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.
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:
Find *really* important bugs and ping people to fix them
Find stale reviewboards and ping people to review them
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.
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.
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:
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?
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
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.
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!
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.