Playing with Virtual Machines

Tonight is update night, when I open up all my virtual machines and get all the latest and greatest software. Back in dialup days, I updated my Linux partitions on Saturday mornings. Nobody would call me, and I figured the remote servers (especially the openSUSE servers in Germany) would be less stressed than during the weekday, speeding the download ever so slightly.

One advantage of having a terabyte of storage on my laptop is that setting up new “systems” is incredibly easy. VirtualBox can set up 150GB hard drives in a few seconds, and installing a new Linux OS with a set of default applications on that empty drive takes about a half hour. So I have too many machines, and clearly not enough time to use all of them effectively. Trying to figure out what to keep. Here’s my current list of client operating systems:

My collection of virtual machines

My current collection of virtual machines in the VirtualBox Manager

  • openSUSE Tumbleweed (32-bit): This one is my “everyday” Linux system, but not for much longer.  When I first created this VM a year or two ago, VirtualBox didn’t support 64-bit client operating systems. Now they do. Another reason to junk this one: Until now, Tumbleweed represented a stable rolling release. With openSUSE 13.2, it remains a rolling release, but with a few more cutting edge apps that may not be quite as stable as the old Tumbleweed.
  • Ubuntu 14.10 (32-bit): This connects with my Nexus 7 tablet dual-booting Android and Ubuntu Touch.
  • Kubuntu 13.10 (32-bit): I should try one of the other flavors of Ubuntu, but what can I say? I’m a KDE guy. I originally installed this after the kerfuffle over Canonical not paying Jonathan Riddell to work on Kubuntu anymore. I wrote about that here and here too.
  • Ubuntu 14.04 Test: I think I broke this one.
  • openSUSE 13.1 (KDE:Current, 32-bit): This has unstable KDE apps available, but I think I broke this one too.
  • openSUSE 13.1 (KDE:Current, 64-bit): May become the ‘new’ everyday system
  • openSUSE 13.1 (KDE Plasma 5 Preview): This is the next version of KDE, not yet ready for prime time. See Post #201 for that history.
  • Kubuntu KDE Plasma 5 Preview: See above.
  • openSUSE 13.2:This is a clean install of the latest openSUSE, and is the other candidate for “everyday” system. This version of the distribution supports seven desktop environments. I want to get them all installed and play with them a bit.
  • Kubuntu 14.10 (64-bit): Did I mention my affinity for KDE?

It’s all fun, and all good. What does your system look like?

More good news on the Kubuntu front

As has been reported at numerous outlets, the project currently known as Kubuntu has a new sponsor, a German company called Blue Systems.

It was just a couple months ago that Canonical announced it was withdrawing direct support to Kubuntu, and reassigning Jonathan Riddell to other projects.

kubuntu

kubuntu (Photo credit: arellis49)

Not much is known about Blue Systems, though what is known is expressed well on the Kubuntu page on Google+:

Did you know. #kubuntu is back with a new family. A brother +Netrunner, and a sister +Linux Mint KDE. “But who’s your daddy?”
http://blue-systems.com !

The good news is that Blue Systems has been sponsoring a variety of KDE projects and distributions in the last few months. They’ve pledged to keep Jonathan Riddell on its payroll working on Kubuntu (or whatever it may be called in the future), and is offering marketing support too. But it’s hard to know from this distance how much money they actually have to back those pledges up. A WhoIs search on the Blue-Systems.com site pointed to a German reseller, http://itwu.de/, as the owner. That’s pretty much all outsiders know.

In some ways, the news is not that different from when Attachmate surfaced last year as the company to buy the SUSE brands from Novell. People rightly questioned what the company had planned for the distribution. So far, it appears that Attachmate has largely left the community alone to make its own plans. Plus openSUSE enthusiasts in the Americas now have their own conference to attend this fall. So I think we can say that up to now, that deal has worked out pretty well.

As I said before, best wishes to Riddell and the Kubuntu community. I’m confident this is good news for my favorite desktop environment, and Linux overall.

If you know anything more about Blue Systems and their work with the community, please let me know. Whatever you think about Kubuntu, KDE and its future, feel free to comment too!

Kubuntu and the “Sinking Ship” of KDE: Really?

English: Logo of the KDE Project "KDE, K ...

Image via Wikipedia

You may have heard that Canonical is formally dropping support of the KDE-based version of the Ubuntu desktop come October. This is kinda old news now, but it seems that at least some folks want to make a big deal of it. So I’m feeling the need to talk about it too.

Tracking the Story

The news came in the form of a February 6 post from Kubuntu developer Jonathan Riddell to the Kubuntu developers list:

Today I bring the disappointing news that Canonical will no longer be funding my work on Kubuntu after 12.04. Canonical wants to treat Kubuntu in the same way as the other community flavors such as Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu, and support the projects with infrastructure. This is a big challenge to Kubuntu of course and KDE as well.

A few days later, Riddell’s counterpart at openSUSE, Will Stephenson responded to the situation on the KDE Contributor’s Blog in a way that may seem a little cynical, but struck me as a completely valid response.

After a week had passed, TechRepublic’s open source pundit Jack Wallen said he read Riddell’s announcement “with a heavy heart.” The money quote here:

try to find a major Linux distribution that ships with KDE as the default desktop. You’re going to be hard pressed to do so.

He said the best way for KDE to survive this blow was to develop its own distribution, which he named KOS. In the poll accompanying the story, 51% of his readers agreed with that strategy.

Bruce Byfield at Datamation (a fine writer for a variety of Linux publications) may have overhyped Wallen’s article just a little, and turned it into part of a wave of “KDE Death Watch” commentary. The story does effectively dispute the idea of KDE disappearing, but does again raise the question of “Just what is a major KDE distribution.”

openSUSE: Can’t get no respect

Younger folks in the audience may not remember Rodney Dangerfield, the comic who built his entire career on the theme that he “got no respect at all” (Check out the films Caddyshack or Back to School to learn more about the Dangerfield persona). One of the most striking things about all these stories is how Kubuntu is (allegedly) the last major Linux distribution with a KDE desktop. Perhaps I’m biased, but when did openSUSE cease being a major distribution? While it has never been dominant in terms of mindshare or installations (admittedly both hard to quantify), the little green Geeko with the outstanding system administration tool just chugs along.

The SUSE distro has been famously associated with KDE throughout its life. Some historical notes:

  • Novell bought the original German company that produced the distribution around the same time that they bought one of the main development teams for the GNOME desktop. When openSUSE planned to make GNOME the default desktop on installation, a massive uproar from the user base left the desktop choice to the person doing the installation.
  • openSUSE was the first distribution to switch to KDE 4. That was certainly a bad idea or miscalculation, but certainly a commitment to the KDE desktop.

openSUSE is not going away, and will continue to be a “KDE-first” distribution for a long time to come. I’m looking forward to seeing how big our community is at the openSUSE Summit this fall.

KDE’s Future

Byfield certainly makes an excellent case for why KDE is not dead, and certainly won’t be on life support anytime soon. Even Wallen (who doesn’t really use KDE anymore) concedes that “KDE is one of the most polished, professional desktops available for the Linux operating system and deserves to be made available through some official channel.”

I disagree that KDE needs to put out its own distro to succeed long-term. The world probably does not need many more Linux distributions. Linux users should always have a choice of desktop environments and associated applications. I love that I can run apps designed for GNOME on my KDE desktop, and want to continue to do that.

KDE certainly needs to attract more developers, volunteer or otherwise. More users and platforms will follow. As I noted last week, the Spark tablet is a great way to build pathways to the future.

Things may not be entirely rosy for KDE today, but I can heartily raise both hands when Wallen says “Linux without KDE is simply not the Linux I’ve known and loved since the mid-90s.” May that continue to be true.

New KDE Desktop! Version 4.5 not perfect, but much better!

So of course, while I’m spending a glorious and relaxing week hanging out in Boulder, Colorado, the KDE community is working overtime fixing a few showstopper bugs. Version 4.5 of the KDE Software Collection (also known as KDE SC) was released Tuesday, a week late from the original release plan, but it looks like a pretty good one.

Tyler Ballance over at OMG! SUSE! has a good overall summary of the highlights of this release. I got my Kubuntu laptop upgraded with only a little fussing with APT repositories (semi-inevitable on launch day).  After just a day of playing around, I’m pretty happy.

This initial happiness is really centered on several small things:

  • Boot time seems faster than it’s been. Haven’t clocked it, but login-to-start-working may take half the time it did in v4.4.x
  • The external device notifier now appears by default in the main panel when there’s something in the USB port.
  • The infernal announcement that Akonadi is installing its front end on every boot has finally gone away!

Yet, it is still a dot-zero release, and some weirdness has been puzzling me:

  • Since I reset four of my virtual desktops with different wallpapers, an empty box appears in the upper left corner of the screen on boot. Clicking X makes the panel, and all the wallpapers, disappear. Logging out solves the problem, but I’m sure something short of that will fix it.
  • One time I rendered my mouse unusable by apparently activating a gesture (I think) that added a plus sign to the cursor. No combination of clicks restored mouse functioning, and a again I had to logout/login (thankfully I could get KRunner to run logout!) to get back to normal.

More research required, but if anyone has an idea, I’m all ears.

Meanwhile, if you want to try KDE 4.5, instructions for some of the leading distros can be found here (thanks  to Planet KDE):

openSUSE: http://lists.opensuse.org/opensuse-kde/2010-08/msg00057.html

Kubuntu: http://www.kubuntu.org/news/kde-sc-45

Mandriva: http://not403.blogspot.com/2010/08/kde-45-final-available-for-mandriva.html

I’ll have more on this release in the coming days. In the meantime, let me know what kind of experience you want or are having with KDE 4.5 in the comments.