Ubuntu Linux 10.10 screwed up again, this time all menus and icons were missing after login. Similar to Windows and as bad as Apple Mac OSX. Almost enough to send me back to Windows XP. I found a solution and it is almost easy.
This is a problem with the Gnome user interface used on the Linux in Ubuntu 10.10. I had one version of the problem. Some people have a less severe version. You start Linux and login. Gnome should display menus and an application bar. Parts or all of the menu may be missing. Parts or all of the application bar may be missing. In my case, everything was missing.
I had something similar before. Things would not appear after login. I would restart Linux, just like you restart Windows occasionally, and the missing bits would appear. This time nothing appeared after repeated restarts.
There are several solutions described in various Web pages. They vary from Linux distribution to distribution. For one distribution, they may vary across versions. The first step requires the Linux/Unix/DOS command box, sometimes called the terminal window. You can get to the command window using Ctrl+Alt+F2. Alt+F2 may open up a window where you can type in commands but Alt+F2 did not work on my completely broken Gnome.
On my machine the desktop background reverted to the fuzzy pink thing installed by Ubuntu 10.10 desktop. I had moved the menu bar from the top to the right hand side and it appeared on the right hand side after the error but without any icons or menus on the bar. The mouse worked. The keyboard did nothing.
Other people report a normal desktop with some or all menus missing. Some people have menus but not icons.
Gnome needs a serious rewrite
Clearly the error is a data currency and consistency problem that should be fixed by a major rewrite of Gnome. The error was first reported years ago and still persists today. Nobody fixed it. They are unlikely to fix it for exactly the same reasons Microsoft forgets to fix a lot of problems. The Gnome developers are working on version 3 and will focus on version 3 instead of fixing version 2. The problem is they might not fix the error because they have not investigated the cause. They cannot stop the error from occurring in version 3 if they have not diagnosed the cause in version 2.
The wipeout approach
Your next step is painful because it creates work recovering your settings. You type in the following commands one at a time. It destroys all your menu and application display settings. You might want to consider every alternative before reaching this point.
gconftool --recursive-unset /apps/panel
rm -rf ~/.gconf/apps/panel
Note that in
--recursive-unset, there are no spaces between
Now restart your computer and login.
If you did not change the default settings in Gnome, your screen should look the same after you restart.
The best approach for a rebuild of many varied settings would be to restore from a backup. My problem was on a new machine where the backup was not configured to backup the required files. I had to rebuild the menus and settings fortunately there were only a few I needed to make the system usable.
The wipeout process removes all the files from the Gnome profile for a user and sets the user back to the point where they originally installed Linux. Most of the menu entries are correct in my menus. Gimp is in the Applications, Graphics menu despite being installed only a few hours before the Gnome failure. Another menu entry is for an application deleted weeks before the error. I think some menu entries were added back by Gnome without checking if the applications are installed.
Some application deletions delete a base library of code but not the decorative elements added on top. This could be the cause of the slight errors in the menus. For some applications you have to clean out the user interface part. Most of the modern applications supplied in Ubuntu have a general package that includes all the required bits then deletes all the scattered bits when you request the deletion of the application.
A backup would be useful and can only be used if you have a way to restore from the backup. For this type of error, you could create a backup script and a matching restore script. Run the backup daily to backup to a different directory.You could then, at any time, run the restore script to restore your Gnome profile.
Another option is to backup your Gnome settings file to a USB memory stick or to the Ubuntu One online service.
To restore, you could log in as the administrator and run the restore. In Ubuntu you have to take special steps to switch on the administrator entry.
Practice, practice, practice
Practice each step before you need it. With anything related to backup, create a backup early, backup often, and practice restoring from the backup.