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GNU Drama: GNOME won’t start any program

Posted on: September 11, 2013

I woke up today and started my GNU-powered computing apparatus (also known as “Computer”). I fired up XMMS, Iceweasel, and Empathy to log into my AIM account (which I use solely for work).

Empathy could not connect to AIM. This is the first time I’m trying to use it to connect to AIM, and this is GNU, so it was expected not to just work. It just hang in there, “Connecting…”

“Alright,” I said. “I’ll use Pidgin.” And closed Empathy.

So I tried to launch Pidgin from the GNOME shell. The spinning loading indicator with Pidgin’s icon appeared at the top of my shell. I waited patiently. Nothing happened after some 20 seconds, so I gave up. Maybe Pidgin just broke itself last night? It’s never a surprise when stuff stops working from one day to another in the GNU world, at least for me. Apparently I’m just a strong bogon source (only for GNU systems).

Then I decided to launch the Terminal to launch Pidgin from there and see the output. Same thing; Terminal wouldn’t start. Then it struck me; I remembered why I normally don’t choose GNOME: it sometimes fails to launch programs, or takes minutes to launch one. Somtimes, which is probably the most disgusting aspect of this problem.

I first had this disgraceful, mindfucking experience some 6 years ago. I don’t remember what distro I was trying back then, but it was very likely something supposed to be very user-friendly and work “out-of-the-box” (hah! Hahaha, the idea of GNU working out-of-the-box always makes me smile). I wasn’t so brave back then.

I have no idea how to search the web for this, and when I tell my GNU friends about it they say they’ve never experienced it, and they use GNU on a daily basis for many years.

So I’ll just restart X and hope the problem goes away and doesn’t come back to haunt me when I’m not in such a good mood.

Note: This post has no screenshot because obviously I couldn’t launch the screenshot application.

Temporary solution: Restarting X or GNOME seems to work.


2 Responses to "GNU Drama: GNOME won’t start any program"

I still think there must be some quirky setting hidden somewhere, in a shady file for which no one bothered to make a GUI, that when properly configured would solve your problem (or many other problems, for that matter).

A few days ago I realized that the sound volume keys on my keyboard weren’t working because I must turn on the Human Device Interface (this is Windows). The problem lasted for months until I figured it out — granted, I never really tried hard to solve it. What makes me wonder is how HDI went from on to off without me deliberately meaning to do it…

I can totally imagine that many people would blame the hardware or something not related to a simple setting when, in reality, the solution lied in a place they’d never think of looking at.

That is a valid concern for many GNU dramas, but not this one. What kind of feature would make GNOME not open programs? And why would it be able to after a simple reset?

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