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Fools one and all

April 1, 2011 6 comments

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

[Update: OK, WordPress, very funny: When you go to look at your blog stats, the real number is on the bar chart, but the bar on the bar chart it set at astronomical heights.]

So far, the pickings began somewhat slim on the tech news front regarding har-de-har-har April Fools’ Day joke news, but it seems to be picking up as of around 9 a.m. Pacific Time — and by this time, which is dusk or later in Europe and night in Asia, the stories should be out and read by now.

The best of the tech so far are these two:

— That KDE is the prize in a raffle, outlined on the KDE site here. I’m just wondering if those who are “offering” are clear on the concept of “prize.”

– Marcel Gagne gives us probably the best written one of the day with his Microsoft buys ReactOS for billions, which you can read here. It had me going before the first cup of coffee this morning.

One that would get a thumbs up except it glosses over an issue that Canonical/Ubuntu would just as soon hide in the dungeon and make believe everything is just peachy is the real identity of “Canonical/Ubuntu critic extrordinaire” Jef Spaleta — according to Jono Bacon’s blog, it’s Jono Bacon himself.

While tongue was planted firmly in cheek and while there was snickerable material in the blog — even the real Jef himself and Mrs. Jef responded to the blog — it makes light of the issue that Jef rightfully and, to his credit, consistently raises: For example, that of Canonical/Ubuntu’s contribution, or lack thereof, to kernel development and other aspects of FOSS where they reap the benefits without putting in the work.

I replied to Jono’s blog, paraphrasing the late Sen. Lloyd Bensten, who said this to then Vice President Dan Quayle in the debate in ’88: “I served with Jef Spaleta. I know Jef Spaleta. Jef Spaleta is a friend of mine. Jono, you’re no Jef Spaleta.”

One blog falters to the point of faceplanting: Sam Varghese writes on ITWorld — not linked here in principle — that the Linux kernel will be released under the BSD license. This would be a good one in theory, but in execution it tends to go off on a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” tangent that makes it implausable from the start. Secret meetings in Tegucigalpa? Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

There are also trappings of mirth in some Facebook statuses: The Rude Pundit (warning: though politically appropriate in my opinion, foul language abounds), a liberal blogger who is on top of my list of non-tech reads, gets an honorary degree from Bob Jones University. Also, Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier throws up his hands and goes over to KDE — ha ha, funny guy, that GNOME media guru.

It’s still early in these parts, so maybe a Hail Mary pass will find its way to a receiver during the course of the day. Or not. Just bear in mind that it’s April 1, and that your shoe is really not untied. Or worse.

[Another update, pointed out by Juan Rodriguez below in the comments: Juan, aka Nushio, gets high marks for his "Fedora Cheat Ball." Link is in the comments -- go take a look.]

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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It’s not about you

March 17, 2011 4 comments

Linuxfest Northwest 2011 - April 30th-May 1st I’ll be there. You should be there, too.

As many of you know, I am in the throes of using Fedora 15 Alpha on a desktop box running the GNOME 3 — also innocuously known in Fedora circles as “desktop” — as well as using F15 Alpha KDE on the road warrior laptop, the long-in-the-tooth ThinkPad T30 which, while completely faithful and trusty, is often Exhibit A in the “gee, I wish I had newer hardware” diatribes I often utter.

The F15 Alpha experience so far has been great — the T30 just hums along with KDE 4.6.1 in a way that’s incredibly eerie. Alphas aren’t supposed to run this error-free, I say, knocking hard on wood. The desktop box with “desktop” also hums along as well, error-free like the laptop, but there’s something I can’t put my finger on regarding the GNOME 3 experience so far that is . . . .

Offputting. Well, that’s not exactly the word I’m looking for, but it’s as close as I can come.

I can’t explain it any better than that. There’s something that wants me to keep GNOME 3 at arm’s length, and while I’ll keep “desktop” on the desktop box once F15 is released — for obvious reasons involving the need to keep up with GNOME for — I am not sure it will be my primary desktop environment going forward.

To be honest, I’m a huge GNOME fan and I felt guilty about feeling this way until I read this blog item by Swapnil Bhartiya entitled “My Wife Loves GNOME 3.” The blog item is worth a read — and go ahead, I’ll wait — but to summarize, Swapnil installed F15 Alpha on a machine to review, and his “non-techie” (Swapnil’s words) wife instead took GNOME 3 for a test drive and loved it.

And then it hit me, hopefully without leaving a mark: It’s not about me, or you for that matter.

The “it,” of course, is developments like GNOME 3 and, to a degree, the Unity desktop. The “me” and “you” that make up the “us” in this equation are the experienced user who others come to for advice and answers when it comes to Linux and FOSS.

It’s not about us. It’s about getting the newer users comfortable with Linux/FOSS.

You and I can tweak our desktop environments — heck, our systems, for that matter — to be whatever they want. Those who are new to Linux don’t have that knowledge, let alone the capability.

Add to the mix that netbooks and other mobile devices are eclipsing desktops and laptops — a fact that I find hard to bear, but can’t argue against — and you have a formula that spells the future of desktop environments that puts ease of use and like-minded usability between mobile and laptop/desktop computers in the forefront.

So I don’t feel so bad about getting used to GNOME 3 now, and I get why it’s the way it is. And all those bad things I said about Unity . . . OK, well let’s not get carried away here.

Fedora 15 Alpha is out there. Get it 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. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE Tags: , , , ,

It’s Friday, I’m in love

August 13, 2010 4 comments

Ah, love! The Cure’s song that carries today’s blog title bounces gently off the walls of the office while I think about the things I love about GNU/Linux (or Linux, if you’re so inclined).

Like . . .

  • A multiplicity of distros: Oh, 350-odd (and some not so odd) active Linux distributions in their wide range of uses, even though about 50 of them are relevant and regularly used by the GNU/Linux-using public. Some think that’s too many, but I would disagree: Distros are like ice cream, and you pick the flavor that suits your taste (not to mention your needs) and use it. I’d prefer to have hundreds to choose from rather than have a Baskin-Robbins limitation to 33 flavors. [Those who know me know I'm a Fedora guy, but the boxes at Redwood Digital also run Debian (especially on the Macs), Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and a PII box with AntiX Mepis.] To appreciate the amount of choice we have, a visit to DistroWatch might be in order.
  • A variety of desktops: Who’s limited to what environment appears on our screens? We’re not. Thanks to the big daddies — GNOME and KDE (the former which I use most often and the latter which I’m growing to like more over time) — and to those desktop environments which leave the processor’s horsepower to more important digital matters — take a bow Xfce and LXDE — we have a wide range of options. Of course, if four isn’t enough, throw in IceWM and Flux and . . . .
  • The busy Beavers at Oregon State: The crew at Oregon State University deserve special mention. Chances are when you download a FOSS program or a distro, it comes to you directly from beautiful downtown Corvallis, Ore., home of the Oregon State University Open Source Lab (well, OK, perhaps OSU isn’t downtown per se, but you get the point). Kudos to OSL operations boss Jeff Sheltren and infrastructure architect Lance Albertson, as well as the rest of the OSL’s staff, for keeping the FOSS programs available. In addition, the OSL’s efforts hardly pale in comparison with the dedication and commitment to FOSS in OSU’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, which is responsible for the Oregon State Wireless Activity Learning Device (or OSWALD). A tip of the hat — a Fedora, of course — to EECS faculty professors Tim Budd and Carlos Jensen for the OSWALD, and great work, all.
  • Showtime: The various Linux/FOSS shows and expos throughout the year are great to attend — the ones I can make, like the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) and OSCON are the ones around which I plan family vacations. Throw in other shows into the mix like the Utah Open Source Conference in October and the other standards like Southeast Linux Fest, the OLFs (Ohio and Ontario Linux Fests), Calgary Open Source Systems Festival (COSSFEST), while tossing in new shows like Texas Linux Fest, and the calendar is full of opportunities to promote FOSS and learn a thing or two if you aren’t careful.
  • My peeps: You all know who you are, and don’t think for a minute I’m going to try to name all of you because I’ll forget someone and then they’ll feel bad and I’ll hate myself for forgetting for years to follow. Thank you to those who make everything work across distro, desktop and program borders — you are truly the heroes of FOSS and have my undying respect, gratitude and love.

    [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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  • 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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    The Three Faces of Fedora 11: Epilogue

    June 19, 2009 6 comments

    During the course of the week, I had been asked the following question in various forms (the “forms” being a mangling of the desktop’s initials): “What about LXDE? Are you going to discuss the ‘fourth face’ of the Three Faces of Fedora 11?”

    Well, the answer is: Not right away. Though very appealing and a desktop that has piqued my curiosity, LXDE was not part of the Fedora 11 constellation this time around (key words here: “this time around”) — neither was it an offering on the regular distro nor was it a “spin” (the spin list is here). However, I have the instructions on how to get going with LXDE, and I promise to take it for a test spin in the next couple of weeks.

    Watch this space.

    As for the “three faces” blog series, it’s always a joy to do blogs like this because a.) I get to play with software I normally wouldn’t fiddle with, and b.) I get to find out a lot of stuff that I didn’t know in the first place (look up “lifelong learning” in the dictionary and you’ll see my picture).

    For those of you who are curious, and even if you aren’t, I think I’m going to break ranks with my GNOME roots and primarily use KDE on Fedora 11.

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

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    Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE, Xfce Tags: , , , , ,

    The Three Faces of Fedora 11, Part 2: KDE

    June 17, 2009 11 comments

    The following may come as a shock to you all: I had originally written another blog, filled with kute kommentary kompletely katagorizing the klear advantages kurrently available in the new KDE 4.2, and how well it runs on the lightning-kwick Fedora 11.

    But after being up all night with this version of Fedora 11, I deleted most of it. I’m not going to go there — not with the “k” thing which, since 1996, has probably been the mainstay of jokes around the desktop environment; jokes which those close to KDE find beyond tiresome by this time, I’m sure.

    “Up all night” sounds bad, too, as if I were nursing a sick child with a fever. That’s not the case here. On the contrary: The reason I was up all night with KDE is that, as predominantly a GNOME user, I was enthralled by the desktop environment and its accompanying programs. Enthralled probably isn’t the best word here, and neither is enamored because neither word does justice to how impressed I am overall with KDE 4.2′s offerings and performance on Fedora 11.

    A caveat: There are programs that I still prefer over the ones K provides on KDE. For example, while KOffice is an adequate program, you can have my OpenOffice when you pry my cold, dead fingers from it, and I installed it and tested with it. While I am an unequivocal OOo user, I do think that KThesarus is an excellent addition to KOffice. Konqueror, though adequate, tends to falter when it comes to some sites — Facebook and Gmail come immediately to mind. So Firefox was installed as well.

    Having said this, though, there are programs on here that I like very much and would use going forward. I put Konversation through its paces during the Fedora Ambassadors IRC meeting on Tuesday evening, and it gained me as a convert. Also, KMail was very easy to set up and use and is a viable alternative — and in many ways a superior one, once you find your way around it — to Evolution.

    [Note: I'm still on the fence when it comes to KsCD, but with the hour being what it was last night I wasn't able to crank up the Judas Priest -- played, of course, for testing purposes only. No, really. Just for testing . . . ]

    Despite the digital stumble KDE 4 arguably may have been, KDE 4.2 tends to make up for it and goes way above and beyond the call. Further, KDE is clearly worth considering if you’re installing Fedora 11, whether or not F11 is the first time you’re using Fedora.

    Coming tomorrow: Divine inspiration in using Fedora 11 with the Xfce desktop.

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

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    Categories: Fedora, KDE Tags: , ,

    The Three Faces of Fedora – Prologue

    June 13, 2009 6 comments

    Although the title above takes a page from film history, Joanne Woodward won’t be appearing in this blog.

    [Okay kids, Joanne Woodward was an actress in the mid-20th Century who was married to Paul Newman, another actor around the same time who retired from acting to race cars and make great salad dressing and cookies. One of her most famous roles was playing the schizophrenic woman in “The Three Faces of Eve,” hence the source of the title of this blog series.]

    [No, I'm not saying I think Fedora is schizophrenic. I'm just playing off the film title. Sheesh.]

    With a few of boxes to spare at the offices of Redwood Digital Research in beautiful downtown Felton, Calif. — no, you can’t have them — I thought I’d run a small experiment: Take Fedora 11 and run it on separate machines with three different desktop environments. You know the lineup — GNOME, KDE and Xfce, which comes as a Fedora spin.

    Then, of course, write about the results and observations here.

    Starting Monday: The Three Faces of Fedora: GNOME on F11. Watch this space.

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

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