To KDE With Love

At the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest we had some great discussions outside scheduled sessions. Amongst the topics was also how Kubuntu works with the upstream KDE community.

For quite some years the Kubuntu team has made it their personal goal to do as much of their programming effort as part of KDE as possible, rather than making generally great software that is of no use to anyone but Kubuntu.
This went to such an extent that it has sometimes become difficult to decide whether a Kubuntu member is contributing enough to Kubuntu in order to become Kubuntu Member, because they were doing most of their work from within the KDE community. As much as this makes it difficult for the Kubuntu council to decide whether someone deserves to become Kubuntu member, I believe it is a truly great thing. Not only does it mean that we are doing a great job in achieving our “as much upstream as possible” target, but it also proves that one can be an integrated part of both the KDE and the Ubuntu Community; essentially this is what Kubuntu is about, bringing two amazing communities and their equally amazing products together and achieve a whole new level of awesome.

Building up on this great history we are renewing our commitment to KDE technology. Despite strong competitors Kubuntu will continue shipping Rekonq as the default browser of choice and invest more time in improving the user experience.

Romain Perier, one of our newer contributors, has taken it upon himself to bring userconfig, our user management tool, back to the mother ship that is the KDE software collection and by that give every KDE user the possibility to use this excellent piece of software.

Rodrigo Belem, from Kubuntu Mobile fame, is bringing much improved file sharing experience to the KDE workspace. He completely reworked the whole file sharing dialog in Dolphin along with the underlying technology. As this currently only implements SAMBA, there is WebDav and perhaps even Netatalk (for Mac interoperability) support planned for the not so distant future.

Those are but three examples, but there are many more, certainly also more subtle things.

The entire team is dedicated to this mission and so we are going to continue doing work upstream and forming it into a coherent distribution downstream.

Kubuntu sends contributions to KDE with love, because Kubuntu loves KDE :*

Kubuntu 11.10 Sneak Peak

Last week the Ubuntu project met in Budapest for the Ubuntu Developer Summit. The Kubuntu team discussed an incredible amount of cool things, of which I’d like to present a number of generally interesting topics.

A very strong focus of the 11.10 release will be continuing innovation in the area of embedded systems such as mobile phones, but also for the first time on tablets. Since the work in embedded systems is quite extensive, information on that will be posted separately in a special ‘Embedded Sneak Peak’.

Boring things first. Kubuntu 11.10 will come with KDE 4.7.2 as well as Qt 4.8.

Accessibility

Accessibility always was a bit of a sore spot in Kubuntu. Mostly for two reasons:

  1. Getting the average developer to care about it is hard
  2. Qt did not support some important features

While the first problem is difficult to fix, the second one is perfectly fixable.  Some weeks ago Qt developer Frederik Gladhorn presented the initial code for Qt AT-SPI 2, which essentially allows screen readers such as Orca to work with Qt (and thus KDE) applications. This is absolutely great news for everyone who needs to use a screen reader, as the better part of the free software desktop world (Qt and GTK+ applications) will be accessible.

In cooperation with the awesome Ubuntu accessibility team we are doing our best to get this into Kubuntu 11.10.

We will also improve the out-of-the box accessibility experience. Primarily by integrating existing KDE accessibility software stronger into the Kubuntu system.

To find out more about Ubuntu accessibility check out their blog.

Low Fat Kubuntu

As a result of ongoing efforts in the area of embedded systems, the Kubuntu team has acquired a lot of knowledge in slimming down the default KDE Workspace to a bare minimum, freeing up more resources for other use. This makes it possible for use to introduce a new set of default configurations enabling a low fat Kubuntu setup.

While we realize that many of the technologies that make the KDE 4 workspace the incredible amazing product that it is, we also see a demand in reducing resource consumption on systems with limited hardware resources. The low fat configurations of Kubuntu 11.10 will enable users to run the KDE workspace on setups where it is essential that the base system uses as little resources as possible.

Touch This

Needless to say from all the work on “touchable” systems, we have plenty of awesomeness related to touch up our sleeve. Kubuntu 11.10 will by default (though probably not activated) come with an application called Touchégg.

Touchégg enables you to assign certain input gestures from your touchpad or trackpad to certain actions. For example if you tap with two fingers at once it could mean a right click, or if you swipe with 3 fingers from left to right it means ‘switch to next track in Amarok’.

After having tried this on my netbook I must say, this is one of my personal favorite new features, though one needs a sufficiently large touchpad to use it properly.

To find out more about Touchégg please visit the project website.

Package Manager

For quite some time we have been using KPackageKit as default package manager in Kubuntu. While it has seen constant improvement over time, a very strong competitor appeared meanwhile: Muon. Muon is developed by one of the Kubuntu Developers and uses, unlike KPackageKit, the native APT libraries. As it is using APT directly it enables Muon to have a much tighter integration into Debian-like systems (such as Kubuntu) as well as expose specific functionality of APT/DPKG more directly.

As a result of these and other advantages the default setup of Kubuntu 11.10 will feature the Muon Software Center instead of KPackageKit, The Muon Software Center has an interface very much like the Ubuntu Software Center, it is however not a clone of it.
For more advanced users there is also a Muon Package Manager which has an interface much like Synaptic and thus allows for more involved “management” of packages. Whether the package manager interface of Muon will be part of the default installation of Kubuntu or not is not yet decided, in any case it will be easy to install.

To find out more about Muon please have a look at Jonathan Thomas’ blog about Muon 1.2.

Phonon Loves Codecs

As the Phonon team is hard at work to prepare for the release of Phonon 4.4.4, the GStreamer backend has seen some awesome improvements these past few days.

Not only will it be the second backend to support the experimental video capturing features introduced with Phonon 4.4.3 but has also seen tremendous improvements with regards to stability. But most importantly of all it got improved codec installation support.

If you ever found yourself looking for a way to play that mov video a friend sent you, then you will love Phonon GStreamer 4.4.4. Whenever it can not play a file because a media plugin is missing, it will now try to get it semi-automatically. Check out the screencast:

This gives user experience quite a boost, so I am most certain that Linux distributions will pick this up and integrate it nicely with their package management systems.

In the video KPackageKit is handling the plugin lookup and installation, so both Fedora and Kubuntu should have this awesome feature in their next releases.

Have fun 🙂