Another stroll down memory lane: KDE4’s mis-introduction

While writing yesterday’s milestone post, I realized I failed to mention the most popular post (by far) in the history of this blog, also known as the day I was linked to by DistroWatch Weekly.

Past as prologue

English: Logo of the KDE Project "KDE, K ...
Logo of the KDE Project “KDE, K Desktop Environment and the KDE Logo are trademarks of KDE e.V” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Curiously enough, that post topic echoes Tuesday’s post on the openSUSE 13.2 release. You see, openSUSE 11.0 was released in June 2008 to much fanfare, in part because the new version of the KDE desktop was included in the release. KDE 4.0 was  what we now  commonly call a “technical preview,” not really ready for production. Nonetheless, openSUSE allowed users the choice to install the “old” KDE 3.5 desktop, the new KDE 4.0 desktop, or the continuing GNOME 2 desktop. Despite some warnings that KDE 4 was not quite ready for everyday use, some folks installed it anyway. Pandemonium ensued on the support lists.

In this post, “openSUSE 11.0 and KDE 4,” I offered my take on the “crisis.” In brief, people needed to think about their systems before installing major new components. There was blame to be shared, but just because Linux folks were used to working with applications with version numbers of 0.4 didn’t mean that everything would always work perfectly.

KDE 4.3 desktop, showing Dolphin, KMail and a ...
KDE 4.3 desktop, showing Dolphin, KMail and a selection of desktop widgets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently someone at the DistroWatch site (a place to learn about Linux distributions) thought I had something to say, and two days later, hundreds of folks were dropping by. The post sparked some interesting conversation in the comments as well. For a blogger, things rarely could get better.

Eventually, KDE 4 became eminently workable, and pretty darn cool. While some folks never got over the shock of the bad rollout (and still complain about how terrible KDE is now), KDE development continues apace. Sometime in the last few years, the Trinity project launched to recreate  KDE 3.5. I’ve heard they found it difficult to reproduce on modern systems. So it goes.

KDE Plasma 5: Don’t say you weren’t warned

Much has changed in KDE since 2008. With openSUSE 13.2, another new KDE desktop, based on the KDE 5 Framework is included with the distribution. But it’s not one of he options in the install. Many will set it up separately to play with, but much of the code won’t work side-by-side with KDE 4. A lesson learned.

As the month of November continues, I’ll have more to say about all these topics (openSUSE, KDE 4 and KDE 5). I’m still planning to try all the other supported desktops. Maybe I’ll have a new favorite by the end of the month. Stranger things have happened!

Got any memories of the KDE 4 rollout? How about GNOME 3, which didn’t go a lot better for some users? Let me know in the comments!

200 Posts

WordPress tells me that this is the 200th post to Notes from the Metaverse since I moved to this platform. This tells you a few things:

  • Computers are good at counting
  • Computers are also good at tracking events over time (especially if there’s a database marking each collection of words)
  • I am persistent at maintaining this outlet of free expression
  • I have not been especially prolific over the last 106 months or so, but I’m better than a lot of folks who start blogging
Radio UserLand
Radio UserLand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe you’ll be intrigued (but not overly impressed) by my first post, “Hello, World (again)  from January 4, 2006. Of slightly more interest will be the second post, “What is this?” with a description of what my intentions were, and a (still working) link to my original blogspace at Radio Userland (many thanks, Dave Winer, for keeping the space alive!).

Dave Winer
Dave Winer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I’ve written books about openSUSE Linux, you’ll not be surprised to learn that my most popular topics (by far) over the earlier 199 posts sit in the Linux and openSUSE categories. You’ll continue to see more of those in the future, even if I’ve gotten away from them recently.

If you’re just joining us at Post 200, thank you very much for dropping by. If you’re a longtime reader, I’m more grateful than you’ll know. You may gather at this point that McCallister is running out of gas, and it’s only November 5. You’d be right, but it’s been a busy week. Things will get better.

Welcome to NaBloPoMo 2014!

Hey folks, it’s November 1. For the second year in a row, Notes from the Metaverse is participating in National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo). Where thousands of writers are spending November writing 50,000 word novels, those of us without a fictional bent will be working every day to bring you interesting content on the web.

NaBloPoMo November 2014

The BlogHer network of women manages NaBloPoMo, but you don’t have to be female to take part (obviously). View the NaBloPoMo blogroll to see who’s participating this year (I’m #177).

As with last year, I will be experimenting with a variety of topics and techniques this month. While the impending release of openSUSE 13.2 and the upcoming Ubuntu virtual developers summit will give me plenty of technical content to write about, you may see posts about whatever catches my attention (or whatever strikes my panicked mind shortly before bedtime).

Why blog every day?

In Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules, we recommend writers should set up a blog and develop a plan to post regularly. We don’t specify how often you should post, because we recognize that every writer’s life is different. The key is establishing a rhythm for how you write your posts. Your audience also gets the advantage of learning when to expect your posts.

If you’ve never blogged before, or just don’t feel like you have the time: You’d be amazed by the amount of text you can write in 10 or 15 minutes! Once you start getting practice, writing becomes part of your routine, and you can begin to move beyond the “I want to be a writer” stage. If you’ve blogged for a while and are feeling a bit drained of enthusiasm, NaBloPoMo can reignite your passion for communication.

Now those of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know that this rhythm hasn’t exactly been consistent. That’s why events like this can be important — when you begin to think like a blogger, every experience you have can become something to share with your readers.

Building Community

Speaking of readers… when you register your blog on the BlogHer NaBloPoMo site before November 5, others may drop by to see what you’re up to.  I’ll be popping around to other participants too. Bloggers form a community, we can all help each other.

Feel free to let me know if you’re participating in any of the November NaNos in the comments below. I look forward to seeing your writing!

Book Review: WordPress 3.7 Complete

WordPress 3.7 Complete
WordPress 3.7 Complete

The fine folks at Packt Publishing asked me to have a look at their latest WordPress book, WordPress 3.7 Complete. This is the third edition in the WordPress Complete series, by Karol Krol and Aaron Hodge Silver. I am happy to recommend it to folks looking for a good introduction to WordPress.

Full disclosure: I read the edition covering WordPress 2.7, when I started getting serious about learning WordPress, but missed the edition that covered v3.0.

Packt specializes in web development and open source software books, so you shouldn’t be surprised that the strongest parts of the book are in this area. But you don’t have to know code to find good, solid information here. Chapter 3, “Creating Blog Content” offers a nice introduction to blogging that will help you start thinking about the kind of content to include in your blog, along with an introduction to the WordPress admin pages.The chapter on choosing themes has some excellent questions that you may not think to ask yourself before choosing a theme from the vast collection of choices.

While there’s a basic introduction to WordPress.com, most of the book’s content relates to WordPress on an independent web host. It might have been nice to note what sections (like setting up widgets and working with the Media Library) apply to both the dot-com and dot-org sites.

WordPress Complete really takes off in the second half, where Krol and Silver focus on creating and manipulating themes and plugins. I don’t know about you, but when I started messing with code, the first thing that scared me was the likelihood of me breaking stuff that was already working. Krol and Silver help break down that fear by showing you how to safely remove your header, footer and sidebar from an existing theme’s index.php file (“What, you want me to break my home page!?”), customize each new template file, and reassemble the new modules so that it all works.

Another big plus for the beginning developer is an extensive section about building themes from scratch. After comparing this method with constructing themes with the help of a theme framework like Genesis, Thesis or Thematic, they advise:

… create your first theme manually, just to learn the craft and get to know all the basic structures and mechanisms sitting inside WordPress. Then, as the next step in your mastery (if you’re planning to work on other themes in the future), you can pick one of the popular theme frameworks, get deeply familiar with it, and use it as the base for your future themes from that point on. Such an approach will allow you to reach maximum time efficiency and save you the effort of dealing with the core set of functionalities that every theme needs, regardless of the design or purpose.

After demystifying the process of theme and plugin creation, and introducing BuddyPress and WordPress MultiSite, Krol and Silver focus the last two chapters on “Creating a Non-Blog Website” using the increasingly powerful content management features WordPress offers.

You’ll learn a bit about using Pages to create corporate and e-commerce sites, membership sites and the like. Can I say that as an author, I especially appreciated introducing custom post types by way of creating distinctive ways of listing books on your site? You may see something like this on michaelmccallister.com soon.

Overall, WordPress 3.7 Complete is a fine introduction to WordPress and web development. Incidentally, don’t be upset that the book misses out on WordPress 3.8. With the increasing speed of WordPress core development, all us authors are at a distinct disadvantage–we can only type so fast!

So what do you look for in a WordPress book? Have you read this one? Comments always appreciated.

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NaBloPoMo: Summing Up

Happy December to all of you!

NaBloPoMo
NaBloPoMo (Photo credit: udge)

We have all survived National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo)! I am moderately amazed I completed the challenge of writing a post a day for the 30 days of November. While a few did feel like cheating (the post from the WordPress mobile app a few minutes before midnight Nov. 2 comes to mind), I’m pretty pleased overall with the output.

Before I share a few more things learned this month, allow me to point new readers to my halfway-point summary, What I’ve Learned So Far. I shall try not to repeat myself.

Primary Goals Reached

I did this for two primary reasons: To see if I could, and to see if I’d get more readers. I succeeded in both. Be aware that in October, my posting had gotten so sporadic, I seriously considered dropping this blog entirely, and focusing on my author site. Now, I don’t think I want to do that (though I won’t rule out moving this blog over there someday). So y’all are stuck with me for the foreseeable future. Readership has increased, returning nearly to the maximum numbers this blog has reached over the years. I think that bodes well for 2014.

NaBloPoMo: Glorious Madness
NaBloPoMo: Glorious Madness (Photo credit: cizauskas)

Deadlines are a Good Thing

When you know you have to get something done, it’s amazing how you can organize yourself to do that something. While Douglas Adams’ sentiment from The Salmon of Doubt resonates strongly:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

it still feels quite good to complete the challenge of daily posts. It may not be sustainable over time (for me at least), but as with many NaBloPoMo’ers, you can do this for a month.

Journalism is Hard

NaBloPoMo
NaBloPoMo (Photo credit: underdutchskies)

Feeding a hankering to return to my journalistic roots, one goal I didn’t reach was writing one “newspaper story” a week. I went to a public forum on mining with the intention of covering the event and writing a story as if for a  news outlet, online or not. I didn’t like the story as written, and it was a day late too.

My intent with Mark Shuttleworth’s keynote was also to cover it as news, but I succumbed to the temptation to blog about it instead. It’s just easier.

My link posts on news events (Prince Fielder, the Space News post, and some of the Typhoon coverage) consisted of curating other people’s news stories, which is one form of journalism. Just not of the traditional variety. I’m still going to try to get better at that.

Zemanta is a Wonderful Tool

Speaking of links, I want to recommend the Zemanta plugin (for both sides of WordPress). Credit this tool for all the Related Articles down at the bottom of every post, the Wikipedia links for common terms that might need clarification, and more than a few of the images accompanying my posts. It simplifies so many things, and speeds up publishing too.

Seems OK to Stray From the Main Topics, But…

The audience still likes the tech topics. The Top Five posts for November are (as of this moment):

openSUSE: Porting YaST to Ruby
Tracking the Worst Storm Ever
Kubuntu and the “Sinking Ship” of KDE: Really?
New Life for Vivaldi Tablet? Improv Takes the Stage
Big Linux Day: openSUSE 13.1 and Ubuntu Dev Summit

All but one of these five posts appeared this month. The interloper: My rant about Kubuntu is well over a year old (and yes, Kubuntu and KDE are still thriving, BTW). Again, out of the five, all are Linux-related except for my first post on Typhoon Haiyan. So you can probably expect continuing coverage of Linux and other open source topics here. I am at your service.

Well, this has gone on way too long. Congratulations to all those who successfully completed the NaBloPoMo challenge. To those who feel like they fell short: it’s really all about the effort. Life intervenes. But please keep on posting! Writing every day is essential for anyone who considers themselves a writer; blogging offers the opportunity to publish every day too–take advantage of this as often as you can!

I have some serious catching up to do on my next book, so it may be a few days before I fill this space again. I do hope that the day never comes again when I start a post with “Apologies for not having been here for so long.” So — see you soon!