Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What´s new in KDE SC 4.10

the KDE project released the first Beta for KDE SC 4.10, which will be released to the public sometime early next year. After KDE SC 4.9, a conservative (in a good way) release whose main target was stability, 4.10 takes us back to the more standard KDE release type, rich in new features.

The complete list of features and changes is LONG, so I will only list a number of highlights here (from the Official dot.kde.org ANNOUNCEMENT):

  • Qt Quick in Plasma Workspaces -- Qt Quick is continuing to make its way into the Plasma Workspaces. Plasma Quick, KDE's extensions on top of QtQuick allow deeper integration with the system and more powerful apps and Plasma components. Plasma Containments can now be written in QtQuick. Various Plasma widgets have been rewritten in QtQuick, notably the system tray, pager, notifications, lock & logout, weather and weather station, comic strip and calculator plasmoids. Many performance, quality and usability improvements make Plasma Desktop and Netbook workspaces easier to use.
  • New Screen Locker -- A new screen locking mechanism based on QtQuick brings more flexibility and security to Plasma Desktop.
  • Animated Wallpapers -- Thanks to a new QtQuick-based wallpaper engine, animated wallpapers are now much easier to create.
  • Improved Zooming in Okular -- A technique called tiled rendering allows Okular to zoom in much further while reducing memory consumption. Okular Active, the touch-friendly version of the powerful document reader is now a KDE Application.
  • Faster indexing -- Improvements in the Nepomuk semantic engine allow faster indexing of files. The new Tags kioslave allows users to browse their files by tags in any KDE-powered application.
  • Color Correction -- Gwenview, KDE's smart image viewer, and Plasma's Window Manager now support color correction and can be adjusted to the color profile of different monitors, allowing for more natural representation of photos and graphics.
  • Notifications -- Plasma's notifications are now rendered using QtQuick. Notifications themselves, especially concerning power management, have been cleaned up.
  • New Print Manager -- Setup of printers and monitoring jobs was improved thanks to a new implementation of the Print Manager.
  • Kate Improvements -- KDE's Advanced Text Editor received multiple improvements regarding user feedback. It is now extensible using Python plugins.

I left out some other things that were highlighted in the KDE announcement that I don't consider that relevant myself. On the other hand, though, there are some features that went by unmentioned that got my attention, specially around the Kwin area. For instance, a change has been merged to get the window menu inside the window decoration, which should make things look much cleaner. I don´t like how the separation between the decoration and the window is made evident sometimes when using wobbly windows, so here´s hope that this change will fix that. Martin Graesslin himself merged another interesting one thanks to which decorations inform the compositor about their transparency, a change that should provide more consistent looks when windows are maximized. Finally, I read not long ago from Martin again that they were looking at the translucency effect. This effect comes enabled by default when dragging windows, and surprisingly they realized it was hungry on resources and heavy on the system. The plan is for that effect to get fixed in KDE SC 4.10 as well.

There are many more things in the works. In fact, looking at the complete list of features, it almost feels concerning that there are so many incomplete items at this stage, specially given the Beta stage we're at. I wonder if all those targeted goals will actually make it into KDE SC 4.10. We´ll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Linux Mint 14 "Nadia" released

As it is usually the case, not long after an Ubuntu release, there comes a new Linux Mint release. This time around, we get release 14 and probably the most interesting Linux Mint release to date.

Since its inception, Linux Mint started as a "tamed" Ubuntu, a visually appealing take on Ubuntu with all the nerdy stuff taken care of (codecs installed, full support for all kinds of media, a more relevant application selection, etc.) As it gradually evolved, Mint started to deviate more and more from Ubuntu, very much becoming an entity of its own, which is what we see today.

I have not tested Mint 14 yet, but I plan to soon. Those who have read earlier reviews from me probably know I am not a fan, but I am interested to see what this new release is all about, mostly because there seem to be many appealing new features. To take a quick look at what's new, please visit the official New Features ANNOUNCEMENT page.

After I read that announcement, I must admit I had mixed feelings. It is clear that Mint is developing fast and it is exciting to see Cinnamon grow at such an amazing pace, but it is sad to see yet another Linux project reinventing the wheel. Workspaces? Notification applet? A shy take on activities? Much deeper customization?... This is all KDE!... Why on earth do we need another take on the same idea when it already works (and looks) better on KDE? Like I said before, I have to try it for real before I decide about Mint 14, but I would be hugely disappointed if it ends up being a watered down version of KDE on MATE.

At the end of the day, I can only imagine what KDE would be like if all the resources and talent from the Linux Mint project actually joined in and a hybrid, much improved project, came out as a result. It is obvious that the Mint developers have talent and push hard to make their ideas come to life, but even more important, they also have more of a pragmatic approach that would fit in perfectly in KDE to simplify things and make them more practical.

...Of course, this is all daydreaming, good thing it is free!