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Gnome 3.8: Fallback Mode – The first feature under discussion

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Vincent Untz opens that ticket titled as “Drop or Fix Fallback Mode“.

Fallback Mode 3.6

I was thinking to review fallback mode in 3.6, but there isn’t anything really to review. It seems exactly the same as 3.4 with no new features but just with some bugfixes. Clutter isn’t working there (modal animations, etc), notifications are on top right and there isn’t a bubble chat.

However Fallback is important as some BSDs using it.

Fallback Mode 3.5.9

Vincent analyzes  the issues with Fallback

  • Nearly nobody actively tests it
  • It’s in maintenance mode (no new features for the core, but bug fixes go in), with no active development since nobody is stepping up (and some required parts, like polkit-gnome, are even not maintained at all)
  • Several apps now require clutter and can’t work in fallback mode (totem, audio/video UI in empathy, cheese, etc.)
  • Some changes in our architecture require additional work to keep things somewhat working in fallback, even though they won’t offer the full experience

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  • PromoteCommonSense

    Too bad Mint and others didn’t choose to expend developer resources on fall back mode instead of forking gnome-shell. The down side of forking the shell is that if gnome-shell won’t run, then neither will the fork. The upside of fall back mode is that it could be used regardless of whether one has a graphic accelerated video card or not.

    I still think that if Gnome 3.0 had the fall back mode as the default and gnome-shell as the alternative, there would have been much better acceptance of gnome-shell. But then again, hind sight is 20/20 or so the saying goes.

    • alex285

      Just to mention, GS 3.4+ doesn’t need 3d acceleration hardware. It has a fallback to software rendering

    • James LaBarre

      Mint came up with the Cinnamon *alternative* shell (not a fork, but an alternative) because a lot of people felt the entire Gnome-Shell paradigm was broken, and wanted to regain the plethora of functionality lost with Gnome-Shell. In the end a matter of preference, so having a choice is a *good* thing, regardless of how much the Gnome folks feel their technical uber-ness has been challenged.

      Of course, none of my hardware can handle Gnome3 anyway (be it processor, memory or video), so I’m sticking with Mate Desktop, and watching the Gnome and KDE worlds in case they become usable for me.

      • PromoteCommonSense

        But doesn’t fall back mode and Cinnamon strive to do the same thing — provide the user with a Gnome 3 equivalent of Gnome 2? I know that Mate is a fork of Gnome 2, but my understanding was that with Cinnamon, the Mint developers were trying to recreate the Gnome 2 interface as closely as possible. That is why, in my opinion, it would have made more sense to work on Gnome Fall Back which also does that.

        I agree that choice is good, but some choices can be more efficient with the use of limited resources (ie. developers), than others.

        As for more usable, I know that with both Gnome 3.4.2 and KDE 4.9, resource requirements have improved quite a bit over previous editions. Might be time to look into one or both of them again (if KDE, turning off the desktop search in the settings help tremendously!).

    • Michael Mistretta

      It’s more of a shame that Canonical (which is larger and has more resources than the Mint team) did not continue to develop the gnome fallback session in gtk3 rather than give us “Unity”. Canonical could have maintained a consistent desktop experience that people have come to rely on though gnome developers continued to develop gnome shell for their magical tablet users that don’t exist.

      I would think that had Canonical decided to maintain a consistent UX rather than do a “me too” shiny bauble of a shell we wouldn’t have the craziness going on right now with all these stupid spin offs..

      • PromoteCommonSense

        It’s a shame, too, that Mint has 33 developers working on Cinnamon when those resources could have been used to make fallback even better. Part of that, though is Gnome’s fault in that fallback wasn’t very publicized. Actually, I think the lack of communication has been the primary problem with Gnome 3 and all the battles over the interface and changes to things like nautilus are reaction to that. Even the developers have commented on how they need to do a better job communicating.

        • Michael Mistretta

          Sadly these extensions are a crutch and often break every new release.. they are no substitute for core functionality that Gnome2 used to enjoy.. you can’t even change a freaking font on the panel without installing a hack.. that indicates a problem.

          • PromoteCommonSense

            Extensions are no more a crutch than applets were in Gnome 2. Both have the purpose of adding/changing something that was not default. I do agree that extensions break with every new release, but the same could be said for Firefox and a lot of other things that have third party extensions. Gnome 3.8 is supposed to have an auto-update feature for extensions and there is an extension right now that allows for manually updating.

            I still don’t get the attitude of people with customizations. KDE is deemed too complex because you can customize everything. Gnome is too simplified because you can just customize basic things. You can customize a lot of stuff if you use third party apps and extensions, but that doesn’t count for some reason.

            The mere fact that extensions can be made quite easily shows how robust a platform Gnome 3 is. Even Mint’s Cinnamon shell, which is built upon Gnome 3 is a testament to customization and ability.

            There is nothing stopping a person from writing an app to do further customizations than gnome-tweak-tool or creating a tool to modify themes. Should that be something the gnome developers provide? Probably not. They should stick with working on core technologies. But, the hooks are already in the system for anybody who does want to develop those tools.

          • Michael Mistretta

            I think that is a bad attitude to have. I don’t think it is a good idea to rip away core features and then expect the community to pick up the slack and bring basic functionality back. It wouldn’t require a hack to change a theme, a color, or a font. I’m not saying that gnome developers can’t do it, but they can’t expect to do that and not lose users, which is exactly what is happening now.

            Indicators in Gnome2 added features to the panel but they’re not the same as extensions. Adding a weather-indicator is not the same as a hack to do something as simple as changing a font.

            The “We Know Better” attitude is really driving people away. I see no reason to defend that attitude. Did Debian not just drop Gnome3 for XFCE?

  • ScionicSpectre

    I think llvmpipe is the way to go, although some older computers obviously won’t be able to handle it (and these are the kinds of computers that typically require a 2D environment).

    I think it would be useful for distributions that ship GNOME to pop up a window when both hardware accelerated rendering and software rendering fail that informs them of the computer’s situation and offers to install closed graphics drivers if they’re available. Otherwise, it could offer to install the distribution’s preferred non-composited desktop (XFCE, LXDE, etc.).

    In fact, it could even inform them of video cards on their system that aren’t in use, in case they’re using some really old Intel GPU when they have a discrete card installed.

  • KeepFallbackPlease!

    totem and cheese dont work in fallback mode? guess noone told 3.5.90 since its working fine here

    • Jeremy Bicha

      He means if you don’t have working 3D, then Totem won’t work.

      Now that we have llvmpipe, it doesn’t seem like GNOME needs a “fallback mode” for when GNOME Shell won’t work. I think gnome-panel should be allowed to continue as GNOME Classic instead of as GNOME Fallback. In other words, getting rid of some of the patches that made it look like GNOME Shell even though most of its users would prefer it look like a polished GNOME 2 desktop.

      It sounds like there is also a need for developers to continue updating the code to keep it on par with the latest GTK3 and GNOME 3 code. This is the project the Mate developers should have taken on.

      • Michael Mistretta

        I agree 100%. Gnome Panel and GTK3 should be where the focus is for those who want to keep the Gnome Classic desktop.. MATE is just dependency hell and ultimately a dead end project. Honestly I still feel Canonical should have maintained Gnome Classic to keep a consistent UI with previous Ubuntu releases but of course they felt the need to release Unity instead for some reason.

  • Fence Post

    I used fall-back mode extensively when I was trying to get my video card to work. It was very handy and because of its Windows-like menu approach my young daughter prefers to use it because she understand the menu system better than things that jump out at you when you wave the mouse about. I do prefer gnome shell to unity for my real work. If I just wanted to twitter, jump on facebook and write a shopping list on google office, unity would be fine.

  • cmcanulty

    Cheese works fine for me in fallback

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  • Michael Mistretta

    I personally would like to see Gnome Classic supported and fixed.. you say no one is using it well I am still using Gnome 2 (as are many others) mainly because Gnome Classic in Gnome3 is *broken*. I would gladly move to Gnome 3 if Classic Mode actually worked and I could recreate an environment that is not too unlike my current desktop.

    I think that a gnome panel that was fully ported to gtk3 would win back a lot of former gnome users.. if you fix it they will come.. I know Gnome Shell is the ‘new thing’ but all indications lately have been that Gnome Shell’s “end game” is for tablet devices.. would be nice to throw us ‘dinosaurs’ that still use desktops a bone.. a lot of people really loved Gnome 2, I think having gnome-panel fully functional and ported to gtk3 would be a huge win for everyone.

    /2 cents

    • Roland Taylor

      I think the major problem here is “works just like”. Gnome 3.x’s “Fallback mode” is actually rather usable for me. The main problem with it is that it is not maintained. That’s really all there is to it.

      We need as humans to be open to _some_ degree of change.

      • Michael Mistretta

        There are many bugs in Gnome3 Fallback which need addressed, random crashes, bugs with indicators, themes, ect.. a faithful port of gnome panel to gtk3 would be ideal.. it’s not like there is a huge shortage of gnome2 users out there who wouldn’t like to see gnome panel ported and maintained. I personally got sick of the bugs and just went back to gnome2 on an older distro because quite frankly, it still works.. I tried gnome3 fallback and I got fed up, I tried gnome shell and I am tired of using extensions and hacks to make get basic usability back, I won’t even chime in on Unity but let’s just say I’m not a fan.. doubt I’m alone. I’m not saying change is bad but well, I’m sure you’ve read what is being said about the gnome project lately and it is quite frustrating honestly.

        • Roland Taylor

          I’m not a fan of Gnome Shell (I use Unity normally and Gnome Fallback often).

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