KDE Look Part 6: 4 Months In

I started using KDE in November of last year so I figured that I’d give an update on how things are working for me four months in.  First off, KDE 4.6.x has not yet hit the official Fedora repositories.  Since I like to yum upgrade or preupgrade from release to release, I try to stay with the official repos and RPMFusion.  So no KDE 4.6 for me.  At this rate, it doesn’t seem that it’s going to make it until around Fedora 15.  But, if that means they iron out any extra bugs, that’s fine with me.  So, with that said, let’s get to the info.

OVERALL, KDE 4.5 is nice and stable.  It’s not as buggy as the 3.5 series was (at least on Fedora).  That said, it has been a teensy bit buggier on the whole than Gnome.  It’s usually not too bad – it certainly hasn’t put me off KDE.  Since Amarok is separate from the KDE Software Compilation, we were updated to Amarok 2.4 in Fedora 14.  Now, I don’t know for sure that it’s linked, but it seems to have caused an issue with Plasma and the KDE 4 notification area.  Basically I’ll see some error in the notification about Amarok and it’s sql-lite database.  Then I’ll start getting a bunch of empty notifications.  They just have a picture of the KDE 4 cashew.  And when this is happening KDE becomes very slow to switch between desktops.  This doesn’t, to my knowledge, happen if I’m not running Amarok and it settles itself a while after I quit Amarok.  Again, I’m not sure if it’s coincidental because it doesn’t happen all the time if Amarok is running.  I’m just calling it like I see it.  That is a bit annoying for me because I like having things distributed across a bunch of virtual desktops and I almost always have Amarok playing music.  Amarok itself hasn’t been very crashy.  It has crashed once or twice when I’ve tried to switch tracks a few times.  But it hasn’t lost the data it had collected since I’d last run it, so it wasn’t too bad.  I still enjoy using it as my everyday music player.

Choqok has been the crashiest of all my KDE apps.  I’m not sure what happened, but ever since going from .9 to 1.0 it’s become a lot more unstable.  It’ll die as soon as I start it up.  And I know there are tons of other people reporting this bug to bugzilla. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s probably the content of someone’s tweet or dent that’s crashing it.  I say this because I’ll restart it after a crash over and over again and it’ll keep crashing, but a few hours later it’ll work.  Perhaps the offending tweet or dent has fallen off the edge.  I’m not sure.  This is really the only KDE program that has really annoyed me.

Kontact was annoyingly crashing a lot when I was in the feed reader and then losing track of all the feeds I’d read since last startup.  But then it got updated to 4.4 and it became a LOT more stable.  It’s been great using it for all its components.  It is so much more stable than it used to be in the late 3.5/early 4.x days.  The only thing that sucks is that in a move that somehow made it more stable, they had to get rid of the special dates section from the bottom of the summary page.  I was using that to remember all sorts of family and friend birthdays that I just can’t memorize.  I hope it comes back in the update for KDEPIM that got kept out of 4.6.1 because it was too buggy.

I stopped using Compiz back when I was using Gnome.  It was just too buggy and it didn’t give me much benefit once I got over windows having inertia.  There’s a vocal group on the nets that complain about Gnome 3 not having Compiz, about Compiz not working well with KDE and so on.  Xfce, if I remember correctly, was the first majer DE to incorporate a native compositor.  I think that was the right way to go.  It helps things to be more tightly coupled.  I love KDE’s compositor.  It’s nice and subtle – I set it to have a fade in/out between virtual desktops.  I use some transparancy effects on my Konversation window so I can see the background image behind it.  And that’s perfect.

Now that I can have different plasmoids per vitual desktop, I’ve really started to make use of them. You can see an example here.  I’ve changed it a little bit recently now that I have two widescreen monitors instead of a square and a widescreen one.  A lot of people seem to be into system monitors, but I rarely need to know those things.  And if I do, a quick run of “top” will let me know what I need to know.  I don’t need bars and graphs for the sake of animating a desktop I rarely see.  I use the last.fm plasmoid as an easy way to verify that scrobbling is working.  It’s helped me diagnose issues and also be able to tell that scrobbles are happening without having to load up the browser and get to last.fm.  I love the “now playing” widget.  At least I think that’s what it’s called.  It integrates with Amarok perfectly.  Sure, I can go back and forth between tracks using Amarok’s systray icon, but that requires more clicks.  (Right-click then left-click)  Also, the systray icon doesn’t let me scrub to any point in the song or change the Amarok volume level.  It’s also quicker to see the track’s title and artist if it’s a song I’m unfamiliar with.  The weather widget is, of course, useful for knowing the weather without having to load up a website.  The character map widget is useful for my webcomic work so I can select non-ASCII text.  And the Google Translate widget is also used for my webcomic.  The folder view widgets are self-explanatory.

The other widgets I use are the KGet and KTorrent plasmoids.  KTorrent, its plasmoid, and KDE integration have gotten me off of Deluge.  (Still my top pick for a gtk system!)  The plasmoid is a great at-a-glance look at all the important info.  Not seen in the screenshot on the post I linked to before is the fact that it includes that graph you’ve seen in every torrent program that fills in the bits of the file it’s grabbed until it’s a solid bar.  Now, this doesn’t matter to me because I only torrent legal stuff like Linux distros, but it also tells you your share ratio.  I know in the past that some of those sites that peddle shadier content have ratio restrictions.  After all, since the activity is illegal in most developed countries (thanks to US trade bullying) they don’t want you grabbing the data without sharing some of the risk.  Otherwise, you’re being a jerk.  (Even I agree with that)  So requirements range from having a 1.0 ration (you’ve shared the entire file that you’ve downloaded) to 2.0 (you’ve shared it to two people – or the equivalent data transfer).  For me it’s a matter of pride when I’ve shared out a Linux distro to a 1.0 or greater ratio because I’ve helped take the load off of their download servers and saved them money.

KGet is a great download manager for KDE.  I’d like to see a little more work done on it.  It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, enable functionality equivalent to “Download them all!” which is the first program to make download managers relevant again now that we have broadband.  After all, the only point I ever saw in download managers was the ability to resume downloads so that you didn’t have to restart your download from scratch if the connection was dropped.  This is a good time to segueway into Chrome integration into KDE.  There isn’t any.  This means that the dialog box is GTK and needs double-clicks while KDE needs single-clicks.  And it doesn’t have the folders you’ve bookmarked in Dolphin.  Overall, that’s not a biggie.  But I haven’t figured out how to get it to use KGet for its downloading.  So the workaround has been to make it so that KGet watches the clipboard for URLs and then asks to download them.  This has only worked varying degrees of success.  Sometimes websites are setup so that you can’t see the actual path to the file you’re grabbing.  In those cases I can’t get KGet to grab the file.  Another problem, but I’m not sure what the culprit is, is when using the URL copy method to get files it stops responding for a while until a few files have downloaded and then keeps asking if I want to save.  That’s dumb.  I want to set everything to d/l and then go have dinner; not have to keep coming back every few minutes to hit save!  Now, I know I could use Konqueror, especially now that the webkit backend can be used.  But if I do that I end up losing the bookmark, settings, etc sync between all of my Chrome-running computers.  So I’m not sure what the solution is there.

Finally, I started using Yakuake. Yakuake is a terminal that drops from the top of the screen whenever you need it.  This has replaced my usage of Konsole in nearly every situation.  I also love that I can bring it up on any virtual desktop to check on the status of the command I ran.

So, in general, I’m still loving KDE.  I hate that I can’t use it at work.  It makes everything about using a computer a pleasure.  I love that I’ve been able to customize it to my specific needs and I look forward to doing that even more once KDE 4.6 lands in Fedora and I can make better use of Activities.  It makes me really feel that Gnome 3 and its rigidity is probably not for me.  I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do radical customization of my desktops.  But I do like to make it work for my unique situation.  I’m going to reserve final judgement until I get to use it.  Who knows, maybe it sucks me into its madness.  But somehow I doubt that will be the case.  I’m really loving KDE too much.

Author: Eric Mesa

To find out a little more about me, see About Me

4 thoughts on “KDE Look Part 6: 4 Months In”

  1. Hi,
    have you tried PCLinuxOS 2010?
    The KDE desktop is well supported.
    The updates come into the repo almost each week.
    So, you are not going to have the problems that fedora has.
    Regards,
    Michael

  2. I use KDE exclusively and use it at work too. However, my problem is that KDE does not integrate very well with MS protocols. For example:

    Kontact has no real Exchange integration. I am forced to use plain old IMAP. This means I have no integration with GAL or Calendar at work. I can accept meeting invites but my calendar is not visible to others.

    Similarly, my company uses MS Office Communicator but Kopete does not have a plugin for it. I am forced to fallback on pidgin for it.

    Working with proxies in KDE is not easy either. I cannot use automatic proxy URL as it brings the entire desktop to its knees. I have to use manual proxy settings which don’t work very well for most of my intranet sites. Result: I am forced to use firefox. Konqueror, rekonq and even Chromium have trouble because they use KDE’s native proxy settings.

    Less said about KOffice and MS Office integration, the better! Fortunately, LibreOffice is good enough here.

    Same goes for SMB protocol. It is not intuitive to connect to Windows boxes around the office.

    KDE needs to get traction on making it business and corporate office friendly! 4.6 has plenty of bling and bells and whistles already. We need some serious thought from KDE devs in the area of office/workplace integration.

Comments are closed.