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Linux: Resetting GNOME Settings

My mother-in-law uses Linux, but she's far from the most savvy computer user in the world. It's tough when you start using Linux in your seventies ;) Anyway, somehow she occasionally deletes her GNOME panel. That's a problem because it prevents her from starting any applications. After much practice, I've narrowed down the list of steps that are the easiest to dictate over the phone:
  1. Restart the computer.
  2. Don't log in. Rather, hit Cntl-Alt-F1 in order to get to a text-based login screen.
  3. Now log in.
  4. Type "rm -rf .gnome* .gconf*".
  5. Now, hit Cntl-Alt-Delete.
  6. Let it reboot and then log in normally. Things should be fixed.
Note that this will wipe all of your GNOME settings. However, since it's easy to type, and she doesn't have any settings anyway, it's perfect. The reason I do this delicate dance of rebooting is to prevent gconfd from doing things behind my back.

Comments

gaspode said…
Amusing to think of what would happen if she should accidentally put a space before either of the * so that its:

Type "rm -rf .gnome * .gconf*".

I assume she has of course backed up her home dir frequently? :)
Steve said…
Why not just alter the startup files to do step 4 every reboot? Then she could just reboot the machine without even calling ... or isn't that geeky enough? :)
> Type "rm -rf .gnome * .gconf*".

Yeah, I thought of that too. That's why I made her read the command back to me ;)

> Why not just alter the startup files to do step 4 every reboot?

Interesting idea.
Dan Young said…
In the schools I support, we do step 4 as a shell script called by Reset.desktop in:
/etc/X11/dm/Sessions

You can log out, select session type "Reset my desktop", and log in.
schmichael said…
@dan young:

Thats a great idea.

Honestly Gnome really should come bundled with a reset key-combo because I've known even computer savvy people who get into this tough spot. I can walk them through booting into the console to fix it, but its very frustrating for them.

A Ctrl-Alt-Esc Esc or something that displays a "Do you want to reset your Gnome Settings and reboot?" would be perfect.
Anonymous said…
I just tried deleting my gnome panels after reading this and the 'delete' option when I right click is disabled on the last panel. (Gnome 2.22.1 on Ubuntu 8.04).
Dan, I agree, that's a great idea.

By the way, I don't think she deleted all her panels, just the one with the menu bar.
Anonymous said…
In your last command you could save some time by hitting ctrl alt <--

also there are some xml files in those directories that describe the configuration of those panels. Why not just remove write permissions from those panels to make it so she can't remove them on accident.
> In your last command you could save some time by hitting ctrl alt <--

Probably. I was really worried about gconfd hanging around even beyond X restarts.

> also there are some xml files in those directories that describe the configuration of those panels. Why not just remove write permissions from those panels to make it so she can't remove them on accident.

Good idea.