03.08.21

Gemini Capsules and Pages Now Accessible in a Web Browser, Qutebrowser, But Qutebrowser Has Issues

Posted in Google, KDE, Microsoft at 5:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: As noted earlier this morning, it’s nowadays possible to access Gemini capsules through a Web browser without any Web proxies; but the (likely) first browser with that capability has numerous big issues

THIS morning I woke up to the news that qutebrowser has a 1.0.x version of something called qute-gemini, which is Free software developed using Free software (not something like GitHub). But qutebrowser itself is developed using proprietary software (Qt and GitHub) and it is trying to impose spying on the user. As soon as it’s opened for the first time there’s a keylogger and each time it’s started again (at least on Debian Buster) the keylogger comes back.

“Generally speaking, turning Web browsers (heavy and bloated) into Gemini clients isn’t really the goal of the Gemini protocol.”It’s quite a shame that now, as we finally get Gemini working sort of natively in browsers (through a browser extension), it is a browser which is itself rather problematic. It is not user-friendly, it uses Google and Microsoft for key things, and it does not respect privacy (merely posing as such).

Generally speaking, turning Web browsers (heavy and bloated) into Gemini clients isn’t really the goal of the Gemini protocol. Some of the envisioned benefits are less bloat (good for old PCs and hence the environment), more privacy, and freedom from monopolies. So I regret to say I cannot recommend qute-gemini, mostly because of the browser it is connected to (qutebrowser). The journey continues…

01.26.21

Why You Should Give Falkon (the Web Browser) a Chance on GNU/Linux, BSD, or Windows

Posted in Free/Libre Software, KDE at 6:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: In this crazy new world where advertisers are the real customers and Web users (“audiences”) have been reduced to mere products we need a browser that isn’t controlled by a company; try Falkon

THE World Wide Web is a very wild place, but it takes some effort to see the wildness because it is mostly hidden away from sight. Browsers are spying on their users, Web sites spy on visitors, ISPs are selling personal data in bulk, and so-called ‘search’ engines are just espionage operations with a “simple” front that that gives a few lousy search results in exchange (or compensation) for the espionage, which also extends to psychological manipulation and censorship. As of recent years, I can no longer recommend the World Wide Web to anybody, let alone the toxic hate machine that is social control media (no matter if it’s Free software-based and/or decentralised because it’s inherently problematic as a construct).

“Free software (such as KDE) puts the user in charge of the computer/computing.”When I use or enter the World Wide Web (which isn’t much to be frank, as I mostly read my news of interest in Kate, the plain text editor, or through RSS feeds) I typically use Konqueror and Falkon. Seeing where Mozilla is trying to sway the World Wide Web (censorship, DRM and so on), I cannot recommend Firefox but I still keep it around for sites that are highly restrictive in the browser support sense/spectrum.

Falkon logoIn this short video (limited time available for recording because of work around the house) I show some basic features of Falkon and say a few words on the status of the project/World Wide Web browser. It’s nothing too fancy, but it generally works and typically works very well, probably best among KDE/Qt browsers (and I’ve used or tried almost all of them over the years!).

Falkon does not want or care about your browsing history. There’s no “clown storage” for Falkon and it won’t ask you to log in or check out some (dis)service. The ad blocking is a built-in feature. With Falkon it’s always you, the user, in control of the Web browser (in a world where the World Wide Web increasingly controls the user).

I warmly recommend Falkon to anyone who feels tired of proprietary browsers like Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Edge/MSIE, Safari and so on. Give it a go. What have you got to lose? Let’s take the Web back.

Regarding Brave and Firefox, I have mixed feelings about the companies behind them. I fear that this suspicion and distrust will be justified more and more over time (more ‘accidents’ or gaffes, which they will ‘correct’ after public outcry and media backlash).

Free software (such as KDE) puts the user in charge of the computer/computing. Nothing is going to change that. Falkon is GPLv3-licensed, which reaffirms its commitment to true freedom, unlike many other Web browsers. It’s built using Qt and Qt may be going proprietary (Qt5 LTS and Qt6+), but we keep hearing forks of Qt are on the way, imminently, so that oughtn’t be a reason for concern. By default Falkon uses QtWebEngine. Remember that WebKit and many of today’s rendering engines actually came from KDE (KHTML/Konqueror). A lot of people, certainly those influenced by the mainstream media, will never publicly acknowledge this.

I’ve used Falkon (or QupZilla prior to the rename) for nearly half a decade. It’s mostly the work of one single individual. Thank you, David Rosca!

01.05.21

Qt is Shooting Itself in the Foot With Licensing Changes

Posted in Free/Libre Software, KDE at 1:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: Qt’s assumption that developers would walk along regardless of licence changes (in Qt6 and prior LTS releases) is hugely misguided and plainly wrong; one need only consider what was said about Qt back when it was proprietary software

THE LATEST move from Qt (the company) is as worrying as prior plans, which Qt outlined in its mailing lists while issuing (after backlash) face-saving statements for the Free software community (trying to pacify key critics).

“Perhaps it’s assuming that locking bugfixes and/or stable releases behind paywalls would make the company richer; in reality, however, it’ll mean less inertia (many developers walking away).”The debian-private archives reveal the level of hostility towards Qt when it was proprietary software, as do the latest responses, which include last night’s Phoronix article and its comments.

Qt needs to tread carefully. Perhaps it’s assuming that locking bugfixes and/or stable releases behind paywalls would make the company richer; in reality, however, it’ll mean less inertia (many developers walking away). In this video I explain why I think Qt makes a fundamental strategic mistake; Free software is becoming the norm, so for Qt to move in the other direction (back to its roots) would only be a short-term strategy — a strategy which would, over the long run, reduce the userbase of Qt and drive developers away.

As Ryan put it moments ago in our IRC channel: “Absolutely nobody is going to accept Qt like this, where version 6 doesn’t even work and the LTS stable releases are proprietary. You can’t base Free Software on any version in that case, unless someone forks the LTS series.”

Developers like yours truly (I’ve used Qt and GTK, among other toolkits) don’t want to rewrite everything from scratch and reinvent the wheel (e.g. scroll wheel support). So we rely on frameworks. Qt has just become a helluva lot less attractive. No amount of technical merit will compensate for legal uncertainty.

“Most of the business plans around Qt failed to materialize,” Ryan has just explained, “and it’s changed hands many times.” Until there will be nothing left to change hands?

“There’s some commercial products using Qt,” Ryan concludes, “but it’s going to be hard to convince them to adopt newer versions or base anything else on it at this point. The logical thing to do is for those users to contribute to the fork so that they can be sure it continues to serve their needs.”

10.03.20

‘Telemetry’ (Surveillance) Ought Not be Tolerated in the Free Software Community

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, KDE, Ubuntu at 6:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Security cams

Summary: If software users learn to tolerate the inclusion of spying code — however that’s being justified — then those users certainly fail to grasp the proposition of software freedom (which is first and foremost about users’ full autonomy)

‘Telemetry’ is a marketing term (euphemism), mostly for marketing types who want to show off the number of users and occasionally what those users are up to. Many are up in arms about Mozilla putting more of this ‘telemetry’ nonsense inside Firefox — a subject we covered here before (Mozilla also puts this code in Microsoft’s proprietary prison, GitHub). They say they want to improve users’ experience, based on their understanding of what users do (remote observation with supposedly ‘anonymous’ statistics, though it’s clear some server gets IP addresses stored).

“If Canonical debunks the argument (or “selling point”) that GNU/Linux won’t betray your very discreet elements of life (like searching locally your photo albums), what will people think and what will freedom-respecting software advocacy look like?”Many years ago Richard Stallman publicly condemned Canonical (or Ubuntu) for allowing Amazon to spy on what GNU/Linux (Unity) users were searching for locally. He issued this condemnation after he and I had debated the subject over E-mail. Many years down the line the problem isn’t resolved. My beloved text editor (yes, plain text) has ‘telemetry’ in it (albeit after controversy we’re reassured that it’s off by default; KDE’s Kate didn’t always have those anti-features and I’ve used it since 2004) though many people still use Visual Studio (‘Code’; openwashing basically), which is proprietary software with ‘telemetry’ in it. Those who use text editors to manage confidential material don’t want some cryptic process to send away data about usage (which can in turn reveal something about the work being done).

SecuriCamIf we keep silent, we may accidentally get across this false impression of indifference or even tolerance of spying. It can embolden companies like Canonical and even some KDE developers to do more of the same. We need more disputes and controversies over the matter; at the very least it serves as a cautionary tale, meaning that developers will think twice or thrice before implementing such malicious ‘features’ which nobody asked for. A few years ago Mozilla used its spying on Firefox users to justify removing RSS support from Firefox (Live Bookmarks), in effect participating in the “War on RSS” or the assault on an open, distributed, decentralised Web. Like Firefox’s abandonment of XUL, there seemed to be no benefit to it… to the users. These increasingly “data-driven” companies hire from Microsoft and from Facebook while posing publicly as champions of privacy. “Free/libre” software and “privacy-respecting” software aren’t the same thing, even if in practice any freedom-respecting software also tends to respect the privacy (an extension of freedom) of users. This was in fact one of the grounds of Stallman’s condemnation. If Canonical debunks the argument (or “selling point”) that GNU/Linux won’t betray your very discreet elements of life (like searching locally your photo albums), what will people think and what will freedom-respecting software advocacy look like?

One core (and seminal) argument for “Free/libre” software was, we ought to put power at the hands of the users. Because if the user does not control the software, it may in fact be the developer (or developer’s employer, government etc.) controlling the user. This argument has been valid since the 1980s. ‘Telemetry’ is an injustice in the sense that it embeds inside the code elements that give the developers unjust spying powers over users. It’s a stepping stone towards non-free and user-disrespecting software.

09.05.20

Qt is Shooting Itself in the Foot Again

Posted in KDE, Law at 9:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This can only help GNOME and GTK

Constantine's foot

Summary: Qt’s consideration of going proprietary is a disaster in the making, likely attributed to misguided managers; but it is still not “too late” to change their minds, reminding them of all the negative publicity they received from developers because of the old licence

THIS is a difficult subject to tackle, but having read several hundreds of old E-mails (Debian-Private) about Qt licensing in the mid-90s I feel compelled to say something.

“Seeing the many rants and flames about Qt (and by extension KDE) over this past week whilst examining Debian-Private archives, I can’t help but feel that with Qt6 the Qt folks (formerly Trolltech and Nokia) harm themselves greatly.”I first used KDE some time around 2000. My wife started using it in 2013. I use KDE on my main laptop and on a secondary laptop I use an older version of KDE (Qt4-based). I love the appearance of Qt widgets; I much prefer that to GTK/GNOME (I use GNOME3 on another secondary laptop and, having developed a bit with GTK since 2001, I have respect for GTK as well). Seeing the many rants and flames about Qt (and by extension KDE) over this past week whilst examining Debian-Private archives, I can’t help but feel that with Qt6 the Qt folks (formerly Trolltech and Nokia) harm themselves greatly. Months ago it became apparent that they’re eager to go proprietary again; KDE folks said they’d consider forking Qt if that happened, whereupon Qt issued some vaguely-worded statement that may raise more questions than it answers. Months down the line there’s still uncertainty about what might happen. It’s all in our Daily Links; nobody has talked about it or even brought up the subject for months (not because anything was tackled/resolved).

“…nobody has talked about it or even brought up the subject for months (not because anything was tackled/resolved).”The founder of KDE had already experienced Qt when working on LyX (a program that I love and have used for two decades) and he’s no longer involved. See what Bruce Perens said here about Miguel de Icaza’s perceived solution; there are many flamewars about Qt/KDE in the Debian-Private mailing list and a perception of bribery (to tolerate Qt).

The way things stand, it seems like Qt will maintain some special exemption for Free/libre software projects, including KDE. But a longstanding concern might be, will KDE basically help promote/market proprietary software which for many projects isn’t free to use, modify and so on? How is this going to work?

“But a longstanding concern might be, will KDE basically help promote/market proprietary software which for many projects isn’t free to use, modify and so on? How is this going to work?”It’s understandable that in 2020 many businesses struggle and try to somehow remain/become profitable. The pandemic makes it a lot harder. But if Qt goes ahead with its current plans (for a still-unreleased version) it may doom the entire thing, alienating developers and making legitimate once again all those 1990s complaints about Qt being present in GNU/Linux base systems. As if Qt is a tainted package that ought to be rejected by so-called ‘purists’ and pragmatists alike. Yes, they are totally pragmatic arguments against non-free software.

Qt has many bright engineers involved (favouring technical excellence over pure greed); over the years they moved from one company (or steward) to another and it wasn’t always clear how they’d ‘monetise’ their work (consulting, customisation, development services etc.) though the issue of money ought to be secondary when we talk about software freedom.

07.24.20

Many Things to Feel Thankful for in the GNU/Linux and Free Software Community

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux, KDE at 11:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The success of Free software may be proportional to the veracity and determination of attacks on it

Tribbles/creatures: It says 'GPL', so you can make as many copies as you wish

Summary: Although we may seem pessimistic at times, for we’ve come under many forms of attacks lately, Free software keeps growing and it has also grown more robust to disruption (from those it replaces, making some hopeless monopolists obsolete or increasingly powerless)

THOUGH it may often seem like we have nothing positive to tell, except perhaps in Daily Links, we’re actually grateful and satisfied to see a number of positive trends, which likely secure software freedom for our future. Let’s elaborate for a bit.

“Don’t fall for the shaming tactics and other manipulations perpetrated and constantly disseminated by dying monopolies. They bomb people for a living while calling us “rude”.”Aside from all sorts of work to liberate ourselves from superficial and artificial hardware restrictions (e.g. booting freedom), we’ve been seeing growing adoption of “open hardware” and freer silicon designs. This is something which seemed like a distant dream a few decades ago. Seemingly unsurmountable obstacles are no more. We have more options out there. Days ago we wrote about a 'flood' of laptops with GNU/Linux preloaded. Some of these include booting freedom as a selling point. This is great!

For me, personally, seeing the demise of the UPC and of software patents (especially in the US) is very much encouraging. Prior to Alice/35 U.S.C. § 101 (SCOTUS, 2014) it seemed almost impossible. Many fellow activists did not believe they could stop the UPC, either. But we did it. Eventually…

Seeing how projects are migrating out of (or away from) GitHub is also encouraging. Some of them are partly inspired by things we wrote here (they state that their motivations include our articles). Even some really large projects are becoming self-hosted. As for KDE and GNOME, they’ve chosen Gitlab and some of the developers adopt Mastodon (or similar) instead of proprietary and centralised Social Control Media such as Twitter. Over the past few years they’ve been saying “Free software” more often (the term “Open Source” is losing its appeal) and there seems to be growing awareness of the attacks against the community, including but not limited to attacks by Microsoft. GitHub is one of those attacks; “Microsoft loves Linux” is “stop resisting” (the police saying, typically uttered when brutalising defenseless people).

I’m ever so thankful for having found Free software; it has the capacity and the means to improve society, to tackle injustices, to enhance transparency, to improve working conditions, to reduce inequality, and to speed up scientific progress at a global scale, without exclusion. Nothing is more tolerant than Free software. Don’t fall for the shaming tactics and other manipulations perpetrated and constantly disseminated by dying monopolies. They bomb people for a living while calling us “rude”. Machinations and manipulations of this kind aren’t uncommon. They’re projection tactics at best.

07.13.20

There’s Apparently a New Boss (or Policy) at Red Hat/IBM

Posted in GNU/Linux, IBM, KDE, Red Hat at 3:46 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rex Dieter bans Kevin Kofler

Summary: The Fedora project doesn’t seem to care much about free speech, no matter one’s seniority in the project; as the person who relayed it to us has just put it, “they even eat their own.” (Longtime contributors) “He’s not a troll. He’s a contributor who rubbed some people the wrong way and now the banhammer is coming out. Fedora KDE was already collapsing and now it finally will.” (Note: Rex Dieter leads or led this project)

06.09.20

The KDE Plasma Experience is the Best One Can Find and It Continues to Improve

Posted in GNU/Linux, KDE at 4:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Top: My dual-head KDE4 set-up (secondary laptop). Bottom: My dual-head KDE5 set-up (primary laptop). There’s another dual-head GNOME set-up (not shown here). Screenshots taken minutes ago.

Summary: A new version of KDE Plasma was released earlier today; it’s time to discuss a decade of turbulence in the KDE project and ways forward (possibly a fork of Qt)

THE most advanced, at least features-wise, desktop environment is KDE. It’s not running only on GNU/Linux. Some BSDs have it as well. No environment such as Windows or MacOS comes close to KDE. This is hardly a controversial thing to say; sure, there are some more complex or advanced tilting-type environments, but in terms of the number of features they’re nowhere near KDE. Not even close.

I myself am a KDE user. Over the past two decades I’ve used it on and off, always on at least one desktop or laptop. My wife is also an on-and-off KDE user. She kept switching between Unity and KDE and nowadays she uses only KDE (although she has all the Debian desktop environments installed on her ThinkPad).

No matter what else I try, I always come back to KDE.

I was a huge fan of KDE3 and I last tried booting KDE3 on an old laptop about 2 months ago. It wasn’t as appealing as I remembered it. Maybe being nostalgic caused me to think it was a lot better than it really was. Linus Torvalds was a KDE fan until KDE4 (he tried the flaky 4.0). I’d urge him to give KDE/Plasma5 another chance (maybe he already has). A lot of the work he does is in the command line either way. When I last met Dr. Richard Stallman in person he used a combination of GNOME and ncurses stuff (including CLI, Emacs, other stuff I could not quite recognise). No KDE…

The transition between different versions of Qt was rather disruptive to KDE development because applications needed to be rewritten and sometimes there was missing functionality following the ‘upgrade’. Moreover, considering the licensing plans of Qt6 (there’s a mostly polite/amicable controversy about it online), there’s growing concern in the KDE project with… the possibility/prospect of forking Qt to ensure it stays truly Free software. Qt will probably figure out some sort of compromise at the end. KDE is a massive marketing tool for them.

“If people out there still say that “Linux sucks,” then they’re almost certainly trolling.”Today’s release of Plasma 5.19 (see the latest Daily List) excites us a bit. The version we currently use is already very stable and reliable; I love it!

If people out there still say that “Linux sucks,” then they’re almost certainly trolling. Either they didn’t really try all the right things (patiently, learning all the pertinent features) or they’re just opportunistic provocateurs. Nowadays a lot of games can also be run under GNU/Linux. The same could not be said a decade ago. So what are the remaining barriers anyway? Well, FUD for one thing. The perception that GNU/Linux is “difficult” or “sucks” (even if it runs most of the world’s computers, barely named when and where it does). KDE does not spend billions or even millions on marketing (lying to people is antithetical in the Free software world). So people might not think it can be as good as stuff from Microsoft and Apple; but it’s actually better. It eclipses both in terms of functionality.

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