gconf brain death (was Re: [linux-elitists] Yet another mozilla atrocity)

Peter Whysall peter@whysall.net
Wed Oct 1 03:03:53 PDT 2003

on Tue, Sep 30, 2003, Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
> on Tue, Sep 30, 2003 at 02:57:04AM +0100, Karsten M. Self (kmself@ix.netcom.com) wrote:
> > ...but only one mode of setting the configuration actually takes (this
> > on 1.2.5).  Specifically, I've had a lot of trouble getting proxy
> > settings to set, or remain set.
> In this specific case, the solution was to use gconf-editor.  A
> reimplementation of the MS Windows Registry for GNU/Linux, with the
> concommitant problems of undocumented settings, cryptic keys, 
> inability to readily comment features or settings, and use of a single,
> specialized application to access the configuration settings.

Only, not. It uses good old plain text XML files, allows comments
(because they're XML files), can be edited with any text editor (because
they're XML files) and are human readable (because they're XML files).

> It's specifically the lack of generic tools to access the Registry, the
> inability to comment it (or comment out keys while trying settings or
> dealing with a contingency), the masking of functionality through
> intentionally obfuscated keys and values, and the fragility of the
> system as a whole to any file damage, which are the primary complaints
> against the Registry.  Best I can tell, gconf is largely bug-for-bug
> compatible on all points, though I admit my aquaintance with it is
> quite casual.

The GConf database is *nothing* at all like the Windows Registry apart
from the fact that it's tree-structured. There are no operating system
values in it, it's not binary data, there's no GUIDs, it doesn't handle
filetypes, etc, etc.

> Is anyone familiar with a curses or command-line gconf editor?  Yes, the
> XML storage means you can tweak by hand, if you know the DTD by heart (I
> don't).  An emacs mode would be an acceptable answer.  Debian doesn't
> seem to be aware of anything.

Of course you have to understand the semantics of the configuration
files; this is the same for anything. Human-readable and
manually-editable doesn't necessarily equate to "sane", as sendmail.cf
testifies. Compared to some configuration files (BIND zone files,
anyone?) GConf files are practically self-explanatory.

Here's a little bit of my metacity config, reformatted:

	<entry name="num_workspaces" mtime="1064845100" muser="pwhysall"
type="int" value="1"/>
	<entry name="theme" mtime="1064845279" muser="pwhysall"

Not exactly opaque, is it?

All in all, this strikes me as a little-bit-knee-jerky. 

> Peace.


The IWETHEY project: http://www.iwethey.org
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