Bug#927667: gnome: please confirm or revert choice of Wayland for default desktop

Jonathan Dowland jmtd at debian.org
Thu Jun 20 16:10:53 BST 2019

Preserving the rather large CC list for now…

On Thu, Jun 20, 2019 at 06:05:22AM -0400, Sam Hartman wrote:
>I feel very uncomfortable with a change as big as this revert happening
>this late in the release cycle.

How big is big? The MR I raised resurrects a patch that changes one line
of code, and was shipped in the last stable release. Although it looks
like further work is needed to make the change as smooth as possible so
this would grow. However, the patch certainly needs more testing. Is the
issue that it results in a large change in terms of what software is
executed by the user as a consequence, and what of that has been tested
thus far in the freeze?

How late is late? How would you have felt about it back in early April,
when I first raised it? I was surprised to discover it then, and I felt
it was late in the cycle even then. But mostly whats happened since is

I absolutely do not blame the GNOME team here. Simon McVittie and
Michael Biebl in particular have taken risks sticking their heads above
the parapet to engage with me on this matter, and both have made it
clear that it would be unreasonable for them to make the call given
their respective levels of involvement. I respect that, and I am
extremely grateful for them engaging with the issue. The others are
either too busy or have taken a decision not to engage with a
potentially toxic issue, and I respect that, too: we are all volunteers
who have to make our own choices about what we are prepared to do and
engage in. Besides, like many teams, the GNOME team is clearly

I am a *little* disappointed that this does not seem to have been
thought of as an important, project-wide issue. Regardless of whether
one uses GNOME or Wayland oneself, the matter of the default desktop for
the distribution we are all working to produce, and the experience that
our users will get out of the box, I would have thought was important
for all of us. It reinforces the idea, to me, that we are largely
working in our own silos, and not concerned (enough) about the holistic
distribution as a whole.

>And yet, the lack of a clear reconfirmation in this time line even given
>the wonderfully civil discussion is telling.

I'm very pleased that the discussion has come across as civil. I've
tried really hard from my end to achieve that, I know that issues around
GNOME can result in some very toxic communications.

>My proposal--which again I have no power to implement--is that we go
>forward with the current default.  However, we remain open to a revert
>in the first couple of buster point releases.

There are caveats with switching the default in either direction. 
Let's say we go with Wayland now, and later decide to switch as per the
criteria/process you sketch below.

 • users of the default, who got Wayland from Buster onwards and had no
   problems, would subsequently find themselves switched to Xorg by
   stable-updates, which IMHO would be unexpected (if noticed) and
   contrary to the expectations of a stable release.

 • A user who installed or upgraded and got Wayland by default but had
   problems, would have likely addressed them by switching to the Xorg
   session explicitly (assuming they could figure out that doing so
   mitigated their issues). Changing the default would only prevent
   *future* users from hitting the same problems.

>The criteria for that revert should be based on the actual severity and
>frequence of problems our users run into, but should specifically
>exclude the blanket reluctance to  make a change like that in a point
>release.  We would still need adequate testing of such a revert.

My concern with this is it's a new set of policies and procedures, not
codified anywhere, with a lot of detail to work out "on the hoof" (how
do we measure frequency of problems? do we go with the existing bug
severity guidelines? How much is adequate testing? etc.)

So combined with the user experience above, I think we would be best not
to change the default within a stable release cycle, unless there was
some kind of enormous catastrophic issue with Wayland that we don't
know about yet, and that's unlikely.

I still argue that the traditional Debian conservative, when-its-ready
approach would be the distribution status quo (Xorg), but I recognise
the concerns about the proposed patch, further work needed, lack of
testing etc.; and those are not issues I think I can resolve alone.

Jonathan Dowland

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