Back to … KDE‽

Now this is one of the things that you wouldn’t expect — Years after I left KDE behind me, today I’m back using it.. and honestly I feel again at home. I guess the whole backend changes that got through KDE4 were a bit too harsh for me at the time, and I could feel the rough edges. But after staying with GNOME2, XFCE, then Cinnamon.. this seems to be the best fit for me at this point.

Why did I decide to try this again? Well, even if it doesn’t happen that often, Cinnamon tends to crash from time to time, and that’s obnoxious when you’re working on something. Then there is another matter, which is that I’m using a second external monitor together with my laptop, as I’m doing network diagrams and other things on my dayjob, and for whatever reason the lockscreen provided by gnome-screensaver no longer works reliably: sometimes the second display is kept running, other times it doesn’t resume at all and I have to type blindly (with the risk that I’m actually typing my password on a different application), and so on so forth.

Then since I wanted to have a decent photo application, and Shotwell didn’t show itself as valid enough for what I want to do (digiKam is much better), I decided to give it another try…

So first of all I owe lots of congratulations to all the people working on KDE, you did a tremendously good job. There are though a few things that I’d like to point out. The first is that I won’t be using the term “KDE SC” anytime soon; that still sounds dumb to me, sorry. The second is that I wonder if some guys made it a point to exaggerate on the graphical department, and then having to roll back. I remember how much hype was created around Oxygen and now it feels, that just like Keramik at KDE 3 time, they had to drop it back.

Another sore spot is the Italian translation — it’s not just awkward but in some places it’s definitely wrong! They translated “Plastique” (the theme name) and “Plastik” (the reference to the KDE 3 theme) as if they were “Plastic” — this is not the case! Keep the names the same as the original please. There are also a few more problems, including the fact that they did translate terms like “Serif”, “Sans Serif” and “Monospace” which … well they don’t really sound that good in Italian. At the end I simply changed the system language back to English.

There are still quite a few things that I have to take care of to set this up properly; right now it’s just a messy first set up and there are a few bugs that I have to report (including the fact that to upload originally-sized files on Flickr, KIPI is actually copying the original file to /tmp which makes it very unpleasant especially when you have that directory in tmpfs.

At any rate, you’ll probably read some more comments on KDE4 from me in the next few weeks, so be ready for them.

Back to Cinnamon!

Okay after my negative experience I’m now back to try Cinnamon, and I have a quite different story to tell.

First of all, thanks to Julian, I found that the issue I was having with the keyboard only involved my user’s settings, and not the code by itself. After a bit more fiddling around, I found a more detailed case where this happens.

My keyboard layout of choice is the so-called US Alternate International (us alt-intl); unfortunately even with the recent improvements in Input hotplug for Xorg, it seems like configuring Xkb on the configuration file, or on the directories, is not recognized by the evdev driver (at least), which is why I configured it with GNOME, Xfce, and, by reflection, Cinnamon, to change the layout of the keyboard — and that’s where the problem lies. When GNOME3 or Cinnamon are started, and they set the keyboard layout (both do it the same way as in both cases you configure it through GSettings), the Alt_L and Meta keys get somehow swapped… but not in all cases, as Emacs was still getting it right (which meant that just switching the two is not going to help me).

I guess I should track it down even further than this, but for the moment, I solved this by using setxkb in my ~/.xsession file, and that doesn’t seem to cause any trouble.

The other issue I reported, was that clutter is unstable when using nvidia hardware; to be precise, the issue is with nvidia-drivers (surprised?), and it’s actually the second issue that I find with their drivers in the last few weeks: the other was Calibre being able to get Xorg to eat so much memory that the system gets unresponsive, just by the sake of being launched, and add to that Skype that was unable to render *at all*….

So I decided to give a try to what Pesa suggested me to solve the Skype (Qt) issue: I decided to try the nouveau driver. Actually I wanted to try that a couple of weeks ago, but after reading through their website I wasn’t sure that my video card (NVIDIA GT218) was supported or if I had to deal with dumping the firmware out of the nvidia drivers and whatever else… but the other day, after screwing my own system over, and needing to boot from SysRescue, I found out that the driver they load is … nouveau, and it worked decently well.

So since this is weekend, and the time was right, I decided to give it a try — and the results are great! Clutter works fine, Cinnamon works fine, and while I haven’t tried anything that is running in OpenGL proper yet (no games), and Google’s Maps GL reports not working with this implementation (not that I care much), it works definitely well enough for what I usually do. I haven’t tried audio out on the DisplayPort connection, but it’s not like I’ve ever tried it before… Suspension works very fine.

And yes for now my experience with Cinnamon is terrific!

I’ve tried Cinnamon

Another intermission while I’m still not having anything new to say about my current line of work. Since the new GNOME 3 was released today, I was discussing it with Luca, and he suggested me to try Cinnamon which is Linux Mint’s user interface, based upon GNOME 3’s technologies and libraries, but providing an experience much more in line with GNOME 2. Exactly what I wanted.

Indeed, after trying it out a moment, it seems to me like it’s exactly what I want: it propones again some of the features that I used from Compiz (including the Expo support for workgroups, even if they are still in-line rather than squared around), and it provides an experience in line with the one I get from Xfce4 right now…

So why did I go back to Xfce, if all seems to be what I want? Well, beside the fact that Cinnamon shows to still be in its infancy, I’m having some serious doubts about Gtk3’s viability, but I’ll wait for the new release before judging I guess. What’s going on here is simple to put in works, but probably not simple to explain: part of the behaviour of Super and Alt_L keys is switched.

What I mean is that if, with the default configuration, I hit the Super key (i.e., the one with the Windows logo on it on this keyboard), then I get Cinnamon’s Menu, exactly what I want. On the other hand, if I press Alt-Tab to get the application switcher, I get nothing: the switcher comes up with Super-Tab. The same applies to other parts of the bindings: Alt-F2 brings me to the second workspace, rather than to the “execute command” dialog, which appears if I press Super-F2.

I would have said the problem lied in Cinnamon, if the documentation didn’t report everything to be correct as I expect it to be, and having had some serious issues with Super not working correctly on my home desktop where I tried GNOME 3 before (It wouldn’t let me use Super-C/Super-V to copy and paste from GNOME Terminal).

There actually is an option in the xkb configuration that allows you to switch the two keys, making it possible to have a quite reasonable experience — if it wasn’t that then you would have Super and Meta switched within Emacs, which otherwise respect the same correct configuration as I’m expecting out of the box, d’oh.

Add to this that Clutter’s cogl library seems to be unstable on nvidia-based hardware, and you can probably see why I’m still not convinced to move to that desktop environment, which is a shame, since I actually think it has a much better experience right now than Xfce4. If it worked correctly, sigh!

I’ll wait on it.. and if somebody has a clue about the issue I’m describing with the keys (I don’t want to debug it further myself for now, that’s why I haven’t reported it upstream yet), please let me know!