Fwd: Is disabling ctrl-alt-backspace really such a good idea?

Dylan McCall dylanmccall at gmail.com
Tue Feb 10 15:02:51 UTC 2009

> I agree with this guy, have it on by default, noobs can use GUI to switch it
> off.
> Else, millions of users will be doing this on first boot up:
> alt f2
> gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
> Section "ServerFlags"
> Option "DontZap" "no"
> EndSection

The important thing is that those millions of users actually don't
mind tinkering with xorg.conf and probably do anyway. The users we are
trying to help, however, Don't Know The Key Combo Exists, or that
xorg.conf exists, or that they need to explicitly tell the system how
to be easier to them, until it is too late. They don't want to do any
extra configuration after installing the operating system. Those
millions of power-users do.

It astounds me how people just forget about Ubuntu's goals and
aspiritions in light of this issue. It isn't doing much for user
friendliness when the community of contributors is using bad names on
those new users Ubuntu strives to be gentle to and then treating them
like outsiders.

It isn't /likely/ for someone to hit C-A-B (although it's been done
once or twice by yours truly, particularly with graphics tools), but
the immediate issue is that we have a key combination which, without a
moment's question, eradicates one's session from existence. No session
saving, no notice, no sensitivity to whether the keyboard is grabbed
or another application is handling the event. It just happens no
matter what. Further, it relies on common keys. Sysrq K is alright
since nobody tends to use the Sys RQ key, but Ctrl and Alt are both
everyday modifier keys and Backspace is a natural key for deleting
stuff. We want our users to feel free exploring Ubuntu without the
risk of wiping out the system (within reason, of course). Hopefully
they can gain a trust of themselves and the system that way, start
paying more attention to the text on the screen and learning what it
all means. One thing I know is that a single catastrophic event like
"tinkering led to the loss of two hour's work when I pressed Ctrl Alt
Backspace" causes someone to doubt the value of that exploring. Then
there's another user reliant on others for resolving all issues
related to the computer.

Something interesting I've learned in an Ubuntu Forums thread is that
a surprising number of people who want this key combo to stay don't
actually use it for its intended purpose (to reset X when it is
crashed). Instead, they use it as a shortcut for logging out. Doing
that is risky, messy and inadequate.
Perhaps if logging out (with session saving) was mapped to Ctrl Alt
Backspace we wouldn't have as many bothered users.


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