Photojojo for Late March to Early April

It’s once again time for my biweekly Photojojo post.  For those of you who haven’t been following my blog for a long time, Photojojo is a digital time capsule service.  Every two weeks they send me an email that has my most interesting photos posted to flickr from one year ago.

The biggest takeaway which is SOOOOO crazy is how much Scarlett has changed in just 1 year.  Only 365 days.  And she looks COMPLETELY different!

Snoozing

Tio Daniel's Frankenstein Head

Post Bath Mohawk Even More Drastic than Last Time

Looking at Grandpa

I thought all my Photojojo entries for 2013 (consisting of 2012 photos) would be Scarlett, but then there was this screenshot I posted.

2012-04-06 kde desktop all main desktops

It was the 3 desktop backgrounds on the virtual desktops on my Main Activity. I was posting it in hopes of having it featured on a website.

KDE in Spanish Revisited

Around a year ago I decided to KDE in Spanish to learn some technical terms. Back then I was using GDM, but now I’m using KDM. I didn’t see a way to set the language! How would I change the language to Spanish? I took a look online and found instructions. I’m going to reproduce them here for others. The great thing about the way that KDE handles things vs the way that Gnome does is that you can set a fallback language. When might this be useful? Let’s take a Vietnamese computer user. Vietnamese people (at least of a certain age) tend to be fluent in Vietnamese and French with some familiarity with English. So a Vietnamese person could set his computer to Vietnamese with a fallback to French for any programs that didn’t have translations into Vietnamese. As usual, I LOVE the level of customization in the KDE desktop.

Changing kde language - system preferences
Go to locale in system preferences

 

Changing kde language - languages
Select the languages to use. They will be used in the order you put them in here

 

And once you do that, each program launched from that point on will have those language options.

Oh, and, PS, Choqok works in Spanish now.

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.

Developing my first plasmoid Part 1

I have three main hobbies: photography, my webcomic and programming.  After spending a year working on my 365 Project, I’ve been taking a lot less photos as that part of my brain takes a break.  After working with Dan to get the story for INM worked out through May of this year and working on strips that will appear this March, I wanted to take a bit of a break from that.  The one bit of code I wrote for myself that I use on a daily basis is my flickr views code.

I’m involved in a series of groups on flickr where you place photos based on the amount of views they have.  Some people refuse to participate because they see it as a form of bragging.  I like using it because it’s the simplest way I know of tracking how my photos are doing.  When I see a photo is ready to move to the 200 views group, I know that photo has at least 200 views.  And it’s been very interesting to see my photos progress through the groups.  For example, some photos I shot this October during Halloween in NYC already have 500 views, like this one:

Katy Perry's Too Tasty to Resist
Not too surprised, except a bit about why it doesn't have even more views

Other photos have been in my stream for nearly a year and are just getting to 100 views.  In a lot of ways, it’s those photos that make me really enjoy the process.  In much the same way as the Photojojo time capsules that I post here twice a month, it’s a way to revisit photos I’d forgotten even taking and enjoying them again.  (Or wondering what I was thinking)  So, I wrote a commandline script I wrote that lets me know when it’s time for a photo to advance to the next group.  I first mentioned it back in 2008 (almost exactly 3 years ago) when I first came up with it.  The next logical extension was to create a script to add photos into the groups as they reach 25 views (the smallest group).  And I did that in March of 2008.  Finally, I created a web app to share it with others.  I know at one point a lot of people on flickr were using it and it even was making up a huge portion of my non-blog server traffic.  I think it may be seeing less use nowadays with people moving onto some more AJAXy, fancy sites, but it still accounted for 218 hits so far this month.

Things have been good and I haven’t made too many changes to it in the past three years.  I had to do a bit of a change to the XML parser after the API I was using changed, but that’s all.  And, ever since some time last year or so, I can just click on the URL in either Gnome Terminal or KDE’s Konsole to load up the images into my web browser so I can move it into the new group and out of the old one.  I probably could figure out some way to automate that too, but I couldn’t think of a nice elegant way.

Ever since I got back into KDE in Nov of last year, I’d been thinking of perhaps making a plasma widget to do this.  This would allow me to more easily automate the moving of photos into groups (via a button) and also allow for some graphics.  Plus it was an idea for a plasmoid that wasn’t yet another system monitor or weather app.  I’m not sure how many people out there are in the subset of KDE users in the subset of Linux users in the subset of Views groups users of flickr.  But even if it’s just useful for me, it’d make me happy.  However, I knew that GUI programming was hard, so I put it off into the future.

Recently the wife wanted to go to JoAnne’s so I went to Borders and the latest issue of Linux Format Magazine (which I used to be subscribed to) had a QT programming example.  I bought the issue solely for that.  It had this neat tutorial on QT Quick which is this semi-new prototyping language based on Javascript.  In just a few lines of code (less than 100 for sure), Graham Chapman showed how to create a program that would take a geo feed from flickr and map the photos onto Google.  It’s pretty amazing!  Check out the screenshot of the one I made:

My RSS Geo Program based on Linux Format Magazine Code
My RSS Geo Program based on Linux Format Magazine Code

That’s pretty cool.  But I already had my flickr program written in Python and I understood how python worked so much better than this new language I’d never heard of before now.  So I decided that I would design my Plasmoid in Python.  God, what a nightmare!

First of all, according to the documentation (which does tend to be out of date when it comes to FLOSS), you can’t use QT designer to make your GUI for a plasmoid.  So I had to try and figure out how to make my GUI from scratch with very sketchy and very few examples available for Python.  Usually, like [most?] programmers, I look for code that does this or that function that I want so I can use that to learn how it works.  Just trying to figure out how to clear the screen and stuff like that was such a pain.

I was very lucky to have notsmart, aseigo, and einer77 slowly work over things with me while I tried to figure this out.  In the end I decided that the best thing would be to have tabs instead of trying to clear the screen.  It took me 8 or so hours to come up with this:

flickr views main screen
flickr views main screen
flickr views results screen
flickr views results screen

I was DARN PROUD of having come that far.  Shoot!  I didn’t know jack about QT GUI coding and barely anything about GUI programming in general.  I had done it – I had ….. I had something that was less functional than the CLI.  At least with the commandline I could click on the URL and get to the webpage.  I couldn’t even do that much with my plasmoid.

And there are the stupid headaches involved in QT programming.  For example, when you click a button, you can’t pass any arguments to the method/function you call.  It’s maddening.  When I thought of the work I had yet to do in order to get the plasmoid to where I wanted it to be and how easy QML had been, I realized this was not the way to go.

Aaron Seigo had suggested as much as he helped me work my way through the Python code (of course this was in hour 6 so I wasn’t ready to throw away the previous six hours of work just yet).  Of course, I also had to separate the data out into a dataengine.  Right now, the data is looked up when the user clicks the button.  For users like me that have over 1600 photos in a group, the performance is unacceptable.  And, I hadn’t even handled what to do when the API is unavailable.

I’m not an elegant programmer in the best of times (I enjoy it, but I’m def no prodigy like the kids I went to college with) and I was learning GUI programming as I went along so this code probably looks like crap compared to how it should, but I want to attach a link to my code here so that if someone is trying to make a plasmoid GUI in Python, they at least have something to work from.

Click here to see it.

Just comment out the flickr-specific stuff.  I can’t upload that because I haven’t sanitized it yet.  For comparison purposes, here’s the main code from the RSS reader (missing the delegate code)

Click here to see it.

So, Aaron suggested that Python and QML can be combined with KDE 4.6 libraries.  Unless I understood something incorrectly about what LXF said was needed to do their QT Quick coding tutorial, I have the QT 4.7 libraries or something like that on my computer.  Anyway, last night as I was going to sleep and this morning as I woke up, I saw in my head some of the ways in which doing the interface in QML would make my life so much easier.  It seemed to do for interfaces what Python does for arrays – make them easier to work with by having lists, tuples, etc as primitives rather than concepts sandwiched onto arrays.

So my current plan of attack is to generate some fake data to get a GUI working (and I think I’m going to go with a completely different layout for the GUI).  And I’ll make a couple dummy groups on flickr to test the ability to add and remove from groups.  One thing I need to deal with before unleashing to the public is the fact that only 5 photos may be added to each group per day.  I need to make sure I handle the errors correctly.  I also need to work on this dataEngine that will provide the data for the Plasmoid.  I envision having the data already pulled so that there isn’t a delay for the user of the Plamoid except on first loading.  But, since plasmoids tend to live on the desktop, hopefully by the time the user gets around to polling the plasmoid for data, it’ll be there.

 

As of now I’m not sure if I’m going to post updates on my interim progress, but I’ll be sure to post when I’ve got the final Plasmoid working.

KDE Look Part 4: Fixing things with a little help from my Friends

Sure, it’s a tired and cliche phrase, but hurray for the wisdom of the crowd.  I’ve received comments on identi.ca, twitter, and in the comments here with answers to nearly all my problems with KDE.  Let’s see if I can get them all to work.  First off, I was told that my problem with Konversation not getting my password in time to keep me from being signed into the fedora-unregistered could be solved by setting the password as a server password.  Alright!  That worked!  woohoo!  Before I’d had it set to just run the /msg identify command.

Second, getting Facebook to work in Kopete.  Kofler, who also contributed the tip above, linked me to some pages.  I decided to try this one first.  Essentially you add a jabber account with the username of yourfacebooklogin@chat.facebook.com and uncheck everything in the connection tab.  yourfacebooklogin = your profile’s URL (minus the facebook.com part).

For Akgregator, I wanted to be able to see each of Dan’s posts inside Akgregator without launching a tab.  Going to the advanced setting of his feed worked in getting it to load.  However, it did not load videos.  To do that I had to load it in a separate tab.  So it somewhat works.  If it’s text-only then you’re good.  Otherwise….perhaps there’s some other setting to tick?

This next one’s a bit tricky.  I had to hunt all over bugzilla to figure it out.  In the summary page of Kontact I would see my TODO items duplicated.  It would also print with duplicate TODO items.  In the actual TODO page it was not duplicated.  WTF?  My clue was that when I added stuff to the TODO list it had two resources listed.  So there were bugs from KDE 3.x where you had to delete duplicate entires in $HOME/.kde/share/config/kresources/notes/stdrc.  But there was not a duplicate entry for me.  So I finally found this bug that explained it.  Comment #9 had the instructions I needed.

There were two of these.  Delete the one that's not bold
There were two of these. Delete the one that's not bold

And then it worked!  Yay!  I’ll be sure to report back here if it doesn’t survive a reboot or something like that.

Another thing I mentioned last time was that it seemed at though having my dynamic playlist only look ten songs ahead seemed to mean I could come up with duplicate songs.  In the week and one half that I’ve been using Amarok I’ve had two songs come up twice.  That’s not too bad considering I’ve heard somewhere between 75 and 125 songs in that time.  (Based on my daily avg on last.fm and my knowledge of how much I’ve been using it in the past 10 or so days)  I ended up coming up with the following solution, I used a proportional bias with playcount equal to zero and set it to 80%.  Why not 100%?  I wanted to see how things were affected by me going through more and more of my playlist and leaving Amarok with less and less new songs.

Amarok 2 Dynamic Playlist Proportional Bias
Amarok 2 Dynamic Playlist Proportional Bias

I wanted to add another stipulation so that it would also tend to favor my most recently added songs.  That way I could have more of a chance of hearing stuff I’ve just added to the library.  Unfortunately, that did not appear to be a condition I could match against.

Well, that takes care of all the problems I was having so far.  Thanks to everyone who responded in the comments and on identi.ca.  I *did* find a bug with the TODO list where it can’t print more than one page worth of TODO items.  That is very annoying.  However, someone’s already filed a bug on it.  I just added a “me too”.  It didn’t seem to have much work on it.  Perhaps no one else prints their TODO lists but the two of us?  (Or at least no one with that many tasks)  Next up I’ll be taking a look at how KOffice stacks up.  With the big American Thanksgiving holiday coming up I probably won’t get to it until Monday, but I’ve already done a lot of the background work ahead of time so perhaps it will be up before then.

KDE 4 Look Part 3: A Week of KDE 4.5

So I’ve used KDE for about a work week.  During that time I’ve pretty much gone to using the KDE versions of all my programs except Konqueror.  I’m not sure if the Fedora 14 version of Konqueror is the one with Webkit, but last time I used Konqueror with KHTML it was mucking up a bunch of web pages including my blog.  So I stuck with Google Chrome, which is what i use on Gnome, LXDE (Lubuntu on my laptop), and on my Windows 7 install.  (Also, I stuck with gPodder for podcasts because that’s working perfectly)  So how did it go?  First of all, I love the stock screenshot tool in KDE, KSnapshot.  I love that lets me choose full screen, region, window under cursor, and section of Window.  With Gnome I hit print screen and then I have to edit the png in the GIMP.  So it gives me less work for my Linux-related blogging.
I mentioned it last time, but I’m really liking the integration of everything into the info icon so I can go back and see what’s happened – really liking it.  Here’s a sample of the types of notifications in here:
KDE 4.5 info
KDE 4.5 info
If you click on the “x” you can dismiss the message.  It’s also neat that you can click on the buttons on the bottom there and divide it up by the service that’s causing the notifications.  I really do love that a LOT more than the system as implemented in Gnome in Fedora 14.  (And all previous versions that have had the Ubuntu look-a-like notifications).

I’m still really loving Amarok.  So, to expound on what I wrote a few days ago, although I’m still really loving the dynamic playlist.  I’ve been hearing songs I haven’t heard in ages.  However, I think I have a better understanding of how the dynamic playlists work now.  I have it set to 10 songs at a time and one song came up twice.  That’s only happened once so far.  But, perhaps, once a song falls off the five songs I have on the back end it gets put back into the pile?  Statistically I should almost never come up with the same song again because I have so many, but I will on occasion come across a song again.  Am I right about the way it works?  What’s the reason not to tell it to compute the next 1000 songs or save the last 1000 songs?  I was also thinking, and this is nothing against Amarok – it would be the same with any of the music players, but when I have this awesome random playlist in which I’m trying to get through all my music, if I wanted to listen to a specific song, I’d have to lose the playlist.  At least that’s the way it feels.

So, I’ve been using Kontact for all the built-in programs.  As I mentioned before, I really like the summary page when it starts up.  I was ready to say that the Kmail component doesn’t properly thread my email while Evolution does.  Turns out that I had to go to View->Message List->Aggregation to fix that.  Looking through the sort menu (appears above aggregation) you can see the awesome configurability of KDE programs.  You can REALLY have your mail sorted the way you want.   I’m not 100% sure I got it the way I wanted, but KDE’s help system is severely broken in my install of Fedora 14.  I need to do some research to see if I have some package uninstalled.  The only other complaint I’ve had is that emails that are starred on Gmail appear green and not red when they’re unread.  So it’s hard to see if I’ve read them yet.  I’m about 75% sure about that – I don’t have any examples right now in my inbox.  What I do like about the way Kontact organizes email is that it’s similar to Outlook by dividing my emails by day:

KDE 4.5 - Kontact - kmail
KDE 4.5 - Kontact - kmail

The calendar part of Kontact works perfectly with the Google Calendar.  It adds it to my summary page and gives me pop-ups when necessary.  I wasn’t able to figure out how to export my TODO list to Kontact, so I haven’t been using it.  But I played around with it a bit.  It looks like it was modeled after a slimmed MS Project or whatever Gnome’s Project-equivalent is (KPlato in KOffice).  I’m pretty stoked that you can assign sub-tasks.  This might revolutionize the way I do TODO lists.

I haven’t used the feed reader part of Kontact too much.  It’s an integration of Akgregator.  In the past it’s been very crashy.  From what I’ve used so far, it seems pretty pretty good.  There’s an interesting discrepancy in the displayed webpage, however.  Here’s a page from Dan’s blog on Akgregator:

Kontact's Akgregator displaying Dan's page
Kontact's Akgregator displaying Dan's page

Here’s the same page in Liferea – my second favorite gtk program:

Liferea displaying Dan's page
Liferea displaying Dan's page

So what’s the reason for the discrepancy?  I looked around in the options and I couldn’t figure out how to make it act like Liferea.  It’s not a game killer, but it could really sour me on Akgregator after a few weeks of that crap.  If anyone has any help, provide it in the comments.  Thanks!

I would just use the KDE uBlog Plasmoid, but I would need one plasmoid each for Twitter and Identica.  So I did some research and found out that Chokoq is the KDE version of Gwibber, which I love on Gnome.  So, first the deficiencies.  Unless I do a quick post, I can only send to one service at a time.  Gwibber, by contrast lets me send to all my services at the same time.  Since I usually post to both places, that’s a bit annoying.  Also, Gwibber has had Facebook integration for a while.  I’m not all that into Facebook, but I *do* like being able to post stuff there.  I also use it to keep up with my friends’ feeds without having to visit the stupid website.  Now what I like.  My favorite feature of Chokoq and, perhaps, the killer app is the fact that it lets me know which notices are unread (white in the following screenshot):

Choqok 1.0 Beta 4
Choqok 1.0 Beta 4

Most of the time I’m enjoying Choqok without noticing that I’m not using Gwibber.  The main developer has decided to have a system where you can request new features and he sets a donation target to work on that feature.  Overall, this is great – it’s what rms said the future of programming would be once we commoditized software.  However, I find it a bit worrisome in the way I perceive it happening on Choqok.  After all, does this mean no features are developed if no one pays the full bounty?  I see some features there that have been stuck with half their donation amounts for the past few months.  Does this mean those features don’t ever get implemented?  I guess what it allows for is someone else to just do it all for free and then Choqok loses all their users.  I’m not against software developers making money via donations.  Or, in this case, payment for features.  I’m just not sure it’s progressing in the right way as I understand it from the Choqok website.

So, I got some info in a dent that NEPOMUK is going to be better integrated with Dolphin in the next release.  That said, I wanted to see what the results of all the freakin’ indexing would lead to.  So I decided to search for Girl Talk songs.  I know that those particular files have the proper metadata because they show up properly in Rhythmbox.  And I know that the artist’s name is not in the filename since it’s not a track I ripped off a CD.  NEPOMUK and Dolphin failed to find it:

In KDE 4.5 NEPOMUK and Dolphin search fails to find Girl Talk songs
In KDE 4.5 NEPOMUK and Dolphin search fails to find Girl Talk songs

I know that it must be looking inside of the text-based file formats because the Discworld PDFs don’t have those words in the filename.  So, I decided to try the Strigi search program in case it I needed that to specify MP3 metadata.  Here’s what I got:

Impotent Strigi-client
Impotent Strigi-client

None of the buttons appear to do – when I press them nothing happens.  When I type to search it doesn’t even find as much as NEPOMUK and Dolphin.  If I’m doing something wrong, feel free to let me know.

So now I move to looking at Kopete.  As you know, I recently switched to Empathy from Pidgin.  I didn’t find it to be immensely better, but I liked the theming and the Gnome integration.  What I don’t like about Kopete off the bad is that it’s a lot harder than in Empathy to tell people’s status if you allow their buddy icon to show.

kopete-buddy-list
Kopete buddy-list

I’m still not a huge fan of how the away status is separate from the message.  It’s quite a bit trickier to tell what’s going on with that.  However, given the decrease in the use of the status message due to the rise of micro-blogging, it’s not as important.  Most of the time a simple away is fine.  I just wish it were more intuitive if I *did* want to put a message.  Finally, unlike Empathy, it does not have Facebook integration.  With Chokoq I didn’t mind it as much because most of the time I don’t keep up that much with Facebook statuses.  Although I don’t have that many friends, I have enough of them that I can’t read them all or that’s all I’d be doing all day.  But I *do* want Facebook chat.  At lot of people I know, especially older people, only have a FB account.  They don’t have AIM or Gmail or the others.  So it’s the only way I can talk to them.  So, Kopete guys – let’s get some Facebook chat going on!

For IRC I’ve been using Konversation.  I find that it works just as well as Xchat-Gnome.  I use IRC here and there so I’m not too picky about my IRC client.

Konversation in KDE 4.5
Konversation in KDE 4.5

There’s only one issue with Konversation.  With both Xchat-Gnome and Konversation I have it setup to auto-log me in (provide password) and sign into the rooms I always go into.  Yet, with Konversation it adds me to the rooms BEFORE it authenticates my nick.  So I’m always dumped into #Fedora-unauthorized and then have to rejoin Fedora.  So I have to do some research to see if I can set a delay or something.

I’m enjoying Plasmoids.  They’re definitely neater than SuperKaramba – especially since they’re so integrated into everything.  I added both of the [default installated] weather plasmoids to see which one I’d like.  I ended up with some interesting results.

Weather Plasmoids
Weather Plasmoids

They’re both using wetter.com and they both have exactly the same city listed.  The one on the right is correct.  The one on the left is….very much not.  Anyway, I have some exploration to do over time to figure out which Plasmoids are useful and something I’d like to keep on the desktop.

I haven’t gotten into activities yet.  So far I haven’t seen a need for it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t in the future.

Kpackagekit appears to be set to find updates a lot more often than Gnome’s Packagekit.  I’ve certainly updated more in this week than I have in Gnome.  And I know that the Gnome one doesn’t check that often because there’ve been times when Pup hasn’t alerted me but when I do a yum check-update I see that there are updates to install.  I like it although I think it’d be nice if they also used the package metaphor to help keep it nice and easy to see what’s installed or selected to be installed.  Otherwise it’s been a pleasure using it to do installations.  It actually appears to search the repos more quickly than the Gnome version.

Now, I can’t remember if this comes from a Fedora package I installed, but GTK apps in KDE use KDE native icons, themes, etc.  I love it!  Back in the bad old days, it sucked to use GTK applications in KDE because they looked so ugly and out of place.  Sure, some programs out there use wxwidgets and still look ugly and out of place, but the majority of the major programs out there either use GTK or KDE-QT for their widgets and icons and so on.  Look how nice and integrated gPodder looks:

gPodder with KDE look/feel
gPodder with KDE look/feel

So, after about a week of using KDE 4.5, what do I think?  Well, I really like it!  For now it’s going to be my default desktop environment on Super Mario.  I’m going to take advantage of all the little things that KDE does better than Gnome and see if the things I don’t like about KDE can either be tolerated or fixed with future updates – or maybe even commenters who will tell me what I’m doing wrong.  I used to use KDE 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 as I’ve mentioned before.  At some point, the memory needs of KDE and its excessive tendency to crash (when compared with Gnome) drove me away.  I went back and forth between Gnome, Xfce and the *box window managers.  Perhaps I’m now back to stay for good.  Only time will tell.  And, of course, I’ll re-evaluate things when Gnome 3.0 comes out.  But, until then, I think I’m KDE all the way!

To anyone who’s wondered about the KDE 4.x series or who thinks they need to move on to Trinity:  I think you need to check out KDE 4.5.  I’m very happy with the way it’s been handled in Fedora 14.  (Your mileage may vary when it comes to other distros)  Although I always tried to make sure I was very nice and fair in the way I did it, I definitely expressed my disappointment in earlier KDE 4.x releases.  It is super customizable now.  I made a disappearing, tiny panel on my right monitor that only contains launchers for my favorite programs.  And I put it on the top of my screen.  Overall, the programs and DE are very stable.  This entire week I only had Kontact die on me once.  Up until a recent series of fixes with Evolution – it was dying on me nearly every time I added a task to the TODO list.  It does appear to need a bit more RAM thank some of the others DEs and WMs.  So depending on how much of a gear head you are and how much money you have for computer tech, that might be an issue.  But KDE is SO customizable that I’ve barely scratched the surface – discovering new options in my attempts to make sure I scoured every option before complaining that a program wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.  So perhaps if you turn off all the special effects and make some other customizations it can also be very light.  But definitely give it a shot.  Don’t hang onto the past just because you’re afraid of change.

Customizing the Look of the OS

I forgot what post online got me thinking about this stuff, but I really don’t customize my computers’ desktop environments much.  Generally, I tend to change the background image and leave it at that.  I took a look over my desktop image gallery here on the blog to confirm my suspicions.

Starting at the bottom with Windows, you can see that until 2009 I was just going with the default look.  I tended not to add launchers to my panel because, with Windows XP, it ended up really limiting the space for listen the open programs.  I also didn’t have too many launchers on the desktop.  I tend to always have programs maximised if I’m in front of the computer, so the only programs shortcuts I’d leave on the desktop are programs I’d be likely to launch upon starting up the computer.  In fact, whenever I pay attention, I tell the installer not to put icons on the desktop.

Around 2009 I read about a themer for XP that I thought about trying because the default panel was starting to feel a bit Playskool.  It was OK, if a bit incomplete.  It caused some dialogs not to display properly, but I didn’t care too much, at least it wasn’t full of primary colours anymore.

And, with Windows 7, I haven’t done any customization either, other than removing some of the pinned icons that I didn’t care for (like Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer).

Windows 7 22 Oct 2010
Windows 7 22 Oct 2010

When it comes to Linux, there’s a lot more room for customization, but, for the most part, I didn’t do much.  With my Gnome desktops, the default install provides two panels, so I tend to fill up the top panel with tons of launchers.  Although I have tons of programs installed on my Linux computers because programs are free and storage is cheap, I tend to use the same programs daily.  So I added those programs’ launchers to the top panel.  Also, because I have more space and because, on Linux, they aren’t riddled with adware/spyware, I tend to have weather notifications and other things on my panel.

Gnome Desktop 22 oct 2010
Gnome Desktop 22 oct 2010

There was a time when I was really into KDE (which I’ll get to in a moment) and so I looked for a widget system on Gnome.  I found gDesklets, although they were never quite as supported and varied as SuperKaramba on KDE.  My first attempt produced chaos on the desktop:

I had RSS feeds, daily Bible verses, the weather, and flickr photos.  After realizing that I pretty much never look at the desktop, I trimmed it a bit.

But, as you can see a few images above, I don’t have any of that on my current desktop.  I just haven’t found any that provide any important info or justify taking up compute cycles.  A quick mention of Xfce where I just added a few launchers and mostly kept things the same.

KDE was my Linux desktop environment of choice for a number of years.  Because it’s so easily customisable, I did the most customising here.  Even then, you’ll see, it wasn’t all that much.  The earliest screenshot I’ve preserved has a modified icon theme (easy as a few clicks in the settings menu) and some SuperKaramba widgets.

There are TONS of widgets (or were) for SuperKaramba on kde-look.org.  ( http://kde-look.org/ )  But it seemed, to me, that 90% of them were weather and system monitor widgets with different themes. As you can see, I picked the ones that I liked and just stuck with those during my entire KDE tenure.  I found the system monitor to be mostly pointless – although, at the time, I was using Linux on a very resource limited computer, so seeing the RAM usage was very important at times.  I didn’t get into system monitors again until I discovered Conky with CrunchBang (more on that later).  I never added too many launchers because KDE, having one panel, had the same problem as Windows.  It was somewhat lessened by having multiple desktops.  (There’s no reason why I couldn’t have had at least four panels….I just never customised it, and that’s the whole point)  About six months after the first KDE screenshot, I had made a few modifications:

I made the taskbar transparent (something that took until Windows 7 for MS to enable) and shrunk it a bit to be more like Xfce.  I don’t know why I cared, but basically this was the essence of cool at the time.  All the kitted out KDE desktops I saw had this reduced taskbar.  I also switched to the default KDE icons.  I did like that my home folder was a house.  And, when I temporarily went back to KDE in 2006, I pretty much left it the same.

KDE 4 has the extra benefit, that the plasmoids tend to actually do something rather than just be passive information presenters.  They can be microblogging clients, periodic tables and tons of other useful things.  Here’s what I’ve setup.  I haven’t customized it too much since I don’t currently use KDE on a daily basis.

KDE 22 oct 2010
KDE 22 oct 2010

For a time I switched over to using Fluxbox.  As I mentioned before, I was on a very low powered box for my first Linux desktop, so using Gnome or KDE made my other programs crawl.  This tendency carried over when I first moved to my eMachine box.  At first my only frill was the gKrellm system monitor.

Later I thought it would be cool (and probably l33t) to run everything from the commandline.

I also, made sure to use eterm so I could have a transparent terminal and a neat background (not pictured in any of my screenshots) And that was the pinnacle of what I did.  Eventually, I put Crunchbang Linux on my laptop and used Conky.  That system manager was actually useful because I configured it to tell me about the wifi networks I was connected to and whether I had an IP address.  That made it very convenient when I was using wifi networks while traveling.  I never took a screenshot while I had Crunchbang customised, but if you take this image from the installation:

and this Lubuntu screenshot from my current laptop installation.  The only thing I’d change is to install and customize Conky.

Lubuntu 22 oct 2010
Lubuntu 22 oct 2010

So, before I go any deeper, I thought I’d give some examples of how others *do* customise their desktops.

First some Windows desktops:

Now Some Linux Desktops:

So, it’s quite possible to take things to the extreme.  A lot of those look cool – to me anyway.  So what keeps me from doing something like that?  One part of it is the fact that I’m ADD when it comes to desktop configuration.  I like to change things up all the time (which used to piss off my dad back when I was a kid and there was one computer for the family) so I tend to favor things that aren’t too complex to set up.  So, I enabled the desktop background switcher in Windows and I’ve used similar things on Linux before.  I also like reversibility.  I’ve been burned before by customization programs that were nigh impossible to revert back to the defaults.  This, coupled with point one helps to discourage customization – especially on Windows when you’re often depending upon a third party programmer.  Finally, because customization programs tend to be very powerful, they also tend to be a little complicated if you want to achieve something awesome.  So it sometimes seems a bit daunting and a bit of a waste of time when I have so many other things calling for my attention.

Another Look at KDE and Amarok Part 1

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be really excited about KDE.  It’s been a while since I last looked at KDE.  Well, technically, I couldn’t really do much there.  But there’s this time I was able to look at it.  Let me just say that I no longer agree that it’s uglier than Gnome.  Take a look:

My KDE 4.4 Desktop
My KDE 4.4 Desktop

At first I was confused because the desktop background was not carried over to my right monitor.  When I went to change the background I saw that they no longer put it all into one dialog.  You need to go to each screen and manually set the background.  While counterintuitive at first, it actually makes more sense this way.  You can see my micro-blogging widget, calculator widget, and some folder views.  The taskbar is looking nice and slick now.  The KDE version of the system try is looking really nice.  It has a very good slickness to it; to quote Aaron Seigo, “like something that might come out of Cupertino”.  My FAVORITE part of KDE 4.4 vs Gnome 2.30 is the little “i” i the right corner.  If you click there you can scroll back through all the system messages.  So, whereas you might miss that in Gnome if you’re looking somewhere else or away from the computer, you can easily find and review the messages in KDE.  At first the desktop was really slow and I thought “here we go again.  I’m going to have to once again write off KDE 4.x as useless.”  But it turns out that it was just Strigi/Nepomuk indexing my home folder.  It’d be a year or more since I last loaded KDE 4, so it had a lot to index.  When I also had some errors with Amarok (which I’m about to get to), I gave it a reboot in case KDE was having a fight with SELinux (as has happened in the past).  Anyway, when I came back, Strigi was done and KDE was much more responsive.  Konqueror had also been slow during the indexing, so I’ll want to test that in Part 2.  I took a look at my old friend, Kopete.  It was looking nice, if a bit cartoony compared to Pidgin.  I’ll also want to take a closer look in Part 2.  It didn’t support Facebook chat (as is supported in Pidgin via a plugin) which isn’t a killer, but it’s not good.  Perhaps there’s a plugin there too?  I’ll have to investigate that.  What I was most curious about was Amarok.  It was one of my biggest anchors to KDE back in the day and really my favorite music player.

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - Where's my music?

I’d added tons of new albums since I last used KDE.  Where were they?  This was a bit alarming.  It distracted me from noticing much else about the player.  I loaded up the local collection:

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - OK....seriously, why aren't you seeing my music?

There were artists and albums missing from here.  There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.  Some new albums were there and others weren’t.  Some Flacs were there and some OGGs were there.  I checked and it had all of my library set to index.  It said it was done!  And I checked all over the web.  But I couldn’t find an answer to my dilema.  Well, I decided to play with what I had to check out the new interface.

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - Lyrics
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - Checking out the Lyrics Plugin and new layout

First of all, it looks a lot nicer than earlier 2.x releases.  I’m not going to go as far as say that it looks as nice as the 1.4 release, because that was really nice, but it looks a LOT better.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the vocabulary to describe what was so offensive to my eyes with the early 2.x releases, but the best I can think of is that it felt cobbled together.  The plugins just didn’t feel as cohesive and it seemed to be held together by glue.  In a way, it was true because Amarok is one of the programs that best exemplified using all of the KDE tech – plasma, plugins, etc, but they didn’t hide it.  A clumsy building analogy – I shouldn’t see the plumbing, bricks, rafters as separate pieces – it should feel like a cohesive whole and I shouldn’t think about the components.  I think they were much more successful this time around.  Above you can see the lyrics plugin providing lyrics for a song.  One thing I really liked was the fact that by the previous and next tracks, it lists the name of the track.  Sure, it’s basically pointless because you can look at the playlist on the right and see what the current and next tracks are.  But I can appreciate the elegance – if your eyes are already on the next button why should they have to wander?  Also, perhaps you’ve scrolled around on the list and lost track of the current track.  This info can help you get your bearings.

Eventually at some point, I don’t remember if I closed Amarok, some of my most recent albums were picked up by the player.

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - Finally finds some of my new albums. Yeah, Danielle's been on a Disney soundtrack binge

OK, I thought.  Things are starting to pick up.  It’s starting to work correctly.  But it’s still missing my FAVORITE part from KDE – the stats!  So I looked through the available widgets/plugins and found the Current Track widget/plugin.  Surely that’s what I was looking for.  Except it claimed no track was playing although you can clearly see in the screenshot below that I am indeed playing a song.

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - No, there's definitely a song playing....

I wanted to double-check that Amarok knew a song was playing, so I clicked on the wikipedia tab.

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - Accessing Wikipedia

So it knew a song was playing and could get info based on that.  Let me take a quick aside to say that while this could be done in Amarok 1.4, this is much more elegantly handled.  Also, between the two music players I have experience with that can do this (Songbird and Amarok), I think Amarok handles it best and with less lag.  I think Banshee can do something like this, but I’m not into Banshee.  At this point I had pretty much given up on Amarok.  After all, it couldn’t find all of my library.  It didn’t know that songs where playing.  I just didn’t get the point of using it over Rhythmbox.  But, I’d been having some problems with KDE.  It was slow and Kontact had refused to launch.  Maybe I should give it another shot.  Maybe I needed to reboot so that SELinux or some other process would figured itself out.  So I rebooted.  I was very happy to see that KDE 4.4 was no longer so sluggish and that Amarok now found the missing songs!

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 - THERE"S my music library!

So, as I mentioned above, I’m 99% sure that the sluggishness was caused by Strigi.  Now, Strigi/Nepomuk was cataloging my music library.  Does Amarok use that or did that cause Amarok to be slow in indexing my music library?  If it was still indexing my music library, should it have told me it was done?  It didn’t matter because I was happy everything worked.  And I’m documenting it for others out there who may find themselves in the same predicament.

And there was even more good news!  Amarok now knew it was playing music!

Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4
Amarok 2.3.1 on KDE 4.4 finally figured out it's playing music

Conclusion?  If you put in a new widget/plugin, maybe you need to restart Amarok so it can be properly initialized?  Well, as Dan (my brother who was asking me about this today at lunch) can see, with the “Current Track” widget we finally see the triumphant return of stats!  Also, Dan, if you still have your Amarok 1.4 stats somewhere on your hard drive, you can import those into here.  I didn’t try it, but there’s a button for it.  You can also import from iTunes if you have been listening to your music on there.  (Just kidding, I know Dan uses some other music program because iTunes is crap!)  Why are these stats so important to Dan and I?  I have no bloody idea.  It’s just some strange consequence of the way our brains are wired and was the primary reason we loved to use Amarok back in the 1.4 days.  See that score there?  That’s the dynamic way to rate music.  It works a lot better than what I’ve had to do in Rhythmbox.  It scores 0-100 based on how often you play it.  So you don’t to go through your entire music collection to rate it, as I’ve tirelessly been doing.  Just let your playlist play and skip any songs you hate and they’ll sink in the ratings while the ones you like rise in the ratings.  At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work – how it worked in 1.4.  I was blindly rating songs because I’m used to that from the years-long Rhythmbox usage.  Let’s just say, I’m very psyched to further explore this when I do my KDE look part 2.

So I tried to launch Kontact again and it turned out that I had been blaming KDE for the reason it wouldn’t launch when it was really my fault.  In addition to doing in-place upgrades (supported in recent Fedoras, but not as clean as a wipe-install), I changed computers around a year ago when mario broke.  So KDE was confused because it had a lockfile (or something) active from mario and now I was on supermario.  So I told it not to worry and go ahead and launch Kontact.

Kontact on KDE 4.4 Summary Page
Kontact on KDE 4.4 Summary Page

Kontact opens up on a NICE summary page.  (Which I’ve mucked up because you have no business knowing where I’m going to be and when)  Anyway, I like it enough that I decided to investigate where Evolution can be set to do the same.  I couldn’t find how to set it just by looking in preferences.  Man, I couldn’t find it looking through help either.  It’s so nice and allows me to to see what I have coming up without having to seek it in the calendar mode.  This alone might be enough to make it worth switching.  I’ll have to investigate contact some more next time around.  Here’s what the email section looks like:

Kontact on KDE 4.4 Email Page
Kontact on KDE 4.4 Email Page

The biggest takeaway is that KDE is FINALLY stable.  I didn’t have one crash at all.  Ever since my KDE 3.5 days I’ve always found it to be very crashy and buggy.  And when I first looked at KDE 4.0 it was doubly so.  Now it seems usable.  Now I might change over to it.  We’ll see what I end up doing.  But I’ll definitely give it another look in a few days.

We Don’t Really Want Innovation

Innovation is one of those things we pretend to want and then complain when it happens.  It’s like women who say they want sensitive men who understand their feelings and then always fall for the bad boy.  In the technology world, everyone always views copying with disdain.  “Where’s the innovation?” they decry.  Case in point, everyone is always yelling at Microsoft for stealing copying Apple’s GUI interface with Windows 95.  (Everyone seems to forget Apple stealing borrowing from Xerox)  When they try to get innovative with Vista or Windows 7 everyone complains they can’t find anything because it was moved around.  Linux is not immune to these complaints.  On the one hand, everyone mocks Linux for co-opting technologies from other operating systems.  “Oh, you have a dock – why do you always have to copy the Mac?” or the ever-present “If Linux really wants to take the lead, they’ll have to stop copying Windows and Mac and start innovating on their own.”  But then, when Linux improves upon something from the leading OS all you hear is, “Why is everything so different?  Until Linux is easy for a Windows user to just jump over to without relearning things, they’ll never succeed.”

When the KDE team decided to innovate with plasma, all they got were heaps and heaps of criticism thrown at them.  I think their original idea where instead of having a desktop, having folder plasmoids to show different folders was amazing.  I can almost see Apple doing this and then everyone thinking it’s Jobs’ gift to mankind.  It was brilliant.  Right now I save stuff to the Desktop folder when I want to be able to quickly access it without having to do around through my folders.  But if I set up one of my desktops to be my web comic desktop, I could have a folder plasmoid set to my web comic folder and, therefore, have easy access to my web comic assets.  Or I could set my download folder to be a plasmoid and just save everything from the web there while having easy access to the contents.

Now it appears that Gnome 3.0 is going to suffer the same fate when it tries to innovate.  I have not yet upgraded to Fedora 12, so I have no experience with Gnome Shell, but people were complaining about the new interface before it was even available to be installed.  “Oh, Gnome is changing and I’ll never be able to use it!”  Never mind that they may be changing and fixing paradigms that we’ve been using since the 80s and may no longer be relevant.  In fact, once people have started using it, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying it’s actually pretty darned useful in practice.  Will it be perfect when it first comes out?  Of course not.  Use cases will emerge that the developers could never have anticipated.  But they should be allowed to innovate.

I can see how it is very frustrating for a developers out there.  The public clamors for innovation, but when you give it to them, they balk at the differences from what they’re used to.  I think this is why the word innovation is beginning to lose its meaning from overuse in marketing materials.  We claim to want one thing, but want another.  It’d be easier if we just said what we wanted, but I don’t think most people realize they don’t want innovation until they are faced with it and want to crawl back to the familiar.  I’m hoping the Gnome developers can have the resolve to see their innovation through.  They should do their best and people should give it a shot.  If there truly aren’t any benefits and if it truly sucks – we can go back to the old style.  Otherwise maybe we’ll be the next thing Microsoft and Apple copy.

There was one email on the Fedora list serve that gave me hope that perhaps the developers will be supported in the end:

—-
On 11/20/2009 03:19 PM, Brian Millett wrote:
> I have been using compiz for quite a while.  Love the eye candy, but it
> also helped me navigate quicker between desktops and windows.  Loved it.
>
> I’ve been using the gnome-shell.  At first it was “So where are my
> preferences?  Where is my <insert menu item here>?”, but as I started to
> understand how to use it, I’ve wondered how I can live without it.
>
> It is great.
>
> Good job guys and gals!
>
I do have to agree, gnome-shell is what I waited for. Or very close to,
it’s like the perfect desktop. But unfortunately for now, the keybinding
is not very configurable, and with my particular keyboard, it doesn’t do
well.

Mildred

KDE 4 Second Time Around

I’ve been spending time in KDE on the weekends since I usually don’t need to update my podcasts (which I manage in Rythmbox) and here are my current impressions.  Now that the latest nVidia drivers have come out, I was able to enable the desktop composite effects in KDE.  This does not use Compiz, but rather KWin’s built-in effects.  The default effects were nice.  They slowed up my computer a little, but I was still able to run Blender, which is more than I can do in Gnome with Compiz turned on.

I finally learned how to make the panel only show the programs open on that desktop.  Apparently, I just hadn’t found the magic spot to right-click on the panel to bring up a menu that has a simple checkbox to do that.

So far my only complaint is that KDE 4 is uglier than Gnome 2.x.  I can’t put my finger one what it is, but something offends my visual senses.  Particularly, I don’t like how Kontact looks.  I think it looks heavily 1990s.  The calendar part, in particular, doesn’t seem as polished as Evolution.

However, there are a lot of great things going on.  The widgets are really neat and better than any equivalent thing happening in Gnome.  I will keep checking them out to see where it ends up.  Also, I’m anxious to see where Amarok 2 takes us.

Fedora 9 Review (also Gnome in Fedora 9 Part 2)

So I waited until about halfway through Fedora 9’s initial life-cycle to install it.  I listed the reasons for that here.  Once KDE 4.1 was finally out and most of the complaints had stopped, I took the plunge.  I am actually very happy with Fedora 9.  I think most of the reviews you may have read criticizing Fedora 9 focused on the initial version.  That was, according to the mailing list, very buggy.  But, for those who run Fedora on their day-to-day systems, simply waiting a few months is enough to get most of the bugs ironed out.  First I’ll focus on what I have thought of Gnome since I’ve been using it since the install.  Due to Fedora’s servers getting cracked, I just got KDE 4.1, so I’ll just be giving my preliminary impressions there.  I’ve been wondering if KDE 4 would bring me back into the KDE came from the Gnome side.  We’ll see.  I intend to boot into KDE 4 for the next week or so to see how I like it.

First, let me mention some of my pet peeves which are no longer a problem.  Compiz no longer comes on every time I log into Gnome.  You may remember my struggles in getting it to stay off instead of turning it off every time I logged into Gnome.  That’s what caused me to use Xfce exclusively for a few months.  I also like that GDM now actually remembers your previously selected Window Manager.  Before the option “Last Window Manager I logged Into” didn’t work.  You could select to use your new one as your default, but that always seemed so “permanent” to me.  So I really like that it now just defaults you to whatever you used last time.  The new GDM that Fedora is using is nice, and very clean.  I don’t like that it has to show the names of the users – that’s bad security practices.  It also stinks that it’s so new there aren’t any themes for it.  I had about 10 or so themes that I would cycle through for the older GDM.  Before moving on, I want to mention that I haven’t had any problems with PulseAudio.

There are some other new benefits in Gnome.  I’m not sure if this is from the Gnome Virtual File System, but now anything you have mounted in /media gets put on the desktop.  They already would put your usb drives on the desktop, but now they also put nfs shares if you have them mounted in media.  Also, with the USB “logo” they make it easier to tell which of your drives are internal and which are USB-attached.  That’s pretty convenient.  I would still like for the media to have better user-friendly names like how you can name the volumes in Windows.  There does not appear to be an easy way to do this in Linux.  So I’m left wondering which drive has my pictures, 160 GB Media or 122.9 GB Media?

The other major update is with Fedora using PackageKit.  The great thing about using PackageKit is that all of the Gnome distros are moving to using it so now the Linux user only has to learn one way of installing packages.  They don’t need to learn a new package manager for each distro they use.  PackageKit also tends to have much better descriptions of the updates and packages deing installed than any previous version of Fedora’s package managers.  When you first get notified that there are updates to install, it gives you the chance to review the changes.  Otherwise you can just install all the updates.

Some of the other changes, though cosmetic, were welcome.  They were, I think, Fedora’s new theme (as opposed to the new Gnome theme).  First off, there’s the change to the scrollbars.  I know it’s just aethetic, but I love how instead of a square crashing into another square, now it’s a rounded edge finding its home where it fits neatly like a puzzle.  I just like it, perhaps it’s some Fruedian thing.  Who knows?  Also, I really like the Window Decoraction they’ve chosen for the maximise, close and shrink buttons.  I think a plus sign makes perfect sense for themaximise button.  After all, you’re making the window bigger. It certainly makes more sense than the symbol Windows uses for maximising a window.  And now we get to the exciting part, I will use KDE 4 on Fedora 9 for the first time.  So I will be, in a sense, live blogging about my experience in KDE 4 as implemented by Fedora 9.  As you may recall, I was pretty impressed with openSuse’s port of KDE 4.0 and 4.0 wasn’t supposed to be as good as 4.1.  So I’m going to log out of Gnome and I’ll see you on the other side!

Ok, here’s the initial screen on first boot.

So you can see they’ve fixed the problem everyone was having with a lack of desktop icons.  That icon view can be moved around.  I got a little preview at Kopete’s message notification when it popped up in the top middle of the screen where I was looking around.

Overall, KDE 4 appears to have a Mac OSX type of theme and it’s pretty good.  Just as I said with openSuse 11, I like how the maximise and close Window icons are separated so I have less of a chance of accidentally closing the WIndow.  One bad thing, right off the bat, is that Konqueror cannot properly do the Visual Editing in WordPress, so I had to switch to Firefox 3.  The neat thing about Dolphin, and KDE 4 in general, is that there are a lot of neat effects even if Desktop Effects is turned off.  As you hover over files in Dolphin, the preview window fades into the preview rather than just switching abruptly.  KDE 4 is definitely going to give Mac OSX a run for its money in the effects department.  Especially as it continues to mature into 4.2, 4.3, etc

An interesting technology they’ve been touting for KDE 4 is nepomuk which intends to bring the innovations of the semantic web over to the desktop.  Therefore it supports tagging and commenting files.  This would facilitate better search because the search program wouldn’t have to depend on reading the file or the file’s title to find it.  It would do it based on what you’ve tagged the file.  I can see this having some great new implications.

Annoyingly, I haven’t been able to figure out how to make it so that only the applications in your current desktop show up in the panel.

I know there’s a way to fix this, but I couldn’t find it within five minutes and gave up.  The Widget selection seems to be about the same as in openSuse 11.0.  I crashed plasma when I tried to use the Twitter widget, b

ut I think that’s because I didn’t have KWallet enabled.  Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a dashboard

button like in openSuse.  Perhaps that was changed between KDE 4.0 and 4.1?  Ah…it’s now a widget you add.  Here’s my widget-crazy desktop with KDEtwitter, simple calculator, binary clock, fuzzy clock, RSS reader, and show dashboard.  In practical use I’ll probably get rid of the binary and fuzzy clocks.  I’m always in need of a calculator, so I’ll probably keep that one on the desktop.  Same with KDEtwitter.

Ok, so a while back, I blogged about one last look at KDE 3.  So now I’m going to revisit some of the applications I talked about there to see how they’ve changed for KDE 4.  First up is Amarok.  I know we’re still waiting for Amarok 2 since it follows a different schedule than KDE 4, but let’s see if it’s changed for KDE 4 nonetheless.  It looks pretty much the same as before.  So I guess we have to wait for Amarok 2.0 for dramatic changes.  Kopete has has some cosmetic changes, but it more or less operates the same.  I trawled through the options to make sure.  Overall, it’s not too bad and it’s pretty informative.  I like it.

I think Fedora has done a pretty good job with KDE 4.  It works pretty well – as good as it works on openSuse.  I still have some work to do to get used to using KDE 4, but overall it’s not too bad.  I’m still not a fan of Kontact, but I’ll give it another shot and see if I can get use to it.  I’m going back to Gnome for a little bit since I have all of my ToDo items in Evolution and I want to keep KDE to QT programs to see if I can get by with only KDE applications.  Overall KDE seems to crash a lot less than KDE 3, widget crash notwithstanding.  It feels a lot more polished and mature and it looks a lot better than KDE 3.  The new menu isn’t that bad at all once you get used to it.  Perhaps, given some time, I can come to love KDE again.  Later this week I’ll probably be giving it another shot.  I leave you with two little things I like in KDE 4.  The first is a panel widget and the second is a menu item.

Review: openSuse 11.0 (and KDE 4)

I’ve never used Suse or openSuse.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been a “loyal” Fedora user since Fedora Core 1 and I have Ubuntu on my laptop since it had awesome laptop support.  I even got some Suse CDs as a prize for the Letter of the Month from Linux Format magazine.  However, I never even tried it at that time as I was mad at Novell for the Microsoft pact.  I think it lends a lot of credibility to Microsoft’s BS argument that Linux violates its patents.

But it’s been a few years and nothing horrible has happened because of the Microsoft pact and it came as a liveDVD in the latest Linux Format Magazine.  I was trying to wait until KDE 4.1 came out for Fedora so that could be my first experience with KDE 4, but that’s been delayed nearly a month now (while they, rightly, fix some bugs) so I decided to go ahead with the Suse review.

Suse is the second oldest distro that’s still around.  It started off as being based off of Slackware and later on was somewhat based on Red Hat, borrowing rpm and some other technologies.  Since then it’s gone off on its own and is now considered one of the big boys.  A few years after Red Hat shelved its personal distro and converted over to the community-sponsored Fedora, Suse decided to do the same thing with openSuse.  Just like Fedora, they’ve had some uneven releases.  However, openSuse 11 is supposed to be their comeback release.  Historically, Suse has been one of the biggest supporters of KDE as the default desktop although that has fallen off a little seince they’ve been trying to compete with Red Hat in the business world.

It’s important to note, however, that Novell’s Suse team has put a LOT of work into their KDE desktop.  This liveDVD is running KDE 4.0, yet they didn’t seem to have any problems getting icons on the desktop.  Lots of people were complaining about being unable to do so in Fedora and other distros using KDE 4.  Apparently, they just didn’t take the time that Suse did to engineer a really good KDE 4 release.  (Frankly, I’m surprised that Siego didn’t point to openSuse 11.0 as an example of a well-implemented KDE 4.0 release!)  They’ve also solved the problem of the ugly black panel that was too large.  So, plus points go to Novell’s openSuse/Suse KDE team.  They deserve an applause for doing this so well!

Novell has the KDE program menu that has annoyed so many people.  One of the things I’ve always loved about KDE was the fact that it had a favorite (or most run) programs section on the start menu.  Sure, there are some that believe that if you’re going to run programs that often you should have them as launchers on your taskbar.  But that can make taskbars look a bit cluttered.  Also, I think the most used program portion of Window’s Start Menu is one of the things they got very right with Windows XP.  (I’m not sure if MS innovated that or copied it from somewhere)  This menu is a good menu and doesn’t deserve all the hatred it’s received on the net.  It just needs a couple of tweaks to make it perfect.  The first problem with it is that if your mouse wanders down to the Favorites, Applications, etc portion of the menu, it switches you to that section.  I think a click should be required there to keep people from accidentally switching.   That was the biggest complaint most people had and it can be fixed so easily.  No need to throw the baby out with the bath water.  One other thing that was a bit unclear to me was how to go back on the applications hierarchy.  The skinny arrow on the left is not noticeable enough – at least not the first time it catches you off guard.

Widgets…it’s one of the biggest, most talked about innovations of KDE 4.  There is a lot of innovation going on in KDE 4 and if they can get past the KDE 4.0 stigma, I think they may end up surpassing Gnome with this release.  With Superkaramba, KDE has always done widgets so much better than Gnome.  Gnome’s desklets always seemed a bit kludgey and tacked on at the end.  Superkaramba always felt like it was part of KDE; even before it was added as an official part of KDE 3.5.   Now, with Plasma, the KDE team hopes to take them to the level of Apple’s OSX widgets.  In fact, OSX widget compatibility is either in KDE 4.1 or coming in KDE 4.2.

Wow!  If you’ve only seen the same old screenshots of a calculator, a click and a notepad, you haven’t seen the true power of the widgets.  First of all, they have quite a few new ones now.  You can see that I have a comic viewer, an RSS feed, and a Twitter feed.  All of these came from the default “add widgets” dialog.  I’m surprised, especially given the popularity of Twitter, that no one has showcased these widgets yet.  I’m thouroughly impressed that we’ve moved beyond simple system monitors and weather widgets (although I’m sure those are coming soon enough!)  They’re very easy and intuitive to position and configure.  And, one of the problems I always had with widgets on any desktop was that if I had all my programs open, they were less helpful to me.  Well, by clicking on the little button by the gecko or the top right corner, the plasma dashboard view is activated. This minimizes your programs and brings the widgets to the forefront.  A simple click on the desktop brings your programs back!  Couldn’t be easier.  They’re also very pleasing to the eye with their drop shadows.  They move smoothly and appear with a little fade-in.  Very nice.

As far as programs go, they have a pretty standard set.  OpenOffice.org provides the office suite.  Again, like with Mandriva, this is a little bit out of place since they could use KOffice.  However, I know that OpenOffice.org has much better compatibility with the suite from Redmond.  Interestingly, GIMP and Krita don’t seem to be included – but then again, it’s a liveDVD.  I’m sure it’s in the repositories.

In fact, let’s check out Yast, their control center.  It appears to control any setting you might want to change.  Plus points for them for making it all nice and organized.  In fact, they seem to be on par with Mandriva here in terms of everyting you could possibly want in one place.  Minus a very small point for it not looking as pretty as Mandriva or even as pretty as the rest of openSuse 11.0.  From here we can install programs.  Let’s see how well that appears to work.

I have to say that it is indeed ugly to look at.   I couldn’t really get a good feel for it as it didn’t have repositories defined.  I’ve really become much more of a fan of PackageKit’s interface.  (Which I’ll talk about in my Fedora review)  More and more Gnome-based distros are moving to PackageKit and I think there’s even a KDE version of Packagekit.  It works very well for package management and you can’t argue against the value of a consistent interface across distros.

Some last little things I noticed.  Take a look at what came up when I clicked on “My Computer”:

I really, really like this page that it loads up.  It is very useful for locating places on your computer AND for getting information.  To get the same info in Windows you’d have to open up “My Computer” AND right-click on “My Computer” and click on properties.  Here you have some quick links to “Common Folders” and also you can see that it recognized my NTFS hard drives.  You also have all the key information you need in order to get help from someone:  kernel version, distro, KDE version, graphics card driver, graphics card info, CPU info, and the total and free RAM.  Just one look gives you everything you need to know.  And I want to finish up with just a quick look at some of the neat finishing touches that Novell has done with openSuse.

Look at that – there’s a little gecko – the Suse mascot on the title bar.  This little dude appears on any title bar that has focus.  It’s just little touches like this that make the distro seem more professional.  I wish more distros would do things like this.  And look at this:

Now, this is probably a KDE setting, as opposed to Suse, but good on Novell for leaving it in.  There are many things I like about this setup.  First of all, the expansion button is not next to the exit button.  The number of times I’ve been frustrated by accidentally closing a window when I meant to resize it is just too numerous to count.  Also, the up arrow makes more sense to me than Microsoft’s icon.  It’s just that we’ve been around with the Microsoft implementation for 20 years.

So, what’s my final verdict?  I think Novell has done a really, really good job with openSuse 11.0.  Unlike Fedora, they did a very good job with the unfinished KDE 4.0 and turned it into something usable.  Lots of visual finishing touches make the distro just feel professional and not hacked together.  There are a few rough edges here and there.  I also didn’t test out flash, MP3 playback, or DVD playback.  I presume these can all be downloaded from some third party repository in some country where they don’t implement silly things like software patents.

Except for the still touchy subject of the Microsoft deal, I’d recommend Novell to someone who was new to Linux but ready to learn.  It doesn’t have the same hand-hold style of Ubuntu, so that’s still my top choice.  Right now it’s really almost a tie between recommending Mandriva and openSuse as the next best thing after Ubuntu.  Fedora is often broken due to being bleeding edge and I wouldn’t recommend it to someone brand new to Linux.  Of course, there still is the patent deal and they either did it to make themselves more palatable to companies than Red Hat (thus having bad motives) or they had to satisfy investors (which they legally must do in the USA).  So I guess that would break the tie and give it to Mandriva.  But Novell has made a top notch distro and if they can get over the negative press from the Microsoft deal (and there are websites like boycottNovell to prevent that), then I think openSuse may end up on more magazine covers and start to steal some of the thunder away from Ubuntu.

Gnome 3.0 Announced!

This will be a few days old by the time this blog post appears on the site, but Gnome 3.0 is set to come out by 2010!  This is huge news!  Ever since Gnome started getting into the 2.2x series, people have constantly been asking about when Gnome 3.0 would be coming out.  Since the Gnome project has decided that Gnoem 3.0 would be an appropriate time to break API and ABI compatibility, they have been saving that until it was needed.  However, ever since KDE 4 was announced a few years ago, people have increased their calls for a Gnome 3.0.  After all, they don’t want to seem so ridiculously behind when compared to KDE.  Computer geeks like you and I know that doesn’t matter, but the lay person might think Gnome was outdated.  Now that KDE 4.0 is finally out and with KDE 4.1 due at the end of this month, it seems that the momentum has finally built up for Gnome 3.0.

The source for my info is this Phoronix article.  They’re usually a pretty reliable source, but we also have the blog of a prominent Gnome developer.

One of the most exciting things is that Gnome 3.0 will also see the debut of GTK+ 3.0.  GTK 2.0 was a HUGE improvement over 1.0.  If you’ve ever seen a program that’s still compiled with GTK 1.0, you’ll agree that it’s universally considered to be ugly.  It’s like the difference between the way Windows 3.1 program windows looked and the way that Windows 95 and later looked.  One is blocky and old then the other is nice and slick.  Plus, this may give them the chance to fix up some of the things that people hate about GTK programming.  I’m pretty psyched!  After all, most of the major Linux distros us Gnome as their main desktop.

Why I’m Still Waiting to Upgrade to Fedora 9

I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is the longest I’ve purposely waited to upgrade to another Fedora release. I’ve been reading the Fedora user and developer mailling lists and what’s I’ve seen there has pretty much convinced me not to upgrade. First of all, there are a lot of answers to people complaining about Fedora 9 being unstable which include variations on “no one told you to stop using Fedora 8.” Some answers put it more politely and some more bluntly. And that’s ok. Just like the people who bought the iPhone last year got their pants pulled down over the price, so do those who upgrade to distros right away pay the price in instability. This happens with all distros from Fedora to Ubuntu. Sure, there’s an alpha testing period and a beta testing period, but not everyone can take part in that. I, for example, use my Fedora computer as my main computer for everything but gaming and photography. I can’t be unable to do my banking or type stuff up or work on my animations just because I’m trying the latest bleeding edge Fedora. And there are others like me, so the distro doesn’t truly get tested until it comes out. This is the argument used by the KDE team with respect to the POS that KDE 4 is, according to others – I haven’t tried it out.

This brings me to the second reason why I haven’t upgraded to Fedora 9 just yet. I’m waiting for KDE 4.1 in July. I’ve been waiting for KDE 4 to come out for years and it’s supposed to be this amazing thing. Except that KDE 4.0 is trash. And even if it weren’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be, I’ve been keeping up with Aaron Siego’s blog and they’re changing a ton of APIs and the way a lot of stuff works for KDE 4.1. I like KDE and I used to love it. So I want my first experience with KDE 4 to be a good one. So I’m waiting since that’s supposed to come out in July.

Speaking of months that start with J, I am also waiting for a non-beta version of Firefox. Extentions, themes, etc don’t really work with the beta version of Firefox. Sure, I pretty much only use Epiphany on Fedora anyway, but I’ve been thinking of switching back to Fedora now that they’ve supposedly worked out a lot of the bugs that made Firefox take so long to load and take up so much RAM while loaded. So I’d like to wait for that to be in the final version.

Also, Preupgrade, the live upgrade program for going from Fedora 8 to Fedora 9 is broken. At least, the majority of accounts I’ve heard of people using preupgrade have ended in failure. They’ve either had to go the yum upgrade route or the graphical install route. I don’t know if the Fedora development team has stopped caring about Preupgrade until Fedora 10 comes out. That’s probably the case as they’ll have a heckuva time getting people to test it since everyone’s probably upgraded already.

And, it seems that every time there’s a Fedora upgrade there’s some kind of issue with the hard drives. Last time they went from /dev/hda to /dev/sda and that caused problems because before all of the external drives and pen drives and all that were /dev/sdX. Now they’re switching to some UUID thing and everyone online is saying that Fedora confuses regular drives with external drives and can’t boot. I really don’t feel like debugging that right now.

One of the bigger show stoppers revolves around Fedora’s decision to ship a pre-release of the latest X.org. It was supposed to come out in May, so this isn’t Fedora’s fault, per se. But this has caused no end of problems with people’s displays. The biggest problem has to do with the nVidia drivers. nVidia is not releasing their Linux driver until X.org 7.4 finally comes out. But most people have nVidia from that time when nVidia was providing drivers while ATi wasn’t. So you can’t use 3D acceleration. This doesn’t just affect the ability to turn your desktop into a cube! It also affects 3D games, 3D modeling programs and a host of other things.

So, basically, Fedora 9 just isn’t ready. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wanted a trouble-free experience. I’ve had a much better time with the latest Ubutnu on my laptop. But, I have faith the Fedora team will fix all of this. It’s just a minor bump in the road and I’m not about to jump ship yet. Anyway, I think the general rule is that odd numbered Fedoras are generally to be avoided if you like stability.

—-

after writing my post, I found the following via Linux Today which shares the same sentiment.

One last, good look at KDE 3 Part 1

As you can see, by trawling through this, I have gone back and forth between KDE and Gnome a lot. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I initially loved KDE over Gnome. It looked more like Windows, it had more neat options, and great programs. Not only is Amarok the best media player out there (although Rhythmbox is not far behind), but the KDE programs feel so much more tightly integrated than Gnome. That’s one part where they’ve always had a huge lead over Gnome, although Gnome has been catching up recently. Still, I hope that KDE continues to evolve its KParts and KIOSlaves infrastructures. (Or whatever they evolve into in KDE4) KDE programs also just seemed to fit together visually so much better, I don’t know why because Gnome has the HIG.

But I left KDE for Gnome for a few reasons. First of all, as Gnome has been getting leaner and leaner on system resources, the KDE 3 series remained bloated as a blue whale sloshing around in my RAM as though it was just a kiddie pool and not the ocean. Also, I have had KDE programs crash on me orders of magnitude more often than Gnome programs. Finally, KDE has always been treated as a second-class citizen within Red Hat. That’s why Mandrake was original started! It was originally just a KDE version of Red Hat before branching off and losing RPM compatibility.

But now I want to look at KDE again because a few things have come together to change some of the reasons why I left KDE. First of all, with KDE 4 by basing the desktop on QT4 plus other refinements it’s supposed to be light as a feather on RAM. Sure, it still won’t equate to Fluxbox, but I have a modern system, I just don’t want it to swallow up my RAM like that Kobiyashi at the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest. Also, ever since Fedora 7, The Fedora Project has had the KDE Special Interest Group to make sure that KDE is treated well within Fedora. It finally has integration with the updatesd program, responsible for notifying me when there are updates to download. It was really a pain to see that in Gnome and not in KDE. I also wanted to look at KDE 3 now to document what it looked like and how it worked for me so that I can compare this to my experience with KDE 4.

So, I logged into KDE from a fresh startup in Mario. It loaded up a little bit slower than Gnome, but not by too much. And, it’s not fair to look at that because KDE saves the state of your desktop when you logout so I have it automatically loading SuperKaramba, Kopete, KGPG, Kerry Beagle, KGet, and Tomboy. Recently I’ve switched to accessing my Gmail via IMAP vs POP3. This allows me to login via KDE or Gnome and have access to the same emails in my inbox. So, since I always have Evolution and Rhythmbox open in Gnome, I opened up Kmail and Amarok.

So here’s what my main desktop looked like:

Main KDE Desktop

Before I continue, let me say that the developers of Konqueror have some work to do. Apparently they don’t support AJAX very well because I am not able to use any of the advanced features of my blog nor does Gmail work with full functionality. So who cares if it passes the Acid2 test if it doesn’t work on the sites that I need it to.

Amarok is my favorite media player for all of the work it does with your metadata. Whereas other media players stop at using the music’s metadata to sort the music or, if it’s more advanced, to create auto-playlists, Amarok does SO much more! For example, here’s the data it shows on each song as it plays:

Amarok Artist info

The info on how many times you’ve played the song and the last time you’ve played it is nothing special, but beneath lies the power of Amarok. You can add labels to each of your songs and then use that to create dynamic play lists. Amarok then consults last.fm to figure out which artists are similar to the one you’re listening to. So you can use this to acquire music by other artists that may be similar to the one you’re listening to. Then, it also lists all the music in your current music library that are by similar artists. And it also shows the rating each song has. After all, you may have songs by similar artists which you don’t like. This is a good point to mention that I really like Amarok’s rating system. Unlike others which are on a 5 star scale, Amarok is a 0-100 scale so it gives a lot more room to tell how much you like the song. Also, their auto-rating system works better than any other I’ve ever used. Anyway, under that is a list of your favorite songs by the same artist. So if you can easily jump to any of those songs by double-clicking. Then it shows each of your albums by the same artist and if you click those you can see the songs on those albums. Tell me you’ve seen another media application that makes such a good use of the metadata it has on your music! But it doesn’t stop there.

Amarok Lyrics Tab

If the song you’re listening to is reasonably popular, clicking on the lyrics tab will bring up the lyrics to the song. You can learn them or just use it to sing along to one you don’t know as well. And there’s one more bit of nice integration thanks to the use of KParts, Amarok can integrate Konqueror into it and you can see the Wikipedia page for the artist you’re listening to.

Amarok Artist Wiki

And sometimes I start up a media player and I’m not sure where to go; what I want to listen to. Here Amarok is also helpful.

Amarok Opening Tab

What I like here is that it lists your newest five albums.  For Rhythmbox I had to create a dynamic playlist to hold my newest albums.  It also lists your favorite albums.  So if you want to quickly jump to listen to some music you know you’ll love, you can just double click on those and get the songs.  Or you can drag the album over to the right into the playlist.

I’d also like to look at Kopete for this look at KDE 3 because I think it’s very, very good.  It has a very different aesthetic than Pidgin, so it’s hard to say objectively which one is best.  However, Kopete *does* have many, many more configuration options.  Check out how many plugins it has:

Kopete Plugins, Options and Main Window

My favorite is the Now Listening plugin.  Pidgin has a similar one, but it doesn’t seem to actually ever work.  The other really great thing about Kopete is how you can customize it to suit your style.  Unlike Pidgin which is mostly an AIM clone, Kopete lets you pick everything from your Smiley Style to Chat Window style.

Kopete Visual Configuration - SmiliesKopete Visual Configuration - Emulation Style

And here’s how I have my chat window:

Kopete Chat Window

So far KDE hasn’t been too unstable.  I’m glad I finally fixed the problem where Compiz kept starting in KDE as it was having a huge detrimental affect.  So far I could potentially go back to KDE.  More in a future post.