It's no secret that Linux kernel founder Linus Torvalds has issues with the GNOME desktop. Late last week Torvalds made his displeasure known again, this time taking aim squarely at the GNOME Shell Extensions web site.
The site, which provides "mall pieces of code written by third party developers that modify the way GNOME works," according to the site's About page, drew Torvalds' ire after he decided to update an older Fedora 14 machine to the current edition, Fedora 17.
From there, things did not go well.
At issue was the apparent lack of ability to change the font sizes on the GNOME 3.4 desktop that Fedora 17 contains. Discovering the functionality was still broken in the control panel, Torvalds visited the GNOME Shell Extensions site to alleviate the problem. After implementing the fix for this issue, he tried to add auto-hide to the taskbar.
"But now extensions.gnome.org says 'You do not appear to have an up to date version of GNOME3'. Oh? So 3.4.1 (current F17 as of today) isn't up-to-date enough? Oh wait, no, it's actually just that the chrome plugin seems broken. Fire up firefox instead--now it works. And I can get panel settings and enable auto-hide so that I don't need to look at that butt-ugly thing that has clearly been designed by some goth teenager that thinks that black is cool."
And so it went.
Torvalds has expressed displeasure with GNOME before, specifically the GNOME 3 branch that has stirred up a lot of controversy since it was release in April 2011. In August last year, Torvalds directly called for a fork of the GNOME 3 tree to something more closely resembling GNOME 2, which maintained a more familiar desktop look and feel.
Last Friday's rant on GNOME 3 is the latest in a series of diatribes Torvalds and other Linux community members have fired at GNOME, and they may be taking their toll on the GNOME team. On Saturday, Java developer and GNOME advocate Andrew Cowie led a blog entry with the intro line: "Bloody hell. GNOME hackers, can someone sit Linus down and get him sorted so he stops whinging?"
Cowie's concerns are that GNOME 3's "rough edges" are being exacerbated by the fact that people are generally upset about change. But Torvalds' vocal lashings of the desktop environment are making the situation far worse.
"Surely, however, the negative PR impact of Linus constantly complaining about how he's having such a hard time using GNOME exceeds what it might cost to the GNOME Foundation of getting somebody over to the Linux Foundation to help him out? Oh well, too late now," Cowie wrote.
He may have a point. While Torvalds is but one user within the Linux community, and there are indeed many users who like and appreciate the directions that GNOME 3 is going, it is impossible to ignore the sheer influence Torvalds has over the Linux community. While I would not go so far as to say its as big as hero worship, there is still a significant amount of celebrity cachet that Torvalds carries.
Having that cache lobbed in your general direction like flaming two-ton chunks of peat surely should be enough to get your attention.
Increasingly, as people fire off complaints about GNOME, KDE, or virtually any other open source project, I keep coming back to the need to for more documentation and more interactive support for these software projects. People need help, and they need it before they throw their hands up on disgust and write a scathing blog post ot Tweet.
Of course even doing this won't be enough, since there will still be legitimate broken issues to fix, as in the case of the GNOME Shell Extensions site.
But it has got to be a step in the right direction, and better than the one step forward, one step back that Torvalds disdainfully pins on the GNOME project today.
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