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A little healthy kompetition

June 8, 2010 8 comments

As previously mentioned in this blog — and as I tell anyone who’ll listen to me — I go back and forth between the two top desktop environments with Fedora on my Fujitsu laptop — the even numbers, as it turns out, have been GNOME and the odd (with nothing to read into this, honest) have been KDE. Since we’re now at Fedora 13, it’s KDE time.

For those Xfce, LXDE, Fluxbox and IceWM fans out there, I do have machines in the Jungle Room — the lab at Redwood Digital Research in Felton, Calif., named after the same room at Graceland — running those desktops. While I’m a huge fan of Xfce on the machines that run it, I normally don’t stray too far from GNOME and KDE.

Moving right along, though, in those instances where I use KDE on the laptop, I’ve always been impressed with the number of programs that KDE includes when downloading the KDE version of Fedora. This time around, it occurred to me that maybe I should give some of them a chance — rather than just downloading the programs I’m used to (OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.) during the post-install phase — I should give the K its due.

But I downloaded the programs anyway. I wanted to do a comparison to see how the KDE software stacked up against the software I normally use across a variety of machines running other desktops. Bear in mind, too, that since I use KDE only six months at a time, I am clearly not an expert on it, and if I’ve missed something, by all means I’m open to correction.

Before I start, I want to sing the praises for most of the programs I’ve run that are KDE-native, and single out a quartet of KDE-native programs — specifically K3b, Dolphin, KPackageKit and KColorChooser. The first three have always been very cooperative, have been easy to use and have worked well; the fourth came in handy recently in tweaking a Web site.

Conversely, there are KDE-native programs I don’t understand. The top candidate here is Kget — what the hell is that big bouncing disk doing in the center of my desktop? — and it begs the question: Why have it when you can use KPackageKit?

So, without further adeiu and with a little fanfare, allow me to wave the green flag on a comparison and contrasting of programs supplied by KDE against those that aren’t.

KWord/KPresenter vs. OpenOffice.org Writer/OpenOffice.org Impress: KDE gets an A for effort on this one. Though not as slick as the OO.o Writer, KWord does open other files and offers the option of exporting a document to a Portable Document Format file (a clear advantage that both have over any Redmond product) and it performs admirably when used. The downside of KWord is that you can only save a document in one format — albeit the most important one (.odt) — whereas with OO.o Writer you can save it in various formats, even if need be in WordStar (which is a Solaris holdover, I know, but still). OO.o Writer also has a huge library of templates for use.

KPresenter, however, stands shoulder to shoulder and goes the distance with OO.o Impress on usability and functionality, to the point where in the past I’ve actually given talks using my Impress file running, unbeknown to me until later, on KPresenter. Like KWord, the slickness factor is lacking in KPresenter, but all the trappings for making a great presentation are there.

Advantage: OO.o Writer clearly over KWord, but KPresenter and OO.o Impress tie.

Konversation vs. XChat: While I get a handle on Irssi, I should say that I’ve always been a XChat user. Go ahead and mock me with the training wheels jokes, but it has served my purposes well over the past several years, to the point where I never used Konversation when running the KDE desktop. Konversation v1.2.3, however, may eclipse XChat for my IRC purposes. Its ease of configuring is a huge plus, as is its putting action messages on the screen you’re in as opposed to in the server screen only (i.e., when you mark yourself away in XChat, for example, it appears only on the server window; in Konversation, it appears on the window you’re in — minor, I know, but enough to sway the simpletons like yours truly).

Advantage: Konversation (but we all know that Irssi is what the cool kids use).

KMail vs. Thunderbird: I have used Thunderbird since it’s inception. I like Thunderbird. No, let me rephrase that: I love Thunderbird. So analyzing this one may not be fair, but using KMail to get my fedoraproject.org mail on the laptop has been a pleasant surprise. One feature that takes getting used to, but is logically sound and advantageous once you get the hang of it, is that KMail will nest responses to e-mails, tree-like, under the previous topic’s message. To me, it was disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it, it becomes a huge time-saver in following e-mail threads. Being able to see the details of an e-mail by running the cursor over it is also a plus.

Advantage: Thunderbird, because we have a history, but KMail gets high marks and more than likely I’ll continue to use it after Fedora 13.

Konqueror vs. Firefox: I really want to say something nice, and find something I genuinely like, about Konqueror. Really and truly, and cross my heart, with all my being I truly hope someday to find something to like. But other than it’s an adequate file manager and document viewer, it really stops there and I can’t say much more for it. Meanwhile with all the other browsers out there — coupled with the fact that KDE comes with Dolphin (a file manager) and Okular (a document viewer and an outstanding program that, unfortunately, I had nothing to compare it with) — Konqueror seems to be just a niche browser compared to others.

Advantage: Firefox, by default.

Meanwhile, you can still go get Fedora 13 here. And don’t be afraid to go try the KDE spin, if you’re thinking about it.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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In orbit over Fedora 13

June 1, 2010 3 comments

First an apology: Shortly after I installed Fedora 13, my six-year-old laptop (the ever-present Fujitsu) decided to go into graphics card-iac arrest — a pretty amazing show, in a morbid way, but not one I’d want to repeat. So I had to spend the next several days trying to replace the card and get it working. For those looking for the blog during that time, from my Mom to others, I apologize for the delay.

But now that a new card, working flawlessly, is in and a reinstall of the operating system has been done, Fedora 13 is still running circles — no, running orbits — around any other distro I’ve yet encountered. Which, of course, leads me to recall a blogger a few months ago who wrote that Fedora 13, like Apollo 13, could be an unlucky release.

Not a chance.

Out of the box, albeit the second time around (through no fault of the distro’s, incidentally), Fedora 13 performed flawlessly. First test, always a good one: I plugged in the HP DeskJet and, voila, not only did it find the printer driver instantly, it asked me if I’d like a cup of coffee or a foot massage while the job is printing. OK, I made up the last part, but the fact remains that not having to tweak the printer driver is a welcome addition.

Clarity abounds: Whether it’s the new graphics card or just great planning and execution of the code (and I’d side for the latter), the Fujitsu’s main raison d’etre — its great screen — is clearer than ever. Not only this, tweaking the screen took little effort as well. Not only this, I got to try out the Bluetooth networking capabilities thanks to a friend who needed something on his phone printed out — friend, with page in hand, is now very curious about what Linux can do for him so there may be a convert on the horizon.

So far, everything has worked as expected and, in some cases, worked better than expected. Audio/video deserves special mention — not that I use it much (or, not that I use it at all, because I don’t), but I had an opportunity to play the “Truth Happens” film and it ran better than it has in the past. Coincidence? Not likely. Game, set, match F13.

One for my class: Since we’re going to be doing more Python in September, Fedora 13 has, and I quote, “a parallel-installable Python 3 stack that will help programmers write and test code for use in both Python 2.6 and Python 3 environments.” Now, kids, if you’re really smart, you’d take the Fedora 13 disk your teacher gives you and work with this part so you’ll be ready when you return to school (so you can show me how to do it, that is . . . ahem).

As is my custom, I alternate between GNOME and KDE for desktop environments on the laptop to keep my skills in each desktop sharp. I go with GNOME in the even-numbered releases, KDE for the odd (no, there’s nothing to read into that, it just happens that way). And, yes, I’m going to resist the temptation to make krazy and kontroversial kracks about KDE’s affinity for naming software starting with the letter “K.” Or not.

But having said this, there are a couple of caveats that require mentioning — personal ones that really don’t take anything away from Fedora 13′s shine. Pet peeve number one: No GIMP on the install. Easily installable upon completion of the installation, I know, but still. It’s akin to the inability to get OpenOffice.org on a Live CD and having to go get it afterward — a minor inconvenience, but one that I’d gladly forgo.

Another peeve: Installing games you can’t win. Why include them if they just annoy the heck out of you?

What may be next on the blog list is a comparison between some of the KDE programs and how they fare against their non-KDE FOSS counterparts (yeah, I’m looking at you, Konqueror).

Meanwhile, go get Fedora 13, if you want, here.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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