Coming Attractions

A reasonable amount of planning went into the posts for National Blog Post Month this year. Since some of them didn’t quite get done, we’ve got some good stuff in the pipeline to share in the coming weeks. As a way to shamelessly beg to keep all my new readers around, here’s what’s coming up soon at Notes from the Metaverse:

  • What’s Next for Firefox? This weekend, Frederic Lardinois at TechCrunch asked this question. From one outsider to another, I’ve got some thoughts on this.
  • A more complete review of Firefox Developer Edition, following up on my earlier quick look.
  • Biosgraphy and ello: Two newcomers to the social/blogging arena.
  • Playing with text editors: Text editors are a religious matter for some developers. After using the programmable text editor Atom for a bit, I hope to have some useful things to say about it.
  • The new crop of electronic magazines covering Linux: Linux Voice, the
    English: Full Circle Magazine Logo
    Full Circle Magazine Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    crowdsourced UK-based magazine is nearing its first anniversary. I’ve recently also become familiar with Full Circle Magazine (an Ubuntu-focused title) and FOSS Force.

  • Tux, the Linux penguin
    (Sorry, can’t ever resist) Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I’ll still look for more community-based efforts (like the KDE Gardeners) to make free software better.

  • If my ambition to use all seven openSUSE Desktop Environment actually happens, I’ll surely write about it.

Usual disclaimers apply: Forward looking statements are not hard commitments. Other topics may intervene in the meantime. Also check MichaelMcCallister.com for posts about writing, building author platforms and the like.

Hope you have a terrific December!

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.

In praise of open source communities

English: Conceptual Map of the FLOSS (Free/Lib...
Conceptual Map of the FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) Polski: Konceptualna mapa FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best things about free and open source software (FOSS), and Linux in particular, is the community spirit. Many of the people who use and build these bits of code are genuinely passionate and dedicated to the products and projects they are involved in.

In the FOSS world, a development team is the core of the community, and the symbol of one’s demonstrated ability is the right to commit source code to the core software. Bigger communities, like openSUSE and Ubuntu, have structures for other community contributors.

The openSUSE Project logo
The openSUSE Project logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been a proud member of the openSUSE Community since nearly the beginning in 2007. To be a community member, the openSUSE project board of directors confirms your “continued and substantial contribution to the project.” My primary contribution was having written openSUSE Linux Unleashed and the many posts I’ve written on openSUSE and other FOSS topics. Learn more about the openSUSE Community here.

Tux, the Linux penguin
Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Goes to show how wired in I am to the world of Ubuntu, but I completely missed Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day yesterday. I’ve been involved with (mostly as an observer) the Ubuntu community for the last year or two, but I’ve played with Ubuntu regularly for much longer.

Ubuntu has a similar membership process as openSUSE, described at the Ubuntu Community site. Someday, I hope to join this community as well.

While I will not suggest for a moment that these communities are electronic Lake Wobegons, peaceful and friendly at all times, I will say that I typically find them helpful places. Then again, occasionally fights break out over issues like systemd (like this one, that ran for over a month!) religious wars between distributions, desktops, and text editors, and whatever else annoys people on a given day.

As we approach Thanksgiving in the United States, it’s a good time to think about giving back to your favorite open source software. A long time ago, I had some suggestions for working with free software if you don’t code. Many of the items on the list involve contributing to the community (filing bugs, getting help, giving help) and overall the list still looks pretty good to me.

If you’re already part of an open source community, you certainly have my appreciation, today and every day! If not, and you use the software, think about giving back.

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?

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!