Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce GNOME change proposal: much smoke, no fire

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What is it about GNOME that makes people rise up in arms whenever any change is proposed in the desktop environment?


Perhaps it's the fact that GNOME has undertaken meaningless change in the past, justifying it through the use of buzzwords, and ended up with a morass that really does not find favour with too many users.

Perhaps it's the fact that the GNOME developers still have the attitude that they are building things for themselves and the rest of the world can use it as it is or else take a walk.

Whatever it is, when there is talk of change in GNOME, people sit up and get agitated. But this time, someone has bitten off a lot more than they can chew, suffered from indigestion and then passed a lot of misinformation around.

Let's get specific. The OMG!Ubuntu site, a site for Ubuntu fanbois, published a little article a few days ago, titled "GNOME to drop support for BSD, Solaris, Unix?"

This was based on a post to Reddit. The OMG Ubuntu employee who wrote the post for the site, Joey Sneddon, did not bother to read the email that began the discussion that led to this amazing claim.

One email in a long thread, by one of the main GNOME Shell developers, William Jon McCann, was picked up and taken out of context, simply because it made nice, sensational headlines.

The email thread was begun by Lennart Pottering, a free software developer from Germany who, among other things, is the man behind the new sound server, PulseAudio.

Pottering suggested that systemd, a system and service manager for Linux of which he is the author and maintainer, be made an external dependency for GNOME. As systemd is  Linux-only, and GNOME is used by other UNIX clones apart from Linux, this would mean that replacements would have to be written for non-Linux systems in order that GNOME could be used on those systems.

This was just a suggestion that Pottering threw out and sought comments. A good way down the thread, McCann piped up, responding to a post in the thread by senior Debian developer Josselin Mouette. The part of Mouette's contribution that McCann responded to was: "I don't have anything against requiring systemd, since it is definitely the best init system out there currently, but the Linux dependency is an absolute no-no for us. Having optional Linux-only functionalities is OK; requiring Linux is not."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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