GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Debian and the girlfriend

Ada with the laptop

We got a new computer for the girlfriend some months ago. Since her old laptop was running Debian Lenny and she loved it, but the software packages were quite outdated, I decided to install Kubuntu 10.10 on her new laptop. Assuming that it would be easier to use with all of Canonical’s and community customizations, handle and detect new hardware drivers better and will have more updated software.

Turns out that she barely used her new laptop, complaining a lot about it. First, she had to get used to the new KDE 4 environment, when she got so used to KDE 3.5 on Debian Lenny, but change is something we all have to face. But the real problems were that hardware was not working properly, the touchpad had no scrolling and since its a single button pad with virtual buttons, the right button click didn’t work. Also, the Dolphin file manager would sometimes not refresh the files on the folders, so she couldn’t see some files that were recently saved. When trying to shutdown it would freeze up or the KDE shutdown menu window would not draw any options. When finally shutting down, it sometimes hanged at the end of the process, thus not turning off the computer.

After about a month of complaints and frustrations, she demanded me to install Debian back. I explained to her my initial decision to go with Kubuntu and that a new version 11.04 was coming out in a few days and that might fix her problems. But her argument was strong: “I need stability, and I don’t like to be on the bleeding edge since I’m not technical, I can’t troubleshoot the issues. Its fine for me to stay with the same stack of software for two years until the next Debian stable release.”

Ada, ballet & GNU

So I went ahead and installed Debian Squeeze on her laptop, expecting a lot of time spent in forums to get her new hardware working, configuring files, compiling drivers, etc. To my great surprise, everything worked out of the box, with very minimum custom configurations. She immediately started installing all her favorite software and was very happy with her new system’s stability and fast responsiveness. Software was (to the time of this writing) decently recent, and very stable so now she has completely ditched her old computer, feeling perfectly comfortable. Although she still misses KDE 3.5, she’s getting used to KDE 4 and customizing it her way.

Oh, and she made it all pink.


Emacs Identica-mode notifications

There’s a feature on Emacs identica-mode that I haven’t documented or written about before and its been there for quite some time.

Its very nice to have notifications when you get new updates on your timeline. I’ve seen it on other clients like TweetDeck. So I made a hook for Emacs to execute some code after it has fetched new dents. With this you can call any notification system to show a message of the new dents.

Here’s the code I’ve been using to show new notice count on KDE4 notification system (similar code can be used for Gnome’s notification system):

;; KDE 4 Notification of new dents
(add-hook 'identica-new-dents-hook (lambda ()
   (let ((n identica-new-dents-count))
     (start-process "identica-notify" nil "kdialog"
		    "Emacs Identica-mode New dents"
                    (format "You have %d new dent%s"
                            n (if (> n 1) "s" ""))

Emacs Identica-mode notifications

I haven’t tried to do the same in Mac OS with Growl but I guess its also possible. If someone has the code for that, please share it in the comments. You can also use ToDoChiKu as a universal notification system.

**Update** Jason McBrayer has posted the elisp code to use identica-mode with ToDoChiKu on his blog.

I hope you like this hook feature and please let me know other ways to use the hook, or if any other hook is usefull to have.

GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

My top 5 missing features on KDE4 on Ubuntu Gutsy


I’ve been using the KDE4 from the Ubuntu Gutsy repositories for two days now, and I know there are a lot of missing features but here are my top 5:

  1. Printers: they are missing from the kde4 settings manager program. I know its not a full all bells and whistle final release, but can this be skipped from a (any) release?
  2. Widgets: Okay, the fact that KDE4 can now have widgets is nice, but why are all the widgets useless? Why not show off the widget potential with cool things, like a full RSS reader, a system services monitor, or a blog publishing widget? Or maybe just have something plain simple but useful like a calculator. No, they give us a clock and a battery monitor. Sounds like the Windows 1 TV commercial with Steve Ballmer: “A clock!”.
  3. Copy and Move: One of the main reasons I started loving Konqueror was because it had a Move To and Copy To option on the context menu. Its very helpful to move files around without having to open windows or drag them. On Dolphin, this features is missing.
  4. Shutdown Menu: I felt kind of in Vista land when I pressed the Shutdown button from the new Kmenu and then got asked again if I wanted to shutdown or logout. The Kmenu already presented me those options, and I chose Shutdown, why ask again?
  5. Switch to Next/Previous Desktop Shortcuts: I mentioned it in my last post and even there’s been updates to the packages, this keyboard shortcuts are missing on the settings. Its annoying to use the mouse to do such a thing, and the Expose-like feature is still not responding 100% of the times.

Which ones are yours?

GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source

KDE4 with Ubuntu Gutsy (first impressions)

Today was the official release of KDE4, and the Kubuntu packages are already available for download and use.

Here’s a screenshot of my current desktop:
My new kde4 desktop

How to install?

If you want to install KDE4 in your current Ubuntu or Kubuntu Gutsy is very easy.

First add the repository to your sources list:

sudo kate /etc/apt/sources.list

Then add this line at the end of the file

deb gutsy main

Refresh your packages
sudo aptitude update

And install kde4-core if you want the basic installation.
sudo aptitude install kde4-core

If you want all kde4 packages that are available, install the kde4 package.
sudo aptitude install kde4

The configuration process will ask you if you want to log in with gdm, kdm or kdm-kde4. Choose the one you like.

Finally, logout and log back in, choosing the KDE4 session from your login manager.

First Impressions

My first impressions of the released KDE4 were positive. Taking into account that I tried all release candidates in Live CD, the quality of this released version is actually usable and comfortable. The libraries might be stable release quality, but the applications are still a bit rough on the edges.

K Menu

The kmenu changed a lot. It feels very Vista-ish (which i dislike) but you get used to it very easily. The search is fast and the navigation is not that cumbersome as the Vista menu.


To really enjoy the experience you must enable the animations. Open the System Settings KDE4 on the K menu. Kcontrol is gone in KDE4, and replaced with this System Settings. Its like the Kubuntu Control Panel layout. Choose Desktop, and enable all desktop effects. Also check the effects on the Advanced tab.

There are a lot of animations I didn’t expected on KDE4, and it looks very promising.


I definitely recommend you to set Dolphin as your default file manager. Maybe you will enjoy it as much as I do.

For some strange reason, the kubuntu packages dont have Dolphin as the main file manager, it has Konqueror. To enable Dolphin as the default file manager, just open Konqueror, go to the Tools menu, then Configure Konqueror. Now select the File Associations button and under inode, select directory. Move Dolphin to be the first option on the application preference order list and save the changes.

Dolphin on KDE4 is great! The panels, the file tree structure, the info pane, all worth having there. The icon animations on the info pane look awesome. And the greatest of all is the embedded terminal (press F4 to display). It changes directory to the current directory you are browsing. Nice touch.

One bug I’ve noticed is that Dolphin opens the file with right and left click. So even it launches the menu for the icon, in also opens the file, and then some error pops up. Its not as annoying as it sounds though.


The Panel

On the RC releases, the panel was not configurable at all. On these release, the panel is still not that customizable, but at least it displays correctly the system tray, clock and virtual desktops. These are configurable, but not as much as in KDE3. Still cannot resize the panel or move around the widgets in it.

Missing Features

There are a couple of missing features. One of the most noticeable, for me, are the KWin shortcuts. There is no option for “switch to next desktop” keyboard shortcut, so I’m stuck with Ctrl+F1 through F4 to switch desktops. I’m used to configure Ctrl+Alt+Arrows to do this depending on the desktop I’m in (got used to it from my Gnome usage days). The expose feature is smooth and nice, but I can only activate it once and only once if I move the mouse to the left top corner. The next times I want to activate expose, I have to press Ctrl+F10.

The screenshots and video recording don’t come up. The zooming and looking glass didn’t work for me either. Also the panel clock can only display one timezone (I usually look at 3 different timezones I’m interested in).

Also I noticed that the GTK theming option is missing from the Settings manager. GTK based applications (Firefox) look…ugly.

And of course, as being a recent release, there are lots of applications that need to release their KDE4 version. Amarok for KDE4 is not on the kubuntu repositories yet and I’ve been trying to check that one out, since its one of my favourite KDE apps. My other two favourite KDE apps also need their KDE4 update: Yakuake and Katapult. Although you can still use them.
missing switch next desktop, bug in expose corner.


There are lots of features I haven’t discovered yet and there’s still a lot of polishing to do on it, but its beautiful, fun and safe to use. I’ve been using KDE4 at work for the whole day, and I know its very premature to say it, but I think its a great release, great changes, and with a very, very promising future ahead.