Botching the Trivial

As a developer, I’m used to screwing things up. It comes with the job, and that’s why we have beta testers, QA, and code reviewers. You get used to it, and usually it ends up not being too big a deal.

What’s really embarrassing is when the screwup is literally staring you in the face and makes it into a major release. This was the case with the VMware Workstation and Player application icons in Workstation 6.0.

During development of Workstation 6.0, I felt the icon set needed a refresh. We try to fit in well with the GNOME desktop, and our icons just didn’t match. They weren’t bad, but they could have been better. I spent a lot of my free time creating a new set of icons for the application in the Tango style. This included application icons.

Our previous application icons were beveled and out of place in a Tango-themed desktop, so I replaced those as well. The result was really nice. After getting people to look at them, I committed them and wrote scripts to install all our fancy new icons with the product.

But something wasn’t quite right. I knew it but didn’t really think about it until after the release. There was something about the icons in the panel and menus. They looked fine on my development system toward the end of the Workstation 6 development cycle, but didn’t look right when I next installed a build on that system. I guess I shrugged it off as just being something screwy with my setup, but when I installed Workstation 6 on my laptop, the icons still looked wrong.

They were blurry. I made nice crisp icons! Where did these blurry ones come from? I figured it had to do with my panel size and that it scaled the 24×24 ones down to 22×22. That must be it, I thought.

It wasn’t until a couple of days ago when I finally decided to look into this thoroughly. What I saw made me so sad. The .desktop files for the applications contained:


Yes. I never updated the old .desktop file generation code to use an icontheme name. It was still using the really old code querying the 48×48 icon we used to ship.

I suddenly realized why it used to look fine on my box. When I first tested these icons, I hand-modified my .desktop file to test the icons. It wasn’t until I installed a new build that I got the shipped .desktop file.

As you can imagine, I felt like an idiot. I decided to fix this quietly without making my idiocy too obvious to everyone else. (Don’t tell anyone, please. They think I’m smart.)

Just to give a sense, here’s a before and after shot.

Broken WS6 icons

Fixed WS6 icons

Ah, much better. We have pretty icons again! Of course, had I fixed one single line of code and looked at a generated .desktop file once before release, that wouldn’t have happened.

But everyone makes at least one stupid mistake in a release, right?

6 thoughts on “Botching the Trivial”

  1. anonymous_for_good_reason

    Don’t feel bad. VMware workstation 4.mumble.mumble shipped with MIT-SHM disabled due to a stupid mistake of mine. Was fixed in the next point release, very quietly.

  2. Lucas Meneghel Rodrigues

    Man, don’t feel bad. I can assure you that most people would never notice the difference between the icons, I can tell you that. Only people with trained eyes would ever notice that. When you introduced the subject, I thought ‘OMG, this should be a pretty nasty bug’, but it turns out to be something small, that few people would actually notice.

    Thanks for all your work with the application icon set!

  3. There are no plans to update Server Console with Tango icons. The icons are largely themeable but in Server Console they’re themeable through use of GTK stock IDs, whereas Workstation 6 has moved to standard icon theme icons.

    I have also wanted to have Tango icons for Server Console. Someone could do it if they wanted to, and I’m sure it’d be welcomed by many. Run vmware-server-console -L to see the icons and their stock IDs if you want to take a stab at it.

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