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The first beta release of KDE SC 4.6 was released yesterday. OpenSUSE had packages up almost immediately, so being curious as to what’s new, I’ve downloaded and upgraded to the new release. These are my impressions thus far.

KDE’s release notes tout the following (main) features of the 4.6 release:

  • libplasma now does does something with QML for widgets on devices – why this is the number one feature listed on a PR release about the new release I do not know. It’s hardly sexy;
  • the reintroduction of activities, which now includes starting and stopping applications as part of an activity. This sounds interesting – more below;
  • optimization of Kwin. The release notes say that this will LEAD to smoother window management and more stunning desktop effects. So I’m guessing these aren’t in this release;
  • faceted browsing in dolphin. What I think this means is that you can filter particular files by various categories in a folder view;
  • git plugin for dolphin – yawn;
  • introduction of akonadi to the PIM applications.

KWIN Optimisations

This is actually really hard to show, because any screen capture program I use to show the improvements will be jerky and completely defeat the purpose. However, I can say on my desktop running an NVIDIA card, using the 256.53 version – for some reason the 260 series has a few issues on my machine – is smoooooooth. No tearing on wobbly windows. That eternal bug bear, resizing windows is smooth, even if I have the wobble on resize thing going. Basically, on an NVIDIA card, Kwin compositing performance is awesome.

On my intel 945GM desktop things are slightly different. There is definite improvement in most areas. However, wobbly windows are now unusable and even moving windows with the wobble turned off is jerky. I’m not sure if I’m alone on this or not, but hopefully this will be fixed in subsequent beta’s.

Filters in Dolphin

This is actually quite cool. I think this is what the release notes refer to as “faceted” browsing. It allows you to filter progressively on various categories, including filetypes, time periods, size as well as text in the filename, or inside the file. This can be really useful for finding files in large directories or file systems. Particularly when you’re looking for a particular file, but don’t know exactly what it is – you just know that you’ll know it when you see it. I am going to have a further play with this to see what else it can do, but finally we are seeing how nepomuk can be incorporated into KDE apps. I just hope they add this to the file open dialog.

Migration of KDEPIM to Akonadi

This is a BIG DEAL. The KDEPIM suite of applications, including kmail, kaddressbook, korganiser and knotes has been ported to the akonadi framework. This change was originally scheduled for KDE SC 4.5, but was deemed too buggy to be included. 4.6 sees its introduction, and finally we can see how this technology works, and where the KDE developers may take this forward. This is how Wikipedia describes akonadi:

Akonadi provides unique desktop wide object identification and retrieval. It functions as an extensible data storage for all PIM applications. In KDE 3 each PIM application had different data storage and handling methods, which led to several implementations of essentially the same features. Besides data storage, Akonadi has several other components including search, and a library (cache) for easy access and notification of data changes.

Akonadi communicates with servers to fetch and send data instead of applications through a specialized API. Data can then be retrieved from Akonadi by a model designed to collect a specific data (mail, calendar, contacts, etc). The application itself is made of viewers and editors to display data to the user and let them input data. Akonadi also supports metadata created by applications.

Because Akonadi takes care of data storage and retrieval, which are traditionally the difficult parts of creating a PIM application, development of PIM applications is made much easier. In fact, the Mailody developer Tom Albers demonstrated how a mail reader could be created in only 10 minutes using Akonadi.

Quite lofty goals, but it’s finally starting to see its full realisation in KDE SC. I’ve only really tested this in kmail, as this is the only KDEPIM application that I use. When you first open kmail in KDE 4.6, it goes through a migration routine. This seemed to go just fine, and whatever it was doing, went reasonably quickly. When kmail opened, my usual imap accounts were there, and all the mail was there. Basically everything looks the same. I’m sure that’s what’s intended with this initial port. Basically to get everything into akonadi, so that it can be built on within KDEPIM and in other applications in wider KDE SC

The only blip that I have – which is a bit of a show stopper, is that I can’t send mail. When I press the send button, the email is moved to the outbox and that’s it. It’s as if kmail thinks that’s all it has to do, and someone else will take the email from there. I’ve filed a bug, and hopefully this will be fixed.

Activities

There have been some minor changes to the activities interface. However, this feature is still unintuitive and non-discoverable. As I understand it, you are supposed to be able to start and stop applications automatically based on what activity you have open, and have widgets on a per activity basis. This starts to sound interesting. However, the Activities interface looks quite unpolished:

It is obvious how to add an activity, and how to add a widget, but not obvious how to add applications, so that they start and stop when you open an activity. Hopefully this will be polished up through the beta phase.

Device notifier shows up cifs mounted volumes.

Other Stuff

I’ve noticed a couple of other minor things in my first day or so of using 4.6:

  • Mimetype icons in the oxygen theme have been updated;
  • cifs mounts appear in the device notifier plasmoid.

That’s it so far. I’ll update this when the next beta comes out, and I’ve had a chance to have a longer play.

37 Comments
  1. About activities: you can rename them now, also (KDE) apps now start exclusive in an activity, and stay there. This means that now you can create, say, an activity “coding” with the project you’re working on. Enter the activity, open your tools etc. But also, now you can stop\freeze an activity -with your running apps- and leave it. And later unfreeze it again, and the apps you were running will startup again and open your coding documents.

  2. Regarding your problems with sending emails through kmail , you should check whether your smtp is configured correctly, maybe your smtp password got lost in the migration process.

    • I’ve checked these. I have two outgoing smtp accounts, and neither work. Both work fine in thunderbird.

  3. I always love KDE, using it form the first time in 1999, but I never run it after version 4 efficiently. It requires too many resources and never works correctly with my 2 monitors. The plasma is so BIG in ram and CPU usage… The last release of KDE that I can run without any problems is 3.3.5 or some like that.
    Since 2005 I have no super hardware configuration to run this Biggest Desktop Environment and need to surrender my self to Gnome. But Gnome has your own problems…
    So, there is no more Desktop Environments on Linux that an experience user (without a super computer) can run.
    Not so good…
    Sorry my bad english.

    • I’m not sure why you think KDE SC 4 is a resource hog. I think its performance is the equal, if not better of the 3 series. I have it running on a 3 year old desktop and it works very snappily

    • That’s weird. I had kde 3.5.x running on Pentium 1 with 192M ram without much problems, more than half the RAM was free (until I loaded up firefox). Current 4.5.3 series on my PC takes around 400M or so due to having all sorts of stuff running in background.

      Could it be you tried some of the very early 4.x series? Those did have quite a bit of problems but in last few major versions things are much better.

    • Sorry about the late post.
      I have to agree with Fernando. I’ve been using KDE for ten years. The KDE developers seen to have concentrated on special effects to the detriment of a usable desktop. I am currently using KDE 4.4.5. Based on continuing problems getting the desktop to load sucessfully every time they change something I expect to have to move to another desktop before the end of 2011.

      The root of my problem is an nvidia based card and the need for 3d hardware acceleration. Not directly a KDE issue but the KDE desktop reliance of 3d acceleration means no the desktop will not load.

      If I wanted to buy new hardware every time the desktop changed I would be using windows.

      Rod

  4. Thanks for the review; I am looking forward to KDE’s next release… always looking forward to the next release! KDE is what makes the Linux desktop so awesome to use.

    > It is obvious how to add an activity, and how to add a
    > widget, but not obvious how to add applications, so that
    > they start and stop when you open an activity. Hopefully
    > this will be polished up through the beta phase.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t likely to be the case. We’ll see improvements here throughout the 4.6.x cycle, but it won’t really be great, feature-full, and intuitive until 4.7.x. Just my guess, but that seems to be how KDE works: a concept is introduced and refined, but not really completed until the next 6mo cycle. I hope this doesn’t mean that the new KDEPIM will be only semi-usable for this series. Someone please tell me that I’m wrong on both the Activities and the KDEPIM futures, but that has been my experience.

  5. Nice! KDE now hits again. I used to be a KDE user and later changed to gnome.. Now i am thinking again of moving to KDE

    • Eh? Didn’t see any killer features in there, and it’s all beta… so… erm… what tipped the balance? libplasma now does something with QML for widgets on devices? :-)

  6. Hi,

    The ability to associate applications with activities is mostly transparent. I believe it was commited a few days after beta 1 was tagged for release, but windows will automatically be associated with the activities they are opened on. Right now you can do that by clicking the titlebar of the window (this was also the case in 4.5)… the big change now is that when you close an activity (the stop button in the activity manager) it will also exit that application completely, and restore it when you reopen that activity. Cool stuff, keeps me from whining about all the memory usage of having 20 browsers open in all my inactive (sic) activities …. :)

    As for the QML changes, it is the first in a long long line of changes to plasma to support moving to Qt’s new Scene Graph stuff which I don’t really grok yet. it’s supposed to use OpenGL, unlike hte current QPainter stuff, so it’s blazing fast. I guess. :)

    Ryan Rix
    KDE Plasma

    • Thanks for the info Ryan. I’ll watch out for that in the next beta. I can’t find anything about activities in the title bar menu though …

  7. who cares, linux on the desktop is pretty much a moot point.

    • Yeah, I agree. You can’t play big PC games on Linux very well, at least the average Joe can’t do it anyway. Window’s has a lock on that. You don’t see it in stores. You don’t see it advertised.

      And you won’t see me paying for a insecure, virus and worm target operating system. Window’s got a lock on that too.

  8. What’s the system default font you’re using? Looks good.

  9. While using Akonadi, what does it use to store it’s data. A database, if so which one, and how does this service affect battery life on a laptop in conjunction with all the other desktop effects and services.

  10. Damn, these activities sound really cool. There are so many nice features in latest KDE releases that I can’t stay on Gnome anymore. And KDE looks so sweet. With the next releases of Linux distriutions that carry KDE 4.6 I’ll probably just switch to one with great KDE. Any recommendations for the best KDE distro?

    • openSUSE is a great choice as a KDE distro. 11.3 comes with KDE SC 4.4, but both KDE SC 4.5 and 4.6 are available as repositories.

  11. Been using KDE for many years, 4.x series is great, and it is definitely a full fledged viable desktop solution even for beginners. Thanks.


  12. asdf:

    who cares, linux on the desktop is pretty much a moot point.

    6 months ago, I might have agreed with you … the only people I knew in 3D running linux as a desktop were people I had introduced to linux.

    However, among my new co-workers, one is planning on switching to linux because his father (no spring chicken) runs linux, another one brought in his laptop and asked me to install linux on his new hard disk (no prompting on my part), and a third asked, half-jokingly, if he could migrate his Windows box to linux, got it okayed, and bought a laptop large enough to throw a second hard drive into – and you can guess what’s eventually going on that second drive when he buys it..

    A big driver to this is the improved workflow with KDE. For example, open a website in konqueror, then open the source directory with fish://web_site_address/, open files you want to edit by right-clicking and selecting “open in new tab”, edit in place, and hit save.

    No need to ftp the file to your machine, edit it, and upload it. When you have to do live edits because someone goofed or the customer wants to change some simple text formatting, this is a time saver.

    Monkey-boy has it right – “developers, developers, developers …” It’s taken a long time, but it looks like more developers are starting to make the move.

    The public might or might not follow, but the battle is nowhere near over – it’s really just starting.

  13. It looks like the KDE 4 series is really stabilizing. Although I have not tried 4.6 yet, 4.5 is very stable on both my desktop and netbook (I prefer the regular desktop to the plasma netbook interface).

    It is good that they are focusing on improving the current features, which just adds more stability and increases performance.

  14. Even a beta should manage to give you an error if it can’t send email.

    This FOSS trend to pull functionality out of apps and put it into backends (do they hate working with UI developers that much??) is getting ridiculous. It results in apps that have fewer features over time, or new features that only a programmer could tolerate incl. the UI layers and menus being organized according to how the source code is organized (instead of typical workflows and how the user tends to think about their work).

  15. …so its no surprise that KDE tries to take the concept of workflow and abstract it into a backend (activities), as if accommodation for workflow is something that is stamped onto an app from outside.

  16. Regarding activities, what happens when you have a Firefox session open in two activities and then freeze one activity? Does it kill the Firefox process, taking down all of my Firefox windows? Does it close the Firefox window in the frozen activity? Firefox won’t reopen that window when the activity is resumed, so that window and its tabs will be lost forever, unless I dig them out of history one by one. This principle applies to all non-KDE apps, and Firefox is a biggie.

    I am sad to say that in some ways I agree with Burz. By the time KDE 3 reached 3.5 it was extremely polished and optimized. Here we are approaching 4.6 and it still feels clunky, things are being ripped out and replaced, major UI elements are changing, and all these big changes are introducing more bugs.

    I wish KDE would adopt Debian’s principle of releasing “when it’s ready.” And IMHO we should be approaching ~4.3 right now. There needs to be much more testing, debugging, and polishing before releasing. If it takes longer, so be it. Users ought to be able to depend on KDE. Just yesterday I filed a bug on Nepomuk because it can’t follow moved files and it loses tags and ratings. It’s missing basic functionality. It should be considered alpha, not even beta, but here it is in a full release, and unsuspecting users expect it to be dependable. But it’s not.

    In the long run this may harm KDE’s reputation. I still use 3.5 on my laptop because even in 4.5 I can’t get plasma to look as simple and readable as Kicker does. I’d have to spend a week hacking out a plasma theme with custom PNGs just to get a plain translucent taskbar that doesn’t waste pixels with giant useless borders and unreadable shiny buttons.

    :/ /rant

  17. It had never occurred to me that changes should be listed in order of sexiness.

  18. Never bothered with activities, don’t know what they are meant for. Is this documented somewhere ?

    kwin gets worse with every new release. Desktop effects were running fine with 4.3.x & 4.4.x, now Compositing gets disabled on both machines (Atom330/ION & Core2Duo/RadeonX1550).

    And what is it with nepomuk ? I’ve got it running now, I guess. krunner doesn’t display anything and Dolphin just a list of files. Glimpse back in it’s days gave an excerpt, and that was mid 90s.

    And I’m wondering why PDFs are rendered so badly compared to Gnome.

    Just my observations, sorry if this sounds like a rant. I understand the task to develop a ‘lil’ project like KDE is not an easy one. Maybe I’m just getting too old to keep up with this very fast moving world. :)

  19. Using 4.5.80 on two machines no problem with sending emails.

    akonadi migration was flawless (to my relief)

    On my third machine I’m getting the gotcha with nvidia 260 identified by others.

    It didn’t appear to be there on 11.2 and 4.5.80 (a brief examination after zypper dup 11.2 on the way to 11.3)

    However (on this one machine) an upgrade to opensuse 11.3 caused plasma problems.

    I’m not alone (nor moaning, though the bug also affects 4.5.3)

    To me it appears to be an interaction between plasma and nvidia. It’s solveable (apparently, I haven’t tried yet) by not upgrading nvidia or rolling back

    see bug 251719 and kde forums

    • The sending if mail is a weird one. It works fine on one desktop and not at all on another. I’m still trying to work out why.

      Re the nvidia issue, I’ve just rolled back to 256.53 via a manual install and am waiting for someone to fix whatever bug is causing the issue.

  20. There’s today few “actual” progress on PC technology, and I hava seen some of it, I think that KDE is just “amazing”, that guys behind KDE, are machines placing dreams ideias into our Real World!

    Thanks KDE Team!!

  21. I always had Kmail as my favorite mail reader but… an upgrade to KDE 4.5 ruined it.

    The migration from 4.4 was not flawless; the configuration is a lot different and not intuitive.

    But the worst was the resources Akonadi uses – most of the times it almost froze my AMD 3x 4Gb RAM machine. Also, it does not send mail correctly.

    I just gave up until a new version and am using Gmail instead.

    Otherwise, the KDE 4.5 is great. I love it.

    • I have never got problems with Kmail eating CPU/RAM. The KDE SC 4.5 fixed the oldest KDE bug of freezing the UI and the 4.6 beta finally brought much faster IMAP checkout.

      So far the usage is now better than with thunderbird.

  22. I’m using KDE for about 6 years and i’m planning to stick with it however I’m not really happy.
    There are memory leaks(maybe Xorg fault. maybe nvidia)
    Bottom line is that in the end of the day plasma-desktop hogs 200MB of ram.
    Kontact and krunner crash from time to time and and activities are not worthwhile.

  23. 4.6 summed up for me:

    PRO
    * monitor brightness keys work on my laptop
    * dolphin faceted browsing finally makes it easy to show everything with at least N stars

    CON
    * folder view plasmoid is now useless due to a regression (drag and drop no longer works: https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=259335 )

    Unfortunately, the CON sucks enough that I may have to, for the first time in my life, downgrade until it gets fixed. How can the one plasmoid that is given as a default for new users not work, in a _release_? That’s enormously disappointing.

  24. Regarding the problem of sending mail, I had the same: the akonadi resource which send emails doesn’t say he want to access to the kwallet.
    The solution is:
    * Make a mail and try to send it, it goes on outbox
    * Start akonadiconsole
    * Select the Agent “Mail dispatcher”
    * press “restart”
    * The wallet popup and ask to access to password

    I’m not sure that the password is actually stored in the current configuration, so I’ve entered it first in the dialog box, and allowed the access to wallet after.

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