Recently my distribution of choice, Fedora, published a new version, Fedora 9. This one featured KDE 4.0, and there were also KDE 4.0.80 packages available, and I decided to take a look at them. Unfortunately, I had to return to Fedora 8 and KDE 3.5.9 – but not for long, that’s for sure.
Recently I wanted to try two new “tools” – Fedora 9 and KDE 4.1dev. The reason behind was that both came along with a whole bunch of new features. Fedora 9 promised full disk encryption, a new X-server, PackageKit, a new NetworkManger, Upstart and so on, while KDE 4.1dev promised me first and foremost KDE 4.x. I was still in KDE 3.5.9 because I had to write a thesis during the upcoming of KDE 4.0 and wasn’t able to switch. Therefore I decided to install Fedora 9 and afterwards update the system to KDE 4.80 with packages from kdeforge. KDE 4.0.x wasn’t an option because I wanted to have the KDE 4 PIM suite.
The bad experiences
However, the journey did not went as well as hoped. First of all Fedora itself did not boot up any faster. Of course I know that switching the init system itself doesn’t make the scripts go faster, but somehow I expected it to go at least a bit faster than maybe a minute. But the problems with the new KDE were more pressing: KDE froze X several times (Gnome didn’t), most often when the kerneloops popup tried to tell me something. This happened regularly after only a few minutes, and made the system unusable. I deactivated kerneloops, selinux and other usual suspects, but X still froze after some minutes most of the times.
Additionally, Plasma is not able to enlarge to a new size when for example an external monitor with a higher resolution is plugged in. That is however my daily setup, and must work before I can switch to KDE 4.x.
Last but not least I had two issues with Dolphin: first of all, the Ctrl key doesn’t work as expected. Seems to be a bug in Qt 4.4, but nevertheless, I rely heavily on that feature. Second, Dolphin is quite slow when scrolling through large folders. I deactivated the information panel and it was quicker, but still not as fast as I am used to from KDE 3.5.
I did suspect that these problems could be related with Fedora or were fixed with newer devel versions of KDE, and therefore I switched my system to OpenSuse 11RC with the unstable KDE 4.1dev packages. But all mentioned problems were still present except for the X freezes (not entirely sure about that one).
So, in the end I had to switch back to KDE 3.5.9. There are only few things, mostly corner cases, which keep me there, but these are, unfortunately, existential to me.
The positive outlook
However: the impression I got from just playing around and testing the system was the same I already got from testing it only for minutes in virtual machines or demoing the system at LinuxTag: KDE 4 is awesome.
One of the best examples work-flow wise is probably the new menu. I newer was a fan of menus (Alt+F2 does the job quicker) and wasn’t really interesting in the change introduced with KDE 4. However, just using it for minutes already changed the way I worked. The ability to search through the menu is a nice and helpful add-on and just makes sense today. But the main advantage is the easy and intuitive way of setting favorites. It is a blast once you get the idea behind it and actually try to use it. I got accustomed to it after minutes, that was almost scary.
Also, I’m someone who never uses icons or links to clutter the wallpaper – but the folder view might be a good solution when I have to work with a bunch of files (think of TeX here, or of merging different images or text files). It still has some rough edges and could use a way to have no background at all, but it is definitely on a very promising way.
Besides these work-flow improvements there are of course the improvements within the apps, and the new apps in general: just some days ago I was chatting with a friend about city distances, and right in the discussion she said “so just check it with Marble”. Well, I would like to!
Another application I’m really looking forward to is Gwenview – the KDE 4 version is very, very neat. Also, KDE3′s KHTML engine is a bit notchy at the edges, holey in the middle and has a crack at one side. But KDE 4′s KHTML engine is much improved and is therefore a reason on its own to switch. And I haven’t even tested yet (that means: used in daily live) apps like Okular or the improved Kopete.
So I am very eager to see the above mentioned bugs fixed and will afterwards give it yet another try. I’m already sure that my work flow will be more efficient, and that’s in the end what really counts!
Besides KDE 4.1 there is also Qt 4.4: some new apps I would like to test are based on Qt 4.4: Screenie and Arora/Foxkit are just the most prominent examples.
There are also bew 3rd party KDE 4.x applications: while the “usual” programs like Ktorrent, Krusader, digikam, Amarok or Konversation already have KDE 4.x versions or are working at it, there are also some new interesting programs around, like Audex or KGrubeditor.
Having said that all that, I’m still very happy with KDE 3.5 right now. It is still a supported platform which just works as I expect it, as I am used to. It even gets bugfix updates if necessary, for example KDE 3.5.9 was released after KDE 4.0, and I’m very thankful for it.
So I’m totally free to choose what I want – and that’s the most important point!