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

Joel Rees joel.rees at gmail.com
Sun Aug 10 22:32:57 UTC 2014

2014/08/08 6:58 "Jordi Mallach" <jordi at debian.org>:
> Hi Debian,
> It's been around 9 months since tasksel changed (for real) the default
> desktop for new installs. At the time of the change, it was mentioned
> the issue would be revisited before the freeze, around debconf time.
> Well, it's roughly that time. :) So I'd like to plainly request GNOME is
> reinstated as the default desktop environment for a number of reasons.

First thought: Since systemd has been chosen as the one true way of the
future, it seems only obvious that GNOME should be the default desktop.

> Accessibility: GNOME continues to be the only free desktop environment
> provides full accessibility coverage, right from login screen. While it’s
> GNOME 3.0 was lacking in many areas, and GNOME 3.4 (which we shipped in
> was just barely acceptable thanks to some last minute GDM fixes, GNOME
> should have ironed out all of the issues and our non-expert understanding
> that a11y support is now on par with what GNOME 2.30 from squeeze offered.

There are a number of regular participants on debian-user who have a11y
needs. Would it be too much to ask, to ask them whether GNOME meets their

> 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
> Being the default desktop draws a lot of attention (and bug reports) that
> a bigger team might have the resources to handle.

It has been mentioned in the past, but developers work on what they want to
work on. That may or may not be related to whether a particular DE is
appropriate for general rcommendation.

> 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
> Only very recently it has regained support to suspend/hibernate via
logind, or
> support for Bluez 5.x, for example.

Should consider the reasons for the breakage, as well.

> Community: GNOME is one of the biggest free software projects, and is
lucky to
> have created an ecosystem of developers, documenters, translators and
> that interact regularly in a live social community. Users and developers
> in hackfests and big, annual conferences like GUADEC, the Boston Summit,
> GNOME.Asia. Only KDE has a comparable community, the rest of the free
> projects don’t have the userbase or manpower to sustain communities like

With a community that big, would it be unreasonable to ask them to maintain
their own distro? Or perhaps their own liveCD? Eh, well, liveSD.

> Localization: Localization is more extensive and complete in GNOME.  Xfce
> 18 languages above 95% of coverage, and 2 at 100% (excluding English),
> has 28 languages above 95%, 9 of them being complete (excluding English).


No, seriously, is there any meaning to the claim of "complete"?

I've seen a lot of bad Japanese translation, recently, that, if I had more
time, I'd file bugs on.

> Documentation: Documentation coverage is extensive in GNOME, with most of
> core applications providing localized, up to date and complete manuals,
> available in an accessible format via the Help reader.

See above. Documentation and translation have something in common here.
Particularly since documentation should be translation from technical
language to the more common vernacular.

> Hardware: GNOME 3.12 will be one of the few desktop environments to
> 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.
> Security: GNOME is more secure. There are no processes launched with root
> permissions on the user’s session. All everyday operations (package
> disk partitioning and formatting, date/time configuration…) are
> through PolicyKit wrappers.
> Privacy: One of the latest focuses of GNOME development is improving
> and work is being done to make it easy to run GNOME applications in
> containers, integrate Tor seamlessly in the desktop experience, better
> encryption support and other features that should make GNOME a more secure
> desktop environment for end users.
> Popularity: One of the metrics discussed by the tasksel change proponents
> mentioned popcon numbers. 8 months after the desktop change, Xfce does
not seem
> to have made a dent on install numbers.  The Debian GNOME team doesn’t
> popcon’s data is any better than a random online poll though, as it’s an
> service which the vast majority of users don’t enable.
> 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
> problem. Also given ConsoleKit is deprecated and dead upstream, KDE and
> are switching or are planning to switch to systemd/logind.
> In addition to this, moving to Xfce now would mean yet another transition
> a new desktop (if we consider GNOME 2.x → 3.x a transition, which it is),
> which would mean a new round of adapation for users installing Debian from
> scratch, and only after two years after getting used to the GNOME 3
> jessie's GNOME 3.x release should be a lot more polished than what we
> with wheezy, which means many of the rough edges and annoyances people may
> have found when upgrading from squeeze are probably now ironed out.
> Many members of the Debian GNOME team feel shipping Xfce by default would
> mean regressing in a few key areas like, as mentioned before,
> localisation and documentation of the default set of applications. We are
> about the state of some features of the current default with respect
> to power management and bluetooth, for example. These features are driven
> and working since day 1, by GNOME 3.12.
> Jordi
> --
> Jordi Mallach Pérez  --  Debian developer     http://www.debian.org/
> jordi at sindominio.net     jordi at debian.org     http://www.sindominio.net/
> GnuPG public key information available at http://oskuro.net/
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