KDE 4.7 Software Compilation (SC) Usage

Given all the frustration with the new desktops in GNome 3.2 and Unity, there has been an upturn in interest in KDE. LinuxFormat Magazine went as far to say "KDE 4.7 gets it right" in Issue 150 and then in the latest issue 152, where they did comparison of Gnome 3.2, Unity on 11.10, and KDE 4.7, declared the KDE 4.7 was the one to beat, ie the best, in usage as a desktop. One of the reasons given for KDE being given high marks because of its "familiarity", ie, the KDE Menu system (Kickoff), Panel, and Desktop where the new Gnome 3.2 and Unity 11.10 are new and different ways of working. The KDE Menu system is similar to the menu's found in Mint, openSUSE, and other distributions in providing a functional usage driven menu system versus a cascading menu. I have always used a Gnome based desktop and right now LinuxMint 12 seems to be the best implementation while supporting Linux 3.0 and Gnome 3.x. I have consistently shied away from KDE for a couple of reasons, the first reason being that seem "slow" requiring high performance hardware for good performance and I am finding that to be the case even with 4.7. The second reason has been that since the release of the new KDE 4.x with its Plasma desktop and plasmoids, it has not been a particularly friendly desktop environment as far as configuring and finding sufficient documentation and that is also still true. And I really had no reason to switch to KDE since I could run my favorite KDE applications like K3B and others with the only downside being that all the supporting KDE libraries had to be installed as dependencies but Synaptic took care of all that. With all that being said, many are right at home with KDE 4.7 desktop and can work well in and with it. Anyway, it was time for me to spend some serious time with the KDE 4.7 desktop. In my deep dive into the KDE desktop, I tried five different distributions using KDE as the default desktop. I am already running Fedora 16 on my HP really nice but 5 year old Pentinum 4 Dual Core Laptop with the 17" screen so I figured out how to add the KDE desktop and use it on Fedora 16 while keeping Gnome 3.2 as the "default" desktop. The 2nd Distribution, which was recommended by Linux Format, was Chakra and its KDE desktop. Third up was openSUSE 12.1 Live-KDE. Forth was Kubuntu and lastly, Kororaa 16 was just released with a Live-KDE desktop; based on Fedora 16 and released a month later, it has definitely benefited from that delay in being very stable and providing a great user experience, out-of-the-box, as it includes full multi-media support (just like LinuxMint) along with an application for adding non-free or restricted video drivers. Kororaa also supported my Broadcom Wireless hardware ready to use, from the Live-DVD, and the KDE Network Manager appeared to be very stable in all tasks. All four distributions provided the basic Plasma Desktop, Desktop Widget, and Kickoff Menu but there the similarities ended. Each one had its own panel configuration as to pre-installed applications on the panel and the default icons in the desktop plasma widget ranged from one or two applications to 6 in openSUSE. The result of my deep dive is that I have learned a lot about the KDE desktop and I have a great KDE desktop on Fedora 16 with my favorite applications a click-away on the panel and .desktop files (which I also learned much about) that I found along the way that provide additional functionality, also just a click way such the Konqueror's sysinfo display (stolen from the openSUSE desktop) and KHelpcenter's KDE manual including information on the Plasma desktop. Update 12/31/2011 - I updated my Fedora 16 desktop, a 470 megabyte update with quite a few of of updates to KDE packages. Chakra is an beginner friendly KDE desktop which provides resources to help you get started as a Live-DVD. Chakra has an agressive release update schedule with almost monthly respins and updates. I downloaded and looked at the latest December 2011 release which has a new more informative desktop widget which includes information that might not be considered user friendly, such as the installer still being a work in process and may fail if you try to install it. My only concern with Chakra is that it doesn't use the standard KDE utilities for things like package management and pack installations; it has it own way of installing things and resolving dependencies. For example, it install bundles which include all the dependency files for an application with the result that it the bundles don't know what is already installed and blindly installs what is considered to be the correct library files which can break other programs that have already been installed. Kubuntu provides the standard KDE 4.7 plasma desktop but very sparce. The only icon in the Desktop widget for installation. And being a Live-CD as opposed to a DVD, you can plan on doing a bit of installing and customization in use. Opening the Muon Software Center, even choices seem a bit constrained such as looking at IDE's, the only choice offered was the KDevelop 4. Using the Newpaper Activity template, the Facebook widget wouldn't let me get past the tour and the Digital Clock widget was huge on my desktop. Ubuntu publishes an online weekly newsletter and I saw there was a significant number of security updates for 11.10, all pertaining to KDE. Update - 12/31/2011: Netrunner 4.0 Dryland, a customized distribution built on Kubuntu 11.10 with KDE 4.7.3 as the default desktop. This 1.2 GB download provides a very clean icon based desktop (activity scheme) but deviates from the standard KDE desktop in that they use their own windows OS like cascading menu rather than the KDE Kickoff launcher; the menu launches from a "run" icon at the left end of the bottom panel, very Windows like. While it didn't recognize my Broadcom wireless hardware (restricted drivers), it recognized my Netgear USB Wireless adapter and it played my favorite DVD's. The KDE Network manager seemed stable for managing the network connnections. This is a very clean implementation and one has to appreciate the amount of work that is gone into Netrunner 4.0 since the Kubuntu 11.10 release. Netrunner 4.0 Download. Netrunner 4.0 Features Page. I've had a couple of issues so far with Netrunner 4.0 as I have it installed now. First has to do with the initial update, it was both huge and a broken ppa repository didn't help matters. The broken ppa was "http://ppa.launchpad.net/kubuntu-ppa/ppa/ubuntu/ oneiric/main" and I replaced it with add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/ppa. Getting it installed with my NVidia based 8300 card was no walk in the park either and it took two tries to get it installed. I had to use the post-release current release driver to get the video system stable. openSUSE is a very good distribution however I have seen some issues with KDE Network Manager and stability. openSUSE was used in the LinuxFormat desktop comparison as the KDE 4.7 desktop, was the top rated desktop in the comparison and in LinuxFomat's words "ruled the roost" when it comes to desktops in comparison to Unity 11.10 and Gnome Shell 3.2. At our last meeting, one of our members demonstrated openSUSE 12.1 with KDE, and that demonstration was not without problems including the Network Manager and stability, however he had not installed the post release updates so much of what we saw might be fixed. Kororaa 16 provided a very good KDE experience and gets good marks for implementation and usuability as well as providing one of the best out-of-the box experiences as a Windows replacement desktop, ready to use with the same level of usability as LinuxMint 12. If I already didn't have an investment in my current Fedora 16 desktop which includes both the Gnome 3.2 shell and KDE 4.7, I would be installing Kororaa. KDE 4.7 does provide a rich desktop experience and is easy to use out-of-the-box as everything most users need is already there on the desktop. I have made peace with the plasmoids, widgets and activities and other than performance related "extended waits" at times, I am very happy with it. Time permitting, at our next meeting, I will show some of the things I have learned about using the KDE desktop. As to those who might ask if KDE is my new Linux Desktop, I have to answer no. KDE 4.7 still has some serious problems that get in the way of being productive. The biggest example of this is when I open gnome-terminal on the Fedora 16 KDE desktop, it opens wide and then shrinks down to a very small window; when I resize the window to a useful size, the terminal window will not accept input and the terminal application appears to go completely non-responsive. Using KDE's native Konsole doesn't exhibit this behavior. It maybe a Fedora issue as I didnot experience this on test distributions. Other applications such Firefox and LibreOffice work as expected, no problems that I observed. Some widgets are not consistently reliable and some don't even seem to work. There are some real positives in KDE that like such Activities which defines the workspace for particular types of activities such as small screen or touchpad use and working with photos. Notable as well is that KDE 4.7 played well with my Gnome 3.2 desktop and there is an option in the .desktop files for specifying display in KDE only. The people at KDE really need to step up the documentation, KDE is a very powerful and complex desktop environment with much left to be understood or even explained. I actually found some old KDE 3.5 documentation that explained some things better than the currently available documentation. And finally, the KDE desktop needs to load faster, one still finds oneself waiting for the 4 icons to load while starting the desktop. Here are some links that I found helpful in my deep dive: http://chakra-linux.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page http://chakra-linux.org/wiki/index.php/Beginner’s_Guide http://chakra-linux.org/wiki/index.php/Basic_Desktop_Orientation http://chakra-linux.org/ http://help.opensuse.org/kde4 http://forum.kde.org/viewforum.php?f=14&sid=189594eb4d8e00ac043be44b27adb7f5 http://forum.kde.org/ http://www.kubuntu.org/news/kde-sc-473 http://www.kubuntu.org/ http://www.kubuntu.org/feature-tour KHelpCenter http://docs.kde.org/stable/en/kdebase-runtime/khelpcenter/khelpcenter.pdf Common Tasks - KDE UserBase Wike http://userbase.kde.org/Common_Tasks Tutorials - KDE UserBase Wike http://userbase.kde.org/Tutorials KDE Tips & Hints http://ozjd.wordpress.com/kde-tips-hints/