November 6, 2018

Plasma 5.14.3 Released With More Bug Fixes In Breeze, Discover, KWin

KDE Plasma 5 Screenshot
KDE Plasma 5.14












Today KDE developer David Edmundson announced the availability of KDE Plasma 5. 14. 3. While no major feature enhancements came down the pike (as this is merely a bug fix release) there are some nice regression-fixes and bug fixes to report on this time around.

I would like to take this opportunity to give a special shout-out to KDE e.V. board member and developer Alex Pol. His continued work on Plasma's Software Store and update utility, Discover, is truly admirable as bugs continue to get squashed and features added at an impressive pace. Discover is fast shaping up to be the gold standard for application and security update management among Linux systems.
  
These days the once rather buggy application seems to be hitting its stride while at the same time adding features left and right. The latter we'll cover in the 5.15 release article.

Browsing Plasma Widgets in Discover
Browsing Plasma Widgets in Discover in Plasma 5.14.3


Future releases will include Plasma 5.14.4 and 5.14.5 before the release of Plasma 5.15 due out in February of 2019. Plasma 5.14.3 has landed in KDE Neon on the same day as the release announcement as shown on our system here:


Plasma 5.14.3 in KDE Neon
Plasma 5.14.3 in KDE Neon


For those not running KDE Neon, look forward to it landing in an update soon in your distribution of choice.

Changes featured here include:

  • Breeze icon fixes for GTK+ and Nautilus File Manager
  • Bug fix in the Comic Strip Plasma Add-on applet / widget
  • Numerous KWin fixes, including an 'effects' fix which closed three different bugs
  • Numerous Discover fixes, including improvements in handling firmware updates, Snaps, and Flatpaks
  • A Plasma Networkmanager icon fix
  • A few other fixes to Plasma Workspace, Plasma Audio Volume Control, and Plasma Desktop
The full change list can be found here, and the announcement itself can be seen over at the kde.org announcements page.

November 4, 2018

Red Hat Drops KDE Plasma, Some Thoughts

RHEL 7 Desktop
Well, we almost missed this one. With all of the hoopla surrounding IBM's purchase of Red Hat, the news that red Hat's Enterprise Linux was going to drop KDE Plasma as an option going forward kind of blue under the radar. In fact, were it not for a Google Alert for 'KDE' letting us know this recent announcement, we probably would have been oblivious to it all together. Though some news outlets have covered it, we could be forgiven for missing it - after all, it was the weekend.



But then it hit us. The headline was pure click-bait and probably scared the bejesus out of a lot of readers:

"Red Hat killing off KDE" (1)

 

"Red Hat killing off KDE" - From Fudzilla.com
Comment on "Red Hat killing off KDE" - From Fudzilla.com



and another exclaiming:

"We (may) now know the real reason for that IBM takeover. A distraction for Red Hat to axe KDE" (2)

 

So here we are and the news has broke that indeed KDE Plasma will not be available in Red Hat Enterprise Linux after this current versioning is retired. However, there are a few things to note here from my perspective on what all this really means:

- If internet comments are to be believed, it has been said that currently only KDE 4 is even offered (as an alternative to Gnome) for RHEL on the desktop. Long depreciated and no longer used by any major distribution anywhere, KDE 4 has been relegated to the past, replaced of course by the introduction of Plasma 5 back in 2014. For a company like red hat to even offer KDE 4 to it's customers, again if this is true, is certainly not doing them any type of service or favors.

- KDE is officially supported by Red Hat through the calendar year 2024. So that is quite a ways off anyway...

- Not many people use RHEL on the desktop. I think as a percentage we are talking about a really small number here. So again, it really is no big loss.

- Red Hat's free desktop OS, Fedora, does have a current KDE Plasma option so really KDE is not going anywhere, except again out of supported desktop client enterprise licenses. And again, this number is extremely small.

So in summary, all that is really being said here is that after the year of Our Lord, 2024, KDE 4 will not be available for desktop client support purchases and / or licenses on desktop installations going forward. And again, this number is so small it is probably statistically irrelevant anyway. But it does make for a good headline, and those who wish to bash KDE in the never-ending desktop environment wars can point to articles and news announcements declaring the death of KDE in Red Hat's desktop offering as proof that their side is winning.

But really, it just amounts to a whole lot of nothing much at all.



- Links
(1) https://www.fudzilla.com/news/47522-red-hat-killing-off-kde
(2) https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/11/02/rhel_deprecates_kde/


April 18, 2018

The Easiest Way To Make A Bootable Linux USB Stick Is...


One of the questions often asked on any Linux forum is this: What is the best way to make a bootable USB stick with distro 'X'? What ensues is usually a dozen or so different answers around the question. All seem to work, to one degree or another, or with this distro or that distro. Some applications seem like they are not well maintained, while other solutions just flat-out do not work.

Based on forums discussions I've read over the years, as well as the fact that the question even gets asked in the first place, there must be reasons why it is not so simple. This hypothesis is also backed-up by my own experiences, as recently as yesterday!

Existing solutions include GUI tools, tools included or installable from within  a distributions app store, command line wizardry (namely use of the 'DD' command), and some other, occasionally off-the-wall answers to the question.  Fo example, I've seen people say to just "use Windows to install distribution X". This has a few drawbacks, such as assuming that the aforementioned use-case is the most common. Or the easiest. Usually, it's just a matter of being the simplest and, perhaps, safest, answer to give.

Other solutions, such as command line options, run the risk of a user accidentally formatting the wrong drive. Don't laugh. I've seen it happen.

But that way of thinking is not doing our (hopefully) future users any favors. I'm a big believer in the mantra "use the best tool for the job". And until now the 'best' tool hasn't been declared truly the 'best'. If it was, every distro would be using it. And people wouldn't be asking for something like it. And I wouldn't be writing this article.

Hopefully, Google is your friend and will lead you to this post before you end up pulling your hair out over something that should be seemingly so simple a child could do it.

I am here today to tell you that it does not have to be some kind of weird voodoo magic, some old command line copy tools, or something from a distribution that might have worked two releases ago, but does not seem to quite work now.

I am here to tell you all that the simplest way to make a bootable Linux USB stick is also the easiest to use. And best of all, it's open source. As many of you might have guessed by now, I am talking about...

Enter Etcher.io


Screenshot of Etcher.io's homepage
Etcher.io's main webpage


Why Etcher.io?

To quote the company's website:
"Here at resin.io we have thousands of users working through our getting started process and until recently we were embarrassed about the steps that involved flashing an SD card. There was a separate track for each Mac/Windows/Linux and several manual and error-prone steps along the way.

To our surprise there was nothing out there that fitted our needs. So we built Etcher, an SD card flasher app that is simple for end users, extensible for developers, and works on any platform."
Resin.io is the company behind Etcher.io, and they have released the fully open source application to the general public via a GitHub account.

What does Etcher.io bring to the table?


Features already include the following:
  • Drive verification
  • Automatic drive selection
  • Fully cross-platform
  • Open source (Made with JS, HTML, node.js and Electron)
  • Slick, simple interface

 

Using etcher.io

 

Etcher.io appliaction screenshot
Validating the image on a successful write

Using the application really could not be easier:

  1. Download the application
  2. Mark it as executable
  3. Launch
  4. Select your .iso image
  5. Verify your destination (nearly always correct by default)
  6. Press "Flash!"
  7. Wait a few minutes
  8. Profit!
Selecting the image to write to USB or SD card in Etcher.io
Select the image you'd like to flash
to your USB drive or SD card

One quick recommendation before using would be to check your settings and make sure you have checked to "validate write on success". The other settings are up to you.

Etcher.io settings screen
Etcher.io settings

Getting Etcher.io:


Like a digital homonym, the product's name is it's web address. Simply navigate to https://etcher.io/ and download.

Conclusion:


Again, that really is all there is to it. Your removable storage drive is ready to use wherever you wish. Available for all major operating systems, it has become my go-to for any and all image flashing needs. For those who need a way to burn to DVDs instead, of course there is K3b for that.

You can follow the application's development from their roadmap.

What say you? Have you tried Etcher.io? To me, it is removable Linux media made easy. And that is fine by me, and the people that I helped bring to our wonderful world of Linux. After all

"if you can't boot it, you can't fall in love with it"



</K*Digest!>

April 16, 2018

Easily Pimp Your KDE Desktop Using The OpenDesktop App And The KDE Store

If you're familiar with KDE and the Plasma desktop, you've no doubt done some customizations to your setup from time to time. Perhaps you've just installed a wallpaper here or there, a new icon theme, a shiny new widget (Plasmoid), or maybe you've gone all-out and downloaded and installed a complete Look & Feel Pack and radically changed every aspect of your desktop's look.

And if you've done so, you may know about store.kde.org. S.K.O., as I'll refer to it, is the go-to for getting the latest Plasma goodies from the community in a multitude of categories. While most of the items in the store are installable from within your System Settings control panel in Plasma, not all are, and in addition some require manual intervention to properly get set-up.

So, you may be wondering, what if you want to look at wallpapers and other items that are not pure KDE items? What if you wanted to install some funky Libre Office icons or non-KDE games?

What if you wanted to install the Ubuntu 17.10 wallpaper? Hey, it could happen...

If manually downloaded, users may try to manually install such items themselves. What maybe not be obvious, however, is where these files should go on your computer. Should it go in .local? .config? The '.anything_you_put_here_will_blow_up_your_computer' folder?

Especially for things like themes, icons, and Plasmoids (KDE Widgets), many a web search is occasionally done and help seeked (is that a word?) trying to get things downloaded and installed where they belong.

To help ease proper installation, the OpenDesktop App can be a handy addition to your customization toolbox.

The OpenDesktop application
Looking at KDE Plasma icon packs in the OpenDesktop app


While essentially an electron app, there's a bit more to this handy utility than meets the eye. The biggest thing the OpenDesktop App has going for it is that it knows where to install KDE store items to in your Home directory automatically. This simply takes the guesswork out of knowing where things go and how they should be initially set-up.


Downloading items from the KDE Store
Download store selections or choose to fully install
them from within the app. It's your choice.


The utility also has the benefit of bring able to span across all of the OpenDesktop sites from a handy drop-down menu should you want to peruse more than just the KDE Store.

While most KDE Plasma users would not necessarily have a reason to be looking through, say, the XFCE store, I do recommend checking out the main OpenDesktop.org section. There is a lot of good content in there that would likely not be found when only ever looking the S.K.O. store.

Selecting the desired OpenDesktop store
Choose other OpenDesktop sites from
the drop-down list, if desired





While not necessary for experienced users, this little application certainly can come in handy. I find myself using it all the time for quick searches and for keeping up on what's new in the KDE Store.

If a user was to go about searching the store through the built-in KDE functionality baked into various parts of System Settings, they would have to go to each section individually and then hit the button to go to the store. This way, casual users can browse all of the categories at their leisure all in one contained application and install whatever they choose.

So while not replacing the built-in functionality that comes with Plasma, the OpenDesktop application simply augments it in a nice way. It can be an easy way to keep up with all the latest awesome contributions from the greater KDE Community.

Installation:


Just head on overt to the KDE Store and look on the upper-left part of the homepage. You'll see the download link for the OpenDesktop app.
Downloading the OpenDesktop app
Download the OpenDesktop app from S.K.O. website

Once downloaded, right-click on the application in Dolphin and navigate to Properties > Permissions and check the "is executable" check box.

Giving the OpenDesktop Appimage executable permissions in Dolphin
Marking The OpenDesktop app executable in Dolphin file manager


Then just click and run. It's as easy as that! Then, on first-run, you'll want to hit the drop-down menu item noted above and change your default store to S.K.O.

If you want to add the application to your menu on an Ubuntu-based system (ala Kubuntu, KDE Neon, Linux Mint KDE, and others), have a look at this Ask Ubuntu page.

If you do try it out, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments.


</K*Digest!>  

Top 5 Monthly KDE Plasma Distributions For April 2018

The Top 5 Dedicated KDE Plasma Distributions 

 

  ** Updated April 2018 **


About (AKA "What the Heck Is This? Why Another List?"):


Here we present K*Digest's "Top 5" Linux distributions that showcase KDE Plasma 5 for the current month. Based on DistroWatch stats*, these releases represent those who only offer KDE Plasma as a desktop option. This is so the user can experience a Linux distro that is not just a "yea we have a KDE spin or flavor", but rather a distribution who's core and only focus is on KDE Plasma.

As a result, you will not find the likes of Fedora, openSuse, or Arch here. Although you can install KDE Plasma on most any version of Linux you like, this list aims to be unique, as it will only ever show those who are dedicated to KDE Plasma, and have a unique development team and community around it. The reasonings for this are simple and 3-fold:
  1. This is a KDE-Centric publication, so keeping things as "pure" as possible is a primary goal
  2. The list will evolve over time, and following changes month to month or year to year will be interesting to follow
  3. By default, a person viewing DistroWatch will see listings in order of overall rank, nearly all of which will have KDE Plasma as an option to install 
Without further ado, here's this months current Top 5, along with their respective DistroWatch overall rank, description summary, any change in rank from the last month, and the project's homepage:

Monthly Notes: 


* Of note this month is the fact that while KDE Neon maintained the top spot, it had in fact dropped 11 points in the overall rank versus April. This means that while no other Plasma-based distributions moved up the list, the search for plasma base distributions overall on DistroWatch must have, in fact, dropped

* I'm surprised the Nitrux Linux had not made the list, as it was recently formally released this past month (review to come!), and has a really unique take on KDE Plasma. It is, in fact, ranked a somewhat disappointing 82nd. I expect this to go up as the project gains some traction

* Bluestar Linux makes its move and jumps ahead of Kubuntu into our number two spot. Will it be able to hold it when Kubuntu 18.04 is released later this month? Stay tuned to find out

* Likewise, NetrunnerOS jumped over KaOS Linux - but just barely - thereby making it's way into the number four spot on our list. Of note, however, is that like the others it also dropped in overall rank

* In fact, that is the overall take away from this month's list is that as I indicated earlier, searches for plasma-based distributions on DistroWatch appear to be down across-the-board and without exception. Hopefully we will see this trend turn around in the coming months


The April List



1.  KDE Neon | Homepage | overall rank: 23 | change: -11

 
Photo courtesy of DistroWatch.com

"More than ever people expect a stable desktop with cutting-edge features, all in a package which is easy to use and ready to make their own.

KDE neon is the intersection of these needs using a stable Ubuntu long-term release as its core, packaging the hottest software fresh from the KDE Community ovens. Compute knowing you have a solid foundation and enjoy the features you experience in the world's most customisable desktop.

You should use KDE neon if you want the latest and greatest from the KDE community but the safety and stability of a Long Term Support release. When you don't want to worry about strange core mechanics and just get things done with the latest features. When you want your computer as your tool, something that belongs to you, that you can trust and that delivers day after day, week after week, year after year. Here it is: now get stuff done."

2. Bluestar Linux | Homepage | overall rank: 45 | change: -25

 

Photo courtesy of BlueStar Linux

"Bluestar is a GNU/Linux operating system, built to provide the following features:

  • Up-to-date 64-bit Kernel version - 4.14.x
  • Archlinux32-based 32-bit release - 4.14.x
  • Fast (optimized for performance)
  • Wide Variety of Applications - Always Current Versions
  • Full Development / Desktop / Multimedia Environment
  • Arch Linux Based Distribution"

 

3.  Kubuntu | Homepage | overall rank: 48 | change: -29

 

Kubuntu 18.04 Beta / RC
"Kubuntu is an operating system built by a worldwide community of developers, testers, supporters and translators.

Kubuntu is a free, complete, and open-source alternative to Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X which contains everything you need to work, play, or share. [...]

Kubuntu unites Ubuntu with KDE and the fabulous Plasma desktop, bringing you a full set of applications. The installation includes productivity, office, email, graphics, photography, and music applications ready to use at startup.

Firefox, Kmail, LibreOffice, Gwenview are just a few installed and ready to use, with thousands more, available in just a click, from the Discover software centre.

Built using the Qt toolkit, Kubuntu is fast, slick and beautiful. Kubuntu is mobile-ready, enabling easy integration between your PC desktop and phone or tablet. Simply use the Google Play store to install KDE Connect on your Android device and you can integrate your device with your desktop."

4. Netrunner | Homepage | overall rank: 52 | change: -28

 

Photo courtesy of DistroWatch.com
"Netrunner is a Debian-based distribution featuring a highly customised KDE desktop with extra applications, multimedia codecs, Flash and Java plugins, and a unique look and feel. The modifications are designed to enhance the user-friendliness of the desktop environment while still preserving the freedom to tweak. A separate "Rolling" edition, based on Manjaro Linux, was launched in 2014, was discontinued and was re-launched in 2017."

 

5. KaOS | Homepage | overall rank: 54 | change: -31

 

Photo courtesy of DistroWatch.com

"KaOS is a desktop Linux distribution that features the latest version of the KDE desktop environment, the Calligra office suite, and other popular software applications that use the Qt toolkit. It was inspired by Arch Linux, but the developers build their own packages which are available from in-house repositories. KaOS employs a rolling-release development model and is built exclusively for 64-bit computer systems."

 

Honorable Mentions:


Q4OS | Homepage | Overall Rank: 41

Q4OS KDE 3 Trinity Desktop Screenshot
Q4OS image courtesy of DistroWatch.com

Q4OS makes our list as an honorable mention this week. While not eligible to make our Top 5 due to being based on a KDE 3 fork, aka the Trinity Desktop, none-the-less if it did qualify it would be our number two entrant into our list this month! Actually pretty impressive - Go KDE 3! Proof that either: 1) many people do not like change, or 2) The really liked Krusader!


And there you have this month's Top 5. Check back next month for an updated Top 5 and see if your distro makes the cut, slips a few spots, or holds it's own in our rankings!



See previous months here.


* For information on what DistroWatch is and how it ranks it's listings, check out their FAQ page


</K*Digest!>

April 14, 2018

Plasma 5 Gets It's First Proper Music Player With The Release Of Elisa

There was a time long long ago, when Linux had more audio players and video players than it possibly knew what to do with. Almost like an endless sea of similarity whereby it was somewhat difficult to stand out and get noticed. As one commenter pointed out, One audio player per child...a clever take on the "One laptop per child" non-profit initiative started several years ago. And not far from the truth. In the KDE world, it was a Amarok for years that was the de-facto music player in KDE, but there were no lack of alternatives should one feel the need to venture out a bit. 

However, times change, and the move to Plasma 5 left KDE audio players in the proverbial dust. Amarok went dormant, as did all of the others that were lesser-known then and now. Many simply went by the wayside and left to bit-rot. In the land of seemingly infinite audio players on other desktops, like Gnome, KDE was sorely lacking. But just as The sun also rises, here comes a wave of new audio players for our beloved Plasma desktops. And in one case, namely Amarok, a rebirth is happening as we speak. But that conversation is for a different day and a different article. Today, we are taking a look at Elisa Music Player version 0.1 that was released a few days ago.

While being specifically made for the KDE Plasma desktop, the project's webpage makes it clear that this music player aims to be cross-platform as well, working on Windows and Android as well as any particular Linux flavor. In line with KDE's privacy goals, user privacy is one of the cornerstones of Elisa music player. Many audio solutions out there rely on "phoning home" for an awful lot of things. In my own experience using Plex Media's music player for example, deep integration into the web is so intertwined that even to play my own audio collection on my own LAN requires an internet connection or a whole lot of brute force trying to get around it. And while I like Plex, something that respects my privacy as well as giving me access to the features I want is something that I will most certainly take note of.

Using Elisa


Elisa aims to be simple, as in literally just firing it up and using it. Anything else is a bonus and will be there as long as it does not detract from ease-of-use or contribute to the overall instability of the application. Having said all that, the interface is rather elegant and looks right at home in KDE Plasma. Of course being built with Qt, this only makes sense. Still, we can all appreciate a clean, simple UI design that's also fast and responsive.

Elisa music player v 0.1
Elisa Music Player on first run


If you have music files in your home directory, Elisa should just find them and load them in the UI automatically at startup. I will take pause here to note that the initial import of my collection - which happens automatically on start-up - took only around 30 seconds for my test of about 1,500 tracks. Not bad! All of my files are fully tagged and I had no problem displaying the appropriate information in the default view.

There's only one button on the application menu and that is to configure Elisa, where we'll note that the only option is to add a new path to a music collection. My music collection is on my LAN on a media server, and pointing Elisa to it certainly was not a problem.

One really cool aspect of Elisa is that the theme of the player seems to be dependent on the album cover art. I can't be certain how it works, but the theme seems to change in playing tracks from one album to another. Hopefully, I'll be able to find out more about this assumed feature, as it makes Elisa look great on the desktop and is a nice touch!

Elisa music player showing red theme
Elisa's theme changing to red based on the album cover chosen
  

Elisa music player showing black and gray theme
And here, it's black and gray

Clicking the down arrow in the center (main) panel brings up a search box that allows you to search by name, artist, etc., and is quite easy to use. Playlists are extremely easy to create and load /save simply by enqueuing various songs which will place them in the "now playing" panel. Clicking the down arrow icon at the bottom will allow you to save the playlist. Easy, straightforward stuff.

Saving a playlist in Elisa music player
Saving a playlist in Elisa


Ksysgaurd shows Elisa using less than 200k of RAM, with most of that memory of the shared variety. So I can confirm it's definitely not a resource hog.

One niggle I found was not finding a way to sort my albums, and not being able to tell how the order of listing them was chosen. They don't seem to be alphabetically-listed, and no other pattern was easily apparent. Hopefully this gets fixed in a subsequent upgrade.

Conclusion


Elisa aims to be a simple, straightforward, and have all the main features one would need in a music player, and to that extent it definitely succeeds. While not throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the user like some other audio applications do, Elisa plays your songs and allows you to create playlists, as well as rate them and some other basic features, and does it solidly.

It is also worth noting that as of today Elisa is the only full-fledged Plasma 5 KDE music player that exists at this time. Others, namely Babe and Amarok, are awaiting polish up to an actual Plasma 5 release but have not officially done so yet.

The ability to use Elisa both on various platforms as well as across your network means that it is a very versatile application that looks good and plays your music just fine.

Elisa is already in the Neon repositories, and likely coming to your distro soon, if not there already. It's also available as an Flatpak, obtainable from the project's homepage.

Definitely worth a look.

Links:


- Elisa Homepage
- Flatpak download

</K*Digest!>

April 12, 2018

New Programs Arrive As Standard Additions For KDE Applications 18.04

KDE Applications 18.04 logo
With the upcoming KDE Applications 18.04 being prepped for release later this month, many KDE users and fans will be happy to note that there are three additional applications being included this time around that were not there before, or in some cases, at least not in the recent past.

Among those joining KDE Applications 18.04 are KBackup and Kamoso. The releases' synchronization with KDE Applications proper means that they will now be part and parcel of a default KDE experience. Also making a return to KDE-prominence is the long-standing chat application Kopete.



KBackup is a KDE backup utility that is simple to use and encourages users to set up a routine to backup their important data. It has recently been ported to Plasma 5 and gained a few nice new features as well.

We wrote about KBackup recently, but just to reiterate here it is a welcome addition in order to get users into performing better habits for the long-term maintenance and security of their valuable work and personal data. As I mentioned in the article linked above, my only wish is that it integrated with Plasma Vaults in order to allow encrypted backups, but perhaps that feature will come at a later time.

The second addition for Frameworks 18.04 is Kamoso. Kamoso is the KDE webcam application that allows users to take snapshots and record video using their webcam. Also making the transition to plasma 5, Kamoso is a nice little utility to give basic webcam functionality out of the box so users don't have to go searching for an application to handle basic webcam use[1].

An Old Friend Returns


Like the Amarok music player, another familiar KDE application that many thought had seen it's best days now sees new life in a post-KDE4 world. Coming back from the ashes of Konki's past comes Kopete, an instant messenger application for KDE.

Kopete was the standard for years and years back when instant messaging clients were all the rage, and lets users chat via AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, and the like. Like KBackup, Kopete recently has made the jump to Plasma 5, so it will come on board to join with its reunited fellow Internet, Networking, & Communication applications in KDE[2].

As many users have moved on to applications like Telegram and Discord to handle communication duties, it will be interesting to see how many people launch Kopete for internet-based correspondence. Also interesting will be to watch for any additional plugins and themes written for it (A Plasma 5-themed skin seems appropriate), as well as seeing how many of the old plugins, themes, etc. work today. You can get a list of what's currently available from the UserBase entry, along with additional information.

What's missing?


One of the applications I was hoping to see the light of day this time around was a KDE-branded fork of Rosa image writer for creating bootable USB images. Many distributions ship with some type of USB creation utility, with varying degrees of success. I've tested Rosa many times and it has never failed me yet.

Jonathan Riddell wrote last year about the application, how it needed testing and some code clean-up, and could be adapted to include all major KDE distributions on request. Presumably, this was done in order to get the image writer moving in a direction of completeness that it could be released in a more proper fashion. Perhaps in the future this application can be properly branded and included by default in Applications (hint hint...)[3].

What do you think? Are there other KDE apps that you wish were defaults in Applications? Feel free to let us know.

Links:


[1] Kamoso on UserBase
[2] Kopete on UserBase
[3] ISO Image Writer - jriddell.org

</K*Digest!>

April 10, 2018

KDE Plasma Vaults Gets More Paranoid With The Addition Of Offline Only Mode

Recently, long-time Plasma developer Ivan Čukić released an update to his Plasma Vaults application which made it's debut on the desktop with Plasma 5.12. For the uninitiated, Vaults are, as the name implies, a way to securely encrypt and lock files and folders on your Plasma desktop.

While there are many open source ways to do this already, both through a GUI and the command line, having this type of feature built into KDE Plasma is certainly appreciated and helps to focus the importance of privacy and security with regard to Plasma's users.



In continuing in that vein, Ivan brought to light an aspect of Vaults and encrypted files in general which is this: A typical use case for a Plasma Vault user would likely be something like this - When they sit down to work they click on the Vaults icon and open there folder containing their documents and or folders with potentially  sensitive information. Likely keeping the vaults open until the end of the work day when they would either shut down their PC, which would lock the Vault, or manually lock the protected information before they log out of their plasma session.

The thing is, new information coming from security researchers and the general public has brought to light that there maybe risks even during the session being open while you're sitting at your computer. He points out that while physically we can protect our computer while we are physically there, thereby limiting access to others to our information, there is at least to some degree risk of information compromised even when we were at our computers.

He cites examples such as user error with regard to something like clicking on a malicious link that would give access to the computer to an outside user. Additional examples include vector attacks on CPUs and other vulnerability flaws that could give outside attackers remote access to your system via the network. Although unlikely, these scenarios are increasingly more common in the news and therefore should possibly be taken into account.

Vaults in Plasma's system tray
Vaults in Plasma's system tray


To help with this, Vaults will be introducing what I call "Paranoid Mode" - That is basically a simple offline mode that integrates seamlessly within your Plasma Desktop. When we create a Vault, we will have the option to select the folder to be in offline mode only for access. Basically what this means is if checked, when a user opens a protected vault, the application will disable network settings, via Plasma's network manager, for the duration of the folder being open.

This is actually rather genius. By cutting off outside network connectivity, we can further be assured that access to any sensitive documents or other information is inaccessible to all but you, the owner of the data. A practical application could be something like this for example: Let's say a user has a routine where once a month they enter last month's financial business information in into KMyMoney. The user, being a smart cookie, has her financial database encrypted using Vaults.

Since she checked the option to go offline while that Vault is open, while working in KMyMoney she would like not to have financial information available via exploit on the network. By encrypting their KMyMoney database in a Vault set with offline mode, the network would be disabled while the user performs their activities in the financial application.

Upon re-locking the Vault, presumably, the network session would be restored. That is just one example and I'm sure readers of this blog could cite many others as well. While perhaps not necessary for simple day-to-day documents (which is why this functionality is optional), it is really appreciated that such thought is given to use cases like this.

Vault's offline mode in KDE Plasma
Checking the new offline mode when
creating a new Vault in KDE Plasma

It is details like this that really push KDE Plasma to the forefront of privacy and security amongst their users. As many of you know, user's privacy and security is one of the concentration areas of KDE Plasma going forward. This provides another great example of the thought in care given to that initiative.

Could you see yourself using offline mode (I really think it should be renamed Paranoid Mode!) in your day-to-day or week-to-week computing activities? If so be sure to let us know.

Link:


- Offline Vaults for an extra layer of protection

Rather Retro And Rather Silly FPS The Adventures of Square Is Free And Runs On Linux


Welcome open source gaming fans! This time around we are taking a look at a game called The Adventures of Square - Episode II. This follows Episode I which was released in 2014.

Now, what intrigued me about this particular title is just how downright silly it is. And who doesn't like some silly fun?

The game is a Doom modification that runs on ZDoom engine. Not sure what ZDoom is?  We got you covered.

"ZDoom is a family of enhanced port of the Doom engine to modern operating systems. It runs on Windows, Linux, and OS X, and adds new features not found in the games as originally published by id Software."


As you might expect, the game - in addition to being silly - is fast paced and hectic. What sets the game apart from other typical FPS' for its fans are the silly graphics the idea that the game universe takes place in some kind of odd universe consisting of evil shapes.

Evoking a less vulgar but equally silly "Let's not take anything seriously" Serious Sam vibe, comedy is everywhere in the game which keeps it from ever being able to be mistaken for a hard-core game of it's genera.

From the developers:

"The "Secant Edition" version of The Adventures of Square features the first two episodes of the game, Cornered By Circles: Radial Dawn and Galactic Lunacy: A Small Step for Square, which includes:

  • Nineteen fully playable levels (and three secret ones - shh!).
  • Four maps exclusively for Square-Off play (multiplayer VS)!
  • Arcade-style Time Attack! mode for Square-Off levels.
  • A full, awesome soundtrack in The Adventures of Square OST, courtesy of the musical minds of James Paddock, Xaser Acheron, Augustus Knezevich, Jazz Mickle, and Paul Corfiatis.
  • Amazing voice acting by Ben Paddock, Matt Tropiano, and Matt Cibulas!
  • Beautifully crafted ambient soundscapes.
  • Superb pixel-driven artwork and colorful texturing.
  • Support for Xbox controllers.
  • Really, really awful puns. Really."


I really do enjoy some 16-bit retro music, especially when done well. I can attest this title does indeed do that very well.

 

Got your interest? Here's how to install:


Firstly, head over to the ZDoom downloads page and grab the Ubuntu .deb download for GZDooom.

The GZDoom download page


Next, grab the source code from the the game's downloads page as shown.

The Adventures of Square download


To run the game once the above are properly installed, run the following command in a Konsole (or any terminal) window:

gzdoom -iwad /path/to/downloaded/file/square1.pk3

Of course, one can also add this to the start menu under their game section to be able to launch straight from the menu. Although I believe you would likely have to check the run in terminal option if you do decide to add it to your menu.

While no game is for everyone, the first person shooter genre (FPS) is definitely one of the most popular gaming genres in existence. And while we have no shortage of these types of titles on Linux like Quake, the original Doom 1 & 2 and other long enduring titles like Urban Terror, none of these go over the top with not taking itself too seriously, and that's the charm in this title.

Also the Retro sounds abound so no high definition audio heavy metal soundtracks to be found here - just retro gaming havoc.



Further reading:


Head on over to the official website to learn more, and happy (and silly) Linux gaming.

After some careful consideration, I have decided to add some moderate gaming coverage to our site. Consisting only of Open Source and public domain games, if something peaks are interest we will highlight it here. 

Basically, anything that helps showcase the idea of "living the Linux and KDE Plasma lifestyle" is fair game, including what we do when we're not "on the clock".

</K*Digest!>

April 5, 2018

Today's Razer Game Store Launch Includes Many Quality Linux Titles And A Sale

Serious Sam 3 in the Razor Game Store
So today comes news of another game store to compete with the likes of GoG, Steam, Fractal, Humble Bundle, and others. You're likely thinking "Uhm...another store to buy games? Hmmmm...OK then...". So the main question for us at K*Digest! is - How does the Razer store treat us Linux gamers?

Here is a quick look.

As of right now the catalog boasts 344 Linux games available for purchase. While that may pale in comparison to the likes of Steam and even GoG, it is worth noting that the Razer Games Store seems to be shooting for quality over quantity.

Also, the selections appear to be all newer releases. So we will find titles like Pillars of Eternity 2 available for pre-order, as well as Linux stalwarts like Stellaris , Dungeons 3, Age of Wonders III collection, and many others.

Another unique aspect of the Razer game store is the idea of rewards that it offers customers. Cold razer rewards, they are earned and paid and something cold zSilver and the currency is received for every purchase made.

Razor Rewards and zSilver
Unique offerings, like Razer Rewards,
might make the Razer Store succeed in an
ever-crowded Linux Gaming landscape

Obviously when you have collected enough silver you can redeem rewards including Razer peripherals and free games. Another advertised feature are razer exclusive deals that cannot be found anywhere else. Finally, Razer has stated that all games purchased through their store will also receive Steam keys to be authorized and played through the Steam system.

There is an initial sale of 15% off using the coupon code "RGSLAUNCH15". So while the selection of Linux games is not vast it does appear that the games have been curated to be among the best sellers and newer titles available on our cherished platform of choice.

Further, the reward system will likely give a Steam a bit of run for its money, as people do like their loyalty rewards. Do we need yet another online store for buying games? Only time will tell.

Razor Game Store showing Linux game titles
Some of the Linux Games found in the
Razer Game Store

One final thought I'll leave you with is this: If Linux games sell well through the store, maybe it'll be more likely for razer to provide better Linux support for their peripheral hardware. Many of you know, historically speaking, razer has left it up to the community-at-large to write code supporting their peripherals on Linux.

Better than nothing, but hardly ideal. Maybe this is the start of something really good for Linux gamers in a few tangible ways. After all, it was Herbert Hoover who supposedly said:

"Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress."

Who can argue against that?

If you decide to make a purchase through the store of a Linux game, do let us know how your experience went!

</K*Digest!>

Kubuntu Bionic Beaver Beta 2 Release Images Prepping For Release - i386 Testers Badly Needed






For those wanting to test out what will become Kubuntu Bionic Beaver 18.04, release candidate images have been published and are available for download. One area in particular that needs more testing are the i386 images.


While many distributions have moved away from i386, designating it as a relic of the past, the Kubuntu development team is willing to publish and support this older architecture - but only if the community supports such a move.

Over on Kubuntu-development mailing list, board member Valorie Zimmerman laid out the situation rather succinctly:

"Anyway, i386 users, now or never! I mean literally if we don't get
testing on this LTS on i386 hardware, we will NOT be offering it from
here forward. This is a community-produced product, and if those who
want it are not willing to test it, we simply cannot provide untested
stuff.

Please login to the qatracker at
http://iso.qa.ubuntu.com/qatracker/milestones/388/builds/169616/testcases,
click the little disk symbol to download or zsync an image, and test
test test!

File bug reports for bugs you find using `ubuntu-bug ubuiquity` or
whatever the packagename is (ubiquity is the installer) and add those
BR numbers to your report.

Please, today or at latest tomorrow."


So basically if there are not enough tests performed over the next few days, the i386 releases will disappear forever. The developers have made it clear that they will make every attempt to support these older computers so long as the community wants it's.

As of this writing, there were no QA tests completed for the dated architecture, however at least one user was stepping up saying they would perform the test. Even still, that's hardly enough to warrant confidence.

Again, most other distributions have already stopped spinning .iso files for this particular architecture. Which, if successful, would leave Kubuntu as a participant in an increasingly smaller circle.

Link:

- amd64 Beta 2 candidate testing going well; i386 testing -- none?

</K*Digest!>

April 4, 2018

The KDE Community News Brief For April 4th 2018

 

 

 

Here's all the recent KDE news that's worth knowing, but could not quite warrant being placed into an article of it's own.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

smb4K


"Smb4K is an advanced network neighborhood browser and Samba share mounting utility. Its purpose is to provide a program that's easy to use and has as many features as possible."

What's new:
The Smb4K team is proud to announce the immediate availability of Smb4K 2.1.0, the new stable release of the advanced network neighborhood browser and Samba share mounting utility. This release brings back the plasmoid that was ported to Plasma 5 and fixes several bugs. 
Read more at: https://sourceforge.net/projects/smb4k/

Kraft 8.0 Released


"Kraft is a free software project that helps to create and handle office documents in small enterprises. In a workshop or any similar company daily tasks can be done in a smart manner."

We recently did a full review of Kraft during the beta phase leading up to this release. You can read more about it here.

Read more at: http://volle-kraft-voraus.de/Main/Releases

KDE Connect – Tips, Tricks and Misconceptions


"KDE Connect is a project to communicate across all your devices. For example, with KDE Connect you can receive your phone notifications on your desktop computer, control music playing on your desktop from your phone, or use your phone as a remote control for your desktop."


Again, we have covered KDE connect with providing some tips and tricks or our own on helping you get the most out of it. This article carries on that train of thought to cover many nuances about the application and its Android counterpart that you may not have known about.

Read more at: https://nicolasfella.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/kde-connect-tips-tricks-and-misconceptions/

Kube (Email Client) Update


"Kube is a modern communication and collaboration client built with QtQuick on top of a high performance, low resource usage core. It provides online and offline access to all your mail, contacts, calendars, notes, todo's and more. With a strong focus on usability, the team works with designers and UX experts from the ground up, to build a product that is not only visually appealing but also a joy to use."

Being built in collaboration between Kolab and the KDE Community, Kube looks to be a modern replacement (or substitute) for KDE's KMail. There have been some recent updates on the development of the application as it slowly-but-steadily moves along towards a future beta release.

Read more at: https://cmollekopf.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/last-week-in-kube-9/


On Neon Moving To Ubuntu 18.04 LTS As A Base


Over on the KDE Neon mailing list, a user posed the question as to when to expect Neon to move from Ubuntu 16.04 over to the soon-to-be-released 18.04 LTS Base. Jonathan Riddell made the following response:

"Packages are being compiled and images are being built.  We'll test upgrade options and turn those on when they're reliable.  We've not done this before so there's no concrete plans." Link.

So it looks like the team is going to try to do things the proper way. Meaning, they will release it when they are good and ready and when it is baked properly for release. As he indicated, since they have not done this before, this approach certainly makes sense as opposed to trying to meet some arbitrary deadline.

In the meantime, the current base is holding up well especially with the current base still being supported for sometime in the future, as well as the well-timed introduction of snaps and flatpaks into the KDE Discover application store.


And that is all of the news for now. Stay tuned as we will keep you updated as new releases and announcements get sent our way. Until then, Happy computing.

</K*Digest!>


Moving Away From Feedburner For Email Subscriptions

Just a quick note to let our readers know who are subscribed to our posts via our email delivery service, I have decided to move the site away from Google's Feedburner service for email delivery of posted articles. This is mainly due to having a severe lack of control over how and when such emails are sent, how they look, and overall quality of the email is delivered. The new service allows much better control and a much more professional environment for both our subscribers and for the site administrators.

Additionally, it is understood that many people are trying not be so dependent on Google and its plethora of services. So we definitely do not want to be in a position whereby someone who would like to stay current with our content chooses not to do so because RSS feeds were all utilizing a Feedburner service that is owned and managed by Google. Further along this line, at some point when the site's traffic warrants, the site itself will be moved to a different hosting provider as well. But that is a topic for another day.

If you are already subscribed to KDigest's email delivery service, the change will be automatic and you will have to do nothing on your part to continue getting daily digest deliveries of the content we are publishing here on the site (and, on a side note, thanks for being a subscriber!).

You current RSS feed from K*Digest! will possibly no longer work...


One change that will be impacted however are the RSS feeds. The decision has also been made to shut down the Feedburner RSS feed in it's entirety. While the old link  should "just work" via permanent redirection, the Feedburner RSS feed was the default RSS feed for this site for a long time now. So if for some reason you stop receiving are articles in your RSS feed reader of choice, I will post the new one here. Please be sure to update your RSS feed subscription service with the new address.

If you have any other questions or comments, on either making sure everything is setup right to continue receiving are feeds, or just on the quality of the emails themselves, be sure to let us know. I just appreciate your understanding as we keep moving to provide a better and more professional experience for our readers.

Thanks much and keep on enjoying the KDE Community, Linux, and free software!

New RSS Feed:

https://kdedigest.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss  

</kdigest!>

April 3, 2018

KDE Plasma Gets KBackup In Upcoming Version 5.13 - Here's A Quick Look

One of the new features that is coming in plasma version 5.13, in addition to the massive amount of improvements, new features, and bug fixes as one might expect, is the inclusion of KBackup. Pushing for usability enhancements within Plasma as one of it's core missions of late, it makes sense for this type of tool to be included as a standard function of a well-rounded, productive, and secure operating system. It fits in nicely with the KDE Community's Usability and Productivity initiative.

Let's take a quick look at this handy little utility to see how it can help quickly perform basic backup tasks, along with quickly describing a few more advanced features as well.

Why KBackup?


From the KDE Store description:
"KBackup is a program that lets you back up any directories or files, whereby it uses an easy to use directory tree to select the things to back up.

The program was designed to be very simple in its use so that it can be used by non-computer experts.

It can do full- and incremental backups."

While there are other GUI options out there such as the Kup Backup System (also a KDE / Qt app), Lucky Backup, and others, KBackup makes sense because of its sheer simplicity. In fact I would like to point out that along with the newly-introduced Vaults feature in plasma, KBackup stands out amongst typical KDE applications in that it really only does one thing and manages to do it very well. No overwhelming option screens to be found, no complicated dialog boxes to check or help pages and "How-To" blog posts to sift through to be found here. The basic premise is to pick a folder, pick a destination, and copy those files from point "A" to point "B". Destination meaning a folder, a thumb drive, cloud storage, pretty much anything that you can mount and browse via the dolphin the file manager is fair game.

KBackup chewing through a backup job by
sending files to an inserted USB stick


Using KBackup


Using KBackup is extremely simple. The GUI interface really only consists of two main parts: the left side which is a tree-list view of your mounted drives showing visible files and folders, and the right side being where you select your destination of where the backup should go. You just use the tree list view on the left-hand pane to navigate the files and folders, checking the boxes corresponding to the selections that you want to back up. On the right, select the destination and press 'Start Backup'. The backup starts and that's really all there is to it.

A typical use case would be for a user to insert a USB stick into there computer, selected a destination for the selected backup files to go to, and press the 'Start Backup' button to back them up and send them to that USB thumb drive. Of course you can also send it to anywhere else as mentioned above as long as your computer can recognize the destination. So network drives, cloud storage, a second hard drive on your computer, etc. all are potential targets to backup your files to.

Profiles


Of course once you've selected all of the files and folders you would like to backup, you probably want to repeat that process on a regular basis. Be it monthly, weekly, or daily, one would assume that it's a good idea to make backing up your important data a normal part of your routine. To help with this, K backup utilizes profiles. Once a successful backup is completed, simply click on the file menu and select save profile. This will save all of your file in folder selections and the desired destination to a backup file of its own for later retrieval. Anytime you need, you can load that profile again for ease-of-use and to save some time. You can save as many profiles as you need to define for all of the different backup scenarios that you will encounter while planning your ideal backup reginent. Backup profiles can also be used on the command line - which is beyond the need for most users and therefore not included here.

Profile settings


One thing that I found about profiles in KBackup that was slightly confusing at first was that the profile settings was a different menu selection from the profile itself. So what you will find by clicking on the file menu and then profile settings option are the additional options that KBackup will manage for an individual profile. One really nice feature is to select the maximum storage size, thereby allowing you to make sure that your backups will fit onto the medium that you are sending it to. As you can see in the diagram below, common removable storage sizes are already presented to you. However, and thoughtfully, there is a custom field for you to set that size limit to whatever you need. It is probably a good idea to check that selection before backing up in order to make sure that the data you have selected to backup will fit in the space allocated on the device that you want to send it to, especially if using a USB drive or blank DVD, for example.

Setting the maximum archive size in
KBackup's profile settings

In addition to setting the archive size, other profile options include selecting how many incremental backup copies you want to keep, as well as the frequency that you would like your backup to be made. For more advanced users, you can enter expressions in order to exclude certain file-types from your backup, as well as define whole directories to exclude (like excluding your browser cache, for example). Finally, backup files can be compressed to save space if desired. Depending on your particular operating system install, it will choose either bzip2 or gzip compression.

Additional options in KBackup's Profile Settings

Incremental backups


When you schedule KBackup to do a scheduled job via the settings outlined above, for example backing up your documents directory every week, KBackup will perform a full backup on those files. However, if you manually run the same backup operation in between, KBackup will utilize an incremental backup for that job. As you might guess, this means that only the files that changed since the last full back-up are included, thus vastly speeding up the pace for the job's completion.

Command line options are available for those wanting to write scripts for their own control over how KBackup interacts with their system and when. For further reading, see the doc's handbook. I have provided a link below for reference. For the vast majority of users however, the included options within the GUI interface will provide more than enough to take control over backing up their system.

Wish list


Really the only thing that I would change about KBackup if I had the ability to instantly wave my magic wand and do so, would be this: to allow backing up of encrypted files and folders. With many of us using cloud services for data storage, backing up files to that cloud makes a lot of sense for pragmatic reasons. The main one being that you can get to your files from anywhere. However, in an age where cyber security and privacy rule a lot of our thoughts these days, the ability for KBackup to handle encrypted folders and files would definitely be a plus.

Also, and definitely related, is the addition of Vaults to KDE. As many of you know, Vaults easily allows a user to encrypt their data using a few different possible encryption methods. I think you can see where I'm going with this...

It would ultimately make the most sense in a perfect world for me as a user to quickly add a folder to a vault to encrypt it, lock the Vault, and run a KBackup job automatically sending it up to the cloud. There are open source backup solutions out there that will do this, but as far as I know, as of today KBackup does not yet have this ability.

The ability to add encrypted files and folders to
KBackup would be a definite plus. Bonus points
if you know where this graphic came from!

Final thoughts


The inclusion of an easy to configure built-in backup solution into KDE Plasma is a welcome addition indeed. I am often asked about how I personally backup data, and I know I see it asked a lot on various KDE related forums. This long-standing and respected tool will give both new and long-time users a quick and easy way to perform a task that we all know we could probably do a better job at handling.

Should KBackup gain the ability to handle encrypted files and folders, we Plasma users will have a true top of the line backup management solution for both personal and professional use cases.

KBackup does its part to enhance the "Productivity and Usability" initiative laid out as a goal of the KDE community. And because of that, it is a welcome addition to the Plasma default applications family.

Links


- KBackup in the KDE Store
- KBackup handbook


</Digest!>