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Debian/Testing and KDE4

I’ve just upgraded my Thinkpad (which I use for most of my work) to Debian/testing with KDE4.

Improvements

Kde 3.5 (from Debian/Lenny) didn’t properly display the applets in a vertical task bar. I want a vertical task bar because my screen resolution is 1680*1050 and I find that a less rectangular screen workspace is best for my usage patterns.

In my previous post about my Thinkpad T61 I described how the sound controls weren’t working [1]. These problems were fixed as part of the upgrade, KDE just does the right thing. Now when I press the buttons to increase or decrease the volume the ALSA settings are changed and a small window is briefly displayed in the center of the screen to show the new volume.

Sounds are now made when I plug or unplug the power cable, this was configured in KDE 3.5 but just didn’t work.

Problems

If I have a maximised Konqueror window and I use the middle mouse button to open a link in a new window then the new window will also be maximised. Previously when I did that the new window was not maximised. What sometimes happens is that I want to open several links from a web page in different windows, so if I can open them in non-maximised windows then I can click the title-bar or the bottom status-bar of the parent window to get it in the foreground again. Probably an ideal solution to this use-case would be to configure the middle mouse button to open a new window in the background or minimised.

I can’t figure out how to implement accelerator keys for window controls. In particular I like to use ALT-F9 to minimise a window (CUA89 standard). The upgrade from KDE 3.5 to KDE 4 lost this and I can’t get it back.

I want to have an icon on my panel to launch a Konqueror session. I don’t want a large amount of space taken up for a launcher for several different Konqueror options, I just want a regular Konqueror for web browsing available at a single click. There didn’t seem to be an option for this. KDE 3.5 has an option in the add widgets to toolbar dialogue to add icons for applications. I have just discovered that in KDE 4 the only way to do this is to go through the menu structure and then click the secondary mouse button. Having two ways to do something is often a good thing, particularly when the other way is the way that was most obvious in the previous version!

It was annoying that the font choices for my Konsole session were lost on the KDE 4 upgrade, it’s not a complex setting. Also the option to resize a Konsole session to a common size (such as 80*25) seems to have been lost.

I had to spend at least 30 minutes configuring kmail to get it to display mail in much the same manner as it used to. You have to use the “Select View Appearance (Theme)” icon off at the right of the “Search” box and select “Classic” and then go to “Select Aggregation Mode” (immediately to the left) to select “Flat Date View“. I’m happy for KDE 4 to default to new exciting things when run the first time, but when upgrading from KDE 3.5 it should try to act like KDE 3.5.

I decided to use Kopete for Jabber just to preempt the GNOME people adding Mono support to Pidgin. I had to install the libqca2-plugin-ossl and qca-tls packages to enable SSL connection, missing either of those gives you an incomprehensible error condition that even strace doesn’t clarify much. Given that it’s generally agreed that sending passwords unencrypted over the Internet is a bad idea and that it’s a configuration option in Jabber servers to reject non-SSL connections it seems to me that the Kopoete package should depend on the packages that are needed for SSL support. Failing that it would be good to have Kopete offer big visible warnings when you don’t have them.

I use the KDE 2 theme and the right side of the title bar of each window is a strange dappled pattern. Not sure why and I have more important problems to fix.

Parts of KDE crash too often. I’ll start filing bug reports soon.

The management of the Desktop folder has changed. In previous versions of KDE the directory ~/Desktop had it’s contents displayed in iconic form on the root window. Now by default it doesn’t do that. It is possible to change it, but this is one of those things where the default in the case of an upgrade should be to act like previous versions. The way to enable the previous functionality is to go to the desktop settings (click the secondary mouse button on the background, select “Desktop Settings” and then under “Desktop Activity” change the “Type:” to the value “Folder View” and then specify the directory below.

The facility to have different background colors or pictures for each of the virtual desktops seems to have been removed – either that or the KDE configuration system doesn’t have enough functionality to let me discover how to configure it.

When the panel that I have on the left of the screen crashes everything that was next to the panel gets dragged to the left, this includes extending the width of maximised windows. Then when the panel starts again (which if lucky happens automatically) it pushes things back and if icons had been moved left it just obscures them.

When using Konqueror to browse a directory full of pictures it doesn’t generate thumbnail icons. When I middle-click on an icon for a picture it is opened with Konqueror not the image viewer that was used in KDE 3.5. The image viewer from KDE 3.5 had less options and therefore more screen space was used for the picture. Also the Konqueror window that is opened for this has a navigator panel at the left which I can’t permanently remove.

When I use Konqueror my common action is to perform a Google search and then use the middle button to open a search result in a new window. Most of my Google searches return pages that have more than one screen-full of data so shortly after opening a window with a search result I press PgDn to see the next page. That press of PgDn for some reason takes me back to the Google search. It seems that when a web page is opened in a new window the keyboard focus will be in the URL entry field, and pressing PgDn in that field takes you to the previous web page. This combination is really annoying for me.

Conclusion

Getting the sound working correctly is a great feature! Lots of little things are fancier and generally the upgrade is a benefit. The lack of thumbnails when displaying a folder of JPG files is really annoying though.

The time taken to configure things is also annoying, I support four relatives who are just users so that probably means at least an hour of configuration work and training for each one so KDE 4 is going to cost me at least half a day because of this.

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