My Impressions of KDE 4.2

February 25, 2009

I have actually been meaning to write this post for a while now, but as usual school takes away most of my ambition to do things such as write to this blog or write fun code.

I have been using KDE 4.2 on both my Gentoo systems (laptop and desktop) since about a week after it was released. I still run it now and plan on running it until the next big release of KDE.

KDE 4.2 really took my breath away on many fronts. First of all the Phonon sound system works properly. This also means that I can use Amarok 2.0 which is a HUGE plus for me. In 4.1 I had all sorts of annoying problems getting Phonon to even play sound, and when it did it would block any other applications from using the sound card. Not so any more!

Also, the Plasma widgets are running much cleaner and faster. In KDE 4.1 they seemed to resize slowly and imprecisely. Now, not only do they resize correctly, but if you stick them off the screen in a strange way or place them in some funny manner they try to arrange themselves in a neat fashion. For someone as OCD as myself this feature is wonderful!

The fact that you can now use a Desktop View widget as a desktop is probably good news for some because it means easier access to icons. Personally, I don’t really care about that because I hate desktop icons to begin with. I launch all of my programs through the Run Command interface anyway.

I started using Kopete recently as well, and that has seen huge improvements since the last time I used it. I’m not sure when they changed the interface around and added all the animations, but Kopete has now replaced Pidgin as my default messaging client.

In terms of looks… well KDE 4.2 looks very much like KDE 4.1 or even 4.0. They updated the default theme a little bit, but it is still the same fundamental idea. This is fine with me. I love the new Oxygen theme and it gives a fresh look to my desktop.

As far as running KDE on my laptop is concerned I like 4.2 much better for basically one reason alone… The battery meter widget shows the time remaining now and is also aware of different processor throttling states. This is a great improvement over what I experienced in 4.1 and it makes KDE completely useable on my laptop. Also, since KDE is now more aware of dual screens and screen settings it made it nice to use while I was giving presentations with Okular (the new KDE pdf viewer) on my laptop. I’ve yet to play around with the GUI for changing the display settings (I use xrandr from the terminal) , but I hope to give that a try some time in the near future.

Dual screen support in terms of my desktop setup seems to be about the same as it had been, but I think that is because I am using the proprietary ATI driver and not the open source one. It works well enough that I don’t have any issues. I really like the feature where if you have a maximized window on one screen you can just drag it over the other screen and it stays maximized. Maybe other versions of KDE had this… but either way it is real handy.

I can hardly say enough good things about KDE 4.2 and I am really looking forward to the 4.3 release and some additional bug fixes.

Now that I have gone on and on about the positives I will list a few bugs and whatnot that I have found, but am confident they will be fixed in later releases. The first is that the “Run Command” feature seems to crash if I have KDE running for too long. I typically leave my system running for days at a time so I don’t like it when stuff like that breaks. Also, when I first installed KDE 4.2 I had to clear out all my KDE 4.1 settings before it would run correctly. This is only a minor annoyance, but if you have a bunch of settings that took forever to set up it would be a bit of a bummer to reload them all.

Overall I am extremely happy with KDE 4.2 and would reccomend it to those who have been holding off on account of stability issues. I use it everyday for doing school work and I have not run in to any problems that have caused me to need to downgrade to 4.1 or to switch away from it entirely. Great work KDE team!


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,  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 🙂 .

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,  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 🙂 . KDE 4.1 levaes me eagerly awaiting KDE 4.2!

Internet Culture — Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

December 13, 2008

Originally I was going to give a more formal write up about KDE 4.1, but this topic has been on my mind a lot so KDE 4.1 will have to wait for now.

Since I have had access to the Internet I have understood or taken part in all of the strange happenings of the Internet. I’m talking about things such as Rick Rolling, Leet speak (l33t speak), watching strange flash videos, watching strange YouTube videos, etc. I have also been parts of more specialized Internet cultures such as those people who watch anime, or those who love old video games (such as Chrono Trigger). It has definitely been a big part of my life, and I still keep up on some of the random happenings of the Internet through slashdot and other random places.

However, last night I had the unique opportunity of meeting a fellow who also was into these sorts of things. Now, the reason this was so strange is that my current set of friends [that I live around/with] do not follow many of the random events that happens on the Internet. Further, with some of them, should I even mention Internet references they just give me a look to the effect of “why are you so randomly weird?”. Consequently, I don’t bring up random Internet stuff too often. Though I admit it does come out on occasion (some might argue more than “on occasion” 🙂 ). This leaves me in an interesting position. On the one hand they don’t really care about this stuff so me talking about serves little purpose. On the other hand it basically means that a whole portion of my life is not a point of conversation.

Anyway… back to the person I met. This fellow found out that I was into Albatross 18 and wanted to talk with me at length about it. However, we were at our Professor’s house for an end of the year Christmas party with lots of other people who had no idea what we would be talking about. I opted to play ignorant to all his Internet related references, which were frequent. It seemed as though he could only really relate well to people on this level. Now, I don’t particularly mind toning it down around those who could care less about the weirdos on the net, but this guy wouldn’t even sit down and play card games with us. It saddened me to see this for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I see very much of myself in him, and I totally know how it feels to have everyone ignore you and just think you are weird. All through high school I really could only talk with people who knew about video games, the Internet, and and anime. My friends in high school were all in to that, and to this day I still talk to them over the Internet about these things when I have the time. However, when I came to college there were really no people like that. At least people that I met. Apparently, I changed so much since college that one of my current friends could not believe I had ever been “like that” (that mentality about “Internet people” sort of irks me, but that is another story). In hind sight it would have been nicer if I had broken away from that more in high school as it has since given me a chance to meet people I would not have otherwise. Some of which are now really great friends 🙂 .

Secondly, I think that fellow is going to have trouble making friends for himself. Whether he likes it or not there is this “taboo” sort of feeling I get from a lot of people if I cross over to talking about Internet culture. I’m not entirely sure why. To me pop culture is just as foreign and strange as Internet culture. Yet, folks seem to think the best thing since sliced bread.

Ultimately, I have to wonder how healthy it is for people such as myself to be part of Internet culture. It is great for talking to people online, but these sorts of ways of relating to people don’t hold much weight in the real world. On the other hand, for whatever the reason, I find internet culture much more exciting than pop culture and the things most people talk about. At the end of the day I am still uncertain whether I think Internet culure is good, harmful, or something inbetween.