Monday, October 22, 2012

Kubuntu & Xubuntu 12.10 upgrade from 12.04?

Just wanted to throw a quick note here after testing Kubuntu and Xubuntu 12.10 for a few days now. My original plan was to put together a review, but after using them I have noticed so little change from the previous LTE release that I am not sure I would have enough to talk about.

In both cases, all we are seeing are DM updates for the most part. Yes, Xubuntu does include some improvements to LightDM and a few Look&Feel (welcome) changes, but the biggest thing in both cases is a rebase to the latest KDE SC and XFCE versions.

Kubuntu 12.04 allows users to upgrade to KDE SC 4.9 through its Kubuntu backports (which are packaged and updated extremely well and fast) and there are similar workarounds in Xubuntu should a user absolutely need the latest from XFCE. The same applies to applications, thanks to the abundance of PPAs in the Ubuntu universe. Long story short, there is nothing in either case that should lure anybody away from the safety and stability of an LTS release, at least not in my opinion.

In all honesty, after all the news about Blue Systems hiring employees to work on Kubuntu, I was expecting 12.10 to be a big jump in every sense, specially around every area specific to the distro (LightDM by default and an official theme, updated splash screen, more significant Muon updates and features, etc.) Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, so much so that I will be waiting to next release cycle to decide whether I jump off the LTS wagon.

NOTE: For those not using Xubuntu and Kubuntu, or using older versions, I would recommend the installation of the 12.04 LTE release. 12.10 is by no means a bad release in either case, but I think its LTE counterpart is more worth it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interesting features coming to Fedora 18

After a number of delays in its early stages, the upcoming Fedora release should be available somewhere around December. After the very (in my opinion and experience, that is) amazing and successful Beefy Miracle, Fedora 18 has a tough challenge ahead, specially if it wants to top its predecessor.

I was curious to see what's in store for Spherical Cow (yes, I know, awesome codename) and I must admit I am surprised at the number of interesting things that will hopefully make it to our computers some time at the end of this year. The things I am listing here are a very short list of personal highlights, please see the full list HERE.

  • Changes in default firewall: Seems like firewalld will at last become the default solution come Fedora 18. This was a bit confusing in the past because it was suggested that this change would have been complete by Fedora 17. Nevertheless, a welcome update that should add flexibility and ease of use in an important area.
  • GNOME 3.6 & KDE SC 4.9: Rebase to the latest from both desktop managers. As a side bonus, XFCE 4.10 is also included.
  • MATE Desktop: Now, this is an interesting one... The flagship GNOME Shell distribution bringing MATE (GNOME 2.x fork) with it? I won't read much into it, but I am glad to see Fedora being so flexible and supportive of its user community requests. Kudos!
  • Anaconda revisited: Yes, the Fedora official installer wizard will get a UI revamp. This was much needed and tipped for a Beefy Miracle release by some. I guess it was not ready then, but seems to be now. Bring it on!
  • Update to RPM 4.10: Now, this is one of those critical ones that users will not necessarily notice, but should bring improved performance and stability with it, specially around the software management area. YUM is already quite faster than it used to be, but any improvement is certainly welcome.
  • Active Directory: "Fedora should be able to be used on an Active Directory domain (or other kerberos realms, such as IPA) out of the box. It should be easy to configure domain logins on a Fedora machine, and then it should be intuitive and uneventful to login with those credentials." A must in the corporate realm.
  • Secure Boot: This is an interesting feature that should make Fedora 18 fully compatible with Windows 8 machines.

There are obviously many more cool features coming with Spherical Cow, including further progress in systemd migration, updating Liberation fonts to version 2.0 and many more. I recently posted that Fedora 17 KDE is currently my favorite KDE (and GNOME) distro and will certainly be looking for this upcoming release as a nice Christmas present.

Aside from specifics, I must say I like the approach Fedora is taking lately. Back in Fedora 15 and 16 releases, I was a bit disappointed to see most new features and updates concentrate around administrator and developer areas of interest. It felt like Fedora was a specialist distro only. I am happy to see Fedora expanding and concentrating on standard user areas of interest as well.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dolphin 2.1 and non-resizable places panel icons

Those who have tested or used KDE SC 4.9 will probably be very happy to have upgraded. In my experience, it is the most stable and high-performance KDE desktop I have ever used, even after only one bugfix release. Nothing is perfect, though, and while there is little to complain about here, I must admit I am one of those bugged by the new places panel on Dolphin.

In case you don't know, the masterminds behind Dolphin decided to remove the auto-resize functionality from the panel, a very neat and unique feature that would change the icons size depending on the width allowed to the panel. I always thought that was a great feature, because it allowed me to get the most of Dolphin on different machines with different screen sizes. As it currently is, Dolphin looks a bit ridiculous on my 22 inch display. With so much screen real state, one can easily make the places panel wider and get the most of the gorgeous Oxygen icon theme, all without any significant impact in terms of functionality.

Apparently, some people thought this behavior made no sense and actually made things worse, so it was logged as bug. The Dolphin developers probably felt the same, because they accepted it and changed the behavior to small folders that cannot be resized in any way, as shown below:

Click on image to enlarge

Here's an older version of Dolphin for comparison. The places panel on the left is expanded and its icons are automatically resized to the biggest possible size.

Click on image to enlarge

It seems that lots of people actually found the lost feature as cool as I did and have complained that it is now missing. The good news is that KDE developers will review this behavior and allow resizing back into Dolphin places panel come KDE SC 4.10. Here's the official line from one of them:

"It is planned to make the icon size configurable via the context menu in the future, but this is not possible during the 4.9.x cycle because of the string freeze. Some people will probably ask if we could bring the automatic resizing from KDE <= 4.8 back. I know that many users liked this feature, but others perceived it as a bug. I believe that an option to set the icon size using the context menu will suit everyone."

So there you have it, if you were missing the resizing feature, it will be back (sort of) come KDE SC 4.10. I wonder if auto-resize will ever make it back, but in the meantime, I am happy that some flexibility will be there for Dolphin users in this area.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Another awesome OpenShot update!

Openshot is, in my non-expert opinion, the best overall video editor in Linux. There might be other alternatives with more features on paper, but the lack of stability and/or ease of use often goes hand to hand with those few extra features. Openshot is a very good compromise of both, albeit including some pretty amazing tricks of its own. In practical terms, it can probably fit a very wide population of users and help them fully cover their video editing needs.

The good news is that another upgrade has been published by its awesome developers, once again including some pretty impressive features, but also much welcome bugfixes and improvements in stability.

As they usually say, an image is worth a thousand words... I always wonder how many words a nice video like the one below is worth?

OpenShot 1.4.3 Released! from Jonathan Thomas on Vimeo.