Tumbleweed, Gnome 3.16, Wayland and all that

I recently did my April install of Tumbleweed.  And it’s an interesting system.  I also updated an existing Tumbleweed to the new level (20150330).

Of particular interest this month:

  • there’s a newer version of NetworkManager;
  • Gnome 3.16 is out and has some support for Wayland;
  • “top” output format is changed.


I’ll start with Wayland, since that is the biggest change.  If you have been living in a cave, and have not heard of Wayland, it has a web page HERE.

Briefly, Wayland is a proposed provider of graphic services as a possible replacement for X-windows.  There are arguments around as to whether X needs a replacement.  I am taking a wait and see attitude before I make up my mind on that.

With the new Gnome 3.16, the “gdm” login manager now runs under Wayland rather than under X.  It presumably starts Xorg when you login to a desktop.

The desktop selection menu for “gdm” now includes a new item, “Gnome – wayland”.  If you select that, you will be running Gnome 3.16 under Wayland.  If you instead select “Gnome” or other desktop, you will be running that desktop under X.

If you run a different login manager such as “kdm” or “lightdm” then it will still be running under X, and there won’t be a choice for Gnome to use Wayland.

“Gdm” itself does not look much different, except for new brokenness, which is probably due to Wayland.  I never did like “gdm”.  I switched to using it to try the new software.  I have since switched back to “lightdm” which is what I mainly use.

Wayland problems

I’m calling these “Wayland” problems, but that’s partly a guess as to the source of the problem.

I have seen two major problems:

  • I am unable to switch to a virtual console;
  • I cannot shutdown or reboot the system.

These might be related, since they have similar symptoms.

If I attempt to switch to a virtual console with a key sequence such as CTRL-ALT-F3, the system locks up.  If I attempt to shutdown or reboot the system, it locks up.

This might be graphics related.  My tests were with Intel graphics on two different computers.

When I say “locks up”, it seems to stop responding to the mouse or keyboard.  However, I have tested by making an ssh connection to the system before I attempt to switch to a virtual console.  I can still type in commands in that “ssh” window, except that the system seems non-responsive.  So “shutdown -r now” from a root shell did not shut down the system.  It looks to me as if there is a major failure, perhaps something is generating lots of interupts and keeping the kernel too busy to do anything useful.

After booting, if I use “gdm” to login to a desktop such as KDE, then I can switch to a virtual terminal there.  I cannot switch from the “gdm” screen.  However, I cannot shutdown from within KDE.  And attempt to do that locks up the system as describe above, and a force power-off seems to be the only way out.

From within KDE, I can run “shutdown -r now” in a root terminal (I tried with “xterm”), and that does successfully reboot.

If I use a different login manager such as “lightdm”, then everything is fine.  So it seems to be a problem when Wayland is in charge of the graphics.

Gnome 3.16

I’m not a big Gnome user, so not the best to review this.  To me, it did not look greatly different from Gnome 3.14.  The commands that I tested still worked.  One of those was “xterm”.  When running in Gnome-wayland, I presume it is using X emulation, though that is a guess.

I did notice a couple of changes.  With regular Gnome (no Wayland), seahorse is no longer emulating “ssh-agent” and “gpg-agent”.  Instead, the stand agent software applications are running.  This is probably because “seahorse” was mishandling the latest “gpg2” version.

When using Gnome-Wayland, “ssh-agent” is not running.  This is probably a bug in the startup scripts, and I expect it to be corrected in the future.


The new version of NetworkManager seems to be working well, and is not seriously different from the previous version, at least from a user perspective.


The output of “top” is changed.  If run without any configuration, it no longer shows the busiest process at the top of the list.  So the name “top” is perhaps not really appropriate any more.  However, you can use “?” to get help on options that you set with a keystroke.  It isn’t too hard to get it back to showing the busiest process on top of the list.  And then the “W” command will save settings for future use.



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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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