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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Mon, 19 Nov 2012

GNOME 3 update: 'Connect to Server' lives in GNOME 3.5/3.6, I rant about features being moved and removed, and I fix my GNOME 3.4 problem in Debian Wheezy

In my test of the Fedora 18 Alpha release, I was left thinking the "connect to server" feature in the Nautilus file manager disappeared in versions 3.5.x and 3.6.x of the GNOME desktop environment.

Thanks to readers, I learned that "connect to server" has moved to a separate application that you call from the shell with the not-so-friendly name Nautilus-connect-server, as seen in the image above.

You can still get to ftp, sftp, secure and unsecure webDAV and Windows shares via this application. Again, it's a separate application from Nautilus proper. And when you do call it and go to a server, Nautilus is the application that opens. It's like using Gigolo with Thunar in Xfce, though Thunar has recently added the ability to go to remote servers without Gigolo's help.

Yes, GNOME is separating a feature from its file manager while Xfce is adding that same feature to its own file manager.

What do you think of that?

I am happy that "connect to server" remains in GNOME 3, but I do have something to complain about:

One thing that seems to be missing from Nautilus in Fedora 18 is the ability to create an empty file from within the file manager with the "Create New Document" feature. I do this all the time: I create an empty file, open it in Gedit and then write the file and name it. It's already in the exact directory where I want it. Without this feature, I have to open Gedit, start the file, name it, then navigate to where I want it to be and finally save the file.

It's not a huge deal to create the file in Gedit, then save it where I want it. But this is another case of a feature ("Create New Document") disappearing in Nautilus because the developers feel it's no longer needed. It's absence adds an extra step to my workflow.

I use "Create New Document." I will miss it. It's absence is not a huge inconvenience. But this removal of functionality doesn't help me, or anybody else, in any way.

In this same vein, I'm glad you can still "connect to server" in GNOME 3, but why take the functionality out of Nautilus proper and put it in a hard-to-find, poorly named Nautilus-connect-server? The feature didn't die, but it's harder to access. How does that help?

Heading back to GNOME 3.4.2 in Debian Wheezy, I did fix my problem with not having a desktop at all when I logged into the system. After countless reinstalls of gnome-session and gnome-panel, which sometimes worked for a brief time but usually didn't at all, I followed some advice:

  • I created a new user account in my system.

Surprisingly (or not), that account had a working desktop. And a much faster desktop. When my original user account worked, logging in used to take a full minute or more. Now I could log in and have a working desktop in a few seconds. And the shell responded faster to commands. Or so it seemed.

With this knowledge in hand, I went into my original, non-working account in a virtual console using ctrl-alt-F2, logged in and got rid of the entire .config directory in my home directory:

$ rm -r .config

OK, that wasn't the first thing I did. First I tried to get rid of everything in ~.config that might have had something to do with GNOME. That didn't bring back my ability to log in and use GNOME Shell.

Only killing out the entire .config brought back my GNOME 3/Shell desktop -- and with all the speed that my "new" account had.

Sure, I lost more than a few settings. But I now have a working, seemingly faster user account in GNOME 3 in Debian Wheezy.

Yeah, I thought GNOME 3.6 had a lot of speed improvements over GNOME 3.4, but I think cobwebs in my ~.config ~/.config directory -- possibly due to changes over the Debian Testing cycle -- were killing my desktop performance. In any event, I'm happy enough with GNOME 3.4.2 as implemented in Debian Wheezy to stay there for a good long while.

And despite all the amputations in Nautilus, GNOME 3.6 is looking pretty good -- but not good enough to dump Debian Wheezy for it.

Note: My Chromium browser settings were also in ~.config ~/.config, but since I do sync them over privacy-robbing Google I was able to log in and get all of my bookmarks back in seconds. I lost all of my gPodder settings, which was more of a pain because my sync with gPodder.net was old and incomplete. I also lost my Gigolo setting (that sounds worse than it is).

Now that I've had time to think about it, the way to go about this is to change the name of .config -- maybe to config (with no dot). Then log out and log in. Then you haven't lost anything. GNOME will generate a new .config, and you can then move back in things like your Chromium, gPodder, Gigolo and other configurations that I lost in my haste to fix this GNOME Shell problem.

Another note for command-line newbies: In case you're not on board with all of the bash shell conventions, The "~" in ~.config ~/.config means that what follows it is in my home directory, e.g. /home/steven/.config, since my user name is steven. The ~ is a shortcut for "my home directory" that you can use in the shell to get there:

$ cd ~

is the same for me as:

$ cd /home/steven

Correction note: Thanks to reader Thor in the comments for fixing my syntax with "~" -- you always need a "/", which I have done above, striking through the original type and underlining the new. I should have tested this out before posting it. Like some or many of you, I'm still learning all this.