Another irritation with Gnome's gconf settings system
As if the first irritation wasn't enough, there's another problem with the Gnome settings stuff. It is this: modern Gnome applications keep all of their settings locked up inside gconf, even things that you enter and that in another, simpler era would have been stuck in dotfiles somewhere.
This has a practical issue that I have been running into after learning about convenient ssh in Gnome; it's hard to move settings for something from machine to machine. Consider the mini-commander applet macros, which are stored as gconf settings. I'd like to be able to just copy improvements I make from system to system (instead of having to re-enter them), and to easily install the setup on new machines. With dotfiles, this would be obvious; with gconf, what I have is in practice an opaque blob.
(To its credit, sshmenu does have an actual dotfile for its host information that I can just copy around.)
In theory, one can use tools like
gconftool-2 to extract and then
set this information, provided that you know the gconf keys (and you
gconftool-2 to trawl for the keys, too). In practice, this
leaves you to reverse engineering the application's key usage and thus
to hope that you have not missed anything important, that you have
included everything you need to, and that you haven't included something
you don't want to.
Part of the problem is that, of course, applications are not organizing
their keys for your convenience; in this sort of case, they're using
gconf as a datastore. The mini-commander applet makes a good example;
as far as I can tell, it stores its macros in two keys (both in
macro_patterns seems to be a list of the
regexp patterns, in order, and
macro_commands seems to be a list of
the matching commands, in the same order. I assume that it being stored
this way means that gconf only has single level lists, so you can't have
lists of lists.
(Disclaimer: it's possible that the mini-commander applet is a bad example and that good Gnome programs don't act this way. I'm not really optimistic, though.)