The KDE 4 experience in openSUSE has been enhanced daily, and while the desktop environment itself has matured significantly since the last release, there has been a constant focus to provide an outstanding delivery of it in openSUSE 11.2.
The highlights include: the openSUSE DVD preselected to KDE 4.3; new Firefox KDE integration; OpenOffice.org KDE 4 integration; consistent KDE artwork; all other standard applications fully ported to KDE 4, including KNetworkManager, Amarok, DigiKam, K3b, Konversation and more.
We will also be talking to openSUSE and KDE core developer Luboš Luňák, to find out more about the developments in KDE 4.3, where the project is concentrating its efforts, and what the openSUSE boosters team is really all about. Read on for the full story…
KDE 4.3 Preselection on DVD
After a feature request shot to #1 on the openSUSE feature tracker, openFATE, a lively discussion began on the openSUSE mailing lists about whether to preselect KDE on the DVD installation. openSUSE, and SUSE Linux before that, had always had a strong KDE following in the community, and the discussion picked up a lot of momentum and popularity. As an overview, the openSUSE-project mailing list received 751 mails in August, in comparison to July’s 89.
It was finally decided to default the radio button to KDE in the DVD installer. Therefore, with the openSUSE 11.2 release, the KDE desktop will be installed if the user accepts the default setting. Users can also choose the GNOME desktop at this stage.
Firefox KDE Integration
Recognising the popularity of Firefox, the KDE team decided to have Firefox as the default browser for openSUSE 11.2. As a consequence, there has been a significant effort pioneered by Luboš Luňák to make Firefox more friendly to KDE users.
The Firefox integration by openSUSE means that wherever Firefox contacts the rest of the desktop, KDE components are used, including: file dialogs, application selection dialog, mimetype handling, notifications system, and more. A screencast of these changes has been recorded by Javier Llorente:
As of openSUSE 11.2, our KDE participates in the KDE drive to create a shared, consistent brand, using recognisably openSUSE artwork developed by Nuno Pinheiro of the KDE community:
openSUSE has been the only mainstream distribution to allow the parallel installation of KDE 3 and KDE 4, but as KDE 4.3 has become a widely accepted replacement for KDE 3, 11.2 no longer offers a KDE 3 desktop installation in the default installer.
KDE 3 applications however remain available where no KDE 4 port exists, and users can still install a KDE 3 desktop using the openSUSE Build Service.
Applications now Ported to KDE 4.3 and Improved
As KDE 4.3 reaches a stage of complete maturity, the last remaining applications were ported fully to KDE 4. openSUSE and KDE developer Will Stephenson and others performed a complete overhaul of KDE’s Network Manager for KDE 4.3. The result is a more powerful application with an emphasis on usability.
Popular applications such as Amarok, K3b and Konversation are now also included in their KDE4 versions for openSUSE 11.2:
YaST Control Center
The YaST control center has now been fully ported to Qt 4, and the graphical user interface has been given a complete makeover. The new interface is now consistent with KDE’s Configure Desktop (systemsettings):
Other modules such as software management have also been redesigned:
More Applications on the Live CD
Since openSUSE started switching to LZMA compression in its RPMs and Live CDs, we have been left with a significant amount of additional space on the live CDs. This now means that several new KDE applications can be included, such as: Choqok, a twitter and identi.ca client for KDE; Yakuake; and Marble:
Many thanks to Martin Schlander and Will Stephenson for their contributions and suggestions for this article.
Talk with Luboš Luňák
Konqueror is a mascot of the KDE project. Why did you decide to invest time in integrating Firefox in 11.2?
But we have done nothing to the dragon. And actually it is very easy to switch the default back to Konqueror (I myself still use it). Also the truth is that Konqueror was not 100% the default browser in openSUSE 11.1 either. For example, clicking links in KDE applications launched Konqueror, the panel had the Konqueror icon, but on the desktop there was the Firefox icon. So we fixed this inconsistency by making Firefox the default everywhere, which should improve the situation for less experienced users who usually use the desktop icon and could get confused by sometimes getting a different browser, and more experienced users who want Konqueror can handle going to KDE settings and switching the radio button in the Default Applications module back from Firefox.
However, the main reason was that many users simply have a problem with using Konqueror. As I said, I myself still use Konqueror, but e.g. if somebody else wants to browse the Internet on my home machine, I give them Firefox. I think we simply should not try to ignore the reality, as much as we might not like it. We will again evaluate the possibilities for the default browser (and the HTML rendering component in Konqueror’s case) again for the next openSUSE release.
As for the integration, when we decided to default fully to Firefox for 11.2, it became quite clear that Firefox is not that suitable as the default KDE browser. People who did the X11/Unix integration of Firefox were quite random in seeing a difference between X11/Unix and GNOME, even in the source code and sometimes not at all, so using Firefox with KDE was not a pleasant user experience. File dialogs were Gtk ones, and were used even for selecting an application to open a file with; default applications were usually from GNOME and the button order in dialogs was wrong (not just the other way around, but Gtk dialogs need an explicit call to adjust the button order depending on the desktop, so Firefox’s own dialogs and “broken” Gtk dialogs were swapped while proper Gtk dialogs had the KDE order).
There were attempts at making Qt ports of Firefox in the past, but as far as I know there has never been one that would be really usable (and with the advances of WebKit and the fact that it’s shipping with Qt I don’t see that happening in the future). The reason for why we could achieve something in a few days that has been missing for years is down to the fact that I aimed pretty low - this is not a port of Firefox, but it’s the same Gtk-based version of Firefox, with ‘if running in KDE, call this small helper app’ code inserted in desktop-specific places doing most of the job. Even with this approach I think Firefox now integrates into KDE reasonably well.
KWin has now got reliable, speedy 3D desktop effects. How do you see the window manager’s role developing with the trend towards semantic activity-based interfaces and netbooks, and how do you see KDE on openSUSE participating in this trend?
Actually I’ve been so busy with openSUSE for the last year that I’ve had only little time to do something directly upstream. For this reason I’m really happy that there are people like Lucas Murray, Martin Gräßlin and others who keep moving KWin forward. So, although I still try to at least keep on eye on KWin, I think it would be better to ask people who actually do the work.
From the things worked on or mostly done for KDE 4.4 that I remember there are branches for adding window tabbing and window tiling to KWin and for decorations, besides merging of Oxygen forks Ozone and Nitrogen back into one decoration, there is also an SVG-based decoration called Aurorae that allows easy theming even for non-developers.
Looking forward to KDE 4.4 and 4.5, what kind of areas will the KDE project be concentrating on?
There is a feature plan for 4.4 at in the KDE techbase (with some of those things possibly not happening for 4.4 and other things happing even though not being on the list), but besides that the answer is something along the lines of the answer for the previous question. I think KDE in openSUSE and the openSUSE Boosters team will keep me busy for the time coming.
Some of the interesting things in 4.4 or 4.5 could be improved netbook support, porting of KMail and other KDEPIM applications to Akonadi and basically small improvements everywhere :), now that most of the base things are pretty in their place. It could mean there will be also some time for having look at some optimizations, something I’d like to have a look at myself if possible, we will see about that.
Can you tell us a little about the new openSUSE Boosters team?
You can read about them in the new.openSUSE.org announcement article. In a nutshell, the plan is that the team will work on helping the community making openSUSE better full-time, whatever that will require.
How can people start contributing to KDE in openSUSE? Where is there a need for new contributors?
Are you kidding :) ? Of course whoever wants to contribute is welcome. And this is not just about developers or packages, pretty much anybody can help - the KDE team could use help also with bug triaging, writing documentation and HOWTOs, helping other users, and even just running the regular IRC meeting or taking minutes for it would help.
I’m quite sure we can find ways to contribute for whoever joins our IRC meeting, our mailing list email@example.com or the #opensuse-kde IRC channel on Freenode. I hope after openSUSE 11.2 is out we will find some time for writing simple HOWTOs like ‘adding a patch to KDE packages’ or ‘upgrading a version of a KDE application’, so that people will easily be able to do things in the openSUSE Build Service that they need and that help openSUSE and KDE as well.