The Great Linux Title Bar Icon Quest of 2012

The search for the green pea!

//History of the Problem Step #0: This is a simple documentation of how to restore the title bar icons to Fedora 17. It began innocently enough, I'm writing a book on using Linux for scientific applications. My system is Fedora 17, the "Meaty Miracle", yeah, I know, sort of like calling your visual programming core "The Gimp". I was writing a chapter on *GTK+ and I decided to work through two on-line tutorials as a refresher course. In the first, I ran across a simple exercise to put an icon in the title bar. Wrote the code, too verbose, put the icon in wrong folder.. and error, fixed, no icon. Wrote my own version using the gtk_set_icon_from_file() command, icon in same folder as code, no error, but no icon! Internet search, default, icons turned off in recent incarnations of gnome (silly rabbits, millions of man hours used to create a beautiful, useful tool, someone turned it off. But now we firmly suspected a troll! ) and after some testing I discovered the system was also not responding to GTK Accessibility override commands for showing icons, not good. //Step #1: Used "advanced tools", a sort of Sesame Street, Big Bird, version of "gconf" under "applications", the giant swimming pool of apps, to turn on icons for buttons and apps. Still, no icons, hmm, sure was a dedicated troll.... //Step #2: Internet search revealed a newer config utility, "dconf" was the new program with a newer extended set of Gnome settings, May 2012, sounded about right. Downloaded the dconf utility and didn't see anything, so more research. Research revealed if you drilled down through the menu (and the menu was not intuitive or helpful), you might find: org Gnome shell overrides // Overrides? Sounds suspicious doesn't it? Well, read on! // Down under this massive pile of environment variables was an option to turn on the maximize, minimize buttons. But it looked suspiciously like it had been also created to offer other title bar options. Hmm. If you put a colon on the left side of the environment string for controlling the title bar, the title bar legend was on the left; if you put the colon on the right, title bar legend moves to the right. But a clue, the colon is often a separator. Here's what it looked like: ":maximize,minimize,close" I tried: "icon:maximize,minimize,close" and "icons:maximize,minimize,close" , no luck. Internet search. By typing in the environment string into Google I retrieved a recommendation from one of the actual trolls who had been involved in Gnome's decision of how to turn the icons off and why, wups! The original string had been.....drumrole, ....wait for it.....: "menu:maximize,minimize,close" Putting a menu in the title bar would be excellent, Bazinga! A generic icon now appeared in every title bar, but not the application icons, just some generic "windows theme" icons, but icons, nonetheless. Yea! Internet search. Now we were getting somewhere, a lot of the Ubuntu people were complaining about this. So when the Deviant-Art and Metacity guys, guys like you and I had been invited to write new and exciting skins for the Gnome desktop one option was to create generic title bar icons as part of the "windows themes" and to set the size. Sure enough, changing themes to "Bright" allowed little tiny title bar icons to peek through, wow. Geany now actually had it's steamy yellow tea kettle with tiny red rubies. Firefox had it's curled up fox. And my app had it's little germinating pea on a red background, the one I had hand made in Kicon and Gimp.... but what was with the tinyness, aha, maybe another more sneaky troll choice, no suitable windows theme, no icons? Both the windows state buttons and the icons were shrunk down to almost nothing on every included theme. This troll guy really, really hated icons. //Step #3: In search of the green pea: So now came a fun part of the search, finding a skin that the trolls hadn't ruined. I began downloading Linux window themes willy nilly. The Package App utility didn't like "window themes" as a search string, so, just "themes" and hand picked the themes. Under "Smooth GTK+ Themes" was a theme called "Glider". When I clicked on it, a very pale but bold and beautiful version of the title bar icon appeared in an adjacent app. I clicked the app, wow, the colors popped. They had set the transparency to about 50% if the app wasn't selected. That was just cool, minimize/maximize buttons were also big and beautiful and my little pea was now the gorgeous green gradient swirl I had created in Gimp, sitting on a brilliant red and white background.
The Gnome community has put up with a lot from the folks who are currently working on the Gnome desktop and shell. The good news, open source, they can be replaced. The bad news, hundreds of millions of users have suffered. Who, for example, throws hundred of apps into a giant wallow and labels the wallow "applications". Who turns on the flashy thing in "Accessibility" so that each program compile is met with a screen flash, ugh. And who turns off icons and pull down menus when every book, and a majority of Linux users say that it is a bad idea, unknown. But I am reminded of a certain professor who accumulated roughly 8 bushel baskets full of reprints as part of a grant proposal battle, throwing them on a pile in the middle of his office because he had no time to file them. Hint, before he got the grant he was very nearly fired and had to file them anyway. File cabinets with file folders and folder tabs are there for a reason. Sadly, I have over 400 apps in a giant swimming pool in the middle of my computer screen. Why is that? What minimalist thinks that is the way to clean the dishes or keep the office. "But you can choose a category", so it's OK to pile the reprints or the dishes or the apps in mid-floor as long as you can also go to a drawer to find them as well? I don't think so. Put them away please. Buy three or four books on computer GUI's. Then, read the books. Read them!! I taught this course, really, I can tell you what those books say in my sleep, the market surveys say what the psychological profiles say, they suggest tree ratios of between 12 and 20 to one, conventional menus with some ability to sort and customize. "Wide not deep", doesn't mean throw everything on the floor in random order, an unsortable wallow of demonstrated ignorance and disorder. And, while we are discussing the problems, why waste the screen space for a giant icon picker menu, guilt? Small icons along one edge of the screen solves this problem, and it is a problem. Psychologically some people like pictures, some like colors, some like text, for sorting apps. Most people like order, i.e So, give them options, and don't hide it under some tab that says "override" and leaves no clue how to override the overriders!

* GTK stands for the Gimp ToolKit, a programming language like Visual Basic designed for C language graphics and the main Linux GUI (graphical user interface) for the GNU desktop with bindings to ruby, python, tcl, Fortran, perl, gambas, etc., etc.

Yes, this was typed on my old windows machine which is in the kitchen with my wife and puppy. lazy me, hint that machine has my FTP (file transfer protocol) program on it, but we're all adults here right? So if you insist on Linux fonts, you can change the font to "liberate mono bold" in the privacy of your own bedroom. If the pea and screenshot are missing I have forgotten the GoDaddy access codes once again and will have to look it up in my giant book of secret codes.