webkitgtk in Debian Stretch: Report Card

webkitgtk is the GTK+ port of WebKit. webkitgtk provides web functionality for many things including GNOME Online Accounts’ login panels; Evolution’s HTML email editor and viewer; and the engine for the Epiphany web browser (also known as GNOME Web).

Last year, I announced here that Debian 9 “Stretch” included the latest version of webkitgtk (Debian’s package is named webkit2gtk). At the time, I hoped that Debian 9 would get periodic security and bugfix updates. Nine months later, let’s see how we’ve been doing.

Release History

Debian 9.0, released June 17, 2017, included webkit2gtk 2.16.3 (up to date).

Debian 9.1 was released July 22, 2017 with no webkit2gtk update (2.16.5 was the current release at the time).

Debian 9.2, released October 8, 2017, included 2.16.6 (There was a 2.18.0 release available then but for the first stable update, we kept it simple by not taking the brand new series.)

Debian 9.3 was released December 9, 2017 with no webkit2gtk update (2.18.3 was the current release at the time).

Debian 9.4 released March 10, 2018 (today!), includes 2.18.6 (up to date).

Release Schedule

webkitgtk development follows the GNOME release schedule and produces new major updates every March and September. Only the current stable series is supported (although sometimes there can be a short overlap; 2.14.6 was released at the same time as 2.16.1). Distros need to adopt the new series every six months.

Like GNOME, webkitgtk uses even numbers for stable releases (2.16 is a stable series, 2.16.3 is a point release in that series, but 2.17.3 is a development release leading up to 2.18, the next stable series).

There are webkitgtk bugfix releases, approximately monthly. Debian stable point releases happen approximately every two or three months (the first point release was quicker).

In a few days, webkitgtk 2.20 will be released. Debian 9.5 will need to include 2.20.1 (or 2.20.2) to keep users on a supported release.

Report Card

From five Debian 9 releases, we have been up to date in 2 or 3 of them (depending on how you count the 9.2 release).

Using a letter grade scale, I think I’d give Debian a B or B- so far. But this is significantly better than Debian 8 which offered no webkitgtk updates at all except through backports. In my grading, Debian could get a A- if we consistently updated webkitgtk in these point releases.

To get a full A, I think Debian would need to push the new webkitgtk updates (after a brief delay for regression testing) directly as security updates without waiting for point releases. Although that proposal has been rejected for Debian 9, I think it is reasonable for Debian 10 to use this model.

If you are a Debian Developer or Maintainer and would like to help with webkitgtk updates, please get in touch with Berto or me. I, um, actually don’t even run Debian (except briefly in virtual machines for testing), so I’d really like to turn over this responsibility to someone else in Debian.


I find the Repology webkitgtk tracker to be fascinating. For one thing, I find it humorous how the same package can have so many different names in different distros.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

GNOME Tweaks 3.28 Progress Report 2

GNOME 3.28 has reached its 3.27.90 milestone. This milestone is important because it means that GNOME is now at API Freeze, Feature Freeze, and UI Freeze. From this point on, GNOME shouldn’t change much, but that’s good because it allows for distros, translators, and documentation writers to prepare for the 3.28 release. It also gives time to ensure that new feature are working correctly and as many important bugs as possible are fixed. GNOME 3.28 will be released in approximately one month.

If you haven’t read my last 3.28 post, please read it now. So what else has changed in Tweaks this release cycle?


As has been widely discussed, Nautilus itself will no longer manage desktop icons in GNOME 3.28. The intention is for this to be handled in a GNOME Shell extension. Therefore, I had to drop the desktop-related tweaks from GNOME Tweaks since the old methods don’t work.

If your Linux distro will be keeping Nautilus 3.26 a bit longer (like Ubuntu), it’s pretty easy for distro maintainers to re-enable the desktop panel so you’ll still get all the other 3.28 features without losing the convenient desktop tweaks.

As part of this change, the Background tweaks have been moved from the Desktop panel to the Appearance panel.


Historically, laptop touchpads had two or three physical hardware buttons just like mice. Nowadays, it’s common for touchpads to have no buttons. At least on Windows, the historical convention was a click in the bottom left would be treated as a left mouse button click, and a click in the bottom right would be treated as a right mouse button click.

Macs are a bit different in handling right click (or secondary click as it’s also called). To get a right-click on a Mac, just click with two fingers simultaneously. You don’t have to worry about whether you are clicking in the bottom right of the touchpad so things should work a bit better when you get used to it. Therefore, this is even used now in some Windows computers.

My understanding is that GNOME used Windows-style “area” mouse-click emulation on most computers, but there was a manually updated list of computers where the Mac style “fingers” mouse-click emulation was used.

In GNOME 3.28, the default is now the Mac style for everyone. For the past few years, you could change the default behavior in the GNOME Tweaks app, but I’ve redesigned the section now to make it easier to use and understand. I assume there will be some people who prefer the old behavior so we want to make it easy for them!

GNOME Tweaks 3.27.90 Mouse Click Emulation

For more screenshots (before and after), see the GitLab issue.


There is one more feature pending for Tweaks 3.28, but it’s incomplete so I’m not going to discuss it here yet. I’ll be sure to link to a blog post about it when it’s ready though.

For more details about what’s changed, see the NEWS file or the commit log.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

logo.png for default avatar for GitLab repos

Debian and GNOME have both recently adopted self-hosted GitLab for their git hosting. GNOME’s service is named simply https://gitlab.gnome.org/ ; Debian’s has the more intriguing name https://salsa.debian.org/ . If you ask the Salsa sysadmins, they’ll explain that they were in a Mexican restaurant when they needed to decide on a name!

There’s a useful under-documented feature I found. If you place a logo.png in the root of your repository, it will be automatically used as the default “avatar” for your project (in other words, the logo that shows up on the web page next to your project).

I added a logo.png to GNOME Tweaks at GNOME and it automatically showed up in Salsa when I imported the new version.

Other Notes

I first tried with a symlink to my app icon, but it didn’t work. I had to actually copy the icon.

The logo.png convention doesn’t seem to be supported at GitHub currently.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

GNOME Tweaks 3.28 Progress Report 1

A few days ago, I released GNOME Tweaks 3.27.4, a development snapshot on the way to the next stable version 3.28 which will be released alongside GNOME 3.28 in March. Here are some highlights of what’s changed since 3.26.

New Name (Part 2)

For 3.26, we renamed GNOME Tweak Tool to GNOME Tweaks. It was only a partial rename since many underlying parts still used the gnome-tweak-tool name. For 3.28, we have completed the rename. We have renamed the binary, the source tarball releases, the git repository, the .desktop, and app icons. For upgrade compatibility, the autostart file and helper script for the Suspend on Lid Close inhibitor keeps the old name.

New Home

GNOME Tweaks has moved from the classic GNOME Git and Bugzilla to the new GNOME-hosted gitlab.gnome.org. The new hosting includes git hosting, a bug tracker and merge requests. Much of GNOME Core has moved this cycle, and I expect many more projects will move for the 3.30 cycle later this year.

Dark Theme Switch Removed

As promised, the Global Dark Theme switch has been removed. Read my previous post for more explanation of why it’s removed and a brief mention of how theme developers should adapt (provide a separate Dark theme!).

Improved Theme Handling

The theme chooser has been improved in several small ways. Now that it’s quite possible to have a GNOME desktop without any gtk2 apps, it doesn’t make sense to require that a theme provide a gtk2 version to show up in the theme chooser so that requirement has been dropped.

The theme chooser will no longer show the same theme name multiple times if you have a system-wide installed theme and a theme in your user theme directory with the same name. Additionally, GNOME Tweaks does better at supporting the  XDG_DATA_DIRS standard in case you use custom locations to store your themes or gsettings overrides.

GNOME Tweaks 3.27.4 with the HighContrastInverse theme

Finally, gtk3 still offers a HighContrastInverse theme but most people probably weren’t aware of that since it didn’t show up in Tweaks. It does now! It is much darker than Adwaita Dark.

Several of these theme improvements (including HighContrastInverse) have also been included in 3.26.4.

For more details about what’s changed and who’s done the changing, see the project NEWS file.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

GNOME Tweaks 3.25.91

The GNOME 3.26 release cycle is in its final bugfix stage before release.

Here’s a look at what’s new in GNOME Tweaks since my last post.

I’ve heard people say that GNOME likes to remove stuff. If that were true, how would there be anything left in GNOME? But maybe it’s partially true. And maybe it’s possible for removals to be a good thing?

Removal #1: Power Button Settings

The Power page in Tweaks 3.25.91 looks a bit empty. In previous releases, the Tweaks app had a “When the Power button is pressed” setting that nearly duplicated the similar setting in the Settings app (gnome-control-center). I worked to restore support for “Power Off” as one of its options. Since this is now in Settings 3.25.91, there’s no need for it to be in Tweaks any more.

Removal #2: Hi-DPI Settings

GNOME Tweaks offered a basic control to scale windows 2x for Hi-DPI displays. More advanced support is now in the Settings app. I suspect that fractional scaling won’t be supported in GNOME 3.26 but it’s something to look forward to in GNOME 3.28!

Removal #3 Global Dark Theme

I am announcing today that one of the oldest and popular tweaks will be removed from Tweaks 3.28 (to be released next March). Global Dark Theme is being removed because:

  • Changing the Global Dark Theme option required closing any currently running apps and reopening them to get the correct theme.
  • It didn’t work for sandboxed apps (Flatpak and Snap)
  • It only worked for gtk3 apps (it can’t work on gtk2 apps)
  • Some themes never supported a Dark variant. The switch wouldn’t do anything at all with a theme like that.

Adwaita now has a separate Adwaita Dark theme. Arc has 2 different dark variations.

Therefore, if you are a theme developer, you have about 6-7 months to offer a dark version of your theme. The dark version can be distributed the same way as your regular version.

Removal #4 Some letters from our name

In case you haven’t noticed, GNOME Tweak Tool is now GNOME Tweaks. This better matches the GNOME app naming style. Thanks Alberto Fanjul for this improvement!

For other details of what’s changed including a helpful scrollbar fix from António Fernandes, see the NEWS file.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

Link: Ubuntu @ GUADEC 2017 and plans for GNOME Shell migration

Since Didier Roche’s blog is not on Planet GNOME or Planet Debian and I think his post is of widespread interest, I’m linking to it here. Enjoy!

Ubuntu @ GUADEC 2017 and plans for GNOME Shell migration

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux

GNOME Tweak Tool 3.25.3

Today I released the second development snapshot (3.25.3) of what will be GNOME Tweak Tool 3.26.

I consider the initial User Interface (UI) rework proposed by the GNOME Design Team to be complete now. Every page in Tweak Tool has been updated, either in this snapshot or the previous development snapshot.

The hard part still remains: making the UI look as good as the mockups. Tweak Tool’s backend makes this a bit more complicated than usual for an app like this.

Here are a few visual highlights of this release.

The Typing page has been moved into an Additional Layout Options dialog in the Keyboard & Mouse page. Also, the Compose Key option has been given its own dialog box.

Florian Müllner added content to the Extensions page that is shown if you don’t have any GNOME Shell extensions installed yet.

A hidden feature that GNOME has had for a long time is the ability to move the Application Menu from the GNOME top bar to a button in the app’s title bar. This is easy to enable in Tweak Tool by turning off the Application Menu switch in the Top Bar page. This release improves how well that works, especially for Ubuntu users where the required hidden appmenu window button was probably not pre-configured.

Some of the ComboBoxes have been replaced by ListBoxes. One example is on the Workspaces page where the new design allows for more information about the different options. The ListBoxes are also a lot easier to select than the smaller ComboBoxes were.

For details of these and other changes, see the commit log or the NEWS file.

GNOME Tweak Tool 3.26 will be released alongside GNOME 3.26 in mid-September.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

#newinstretch : Latest WebKitGTK+

GNOME Web (Epiphany) in Debian 9 "Stretch"

Debian 9 “Stretch”, the latest stable version of the venerable Linux distribution, will be released in a few days. I pushed a last-minute change to get the latest security and feature update of WebKitGTK+ (packaged as webkit2gtk 2.16.3) in before release.

Carlos Garcia Campos discusses what’s new in 2.16, but there are many, many more improvements since the 2.6 version in Debian 8.

Like many things in Debian, this was a team effort from many people. Thank you to the WebKitGTK+ developers, WebKitGTK+ maintainers in Debian, Debian Release Managers, Debian Stable Release Managers, Debian Security Team, Ubuntu Security Team, and testers who all had some part in making this happen.

As with Debian 8, there is no guaranteed security support for webkit2gtk for Debian 9. This time though, there is a chance of periodic security updates without needing to get the updates through backports.

If you would like to help test the next proposed update, please contact me so that I can help coordinate this.

Posted in Debian, GNOME, Ubuntu

GNOME Tweak Tool 3.25.2

Today, I released the first development snapshot (3.25.2) of what will be GNOME Tweak Tool 3.26. Many of the panels have received UI updates. Here are a few highlights.

Before this version, Tweak Tool didn’t report its own version number on its About dialog! Also, as far as I know, there was no visible place in the default GNOME install for you to see what version of GTK+ is on your system. Especially now that GNOME and GTK+ releases don’t share the same version numbers any more, I thought it was useful information to be in a tweak app.

Florian Müllner updated the layout of the GNOME Shell Extensions page:

Rui Matos added a new Disable While Typing tweak to the Touchpad section.

Alberto Fanjul added a Battery Percentage tweak for GNOME Shell’s top bar.

I added a Left/Right Placement tweak for the window buttons (minimize, maximize, close) . This screenshot shows a minimize and close button on the left.

I think it’s well known that Ubuntu’s window buttons have been on the left for years but GNOME has kept the window buttons on the right. In fact, the GNOME 3 default is a single close button (see the other screenshots). For Unity (Ubuntu’s default UI from 2011 until this year), it made sense for the buttons to be on the left because of how Unity’s menu bar worked (the right side was used by the “indicator” system status menus).

I don’t believe the Ubuntu Desktop team has decided yet which side the window buttons will be on or which buttons there will be. I’m ok with either side but I think I have a slight preference towards putting them on the right like Windows does. One reason I’m not too worried about the Ubuntu default is that it’s now very easy to switch them to the other side!

If Ubuntu includes a dock like the excellent Dash to Dock in the default install, I think it makes sense for Ubuntu to add a minimize button by default. My admittedly unusual opinion is that there’s no need for a maximize button.

  1. For one thing, GNOME is thoroughly tested with one window button; adding a second one shouldn’t be too big of a deal, but maybe adding a 3rd button might not work as well with the design of some apps.
  2. When I maximize an app, I either double-click the titlebar or drag the app to the top of the screen so a maximize button just isn’t needed.
  3. A dedicated maximize just doesn’t make as much sense when there is more than one possible maximization state. Besides traditional maximize, there is now left and right semi-maximize. There’s even a goal for GNOME 3.26 to support “quarter-tiling”.

Other Changes and Info

  • Ikey Doherty ported Tweak Tool from python2 to python3.
  • Florian Müllner switched the build system to meson. For an app like Tweak Tool, meson makes the build faster and simpler for developers to maintain.
  • For more details about what’s changed, see the log and the NEWS
  • GNOME Tweak Tool 3.26 will be released alongside GNOME 3.26 in mid-September.
Posted in Debian, GNOME, Linux, Ubuntu

Moving On

While I had been interested in Debian/Ubuntu packaging for a while, it was the release of GNOME 3 two years ago that gave me the opportunity to get involved significantly. As Ubuntu switched to Unity by default instead of a tweaked GNOME desktop, there was a need for contributors who cared about GNOME to step in and help out.

I’m sad to announce that due to immense personal and family responsibilities, I simply won’t have the time or ability to contribute to the Ubuntu GNOME effort much longer. I get a lot of happiness out of participating in a major open source software project. It is my charity work. I am very pleased that my volunteered computer skills can improve the lives of millions of people.

If you’ve been following the Ubuntu GNOME community, you have no doubt seen Tim Lunn’s work. Tim (darkxst) is an Ubuntu member, a GNOME Foundation member, and a Ubuntu Contributing Developer. He has submitted several fixes to gnome-shell, gdm, and other GNOME components. Tim is the clear choice to take over the Technical Lead role for Ubuntu GNOME.

After our first official release last month, this is a great time to pitch in. We can use additional packagers, testers, and more. The Ubuntu GNOME project is especially in need of help with QA — testing the development releases (and our PPAs) to identify problems, triage incoming bug reports, and certify the releases. Thanks!

Posted in GNOME, Ubuntu

Jeremy Bicha

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