Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eating my own dog food

I've been running openSUSE's KDE 4.1 snapshots on my machine for a while now, and despite the occasional programme falling over (usually konqueror or akregator at the moment), it's being a great experience. I'm particularly addicted to KNetWalk, which is probably going to give me RSI, but I can do it so fast now that I need a new challenge. So I thought I'd get the source and have a go at making it harder. So I did. Get the source, that is. I updated my SVN version of the code, compiled it, and it all compiled without a hitch.

Hang on. That can't be right. I never manager to compile KDE without problems. I must have made a mistake. So I tried logging into my newly compiled KDE, and it works too. I guess KDE is a little better than it used to be!

Anyway, I was so impressed by how easy it is right now, that I had to blog about it. I haven't done any KDE coding for a while, so I'm not exactly eating my own dog food. Maybe the title should be 'Making my own dog food' or something instead. But I will. Oh yes, I will. Probably. There are lots of little rough edges all over the place which I want to iron out, and ironing out rough edges is my forté. Maybe the title should be 'Ironing my own dog food'.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


A couple of days ago, I dug out my old laptop, the screen of which had given up the ghost a few months ago, and switched it on. To my surprise, it was working perfectly, which is great, because my work laptop is about to be taken away as they roll out a load of extremely fast desktops. Great for work, not so great for me. But at least my old laptop has decided not to be broken any more.

For the last year or so, since I had my nice new work laptop, I've been running openSUSE on an external USB hard drive (which surprisingly, benchmarked faster than using the internal drive), and I've been using KDE 4.0. I know my last post on this blog said I'd reverted to 3.5, but I tried 4.0.1 when it came out (or possible 4.0.2?), and discovered the actual show stoppers had been fixed, and the irritations were small enough I could live with them.

Anyway, onto the 'wow'. Since my old laptop had a clean install of openSUSE 10.3 on it and I didn't mind about messing it up with an unstable version of KDE, I put the unstable KDE snapshot version on instead of 4.0. And I think the word which best sums it up is 'Wow'. It's really, really good.

There are some bits in particular that I liked: being able to resize the panel; the panel for icons on the desktop; the beautiful highlight for icons; the alt-f2 thingy (I can never remember its proper name) which is brilliant, and looks and works so well I keep pressing alt-f2 and typing stuff in even though I don't need to run any programmes; the way you can style plasma easily; the way plasma styles work so much better than before; the pim programmes being KDE4ified; the sounds; the plus/minus symbols for selecting/deselecting icons (brilliant idea); everything seems more responsive (even on this old laptop); things looking good even without compositing switched on...

So, great job everyone. This beta is fantastic.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Alas (and alack), I have reverted to using KDE 3.5.8. I wasn't going to, but yesterday then KDE 4.0.0 refused to load for some unknown reason, and I got thinking: Was it worth trying to fix it? Unfortunately, I could only think of four reasons to use KDE 4.0.0, and they weren't very convincing:

Reasons to use KDE 3.5.8
  • It's a stable, well tested system which has had most of the rough edges whittled away over time - and most of the time, it just works. (This reason could be expanded into many bullet points - one for each thing in KDE 3.5.8 which works which is broken in KDE 4.0.0, but I'll leave it rolled up into a single bullet point to save this looking more like a rant than it probably already does - and leave the bug reports in bugs.kde.org).
  • I don't have to use AIGLX (the non-compositing version of KDE 4.0.0's KWin isn't very useable), and so everything is much faster, Google Earth works and I can watch videos. (In KDE 4.0.0 kaffeine and codeine just show an empty black box)
  • I can set up the panels just how I like them. (One medium sized panel at the bottom for the K-menu, the task list (or whatever it is called), a clock and the lock/logout buttons, and a small one at the top for a 'quick launch' bar, the pager and the system tray.)
  • I think the style I use in KDE 3.5.8 is sharper than Oxygen currently is, which looks a bit blurry somehow - I'm not exactly sure why though. But it makes it nicer to use.
Reasons to use KDE 4.0.0
  • Plasma on the desktop can be pretty (although it tends to crash a lot).
  • KWin with compositing looks cool.
  • Tabs in the Oxygen style look kind of nice.
  • I can find bugs and report them so that KDE 4.0.1/KDE 4.1 can be better.
I am well aware that KDE 4.0.0 is actually a beta release which has been release as a .0 release to try to get more people to use it so that more bugs can be reported and fixed, so I can't complain too much (although I would strongly argue for not releasing betas without the beta moniker, but that's another rant). I'll still boot into KDE 4.0.0 from time to time (that is, if openSUSE's packages fix themselves soon!) and look forward to KDE 4.0.1.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

KDE 4.0: The First Week

I've now had KDE 4.0 installed for just over a week, and I'm getting used to its quirks. I'm very impressed with KWin - it hasn't crashed on me once. At least, not since I got the right combination of options (for me, the intel graphics driver instead of the i810 one, and OpenGL instead of XRender). And it's a darn sight nicer than compiz. I always got frustrated by compiz because it didn't understand KDE properly, and I couldn't use Alt+RMB to resize and things like that. And it would crash. KWin just works, although rather slowly.

Generally, KDE 4.0 seems a fair bit slower than KDE 3.5, but I think that might be down to the compositing stuff. Also, there are quite a few little niggly bugs which I hope will be fixed by 4.0.1. I've reported a few bugs, but I'm still trying to work out reliable ways of reproducing some of them before I report them.

I said in my last post that I was inspired to start coding for KDE 4.0. Well, as usual, my inspiration has quickly waned as I moved into a new house and have more useful things to do at the moment, such as painting. So don't expect code from me any time soon.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Living with KDE 4.0

Surprisingly enough, no one has flamed me yet for being disappointed with the quality of KDE 4.0. I must try harder. I used to be able to attract flames much more easily.

Well, I've had KDE 4.0 on my machine for a day or so now, and I'm getting used to it. I've switched to running AIGLX so that I can use KWin's OpenGL mode instead of the XRender mode, and it's a lot more stable, although I can't run Google Earth any more. With the OpenGL rendering, the desktop look great, and the beauty of the desktop alone is probably enough to stop me switching back to KDE 3.5 at the moment. A few times I have clicked on a window only to have it completely disappear without warning - not sure what that's about. There are a few niggling little bugs in the behaviour of a few things, but I'm sure they'll get sorted in a minor release before too long. (Such as icon widgets not working with a graphics tablet, not being able to hide the plasma blob, konqueror not loading images or styles, etc.)

I am inspired to try writing some plasma applets to do things properly. And when I say properly, I mean how I want them to work. I've had a look at some of the source for existing stuff, and it looks relatively easy, so instead of writing any more of this, I'm now going to go off and write some code. Perhaps. If I can stop gazing at the beautiful desktop.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Giving 4.0 a go

So, KDE 4.0 is out, and I have installed it on my computer. I've had it on there for a while actually, in one form or another, but this is the first time I've used the actual released version, and the first time I've logged into my main account using it.

And what are my first impressions? Well, the first impressions are that it has, again, improved over the previous pre-release. A nice new wallpaper, a slightly sleeker panel, and a number 4 instead of a 3.97 or something.

My second impressions are that it's still very unstable, very unpolished and, to be honest, somewhere between an alpha and a beta in quality. I had been expecting the lack of features, as that was well advertised, but I had at least expected the released features to work. Anyway, I'm going to stick it out - it's going to stay on my computer for the next week at least, and I'll start writing bug reports., and looking forward to 4.0.1, or whatever comes next.