07.17.21

It’s Getting Too Difficult to Compete With Free Software (Except in Marketing)

Posted in DRM, GNU/Linux, KDE at 8:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

DRM Notwithstanding, Valve Choosing GNU/Linux With KDE is Better Than Just More of Windows

Look What They Need To Mimic A Fraction Of Our Power: Apple & Microsoft, GNU + Linux
Microsoft clearly does not ‘love’ Valve’s choice of operating system

Summary: Valve has chosen GNU/Linux for its power, not for its freedom; we’re moving past the point of GNU/Linux dominance in servers and Linux on most phones; are laptops/desktops the next frontier?

TONS of blog posts and lengthy videos have been published to speak about the news from Valve, including some in our daily links (News Roundup). It even made it through to the mainstream media and demand for the product is reportedly very high. I saw a number of videos about it (some do not mention GNU/Linux) and the excitement seems real, not manufactured or paid-for hype. That’s what Apple and Microsoft do; they compensate for a lack of technical merit by bribing the press.

So what’s it all about?

“How many people will be inspired by this handheld console and decide to install something similar on laptops/desktops?”For those who lived under a tree/rock this past week (or maybe were on holiday), Valve chose KDE on top of GNU/Linux for its successor to efforts like Proton, SteamOS (Debian), and Steam Machines that never quite materialised. The choice of KDE is particularly interesting because it brings with it a suite of Free software, apparently not just a Web browser. So that’s potentially millions more KDE users, Free software users, who play proprietary games ‘on the side’…

Not only might this improve KDE (patches from Valve); it’ll increase exposure of the platform. People will start asking, “what is this thing?” (Much of the media at the moment does not mention the choice of platform and instead focuses on the hardware)

Given the alternate reality or the possibility of Windows, which was rejected, it’s probably something to be celebrated. How many people will be inspired by this handheld console and decide to install something similar on laptops/desktops? Time will tell…

Last year we wrote why it's better to get gamers on GNU/Linux than to let them stay on Windows. Not everyone agreed; figosdev, for example, objected to this. He saw that as tolerating DRM.

We’d love to hear readers’ thoughts (and stance) on this in IRC. Was this product even worth mentioning in a blog about software freedom? Might KDE be compromised somehow? We’re all ears…

06.28.21

In Terms of Technical Innovation and Features GNU/Linux is Miles Ahead of Anything Apple and Microsoft Have (or Even Promise)

Posted in GNU/Linux, KDE, Videos at 6:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: We take a quick look at some of the more advanced (and scarcely known about) features in KDE; we hope to inspire some users to explore more powerful desktop environments, pushing modern machines to their full capacity without spending like $1000 on a new PC (my main PC cost just 200 pounds)

I HAVE a confession to make. I’m a desktop environments nerd. Since the 90s I’ve been messing around with just about any desktop environment I could put my hands on, tweaking the hell out of it (I went through pretty much every desktop environment that exists and on my Debian box I installed every one that was available in 2020). I love testing those things to better understand what’s available. Even Mac OS 9 back in the very old days. I like to test the limits. Right now I push the limits with 4 desktop environments that I use in tandem over Barrier and Synergy (both running in conjunction) and over the weekend I went through all the settings in the latest stable build of KDE/Plasma5 (for Debian 10). This video is far from an exhaustive tour/walk-through of features, as instead it focuses on the sorts of things no other operating system really has, except maybe FreeBSD or other BSDs with KDE built for them.

“As more and more people’s activities are shifting online (the coronavirus accelerated this trend) it’s important to use desktops that the individual users, not the vendors, control.”The learning curse may be steep for some of these features but once they’re mastered they can save a lot of time for years to come. It pays off, think of it as a long-term investment. That can also help avoid/reduce human errors/mistakes.

In order to avoid mention of (or free press for) other operating systems we might be doing more videos such as this one, showing ways to handle workflows in GNU/Linux, without a terminal or anything like that, just GUI. We don’t try to over-complicate matters. Think of it as hobby ‘marketing’ or advocacy.

This video focuses primarily in visuals and usability aspects, including window- and application-specific settings. It does mention KDE “Activities”, but we’ve not properly demonstrated them, at least not yet. Such a video would definitely require some preparation in advance.

People tend to judge the quality of an operating systems based on media coverage, so they wrongly assume what the media isn’t mentioning can’t possibly be any good. That’s totally false. It shows a misunderstanding of how the mass (corporate) media works. All that fluff about Microsoft vapourware is predominantly paid-for PR, not news. It helps distract from Microsoft blunders and scandals (many of them exist lately).

Chrome OS is a very dumbed down and locked down environment, even if it’s built on top of Gentoo GNU/Linux (originally). We encourage people to explore and examine freedom-respecting alternatives, not just for freedom’s sake but for purely practical/pragmatic reasons; they’re just technically better, maybe not for companies that want users to upload everything to them (including keystrokes, as in keylogging). As more and more people’s activities are shifting online (the coronavirus accelerated this trend) it’s important to use desktops that the individual users, not the vendors, control. The users also collectively control them because they can exercise choices by forking (owing to the more technically skilled among them). At the moment KDE is not controlled by large vendors.

06.12.21

With KDE Plasma 5.22 Having Just Been Released It’s Time to Give KDE a Try (or Move to GNU/Linux, Leveraging the Best Features of Any Operating System Out There)

Posted in GNU/Linux, KDE, Review at 6:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: A quick recommendation of KDE based on a reasonably recent (but not latest) build; there’s this myth about KDE being difficult and flaky, but for a number of decades it has been the most advanced desktop (on any operating system) and its developers managed to hide the complexity while offering users all the power they may want/need

THERE is a new version of KDE Plasma out in the wild. Over the past few days , as the media caught on (some examples of coverage, including videos of this release), more and more distributions of GNU/Linux built and integrated it into repositories and/or ISOs. KDE remains by far the most powerful desktop environment (I’ve used plenty over the years, even for very long periods of time) and this video shows some of the extensive sets of features that KDE comes with by default, even without further add-ons or applications.

“It’s not daunting and complicated, at least not by default.”If you’re not a GNU/Linux user, KDE isn’t a bad way to start. It’s not daunting and complicated, at least not by default. It should not be scary anymore. It’s also very stable (it’s rock-solid in Debian ‘Buster’/10). If you left KDE or rejected KDE in the past (around a decade ago), maybe it’s time to revisit and reassess.

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.

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