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KDE4: Retry

April 13th, 2009

Several months ago I made a good faith attempt to upgrade my laptop from the reliable KDE3 to the avant-guard KDE4. Having decided not to even dabble with KDE 4.0 and the growing-pains associated with that particular release, I had high hopes for the venerable desktop environment’s 4.1 release. Sadly, the experiment ended in disaster, with too many crashes, too much slowness, and too many missing features that — at least for my work flow — were critical. I thus reverted back to KDE3 and went about my business.

However, with the release of Debian/Lenny, Debian/Unstable has seen a flood of new packages including the transition from KDE3 -> KDE4, meaning it was simply no longer an option to avoid KDE4. Sure, I could have switched off of Debian/Unstable, but I’m just not that kind of guy. But I had hopes to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

This morning I could delay no further… too many packages were getting held up and it was time to bite the bullet. To my great pleasure, the upgrade has proven a much more enjoyable experience than last time. Instead of KDE 4.1, Debian/Unstable now runs with KDE 4.2.2 and it is just so much better.

Lots of GUI related stuff has cleaned up, applications work like I remember or have alternative mechanisms that I’m willing to learn, and generally things seem faster. I decided to turn off all of the eye-candy, as my laptop isn’t quite as powerful as one might want. But general CPU use is low enough that the fan doesn’t turn on, unlike the first attempt where it ran non-stop. Perhaps the most important feature enhancement is the introduction of a 12 hour clock! Not that I don’t appreciate 24-hour clocks, but my head just doesn’t work that way and I am otherwise surrounded by 12 hour clocks… it simply wasn’t practical to retrain and switch back-and-forth.

I think my only lasting critique is that KDE 4 was designed for big monitors. Everything seems to take up just a little bit more screen real estate that it used to, which makes a big difference on my tiny laptop monitor (only 14 inches, I think…). The appearance is much more in keeping with Web 2.0 design philosophy, which I generally like quite a bit, but on tiny monitors presents certain challenges. My guess is it will look gorgeous when I try it out my desktop’s 19 inch monitor.

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