KDE 4.1 Font Issues Solved

December 24, 2008

Well as I mentioned in an earlier post I was having a bugger of a time getting the Helvetica font to work with the KDE 4.1 widgets, which was a substantial problem since you can’t yet change the font for them. I did everything from a system rebuild to clearing out the .kde4 directory so it would rebuild the settings. None of that was working and I was running out of ideas. Eventually I decided to make an entirely new user account to make sure it was nothing relating to individual user settings. Believe it or not that solved the problem. I am assuming there was some setting in my home directory which was causing the fonts to get messed up somehow.

I suppose I should put the solved in quotes because I wanted all the settings I had in my old user account so I still had work to do once the fonts were working. After I had the fonts working I again I made a backup of my home directory and wiped out the original. Then I copied over all the important files and everything was well again.

Now, this whole ordeal has brought several things to me attention:

  1. I don’t understand how fonts work in Linux. I suppose this is quite obvious considering all the trouble I had to go through to get KDE to see the Helvetica font again…
  2. The fact that Linux stores all the user configurations in the home directory is extremely nice. Knowing where all my settings were gave me a great deal of confidence when I cleared out my original home directory, and it also gives me confidence when I make my backups. This is something that Windows does not necessarily offer. Configuration files in Windows seem to be spread all over the place from the installation directory, to the user directory, and even in the registry.
  3. Finally, this has reminded me that it is always best to start with the easy and simple solutions than to jump to the big guns in a moment of frustration. In other words, rebuilding my whole system should have been a last ditch effort and not the third thing I tried.

At any rate I’m happy to have a working KDE 4.1 installation again and hopefully I will manage to keep it working for a while now ๐Ÿ™‚ . This is good because I can now focus my attention on other projects such as working on Spheriosity.

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Complete system rebuild

December 20, 2008

Due to some poor decisions in trying to get those silly fonts back in KDE 4.1 I need to rebuild my system… This means running everyone’s favorite command: emerge -eav world .

It’s probably just as well. I have been spending quite a bit of time in front of the computer for the past several months anyway :-/ .


My Thoughts on KDE 4.1

December 15, 2008

For the past few days I have been using KDE 4.1 exclusively. In fact, I uninstalled most of my KDE 3.5 applications because I wanted to get a real feel for what KDE 4.1 can do. Now, even the KDE development team would agree that it is not 100% complete. By that I mean it does not have every feature from KDE 3.5, but it certainly seems pretty darn close. In terms of fancy screens shots the KDE team has done a nice job of this so I point you here to see some of the magic.

The Good

First, I will talk about what I really like about KDE 4.1. The new look and feel on KDE is certainly a welcome improvement. Lots of various things have animations such as selecting things in the new KMenu and changing between settings in different dialogs. These transitions provide not only some nice eye candy for onlookers, but serve to show the user that they are changing contexts. I think this is very important especially for new users to help ease them into the environment. Also, KDE 4.1 supports some compositing features, but I was not able to test those due to issues with my graphics card/X. It does seem to suppose an alternate rendering scheme which seems use the CPU, but my processor is not fast enough to make it run smoothly.

Also, a lot of my favorite KDE apps have been ported. Specially, Akregator, Kpdf (now called Okular), Kwallet, and many more. Akregator and Okular have a nice new appearance, and it is good to see them with a new look.

Screenshot of Okular

Screenshot of Okular

Just as before KDE has a helpful System Settings feature which allows you to change quite a few useful settings and configure all or most of the things KDE 3.5 used to allow for. Thankfully, KDE has switched away from artsd, which I could never get to work, and with the new Phonon backend it can use any number of audio backends such as xine or gstreammer.

From my limited interaction with dolphin, the file manager,ย  I like what I see. It is intuitive to use and has a number of different views for you to use when trying to get through your files. It also has another interesting feature that I noticed. It lets you tag and leaves comments about your files and folders. In fact, you can even rate them. This ties in with the “Nepomuk Semantic Desktop” which, if enabled, allows you to search your file system based on the tags and whatnot that you assign to your files. I must admit that I do most of my file management with a terminal still, but I think that feature has definite advantages if you like the graphical approach. For instance, say you have lots of photos in different folders. You could tag them and have a much easier way to locate them 2 or 3 years down the road.

I don’t really use konqueror, but it is still alive and well. I can’t say much more than that because I haven’t used it enough to have an opinion either way ๐Ÿ™‚ .

The Not So Good

On the other side of things, if you require every last feature from KDE 3.5 than KDE 4.1 is not for you because they haven’t all been implemented yet. For instance, it does not support setting the background on a dual screen setup such that it spans both screens. A little work with GIMP “fixed” that problem for me by splitting the picture in half and setting each screen to each half, but that is a bit impractical.

Also, for whatever reason, the compositing effects were not working so well and enabling them was a bit of a pain. I’m not sure whether to pin this on KDE or whole ATI graphics drivers issue when it comes to X.

The plasmids, the new KDE widgets,ย  are a really cool idea, but some of it is a bit frustrating. As an example, I accidentally deleted the main bar with KMenu/Pager/etc, and it took me about 30 minutes to an hour to get everything back in working order. I think these minor bugs and annoyances will be worked out in future releases, but it was disappointing just the same.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I am extremely happy with KDE 4.1. I have been looking forward to KDE 4 and 4.1 does anything but disappoint. In fact, I’m switching over to use it as my primary desktop environment on both my laptop and desktop machines. KDE 4.1 is not for everyone though, specifically those who are waiting for every last feature of KDE 3.5. Some things in KDE 4.1 take a little getting used to and some have complained about this. I don’t mind however, because ultimately I like what the KDE team has done, and sometimes I think people get very stuck in their ways and don’t want to move away from “the way it used to be”. KDE 4.1 doesn’t completely redfine desktop environments, but it sure does give them a fresh new look ๐Ÿ™‚ . KDE 4.1 levaes me eagerly awaiting KDE 4.2!


KDE 4.1

December 11, 2008

I recently had the chance to play with KDE 4.1 and it has impressed me enough that I wish to install it on my Gentoo setup. I would be lying if I said I didn’t like all of the eye candy it has. However, it also feels more snappy than KDE 3.5 which I currently run. Also, I have a strange setup where I forward my entire desktop session over ssh and KDE 4.1 does much better with this than KDE 3.5.

I can’t wait to get it setup on my desktop machine and play around with it some more ๐Ÿ™‚ .


The Nice Thing About GUIs…

December 7, 2008

Is that you can open more terminals at once!

Remotely working on a computer

Remotely working on a computer

I often find it funny when I am using a GUI to do things with a terminal. There is just something strangely amusing about how much system reasources you are using to do it ๐Ÿ™‚ .


Windows …

November 25, 2008

Recently I was asked by a friend to rid his Windows XP machine of a particularly annoying virus/malware. It faked the Windows Security Center and was constantly displaying annoying pop-ups. It sat in the system tray and would not go away. It disabled your ability to change the desktop background and also disallowed you from accessing the task manager. Anytime you clicked on it the virus would open Internet Explorer and try to make you download some other virus.

I searched around the Internet for a while trying to see if people had several problems. After trying a bunch of different solutions I decided I should just investigate the problem by myself. First I checked in the usual places such as msconfig and in the Run folder in the registry to see if it had added any entries there. That didn’t turn out to be very fruitful. I loaded up TRK and ran the AVG Scanner and the BitDefender Scanner and both of them came up with some minor entries, but not the actual problem virus. Eventually, in a moment of desperation I cleared out all of the IE Temporary Folders. As it turns out the virus had installed itself in there. I imagine it was activating itself through the “Active Desktop” feature of Windows which is why they didn’t want you changing the background.

As I would find out getting rid of the virus was the “easy” part. After that was gone I spent another hour trying to make it so you could change the background again. Everything I read said it was real easy… you just click the “Web” tab under “Customize Desktop” which was under the tab for changing the desktop background. Well… this virus had removed that tab altogether. I then followed several guides to try and get the tab back. No luck >_<. Eventually I resorted to a System Restore, which I actually hate, but that ended up solving the problem. Though it rolled back my installation of Spybot S&D which was a bit of a pain, but I figured it worthwhile to reinstall it since this person said they didn’t want to use Firefox.

This sort of experience is what makes me love Linux that much more… ๐Ÿ™‚ . I have been a Gentoo user for a little over 4 years now and I will take a broken package problem over an annoying virus any day!


Reseting a Linux Password

November 22, 2008

While in the computer science lab today another student approached me with the following dilemma. They needed to do some programming over Thanksgiving break, but were not going to have Internet access to ssh into the lab machines. The student had installed Ubuntu on their laptop, but had forgotten the password because they had not used it in a while. They wanted to completely reinstall, but I said they would take quite a while when they could probably just reset the password. I offered to help and this sent me down an hour long journey to reset their password ๐Ÿ™‚ mainly because I had to keep getting more and more equipment from my dorm room.

My first attempt was simply to pop in a Linux boot CD and chroot into their existing installation. From there I figured I would be root and could simply passwd my way to victory. This failed because his CD ROM drive, which was in shambles, refused to load the boot CD. Not one to give up easily I resorted to pulling out his hard drive and hooking it up to a little device I have which converts a hard drive to a USB device. Since I have Linux on my laptop I figured I’d just chroot over to his setup and be done with it. Well… that didn’t work because he had a 64-bit machine and when the chroot tried to run his version of bash it failed miserably. This makes sense because I only have a 32-bit machine.

I wasn’t going to give up there either. The next step I took was to change the password on my system and copy the hash out of my /etc/shadow to his /etc/shadow. For those who don’t know /etc/shadow is where Linux stores it’s hashed passwords. The idea behind the hash is that it is sort ofย  a one way encryption. In theory it is impossible to reverse the hash and the only way to figure out what it belongs to would be to hash every possible combination of letters, numbers, punctuation, etc. This works great for passwords though because when validating a password you simply need to hash the users attempt and compare it with the hash of the real password. Since the hash for a given string always comes out the same you know it’s a match if the hashes match.

After a few attempts at typing in the hash correctly I was able to reset his password and we logged into his machine without any troubles ๐Ÿ™‚ .

I always love a good tech support challenge ๐Ÿ˜€