10.12.21

A Tale of Two KDE Distributions: Kubuntu 21.10 and Debian 11 GNU/Linux

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, KDE, Ubuntu at 8:25 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

KDE screenshot
By KDE, GPL.

I recently tried out Debian 11 with KDE on my Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK2 laptop.

This is my older system and I feel more comfortable playing around with it because it’s not being used that much. Regardless, it allows me to see where things are at in other distributions.

While Debian 11 is generally a fine GNOME desktop experience, it’s hardly an ideal one for KDE users with HiDPI displays, because the version that they put in is far too old for the KDE on Wayland session to work properly.

While the X11 session probably works fine on lower resolution screens and can remain serviceable for the foreseeable future, both sessions are a complete scaling mess no matter what you do on a HiDPI monitor.

So I grabbed a daily build of Kubuntu 21.10 (which is not yet released), and I think it’s shaping up to be a good release so far.

Some of that is later improvements to KDE, and the rest is just that Kubuntu’s setup program is more pleasant and even offers to install a “minimal” version of the desktop so that you can start out with some basic essential software and then add what you want later.

This, I think, will be more enticing to people with SSDs, or even more so to people who are trying to go into developer mode on a Chromebook to clobber Chrome OS, but need the OS and their files to fit comfortably on an eMMC drive.

One of the downsides of KDE is that it has some applications that almost nobody really uses (Konqueror, Akonadi, KMail…) and which are either badly maintained, use more resources than they’re worth, or just don’t work properly, but the Plasma desktop is generally a fine piece of software.

The minimal install provided by Kubuntu, giving the user a relatively clean slate, also gives them a chance to explore oft-overlooked native KDE software, like the Calligra Office suite.

LibreOffice is the default office program, and you basically need it if you plan to save any Microsoft files (eww), and has both GTK and Qt bindings, but those are essentially a mask it wears. And it can be a good mask, and it’s not a bad office program, but it’s still a very “cross platform” program, whereas KDE has an official office suite that’s quite good. If you don’t need to _save_ to Microsoft formats, it can, however, import them, and it’s quite pleasant to use.

In fact, according to top (although the KDE system monitor now seems to count disk cache as used memory now for some reason), only 637 MB of RAM (excluding the disk cache, which can be evicted if the system runs low) were in use on my laptop with an empty KDE desktop running aside from the terminal. This is easily several hundred MB less than GNOME.

So far, the only thing I had to do with the KDE Plasma Desktop on the Yoga 900 ISK2 was configure my touchpad the way I like it and then scale the display to 200%. It even took effect instantly in the Wayland session. Nice!

And when I shut the lid and reopened it, Kubuntu 21.10 even remembered that I had a touchpad.

(Did I mention that Debian’s KDE on X11 didn’t?)

One of the reasons I haven’t taken a serious look at KDE recently (despite being a huge fan of their 3.x series) is because their window manager has been a complete disaster on that laptop with different HiDPI scaling bugs and various levels of completeness.

Obviously, it has gotten much better recently, but Debian froze a version of it that just doesn’t work too well for the screen in that particular laptop.

Mine is a special case (and an evil laugh).

Other than the odd PC and some Macs, not many computers have these screens (and most people are better off spending their money on a better processor, more memory, nicer graphics, bigger SSD, or something important) and so it wasn’t a pressing development matter, obviously, outside of GNOME.

In general, this is just Debian being Debian.

In normal usage, for most people, Debian is going to hold up better than Ubuntu because the software in the Stable version of Debian, while older, is rigorously tested and with the goal of there being far fewer serious defects in the final product as a result.

I posted about using Flatpaks several times if you need a newer version of a particular program on Debian, but just want a stable OS core that isn’t moving around a lot, with the usual bug churn that goes along with that.

The most notable feature of Debian is probably that they are extremely conservative about official kernel versions (although you can certainly install a newer one through backports).

That is to say that the official Linux kernels tend to be drawn from the LTS branches where it will just get more and more reliable over its five years (ish) support lifecycle upstream, and if it runs your hardware okay, there’s really not a lot of reason to mess with it.

But the policy extends to just about everything on the system.

And in some cases, that’s a shame, because KDE’s latest stuff strikes me as overwhelmingly competent. It works, it works well, and it’s not bloatware. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it’s software that uses more resources than it should for the job it’s doing.

I did run into a weird issue where booting Kubuntu 21.10 on this laptop caused the uEFI BIOS in my Lenovo ThinkBook 15 ITL Gen2 to say it was backing up the self-healing BIOS until I shut down and cold started the computer.

I have no idea how Ubuntu is building their kernels. Debian doesn’t do this.

If I was going to switch over to KDE on this, it would probably be on Debian 11, even though there have been improvements, just because it’s stable and the 1920×1080 display plays nicely with everything.

Nothing gets me hotter under the collar than software that doesn’t work, or is working one day and not the next, and now the problem is fixed, but there’s another problem. That’s what Fedora was like.

It’s worth repeating….. DO NOT buy a HiDPI display.

You will only live to regret it. They’re a power-hogging monstrosity that demands a lot of the GPU, and they’re not practical.

Leave them for Mac fanboys who are watching kiss anime at 240p on Safari.

I’m sad to say that I bought one because I liked how it looked in the store, and then I ended up getting snookered in and only able to run GNOME these last several years.

At this point, I know to ask for 1920×1080 displays. A nice one. But 1920×1080. No more, no less.

I definitely see why some underpowered ARM laptops in the $100 range are going with KDE.

It’s probably the only desktop environment that any sane person would use that still works on such a system. While GNOME is nowhere near as bad about leaking memory as it used to be, it’s still no spring chicken on old or cheap hardware, and KDE is fast and feature-packed.

KDE has had extreme ups and downs over the years, and if anything gives me a second thought at recommending it, it’s that.

In early 2008, I remember being excited that we were going to get KDE 4.0, and then I went to evaluate it and almost nothing worked right, for me anyway, until halfway into the KDE 4 development cycle, with version 4.5.

Kubuntu 8.04 LTS ended up releasing an unofficial patchjob of KDE 3.5.”12″ and saying that was the LTS, and if you wanted the KDE 4 packages, you were on your own. No LTS support at that point. The KDE project made some truly bizarre development choices and one of them was this thing called the “Phonon” API, which seemed great in theory.

They would no longer be beholden to some sound system that might get abandoned upstream like aRts did. Phonon is a smallish API, and programs can use it to play sound and perform other tasks, not caring what the actual media engine behind it all is.

The only problem is that the default gstreamer backend was so terrible (at the time, it works fine now) that I installed an unofficial VLC plug-in, so that everything that used Phonon would end up with VLC’s enormous codec library. But even forcing the user to think about things like this seems like a bother in this day and age.

I mean, I’m willing to entertain some post-setup dotting of the i’s, crossing of the t’s, but an OS needs to work.

And KDE went on for years feeling half-baked with a bug system that was, at times, an echo chamber.

Along the way, they adopted this crazy versioning system that split everything out into three groups (not counting Qt itself!) and I’ve never taken to that, and I’ll always call Lake Shore Drive in Chicago by THAT name regardless of what the Democratic Party decides it is.

All while GNOME 3 (now 4x) just incrementally got better.

The KDE 5.x series is finally something I could install and use on my own computer as a daily driver… except that it’s been so long now that muscle memory for GNOME is built-up, but I can figure out pretty much anything fairly quickly, and would be comfortable changing over on a fresh install if I decided to.

The importance of KDE, to me, is that it’s now one more option.

If GNOME does something that just flat out makes their software useless and terrible, in my opinion, or KDE just keeps getting better, I can easily switch to it.

That’s important. I doubt either will ever get proprietary software-bad, but still….choice is nice.

In Windows, there have been other shells besides “Exploder” (Explorer), but very few people ever installed them, and just muddled through trying to figure out where everything was every couple of years when Microsoft decided to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Most of the projects that even tried to bring some (UI-level) sanity to Windows are now dead. Most were better-written than Microsoft’s, not that that’s much of a hill to climb, but most of the developers themselves probably gave up trying to make the best out of the situation and fled to GNU/Linux and just didn’t have anything left to develop and test on.

Remember how awful that Windows 8 thing was? Remember them giving you the start button back and then having it lead to that second desktop you were trying to ignore? That’s how GUI developers give you a proper middle finger.

That’s one in a particularly long line of cruel manipulations from Microsoft. I hear that now with Windows 11 you have to set your default browser in like 23 different places, and it’s still hardwired to ignore you and do whatever the hell Microsoft wants.

This is just not how you’d treat a friend, and it’s not the way Free Software treats its users.

09.01.21

A Tale of Two COVID-19 Approaches: KDE (Community) Versus Linux Foundation (Large Corporations)

Posted in Deception, KDE, Kernel at 5:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is what “Linux” stands for now?!

Carry a tracking device (Phone) which is proprietary software. Not how it was originally marketed.

There are contrasting approaches. Just published (KDE):

CallforHosts_2022

From:

CallforHosts_2022

Summary: Since when does a “Code of Conduct” mean you need to be spied on all the time (this is not how it was originally marketed)? The KDE brochure was published about an hour ago, whereas the Linux Foundation started using this language in late August (in press releases and official Web pages).

The so-called ‘Linux’ Foundation means surveillance. From last night (openwashing mass espionage firms that ought not even exist, simply because Facebook paid to buy more seats inside the Board):

Also related to the so-called ‘Linux’ Foundation:

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.”

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