Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rediscovering KDE - part 3 - the Suse effect

Disaster struck my Kubuntu 11.10 installation last Thursday.  Having gotten thoroughly sick of the screen artifacts, frozen windows and poorly rendered window decorations from what looked like a bad video driver, I decided to address the problem.  I went into the "additional drivers" app to see what was up with the proprietary nVidia drivers.  It showed that the "[recommended]" driver was "activated and in use".  There were a few other options including a driver with "post release updates".  I'm not sure what that meant, but I decided to try it.  That was a mistake.

After "activating" the driver, I was prompted to reboot the system.  (What is this, Windows?)  With a frown, I complied and never saw the screen work again.

To make along story short, my xorg.conf file became "corrupt".  Restoring the original from backup didn't help.  Wiping it out and having the nVidia X configuration app write a new one was useless.  It's frustrating to have an application declare its own output as "corrupted".  I even tried rendering a no frills xorg.conf by hand - could not get the screen to light up.  It would boot to a point and then just hang forever.

I have no patience for xorg.conf video problems, this isn't 1999.  At this point I had lost an entire evening on this problem and I needed to have a working machine by morning.  My Linux machine is a tool for my work - configuring  X11 is a hobby abandoned years ago.  Yeah, there was probably a way to fix it, but as I said, I lost my patience.  As a temporary measure, I setup my Macbook Air with my dev environment and limped along with that for a day.

Disgusted with my Kubuntu troubles, I decided to give KDE one more chance and I loaded Suse 12.1 on my workstation.  There was immediate relief.  KDE runs (almost) flawlessly. The video runs flawlessly, no screen artifacts.  Even the dual screen, that barely worked at all under Kubuntu, is working smoothly and effortlessly.

So that's the end of line for Kubuntu/Ubuntu for me.  I'm returning to my Suse roots, at least until the next shiny thing crosses my path.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Rediscovering KDE - part 2

I'm continuing with my exploration of KDE as my newly adopted Linux desktop.  Some of the shine as worn off already and I've sworn at it several times.  I suspect some of the problems are with the nVidia driver, but it could be KDE.  Here's the warts that plagued me this last week.

I've found that after about six hours, KDE gets really slow.  Click a button and it will respond five seconds later.  When typing in a field, I can be an entire sentence ahead of what shows on the screen.  This is a problem. I degrades even more quickly if the "special effects" are turned on.  The work around is to logout and log back in every so often.  I don't want to interrupt my work to restart X. Is it KDE or the nVidia driver?  Gnome worked fine with this same nVidia driver.

Every so often, a window will become unresponsive.  It shows on the screen, but the focus is on some other window.  Nothing I do will transfer focus to the frozen window.  If there is a modal dialog box somewhere, I don't find it.  I can grab other windows and drag them around, but when I do so, it drags under the frozen window.  I've yet to be able to get anything above the frozen window.  It isn't the same app that freezes every time.  It seems that any app can freeze in this way. Is it KDE? likely.

I'd really like the content of panels to be dependent on which activity I'm in.  I keep a panel of useful tools on left edge of the screen.  The tools that I use in software development are different than the tools I use when I'm working with images.  I can't see that this is possible.

I'd like to be able to exploit window behaviors, but the documentation is sparing and hard to find.  It seems that the design assumes that the user is a KDE developer and understands the terms, parameters and allowable values.  All I want to do is to have one button open eight or so terminal sessions, each with a different color profile and absolute position and size.  I can't manage to do that.  In Gnome this was trivial.

In the same vein, it seems that KDE apps are imbued with a set of command line options that come from KDE itself.  If you get the command line help for 'konsole', you'll find that there is a --geometry parameter that has a similar syntax as the analog in Gnome.  Unfortunately, konsole ignores the parameter.  If you're going to document a parameter and display it as available to users, then it ought not be silently ignored.

I know nothing about the KDE organization.  Is there a company behind it?  Are there a lot of contributors or only a small handful?