The sysadmin view on GNOME

A long time ago, we had a useful document that explained aspects of GNOME that are relevant to system administrators: GNOME Desktop System Administration Guide. Unfortunately, that document never made the jump from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3. In fact, it never made the jump beyond 2.14 or so…

With GNOME 3 is  a bit more than a year old now, it is high time that we this situation fixed. To kickstart this, I started a wiki page a while ago where I collect bits of information that should server as raw material for a new sysadmin guide. You can find it here:

This is not my private playground – I would absolutely love contributions from others; there’s many areas I haven’t touched at all yet. E.g.

  • Is it possible to set up online-accounts for users in advance ?
  • What about hardware compatibility –  how to find out if gnome-shell will work ?
  • Lockdown

And if you are a system administrator, please add the questions that you ran into when trying GNOME 3.  Your input will not only improve the new sysadmin guide, it may also show us where we need to make things more manageable.

GNOME 3.5.3 sightings

Here is another collection of things I’ve seen appear in the tarballs that are coming in for the 3.5.3 development snapshot.

Accessibility is now ‘always on’. We’ve worked towards this goal ever since GNOME 3.0, and we’re finally at a point where we can have accessibility enabled by default without affecting stability or performance in a major way.

To celebrate this achievement, we’ve added a ‘Screen Reader’ item to the shell menu.

The first signs of ‘Enterprise Login’ (i.e. Active Directory) support can be seen in the user panel. This is first and foremost the achievement of Stef Walter, who has more information on his blog post.

Some of our smaller applications and utilities are getting some love and attention. As an example, here is the reimplemented baobab disk usage analyzer.

Mounting removable media is now handled with a shell-style dialog.

Finally, the list of supported online accounts keeps growing longer.

live cds

Just a quick service announcement: Ray has produced live cds of GNOME 3.5.2 for people who want to get a quick, painless glimpse of things that are coming in GNOME 3.6.  You can find them here.

…and now we’ve even managed to announce the 3.5.2 livecds before the 3.5.3 release comes out next week :-)

GNOME 3.5.2 sightings

I’ve just completed the GNOME 3.5.2 development snapshot. It is still early in the cycle, and many of the planned changes are either still being developed in branches, or are still ‘under the hood’. However, while smoke-testing the release, I managed to capture a few glimpses of improvements that I wanted to share:

Application menus are now very well adopted.

The user menu has been streamlined. We don’t show ‘Online Accounts’ separately anymore, you can just use ‘System Settings’ to get there. ‘Power Off’ is back. The ‘Switch User’ and ‘Log out’ items are only shown when they make sense.




A rewritten font viewer application has appeared. It uses the same patterns that we have seen in other GNOME 3 applications: An overview with a top bar, optimized for maximized windows, a detailed screen for individual fonts, etc.



The accessible high-contrast theme has been greatly improved.

Finally, the beginning of Input Sources support has landed.

See the feature list some other things that will appear in GNOME 3.6, if things go as planned.

Job openings

Update: Since I have been asked about this. The engineering position that is on the website with a location of Munich can also be filled in Boston (or Brno, for that matter).

This post is not going to talk about exiting (or boring) technical stuff – I’ll get back to that in my next post. Today, I want to point out some job openings in the desktop group at Red Hat.

While our daily business is to maintain and improve GNOME  and its underpinnings, we are also responsible for the user experience of servers and other non-desktoppy deployments.  We have a small team that is looking to bring our design principles and many desktop technologies into that space. We are currently looking for an engineer to join that team.

Please check back on our website – we are going to have more positions open in this team soon.

Other things we are concerned with in the desktop group are graphics (ie X and graphics drivers) and virtualization (mainly desktop virtualization, with technologies like Spice). If you are a graphics wizard who knows GPUs and video codecs inside out and know something about virtualization, then we have a job for you at the intersection of these topics.

If you are more into managing development teams than into writing code, you may be interested in this position.

Finally, we have an opening in our Brno office for a software engineer to help us  maintain and support our products. This is an entry-level position that does not require a super-long resume of GNOME contributions (we expect you to grow that list on the job). If you are a student near Brno, we also have a number of desktop-related intern projects in the Brno office that are opening very soon – but I don’t have a link for these just yet.

Now back to my regular technical content – I have a GNOME release to do that will be chock-full of cool new stuff.

F17 desktop spin facelift

There was some discussion on fedora-devel-list about how to make it more obvious that the Fedora desktop spin. Various proposals were worked out to the point of working implementations.

Kamil Paral made the start with an extension that puts an ‘Install’ button in the top bar. I’ve followed up with a notification that pops up at login, explains that you are using live media, and offers you to install (The backstory here is that we’ve actually had a shell extension for showing the installer on the desktop spin for a while before F16, but the gnome-shell team asked that we ship GNOME 3 without extensions installed, so we’ve taken it out.). The notification was never my favourite approach to this issue; I preferred to just auto-start the installer.

We are very lucky that Cosimo Cecchi and Kalev Lember teamed up for an outstanding job, and got a much nicer solution implemented, polished and integrated in a matter of days, so the initial experience when booting the F17 desktop spin will be this:

I’m looking forward to it !

Tomorrows GNOME, part 2

While the release is building on my laptop, I have time to write about a few more things I am looking forward to in GNOME 3.4.

Easy Extensions

We has been working hard to make GNOME 3.4 smooth and remove the small things that have been annoying people. But everybody has his own habits, and sometimes you just need that extension to support your specific workflow. This will be much easier from now on; with, extensions are just one click away, and you can try them out right from your browser.

GNOME goes virtual

Two exciting things in one screenshot: gnome-boxes is beginning to make VM access easy in GNOME, and gnome-shell is running fine in qemu with software rendering.

Admittedly, the gnome-boxes release in 3.4 is more of a preview of things to come, but it is already working well enough for simple tasks, such as testing nightly spins. And for software rendering to work, you need recent drivers – the current F17 beta works nicely, as seen in the screenshot.

Update: Yes, the aspect ratio of the VM is slightly off; I hear that this will be fixed in F17 final.

Tomorrows GNOME

GNOME for Artists

I can only manage to draw squiggly lines in GIMP. I am not really much of an artist at all, even with proper tools like a well-calibrated tablet.

Bastien Nocera and Peter Hutterer together with Jason Gerecke and Olivier Fourdan have worked really hard this cycle to bring first-class support for Wacom tablets to GNOME.

These tablets are amazingly complex devices, with programmable buttons, multiple styli, ‘touch rings’ and other fancy controls. In GNOME 3.4, all of their functionality will be accessible from the Wacom panel in gnome-control-center.

Together with our color management support, this should make artists feel more at home.

GNOME for Everybody

Accessibility has always been an important characteristic of GNOME. With 3.4, GNOME 3 will catch up in this area. Orca now reads all of the gnome-shell interface to me. And, what is more important, I can leave it running for a long time without problems – the stability of the accessibility stack has really improved.

We’ve also added a dialog that gives very detailed access to the options of the built-in gnome-shell magnifier. These options are just fun to play with for me, but for people who really dependent on a magnifier, they can be essential for being able to use the computer at all.

GTK+ hackfest aftermath

I didn’t manage to write a second post during the hackfest, so this is a somewhat belated summary.

We had several long discussions around multi-touch, gestures, event controllers and input handling in general, as well as theming, css, clutter and render objects. At the end of the weekend, we tried to condense these into a rough roadmap for GTK+ and clutter. You can see the notes on that here. One result of the roadmap discussion is that the clutter-based GTK+ will be 4.0 – introducing this kind of new dependency is just not suitable for a 3.x release.

As mentioned, touch was an important topic. Carlos Garnacho has done important pioneering work on multi-touch in GTK+. During the hackfest, he started to separate out the parts of his branch that we agreed to get into 3.4: XInput 2.2 support, basic touch events, kinetic scrolling and smooth scrolling. In the week since the hackfest has ended, I’ve made some API adjustments and cleanups.

The touch-related API in 3.4 will be fairly minimal. We have a GdkEventTouch event, with subtypes for GDK_TOUCH_BEGIN, GDK_TOUCH_UPDATE and GDK_TOUCH_END. To receive these events, use the GDK_TOUCH_MASK event mask and connect to the ::touch-event signal on your widget. Kinetic scrolling in scrolled windows can be turned on and off with the kinetic-scrolling property. To receive scroll events with deltas (aka smooth scroll events), use the GDK_SMOOTH_SCROLL_MASK. Such scroll events have a scroll direction of GDK_SCROLL_SMOOTH, and their deltas can be obtained with the gdk_event_get_scroll_deltas() function.

Today I’ve merged the whole thing, so GTK+ 3.4 will have basic touch support.

A  concrete positive result of a very successful hackfest – thanks to the people in the Red Hat Czech office who helped organize this, in particular Tomas Bzatek.

Advances in deprecation technology

A while ago, I wrote about our new better way to do deprecation warnings in the GTK+ stack by letting the compiler do the warnings.  That work came out of the Montreal summit. Here we are, half a year later, and the our next get-together (the GTK+ hackfest last week in Brno) produces another big improvement for our deprecation technology.

This time it was Emmanuele Bassi who took the initiative and added versioning information to our deprecation annotations. This means that it is now possible to say to your compiler:

Warn me about deprecations up to version 2.30, but I don’t want to chase the recent deprecations that have been going into 2.31 yet.

Doing this is just as easy as turning off deprecation warnings altogether. You just define a preprocessor symbol. In the case of GLib, it would be


While Emmanuele was at it, he threw in another nicety: You can now get compiler warnings for ‘too new’ API too. And it is just as easy:


will produce a compiler warning if you use API that was not available in GLib 2.28. This comes in handy when you want to ensure that your application continues to build on older distributions.

GTK+ has these new deprecations as well, the relevant preprocessor symbols to use here are GDK_VERSION_MIN_REQUIRED and GDK_VERSION_MAX_ALLOWED.

Versioned deprecations should make it a lot easier to gradually port applications to new API, as opposed to the current situation where you either have to chase all the latest API or ignore deprecations altogether. Thanks, Emmanuele !