Forth and back again – having a look at Fedora 9 and KDE 4.1beta

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.

The background

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!

Closing words

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!

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23 thoughts on “Forth and back again – having a look at Fedora 9 and KDE 4.1beta

  1. If KDE 4 was a standalone project, I’d be delighted with it for its innovation and strangness.

    However, since it’s meant to be the sucessor to the mighty KDE 3, KDE has basically handed the default desktop to GNOME.

    I’ve used, in the last couple of years, KDE 3, GNOME, Xfce, JWM, Mezzo, Enlightenment, Atari ST GEM and Plan 9, as well as Windows since 3.1, and this is the worst of the lot. I’m gobsmacked that this is the replacement to KDE 3, the serious bad boy of workhorse desktops.

    It’s *still* highly unstable and buggy after months and the new features serve to make the user experience worse. The appearance is strange, the icons are unreadable when they’re shunk down, the plasmoids so far are gimmicky nonsense even when they do work and the locking/unlocking plasmoids is tiresome after a few minutes. The folderview concept is deeply limited. What, really, are the huge plasmoids about? Are they going for the mobile phone market or something?

    And If they want to compete with Mezzo they should at least keep the cashew in the top right hand corner when the taskbar is aligned vertically.

    I really, really want to be proved wrong. I’ve gave KDE the benefit of the doubt until I tried Beta1. I’ll panic if Beta2 is no significant improvement. Since it’s the design rather than the implementation that’s really troubling me, I doubt it.

  2. Rovot, first of all: like I pointed out, you are totally free to use KDE 3.5. The version will be supported for the next years in case there are important bugfixes necessary. So when you are fine with it, why change?
    Second: if you have problems, be clear about them. I will not tolerate statements like “all buggy” and “nonsense even if it works”. That’s just FUD and ranting. So be clear and describe the limitations you experienced – or keep them to you. But don’t drop your senseless and harmful rubbish here!

  3. Rovot: As Liquidat told you KDE and the sum of all open source projects give you a wealth of choices you personally can choose from. Take the one which gives you the best feeling, the fastest workflows etc.

    If the features you talked about in KDE 4.1beta1 (sic!) is not what you are looking for, it’s no problem at all. You can still use KDE 3.5 which will be supported for quite a while. Or take any other solution as long as it is open.

    But: Is your expectation of a bug free dot-oh release (does this even exist?) with the features _you_ want really appropriate? I mean look – there are tons of people which are flabbergasted by what KDE 4 is promising to give them. If not right now, maybe in a year. Just be patient and – if possible – help the KDE developers so we have a better DE faster.

    And one last thing: KDE was in my eyes always about the choices of the user. It gives them the freedom to adapt to their workflow. This is/will be true for KDE4.X as well.

    Don’t like Plasma widgets? Don’t use them.
    Plasma widgets too large? Resize them.
    Want your old icon ghetto back? “fullscreen” folder view will help.
    New icons not your taste? Pick a different icon scheme.
    Appearance is strange? Use a different theme / color scheme / window style.

    Posts like yours make me always sad. The first visible glimpse of a _default_ KDE4 desktop is all you take into account. Have you ever tried to work with the new programs? Were you not faster with the new krunner? Don’t you see the tons of improvements all across your favourite KDE 3 programs?

  4. KDE 4.1 is still Alpha. I have tried the first so called “Beta” it froze after 5 Minutes.

    As for Fedora 9, it boots a bit faster than Fedora 8. At least on my quad core. running stuff simulatnousliy like the upstart loader does, needs more cores.
    A bit of improvemt should also be there due tue hiperthrreading processors.
    The lack of 3D drivers in Fedora 9 made me switch to Fedora 8. They should release distros without proper dirvers. Now they are out, but I needed a cool os. Fedora 9 startet with as a bleeding edge, but does make a good progress after all.

    for now I am totaly happy with Fedora 8 and Gnome. I still recieving upstream packages, as wine 1.0rc3 so I am able to play cool 3D Games ! Cheerio Soon I am going to Swithc to Fedora 9 (or 10?)

  5. “I really, really want to be proved wrong. I’ve gave KDE the benefit of the doubt until I tried Beta1. I’ll panic if Beta2 is no significant improvement.”

    Clearly you don’t, as you seem to be giving KDE4 – a massive, massive departure from the well-established KDE3 codebase that is going to take a good deal of work to knock into shape – a deadline of a scant 5 months or so from its initial .0.0 release in order to shape up.

    I wonder how many of the people making these comments remember what KDE 2.0.0, GNOME 2.0.0 – heck! – even OS X 10.0 were like, and how long it took to make them as good as their predecessors?

  6. “KDE 4.1 is still Alpha. I have tried the first so called “Beta” it froze after 5 Minutes.”

    “KDE4.1 is an alpha, not a beta, as I found a bug! Huurrr”

  7. i really don’t understand all those issues with kde4.1 on fedora, and specially kubuntu, i have kde4.0.81 installed in opensuse10.3 and it is damn stable and work as expected, of course there are some glitches( it is till beta) but in general it is quite responsive and fast.
    and this folder view concept is a work of a genius.

  8. Dude! All the time I thought you were using Drupal and wondered where you got that “Comments: $n” add-on from, but now I realize that it’s actually WordPress equipped with the port of the Garland theme. Drats :P

    Oh, er, on-topic? Well, let’s say I plan to switch from Kubuntu to the Fedora KDE spin sometime when KDE 4 support is just a bit decent there. Looking forward!

  9. @tecnocratus What you don’t understand is that your experience is just that, your experience. I’ve been running KDE 4.1 beta from debian for a few weeks now, and I haven’t managed to crash plasma yet. The only app that has crashed on me was dolphin (once), gwenview (twice), and ktorrent (a few times, it’s still a bit unstable). Everything else is solid.

    It sucks that that is not the case for you, but realize that for lots of people it works just fine. I love the new apps and the interface. Plasma is still getting there, but overall its already better than KDE3 for the most part, and it’s just the beginning.

  10. @technocratus:
    Everyone knows it, but apparently Aseigo and Co. have their own Reality Distorsion Jackets on, so it’s considered “impolite” and “against the community” to state the obvious.

    KDE 4.0 has some very obvious and annoying bugs. KDE 4.0 also has a lot of features missing that worked perfectly fine in 3.5. But:

    And, no, it’s not like I’m not satisfied with this little minnie-winnie feature or this or that little bug, so I cannot be more forthcoming. It’s more like…. well, everything?

    Really, no. With kdepim, Konversation, Amarok and KNetworkManager coming back soon in a KDE 4 version, there are hardly features that were not in the KDE 3 versions as well. But… dude? The vast majority of KDE 4 stuff is KDE 3 stuff that has been ported to Qt 4, plus lots of improvements. Is that “well, everything” that you dislike in KDE 4? I can’t quite imagine that, because those are only logical continuations of the KDE 3 applications.

    So, the only thing that has really been ripped out for replacement with something completely different is… hm, let’s see… only Plasma, right? What else can you complain about that is seriously wrong from the design aspect, and hasn’t been in 3.5 already?

    And yeah, listing what you miss might actually help indeed, because even if “everything” is wrong, it can only be fixed step by step and if the developers know about *what* exactly they did wrong. If you just complain without giving any kind of hint what annoys you (“everything” is just too broad, really) then your ranting is just pointless and doesn’t help anybody while frustrating those that actually want to improve stuff.

    So yeah, better *try* to work with the developers than playing against them. Or if you feel like it can’t be fixed at all, it might be time to switch to another desktop environment. But ranting without trying to help is just so totally lame.

  11. “C’mmon, folks, stop being so ridiculously apologetic about the current state of affairs in KDE. KDE has turned into a *huge* project and is in desperate need of professional QA and management. Everyone knows it, but apparently Aseigo and Co. have their own Reality Distorsion Jackets on, so it’s considered “impolite” and “against the community” to state the obvious.”

    This is such a huge misunderstanding of Liquidat’s and very other’s points that I have to assume it is deliberate trolling. There is no “apologism” here; merely a request that criticisms are *specific* and *actionable*. “Aseigo and Co.” know perfectly well that KDE4 has big problems and are continuing to actively work to fix them, so please don’t try and spin it as if they are out of touch or in denial or sticking their fingers in their ears and going “la la la” whenever they hear something they don’t like. And if you think that saying “KDE4 is buggy!” counts as professional QA or “So fix it!” as professional management, then I don’t really know what to say.

    Here’s what good criticism looks like and – shock, horror! – the devs – including KDE’s purported arch-villain Aaron Seigo – respond very positively to the *45 criticisms* the guy brings up. Why? Because he is civil, precise, and because the KDE guys aren’t deaf to complaints as some people bizarrely insist is the case and want KDE to be better for its users. Give the responses a read:

  12. Interesting article and while I only use Fedora 9 in a VM environment (basically I am a Debian guy) I have to put my hands up and say that it is a huge improvement on Fedora 8.

    As for KDE 4, well I am not convinced that 4.1 will be the start of something wonderful. I have only used KDE in it’s 3.5.x incarnation, I have never used KDE in it’s 2.x.x or 1.x.x form so I cannot comment on how they progressed as the development continued. I personally feel that KDE 4 will be a huge force for the Linux desktop in the future. All I can say about it is that every time I try KDE 4, I see improvements and if this continues, KDE 4.5.x will sure be a contender for the mighty Apple Mac OS.

    Don’t believe me, take a spin in Windows XP Pro and then take a spin in Windows Vista and see what I mean. Even the pundits said that once Vista SP1 is released Vista will be better, in my opinion not much has changed with SP1. The way I see it Vista is the beta for the next Redmond behemoth OS and thousands of poor suckers are beta testing that, so while we have KDE 4.1 we better just put up and test this OS and report any and all bugs back to the development team so KDE 4.x.x will be better.

    Just my penny’s worth :)

  13. @Leo S
    It sucks that that is not the case for you, but realize that for lots of people it works just fine. I love the new apps and the interface. Plasma is still getting there, but overall its already better than KDE3 for the most part, and it’s just the beginning.

    I know, I know…. Everything is getting there, plasma included. The problem is that the KDE -the Linux desktop in general- it’s been “getting there” for years and years without end.

    IMHO, the problem is that KDE follows this sort of organic evolution path, kinda like: “let’s hack this and this together and see how it turns out…” or “mmmm this über-project is all the rage now, let’s merge it into KDE… somehow” or, the common fad “it’s all about freedom, so lets duplicate our efforts a thousand times over and have a gazillion of half-backed apps, all doing the same….the users will decide”….

    Well, you get the point.

    Listen, I say what I say because I *love* KDE, and I’m the first one here who wants it to succeed. There’s good bunch of incredibly talented and creative developers here and I’m convinced that all that creative power must be guided to a better end. The problem, again IMO, is that the “let’s hack something together” paradigm just doesn’t hold anymore for a project the size of KDE. KDE needs to adopt professional management and quality assurance methodologies.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents.

  14. I feel a bit like rovot. But I want to be more specific and constructive:

    I tried kde-4.0.83:

    1. Plasma-Panels:
    a) the dialog for the configuration is much too large and ugly (takes much space and hole screen-width/height). It is very unintuitive that one cannot move the panel by dragging itself. I still did not find out, why there are two arrows on each side in the configuration-dialog. has it to do something with min/max-size?
    Solution: switch between design/locked mode or perhaps a move-mode, to be able to drag the panel directly and get rid of the config-dialog.
    b) it MUST be possible to drag widgets in the panel (change their sequence). it was ok in kde3 with right-mouse-button-action “move”. I also had a bug: after one relogin all widgets in the panel had the wrong sequence, only solution: remove all, and add all in right sequence? after another login, all widgets were removed..
    c) I thought, panels are simple containers? Why can I only place them on screen-borders?
    d) I did not found settings to set panel-background-color & more (without switching complete theme)

    2. Speed
    I have a modern pc, athlon xp-1700+, but an old slow graphics card (ati radeon). all effects are slow, can I turn off for example blending-effects? this should be possible.
    also scrolling in folders with dolphin (details view) is slow and unresponsive for me, too. also my favorite image-viewer gwenview is slow when scrolling. also when scrolling fast large amounts in gwenview-thumbnails, the thumbnails currently on the screen do not preload first (before thumbnails above which are not currently displayed). this and its speed were one of my favorite features of gwenview. all gone with kde4-version.

    3. folder view widget:
    nice idea, more flexible than in kde3, but: why can’t I make it simply fullscreen, and complete transparent (to emulate oldschool-desktop)? Resizing is also very difficult, it would be nice to drag a corner like with normal windows.

    - give me the possibility to “emulate” the feeling of a kde3 desktop, with same or better configuration-power. I don’t want to take a step back.
    - the speed problems are not easy to fix, but there has to be put efford in this. optimize QT/graphics, or make it possible to turn eyecandy stuff off.
    - it is nice, that kde3 will be supported in future, but: most developers don’t put any work and new features in kde3-versions anymore.

    I think I will stay with kde-3 until kde-4.2. But i think there will be a point, when kde3.x is outdated, and there will be the decision between kde-4 and gnome.

  15. “- give me the possibility to “emulate” the feeling of a kde3 desktop, with same or better configuration-power. I don’t want to take a step back.” – I would love to see nothing more than this! ++. Moving forward in the most pleasant way…

  16. @liquidat: Interesting that you like the new Kickoff menu, I personally think the only sane thing to do with it is right-click “Switch to classic menu style”. ;-)

    @suvi: Fedora does not and will never support proprietary drivers, it doesn’t even ship them! So of course the release will not be delayed to accomodate them. Use hardware with Free drivers available, or just deal with it as you did (but without the useless complaints).

    @mimoune djouallah: Have you missed the part of liquidat’s post about OpenSUSE having exactly the same bugs?

    @Cyberfred: Moving plasmoids on the panel is supported in Fedora’s (and OpenSUSE’s, that’s where we got the patch from) KDE 4.0 packages. Unfortunately, that patch hasn’t been ported to 4.1 yet.

  17. @Cyberfred: “why can’t I make it simply fullscreen, and complete transparent (to emulate oldschool-desktop)?”

    that’s what you’ll be able to do in 4.2… well, you can do it in 4.1, but you have to hand edit your config file and you lose the wallpaper rendering.

    btw, when i first announced folder view, i noted that this was what we were working towards.

    @liquidat: following screen resolution changes was fixed post-beta1. it broke due to the API review changes, and i didn’t get around to reimplementing it in the new location made for this code until this past week.

  18. Using KDE 4.1 devel on Fedora 9: A bloody fast and stable (I use it 8 hours a day) DE. Ofcourse it’s having it’s rough edges (mostly kwin en konquer) but hell it’s not final.

    I’m happy with the way kde is going. I like the fundemental changes suchs as kicker and the “desktop”.

    - Gerwin

  19. suvi, as I wrote I also experienced the froze. Did you test it on Fedora 9? Could be due to an unstable X!

    technocratus: I deleted your first comment because you did not say anything while you were ranting a lot. Feel free to – but not on my blog, this is for discussion where the participants actually want to use their brain cells.
    But, you’re welcome to try it again and actually say what your problems are.

    Jakob: Yes, others already asked me if I could not add specific drupal plugins ;)

    technocratus, in response to your second comment:
    The problem is that the KDE -the Linux desktop in general- it’s been “getting there” for years and years without end.
    First of all, software projects never reach an end by nature. Second, KDE reached a lot – you did follow the government institutions that switched to KDE? The schools in Brazil? The companies like Google using it? And Gnome reached also several goals. So the Linux desktop already got to several places.
    KDE follows this sort of organic evolution path
    Yes, it is a free software project, and it is driven by the people contributing. Still, KDE is also strongly driven by companies, and a lot of contributions are not as you describe at all. You totally lack the ability of differentiating this, I guess.
    let’s merge it into KDE
    Most projects inside of KDE did start there. Please point out where you think something was merged.
    lets duplicate our efforts a thousand times
    Duplication is not bad. It can be, but quite often it is very helpful. There is a reason why people are flogging to lghthttpd now. The duplication around XFree86 and X.Org was very helpful. And so on…

    Cyberfred, thx for the detailed comments. Please keep in mind that this is a blog, so this might not be read by the developers. If possible, please send it to a e-mail list or file a bug report :)

    Kevin: :D

    Aaron, when will you upload the fixes? It doesn’t work yet with the current KDE4Daily…

    gah: The blog covers all KDE related things, not only developer information.

  20. I decided to switch things up, and moved back to the other half of my dual boot: Fedora. I installed Fedora 9 from the KDE cd, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

    I wasn’t a big fan of the menu at first either, but if you leave it on for a little while, and then switch back, it’s definitely quite a shock: you have tons of programs listed, without the nice text below the program name (there is a little blurb on the classic menu, but hardly worth mentioning).

    I moved from Kubuntu 8.04, using KDE 3.5, so it’s not a strictly KDE 4 – 4 comparison.

    I miss some features from there:
    There’s no indicator for RSS feeds in Konqueror, and thus no way to add feeds easily to Akegrator.
    I also miss the search bar in Konqueror- I can’t seem to find a way to add it.

    I really do like the icon set and the vision for KDE 4.
    Looking forward to some great plasmoids.

  21. I have kubuntu with 3.5.9 and 4.1 installed together and I find myself drawn to use the 4 for its ease of use. Its still crashes mostly ktorrent but I cant wait for july.

  22. Kde 4 is quite stable in OpenSUSE 11.
    I have been using it for about a week and found it to be quite stable and not interface is not so bad ( I have been using Gnome for years, with Fedora’s, Im testing SUSE with KDE 4 , both of which are new to me).
    For all the guys who keep whining, wait for a little longer, I feel the KDE 4 is the way forward…..

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