Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why I went back to Jaunty

Overall, Kubuntu Karmic Koala which is still beta for the next couple of weeks, seemed pretty sound and agile, but I had problems with mplayer. Mostly, I couldn't get a full screen display. I guess that's a bug, but I'm not sure who to report it to. I also noticed that there are currently no w32codecs or libdvdcss in the medibuntu repos.

So I went back to Jaunty Jackalope. Karmic definitely gives KDE4 a boost on my hardware, but I'm currently using fluxbox to run mostly KDE4 applications in what is nominally a Kubuntu install, and when I want to run KDE, I use a Slax 6.1.2 disk to run KDE 3.5.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

KDE4 DOES NOT SUCK (very much)

This is my opinion of the present state of KDE4, and my opinion of anything does not matter very much. The world does not revolve around me. In fact, the last time I checked, I'm not even mentioned in wikipedia. This essay, however, revolves entirely around me. I am not only mentioned in this essay, I am the only person mentioned.   You may not want to spend a lot of time reading my opinion, so you can skip to the last two paragraphs if you want to get to the point.

In my unimportant opinion, the most welcome thing about KDE 4.3 is that Konqueror is finally usable as a file manager again, thanks to the long overdue restoration of the dirfilter toolbar. The lack of a filterbar on Konqueror had pretty much driven me past the point of madness.

The way the filter bar works is like this: I type a string of characters into the toolbar, and every file that doesn't contain those characters in its name disappears from the file manager window. Once you've used the filterbar, any file manager that doesn't contain a filterbar is crap. Dolphin has had the filterbar since it first appeared, and of course, Konqueror 3.5 had it, but with KDE4, whenever I wanted to use the filterbar to locate specific files out of a big directory, I had to open dolphin. There's nothing wrong with Dolphin, but I prefer konqueror because that's what I've always used (and also because I'm a bitter old man who HATES THE FUTURE and FEARS CHANGE!) The rational thing to do would have been to switch to Dolphin as a file manager, but I felt that I was being pushed toward that conclusion, manipulated. I became paranoid, conspiratorial, convinced that "Konqueror" (the awesome filemanager) had been crippled, marked for death, in order to make room for "Konqueror" (the mediocre web browser that almost no one uses). Later I became convinced that the dirfilter must be there somewhere, and it was my fault for not being able to find it. I did google searches. I posted inquiries on forums. No one replied, so I did more google searches, which mostly turned up my own inquiries. I clicked all over the konqueror interface searching up and down over and over. Over several months, I'm sure I spent hours at this. I got madder and madder, crazier and crazier. I posted evil messages in the KDE forum. I started to develop a facial tic. I got into a crazy flame war with an equally insane KDE4 fanboy, who was convinced that I was a paid agent for Microsoft. A moderator banned me from the Kubuntu forum, and I sent him an email thanking him.

So now the filter bar has finally been restored, thanks to a konqueror plug-in.  It's case sensitive, which is not a good thing for this kind of feature, IMO. There may be a way to fix it, but I'm too happy to complain, or to start another round of frustrating google searches.

Here's my opinion of Plasma at this time. Now, this is where usually someone tells me that I'm wrong about the facts, and I often am. If it happens, I'm not going to be surprised, and we'll all learn something, or at least I will. I never learned a goddamn thing in my life without being wrong first.  So let's just go through the "blackbelt is wrong again" dance, if that's what it comes to.

KDE4 doesn't suck-- not very much, anyway. The plasmoids suck... because they don't hold information after you close them, and the plasma themes suck... because they tend to be based on sameness. There is no plasma theme that I know of that allows for different colored widgets. And the transparency that is so common in plasma themes causes visibility problems. So does the tendency to make themes that are supposed to look three dimensional, and themes that are supposed to look shiny. Some flat, opaque, non-shiny themes would be awesome.

For me, the solution is to use folderview, one or two plasma widgets (I like the analog clock) and to use opera widgets instead of plasmoids for the rest of the widgets. Opera widgets are opaque, flat, not shiny, and colorful. They retain information. If you close them and reopen them, they return to the same spot.

But you know what?  Actually, as a rule, Widgets on the desktop suck, period. Again, that's just my opinion, but why the fuck do I need to have all my applications and all my information in front of me all the time in a world where keyboard shortcuts, multiple workspaces and flashing notification in the toolbar have already been invented? It frightens me to think that, in the future, no one is going to create applications, they're only going to make widgets. Kpager no longer exists, it's now the Pager plasmoid. The disdvantages are that I can't open it with a keyboard shortcut any more, and I can't use it outside of KDE anymore without using the ungainly plasmoidviewer. The advantage? It's now available in a bunch of shiny, transparent, 3 dimensional themes.

Over the past year, I've spent a lot of time mapping out my desktop space, trying to line up all these widgets for the maximum effect, both in terms of form and function, something that I never used to think about. I'm been dragging and dropping and locking and unlocking my way to carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. Fuck it, I'm going back to using my Desktop as a dumping ground for files.

And I have that option.  Almost everything that sucks about KDE4 is optional. If you use the folderview mode, and you don't use the plasmoids, what you're left with looks and acts a lot like KDE 3.5, although setting up and adjusting the panels isn't as easy. So if you're me (and granted, most people aren't) KDE4 sort of feels like a slightly downgraded KDE3.5, which doesn't suck very much.

In other words (here comes the important part) I can live with it. It all boils down to a few extra clicks on the panel, and some overdone visual themes for the panel,  big fucking deal. It's a minor inconvenience. We're supposed to be a community, and I can take the hit, so that the crazy people who actually like all this plasmoid business can have what they like, so that the KDE developers can be creative and (no doubt about it) brilliant, so that we can all have the benefit of where this is going to lead us. Sometimes, the price you have to pay for rapid development is... rapid development!   I can see the day when all this plasma technology is used to create  a desktop that is less distracting, not more distracting.  Even the bad parts arent all bad. I like the analog clock widget and the notes plasmoid. They're actually pretty handy.

So have I stopped complaining about KDE4?  Fuck, no!  When I stop complaining about goofy shit, please bury me... and if I'm not dead, please kill me and then bury me!  I don't think anybody should stop complaining, ever.  However, here's the wrinkle: I have resolved to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.  I think everybody could use a little more of that.  Let me say it again in italics:  a sense of humor!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In the Works

Here at The Daily Kernel, I'm not exactly living up to my name. For one thing, I've been preoccupied with setting up my new computer, but even with that obsessive task (maybe) out of the way, it's still going to take me some time to get started. What I'm planning on here is using Twitter to provide readers with easy continuous access to a blog that breaks up linux information to be as easily digestible as possible, and assume the perspective of a desktop user, instead of a programmer. I came to Linux without any technical background, barely able to use windows. I'm now comtent at running my system but my true experise is on not being an expert. I think this means I have something of value to bring to Linux education, but it also means I'm going to need help and occasional correction.

Most of the information will be about using Linux/Unix Shell Commands, not only in shells such as BASH and ZSH, but in keyboard shortcuts, desktop launchers, menus, and scripts. Often, the same command that power the shell can be used to customize your desktop GUI to an extent not dreamed of by guys who love to bitch about how "the command line is dead." For these free thinkers, to paraphrase a great old Bea Arthur zinger from Maude, I have just "two words, a verb and a pronoun".

A beginning desktop user of Linux may be wondering if he or she really wants to learn how to use the command line. Take this simple test.

1. Are you interested in using Linux?

2. Are you a putz?

If the answer to question 1 is yes, and question 2 is no, trust me, you want to learn how to use the command line. These days, I think you can probably get by without the Command Line, but you will have more fun if you use have the option to use the CLI when it suits you. More fun is the number one reason to make the effort. I could say that the CLI saves time, but I spend as much time at the computer as I ever did, I just spend more of it doing stuff that I enjoy.

It's less effort than you think, I assure you. It took me two years to work up the initiative to learn the the command line-- and then it took me a couple of hours to step accross the threshold. Certain people have spent more effort arguing with me about why the Command Line is necessary than I spent learning it. And I didn't even have someone like me to help me.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

#2 Don't Sweat it!

Relax. The Linux tips & tweetorials are cyclical. If you don't get it or aren't in the mood, it'll be coming around again. And again.

See how that works? It's not homework; you don't have to "keep up with it". Trust me, I know how hard it is force yourself to study computer documentation. Just let the tweets flow over you. Ask me questions if you have any. If you miss a few days, don't worry about getting caught up. If you already understand what's in the tweetorial, ignore it.

I'm trying to create an environment where the chances of the right information reaching you at the right moment are maximized. The current plan is to post a dozen tweetorials or so, then retweet them over, adding a few more each time.

#1 How to get the run application dialogue

#1 On most GNU/Linux Desktops, Alt+F2 opens a "run application" dialogue box by default. Good to know if there's a problem with your mouse.

The Run application dialogue is a window that allows you to open any desktop application (including terminal windows like Konsole, Gnome-terminal, and Xterm), simply by typing the name of the application into the window.

I find that using a keyboard shortcut to open the dialogue, and then typing the name of the application into the window is generally a lot faster than than searching for the application in the menu with the mouse. Many run application dialogue programs use tab completion.

Of course, while Alt+F2 is the default keybinding for the run application dialogue in most desktops, you can always replace that with a custom command if you prefer.