Fun with ArchLinux and KDE4.1

I was able to finally fix my ArchLinux install in Virtualbox on Vista two days ago. I had to use a backup copy, since an update installed KDE 4.1 (removing the perfectly functioning 3.5 install) and that made KDE unusably slow. I checked to make sure that compositing was turned off; it just does not work on my machine (P4 2.4G single core w/ 3GB RAM) in Virtualbox.

I recently had to replace a hard drive, so I got a larger drive. This freed up a 160G hard drive, so I decided to convert that drive to a full ArchLinux install to see how KDE 4 works on it. Man, have I missed Linux!

The ArchLinux install went well, except I forgot to remove the exclamation point from the ROUTES field for the gateway — networking doesn’t work that well if there is no gateway. πŸ™‚

I should mention that I didn’t use the most recent install ISO. But the beautiful thing about ArchLinux is that it is a rolling-release distro; I’m now at the most recent versions of all software by simply using the update program (brilliantly called pacman). πŸ™‚

I was able to get both ALSA (sound) and Xorg running using the latest Nvidia drivers (with TwinView enabled for my dual monitors) quite easily.

Mounting my NTFS drives is not as simple as I would hope. I’ve added the necessary entries into /etc/fstab and I can mount them read-only (don’t want to risk data corruption) from the command line with no problem. But Dolphin can not mount the drives. I may be on the way to resolving this problem, but it’s working well enough for now.

Adding access to my HP Photosmart printer was extremely painful; in fact, I still don’t have it working. It was very easy in KDE3; I was able to use the printer control panel to add and administer the printer. No such control panel exists in KDE4 (as near as I can tell) and trying to add the printer manually using hplip has not worked completely yet. I can add the printer but it never appears to be getting any of the print jobs.

Now, my views on KDE 4. I still think it was released too soon; I’ve run into a few issues, mostly minor but still quite annoying:

Configuring panels is painful
I want a panel on my second monitor with a task manager showing the windows on that monitor (like I can do with Ultramon on Windows). The panel starts at the top of the screen (which is actually where I prefer it) but the primary monitor’s panel is at the bottom. The only way to change the location is to manually update the file ~/.kde4/share/config/plasma-appletsrc — look for the text “plugin=panel” and see the “location=” field. This number controls where the panels are located: 3=top 4=bottom. It’s best to make these changes in the CLI when KDE is not running.

Dual monitor workspace separation
I’m running a dual-monitor setup, and the new Plasma system treats each monitor screen as a separate screen — it is not possible to have a single image spread across both monitors. I have to create two separate 1280×1024 images instead of using a single 2560×1240 image. Needless to say, I won’t be changing images that often.

Missing features of KDE3
Not all of the features from KDE3 have been added into KDE4. I do not know whether this is due to a design plan or it simply hasn’t been done yet, but it is very annoying to a happy KDE3 user.

Final thoughts
I don’t know if I’ll be able to use Linux fulltime, as I may not be able to replace all of the Windows software I’m using. I’m setting up a second machine (more in a later blog entry) that I can dedicate to linux and see how will it works. That will allow me to have fun with Linux and still use Vista for my daily work.

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