Changing Linux Distribution

I am not sure – yet – if it will be a permanent change or if it will be a temporary one.

From one site there is the corporate look of OpenSuSE and KDE. From the other side there is the more modern desktop that I can get with Ubuntu and (argh – yet 😉 ) Gnome.

I am always trying to find better ways to have information available on my desktop, to improve my workflow, to get more from my tools without having the system cluttering my view.

With that, I have always been a fan of the summary information available on Macs on the top bar, while keeping more intrusive information on the bottom bar.

But, at the same time, I have always been concerned with the waste of space that two bars led to in KDE.

So, this week, I downloaded Ubuntu and yesterday I spent the day installing it.

The installation itself was very very easy. Finding the new work method is what is taking me some more time, but I have already restablished my environment. (Of course, most of it remained intact since I kept my home directory from the previous install and I just replaced the system mount points.)

As with every unplanned change I forgot to backup some things – but this will lead to another post in the future, since it relates to software development and the move from development to production as well as the build up of a migration path for that to happen – and had to review my notes on how to rebuild that.

After a few hours with setting up everything and working on customization, I found that it was like I wanted. Then, it was time to pay attention to the gadgets and other – ahem – productivity tools.

So, after all, the hugest difference to me has been the package management system. All the rest is almost the same – and I have a new look on my desktop.

Problems with KDE 4.1 on OpenSuSE 11

Same problems continue happening after many successive updates.

KMail — kde4-kmail-4.1.0-29.11 — is still crashing when moving (individually) several messages in a row.  It looks like something isn’t updated or some information from the IMAP server (Courier IMAP from an OpenSuSE 10.1 installation in my case) makes it crash.

If running Kontact, when KMail crashes it takes the whole Kontact with it.

I commute a lot from one network to another — at least four changes daily: home wireless net, work “dial up” on 3G, client wireless network, home wireless; plus some periods without any network at all — and Korganizer — kde4-korganizer-4.1.0-29.11 — isn’t smart enough to only try fetching my Google Calendar updates when I am connected to the Internet (just noticing a network other than would do it!), making me have to dismiss update errors every “X” minutes (the fetch interval).  It could use the flag from KMail, when I mark that I’m offline (this could be implemented in Kontact — kde4-kontact-4.1.0-29.11 –, for example, and shared by all of its components).

I don’t have the problem of “desktop” crashes as I did on KDE 4 with KDE 4.1.  This is a huge plus.

I had to “lock widgets” on my Desktop to prevent their position from being reset and having them superposed to each other after I shutdown the computer.  With them locked it looks like the system learnt that I want my plasmoids listing files at the place where they are and that I want my notes plasmoid right beside them.  I can live with that, since I don’t keep adding / removing widgets, but it is annoying to have to unlock the widgets first to them be able to add new ones.  Why can’t this lock just prevent widgets from being changed?  I mean, let me add them to the screen, but don’t allow me to delete, move or do anything with them after they are on the desktop (this would create a consistent behavior and would allow me to add new things).  The placement algorithm could also be “smarter” and try the best it can to prevent widgets from being one above the other.

My Kopete — kde4-kopete-4.1.0-15.13 — is getting stale when I try to close it.  And it is having problems to connect to networks…  The icon on the panel disappears, but the application screen doesn’t close and I have to “CTRL-ALT-ESC” and click on it to kill the application and make it disappear from the screen.  Reopenning it makes it work perfectly again.

If I remember something else, I’ll post again 🙂  And this time I remembered including version numbers, so that those posts can be contextualized and tracked more easily.

KDE 4.1 on OpenSuSE 11.0

I’ve added the Factory repository to the list of repositories I use to update my OpenSuSE install and now I am running KDE 4.1.

There were a lot of bugfixes and it looks like we’ll have a more stable interface when OpenSuSE 11.1 comes out.  This is great and I am anxious for the next enhancements we’ll get ’til there.

I am now using two plasmoids to show the files available on my home directory and on my Desktop directory.  No other icons on the Desktop, as with the KDE 4 that was released with OpenSuSE 11.  This, in my humble opinion, makes the process of creating new shortcuts easier and makes the Desktop area cleaner and more efficient.

I’ve also added a plasmoid for “post-it” like notes on the Desktop.  This helps taking quick notes for things that I am changing or that I’m about to revisit / work in the very very near future (something that I saw while leaving work and want to get back to it at home, for example).

OpenSuSE 11 — How I feel abour it now

Some of the defects continue.

Kmail still crashes a lot, kmix still doesn’t recognize the volume wheel, opensuse-updater still has problems updating some packages.  fwbuilder doesn’t work, it keeps crashing and is not available under OpenSuSE repositories or their build service.

But, even so, I’d recommend this to everyone.  Besides those minor things, improvements were so big from 10.3 to 11.0 that it is really worth sacrificing some niceties for the other ones that you’ll get.

BUT, if those problems were fixed, then things would be easier.

Things that annoy me on KDE4

As I said before, I am trying to use KDE4 as my main environment. And it is doing pretty well.

There are, though, some annoying things that I hope will be solved soon.

For example, the mixer from KDE4 doesn’t understand the volume button change as the one from KDE3 does. I am still using the mixer from KDE3 because of that (it is not just visual, KDE4 ignores the volume change, KDE3 respects and adjusts the volume).

There is no KNetworkManager for KDE4. And as I connect to some wireless networks, I miss it a lot. So, I’m using the one from KDE3.

The newer Kopete also has some problems with events. When I get a new message and the focus is on another window, a “message” box opens with “View / Ignore” options and it stays there on the screen for a while (I don’t even know if they disappear automatically or not, I didn’t wait that long). Then, for every new message from the same person, a new box is open, cluttering the screen very fast. For Kopete from KDE3, just the first message created the box and it disappeared faster as well.

There is another problem with this new Kopete: it doesn’t work with my webcam. Kopete from KDE3 does. And the history isn’t working, so it isn’t saved as well.

There is also a problem with Kontact, that misses Knode — even though it exists, it isn’t integrated… — but is getting very nice.

I also believe that recent changes did mess with event handling… Some of my global shortcuts stopped working and some that failed before are working now.

I hope that KDE4 continues evolving, because it is visually much better than its predecessors. Just the apps aren’t moving with the same speed as the interface and its resources are.

UPDATE: Another thing that is annoying me: something on the docking protocol has changed and applications from KDE3 aren’t docking correctly as applications from KDE4 does…  Take KWalletManager and KMix as examples and you’ll see their icons floating as if they were windows that got lost in the screen.  Minimizing them helps a little, though.

KDE4’s new look

It’s been a while since I last tried using KDE4 as my official desktop environment, always going back to KDE3.

There are some minor annoyances — for example the new Kmixer doesn’t recognize it when I use my notebook’s volume controle to get the volume up or down; KDE3’s does that perfectly — but it looks like they can be worked around.  The absence of knetworkmanager also scared me at first but I can use KDE3’s interface for this one — I connect to several wireless networks, at least 3 every day.

One thing, though, that I thought I wouldn’t like was the fact that there are no more desktop icons on KDE4. I thought it would be crazy and off, but actually using it makes it really interesting and makes the desktop more clean.  I always had this problem of cluttering my desktop with my common tasks and most used shortcuts, besides some material that I am currently reading / using.  Now, all is inside a nice plasmoid, and my usage of folders for each topic fits nicely with this new paradigm.

Lets see if I can keep using this KDE4 or if I’ll go back to KDE3…