I tried doing all this in VirtualBox on a Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME live USB, because MultiSystem, the multiboot live USB creation tool, seems to have messed up VirtualBox on my installed Linux Mint 9 "Isadora" GNOME system. I allocated 1024 MB of RAM to the guest OS, used a 10 GB virtual hard drive located on my physical hard drive for installing ArchBang, and went on my way. The installation procedure was fairly straightforward; it was a text-based ncurses-esque interface. After installing, I restarted the virtual machine and then ran the following commands in sequence in order to update the system: "su", "pacman -Syu", "exit", log out, log back in, "su", "pacman -Syu" for good measure, "pacman -S kde", and finally "exit". I also edited the ~/.xinitrc file to start KDE instead of Openbox by default. I then logged out and logged back in. Follow the jump to see what KDE 4.6 is really like.
|Folder View Previews|
Interestingly enough, KWin desktop effects were somehow enabled out-of-the-box, even though I had only allocated the default 12 MB of video memory to the guest OS. I found this out because the desktop slide effect worked when switching virtual desktops. However, when I tried changing the slide effect to the cube effect, compositing became disabled forever after. That was a little weird, but then again, I didn't expect any effects to be enabled in the first place.
One of the big updated features of KDE 4.6 is Activities. I remember in KDE 4.3 I tried linking virtual desktops with Activities, which at that time were not very mature; it worked, but it required the zoom-in/out interface, and it just seemed clunky. Since KDE 4.5, the Activities zoom-in/out interface has been replaced by a simpler view accessible through the Cashew and that looks a bit like the interface to add Plasma widgets. As in KDE 4.3, I tried linking each virtual desktop to a different Activity, but the most I could do in this regard was to go to the Desktop Activity settings and click the button to enable "Different Widgets for each Desktop". This isn't the full functionality of Activities, though, meaning KDE seems to have gotten a lot better in distinguishing Activities from virtual desktops. Now, each Activity has its own set of virtual desktops, and each of these virtual desktops within a different Activity can also have its own set of widgets and its own associated applications. However, I did get a little confused because it seemed like windows accessible in one Activity were actually associated with another Activity. It seems similar to KDE showing on the panel tasks from all virtual desktops, which to me seems to defeat the purpose of virtual desktops.
In terms of organizing workflow, it's truly an amazing concept. However, my needs are comparatively fairly limited. In fact, I don't even use regular virtual desktops that much, much less something like KDE Activities. That's because I usually only have a couple windows open at a time, and these are usually 2 or 3 of the following: Mozilla Firefox, Pidgin, Skype, OpenOffice.org, or some game. I'm sure the Activities concept will appeal to plenty of people, but it's just too powerful for me to ever use properly. (Also, it could be that I was weaned on Microsoft Windows and GNOME.)
|Which archiving program is which?|
Konqueror is present in the full KDE installation, and it can now run using either the KHTML or WebKit rendering engines. Konqueror with WebKit feels really fast and snappy, and it never once posed any problems.
|Netbook Interface Search/Launch Screen|
Another big improvement in KDE 4.6 is Marble, the desktop globe which supports the OpenStreetMap project. Unfortunately, I couldn't see anything smaller than a town, meaning I couldn't see any roads or buildings, but searching for addresses did seem to work. Also, the OpenStreetMap project itself needs a bit more work; for example, local roads and residential streets in my area are sometimes duplicated and quite a bit off. It's promising, but I wouldn't rely on it for now.
KSnapshot and GwenView are much improved, and they can both now export pictures to various websites like Picasa, Flickr, and Facebook, among many others. That's pretty cool.
|Searching for KWrite|
The netbook interface has a panel on top and two main screens, sort of similar to the GNOME 3 Activities interface, but a bit more tailored to netbooks. The panel has, from left to right, a search/launch screen button, a widget screen button, a system tray, a clock with a calendar, and a drop-down list of open tasks.
The search/launch screen has just below the panel a couple favorite applications; below that is a search box, and below that are the collection of application categories. These categories are essentially the same as in the desktop Kickoff menu; that said, there are a few categories missing (e.g. "Utilities"), but this can easily be changed. The search box searches for applications typed in and can also run terminal commands if no matching application is found.
|Netbook Interface Widget Screen First Page|
When an application is opened, it is made full-screen, and the window title bar is missing; that's because the title along with window controls become accessible in the panel, which automatically hides when an application is open and only becomes visible by moving the cursor to the top edge of the screen. It's a great way to save precious vertical space on netbook screens.
Well, that basically ended my time with the KDE netbook interface, so at this point I switched back to the desktop interface once again through the KDE system settings program.
|Dolphin in Netbook Interface|
On a side note, about two days ago Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft on bringing Microsoft Windows Phone 7 to Nokia devices, in order to reverse Nokia's slumping fortunes. Do keep in mind that Nokia owns and develops Symbian, which was until recently the most popular mobile OS in the world (recently overtaken by Android). Symbian is open-source and obviously competes with Microsoft Windows Phone 7, so it looks like Nokia has thrown all that under the bus in its deal with Microsoft. Many key Nokia developers, upset with this decision, have announced their departures from Nokia. Also, Nokia has a large stake in Qt and has developed the Linux-based MeeGo mobile operating system with Intel, so it looks like MeeGo is dead too along with Symbian and the future of Qt might be threatened. Given that KDE is built primarily upon Qt libraries, it'll be interesting to see the future developments in KDE, although to be sure, Qt is licensed under the LGPL, which means that not a whole lot will likely happen to it.
Hot on the heels of this announcement, Miguel de Icaza, one of the leading developers of GNOME (UPDATE: apparently he isn't a GNOME developer anymore and hasn't been for a while — thanks to reader Rahul for that correction), has said that he is "psyched" (apparently in a good way) by this. He has been taking a lot of flak from the open-source community for supporting the development of Mono, the open-source implementation of Microsoft's C# programming language and toolkit; while I am wary of Microsoft's moves with regard to Mono, I still do use GNOME-Do, which is Mono-based, and I'm OK with this because it is still open-source. However, de Icaza's support of the Nokia-Microsoft partnership seems to be the last straw, even for me; as a developer of a core technology (GNOME) for Linux systems, how could he possibly support a company that has essentially issued death threats against Linux multiple times? I've lost most of my respect for Mr. de Icaza, and I'm now a bit more conflicted about my using GNOME, but switching to KDE won't help considering the future of Qt might be in flux following this deal. Then again, with regard to controversial statements, apparently Clement Lefebvre, the lead developer of Linux Mint, made some controversial statements about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Although I don't agree with much of what he said then, I do admittedly continue to use Linux Mint; I'm just wondering if the confluence of controversial statements from the developers of my OS and DE should make me switch to another OS and DE/WM. Maybe it's time to switch to #! with Openbox...? At this point, I'm just too lazy to switch, but if push came to shove, I honestly wouldn't mind switching to #!.