certain locations with a certain functions, really need to be part of the hierarchy rather than the attributes. It's one reason why Ontologies are defined in declarative languages like OWL rather than a more logical hierarchal structured language.

  • by IrquiM ( 471313 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @08:04AM (#28674543) Homepage

    If people had listened to what the KDE community said they'd still be on 3.5.10.

    Slackware is probably one of the last ones to switch, as it's 12.2 is still KDE 3.5, but current is on 4.2.

    Don't blame KDE for the mistakes of stupid distro-admins with no respect for their user community.

  • Oh noes. People are getting back to be being overly pedantic. Might as well start the "Untitled Folder" convo here. How can a folder be untitled yet have the title "Untitled Folder"? Because it is short for "Untitled Folder (by you)" you clods. Now that is out of the way...I shall hide under my rock again.
  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @08:49AM (#28674873) Homepage

    In computer-space we have either directories/files or folders/documents.

    MS Windows uses "Files" and "Folders". Actually, the type of a folder is "File Folder". A "document" is a subtype of "file", because a "file" can also be an "application" or "program". A "file" could also be an "archive", which contains "files" and "folders". Some "archives" are called "cabinets". And of course all these files, folders, archives, cabinets, etc. can be seen in windows. Of course to be able to see those windows you first need to use a key, to open the lock. And to add protection from outsiders to see you files, etc. we have walls of fire. All the files, folders, etc. are stored on something called "drives"... why on earth are they not called "rooms"? And I wonder where the "roof" is in all this stuff.

  • There's more problems than just pulse audio, there are too many daemons appearing in general. Stuff like gnome-pty-helper, gnome-keyring, ssh-agent, consolekit, hal-addon-storage, gconfd. All this stuff is fine on general purpose machines when the user mainly engages in browsing, multimedia, IM and office apps. The problems arise when you want to do something demanding like A/V work, with distros increasingly integrating services for the common usage case it's becoming increasingly difficult to get a usable setup on older hardware.

    While a multitude of daemons might be a problem from the perspective of memory usage (if they're not properly written), they should have almost zero effect on your CPU and A/V work.

    The reason is that the vast majority of system daemons sit waiting for input via sockets or pipes. There is no polling involved because this is an OS-level task. The daemon tries to read from its socket/pipe and it essentially goes to sleep. The kernel doesn't even need to touch it because it knows what the daemon is waiting for. Once some new input arrives, the kernel will wake the daemon and pass the data through the socket/pipe.

    This is why it's not at all a problem for every user to have ssh-agent or gnome-pty-helper running. They'll all be loaded only once into memory, and the CPU will only ever touch them when they actually have something to do (which is not that often for most daemons).

    Now, that may work fine for user-space daemons, but what I would like to see more of is daemons loaded on the fly from inetd (or whatever your distro uses to replace that). For example, on Debian, ever since Exim 4 was released, you can't have it spawn via inetd when something actually opens port 25. Instead, it stays running all the time. On a regular home machine, most of the system level daemons, even things like ssh, are used so infrequently that the additional loading time needed to run them from inetd would be unnoticed.

  • In meatspace:

            * a file is a container for storing paper
            * a folder is a container for storing paper

    I don't think so. How many times have you heard someone say: "Put that paper in the file" or indeed, "Put those papers in the folder".
    You'll find people are more likely to say: "Do you have those files?", or "What's in that folder?".

    A file was always a ordered collection of papers/photos/data on a singular topic. A folder was always a place where you put papers and files. The file/folder analogy in computing is actually a very good one, and the only people who are ever confused by it are the find of people who would be confused by real files and folders anyway.

    The problem isn't actually with the system. It's actually with users who cannot and will not adopt any method or organisation over their own files. Admittedly, the default folders most programs obnoxiously set complicates things, but the proof of the pudding is when you ask someone where their files are and they give you a helpless stare. Sometimes they have been using computers, and these very files, for years. yet they have absolutely no idea what a file is, where their files are, or even of their existence outside of the context of the exact program that manipulates them.

    As they proceed to recite the unique set of incantations they use to access a particular file type, you begin to see why "cloud computing" and web based software is not going to be a huge leap for these users.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @09:24AM (#28675173) Journal

    Sounds good. Also, I'd like to see some of the Versioning file system installed by default

    Sooner or later, everyone re-invents VMS.

  • by m.ducharme ( 1082683 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @09:31AM (#28675243)

    It certainly would be nice if only people qualified to use a computer did so, but it won't happen any time soon.

    Would it be nice? I don't think it would. If only people who are "qualified" to use a computer did so, we'd still be paying $3000 for Pentium I-era technology. The vast majority of computer purchasers buy their computers to do something else with them, not to become computer experts. It's that large market that allows for the economies of scale that drive processing power up, and price down. Without those "unqualified" computer users, computing would still be an expensive hobby.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 13, 2009 @10:35AM (#28676113)

    Yes, but the secretary has a measure of intelligence, a computer does not. She is able to adapt her methodology on-the-fly as the executive requires, a computer is not. That's why the secretary costs tens of thousands per year, and the computer costs only a thousand or so (plus electricity, Internet, etc). Until technology advances to a point where the computer is able to intuit the user's preferred methodology (instead of having a default and a number of possible alternatives buried in some option panel somewhere), we're going to have to learn to use a computer IT'S way. Which I don't think is such a bad thing. Just like a car, a modern computer is a very powerful tool, and should be used responsibly. And just like a car, that doesn't always pan out in real life, but that doesn't mean we should abandon an ethos of responsibility.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 13, 2009 @11:28AM (#28677051)

    Almost. You can build a tag system with hard links, creating a folder for each tag and linking your files there. But a key thing is missing: back-links. It's difficult (if not impossible) to discover all the links that lead to an inode.

  • by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @12:40PM (#28678353) Homepage

    In any case, word excel and powerpoint documents can contain multiple sheets of paper, and I see a lot of people take that to extremes - for example having all the day's letters contained in one word document, or every single spreadsheet they work on in one excel document.

    And for those types, I recommend a clue bat be applied, liberally until they get the message that one mistake and the whole day is gone. Sheesh. Makes me more FOR a license to run a computer all the time. If they are so fond of a format they've cobbled up, then save the SOB as a template so they don't have to feel like they will have to re-invent the wheel to do their next proposal. That 'creation' drudgery may be putting a lot of the dummies off from doing it right.

    Cheers, Gene
    "There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty:
      soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order."
    -Ed Howdershelt (Author)
    The NRA is offering FREE Associate memberships to anyone who wants them.

    Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow!
                                    -- Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace)

  • by lilrobbie ( 1193045 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @06:54PM (#28683931)

    I definitely agree that the tree-hierarchy has it's place in the computing world. As you said, there are some things that are so solidly orthogonal that you want to restrict them to only one folder.

    But I don't believe that forcing everyone through the same system is helpful. I know many things I have that simply don't fit well in folders. My music collection for example... how do I sort this? If I go by artist, it doesn't hold collaboration volumes very well, if I go by album, it is difficult to remember the artist... If I want to go by genre, I must choose only one, and this makes categorization of some artists very difficult where they seem to entirely change style over the course of a single album.

    What I am saying is that hierarchical tree storage has it's place, but I don't think it is the most intuitive way of storing things :)

    I agree that search-only functionality sucks btw. I even went so far as to make an interface in java that behaves like a folder interface, only it uses a tag system. In this view, a sub-folder is a tag that isn't already in the hierarchy, that is present on one or more of the child items. Allows folder navigation for those who like folders, addresses your point about easily seeing parent levels if desired... but also allows a file to live in multiple hierarchies... it worked nice. Not sure if you could base an OS on it though xD

The absence of labels [in ECL] is probably a good thing. -- T. Cheatham