End of My Ubuntu Fling

English: Foto of Ubuntu&Kubuntu_CD version 9.10

Ubuntu&Kubuntu_CD version 9.10 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Been off work at my day job this week, in part to catch up on various writing projects (including updating Notes). Things were going pretty well until this morning, when ITWorld sent me their daily newsletter with the subject line “Trouble in Kubuntu-land.” The newsletter linked to this story by Swapnil Bhartiya. The Ubuntu Community Council (UCC) had apparently decided that one of its members, Jonathan Riddell, had said or done something so unspeakable and untoward toward other Council members that he was asked to “step down” as (a?) leader of the Kubuntu Project. There are two weird things about this pronouncement:

  • Riddell’s only “leadership position” within Kubuntu is as a member of Kubuntu Council (KC, the organizational equivalent of the Ubuntu Community Council)
  • The Kubuntu Council (incidentally, elected by the community) was never consulted or notified that its representative was crossing any line in the sand

A fight over transparency

As best as anyone can tell, this fight is rooted in Riddell’s attempt to find out what happens to voluntary contributions made when people download an Ubuntu release from Ubuntu.com. The short answer appears that it mostly goes to support travel by developers to conferences and trade shows. Riddell wonders if Kubuntu and the other official flavors of Ubuntu get any portion of those proceeds.

Tuesday, the Kubuntu Council had a meeting over IRC to discuss the Ubuntu Community Council’s demand. You can find the entire discussion here. Michael Hall from the UCC attended to answer questions about the UCC action. KC members kept asking Hall variations on the same theme: What did Riddell do or say that merited this discipline? Hall’s fairly consistent answer: There are private emails that one or more UCC members received that have not been made public. You should ask them; they must be really bad.

To an observer like me, it looks like Riddell is either innocent of the charges against him, or he’s an exceptionally deft sociopath, who only reserves anti-social behavior for private communication. I haven’t gone through all of the publicly available documentation of the dispute. From what I’ve read, there’s been no trolling, or other unethical, unreasonable behavior on display. I’m open to being corrected. Click the links to find the complete archive of the discussion on the Ubuntu Community Council mailing list, and the (relatively brief) collection of communications between the UCC and KC posted by Scott Kitterman.

My history with (K)Ubuntu

Forgive this personal aside. Almost from the first day I worked with Linux, and especially since Corel Linux (my first distro) died, I used to say that the folks who could put a decent installer and update system on Debian Linux would win the consumer desktop OS wars once and for all. When Mark Shuttleworth and his band of Ubuntu developers succeeded in doing that, I was excited.

I had long committed myself to openSUSE and the KDE desktop (Ubuntu ran GNOME as its default), so I didn’t immediately jump away from that commitment. I did, however, put an early version of Ubuntu on the first laptop I ever owned. I learned a bit about GNOME that way. For everyday use, I stuck with openSUSE. After awhile, I stopped upgrading Ubuntu and moved away from it entirely.

Jump to 2013, and Shuttleworth announces Canonical’s plan to build software for phones and tablets, followed quickly by the (in)famous Ubuntu Edge Indiegogo crowdfunding effort. The vision sounded terrific to me, and I even pledged the campaign to get one of those beauties that were never to be. Some folks (looking at you, Larry Cafiero) warned me that I might be heartbroken, but I pressed on anyway. I even got a contract to write a book about Ubuntu Touch. That project was put on hold a year or so ago, but you can still see the cover on Goodreads!.

I threw myself into the project with glee and perseverance, getting an Ubuntu account, signing up for the Documentation team, downloading the Software Development Kit. I even started a Notes from the Ubuntuverse blog on my author site. That didn’t last long.

First sign of trouble

Still one of the most popular posts on this blog is my response to Canonical’s reassignment of Jonathan Riddell away from Kubuntu in 2012. It came at a time when pundits were thinking the KDE desktop project was dying, and Riddell’s reassignment (and the presumed end of Kubuntu) was supposed to be a key blow. Another company, Blue Systems, decided to financially sponsor continued Kubuntu development, and Riddell continued to offer his time.

In retrospect, you have to wonder if this business is a second round of punishing Kubuntu and its most public face.

In 2013, Benjamin Kerensa withdrew from Ubuntu development to make his primary contributions to Mozilla. Perhaps it was uniquely appropriate then that the Kubuntu Council approved his membership in their community in the other main order of business Tuesday.

What’s next?

The Kubuntu Council urged the UCC to reconsider its sanctions against Riddell. If Ubuntu (and Self Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life Mark Shuttleworth) doesn’t back off, there’s a real possibility that Kubuntu may leave the *Buntu plantation for greener pastures (like Debian). I’d support that.

Today, Ubuntu phones are available in Europe and China. If the phone is ever released in North America, I may be asked to restart my book project. Depending on what reality presents at that time, I may agree to do that, but unquestionably with much diminished enthusiasm.

In the meantime, I’m throwing myself wholeheartedly back into participation in the openSUSE community, not just as an observer and user.

Plasma 5 live images for openSUSE and on the default openSUSE desktop | dennogumi.org

Source: www.dennogumi.org

Luca Beltrame of the openSUSE KDE team describes the current plans for integrating the Plasma 5 desktop into openSUSE. Long story short:

  • You can now download a “live ISO” to burn to DVD for testing on 64-bit systems.
  • At the end of April, Plasma 4 will be replaced by Plasma 5 Desktop and KDE Applications in the rolling Tumbleweed release.
  • Yet another reworking of the KDE software repositories: KDE:Frameworks hosts Plasma 5 and its libraries, KDE:Applications hosts the released programs, KDE:Extra has KDE/Qt ‘community packages’
  • No timetable on when Plasma 5 comes to the stable distribution (Good idea!).

See on Scoop.itopenSUSE Desktop

KDE Gardeners: Community Stepping Up

Since we’ve written several posts recently about open source communities, let’s highlight one more example of community members seeing a problem and trying to solve it.

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)

KDE is the oldest graphical desktop environment for Linux, and I’ve used it since the day I installed Corel Linux in 2001 (forgive me if I’ve offered those two facts a hundred times before). It’s a big, complicated software collection (with 300+ software repositories), now undergoing its third major overhaul to KDE Frameworks 5 providing the technical underpinnings of the accompanying Plasma 5 Desktop. In all that time, there are going to be bugs that remain unsolved, and applications that grow stale.

Enter the gardeners

Spanish KDE developer Albert Astals Cid came to the annual Akademy conference with an idea: Put together a team to name and find people to fix longstanding bugs and important, but unmaintained projects. What became the KDE Gardening Team.

The Gardeners are different from the project’s quality assurance team, though it chooses a “Bug of the Month” that needs some attention. It’s really kind of a triage or rescue squad for KDE applications. As described in both Cid’s introductory blog post and the Gardening Team’s main page:

The mandate of the team is to:

  1. Find *really* important bugs and ping people to fix them
  2. Find stale reviewboards and ping people to review them
  3. Bugzilla gardening, close old products etc
  4. Find projects that need love and give them some

I love this description from the Gardeners’ page on the KDE Community Wiki of what qualifies as the “Bug of the Month”:

Those bugs often raise endless discussions from frustrated users about how KDE developers do not care. The truth is, most developers are not even aware of them, because the issues do not happen on their system.

The current “Bug of the Month” is a fun one, dating back to 2011, with 65 comments: “When I opened my laptop from sleep, and … logged in and saw my desktop this crash report was there.”

First sign of progress: K3B has a new update

The Gardeners’ first “love project” revived the venerable CD manager, K3b. Version 2.0 was originally released in 2010, and v2.0.2 came out a relatively short time after that. Since then,  developers had worked on v2.1, fixing some bugs plaguing existing users, but never getting released.

After the Gardeners’ applied some love to the project, K3b v2.0.3 came out a few days ago!

Next in line for some love is KRecipes. This recipe manager works pretty well by all reports, but was last released in November 2010. Incidentally for any technical writers reading this: the KRecipes Handbook (user guide) is not yet complete for the KDE 4 version of the software. Should you be inclined to help, see the current text here.

Once this project makes progress, KTorrent is likely the leading candidate for the next Love Project.

Got some free time?

The KDE Gardening Team is now composed of around a half-dozen contributors to the Team mailing list. You can view the archives and subscribe to the list on this page.

I’d like to spotlight other communities’ smart activities here at Notes from the Metaverse in the future. If you’re participating in something cool, or know of a similar project to the KDE Gardeners, let me know, either by email, or commenting on this post.

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!

New Life for Vivaldi Tablet? Improv Takes the Stage

No time today, people, but here’s a heads-up on what rocked me today.

Some eons ago, I wrote about what I still consider the biggest problem with tablets: That they are designed to help you consume media, and you can’t be very productive with them. Yeah, Windows 8 and the Surface tablet is supposed to aid productivity, but that didn’t turn out so well.

I thought then that a tablet called the Spark was going to solve that problem, by putting a full-blown Linux (KDE Plasma) desktop on a tablet. Though production hassles have delayed this product, now called Vivaldi, for some 18 months, the project appears to have new life.

English: Screenshot showing KDE 4.4’s new netb...

English: Screenshot showing KDE 4.4’s new netbook interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The MakePlayLive site, originally built to sell this tablet, relaunched on Monday to sell Improv, what Swapnil Bhartiya at Muktware called “Raspberry Pi’s big brother,” (which is exactly what I thought to call it after seeing the new site–but he got it into print first). It’s a relatively high-powered, but mini board for experimentation. Since the site still promises the Vivaldi is coming, we can probably assume they will build the tablet around something like this board.

I’ve got to learn more about the hardware side of this stuff. While I’m doing that, catch up on this reading:

That should give you some background. I want to do more than offer my best wishes to Aaron and his team, but time will tell. In the meantime, tell me what you think!

The future of KDE: Wayland, Qt 5, uniform Plasma shell – The H Open: News and Features

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

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

See on Scoop.itopenSUSE Desktop

The road to Plasma Workspaces 2 has been laid out as the Plasma developers recently met in Nuremberg, Germany, to discuss their open issues around future developments – it will be based on version 5 of the KDE platform and Qt…

Mike McCallister‘s insight:

Key points I take away from this: KDE 5 Plasma Workspaces will be designed to function exactly as the current KDE 4 does.

To do that, it will take at least a year of development. Thus we should see a production-worthy release in late 2014.

See on www.h-online.com

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.

The Problem with Tablets and the Spark Solution

It’s real: Tablet PCs have arrived. According to a recent DePaul University study, one in every dozen airline passengers is using a tablet PC or e-book reader at any given moment.

Like many of you, I got a tablet (a Nook, if you’re interested) as a gift this last December (thanks Jeanette!). It’s pretty nice. I read Wired on it now, check news, post tweets occasionally. But it’s moderately frustrating that I can’t really do anything worthwhile on this machine.

The problem with tablets is that they are designed for consumption: of movies, books, websites and the like. People want to be productive while on the go. The size and weight of the average tablet is perfect for productivity almost anywhere. But the software isn’t there to support a productive worker.

What if there was a tablet with a real operating system and a collection of software that lived in the tablet (not in the cloud)? What if you could work on a presentation without worrying whether your carrier had an affordable wi-fi connection today? What if you could then use a USB port to plug your tablet into a projector when the time came to deliver that presentation? At under $300, that’s a purchase even a cash-strapped employer could justify. This machine is the Spark.Spark tablet

Due for delivery in May 2012, the Spark is being developed by the KDE Project, the open source development team behind the KDE Software Collection, the longstanding and popular Linux desktop environment. It runs the Plasma Active mobile desktop on top of the Mer operating system, the successor to MeeGo.

Project developers are working on building an app store, but you’ll also be able to use the Open Build Service (OBS) from the openSUSE Project to obtain apps for your Spark. This is the “productive” part of this tablet, as you could run most (if not all) applications that could run on desktop KDE.

The main initial problem with Spark is that it’s not an especially powerful machine. The 7-inch Zenithink C71 tablet has just a 1GHz processor, 512MB of memory, and 4GB storage space. The display is 800 x 480 pixels. One hopes that future models will have a little more muscle. The good news here is that it has two USB ports and a microSD slot to help you get work done!

This is where I should be telling you how you can get this marvelous device, but I’m late. Thousands of pre-orders at MakePlayLive.com last week reached the capacity of machines able to be built by the May release. You can (and should!) still put your name on the waiting list, though.

For more complete information on this device, and the philosophy behind it, reading through lead developer Aaron Seigo’s blog posts on the Spark is really exciting.

The Spark is a beginning. The prairie fire will hit when more people realize that a tablet doesn’t have to be a toy.

What do you think about the Spark, and open tablets generally? What tools would you like to see in the Spark? What problems are you seeing in the tablets you use? Leave a comment!

Truly “Adventures with Geeko”

Had a great time with the Madison Linux User Group Saturday. About a dozen folks skipped the second half of the Badger game (and a really nice fall day), and joined us at ITT Technical Institute for my Introduction to openSUSE presentation.

As most folks there use Ubuntu, I focused on the things that make openSUSE stand out, which was mainly YaST (the installer and system administration tool). I also spent a great deal of time showing off KDE SC 4.5—actually more time than I wanted to, as I managed to hang up my system!

A backup laptop appeared (thanks, Doug!) to permit a brief demo of the openSUSE Build Service. That part was certainly not as polished as the one Joos describes here, but was helpful, I think. I finished with a short summary of the community strategy discussion.

The group was amazingly patient through all the software issues and projection miscues that seemed to plague me from the get-go. Questions were good and the general comments were smart and useful. As noted, a great time!

Here are the slides (even the ones I didn’t show!):

Thanks to Doug Whitfield, who invited me; Brad Stone, who kept me informed and otherwise took care of me; the openSUSE Marketing team for the slide templates; and those who participated.

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.