XFCE dukes it out with Gnome; users lose (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 14 Dec 2007

XFCE dukes it out with Gnome; users lose

Looking for a volume control that might me installed on mom's XFCE4-based Xubuntu desktop, I tried running xfce4-mixer.

The mixer came up fine -- but after I exited, I discovered that my xchat had gone all wonky. None of my normal key bindings worked, my cursor was blinking, and the fonts used for tabs was about half its normal size. Over in my Firefox window, key bindings were also affected.

I've seen this sort of thing happen before with Gnome apps, and had found a way to solve it using gconf-editor. That app was not installed, so I installed it and discovered that it didn't help.

I tried killing the running gconfd-2, removing .gconf/ and .gconfd/ from my home directory, then removing the four gnome directories (.gnome/, .gnome2/, .gnome2_private/, and .gnome_private/). Nothing helped xchat (though Firefox did return to normal).

After much flailing and annoying people by restarting xchat repeatedly, it turned out the problem was that xfce-mixer had started a daemon called xfce-mcs-manager, which is like gconf, only different. Like gconf, it mucks with settings of all running gtk programs without asking first. It runs simultaneously with gconf, but overrides gconf, which in turn overrides the values set in ~/.gtkrc-2.0.

Killing xfce-mcs-manager caused my running xchat to revert to its normal settings.

... Well, *almost* revert. A few key bindings didn't get reset, as I discovered when I hit a ctrl-W to erase the last word and found myself disconnected from the channel. Another xchat restart, with xfce-mcs-manager not running, fixed that.

Aside from the ever-present issue of "Where do I look when some unfriendly program decides to change the settings in running applications?" (which begs the question, "What genius thought it would be a good idea to give any random app like a volume control the power to change settings in every other gtk application currently running on the system? And do they have their medications adjusted better now?") there's another reason this is interesting.

See, if an arbitrary app like xfce-mcs-manager can send a message to xchat to change key bindings like ctrl-W ... then maybe I could write a program that could send a similar message telling xchat to cancel those compiled-in bindings like ctrl-F and ctrl-L, ones that it doesn't allow the user to change. If I could get something like that working, I could use a standard xchat -- I'd no longer need to patch the source and build my own.

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[ 21:12 Dec 14, 2007    More linux | permalink to this entry | ]

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