KDE 4

There was a funny exchange on the Gamers with Jobs podcast a few months back, where the guys were grilling BioShock designer Ken Levine about some of the terrible games that he’s listed in the credits for on his MobyGames page:

Ken: Master of Orion III is on my MobyGames page
Certis: That’s right
Ken: Now I need to make a public statement about my MobyGames credit for Master of Orion III
Certis: Please do
Ken: I had a friend who produced it, and my involvement with Master of Orion III was I told my friend don’t ship it

That sums up my thoughs on KDE 4.

Basically, KDE 4 isn’t finished yet. I’ve been playing with the quite up-to-date KDE 4 pre-release packages for openSUSE, should be very close to the release version we’re being told to expect at the end of the week, but there are bugs and feature regressions everywhere. A lot of this is down to Plasma, the widget engine that’s meant to redefine how we interact with the desktop or some such nonsense, which is very clearly incomplete, and currently limited to pulling off bad Kicker and SuperKaramba impersionations.

That’s right: KDE’s panel, which has long been annoyingly inflexible compared to the GNOME panel, despite rants about how unconfigurable GNOME is in general, is even less flexible now. The new Kickoff main menu, which is based on the modified main menu used in openSUSE’s KDE 3.5, is also really annoying, making it much harder to browse through your available applications and essentially forcing you to use the (admittedly quite handy) search box they’ve stuck in there to find anything.

Of course, this release isn’t about the desktop at all — it’s about the platform, and I understand that they really need to get developers working on these new libraries, and getting users to test against them too. In a lot of ways it’s like Apache 2.0, which was also barely ready for public consumption, and which was also torn up internally in the name of portability. The new threading models did great things for Apache’s performance on NT, but they did nothing for Linux, where most Apache users are running. Likewise, it’s great that KDE’s new platform-independent underpinnings will help extend it to Windows and OS X, but for the 99% of KDE users running Linux/UNIX, there’s a lot less to gain.

Like Apache 2.0, I’m pretty sure that KDE 4 will eventually be something genuinely usable, and perhaps even impressive, but that’s 12 months away at least. In the meantime, it’s going to put a lot of distro maintainers in a very awkward position.

4 thoughts on “KDE 4

  1. That is worrying indeed. But one important issue as well is that first impression matters, and if KDE releases KDE 4.0 with such a quality it can be really bad start. Many users can discard KDE 4.0 because it is not stable enough or because of the lack of applications. And it will not help to the general feeling that GNU/Linux is not ready, and it is difficult. Now for some user it will also be buggy.

    If they need 6 months more to polish it, I would say keep on with a few more release candidates. The major bugs are known already or obvious to find, they don’t need more beta testers for those. And with the current quality they will not be getting a major part of KDE 3.5 users on board.

  2. Well, actually this has already been said a thousand times but here we go again: The KDE project doesn’t recomend KDE 4.0 for production right now, but 3.5.8 instead.

    Putting 4.0 out is a bit of a commitment to their deadlines among other things that you posted here.

    To finish, let me say that all the portability buzz is about porting libraries and, once the libraries are ported, port some good apps that KDE has, helping users to switch from Windows and other OSs to GNU/Linux. :)

  3. Wow, comments! I honestly had no idea that anyone would actually read this little rant of mine, because I haven’t publicised this URL at all — I usually keep my rants to my private LiveJournal, and I’ve just been throwing them on this vanilla WordPress install as a kind of test really, so I wasn’t expecting to have any kind of audience. If I had known, I would certainly have toned down the rant-factor.

    I understand and appreciate what KDE is trying to do with 4.0, and in a lot of ways I’m just echoing what the project itself has said. I also expect that KDE 4 will be a great desktop eventually. In the meantime, people trying KDE 4 need realistic expectations as to what they’re going to find, because if they don’t realise that it’s essentially not finished yet, they may be turned off the project forever, and we can all agree that that would be a major shame.

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