DISCLAIMER: Be prepared. There is whining ahead. I want to preface this by saying that I’m not interested in having a discussion about why I don’t gush with love over KDE 4, and I’m not particularly interested in suggestions for forcing it to work for me. This post is more about me wrapping my head around planning for how my use of Linux is going to change now that I’m going to have to re-think a lot of things about what has been my favorite Linux distro for years.
Why I’m disappointed
But I guess a part of me still was holding out a childish hope that KDE4 was going to be included in
/testing only, and that the default version of KDE for the Slackware 13.0 release would be KDE 3.5.10, the last decent release of that desktop environment. Given Patrick’s tendency to play it safe in regular Slackware releases and stick with only stable, fully-developed and thoroughly tested applications and desktop environments, I would have thought that something like KDE 4 — a desktop environment that’s still easily a year’s worth of hard development away from being a suitable replacement for KDE 3 — would be back-burnered in Slackware in favor of what is known to work and work well.
I probably shouldn’t be upset about this; it’s Linux… if I don’t like it, I can just make my own distro, right? If I want to spend the hours and hours it’ll take for that, sure. Well, I’m not to the point of making my own distro yet. But this does mean I’m going to have to significantly change my Linux usage, starting with replacing a bunch of stuff.
Finding a replacement is hard
Unfortunately, I’m not sure where to go now. I’m in the process of downloading the Slackware 13.0 ISO right now, but my plans have already changed for it. Initially I had intended to burn the ISO to DVD and upgrade my primary desktop machine from Slackware 12.1 to Slackware 13.0.
However, after this bad news, there’s not a chance of that happening now. I have absolutely no use for KDE 4, and I was going to be switching back to KDE as my primary desktop environment again once Slackware 13 came out, because I figured it’d be the last version I’d be needing for quite a while.
But now, before Slackware 13.0 sees life on any of my real hardware, it’s going to be virtualized for me to poke at it with a stick first. For the first time, I’m now skeptical of the rest of Slackware as well, because this KDE thing is just too much of a deviation from what I’ve come to expect out of this distro, and I don’t want to start blowing away the Slackware 12.1 installation I have living on my primary machine in favor of something that’s going to take me a lot of work to bring up to usable levels without doing some testing first.
For one thing, I’ll be needing to replace some components that are now going to be missing out of Slackware due to a lack of KDE 3.
I won’t be installing KDE 4, that’s for sure. I won’t be using it, and I don’t need it wasting space.
Now I’m glad I’ve spent the past few months reacquainting myself with Fluxbox; at this point, if I want to run something newer than Slackware 12.1 or 12.2, I’ll be needing that comfort level with Fluxbox. Fluxbox is something that I like a lot… it’s lightning fast, very stable, flexible, incredibly tweakable and incredibly customizable on nearly every level, and that flexibility, tweaking, and customizing is very easy to do in Fluxbox. In short, it’s nearly the exact opposite of KDE 4.
I can live with Fluxbox; it’s quite possible that even if Slackware 13.0 had included KDE 3.5.10, I may have ended up using Fluxbox as my main environment down the road anyway, because I do like Fluxbox that much.
But now I don’t really have much of a choice. For all the talk of a fork last year when KDE 4 was foisted upon us, nobody to my knowledge has since done anything worth mentioning with respect to a fork based on porting KDE 3 to Qt4, and, frankly, doing so myself would be getting me in way, way over my head. I’ve done some poking around, and the task of getting KDE 3.5.10 to work on Slackware 13 just seems like far more trouble than it’s worth.
So that means I’ll be using Fluxbox, plain and simple. Like I said, I can live with that. But the loss of some of the KDE apps that I’ve grown to love will hurt. Which brings me to my next subject.
I just don’t know what I’m going to do about some applications. While I’ve grown pretty comfortable using Fluxbox again, I still haven’t managed to shake my dependence on several KDE applications, such as Kontact, the Konqueror file manager, and most of all, Amarok.
Thunderbird doesn’t do calendaring without a couple of add-ons, and it isn’t as robust as Kontact, but it’ll do, at least until I find something better.
XFE is faster than Konqueror, lighter weight, and pretty flexible… I just really wish it had tabs, damn it! That’s the one thing it’s missing that I’m really going to wish I had going forward. I use tabs in Konqueror all the time… it’s a very efficient way to do file management, and while some other file managers have tabs, most of them suck in ways that XFE doesn’t. When it comes down to it, I’d rather have everything else not suck and live without tabs than the other way around.
But Amarok, I just don’t know. I’ve had pretty awful luck getting a lot of other players working on Slackware (such as Rhythmbox, Banshee and Songbird, for example. All three were an exercise in dependency hell), and I really like Amarok a lot better as far as full-featured music players go (I’ve tried them out on my Ubuntu machine, I just couldn’t get them working in Slackware). Nothing against Xmms or anything, it just doesn’t do as much and I’ve gotten spoiled over the past few years with Amarok.
So I really don’t know where I’ll end up when it comes to music players. I’ll probably give one of the other ones a try that I couldn’t get working before, and just make do, like everything else.
Of course I have another option available to me, one I didn’t want to think too much about: I’m talking about abandoning Slackware entirely and moving on to a different distro. Considering how many other distros have also jumped on the KDE 4 bandwagon prematurely, I’m not sure what that’d get me. If my testing doesn’t find anything goofy or flaky with Slackware 13.0, I can guess I’ll probably still prefer Slackware for everything else despite the KDE 4 thing.
I have given Debian some thought, but I know they’re in testing with KDE 4 as well, even though the current regular version is KDE 3.5.9, so that wouldn’t help much. One nice thing about Debian is APT, with which one could easily install KDE 3.5 after doing a barebones install; that would be a heck of a lot easier to do with APT on Debian than it would be trying to do by hand with Slackware.
As long as KDE 3.5.* is maintained in the APT repositories, Debian could be a viable option going forward, at least until someone spins off a Slackware distro without KDE 4 as a part of it — and no plans to include it in the immediate future.
In my recent experiences with Ubuntu, I’ve learned to appreciate APT as a packaging tool, though I think if I were picking a Debian based distro to go with as my primary desktop OS, I’d probably just go with Debian itself rather than Ubuntu. I’m not completely finished assessing Ubuntu yet, but already I can tell you that I prefer a less in-your-face distro. A lot of what I’ve done on my Ubuntu machine has been disabling most of what it does that gets in my way… something tells me that doing a barebones vanilla Debian install and then adding on only specifically what I want would give me something close in terms of stability and usability to what I’m used to in my years of running Slackware.
I know, there are a lot of other distros out there yet to try, many of which are Slackware based and many of them DON’T have KDE 4 as their default desktop environment (yet).
I might have to do some more research and take a look at the myriad Slackware spinoffs out there and see if any of them are worth moving to permanently. If any of you can suggest a good Slackware based distro that packages KDE 3.5.9 or 3.5.10 as its desktop, I’d love to hear it.
Until then, I’ll be sticking with what I have. Slackware 12.1 has been excellent on this machine; I was looking forward to upgrading it, but since in doing so I’ll lose the use out of some of my favorite applications, I don’t really consider that an “upgrade” at this point, so 12.1 it is!