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I have seen the future, and it is GNOME 3

Jack Wallen has peered into the future and beheld the desktop of the future. Dare you sneak a peak as well? Read on and find out.

Today, I finally managed to get GNOME Shell installed so I could get a preview of what is to come on the Linux desktop (at least through the eyes of GNOME). This new GNOME will arrive sometime this year (2010) and will, I promise you, change the way you use your desktop. Finally someone has looked at the current desktop metaphor and said, "It's over!" Think about it, the current paradigm has been in play since, when, Windows 95? Earlier you say? CDE? Let's stick with Windows 95, because that really solidified the whole "taskbar, start button, icons, notification try" metaphor in the eyes of the public.

Well, public, that is about to change - drastically.

GNOME 3 is different. Very different. Gone is the start button, to be replaced by the Activities button. No more are you fumbling around in menus to find what you need. What you will have is a very streamlined, sleek, and sexy desktop that is sure to make your computing life easier. Oh of course there will be those that say, "If it isn't broke..." Well, I am one of those who will first claim that it is, in fact, "broke."

The current desktop that most everyone uses is klunky, kludgy, and ugly. It's a task bar, and menus, and icons, and blah blah blah...there's no "Apple factor." What do I mean by "Apple factor?" Simple - there is very little energy given to aesthetics. And believe me, in the current incarnation of the modern, capitalist society - it is all about form over function. You have to look good before you can be good.

It's crazy I know...but it's truth.

And you know what? Soon the Linux desktop will take that current formula

form/function

and totally rewrite it into a new equation similar to

form = function.

How do I know this? I have peeked into the future of the computer desktop and that future is GNOME 3. It wasn't an easy peek, believe me. I had to jump through a few hoops (mostly because of an update to the gnome-shell package that required a dependency that couldn't be met). But once I managed to get it up and running, the thought of going back to the old GNOME just didn't settle well with me.

Figure A

Figure A

I realize I'm being a bit circuitous at the moment...build up is really hard without a soundtrack behind you. So I guess I'll just pull the big reveal now. Figure A shows the GNOME Shell in action. I will tell you up front that all special effects (Compiz) are turned off. So all effects are inherent in the new shell. That is really an impressive feat when you see this in action (the picture really can't do it justice).

The gist of the desktop is you have Activities. Activities are what you do. Be it browsing, email, documents, multimedia...and these show up in the Activity "list" as either Applications, Places & Devices, or Recent Items. When you click on the Activities button all windows "thumbnail" (aka Compiz Scale) to make room for the listing and without having to minimize your windows.

You can also create new desktops. In fact a new record for desktops was set thanks to GNOME Shell. 1681 desktops were able to be created and opened with this new version. That's impressive. Of course if anyone has a need for that many desktops, they are in serious need of an intervention.

Bold predictions

I am going to make a fairly bold prediction here (would you expect anything less?). You will find (at least) aspects of this desktop working their way into both Windows and OS X in the future. That is how good GNOME 3 is going to be. If you don't believe me, try it yourself. On an Ubuntu machine, add the following to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ricotz/testing/ubuntu UBUNTU_RELEASE main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/ricotz/testing/ubuntu UBUNTU_RELEASE main

Where UBUNTU_RELEASE is the version you use (lucid, karmic, etc). Now issue the command apt-get install gnome-shell and HOPE it installs without a hitch. If it does, issue the command gnome-shell --replace & and be prepared to pick your socks off the floor, as they will be knocked off.

Final thoughts

I'm serious...this is the future of the desktop. There is no way around it. The GNOME team have absolutely nailed it. Somehow they managed to borrow Dr. Walter Bishop and steal a superior desktop from an alternate universe, reverse engineer it, and make it happen in our world. Who knows, it might be dangerous. Or, it might just be the future of the desktop.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

70 comments
rajaiskandarshah
rajaiskandarshah

after 6 months, i am so used to the ubuntu netbook style. i used to create lots of shortcut icons on my windows xp desktop. the unr panes are nice and more organised - hopefully gnome3 will bring this aspect to the desktop edition

trentreviso
trentreviso

This Gnome 3 interface makes no sense. Instead of the elegant, organised, cascading menus of Gnome, we get a screen cluttered with menus which show all the time, and a jumble of unrelated icons in the center of the screen. Let us hope that the various distros let us retain Gnome 2.x as an option. Otherwise, I may be forced to buy a Mac!

lastchip
lastchip

First let me say, I haven't yet tried it, but going from the screen shot, my first reaction was; What a mess. Having said that, I think about the difficulty Microsoft has had, getting people to move from XP to Windows 7. Why? People don't like change; it's as simple as that. Now, having been a regular Linux user now for over three years, (and messing with it on and off for over 10, meaning production machines and server) I can tell you it's been an uphill struggle getting people to convert and I have to admit, despite my best efforts, my success rate has been nothing to shout about. OK, it's fair to say, those that have listened to me are well and truly converted, but they are in the minority. If I'm struggling to convert with something like Linux Mint (very Windows like), what chance would I stand with this? It's probably OK for the converted, but what about everyone else? For a desktop to be successful and release Microsoft's stranglehold, it really has to be totally intuitive, with very little learning required. Can that be said about Gnome3? To repeat, I haven't tried it, so perhaps my first impressions are way out of order, but sometimes radical can be a disaster, even though it may be leading edge. History is littered with failures that were ahead of their time.

Bo Tym
Bo Tym

I as well don't wish to start a flame war, but i find renaming the "start" button to "activites" a bit of a joke. I just used a piece of masking tape to rename mine "bottom left corner button" (which is hard to fit in to that small a space, but I did it and was "impressed" with my self) Next I will re-lable my mouse the "Point'n'Clicker" and the monitor to "Facial Illuminator" and claim it is revolutionary. Of course I kid, but to me there could have been additional screenies showing exactly how that activities menu can be organized (which I seriously hope is a possiblility and if not, I'm done before I start). As it is, I can't see my self finding a particular application or file any faster using that menu system. I WILL concede that with a high level of customization I foresee people falling in love with this OS ( I bet I could too) and I feel the potential for something great is there, but as far as first impressions go, I feel like even if I were a vetran GNOME3 user and I was attempting to troubleshoot an other persons machine, it would be quite easy to lose myself due to the high level of customization each user would implement.

Ocie3
Ocie3

Interesting, but incomprehensible. For example: "Now issue the command ..." How do you do that? I know how to use the Windows Command Prompt and have never seen the one for Linux or any other 'NIX. (Before Windows, there was ??-DOS, remember? Okay, maybe you weren't there.) The reason that so few people and organizations adopt Linux or its cousins is that no one wants to answer any of their questions, except, perhaps, in exchange for a lot of money. (Then again, if you want answers that you can actually understand, maybe you should continue using Windows or the Apple Macintosh.) For example: Can Ubuntu be installed from the "distro" CD that is sold by Amazon? I can't wait five or twelve or whatever weeks for some geek to get his/her act together and send a "free" one but I also don't want to buy something that would be, on the face of it, useless.

darren.stewart
darren.stewart

I use various Linux distributions, and within them the apps. Many apps are stable, and have been through an evolving process. But in general I find the Linux desktop to be and feel very clunky, even at the best of times. The UI is tiresome with a horrible mishmash of button/radio buttons, overlarge menu and app surrounds, bad looking and mangled fonts, and rather old looking icon sets. Most applications do not look in any way elegant, and the windows bars and tool bars are often over sized, hashed up in style and take up large chunks of space seemingly for the sake of it. The customisation and look and feel are often just as clunky. I hope Gnome 3 is in fact something new and better, because right now, the current crop is functional and clunky, and thats about it.

Stovies
Stovies

There we go again. "Try it for yourself" you say and then you give me a job of programming, to supposedly accomplish this. I do not want Microsoft Windows and I do not want Apple OS I want to run UBUNTU 9.10 or MINT 8 with a good desktop. For starters, everybody in LINUX tells me what I have to write for programs but nobody has ever told me where to apply the program sentences etc. My Windows XP Professional and Home will soon be unsupported and I am not going to buy expensive Apple just to do the things I have done with Windows XP. So far, I have never been able to use UBUNTU, MINT or any other version of Linux more than about three or four days, without having to reinstall the program because something stops working. I think it is about eight or nine years since I started building up my hopes of dispensing with Microsoft and now I am 71 years old and some of the people I was talking to about free working operating systems have passed away without seeing it. I must say, although I have been praised for my patience in solving engineering situations I have lost a lot of faith in seeing Linux a truly ?better replacement operating system? than Windows has been. Soon I feel I will be buying Windows 7, which I used as a Beta and as a Release Candidate version and found it (more) workable and reliable than UBUNTU etc have been. Has any version reached the place of ditching programmers (drug induced or otherwise)? The drug in this case can be anything you like to name, but I am thinking on the drug of keeping UBUNTU in the hands of programmers and out of the hands of normal users. Is UBUNTU 10 going to be it? If so, convince them to install Gnome 3 and everybody will be happy!

jo86
jo86

Well, I totally disagree with you. I think Gnome shell is awful as crap. The way Gnome is right now is perfect for me. Not aesthetic? you're kidding, right? Use Emerald and Compiz and you can have a desktop far more aesthetic than anything Microsoft or Apple can offer. But I won't discuss on this, since, as we say in my country, "para gustos, colores". But I absolutely disagree when you say "it is all about form over function". Again: you're kidding, right? Aesthetic is useless if compared to function, yet it is a really nice "plus". But current Gnome can give you both. Why the hell would I like to shrink my desktop to enter a document or running a program? I can have a simple panel with a launcher and just click it. That simple. It doesn't even have to be always visible, it can appear if my mouse points near it. I think Gnome shell is horrible, it is the future of nothing. My desktop is not "klunky, kludgy, and ugly" at all. It is really nice and absolutely functional. When it comes to productivity and confort with my computer, Gnome is the best thing that has happened to me. I hope that, if Gnome shell is the default new Gnome, it keeps the option to customize to the way I like it, as it is right now. Else, my love for Gnome is over, and I would prefer to use another desktop environment rather than this. After all, that is the big deal of free software, the freedom to choose what you want in your computer, isn't it? Thanks for reading my opinion. Have a nice day :)

lars_honeytoast
lars_honeytoast

When did changing names (Libraries to Activities) become revolutionary? Also, why does computing have to be easier? What is difficult or grueling about the computing world? Unless one is using Windows ME or earlier, I don't see anything hard about computing in Windows or any other recent OS for that matter.

refourmerz
refourmerz

issued the command 'gnome-shell -replace &" which returns this information but no new gnome shell re4merz@re4merz-laptop-mac2:~$ gnome-shell ?replace & [1] 2502 re4merz@re4merz-laptop-mac2:~$ Usage: gnome-shell [options] Am I doing something wrong. The download and install seemed to go without a hitch. Using koala. mdl

C. Timmerman
C. Timmerman

"Start" sounds better to me than "Activities", but the only thing i'd like to know is whether they gave the file picker some balls/features compared to every other OS. I can ignore features i don't need better on my own, thank you.

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

Why would I want to give up so much desktop real estate to lists of things that can be compacted into a menu entry, or to a collection of a hundred or so program icons in an alphabetical list? Maybe it's a matter of personal style, but to my eyes the new Gnome desktop is more cluttered than improved. Is there a conspiracy afoot to dumb-down Linux to the level of potential users who cannot recite the alphabet or organize concepts, but rely on pictures? You know, the ones who need the picture of the fish sandwich on the cash register at fast food joints.

cbstryker
cbstryker

"Apple Factor"? If you're trying to say 'more aesthetically pleasing' then sure. The world needs less "Apple Factor". We need less business models that TELL people what they want, charge through the roof for it and then sue any company that poses a threat on ridiculous reasons.

zeke123
zeke123

This looks no different from the dozens of desktops Ive tried over the years and hell, just go to Lifehacker and you will see waht some geeks do on their own ...on Windows to boot!! >- it is all about form over function. You have to look good > before you can be good. The taste of vomit is creepy up.... If I wanted this kind of drivel, Id got to an Apple blog. Or Gizmodo. (same diff) You know what the BEST desktop is? Its the one that suits ME the best. Not you. Not joe blow. Me. Im the only one who matters in the whole equation. No one tells me that I should like this or that. We are blessed in the free software world to have a multitude of choice in everything and most good DE's offer a lot of flexibility so there is no reason to stay with something because some UI queen tells me I should like buttons here, text there and fonts to be 2pt big. I left Windows and Mac because I want choice so I can find something that suits MY needs and MY use. Not yours. Not Joe's. Mine. "Look at Apple. They understand flow and motif and lines and barf-barf-barf....." Been there, done that. Repeat often enough and you will believe as well. But groundbreaking? Please.... Sell that BS to the captive audiences that use MS.

malikp
malikp

I can't see much of a different to KDE plasma desktop to Netbook.

jfuller05
jfuller05

so why is that innovative? I like menu's, having things organized, and I don't like my desktop cluttered. Maybe I should see it in motion? edit for additional content.

edh1215
edh1215

So, what's the big deal here? "Start" is now "Activities"....ooohh. It looks like Windows 7 with a little bit of OS X mixed in. Innovative...

Dogcatcher
Dogcatcher

"Having said that, I think about the difficulty Microsoft has had, getting people to move from XP to Windows 7. Why? People don't like change; it's as simple as that." I suggest it is not that simple. Instead, I would posit that we tend to resist change that we do not perceive as beneficial. When and as the benefits of a new product or procedure become apparent to us, resistance fades and may turn to enthusiastic acceptance. However, if we do not perceive adequate benefits in a new product or procedure, then our resistance to change is more a matter of self-interest than innate stubbornness. Why waste brain activity learning something new without the reward of a real benefit?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

GNOME3 is just a desktop environment layered over a common OS. One may fall inlove with Gnome3 or distributions that use it by default but it's just a cosmetic layer overtop, not the operating system or the entire software platform.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I agree that people often leave out the bit about where to enter cli commands under the assumption that the reader will just know. I understand that text commands go into command.com or cmd.com as much as my prefered terminal shell or the "run" field be it Windows or a *nix variant. I'm lost with the rest of it though. I don't think the terminal prompt is any more obscure in Windows, osX or various Linux based distributions. A new user to each platform may need an initial bit of help but it's not rocket science. More often, it seems Windows users are shocked to discover that there is a text prompt available though osX users like to pretend it doesn't exist (osX didn't fully open up until I found it to be honest). I've found very few questions not answered already. Actually, it's the software closest to proprietary where I lack answers to questions. (VMware on 64bit Debian, like to know why I'm seeing a 10 minute hang in service shutdown but no response to forum posts). Our reason for not adopting more Open Source based solutions is data lockin not lack of answers to outstanding questions. I also wouldn't wait five to eight weeks to find out if Ubuntu can be installed from the CD sold on amazon. Ubuntu's website if not a quick internet search would show that I can just download the ISO along with how to burn it to disk and install it. (given your normal comentary, I'm probably missing your sarcasm tags; vacation and beer have been involved.)

lastchip
lastchip

I wish I were closer; I'd happily show you how to use a Linux distro without anything crashing. In fact, those that I've installed Linux distros for have all commented on just how rock solid it is. I don't know if it's any help to you, but it would be worth visiting a local Linux User Group if you have one in your area - assuming you could get there. Generally, they make new users very welcome and offer all sorts of helpful advice. I can see one listed in Abredeen, but that may be a bit far away for you. You really shouldn't be getting problems with the latest distros. In the main, they're many time better than Windows in so many ways and you certainly don't need to use a command line for normal every day use.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Now, leaving out the initial bit that one types text commands into a terminal prompt doesn't really help. Don't mistake a few text prompt commands as programming though. It's not like your writing C even if you did have to compile a program. It's really not as arcane as people like to make command line sound.

sar10538
sar10538

just download a copy of OpenSuSE 11.2, install and sit back to enjoy a polished distribution. Simple.

jlwallen
jlwallen

The ONLY reason you have to do anything for this is because the GNOME 3 desktop has yet to be released. This is only for testing purposes (or to get an idea what it is going to be like). I don't know why people are telling you you have to "write for programs". You can take a new release of a Linux distribution, install it, and never have to do anything outside of use the applications - unless you are using it "outside the norm". but for every day use, you shouldn't have to write single line of code, or hack a config file, or anything. just use it. and if you want to talk about reliable - I am using a BETA version of Ubuntu 10.4 and find it far more reliable than the full release of Windows 7.

Daughain
Daughain

Stovies; I installed 9.10 (Karmic Koala) on a Gateway T1635 laptop, and had no issues OOB. All drivers were native and I have yet to have a crash or other instability that *I* didn't initiate. It's currently running KDE 4.3 with 4 seperate desktops for different functions, which I find suits my uses fine, so, not too sure about trying a new Gnome variant.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Try it with two dashes: gnome-shell --replace & A single dash usually means "take each following letter as a seporate switch" where two -- means "take the following letters as a single word or switch". What man pgaes I could find online show full word switches with two dashes though "replace" was not among the older version's man page.

jfuller05
jfuller05

And I do think it's a matter of personal style, like you and I, obviously, like menus and/or alphabetical lists. Which, in my opinion, is a much better interface for finding your programs/files. There probably is a way to sort things out in this new GNOME too.

CarpenterSystems
CarpenterSystems

Your point about the equation of the desktop being about the person using it is right on. Its about that particular end user and to think that one environment will fit all or will even come close is asinine. As to the content of this article; I hadn't realized how many commercials on this site where being passed off as newsworthy.

jlwallen
jlwallen

is the desktop in action. this is with the menu open. when the menu is not open, the desktop is very clean - minimalist almost.

jck
jck

It looks like a developer's desktop who is working on the interface for the iPod. If that browse window has drag-n-scroll like iPod, I think I will lose the apple I just ate. One word, folks: innovate.

lastchip
lastchip

In truth, I hadn't thought about it in quite that way, but I have no argument with your post. The point is though, what user benefit are you likely to get from Gnome3 - however pretty it is? Likewise, what user benefit are you likely to get from Windows 7 over XP? I would suggest; none! There may be advantages for those of us that have to administer these systems, but the end user is unlikely to see any benefit at all. As far as they are concerned, it's just something else to be learned and something else that at least initially, slows them down. IMHO, changes for changes sake is bad news. As you correctly say, if there is an actual benefit at the end of it all, then count me in! Interestingly, if I think back, there's nothing I do now, that I couldn't do in Windows 98se or Win2k. I'm not saying I'd want to return to a dated system, or even go back to Windows at all. But it does rather prove the point, you can't keep reinventing the wheel. The truth is, it's very much cosmetic changes we see, rather than functional. The problem is, those very same cosmetic changes, can be perceived as difficult.

Adam S
Adam S

It won't impress a lot of people, in my opinion. I'm not sure how one can go from somewhat organized to less organized and call it better. I was finally able to install Gnome 3, after a recent update to gnome-shell, et al. I'll agree it is minimalist, but that doesn't make it more efficient. I still have icons on my desktop, so the clutter isn't all gone. And it now takes two clicks to open applications, at the very least, because I don't have any shortcuts in the top panel and "favorites" are now in the main menu. If I don't want to scroll through a hundred installed apps (because the concept of sub-folders in the main menu is sooo 1990's), I can search for the one I want; taking my hand off of my mouse, typing until what I am searching for is revealed, taking my hand off of the keyboard, and clicking on my selection. (Yes, doing it and reading that last sentence are equally cumbersome.) And you can already do this with Windows Vista/7, so it isn't futuristic anymore. How is this better? Because the interface acts more like a smart phone? I beg to differ. If this is the future of desktop computing, I'll pass.

Ocie3
Ocie3

FWIW, I have become angry because no one can or will tell me whether I can install either Ubuntu or Kubuntu from the disk set that Amazon sells. Well, it arrived today and maybe I will see whether I wasted the money -- if the Windows XP Home Edition installation on a brand-new 160 GB Western Digital Caviar Blue HDD (PATA-100 EIDE) becomes unstable, unusable, or re-infected. BTW, I bought that HDD thanks to your explanation of the evolution of HDD interfaces, which you may recall. The primary reason that I bought the Ubuntu & Kubuntu set was that I did not know for sure whether Microsoft would allow me to "register" Windows XP again, installed from the same installation CD that I bought with the computer 7 years ago. After the previous re-installation, when I proceeded to register it, I had to telephone a certain number to get the registration key from a woman who asked why I had installed it so many times. ("Malware", I said.) If Microsoft chose this time to decline, then I would not be able to update the installed Windows XP H.E.. Although, I could bring it current before attempting to register it, which should be done within 30 days of the installation. But, before updating XP to the current state after its initial re-installation, I decided to "register" it [i]via[/i] telephone, and the "key" was issued routinely (by a robot). So, the Linux distro set was certainly less expensive "insurance" than Windows 7 retail! Quote: [i]"I also wouldn't wait five to eight weeks to find out if Ubuntu can be installed from the CD sold on amazon. Ubuntu's website if not a quick internet search would show that I can just download the ISO along with how to burn it to disk and install it."[/i] Certainly, I considered that, but the reason that I have had any interest at all is that the computer has been infected with an undetectable rootkit, and I don't have another one that I can use to download anything. If I downloaded an ISO image of any disc, there would be some risk that the rootkit could be written to the CD along with the ISO image. The malware is relatively sophisticated, and I would rather err on the side of caution than be forced yet again to completely re-install the OS because the source from which it was installed was contaminated. In retrospect, I could use a hashing utility to confirm the integrity of the download, [i]if[/i] the site from which I downloaded the ISO provided signatures that the utility would output for comparison. I suppose that I could hash the files after their installation on the CD, too. As long as they were uncorrupted, whether the malware was also on the CD would not matter as long as the malware file was never executed. That could be more difficult to avoid than you might imagine. How would I know what it is not supposed to be on the CD? Re-installing an OS is, of course, just the start. By far, most of the time and effort is re-configuring the system, then re-installing and re-configuring the software that I use and deciding what data to restore. Unfortunately, this time, the Windows XP Files and Settings Transfer Wizard failed me utterly. The newly-installed and updated F&STW did not recognize that the directory in which its predecessor stored the data file (on an external USB HDD) contained anything that it could read. Worse, I found a bug in the Windows XP Internet Options > Security tab configuration of "zones". Internet Explorer 8.x ignores whether a web site is on the Trusted Sites list, or on the Restricted Sites list, and allows the user to download a file from [i]any[/i] and [i]all[/i] web sites according to the setting for the Internet Zone. That is, the Internet Zone setting alone governs whether the user can download a file regardless of the "zone" in which the web site has been placed. Then I spent a day correcting the mess that Hewlett-Packard made when I updated the HP Deskjet D1420 driver [i]and[/i] the attendant HP software, HP Photosmart Essential and HP Smart Web Printing. Now I've almost reached a point where I am ready to create an ISO of the HDD with Acronis 2010. Speaking of "data lock-in", do you know of any software which will convert a Mozilla "open source" Thunderbird e-mail data file into one that is readable by another e-mail client(s)? I have managed to return to Thunderbird 2.0.0.23 from version 3.x. And I find it very, very odd that it checked for an update and found version 2.0.0.24, which was also on the site from which I downloaded 2.0.0.23. I ignored it at the time, not sure whether friend or foe created it.

jlwallen
jlwallen

"gnome-shell --replace &" from the command line will do it.

edh1215
edh1215

I'm definitely going to give Gnome3 a try using the steps in the article... I've just got to see what the fuss is about. Is there anything new or better than the new Activities menu?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I can't disagree at all with the general reception of GNOME3. I had that same feeling with KDE4; new makeup, some nice new software choices but nothing I can't live without still. It's all just updated Windows/Icons/Menus/Pointer rather than some completely new metaphor for user input. And for that, I'm thankful that I can easily swap the GUI layer representation without changing the software selection and back end. A layered and modular platform means I don't have to suffer KDE4 or GNOME3 unwillingly. ;)

Adam S
Adam S

where you are coming from. I think that the original poster understood this as well, but was making a broader point, which I supported. All I'm saying is that the concepts found in GNOME3 aren't so revolutionary as the author makes them out to be.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

that was part of my point. With GNOME simply being a GUI display layer, you can easily change it without changing the underlying OS and application selection. Avoid distributions that default to GNOME3 or that don't provide a way to install GNOME2; the distribution defaults may even address your concerns. If KDE4 turns out to be a lemon, I won't have issue with going back to Enlightenment (Gnome isn't my thing).

Ocie3
Ocie3

the only advice and assistance that I ever received, when any was offered pertaining to dealing with an "undetectable rootkit", was to wipe the infected HDD and re-install everything "fresh", as I have described doing in this thread. Several parties to whom I submitted the evidence of its existence, and from whom I solicited advice, never bothered to respond. The GMER folk did not acknowledge my submission of the GMER report(s), so I doubt that they found anything to report. At that time, though, I suspected that the rootkit might have been uninstalled by its creator, then it apparently returned later. In his remarks about the Sysinternals Rootkit Revealer utility and how it works, Mark Russonovich described the possibility that a rootkit could be made "invisible" if a properly-written kernel-mode driver was installed. Such a driver would remove any mentions of its processes and files in any datastream input to, or output from, the OS kernel. Consequently, it would be literally invisible to any software that obtained system data [i]via[/i] the kernel, such as a list of currently-loaded processes. Rootkit Revealer is designed to find and reveal discrepancies that can occur in the kernel's output if a kernel-mode driver is removing data from kernel datastreams. But there is no guarantee that a discrepancy will be found at any given time that the program is run. For some long periods of time, it seemed to me that the rootkit was dormant. Here and there I found vague mentions that such a rootkit might be vulnerable [b]if[/b] the "detection" software could access a HDD during the system boot process, in order to observe the installation of the kernel-mode driver and, perhaps, prevent it. However, I never found any software available for that purpose. If anyone has a utility or set of them that they can use for that purpose, then they never told me about it. Also, I found remarks that such a rootkit's files might be found by accessing the HDD directly [i]via[/i] the BIOS, bypassing the file-system which typically interacts with other software [i]via[/i] the kernel. Using such a method on a 60 GB HDD that is loaded with many files -- many very small, a few quite large -- would produce such a huge amount of data [i]without any metadata,[/i] other than the physical sector of the HDD from which the data was copied, that it does not seem feasible to adopt. Again, I did not find any offers of software which uses such a method, although it seems quite likely that it does exist. Then again, I suppose that one could write a program that accesses the file system directly, bypassing the kernel. Some, if not all, file-backup and ISO imaging programs do that. Even so, it could be difficult to identify the specific executable files that comprise the rootkit, by a process of eliminating those that belong to the Windows OS and to other programs. Although, I can think of ways to make the task manageable, I don't have the knowledge or the tools to code a program to implement the algorithm(s). With that observation, IMHO, it is time to put this thread to rest. I've enjoyed the discussion, and thank you for your interest!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Provided the machine is clean when you take the image, of course, it should be a big help. It'd be interesting to definitively know what it is that's gotten into the machine too. Granted, that may take more time and tools than available. The folks who do file carving and forensics are pretty well kitted up and practiced.

Ocie3
Ocie3

since the undetectable rootkit began haunting my computer, I have performed the following procedure (which is only the higlights!): (1) Physically disconnect my router from the ISP's "DSL modem" (router). (2) Save everything that I want to keep and isn't executable. Formerly, I stored the files on CD-R/W from which I might not be able to retrieve them (because of CRC errors!). This time, I used an external USB, 320 GB Maxtor One Touch 4 HDD. (3) Run Darik Horn's Boot & Nuke (DBAN) to "wipe" the internal primary HDD with at least 7 rounds (of 3 passes each), each completely covering the HDD platters with random bytes. (DBAN runs from a 1.44 MB floppy in Drive A, after a FreeDOS boot.) For the fist attempt to recover, this time, I removed the old 60 GB Hitachi HDD after DBAN nuked it, and retired it to the closet. Then I installed the brand-new, unused, blank 160 GB Western Digital HDD that I mentioned before. It works like it belongs there. (4) Re-install Windows XP Home Edition from the original installation CD. Re-install the mainboard chipset drivers, and the display monitor driver, from original CD-ROM. (5) Install Windows XP SP2. Perform some re-configuration of the system. Re-install some simple utilities from pre-infection archival CD. (6) Install Windows XP SP3. (I know that SP3 "includes" SP2, but it tends to work better to simulate the way the patches were applied in the original sequence and span of time.) Physically re-connect the computer to the ISP's "DSL modem". Note: Windows Firewall (2nd try) is the only "security" at this point. (7) Run Microsoft Update, which launches I.E. 6 (yep!) to download every update and some new MS software, such as Windows Media Player 11, which has been issued since SP3 -- this time, 71 updates (mostly security updates), various sizes. (8) Use I.E. 8 to download an AV, a firewall, Firefox and Thunderbird. After Firefox is installed, use it to download all of the other software that I use, about 40 programs (?), for "fresh" downloads, then re-install it. (Of course, I don't actually download all of it before I re-install some of it.) (9) Run Microsoft Update again, just to be sure -- it always finds some patches for the new MS software that has been previously downloaded. (10) Re-install data files from backups. So, I have done all of that at least 8 or 9 times since the long duel with the undetectable rootkit began. Sometimes a Windows XP re-install goes wrong along the way, and it has proven wiser to return to #3 above (DBAN) instead of continuing. One thing that I've never succeeded in doing is restoring the desktop, Start menu, task bar and System Tray to exactly the way it was before I began the above odyssey. Today, among other things, I ran Malwarebyte's Antimalware. It found 14 copies of a worm in files which were in the Recycle Bin on the external USB Maxtor One Touch 4 HDD. Never have I seen anything like that before! Tomorrow, if all looks copacetic, I plan to download Acronis 2010 and make an ISO image of the HDD.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I don't envy you dealing with a malware infection especially if it's reoccurring. If you haven't done a format and install since the first infection, you may want to start planning that. I'd also look at liveCDs so you have a preferred distribution should it be time to do a dual-boot.

Ocie3
Ocie3

Given the turmoil that accompanied the release of Thunderbird 3.x, I have become cynical enough to wonder whether I can trust Mozilla to provide an honest security update to ver. 2.0.0.23, which would presumably patch the same vulnerability that was patched with 3.0.0.1 (-?-). My Mozillazine web site account is still "inactive". The moderator known as "Trolly" took exception to remarks which I made about some of the prominent changes in Tbird 3.x, and the headaches that one of them in particular caused me. He or she removed the post, too. Aside from a couple of judicious uses of the phrase "some jackass", my remarks were quite polite, and altogether constructive, considering. Some people just do not take any criticism very well at all. Thunderbird is a strange bird. Originally it was an HTML editor for creating web pages. Then, features were added to make it an e-mail client. Still, it behaves like an HTML editor and I cannot rely upon it to transmit a document that looks like the one that it displayed when I used the Send button. It is not a WYSIWYG editor, but I don't want to resort to sending PDFs as e-mail messages :-). I suppose the idea was that "letters" and documents of all sort as we were using them would soon be [i]passe[/i]. Everyone would enthusiastically learn HTML and begin using it to communicate, especially by adding images -- [i]e.g.,[/i] photos of your children embedded in a "letter to grandma". Yet, in my experience, the people who pass around HTML documents -- usually unaccompanied by their own comments -- are not communicating very much with me, whether with anyone else. Unfortunately, I am having some very odd problems with the Windows XP re-install! I'm pondering whether to wipe the new HDD and start over again, but the first thing I would need to wipe is the external HDD. If that f*cking rootkit is back, I think that I will ask the FBI to investigate. It has at least two ways to infect a system, if experience is any guide. But I hesitate to say that it is present since explorer.exe has not crashed, yet, as it has in the past. There could be [i]other[/i] malware instead. Maybe I will be using one of those Linux distros sooner than I had anticipated. Maybe I could install a "dual boot" configuration. But what I REALLY need is a 64-bit computer system!!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/all-older.html Thunderbird should be going directly back to mozilla if it's telling you an update is available. You can fetch the update directly from Mozilla if your not sure though. It looks like #.24 is a valid version update. A dirty machine does explain why your getting pre-burnt disks. I may be a little spoiled in that there is always another machine I can make use of. It's been some time since lack of a secondary machine or download speed has justified mail order disks. I thought Canonical still sent them out directly for the price of shipping though. (edit); this may help with your mail migration though it's not something I can offer personal experience on. http://kb.mozillazine.org/Importing_and_exporting_your_mail

sar10538
sar10538

During the install phase you can go into more detail and get right down to selecting/deselecting individual packages. This allows you to build an everything and the kitchen sink right down to a very minimalistic system.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I tend towards a very customized selection of packages to the point that I won't even use Debian's "KDE" meta-package and get dumped with all KDE when I know exactly what I want from it. Debian gives me stability and flexability. Suse would be on my list if I was testing workstations for the regular office staff though. It just has to much default includes for my personal usage and servers. One thing I really liked about KDE4 was it's disabling Plasma and such when machine resources where limited. My Lenovo R61 seemed to end up with Plasma disabled most of the time; I'm not gentle about what I have open at the same time though. It does provide a graceful feature loose in that regard. Good to hear that multi-monitor is working for you. That seems to be a place people have trouble in general.

sar10538
sar10538

as I run a quad core 3GHz with 8GB mem, multiple monitors and x86_64 but I can say that the latest KDE 4.3 code seems to be pretty lean. I run a lot of very active desktops on my system and throw the kitchen sink at her but she just takes it all in her stride. The window manager is very stable now but I do agree it was flaky at first. Very occasionally and I mean very occasionally I have been presented with a window to inform me that Plasma has died and would I like to restart it. Once I click OK, it's all back just as it was almost immediately. Having tried the Debian and Ubuntu distros, I'm sorry but I'm not impressed with them and still stick with OpenSuSE which is really polished. It used to be the top distro but then Novell went into bed with the evil empire and everyone jumped ship in disgust. Sadly this was just a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and the baby is doing very well now. To each his own.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

While Dolphin is not a direct update of the Konqueror code, it is KDE's updated file manager; if that clarifies any confusion. In my case, I do recognize that it was an early version when I gave it a go. My thinking was that when Debian 6 Stable releases with KDE4 default it will be more polished and ready for another go. Nothing is compelling me to move from 3.5 yet so KDE4 remains a "nice to have" option that will come in the future. I'll also have to check out the reduced resource needs as the last time I had it on old hardware, the system completely choked. With Dolphin, it was the better integration that I really liked. Xpdf is just not as clean as Dolphin's plugin viewer. With 3.5, I have to open a PDF in an external Xpdf window rather than embedded inside Konq. A PDF viewed within Dolphin had nothing that made me want to open it into a separate Xpdf instance. After all the grumbling read online, I was left wondering what the grief was about.

sar10538
sar10538

Well, it's emerging but I still don't think it's a patch on 3.5's Konqueror and the new Konqueror included with KDE 4.* is just Dolphin with some extras turned on but fails to impress. Otherwise, KDE 4.3 is a pretty nice and NOW stable desktop. It's fast and light on resources. Compositing features are now part of the desktop manager. New capabilities are coming with each dot release. If you looked at KDE 4.0/1 and thought that was the end of KDE, think again. And why is this Gnome still so ugly for goodness sake! How do you expect new users to take it up when it looks so horrible. Sorry guys but that's my opinion, I don't want to start a flame war and I'm not trolling.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm back to KDE3.5 here also. In part because it's the Debian 5 included version and in part because KDE4 didn't really add anything I can't live without. I did run KDE4 when I gave an early Debian 6 Testing version a go. I like how some of hte KDE4 utilities have been upgraded such as the network manager. (may just be a difference in basic config). The desktop applets where disappointing; nothing invaluable and new, same old half baked gimics like a weather display and bloated cpu meter. Dolphin is a nice update on KDE3.5's file manager. The difference in media viewer plugins alone made that clear. KDE3.5/Konqueror/kpdf is just not as nice as KDE4/Dolphin/(it's pdf viewer). Altimately though, it was KDE3.5's reduced resource needs and polish compared to KDE4 at that time along with frequent flakey changes in Debian 6 being early in it's testing status. I got OpenVAS out of backports and the rest is Debian 5 Stable with KDE3.5 until later this year when I confirm the Deb5 end of support date and Deb6 stable release.

jck
jck

I'm still partial to the KDE 3.5 interface. First time I saw KDE 4, I thought I was on an acid trip or something.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Give it some time to mature and become the default in something more than one of the bleeding edge distributions.. then try it under a VM.. that'll be my aproach.