My KDE week

Archive for January 2011

It’s been a while and there was nothing special to report, KDE SC 4.5 just worked. In the meantime KDE SC 4.6 was released and openSUSE offers it in KDF as well as KR46 repos. The corresponding Extra and Playground repos are still WIP. Big thanks to everybody who is involved in establishing and maintaining those repos – openSUSE really profits a lot from the (openSUSE-)KDE community that makes it possible to provide such a nice and updated KDE distro.

Those updating from KDE 4.4 which came with openSUSE 11.3 to 4.6 – please save your plasma* files from ~/.kde4/share/config in case plasma crashes after the update. Submitting them to Novell’s bugzilla would be much appreciated in order to get those crashes fixed for openSUSE 11.4. The same applies to all other issues that come up when updating KDE 4.4 to 4.6, e.g. kdepim-related.

KDE SC 4.6

KDE 4.6 has some nice fixes, among them bko bug 163707 which prevented KDE from restoring the resolution set in systemsettings on login. This is especially important to openSUSE users since sax2 is gone and display settings moved into the desktop environment. Plasma seems to become more stable with every release – in fact I did not have any major issues with it since ages and bug fixing is pretty fast as well. Dolphin does also not suffer from buggy dbus packages anymore and with the latest strigi packages I do not encounter any crashes on close or when hovering certain files which did crash dolphin before. Thanks to remur_030 who helped the strigi people tracking the latter down for .msi files and thereby found and fixed some general issue in strigi which could cause crashes.

Desktop search

The desktop search does still not justify its name though since basics are still missing, e.g. context given for search results as all other desktop searches do and kerry + beagle already did years ago. The feature was shown some months ago but is not as such available in KDE 4.6 – thus even in KDE 4.6 all the user gets is a replacement of kfind + tagging which needs a huge database for that simple task.

On top of that there are still issues with virtuoso-t hogging the CPU, its database never decreasing in size but only increasing, even if you remove folders from the “to be indexed”-list and the systray-tool used to suspend the indexing vanished as well decreasing transparency to the user of an app which potentially keeps your hard disk and CPU busy.

Yes, I know there is always a shortage of manpower but IMHO if an app fails to provide the very basic features regarding the functionality its name advertises, it will not gain any acceptance among users and since every xth user is also a developer it will not attract developers either. Thus the extent of this manpower shortage is self-imposed in case of nepomuk aka desktop search.

I think its a bit unfortunate that strigi is always blamed for anything related to the desktop search in KDE although it is just the tool that is used by nepomuk and its usage is up to nepomuk and not strigi itself, i.e. when to start hammering the hard disk, how to handle the results within a database, what results to display when searching, giving the user control and information regarding its activities etc. From my experience strigi devs are quite responsive regarding bugs and questions – although their websites are all pretty much outdated. 🙂

Power-management

Power-management got worse in KDE 4.6, regressions such as not disabling powermanagement on desktops and thus suspending the display every 10 minutes, the brigtness slider not representing 100% of the brightness supported by the notebook and it still messes with the brightness the user has set. All these were reported some weeks ago already. Let’s hope that KDE SC 4.6.1 fixes those since that seems to be the version that openSUSE 11.4 will ship.

Further having a presentation-scheme (no suspend, no dimming etc.) is kind of useless with KDE 4.6 since it will change to the next scheme if the battery hits any limit. Thus you have to permanently watch the status and switch back to the presentation-scheme to be save of a suspending notebook while you watch a movie within the presentation or during some longer discussion which leads to you not moving the mouse for some minutes.

Ignoring the scheme the user manually set does indeed make sense but only for the last 5% of your battery and in order to avoid the notebook just turning off because there was no power left.

openSUSE 11.4 milestones also features a power-management bug that makes your hard disk suspend every few minutes, confirmed but no fix so far.

Major-mystery-32bit-NVIDIA-driver>256.53-KDE>4.4-openSUSE-bug

For openSUSE 11.4 there is still one major mystery bug to solve for openSUSE 32-bit NVIDIA users which get several apps crashing since they updated to KDE >= 4.5.

Package-management

For openSUSE 11.4 we are currently testing kpackagekit/apper as a replacement for the unmaintained kupdateapplet. Kpackagekit works ok but it seems that its zypper backend could need some improvements. And the next version of kpackagekit which will be called apper features monochrome systray icons which is fine, but the “security patch available” signal is just a tiny red dot which is hardly visible, especially if your eye-sight is not the best or you are suffering red-green colour blindness. So most issues with kpackagekit are not actually kpackagekit’s fault but either backend-related or touching artists’ taste.

Phonon-backends

Another application to test is the phonon-backend to be used in openSUSE 11.4 by default. Should we stay with xine whose backend is apparently unmaintained but has served most users well, switch to the vlc-backend or maybe use the gstreamer-backend?

Trying to play some file with amarok and the gstreamer-backend brings up some dialogue (/usr/lib/gst-install-plugins-helper) that asks whether it should search for some package, I guess codecs. If one clicks on “search” kpackagekit opens up and claims instantly that “Getting what provides” finished but does not do anything. This is on 11.3 plus KDE 4.6 from KDF, so let’s hope it works better on 11.4.

The vlc-backend consumes the double amount of CPU for playing the same mp3 via amarok. 8% instead of 4% might not be that much in absolute terms but a 100% waste nonetheless and especially on mobile devices everything that wastes battery should be avoided. Further there seem to be issues playing video via vlc, some apps like dragonplayer.

KDE-PIM

And finally there is of course the always present issue of KDE-PIM. openSUSE 11.4 will ship kdepim 4.4.10 which needs testing. There is especially one annoying bug which makes kontact crash when logging in if the last view before logging out was kmail. So let’s hope this can be fixed before 11.4 gets released.

I was really looking forward to KDE-PIM 4.6 since IMAP-support seems a lot better with akonadi, at least for my use-cases which include suspending/resuming. The latter makes KDE-PIM 4.4’s imap slave fail and not recover which works fine with KDE-PIM 4.6. You can get regularly updated packages for the latter off openSUSE’s UNSTABLE KDE repo.

Help testing

Please help testing KDE SC 4.6 from the openSUSE repos in order to make it shine in openSUSE 11.4. Feedback can go to the related wiki pages or straight to opensuse-kde@.