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My life with KDE4

It was late July that I went back to KDE — I left it just after version 4.0 was released, with the whole confusion after it. I’ve got now a generally good impression with it, it works much better than it used to in the original release, and it proved itself much more stable than GNOME 3 or Cinnamon, as it never crashed on me altogether, like both of them did so many times. Multi-monitor, which is what I complained about regarding Cinnamon, is not perfect here either, but that’s a completely different story at this point I guess.

While I’m still not liking the way the whole KDE 4.0 release has been handled – “everybody should know that a dot-zero is not ready for daily use” is just a sorry excuse for a mess up – the situation has improved and the results are good. Of course, like everybody already told me, I steered clear of semantic desktop, which means I’m not using KMail or anything like that (even though Tomáš pointed out that the problem is that it needs to have the code available, but not enabled at runtime). On one laptop I’ve been using Thunderbird — on the other I’m using only GMail and it seems enough for most cases, right now.

There are a few things that I still don’t really find straightforward, like the Plasma widget sharing (what the heck is it used for?) and the fact that you can have both widgets and notification icons in the lower panel for things like battery and network — and of the two, the nice ones are the notification icons, which have been, to me, the most difficult to identify. I also haven’t grasped the idea of activities, or to be precise their difference from desktops, beside looking, to me, like a three-dimensions desktop wall. I know that for it to work properly you need support from the apps as well, and they change both the apps and the available widgets… still, it doesn’t look like I can care for it right now.

KRunner (the thingy that comes up with M-F2) is actually quite nice, but there are a few rough edges on it as it is right now, I think. One of the was with the latest update (4.10) I lost the icons on it .. till the next reboot, then they appeared back. Maybe it was something to do with the further updates done on the ebuilds after the first unmask. Also, at least in 4.9, sometimes if you’re too quick to type and press enter, it executes the results of the previous search rather than current one… but okay, it’s my fault I guess.

After quite a long time I also decided to give up on Pidgin (on the Dell where I have been using it, the Zenbook right now does not have it at all, as when I’m using it, like right now, I care about being left alone, mostly — I have bought it as my “time to write” laptop), in favour of the Telepathy integration provided by KDE itself – you probably noticed after my previous rant about SSL implementations – which actually seems to work pretty well. Only issue? When you first try to add an account, and you don’t have the backends installed yet, it’ll tell you to install both telepathy-gabble and telepathy-haze — the former implements XMPP and thus allows both GTalk and Facebook accounts, the latter implements almost everything else on top of Pidgin’s libpurple… you don’t need it for either GTalk or Facebook, which happen to be the only accounts I care about myself, so at the end I was able to get rid of both telepathy-haze and Pidgin itself.

I like digiKam for photo handling, although the Flickr upload feature (at least in the previous version) was lacking, and the Facebook one absolutely unreliable… I know that version 3 has been just released and I’m looking forward to see if the new version solves my problems, which would make me very happy. I’m also hoping I’ll be able to get a new harddrive just for the photos, the one I’m using now is shared with Windows, and thus is formatted in NTFS — access speed even over USB3 is abysmal.

So, all in all, going back to KDE was really a very good idea. Although it took me a while to get used to it, and while it includes a number of features that I don’t think I’ll ever use (activities and widget sharing as noted above), it does not get in my way, which is the main reason why I was so bothered by GNOME 3, and it’s much more stable than Cinnamon.

Comments 2
  1. If your complaints regarding multi-monitor is about the setup of multi-monitor (change configuration when (un-)plugging an external display etc.), you should give kde-misc/kscreen::kde a try.Although it’s still -9999, it works quite well and makes you forget all the trouble about setting up multi-monitor environments.When it comes to handling multi-monitor setups in terms of the Plasma desktop itself, I have to agree… that could be greatly improved in some areas.

  2. Welcome back. =:^)Multi-monitor, with a static configuration (from xorg.conf.d), seems to be working quite well for me here. For a dynamic multi-monitor config, as one might have on a laptop where you plug different monitors of different resolutions in at work vs. home, and often use only the built-in on the road or when lounging around, is a different story, as the current management only remembers the single profile, which doesn’t help if it’s constantly changing.There’s a brand new app called kscreen that should help, multiple profiles so it can track and remember the configuration of the various monitors you plug in separately, but it hasn’t had any releases yet and is thus only available as a live-9999-ebuild… in the kde overlay. I saw it in the git whatchanged log from the overlay, but only keep my (static-config) workstation updated all the time, often going a year or more between netbook updates, so I’ve not had a chance to actually try it on anything yet.FWIW, I’ve found the gtk-based claws-mail (with kde color-schemes applied to gtk apps, naturally) a very good replacement for kmail and akregator both, here. =:^)Plasmoid sharing isn’t something I’ve found a use for either…Activities are just now getting advanced enough to start being useful. There’s at least two uses for them. While there’s a config option to link them with virtual desktops, that’s not encouraged as it eliminates some of the flexibility. What I use activities for here is as alternate plasma desktop background functionality. I really wish activities would control panels as well, but so far, it doesn’t; it only controls the background containers. Anyway, I keep my main desktop activity almost clear, only the wallpaper and a few small plasmoids (just a few quick access plasmoid icons). I then have a second activity with a whole bunch of yawp (weather) plasmoids, tracking several local weather stations and a couple from another state (where my parents are), a comicstrip plasmoid, etc. I have scroll-wheel over the desktop set to scroll thru my virtual desktops (which are NOT set to correspond to activities), and ctrl-scroll set to scroll thru activities. I have my panels laid out with a tiny gap between them so even with windows covering the working area on both monitors, there’s a small bit of the desktop accessible over which I can hover and scroll, thus giving me scroll access to other desktops and ctrl-scroll access to the other activity, even with the working area covered.I haven’t finished reconfiguring the netbook after its latest update, but with its smaller screen area, I intend to setup all the system status plasmoids on a separate activity (I had them on the dashboard, which worked reasonably well in 4.5, but doesn’t work so well in the 4.9 I’m running on it now, for various reasons, but activities work better now, so…). That will also allow me to quickly turn them off to save power, by stopping that activity (not just switching away from it, there’s an activity stop/play button in the activity manager…).I’m also thinking I might setup search-and-launch, etc, on different activities on the netbook, while keeping my preferred near-bare desktop on one as well, but I’ve not decided whether I’ll actually use it enough to be worth it (I have my own hotkey based launcher system for frequently used apps, so seldom use the normal menu system on either the workstation or the netbook), or not. Others could do the same thing with a traditional folderview/icons activity, if they wanted, tho I don’t believe I’ll find that useful here.So the first use, what I do, is effectively setup different desktop background activivities, using the activities system to switch between them.The second use, more complex but more in line with ASegio’s vision, is ultimately envisioned to bring the functionality that a lot of geeks and power users have taken for granted for years, to the masses. I’ll admit I didn’t really get it at first, either, and the plasma folks don’t really describe it this way, but once I figured out that what was really planned was a GUI method of doing the sort of fancy work-space-control stuff that had previously been limited to the domain of geeks and power users with enough scripting skills, etc, to set it all up as they wanted, the rest of it all fell into place.Consider: The scenario that is described for activities has a user at work with a group of apps they typically use with an external monitor at their desk there, another set of apps they use with only the built-in monitor when in a meeting, yet another when they give a presentation in that meeting, then it’s time to go home so they grab their laptop and head out, perhaps sitting on the train watching a movie, then when they get home, they plugin the broadband and the external monitor and browse the web for a bit, then play some music over dinner, then after doing something else, they check their news feeds one last time before bed.Now as envisioned, each of these, desktop work, meeting, presentation, movie on the train, browsing the web at home, playing an mp3 or netradio, each one of these are different /activities/.Now a geek or power user, should they think of it, might setup a script for each of these, having it set the power usage appropriately (plugged in at work desktop, not in meeting or on train), opens the appropriate apps and possibly docs to the appropriate on-screen locations on the appropriate desktops (calls to wmctrl or the like), perhaps changing the desktop widgets to match the activity at hand… etc.This is EXACTLY what the ultimate vision is for activities, except that they’ll track and open/close apps/docs and their onscreen/ondesktop locations, power usage, the plasmoids on the desktop, etc, more or less automatically, no scripting required, thus exposing the functionality that geeks and power users have more or less taken for granted for years, to the ordinary masses. Of course once it’s working as envisioned the whole thing will be much easier for the power users as well since it’ll eliminate the need for much of that scripting. While I imagine the true power user will always find something that isn’t /quite/ right that they want to tweak, the script to handle it will now be a tiny wrapper script with that invoked instead of the main app, instead of the rather longer and more complex script that many would like to do now… except it’s often not worth the time and hassle for the limited benefit. But if it’s mostly built-in activities functionality…Of course that’s a pretty big vision and the pieces have yet to all fall into place. Among other things, kde’s session management will need to be integrated with activities in ordered to handle opening/closing all the apps/docs in the appropriate place. And as mentioned above kde’s dynamic multi-monitor configuration clearly isn’t yet where it needs to be to have this all working as envisioned, but from what I’ve read, kscreen is a step in that direction. The solid and power-devil functionality will need some integration work as well to fill in that bit of the puzzle, tho they do have a reasonable base I’m told.With 4.9 and now 4.10, the window management pieces are coming into place, with the ability to associate a window with a particular activity, and to send windows to a different activity as one would send it to a different desktop, but that’s just one piece of a far far larger puzzle that’s still nowhere near completely assembled. But there’s enough there to begin to get hints of how things might work when it’s done, and for the limited bits that are there to begin to be useful, if one is sufficiently creative. =:^)That said, until it gets further along, I expect I, like most geeks I suppose, will tend to stick with the tried and true scripting method, since it’s still rather more powerful as well as more reliable, than the still coming together activities vision.So that’s the two ways activities can be or will be able to be used. As I said, I find the simple alternative plasmoids collection thing useful today, but I expect I’ll be sticking to wmctl calls and desktop scripting for a bit longer before I find the advanced activities stuff useful.Meanwhile, one DEFINITE word of caution, from EXPERIENCE! Keep a backup of your $KDEHOME/share/config/plasma-desktop-appletsrc file, and do a fresh backup before and after you experiment with or otherwise make major changes to your plasma config. While that file is like most kde config files a “simple” ini-file layout, “simple” is rather complex in this case, and the thing tracks most of plasma’s configured state including the configured state of both the containers and the individual plasmoids within them. If you do any serious plasma customization at all you’ll DEFINITELY want to keep a backup of that file, as if it’s corrupted and you don’t have a backup, you lose your customization and must either start from scratch or very patiently and carefully trace the remaining section tree within the file and salvage what you can. I had to do that… ONCE. Now I keep backups!Not much to say about the rest of the post, but hope the above is helpful, to you or some other reader. =:^)Duncan

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