Archive for the ‘KDE’ Category

Climate Change

October 11th, 2009 No comments

Here at The Linux Experiment we are all about shaking things up. After all, we have committed to using Linux for four whole months just to see if we could! The next big thing that we are going to introduce into the experiment is a little environmental change. No I don’t mean the Al Gore kind of environment, but rather the desktop environment like GNOME or KDE.

For a week or so, leading up to the recording of our next podcast, each of us will be switching our current desktop environment to something else. The point is to once more branch out of our comfort zones a little bit and see if we don’t end up liking something else better!

Stay tuned!

My audio doesn’t work anymore

September 21st, 2009 1 comment

Yup. Not sure why. It just happened. I have tried messing around in my audio settings and still nothing. In fact the only audio device I can get to play is not PulseAudio, or anything standard like that, but rather the Intel audio card that it found for my system. While this is all fine and promising it still doesn’t work right. When I tried to set it as my primary device and restarted my machine KDE threw a bunch of error messages my way saying that it couldn’t use the Intel device (really? because that was the only one that worked for me…) and instead fell back to PulseAudio (really? because that one doesn’t work for me…).

Why is it that Linux works great for a short while and then suddenly breaks itself?

The trouble with patching your kernel to fix a problem…

September 7th, 2009 No comments

If you remember a while back I was having a world of trouble trying to get my ATi drivers to play nicely with my desktop effects. The end result was me having to patch and rebuild my kernel to make things work the way I wanted them to. Well today I applied some system updates and hidden among them was a kernel update. It turns out that applying this update really messed with my system. Thankfully I was able to fix it by running through the original processes again. Unfortunately I think this means that every time a kernel update come down the pipe I will have to repatch and rebuild my kernel again to get things to work…

Ah well. On the plus side this kernel update fixed a lot of my sound issues!

The Fedora Megapost

September 3rd, 2009 2 comments

As I sit here writing this I am enjoying the more simple things in life. A fully functional laptop, graphical desktop effects, a strong network connection, decent battery life, and a touchpad that works completely. Ah, but things were never always this easy. No, in fact the last 3 days have taken me through a roller coaster ride of the high peaks and endless lows of my Fedora experience thus far. Allow me to take you through the story of how I got here, and hopefully this will help out people who aren’t quite here yet.

Painless Install

If there’s one thing I can say in Fedora’s favour its that the install went just perfectly. In fact the one part that I thought might be difficult, the partitioning, turned out to be the easiest. Fedora prompted me to select if I wanted the system encrypted via a checkbox or not and then if I wanted to review the default partition choices. Upon review the default partitions nearly matched the ones I thought I was going to create anyway. This includes an ext3 boot partition and an encrypted partition holding a LVM with the rest of my system partitions; an ext4 root and swap partitions.

On the next page I was able to select which software categories I wanted to install, and then customize exactly what that means. I chose to deselect GNOME and select KDE as my desktop environment. I also installed some software development tools, a web server (for fun), and SAMBA support to play nicely on the Windows network.

After entering a countless number of passwords, for the bootloader, the encrypted partition, the root account, and my user account, the system was finished installing and I was presented with my desktop! All told it too about 20 minutes to install – very quick and very impressive.

First Impressions

The K Desktop Environment (KDE) is something that I am very unfamiliar with. It took me about an hour to find my way around it and to be honest I hated it at first. I found it very clunky and some dialogue boxes were too small to show the text that they were trying to show me. Since then though it is starting to grow on me, though I am not sure if I would go with KDE over GNOME again in the future.

Now to Enable Those Fancy Desktop Effects I’ve Been Hearing So Much About

A simple check in the Desktop tab of the System Settings menu and Desktop Effects are enabled!…. COULD NOT ENABLE DESKTOP EFFECTS? If only I had known that this would be the start of all of my problems…

OK So Maybe I Need A Graphics Driver?

After poking around online for a while I finally gave up and just went to the ATi website and grabbed the driver from there. This graphical install was straightforward enough and when it finished everything seemed great! That is until I restarted and tried to turn effects on again. It turns out that there is a bug somewhere that freezes the system if hardware cursor is enabled, which it is by default. Disabling hardware cursor and enabling software rendering makes the system stable again, even with desktop effects, but causes graphics abnormalities around the cursor on the screen.

To enable the software cursor I first dropped down to the terminal from the login splash screen. To do this I used

Ctrl + Alt + F2

Next I logged in as root and changed /etc/X11/xorg.conf and added Option “SWCursor” “true” to the “Device” section as shown below,

Section “Device”
Identifier  “Videocard0”
Driver      “fglrx”
Option      “OpenGLOverlay” “off”
Option      “VideoOverlay” “on”
Option      “SWCursor” “true”
Option      “AccelMethod” “xaa”

I also tried switching from OpenGL to XRender which seemed to fix things but its performance was all over the map, causing the system to slow to a crawl at times. -sigh- Guess I’ll just reinstall…

Round Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, etc!

I will skip through most of the 2 days worth of cursing that I went through to get everything set up correctly. Needless to say I tried everything from patching the kernel, to using open source drivers, to sacrificing a goat and nothing seemed to work. In the end it was a series of small steps that eventually led to my graphics card working. Here are some of the high points:

RPM Fusion

Following the advice of this FAQ over at, I used their community wrapped version of the ATi drivers that I had tried initially. Well at least I tried to, you see when I ran the following line it told me the package didn’t exist.

yum install kmod-fglrx

After more time spent googling I found out that the new name for it was ‘kmod-catalyst’, just like how ATi names it. It would have been nice for the authors at FedoraFAQ to update this in their old article but alas.

I patched and rebuilt the kernel and then rebooted. To my amazement my resolution was no longer very small. In fact I had my full 900p resolution! If that worked surely Desktop Desktop effects will as well! A quick jump to the Desktop settings tab and a check of the checkbox and I had effects up and running! Well… for about 20 seconds until my entire system locked up. Like, we’re talking a hard lock here. I couldn’t even kill X or drop down to the terminal to try and turn software cursor on. -sign- reboot and see if it worked? Nope, no luck there either. Well guess I will just reinstall then…

RPM Fusion Take Two!

After finishing the reinstall I found this new forum post with updated instructions. Great! I thought and followed them to the letter. Too bad this worked even less than before. Again I was forced to reinstall.

Skip All That Crap, Tell Us What Finally Worked!

Here is the process I took to get this to work, hopefully it will help some of you as much as it did me! I didn’t follow any particular instructions but rather mixed and matched ones that seemed to work. As such I don’t really know what each piece does but I have a general idea.

Step 1

Update the system, especially the kernel, to the most recent release.

Step 2

Bringing up a terminal I typed


To become the root user. Next I typed

yum install kmod-catalyst-

This downloaded and installed the ATi driver catalyst kernel module for Fedora 11 x64. Next I shut down X using

init 3

Logging back into root I enabled the catalyst driver

catalyst-config-display enable

Finally I rebuilt the kernel so that it loaded the drivers correct.

new-kernel-pkg –mkinitrd –update $(rpm -q –queryformat=”%{version}-%{release}.%{arch}\n” kernel | tail -n 1)

Remember that’s two dashes before mkinitrd, update and queryformat! At this point you may have noticed that so far I am following the exact same process as I did during my first attempt with RPM Fusion. That is because this series of steps is the only one that gave me working hardware and good resolution.

OK So How Come It Worked This Time?

If you’ll remember it was at this point that when I enabled Desktop Effects my system would freeze up. setting Software Cursor in X seemed to fix this but caused other graphical issues. I managed to find this awesome post much later on in the giant Fedora Forum post that showed much promise. By opening a root terminal and typing,

aticonfig –set-pcs-str=”DDX,EnableRandR12,FALSE”

all of my problems were suddenly gone. Again that’s two dashes in front of set-pcs-str, not one! Now I’m not a rocket scientist but I think I just enabled random to make this work? 😛 This little line is a godsend. I was now able to enable full OpenGL graphical effects, including my desktop ones, without software cursor screwing everything up! Finally all of my countless hours of frustration paid off in spades!

Up Next: Full Touchpad Support

I honestly don’t even remember the whole process I went through to try and get my touchpad to support tap-clicking. My time spent on this task was intertwined between my time spent trying to fix my graphics issues. Needless to say all I had to do was verify that the synaptics driver was installed, it was, and then add this to /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Section “InputDevice”
Identifier  “Synaptics Touchpad”
Driver      “synaptics”
Option      “SendCoreEvents” “true”
Option      “Device” “/dev/psaux”
Option      “Protocol” “auto-dev”
Option      “HorizScrollDelta” “0”
Option      “SHMConfig” “true”
Option      “TapButton1” “1”

And then set up a terminal command to run on startup that executes the following line:

synclient TapButton1=1

So What’s Next?

Amazingly I think I am almost completely set-up and ready to start actually using my system in a normal way. My networking works, my graphics work, my audio works, it all seems to just work.

Are You Sure?

Well… there are two little annoying things.

Network Manager and KWallet

The first time I installed Fedora, a program called KWallet, the KDE password manager, stored my Wifi password perfectly. Now however for some reason it is not storing the password at all which forces me to enter it every time I want to connect to the network. This is incredibly annoying and should be an easy fix but I just cannot seem to find a way to make it start remembering my password! If anyone knows how to make it suddenly smarten up please let me know!

Kopete and Webcam

I never had any reason to use a webcam in an instant messenger however while poking around inside of Kopete I did notice that it seemed to support it. So I hopped on MSN and attempted to test this capability. Only… I can’t find the button to send or receiver webcam invites anywhere. Does Kopete just not support MSN webcam? A quick google search seems to claim it does… Again if anyone knows the answer to this or how to make it work please post a comment. :)


Sorry for the long post but I figured I might as well catch up on everything I had missed writing in the past couple of days. Here is a picture of my desktop just to prove it actually works as promised 😛

My Desktop

My Desktop

Back and ready for action

August 25th, 2009 No comments

I’m back from an intensely relaxing and awesome holiday in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. I’d forgotten how close it was in proximity to Quebec – and as such, how nearly everything within the city is provided in both official languages. As a former French as a second language student in elementary and high school, it was interesting trying to pick out the differences between the two. Most phrases and slogans are completely different, while literal instructions are exactly… literal. 😉

Right now my main decisions with Gentoo will revolve around timing. Firstly, I expect to have about five or six days to get the system up and running in a mostly full capacity – not only am I completing a contract and resuming a new position at my day job, but I’m off to Las Vegas for several days. I’m still debating which laptop to bring along – either my MacBook Pro or Asus eeePC (likely with Ubuntu installed.) Since Internet costs about $15/day in most of the Strip hotels, and tethering my Rogers-homed BlackBerry would be cost-prohibitive, I doubt I’ll be using the machine that often. Still, I’d be interested in opinions on how to make the “away from home” experience less like cheating. I’m already pretty capable of using SSH, but something like X window forwarding is something I don’t have any background with.

Another important consideration is the main desktop environment. I’ve had experience with recent versions of GNOME, but none of the newer KDE or XFCE packages – so it will likely be one of these. XFCE has the distinct advantage of being lightweight and looking nice, but KDE seems to be more widely supported. More than likely I’ll end up compiling and installing both environments for the experience, and so I can switch back and forth as desired.

Categories: Gentoo, Jake B, KDE, XFCE Tags:

Coming close

August 23rd, 2009 No comments

The experiment is set to begin in less than 10 days and now is the time to settle on all of those little decisions that still need to be made.

Everything is a-O‘K’!

The very nature of this experiment is to be thrown into uncertain territory and see how things pan out. An example of this is in the desktop environment front. As such I have decided to use the K Desktop Environment, or KDE for you laymen :P, because unlike GNOME I have very little experience with it. Besides if I end up hating it I can always switch back!

Bigger is Better

As for my choice of download I am currently torrenting the Fedora x86_64 DVD release. This should not only provide me my KDE desktop, but also the biggest selection of initial installable packages. Very nice!

Am I Forgetting Anything Else?

I don’t think so. Well except that my laptop delivery is still a bit iffy. I’ll keep you posted on that as things go forward.

Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE, Tyler B Tags: , , ,

KDE 4.3 vs. Gnome 2.26: Slap fight!

August 21st, 2009 2 comments

Ding!  Let the fight begin.

In one corner, we have the only desktop environment I’ve used in Linux – Gnome 2.26, the standard for Ubuntu (the distribution with which I’ve worked the most so far) and Fedora, the distribution I’ve chosen for this experiment.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

The Gnome 2.26 desktop is something I'm familiar with.

In the other corner, we have newly announced heavyweight KDE 4.3, supposedly with all sorts of social networking integration and enough shiny parts to attract a magpie.

Windows 7, is that you?

Windows 7, is that you?

I’m not going to lie.  Both environments look pretty gorgeous, but KDE to me – though I’ve used Gnome more in Linux – looks (from screenshots at least) a little more familiar.  So what do they have to offer me?  Let’s find out!


Both environments have a rich history behind them.  KDE-ONE was released back in 1997,  a little more than twelve years ago today.  Gnome followed not long after, in March of 1999.

Gnome started in response to KDE’s not being completely under the GPL; two projects were started as to address this, and Gnome was born.  Whereas Gnome – and yes, the ‘G’ in there stands for GNU – started as a completely-GPL response to KDE, KDE in itself was started by a university student troubled by parts of the standard Unix desktop.

Long story short?  Both environments got their starts early, and for different reasons.  I respect both of their reasons for why and how they started, but I won’t let those get in the way of what I came her to do.

Functionality and usability

(credit to the main websites of both Gnome and KDE)

As I mentioned before, I’m all ready familiar with the Gnome desktop environment.  To me, as a hardcore Windows user it was easy to use, intuitive and fairly well laid-out.

Gnome’s newest version includes improvements to its disc burning software and file sharing.  File sharing in itself is rather important to me, due to my Windows Home Server containing the vast majority of my digital media.

There are a few other changes – things like the volume manager and Evolution notes client (though I all ready plan on using Thunderbird as I do in Windows), but nothing that particularly caught my eye.

KDE 4.3.0, as a major release, brings home a huge amount of firepower.  Full web integration has been brought straight to the desktop.  Along the lines of file management, Dolphin seems to offer a lot of the nice previews I’ve come to enjoy with my Release Candidate edition of Windows 7 – file previews in a folder, along with video thumbnails to let me know just what I’m going to be watching (VERY YES).

The System Tray has been completely re-vamped, which I understand could be a nice difference from Gnome (whose system tray hasn’t changed much in the last few updates).

The story thus far

Well, given my complete inability to effectively compare two things and document my findings, not much has been told here so far.  Both environments have a rich history and huge amounts of features to offer, and having only used Gnome so far I really can’t say much for KDE other than that ‘it looks nice and sounds nicer’.

…if you have any suggestions on either one, or would like to offer your own experiences here, please do so!  At this point, I think I’m leaning more towards KDE’s major 4.3.0 release.  Mostly for the shiny things, and partly for wanting to try something new.  I’m bored of Gnome.

Categories: Dana H, Free Software, GNOME, KDE, Linux Tags:

Which download to pick?

August 19th, 2009 4 comments

Fedora, now my distro of choice, offers a variety of ways to install. Just take a look at this screenshot to see what I’m talking about.

That's a lot of choices!

That's a lot of choices!

Obviously as my platform of choice is going to be 64bit machine with 4GB of RAM I should probably go with one of the 64bit versions. My choices now become the standard GNOME 4.0GB DVD, the GNOME 692MB Live CD, the KDE 695MB Live CD, 3.7GB worth of GNOME? CDs, or I could also use the 32bit bit variants of those as well.

Without getting into a GNOME vs KDE debate which of these do you think I should get? I’m leaning toward the DVD because as I see it the Live CD is worthless – I’m going to be installing it one way or another. Then again I’m going to have an internet connection during install, is downloading the extra 3.5GB of DVD really worth it when compared to the CD based ones?

This will require more research!

Categories: Fedora, GNOME, KDE, Linux, Tyler B Tags: , , , ,

The Showdown: Fedora 11 vs Mandriva 2009.1

August 17th, 2009 12 comments

The Final Contenders

Well here we are. After a couple of weeks of research I have finally narrowed down my choice to either Fedora 11 or Mandriva 2009.1 to use during the course of this experiment. The two distros are both very mature and feature rich which makes this choice extraordinarily difficult. To help alleviate some of this I have decided to square them off head to head in a series of different areas. So without further ado let’s start this.


Both distributions have significant communities behind them. A quick jump to their respective websites and you can easily see that they are very comparable. Each sports a community wiki that helps newbies and expert alike get up and running and tweak advanced features.

The Fedora Wiki

The Fedora Wiki

The Mandriva Wiki

The Mandriva Wiki

The Winner: TIE


Again both distributions seem to offer the same amount of customization. Most of the resources I was able to find regarding the manner had more to do with customizing GNOME or KDE then anything distro specific.

The Winner: TIE


Fedora is directed by a community elected board of directors. They then vote internally to make large decisions. Mandriva is directed by the Mandriva company which is a commercial entity.

The difference in setup is quite clear. Fedora’s management can be shaken up at any time if the community feels they are going off track. Mandriva on the other hand is a large company and is not going anywhere. I think this makes Fedora more flexible to take on future challenges and react more quickly.

The Winner: Fedora

Install Media Size

Fedora is offered in both ~690MB Live CD and ~4.5GB DVD configurations for all popular architectures and variations (GNOME, KDE, etc)

Mandriva is offered both ~690MB Live CD and ~4.4GB DVD configurations for all popular architectures and variations (GNOME, KDE, etc)

The major difference seems to be that Mandriva lets you really customize your experience during install, more so than Fedora. It allows you to select what you will be using the computer for and only install that software accordingly.

The Winner: Mandriva

System Requirements

A fast operating system is one that leaves most of the system resources alone so your programs can take full advantage of them.


  • 400MHz Pentium II or better
  • Minimum RAM: 192MB for x86 or 384MB for x64
  • Recommended RAM: 256MB or 512MB for x64
  • Hard Disk Space: 90MB-9GB depending on what is installed


  • Any Intel or AMD processor
  • Minimum RAM: 256MB
  • Recommended RAM: 512MB
  • Hard Disk Space: 3GB-4GB

The Winner: Fedora


Both Fedora and Mandriva support a wide range of free codecs, but neither includes popular codecs like MP3 and DVD in their base installs. This is due to restrictions placed on the distribution of these technologies. Once installed, both of the distros can download support for these making them effectively equal.

The Winner: TIE

New Features

Fedora is known to sit comfortably on the edge of bleeding technology and often supports new code as it becomes stable. Mandriva, on the other hand, seems to adopt new technology in a slower, more methodical way, picking and choosing what will make the schedule.

The Winner: Fedora

Out-Of-Box Experience

A freshly installed distro should have a certain… fresh feel to it. Like you could take on the world with this new piece of software! While, by all accounts, Fedora is a solid distro, this category is where Mandriva really shines. It’s Mandriva One release specializes in giving the best “out-of-box” experience possible.

The Winner: Mandriva

Release Schedule

As the length of this experiment is rather short (4 months) it would be nice to see how these distributions perform during an upgrade. Fedora will be releasing its newest version, Fedora 12, in November of this year. Mandriva is also planning a release of it’s upgrade, Mandriva 2010.0, in October of this year.

Both distributions also follow a regular, roughly, 6 month schedule. This means that every 6 months or so they release an upgrade to the distro.

The Winner: TIE


Fedora implements the very top of the line security features available to Linux, the Security-Enhanced Linux module. This takes specifications from the Department of Defense and implements them in the distro. While Mandriva may support some of these features, Fedora is known far better as the security-oriented distro.

Fedora's website even has a very detailed security response center

Fedora's website even has a very detailed security response center

The Winner: Fedora

Shipped Kernel

From what I can tell Mandriva ships with 2.6.29 of the Linux kernel while Fedora ships with version I can’t tell if those extra 4 (2 stable?) updates are actually in the shipped Mandriva distro or not. Assuming it’s not this gives Fedora an ever so slight edge on Mandriva… at least before any updates are applied.

The Winner: Fedora

Gut Instinct

This one is tricky. I actually wasn’t going to include this category if the distros were close in count after all of the above showdowns. That being said I can now safely say, and the above comparisons thankfully agree, that my gut instinct is telling me to go with Fedora. More than anything else I get the feeling that Fedora offers a better overall foundation than Mandriva. From that foundation I just don’t think Mandriva offers me anything that I couldn’t simply add to Fedora as well.

The Winner: Fedora

The Winner By TKO: Fedora

Score Card

Fedora: | | | | |

Mandriva: | |

Tie: | | | |

Well it’s been a long week since I committed to choosing my distribution, but here we are finally. Come September 1st I am going to plop the Fedora 11 DVD in my computer’s optical drive and embark on a 4 month long journey of Linux discovery. Wish me the best!