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So I have a wheezy desktop

6 April 2013 21:50

I look after a bunch of servers, working for Bytemark that is not a surprise, but I only touch a very small number of desktop systems.

precious - My desktop

This is the machine upon which I develop, check my personal mail, play my music & etc.

steve - My work machine

To keep the working from home separation going I have a machine I only use for work purposes.

travel/travel2 - EEPC box

I have two EEPC machines, a personal 701 and a work-provided 901.

Honestly these rarely get used. One is for when I'm on holiday or traveling, the second for when I'm on-call.

Yesterday I got round to upgrading both the toy EEPC machines to wheezy. The good news? Both of them upgraded/reinstalled easily. Hardware was all detected, sleeping, hibernation, wifi, etc all "just worked".

Unfortunately I am now running GNOME 3.x and the experience is unpleasant. This is a shame, because I've enjoyed GNOME 2.x & bluetile for the past few years.

The only other concern is that pwsafe appears to be scheduled for removal from Debian GNU/Linux - the list of open bugs shows some cause, but there are bugs there that are trivial to fix.

For the moment I've rebuilt the package and if I cannot find a suitable alternative - available for squeeze and wheezy - then I will host the package on my package repository.

In conclusion: Debian, you did good. GNOME, I've loved and appreciated you for years, but you might not be the desktop I want these days. It's not you, it's me.



Comments on this entry

icon Anonymous at 05:42 on 6 April 2013

I'm assuming your experiences with GNOME 3 are based on 3.4, the latest available in unstable. Have you tried 3.8 at all yet? In particular, some of its new legacy mode extensions?

icon Steve Kemp at 05:45 on 6 April 2013

Honestly I didn't even notice which versions were installed, I just downloaded the mini-ISO for the current testing installer and went with that.

Looking things over I'm going to assume that I'm running 3.4.

Barring the rare backport I prefer to keep my systems running pure-stable, unless there is a really compelling reason not to - so I'm not going to be too interested in running 3.8, or anything later than officially-supported wheezy.

That means I'll stick with gnome for a while to confirm that I'm not happy with it, then look at something else.

icon A pwsafe user at 06:29 on 6 April 2013

Hi Steve,

It'd be great if pwsafe can be kept in Debian. Looking forward to see it (re-)appear.

icon Tshepang Lekhonkhobe at 07:49 on 6 April 2013

If the GNOME (3.4) objection has anything to do with the default mode (gnome-shell), I recommend running its fallback mode. It presents an interface that is pretty much unchanged from GNOME 2, unless you go unda-da-hood of course.

icon Steve Kemp at 08:06 on 6 April 2013

I've cloned the current Squeeze package of pwsafe and uploaded to github here;

Binary packages will be built and uploaded to this repository in the next few days. Just making minor tweaks to the packaging and trying to tidy things up a little more first.

icon Anonymous at 08:21 on 6 April 2013

@Steve: You might consider downloading a live USB image and trying out GNOME 3.8 and its new legacy-mode extensions, just to see if it feels comfortable to you. You can also get some of that functionality with 3.4 extensions.

icon Anonymous at 08:30 on 6 April 2013

If you really liked GNOME 2 I suggest you give MATE a try. I'm using it myself and it's awesome!


icon Steve Kemp at 08:44 on 6 April 2013

Thanks for the tip - I've not tried the fallback mode yet.

With regard to MATE/live-distros, etc: I run Debian, I wish to keep running Debian. If I cannot get used to GNOME 3.x then I will use an alternative which is already packaged, supported, and maintained by Debian.

(That might be awesome, fvwm, enlightenment, or even KDE. I'll cross that bridge when I've lived with GNOME some more.)

icon Joss at 08:50 on 6 April 2013

Hi Steve.
How about trying Mate Desktop in those EEPC's? It brings back the good old GNOME 2.X.X with all the power of Wheezy.
I'am using it in an old computer and it brought it back to life ;-)
If you want to try it in their website they have all the info you may need to do so.

icon djadala at 08:55 on 6 April 2013

try mate-desktop:

deb http://repo.mate-desktop.org/debian wheezy main

I hope it enter debian (mate-common wait in new), and then go to backports before EOL of squeeze

icon djadala at 09:23 on 6 April 2013

clarification, mate is installable on wheezy from deb http://repo.mate-desktop.org/debian wheezy main

icon i5513 at 09:43 on 6 April 2013

Test shellshape. A good bluetile alternative.

Cinamon is in debian too

Awesome rocks of course!!

Thanks for your work in debian!

icon Steve Kemp at 10:11 on 6 April 2013

Cinamon isn't packaged for Wheezy, but otherwise looks like it is nice.

I'll give gnome more of a chance, try the fallback mode for a week or two, then decide what to do after that.

(I'd almost try fallback mode immediate, but I want to be more fair, and I can only assume that fallback mode is a temporary/transitional thing..)

icon Nate at 11:30 on 6 April 2013

Like many others I've found a home with Xfce. It is perfectly serviceable and has been very stable of late in Sid so I'd expect the same of the current packages in Wheezy. It runs reasonably light on resources and still has some limited compositing capability in the WM.

It's quite easy to try.

icon nion at 12:45 on 6 April 2013

you can try pass as a substitute for pwsafe

icon Steve Kemp at 13:19 on 6 April 2013

pass looks interesting, but also isn't in Wheezy/Squeeze.

Maintaining pwsafe wouldn't be hard, but if I were to look for a replacement I'd want something that used an sqlite/simple database rather than a lot of text-files. That way sharing is easier, as is syncing.

In the past we used GPG-encrypted files ~/.password.data and that worked well. I'm sure there are many wrappers with similar backends.

icon A canuck at 00:13 on 7 April 2013

You should try XFCE. I have been using it for a few years on Debian. I like it better then the later 2.x versions of Gnome. IIRC the default desktop is pretty ugly, but it is quick to customize the panel layout to something useful. The only other thing I change is to use network-manager + nm-applet instead of the XFCE preferred wicd. While network-manager has its issues, it is IMHO better then wicd for managing WiFi and GSM connections on a laptop. (on a desktop I don't bother with either NM or wicd.)

icon bsdevil at 01:00 on 7 April 2013

I use my own password manager. It mostly consists of terminal, keyboard shortcut, bcrypt and flat text file database. It's portable [works on ALL of my systems - GNU/Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Open/Solaris, etc], it's lightweight and easy to use. Just a script regurgitating bcrypt's output to a terminal when asked. Of course, it reads the phrase to be searched and the password first [stdin]. It closes its terminal window after X seconds, and the terminal itself is configured to enable copying strings with weird characters as one words [which enables passwords like "\7H/S^gxGDA"hMv" to be copied over via double click and pasted using mouse wheel].

I use it because: a) I don't trust someone else's program to store my password b) there was no good password manager around that would work for me

Maybe you should try similar approach?

icon KIm at 11:36 on 7 April 2013

I recommend trying out i3wm(http://i3wm.org/) or Awesome(http://awesome.naquadah.org/) "tiling window managers". Lightweight, configurable and very effective for any unix-administrator with a vi(m)-fetish... :)

icon Steve Kemp at 12:23 on 7 April 2013

Awesome looks like the most obvious candidate for me, I already use bluetile under gnome on my other (squeeze) desktops and find it useful.

icon foo at 14:04 on 7 April 2013

Why not just put pwsafe back into Debian (it was already removed)? Some links you may have missed:


icon Steve Kemp at 14:10 on 7 April 2013

I am not a Debian developer, and have no ability to get the package maintained again.

Even if the package were re-added immediately it would be kept out of the wheezy release; because that has frozen.

In conclusion my choices are:

  • Use a different tool, packaged for squeeze/wheezy.
  • Install from source beneath /usr/local, or /opt.
  • Create/maintain my own package, based on the final squeeze upload.

I've gone for option three, since I need a solution now and that seemed like the least work. I can obviously reassess the situation in the future.

icon cramm at 14:54 on 7 April 2013

If you can't get pwsafe to be re-added you could give clipsafe (http://waxandwane.org/clipsafe.html) a try.

It's not packaged for Debian but it's a one-file Perl script program so it's tribvial to install: Download, uncompress, put on /usr/local/bin and start using. Also, the Perl modules id depends on are present in Debian.

It supports PasswordSafe v3 database format files.

Found it in http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/relatedprojects.shtml

icon Rene Wagner at 23:13 on 7 April 2013

Hi Steve,

I feel your pain with Gnome 3. I've been using Gnome 2.x ever since 2.2 but after about 6 months with Gnome 3 I decided it had had its fair chance and began looking into alternatives also with the constraint that theses should be in Wheezy proper.

What I ended up with is the following (from memory):

  • Start with a standard XFCE session.
  • Choose Gnome equivalents in "Preferred Application".
  • Enable "Launch Gnome services on startup" in "Session and Startup".
  • Uninstall Gnome 3 accessibility tools to get rid of a bunch of prompts at startup.
  • Have nautilus (Gnome 3) draw the desktop.
  • Enable desktop icons via dconf.
  • Replace xfvm4 with metacity (yes, it's still packaged in Wheezy).
  • Enjoy a much more sensible placement of new windows and a workspace switcher that works with non-standard screen aspect ratios.
  • Install metacity-themes and choose a Clearlooks variant.
  • Tell the Window Buttons (task bar) panel applet to order things by timestamp.
  • Tell the Datetime applet to use a custom time format of "%a %b %d, %H:%M"
  • Replace GDM 3 with LightDM to get rid of X turning on "slow keys" mode (accessibility) which GDM enables and XFCE expects to be disabled by default and thus doesn't turn off.

You should now have somethings that resembles Gnome 2 quite closely. The only things that are missing/misbehaving are:

  • Somehow xscreensaver will sometimes activate despite keyboard/mouse activity. Very annoying.
  • Totem doesn't inhibit xscreensaver due to apparent lack of consensus between Gnome, KDE and jwz on how this should be achieved. As a workaround I'm now using mplayer with heartbeat-cmd="xscreensaver-command deactivate >& 2>&- &" in my .mplayer/config
  • Power management appears to be broken. A low battery doesn't trigger any response (shutdown/suspend).
  • There is no equivalent of the integrated Gnome 2 world clock and weather applet.

I'll definitely have to look into the power management issue as more recent Thinkpads tend to destroy their batteries unless turned off at a certain (non-zero) percentage...