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 ūüėČ ) 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.

KDE 4.2 on OpenSuSE 11.0

Continuing with updates from Factory, I’m now using KDE 4.2.

Several things have improved, the interface is as clean as 4.1’s was and I feel that some things take less resources.

It is worth a change for anyone running KDE 4.x to update to KDE 4.2.¬† But be aware that some configurations might be lost, so backup your settings before the change, just in case. ūüôā

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 127.0.0.0/8 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 ūüôā¬† And this time I remembered including version numbers, so that those posts can be contextualized and tracked more easily.

Some Compiz + KDE shortcuts

I don’t know if those shortcuts are available everywhere Compiz is used or if they are exclusive to KDE, but:

  • CTRL + F12: puts all windows on the background and displays a ghost window with your widgets.  It is the “Plasma Panel”
  • CTRL + F10 (also accessible moving the mouse pointer to the upper left corner): shows all windows opened and make them clickable so that you can change to that application.  If there is something dynamic happening — like a video being played — then you can see it being updated in real time.
  • CTRL + F9: zooms out so that you can see all applications from that particular desktop, side by side, and click on them to choose which one you want to be active.
  • CTRL + F8: zooms out and shows you the current view for all existing virtual desktops.

The ESC key exits from all of those views.

Using them makes it better to see what is happening on multiple environments.

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).

Configuring OpenSuSE 11.0 to connect to TIM (Brasil) using a 3G mobile phone

Just so that others can benefit from the information (not so easy to find out when you don’t know what to look for, easy to find when you know what you want), here’s how my system is configured to use a 3G mobile phone as a modem using TIM’s 3G network.

The interface configuration file (/etc/sysconfig/network/ifcfg-modem0) ended up as:

BOOTPROTO='none'
DIALCOMMAND='ATDT'
DIALPREFIX=''
DIALPREFIXREGEX=''
INIT1='ATZ'
INIT2=''
INIT3='AT+CGDCONT=,,"tim.br"'
INIT8='ATM1'
INIT9=''
MODEM_DEVICE='/dev/ttyACM0'
NAME='Nokia 6120 classic'
PPPD_OPTIONS=''
PROVIDER='provider0'
SPEED='115200'
STARTMODE='manual'
UDI=''
USERCONTROL='yes'

And the provider configuration file (/etc/sysconfig/network/providers/provider0) ended up as:

ASKPASSWORD='no'
AUTODNS='no'
AUTO_RECONNECT='yes'
DEFAULTROUTE='yes'
DEMAND='no'
DSLSUPPORTED='no'
IDLETIME='300'
IPADDR=''
ISDNSUPPORTED='no'
MODEMSUPPORTED='yes'
MODIFYDNS='yes'
MODIFYIP='yes'
PASSWORD='tim'
PHONE='*99#'
PROVIDER='TIM'
REMOTE_IPADDR=''
STUPIDMODE='no'
USERNAME='tim'
DNS1='208.67.220.220'
DNS2='208.67.222.222'

The trickiest part was that we don’t get the DNS servers dinamically.¬† The IPs above are from the OpenDNS project.

I hope it helps you to get started with whatever provider you have. ūüôā

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.

SVK on OpenSuSE 11.0

svk’s package is broken and I had to rebuild it to be able to use it.

There’s a bug on the spec file that makes it require a package that is not needed on OpenSuSE 11 but is needed up to OpenSuSE 10.3.

I’ll file a bug report, but if you really need it, you can install the source RPM, edit the spec and install a Perl module manually.¬† Then it will work. ūüėČ

Nice to be back at full speed!

Current status with OpenSuSE 11.0 – What I’m loving

The interface is great!

Using compiz-fusion out of the box is really nice.¬† Effects for windows appearing, disappearing and specially for the fade when windows go out of focus is really nice.¬† This last item is also a productivity booster (I use “focus follows mouse”, since I don’t use the mouse that much and it is nice to have a window with focus while behind another window).

Transparencies, tight integration with the desktop, the fact that it worked right after being installed, enhancements on YaST, kontact being back to life (even though it still crashes a lot! but it is kmail’s fault)…

So far, I’m using the following repositories:

#  | Alias                   | Name                    | Enabled | Refresh
---+-------------------------+-------------------------+---------+--------
1  | openSUSE-11.0-Updates   | openSUSE-11.0-Updates   | Yes     | Yes
2  | kde4-core               | kde4-core               | Yes     | No
3  | repo-oss                | openSUSE-11.0-Oss       | Yes     | No
4  | ati-drivers             | ati-drivers             | Yes     | No
5  | kde4-community          | kde4-community          | Yes     | No
6  | home:dkukawka           | home:dkukawka           | Yes     | Yes
7  | packman                 | packman                 | Yes     | No
8  | mozilla                 | mozilla                 | Yes     | No
9  | openoffice-stable       | openoffice-stable       | Yes     | No
10 | repo-non-oss            | openSUSE-11.0-Non-Oss   | Yes     | No
11 | openSUSE-DVD 11.0       | openSUSE-DVD 11.0       | Yes     | No
12 | repo-debug              | openSUSE-11.0-Debug     | No      | No
13 | kde4-extra-applications | kde4-extra-applications | Yes     | No
14 | openoffice-extras       | openoffice-extras       | Yes     | No
15 | devel:languages:python  | devel:languages:python  | Yes     | Yes
16 | home:sjcundy            | home:sjcundy            | Yes     | Yes

I’d rather to have more options straight from the official repositories, but I am conscient that it is a lot of unusual things that I use. ūüôā

I tried avoiding installing things manually, but it isn’t always possible, unfortunately.

Current status with OpenSuSE 11.0 – What is a problem “now”

So, after updating from OpenSuSE 10.3 to OpenSuSE 11.0, it took me some time to have all my working environment fixed.

I’m still keeping up to using only zypper and YaST to install packages, I haven’t added smart back, even though there is a big temptation ūüôā

It took a while to get the plugin that shows updates available to work.  Even though I had Internet connection, it failed to connect to repositories.  In fact, now it was the first time that I had used it since Friday, and just because I was about to write this post and wanted to check it first.

Problems with KDE4 still continue.¬† For example, the mixer — kmix — doesn’t work when I use the volume wheel on my notebook, so I have to click the icon and use the mouse to set the volume I want…¬† Not very practical.

Mplayer…¬† It doesn’t work: even though the 32 bit version used to work, this one doesn’t and stated that there are insufficient resources for the operation, so I just have audio and no video.¬† Kaffeine…¬† No video, just audio as well.¬† And I have w32codecs-all installed.¬† And I have gone through the lists of software that could be related to that.¬† Still no success.¬† Flash videos, such as youtube, work like a charm.¬† So far, I can’t watch videos here.

For my daily activities, I can’t use SVK — a distributed version control system based on subversion — because it requires a package that is not available from any of the repositories and I couldn’t find it on OpenSuSE’s software search.¬† This will be impactant to me, but lets see if I’ll manage to go back to using Subversion alone, until I can solve this problem (I am not on the net all the time while I’m working…)

First impressions about OpenSuSE 11.0

It is really great!  Very responsive, fast, beautiful.

Compiz-fusion effects are really nice to have.  And the desktop feels more integrated.

I already added some extra repositories from OpenSuSE’s website and updated Firefox (again!), along with some other components from KDE4.

Everything has been recognized correctly — my Intel wireless card, with IEE 802.11N support; audio card, etc. — right from the beginning.

X is running accelerated with composite and all the bells and whistles right from the installation.

Package selection has become more attractive and so far I am comfortable using zypper and YaST to install new things.  Before they were too slow to be considered an option.  It is nice to be able to use the official tool for maintaining the system.

Now it is time to restore my applications and work environment… ūüėČ