The release candidates of the 4.8 generation are out since a few days and now also openSUSE packages are available in the KDE Unstable repository.
Release candidates by KDE are usually very solid with incomplete translations as biggest drawback but since translating is usually done during RC phase, it’s to be expected.
I’m not a friend of bright desktop themes which is why I always change the Plasma theme from Air to something else on the first day and never see Air again until I do a fresh install for whatver reason. So I can’t comment if the Air theme itself has changed. What I noticed when I switched to Air out of curiosity was the giant size of the clock:
This is in Air alone. In the dark Oxygen theme the clock looks not like someone screaming at me that my eyes are bad. 😉
Possible theme changes aside, from an end-user point of view, the desktop hasn’t changed. The device notifier uses new technology inside but it looks and behaves just like the old one.
There is a slight graphical glitch in Plasma Network Management but openSUSE has some random (likely untested) git checkout of that in its Unstable repository, so I’m not sure if that’s a Plasma Desktop bug or a PNM bug.
A small but nice change in the Oxygen window decoration is that the X button now glows red when hovering it. IMO that improves usability quite a bit:
A big user-visible change is Dolphin 2.0. As Peter explained last August, 2.0’s file directory code is a complete rewrite and it shows immediately. Dolphin 2.0’s workflow hasn’t changed, so there’s no need to re-adjust, but what’s there is a whole new level of polish:
As you can see in that YouTube video (WebM version available), all operations that require icons to be re-sorted have a fluid animation (lags in that video are due the recording process – it’s 100% fluid on my low-end laptop). Directory reading speed is also much better now.
I encountered three small bugs, though. I’m not sure if I’m the exeption or if those bugs are the rule with the new version:
Bug 264434 – Dolphin doesn’t remember the columns widths in details view
Bug 281598 – Geometry issues when increasing width of information panel (not exactly my problem but Peter closed my Bug 289851 as dupe)
Bug 289850 – Size column uses KiB only
Other than those minor bugs, the experience is great!
With 4.8 I also bit the bullet and switched to Kontact 4.8. I kept using Kontact 4.4 under KR 4.7 because of its bad reputation. My personal mail accounts – thanks to mailing lists I subscribed to – contain several tens of thousands e-mails. So any migration naturally takes its time.
Overall the experience with Kontact 4.8 is OK. From what I see the biggest problems aren’t actually problems with the programs itself but bad communication by the applications.
I also use Thunderbird for my work-related e-mail because I like to keep work and private mails separate. So I can actually compare both.
Kontact just like Thunderbird index mails for quick search. With as many mails as I have, both TB and Kontact take their time but here the bad communication comes into play:
TB says in its status bar in an unobtrusive manner that it indexes the mails. Kontact says nothing. It sits there, some Akonadi process eats roughly 30% CPU power and no common user knows what’s going on.
So there the problem is that Kontact does not talk at all. In another case Kontact talks too much. When I put my laptop in standby and later wake it up, I get a notification for each mail account that the resource is broken and that the account if offline because of that.
No, nothing is broken. Standby simply caused the internet connection to be severed.
In another case – when I manually flag a mail as spam – I get the notification that the mail can’t be moved, even though it was successfully moved to the Trash folder at the same time.
So what would common users think? Probably something like this: “Kontact causes high workload and admits it’s broken all the time.”
Another problem is the result of an actual bugfix. KMail 1.x could only handle one operation at the time. This occasionally caused the GUI to freeze. The Akonadi back-end still can only do one operation at the time but now the GUI is responsive. So KMail2 downloaded 7,000 mails from one IMAP account and I could still use the application. So I went to another account (already synced) and wanted to read a mail just to get a “Retrieving folder contents” message for the time it synced the other account. Well, at least KMail told me what was going on.
Luckily such large-scale syncs are a one-time thing. After setting Kontact 4.8 up initially, the experience is smooth. In fact I find it smoother than Kontact 4.4. The GUI freezing fix may cause irritation during large-scale syncs but on a daily basis it’s way better. Bug 193514 has also been fixed. Those two have been two of the most hated bugs in KDE history.
I can’t tell how Kontact 4.6 and 4.7 have been but 4.8 is a solid improvement over 4.4. And no, Thunderbird is not better. It has better notifications but that’s it.
That’s it for now. I didn’t notice other changes so far but from what I gathered from blogs, most changes are under the hood anyway. So you may or may not benefit from them.
If you’ve read the blogosphere around GNU (Planet GNOME etc.) you’ve probably heard that some people are really upset about a comment by Richard M. Stallman about Steve Jobs’ death. RMS wrote “Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died” and continued with a requoted phrase said about a corrupt mayor: “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.”
I’m not sure forking the FSF would solve any problems. Despite what RMS sometimes says, the FSF is broken in its foundations. From the very focused goal to build a completely free operating system called GNU the FSF transformed to ‘everything that vaguely adheres to our standards can call itself a GNU project and we’ll throw an occasional political manifesto on top of it all’.
The FSF doesn’t need a fork. Newer organizations already took over FSF’s former responsibilities: ‘Software Freedom Law Center’ does the majority of legal work. Linux provides the kernel and KDE and GNOME (officially still a GNU project but de facto without relation) provide the userspace tools.
As for RMS himself: I don’t think his political ideals are wrong or go too far. As even Apple itself once said: “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”.
We shouldn’t compromise our ideals of Free Software or – in broader terms – free knowledge for everybody but IMO we don’t RMS any longer because we have more than just him now. People like SFLC’s Eben Moglen reflect more about what they are about to say.
IMO arguments for free software/knowledge weigh more when there is no crazy talk mixed in. It’s a plain fact that while Apple is hardly perfect from our perspective, Steve Jobs made Apple way more open than Apple under John Sculley, Michael Spindler, and Gil Amelio. Everything was proprietary. After Apple bought NeXT and effectively NeXT took over Apple’s operations, suddenly we had an Apple that contributes to GCC, releases its new NeXTStep-derived operating system’s core (Darwin) under a LGPL-like license, creates WebKit, maintains CUPS, and is the main driver of LLVM.
So to get back to the first paragraph: I’m glad we had Steve Jobs. Not only did his decisions result in improvements of FOSS itself, he helped to break the dominance of Windows and let people accept that there are alternatives that not only work as well as Windows but even surpass it.