The DistRogue

Saturday, January 12, 2008

KDE 4: It'll be even better soon

Introduction
KDE 4.0.0 was released on Friday. For the KDE team, it represents a huge leap forward in many areas, one of them being that they didn't add a K onto the name of every new app. For once. But elsewhere, KDE 4 brings huge enhancements both on and under the surface. The panel (aka the Kicker) has been replaced by a combination desktop/panel/widget layer called Plasma. Dolphin now handles file management, leaving Konqueror as the Web browser. The entire theme was redesigned from the top down through the Oxygen project. There are a lot of important changes that will shape KDE for years.

Installation

But before you get to the good part, you have to install KDE 4. And it's a beast to install. The instructions are here, and they're not pretty. You can just copy/paste them into a Konsole, but it takes about 2 hours (on my machine, a Core Duo/1.73GHz with 512MB RAM). Plus, it involves Kompiling countless lines of code, which will eat up roughly 3 gigs of disk space, so make sure to delete some CD images first.
Then, there's the problem of getting it to work. Head here for that. I tried and failed to set up a KDM session, and so I had to try the Xephyr method. A hint: To change the resolution of the nested X session, use this Kommand:
xrandr -display :1 -s [insert resolution here]
I had to settle for a 1024x768 resolution, so the sKreenshots aren't going to be as big as you're used to.
On the plus side, various distros will begin shipping with KDE 4 VERY soon. Ark Linux is supposed to be one of the first, followed by Mandriva 2008.1, Kubuntu 8.04, Fedora 9, and openSUSE 11.0, among others. Debian already has KDE 4 packages in Unstable, and KDE 4 will probably ship with 4.1 "Lenny", due out later this year.

Artwork
The most striKinK thing about KDE 4 is the artwork. The Oxygen team spent countless hours developing an entirely scalable icon set for KDE 4, and it looks sweet. The theme also has a control set and a completely original window border. The Oxygen theme shows that LinuKs developers are capable of coming up with something original rather than taking the low road and 'innovating' stuff from other OSes a la Microsoft.

The desktop is something else entirely with this release. It has a widget layer that can be used to add little KloKs and stuff above the wallpaper and (if you MUST have them) icons.

The widgets can also be scaled and moved around the desktop, and have a nice semi-transparent border with drop shadows.

The Plasma panel has the Kickoff menu introduced to the world with openSUSE 10.2, and not much has changed.

And by the way, the desktop can be zoomed in and out.

Installed Software
In KDE 4, Dolphin replaces Konqueror as the file manager (Konqueror is still the default Web browser). Great, but what's Dolphin?

Dolphin is KDE's version of Thunar. It's a light-weight file manager designed for file management and nothing but file management. Konqueror doubled as the Web browser, and as a result, it had to load all sorts of libraries and extensions that a file manager shouldn't have to load. By trimming all that off, Dolphin is a lighter and faster file manager. It also looks a lot like Thunar...
Of course, the KDE team hasn't given up on Konqueror. Free of its file-management components, it loads faster than ever, along with other improvements (note the bottom part of the menu):

KDE 4 also has all the old KDE apps you know and love, along with some new ones, like this cute (and extremely useful) Run Program dialog.

KDE 4 also makes a huge leap forwards in sound. It uses a new audio framework, Decibel, to replace the aging aRts. Decibel is similar to PulseAudio, the new sound server used in Fedora 8, but even more advanced. It can route different types of sounds to different audio servers (including external ones- it has built-in JACK support). Sound worked out of the box- something I was NOT expecting.

Pros:
-All sorts of cool new stuff
-Faster file manager
-Awesome new theme
-Sound works much better
-Plasma widgets are useful and customizable
-Kickoff menu- need I say more?
Cons:
-Long install process
Friendliness: 5/5
- Even easier than before.
Performance: 4/5- Qt 4 supposedly boasts a 20-30% speed increase over Qt 3, but I couldn't test it.
Features: 5/5- The main reason to switch.
Packaging Installation: 2/5- Expect it to rise to a 4 as more packages become available.
Artwork: 2.5/2.5- Oxygen paid off big-time.
Community: 1/2.5- As more people are available to help you, expect it to increase to 2.5.
Now:

In a couple months or so:

Overall: 3.9/5, will eventually become a 4.6/5- Finally, Linux has a top-tier desktop environment.
From MEPIS 7.0 with KDE 4,
The Distrogue.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cons: Limited configurability, limited customization, no tabs in Dolphin, Konqueror was a far better file manager, Kickoff style menu not everyone's cup of tea, ugly Kicker panel that now has limited usefulness, not all that stable...

This list goes on and on. If I wanted something this limited, I'd use Gnome. Give me KDE back!!! I want all the costomization and configurability at my fingertips! I sure hope they have a lot of new features/fixes coming out with KDE 4.1, or even 4.0.1 for that matter.

The press hammered Apple for some minor things in Leopard, but KDE seems as if it was rushed and they didn't completely put all the features we all know and love into it, but it seems to get unjustified glowing reviews of it.

KDE 4 is to KDE what Vista is to Windows... It's prettier, but a lot less useful - and it was certainly pushed upon us too soon.

5:30 PM  
Blogger jajaja said...

yawn. you can read it everywhere: 4.0 is NOT meant for usage yet. KDE developers all over the place told us that 4.1 or likely 4.2 will be the version to upgrade to. it's a test drive that's all - and for that it's impressive.

apple gets a bashing - of course! if you consider the money you have to spent and how they bashed MS, they deserve no better...

by the way: openSUSE has an easy one click install of KDE4...

8:57 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Kickoff style menu not everyone's cup of tea
Well, you can't please everyone... The panel customization issues, by the way, are supposedly on the to-do list for 4.1 (maybe even 4.0.1).
by the way: openSUSE has an easy one click install of KDE4...
I was talking about releases that will include KDE4 as the default desktop, but thanks for mentioning that. In addition, the upcoming PCLinuxOS 2008 release will feature KDE4- in fact, the developers cited that as the reason it took so long, they were waiting for it. The MiniMe is out so soon because it uses KDE3.5.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's not meant for usage, then why was it released? Honestly, I've been a longtime Linux and KDE user. However, this really disappoints me.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The developers said that they released KDE 4.0 as a test drive, but they also released it so that way more people can test it, if KDE 4.0 remained as beta for a long time, a few people would test it, as a final release a lot of people would test it, they did not want to be like enlightenment, e17. Smart move, please understand and read some more before whining!

12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just downloaded and tried Kubuntu's KDE4 version.

It's terrible. Like a big shiny piece of crap...

Even arranging 20 icons on the Desktop is an unsolvable problem for KDE4. When you try to arrange them by the grid - no problem - it puts 2-3 icons on the same position on each other.
Every icon is surrounded by a frame "helping" you to resize or turn it - let's say 17 degrees on the left (useful, huh?)... And the frame just doesn't want to disappear after setting the icon - or is wants, who knows, it's his decision.

I am simply tired to list its weaknesses!

If you want to torture yourself or merely waste a couple of valuable hours from your life go ahead and try it...

The new look, that is nice and very important - more important than creating something usable.

PATHETIC.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"KDE 4 also makes a huge leap forwards in sound. It uses a new audio framework, Decibel, to replace the aging aRts."
Nope, Decibel is the communiction framework, the media framework's called phonon.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Red Devil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:46 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Comment deleted for spam. The irony is that on your blog, you discourage people from posting spam in your comments. Maybe you should listen to your own advice- it sounds sage enough.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why was my previous posting removed? It contained no bad language, no personal criticisms - nothing which could be considered offensive to or by anyone. I merely pointed out that one could test KDE 4 by using the openSUSE Live CD, and that I had reviewed it on my blog - why would that cause offence?
Red Devil

2:15 PM  
Blogger DJ Gentoo said...

Simple. I have had issues with comment spam in the past, and I do not appreciate other people advertising on my blog. Another warning: If you do not learn that you only have to click "Publish Your Comment" once, I will begin removing your double posts without even looking. Spam is bad enough, but doubling it will result in things getting really nasty.

3:52 PM  

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