[Pkg-xfce-devel] Reverting to GNOME for jessie's default desktop

Yves-Alexis Perez corsac at debian.org
Fri Aug 8 09:14:07 UTC 2014

On jeu., 2014-08-07 at 23:57 +0200, Jordi Mallach wrote:
> Hi Debian,

About the decision itself, as Debian Xfce main maintainer, I honestly
don't really care. I don't think the default desktop matters that much
on Debian (while I guess it means a lot for Ubuntu, for example). I
actually think having no default desktop would be just fine, instead
having the current 3-4 desktop installation media. Then anyone can pick
the DE she likes.

Now, about specific items:

> Downstream health: The number of active members in the team taking care of
> GNOME in Debian is around 5-10 persons, while it is 1-2 in the case of Xfce.
> Being the default desktop draws a lot of attention (and bug reports) that only
> a bigger team might have the resources to handle.

Indeed. I somehow hoped that the attention brought on the initial switch
would bring more developpers to the pkg-xfce team, but that failed. But
I'm unsure how much people actually saw the switch, since it's only for
the current beta installers for Jessie…
> Upstream health: While GNOME is still committed to its time-based release
> schedule and ships new versions every 6 months, Xfce upstream is,
> unfortunately, struggling a bit more to keep up with new plumbing technology.
> Only very recently it has regained support to suspend/hibernate via logind, or
> support for Bluez 5.x, for example.

Same as above.

> Hardware: GNOME 3.12 will be one of the few desktop environments to support
> HiDPI displays, now very common on some laptop models. Lack of support for
> HiDPI means non-technical users will get an unreadable desktop by default, and
> no hints on how to fix that.

Well, considering Xorg harcodes DPI to 96, what's the problem anyway?
Also, with DPI correctly set to 140 on my Thinkpad (not really HiDPI but
still more than 96), the only problems I've seen is chromium since it
dropped GTK (#749239 where the URL bar font is oversized and the menu
fonts are unreadable).
> Security: GNOME is more secure. There are no processes launched with root
> permissions on the user’s session. All everyday operations (package management,
> disk partitioning and formatting, date/time configuration…) are accomplished
> through PolicyKit wrappers.

That doesn't make much sense to me. It seems you're considering GNOME as
a distribution more than a desktop environment. That's not how Xfce sees
it. It relies on stuff like PolicyKit for interactions with hardware,
for example, but it doesn't really ship anything which should be run as
root. The user is free to do anything she wants, though.
> Privacy: One of the latest focuses of GNOME development is improving privacy,
> and work is being done to make it easy to run GNOME applications in isolated
> containers, integrate Tor seamlessly in the desktop experience, better disk
> encryption support and other features that should make GNOME a more secure
> desktop environment for end users.

Again, for me that's somehow unrelated to the DE, but my vision is less
about having a DE which does everything and more about having it only
handle things like session, window management, file management (each
component appart). It's perfectly possible to use GNOME components in
Xfce, and actually a lot of people do that.

> systemd embracing: One of the reasons to switch to Xfce was that it didn’t
> depend on systemd. But now that systemd is the default, that shouldn’t be a
> problem. Also given ConsoleKit is deprecated and dead upstream, KDE and Xfce
> are switching or are planning to switch to systemd/logind.

Not really. We relie on PolicyKit and used to use ConsoleKit because
that was somehow enforced on about everyone. Now ConsoleKit has been
deprecated, and the same people now enforce libpam-systemd and logind.
I'm fine with that, but the goal would be to support both systemd and
sysvrc/systemd-shim systems.

> Many members of the Debian GNOME team feel shipping Xfce by default would
> mean regressing in a few key areas like, as mentioned before, accessibility,
> localisation and documentation of the default set of applications. We are wary
> about the state of some features of the current default with respect
> to power management and bluetooth, for example. These features are driven by,
> and working since day 1, by GNOME 3.12.

Put it another way, Xfce (and other DEs) have been hurt by the various
enforced transitions (ConsoleKit,
hal/devicekit-power/upower/upower-0.99), yes. Combined with the lack of
resources, that means it lays behind the people who decided those

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