How to Oxidize KDE 3.5

What's the title supposed to mean? You will figure this out by the end of the article.
I mentioned in my review of Kubuntu 10.04 Trinity that while the Trinity revival of KDE 3.5.11 has huge potential as a new contender in the field of DEs for old computers (competing with Xfce and LXDE, among others), KDE 3.5 looks pretty bad. Sure, it looks quite cool/cute when it first came out. That said, the KDE 3.5 developers themselves said that they benchmarked the speed and looks (and went over and above the stability of) Microsoft Windows XP when developing KDE 3.5. As a result, it is very fast, very stable (unlike Microsoft Windows XP), and bears more than a passing resemblance in its icon, panel, and window decoration themes to the latter. I haven't ever particularly cared for the default look of Microsoft Windows XP (and honestly, Microsoft Windows 7 is pretty good looking, making Microsoft Windows XP even worse to look at), and KDE 3.5 looks even more cartoonish (and this is exaggerated further with the KDE 4 looks).
What does all this mean? If KDE 3.5 is here to stay, it needs at least a visual overhaul to stay competitive with other DEs optimized for low-resource environments. So I tried to do just that. Follow the jump to read how I tried (and failed).
First, I tried to do the whole thing by installing Kubuntu 10.04 Trinity in VirtualBox. While the installation itself went on without a hitch, I tried in vain to get Linux Mint to cooperate and share folders with VirtualBox. This is when I figured that if I want to seriously remaster a distribution, I should do it right, meaning I should actually install the distribution onto my system and work from there. So I did, and it went well. I started customizing from that point.
First, I changed the wallpaper from the default Ethais to the wallpaper used in KDE 4.1 as I wanted to make a darker theme. This is included in Kubuntu 10.04 Trinity as the "kubuntu-intrepid" wallpaper. Next, I changed the window decoration (also in the control center) from "Crystal" to "Plastik". I then downloaded and extracted the contents of the compressed Oxygen icon set for KDE 3. How? I opened the tarball with Ark (another file compression utility can be used as well) and extracted the contents to my home folder. Then, I used the following commands:
cd ~ (COMMENT: goes to the home folder)
sudo cp oxygen /usr/share/icons/ (COMMENT: the last '/' is important!)
Then I went to the KDE control center and changed the icons to the Oxygen icon set. This changes most (though there are some bugs in that not all the icons are covered) of the icons to the more modern KDE 4-style Oxygen set.
I then wanted to give the Kicker panel a dark, KDE 4-esque style. I downloaded the Dark Silicon package, and extracted the contents in a manner similar to the above instructions (except I replaced "oxygen" with "*.png" and "/usr/share/icons/" with "/usr/share/apps/kicker/wallpapers/"). I then right-clicked on the Kicker panel and configured it to use the truly-dark Dark Silicon background (as opposed to the other colored Dark Silicon backgrounds). Along with this, I changed the Kicker size to "small".
Finally, I downloaded and installed the OpenOffice.org Oxygen style from Synaptic Package Manager.
The next few things I did were just personal touches. I removed all the application icons but Konqueror from the Kicker panel, and I put in their places a "Show Desktop" button as well as a "Lock/Logout" button at the end of the panel. I also changed the time and date format to be in a form like "Sunday, 2010 September 5 at 20:41:25" in long form and "2010-09-05 20:41:25" in short form.
Here is where things started to go wrong. I installed Remastersys and tried making an ISO remaster of my system. After doing so and installing QEMU (as VirtualBox wouldn't work), I realized that I hadn't copied over my new settings and such properly (or else I wouldn't be getting the exact same distribution with which I started). I then tried the copying business, and after a few attempts, it still didn't work. After a while, I gave up and decided to remove Kubuntu 10.04 Trinity from my system altogether. Here's where things started to get worse.
I put in my Linux Mint 9 live CD to start GParted and remove the new Kubuntu 10.04 Trinity and associated swap partitions. That and the following resize operations went fine. However, upon restarting my computer, I found out that my GRUB had disappeared. This was when I had to reinsert the live CD and type in a few commands to restore GRUB back to the master boot record (MBR). Thankfully, that was the worst of it. Afterwards, I was able to boot back into my computer's Linux Mint installation (from which I am currently typing this post).
I still have a lot to learn with regard to remastering distributions. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone could point me in the right direction. The picture at the beginning of the post is what I had in mind with regard to how the remastered distribution should look. As far as putting current software on old computers, this is something to look out for, and (if I say so myself) the theming of KDE 3.5 to look like KDE 4 looks pretty convincing to the untrained eye and makes the desktop (in terms of speed, stability, and appearance) look thoroughly modern.
Oh, and the title? It basically refers to how all the theming is done in the style of KDE 4's Oxygen icon set and panel theme.


  1. KDE 3, I'm still using it on Debian Lenny, mainly because it's very fast compared to KDE 4, event though it looks old. At least it's productive, you can do any task in a quick manner, without crashes or other problems that you usually meet on the latter. Regarding the looks: I keep compiling from source the latest QtCurve team for KDE3 (it's available for GTK and KDE 4 too at kde-look.org, I tweak a little the colors and install the package to make GNOME applications look like native KDE ones (they don't perfectly, but it helps).

    Thanks for the article, for some reason I always tend to like and respect those which bring into attention older application (and such) rather then every possible new technology that gets out.

  2. @Craciun Dan: Yeah, I kind of forgot about QtCurve for KDE 3, but it isn't a big deal because Synaptic is likely the only GTK+ application (Mozilla Firefox aside, which is XUL, can be downloaded from the repositories, and can be themed to look like a KDE 4 application) that users of this distribution will see on a daily basis. I have uploaded this remastered version to SourceForge as "Oxidized Trinity", so please do check it out and tell me what you think. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Given what has become of GTK3, I have given up on Xfce and anything that is GTK-based and decided to make Trinity my desktop environment of choice, as I'm sick and tired of all the theme breakage with every update to GTK. Yet, I have always thought that KDE3/Trinity looked real cheesy. But what y'all have done here with it actually looks pretty nice -- I think I'll give it a try. :-)

    1. @Fred McKinney: I can't guarantee that all of this will still work, though, given that this was written over 5 years ago. Moreover, I'm not sure how active development on Trinity still is, so do all of this at your own risk. Anyway, thanks for the comment!