Linux,  Mandriva

Testing KDE 4.1 beta 1

During the past few days, I have been testing KDE 4.1 beta on Mandriva Cooker. Actually the version I tested is even a bit more recent than KDE 4.1 beta: Cooker currently includes the KDE 4.0.81 snapshot.

Overall, the desktop is basically in a usable state. I experienced a few crashes, but generally it was not too bad. Unfortunately I could not report them all, because I don’t have the -debug packages installed (thanks to our infamous download limits in Belgium, it’s a bit difficult to keep these big packages up to date). Most problems are related to things not working correctly or not very intuitively. In my opinion this has always been the weak spot of KDE.

Here’s a list of bugs which I reported during the last few days:

A lot of this problems are not too bad, but they make the desktop loop a bit unfinished and less professional. The finishing touch is still lacking.

So apart from that, I experienced some more random crashes for which I did not find a reproducible test case yet. Sometimes a combo box in Konqueror’s web browser shows completely black when opened for the first time. Also in Konqueror, there are some refreshing issues, where you get part of the page overlapping with other parts, until you scroll the problematic part of the page out of the window and back in. Sometimes sound notifications in all KDE applications stop working completely. Some dialogs are not heigh enough by default (for example in Kopete’s new account wizard), a bug which was already reported on KDE’s bugzilla.

Plasma is still a mixed bag in KDE 4.1. The folder view, which is used for showing the normal icons on the desktop we are used to, does not have a correct right click menu for the menu icons, which makes it difficult/impossible to rename or remove icons on the desktop for example. I failed to add a “show desktop” button on the panel (nothing seems to happen when I do this). It’s deceiving that such basic features are still not working correctly now. All in all, I also have the impression that this whole Plasma thing also makes the desktop much more complex. It also adds little gain (only a few interesting gadgets mostly used by more advanced users and geeks) while it has still many drawbacks in basic features which are used by many less experienced people.

What’s also very problematic, is that there is a huge speed regression in KMail. in KMail 4.1, it is simply mail folders containing ten thousands of messages are barely usable, something which worked fine in KMail 3.5 and also works fine in Evolution. I reported this problem and apparently this is a known problem in QT 4.4’s Q3ListView class. Trolltech does not want to fix this bug anymore and so the only possible solution is to port KMail to use QTreeView, which will not happen for KDE 4.1. Unfortunately this is yet another example of things which won’t be complete for KDE 4.1.

KDE 4.1 generally feels very fast. Dolphin is a very nice addition to the desktop and while I was not really a fan of the KickOff menu earlier, it’s actually very usable. KDE finally can access file systems on encrypted LUKS devices (although it’s currently not working for me, probably because of a bug which is also affecting GNOME). and Gwenview is a very nice default picture viewer. Amarok 2 however does not seem very usable yet at this moment. I also like the new default setting of showing the text under the toolbar icons (however I don’t understand why this is not the case in Konqueror) and the integrated desktop effects in KDE are nice, while being a bit less bloated and bombastic than Compiz.

While KDE 4.1 has some very nice improvements, I think I will never install it on systems I manage for others (normal, non-technical computer users) which are now using KDE 3.5. For those kind of users, I want a (near) perfect desktop where everything is polished and things are working perfectly as intended and as would be reasonably expected by normal users. I’m afraid it will take until somewhere in the the KDE 4.2 series until this will become reality. If you are a more experienced user and don’t mind basic Plasma things not being finished and other unpolished things all over the desktop and don’t have any huge mail folders, then even already KDE 4.1 beta could be right what you need. Personally, I will continue to use GNOME 2.22.2. For now, I consider this as the most professional desktop which is capable of offering the kind of stability and smoothness most new Linux expect.


  • vasu muppalla

    I am running opensuse 11 RC1 with updates, incl kde 4.1 ( same version – 4.0.81). While your comments about the features in plasma ( Re: inability to add a folder on desktop and some others( is true, I am not experiencing the same stability issues. There are occasional crashes but nothing more than any linux distro release. In fact for a beta, 4.1 is quite stable so it may be more of a mandriva issue.

    I remember how unstable firefox/mozilla were ( even firefox 1.5), esp the 1.x series. And gnome ? Remember gnome ( actually GTK) 1.x ? And even 2.0 series. It was so unstable and YET RH and others palmed it off on even corporations whom they charged 1000s of dollars per license.

    People did not stop using gnome ( actually they did but RH, FSF and others marketed the hell out of it using FUD like m$). Then RH, novell and then ubuntu poured millions of $$ to clean up gnome. KDE has not enjoyed this kind of commercial investment financially. Wonder what would have happened if RH had poured all their resources into KDE 2.x instead and linux had standardized on it.

    I do know that in the US where gnome is promoted as the ‘corporate’ standard, or whatever, few people actually use linux on the desktop. Wonder why ?

    If you are still a mandriva employee, you should fix the problems. Esp as mandriva is believed to be a KDE based distro ( I am finding it harder to believe that because of poor KDE support I have seen in mandriva lately and improving gnome support).

    I do agree with one thing – KDE 4.0.x is not usable and it should not have been marked as release. Distros should NOT be including it. As I see it, the only dostros that are doing this are the ones traditionally promoting gnome and dissing KDE – fedora and ubuntu for example. I am also surprised with opensuse’s choice but it offers choice during install. There is no longer a default desktop.

  • Frederik

    I think it should have been pretty clear from my article that crashes are not the main problem. Several times in my article, I am writing about *a few* (sic) crashes and if you take a look at my list of bug reports, you will see only 1 out of 13 is a crasher. In my conclusion I even recommend KDE 4.1 beta for some type of users.

    I am not a Mandriva employee and never have been.

  • liquidat

    Nice review – and also a nice list of bug reports. Btw., next time you also might want to include images to better show off what is the exact problem. That sometimes really helps the people reading these reports. Also, a step-by-step list to reproduce the bug is very helpful.

    Anyway, you mentioned that LUKS hard disks are recognized automatically. Is this done by an internal KDE 4.1 function? Or is the external KDE3 program krypt used for that task?

  • Frederik's Blog

    This week-end I upgraded my KDE 4 test installation to KDE 4.0.82, which is now included in Mandriva Cooker. Time to follow up on the bugs I reported last week and to take a deeper look at Plasma, the new desktop concept introduced in KDE 4. Plas