GNOME 3 transition happening in Debian unstable

The few articles I wrote that explained how to install GNOME 3 from Debian experimental have been very popular. So I figured out that a small update would be welcome.

The Debian GNOME team started uploading a mix of GNOME 3.0 and 3.2 packages to Debian unstable because the release team is ready to take care of this transition. This means that as soon as the packages are ready in Debian unstable, the release team will ensure that they also reach wheezy (aka the current testing distribution).

So if you’re a Debian unstable/testing user with a GNOME Desktop, expect some important changes… by the way my experience with GNOME 3 was recently plagued by some rendering issues resulting in parts of the screen not being properly refreshed. While trying to track this down (and investigating clutter as a possible culprit) I came upon this mail on the clutter-devel mailing list. I recompiled mutter with the indicated patch and it fixed my issue. I immediately uploaded mutter with the fix… so this issue should be gone for the many people who are going to experience GNOME 3 for the first time in the coming days.

It’s also worth noting that contrary to how upstream handles it (they hide the fallback mode and the user has to enable an option to use it in place of the GNOME Shell), Debian has a dedicated session for the GNOME 3 fallback mode so you decide what you get right from the login screen. This will be appreciated by the people who do not see GNOME 3 as a step in the right direction. Unless they switch to XFCE as some did.

As far I am concerned, I’m already used to GNOME 3. I spend most of my time in terminals, browsers and an IRC application and the whole Shell does not fundamentally changes my work habits.


    • says

      It’s difficult to say for sure, it depends on the (amount of) problems that will show up. But usually when the release team acknowledges a transition, it doesn’t take more than 2-3 weeks to be completed. See also the tracker URL that Kai shared (thanks!).

      • Richard Sonnenfeld says

        Thank you for your service to the community, Mr. Hertzog. I have been a die-hard Debian fan for 10 years. I really got to appreciate it when we moved into etch and then squeeze. Not only do I run my home computer and laboratory computers, and an entire physics teaching lab on Squeeze, but I run a network of embedded weather instruments on etch.

        I am very distressed by Gnome3. I know the Debian project does not control the gnome project, but I encourage you to make sure the next installer allows people to easily opt out to Xfce or Kde. It may be my lack of gnowledge (gno pun intended) that makes me dislike Gnome3 … but seriously .. no right mouse button? Also I am used to have my workspaces easily seen on my task bar and clicking from one to the other and having several windows open in each. One of the things I advertise about Linux is that it is not “change for the sake of change” (like Windows) …
        but Gnome3 appears to be. If the eye candy sucks in more users … great, but the power users seem to hate it. I am sure I could learn more … but it feels like the interface is working against me rather than for me.

        I welcome your comments.

        • says

          You should install gnome-tweak-tool and try some of the alternative shell extensions. I’m pretty sure you’ll find what you need.

          Otherwise, don’t worry, Debian has always proposed “alternate” CD that install KDE/Xfce/LXDE by default.

          • says

            Thank you for your response. I have been exposing my ever-analytical spouse to my explorations and she said “the Gnome team must have had a reason to do what they did with Gnome3 — I am sure they did not set out to trash the interface, why don’t you ask one of the developers what they were trying to accomplish?”. I have no idea if you are close to the gnome side, but I imagine you know more than a non-developer. Do you have any insight into this?

            I have never needed to look at the alternate CD, but will certainly use it from here on out. On my newest machine, I have already shifted over to XFCE. I was instantly productive with it and all my GUI reflexes just worked. I spent about 6 hours yesterday with Gnome3
            before going to XFCE. — I did install and experiment with gnome-tweak-tool, and throughout I felt, in the words of another reviewer “neutered and frustrated”.

  1. Marcus says

    This is really nice!

    I absolutely like Gnome 3 🙂
    The only thing I miss is a way to hibernate from the shutdown dialog (my desktop system doesn’t do suspend right, so I deactivated it using upower).

    • Miggs says

      There is the alternative-status-extension which will bring back both Hibernate and Power Off… to the menu.

  2. anon says

    good to hear about the fix for mutter – I’d seen it happen for a good while now, but had no idea which package to report it to (thought it was an X issue).

  3. says

    I’d been running Gnome 3 from experimental (thanks to your guide many months ago) and couldn’t imagine going back to Gnome 2 now. When it hits testing, then I’ll just adjust my sources.list and just run wheezy.

    Like yourself and the post above I’d too been experiencing the clutter issue – but thought it was xorg – nice that it’ll be fixed.

    Thanks for all your work.

  4. dontfearthepenguin says

    OMG! I hope it is as stable as can be, as my Debian Testing machine is my only machine 🙂
    And question, I use additional gnome panels on left and right side of my screen, what will happen with them? Will they be automatically recreated after transition to Gnome3 with all the icons and shortcuts I have on them, or will they disappear, and I will have to recreate them manually, (om nom, that’s a lot of work) ?

    • Marcus says

      You will also be able to use the “Fallback mode”, in which your panels should have your old layout (I assume), maybe sans some applets that might have been dropped because they aren’t ported to GTK+ 3.x and the new panel API.
      But I still think you should give the gnome-shell (i.e. the new Gnome 3 UI) a try as well, it requires some getting used to, but you might find you like it 🙂

      • Tim says

        Nope, it’s utterly hideous.

        I’ve been trying to work with gnome 3 for a while on my desktop and really can’t get on with it. “While” is just a number of weeks but it still feels very much a relief to be working on the beaten up old laptop in Fluxbox or xfce.

        Maybe if Gnome3 was more easily discoverable, tools like the user admin widget weren’t broken (with respect to available functionality), gconf-editor and friends weren’t the easiest way to make changes, it was easier to get launchers available, flipping between desktops was faster … etc.

        Gnome 3.2 is less bad. Gnome 3.0 is truly awful. It’s a shame. A lot of skilled and able people (far more so than this poster) have sunk a lot of time and effort into the project and it really should have been good.

  5. andrew says

    I don’t suppose you guys keep an updated pin file, that can be used to give it a shot on wheezy? I know that it’ll migrate in a couple weeks time, but I’d really like to give it a shot on my spare lappy, without updating all the way to sid 🙂

    • says

      I did the same thing (Wheezy + Gnome 3) on a machine a few days ago – as far as I remember all I had to do was add Sid to my sources.list, in preferences give Sid a lower pinning number, then ‘apt-get install -t unstable gnome-session nautilus evince empathy brasero rhythmbox’. There might be a few other packages that need ‘apt-get install -t unstable’ to install, but there wasn’t any real difficulty. You can check what you need to bring down from unstable here:

  6. David Lee says

    A Sid user here. The transition took me by surprise because I sorta stopped following up on it and issued a dist-upgrade one day last week to refresh my system.

    I think I found a bug tho- when using XChat under Gnome 3, there is a significant delay of about 1 second between each keypress and the letter appearing in XChat’s textbox upon connecting to a server. This bug also appears in XChat-Gnome, and can be worked around by using a different Desktop Environment like XFCE4 when using XChat.

    I really doubt it’s the hardware. The system’s hardware is decent- dual core Athlon64 x2 3800+, 2GB DDR2-800 RAM, NVidia GeForce 8400GS with the proprietary drivers properly installed.

    I’ve filed the bug report- it’s #646614. Hope I filed it correctly tho. While I’m somewhat a power user with Linux for over a decade I’m still clueless as to what some of the bug report terminology mean.

  7. dontfearthepenguin says

    So, it’s today 🙂 Right now there is a bigger update for testing, I see many gnome related packages with “3” in their version, see ya in gnome3 world (or xfce, which I have installed few days ago, just “in case” 🙂

    • dontfearthepenguin says

      I will only write, that Gnome3 was so shocking to me, that after few hours with it, I have installed Squeeze, so for 2 more years I’ll be able to use Gnome2, and after that, maybe Gnome4 will show 🙂

      • Richard Sonnenfeld says

        Yes … I rebuilt my computer and to get the latest nvidia drivers I went from Squeeze (Gnome 2) to Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot (Gnome 3). I have only been working with it a few hours but it is EXTREMELY ANNOYING. I have been reading that if your goal is to get your work done, go to Xfce like Linus. I’m doing it. Downloading Xubuntu now … (The do mention there might be some nvidia issues … but I’m not doing dual screens so maybe I’m OK.)