Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Can KDE Save a Dying Windows Platform?

I want to start by telling a story. Bare with me.

Once upon a time there was a software engineer. He wrote code, windows code, embedded firmware. He was happy. Then one day a new project is put before him, a project unlike any other he had encountered. It was going to require all new hardware, and the features, wow. Something like this is going to require a full blown Operating System not the usual rinky dink assembly program.

Research leads to the inevitable conclusion, Linux. Further Research leads to a graphical toolkit called Qt (pronounced “Cute”.) A request was made and granted for a new workstation to create a new Linux development environment, after all the windows development machine was far too mission critical to muck about with dual booting and virtual machines.


This engineer had some Linux experience on the desktop, having a PC or two running it on and off for the last couple of years. He picked his favorite distribution and after a bit more research had a fully working development machine up and running a chair swivel away from his usual trusty machine. The choices made for this workstation would have a lasting effect on this engineer. KDE for the desktop, with Kdevelop as the IDE won out over Gnome and Eclipse. It stood to reason that if he was developing with Qt, a desktop made atop the Qt libraries was appropriate. Even with the incomplete KDE cross compiling documentation it was fun to work on.


Fast forward, the product is designed, operating system compiled, drivers tweaked, application software is written, units are built, tested and released to production. During this time a funny thing happened, Windows disappeared from the engineer's home PCs completely. The research requirements were so much that many an evening he could be found at his desk until the wee hours of the morning going over documentation, compiling newer kernels, and generally pushing Linux as hard as he could.


When the morning came he would go back to his office and he noticed he swiveled his chair less and less towards the Windows PC. So much so in fact, he decided he should do something about it, He designated it the email machine. That would ensure he used it more frequently. While using it he missed the simplicity and stability (especially the Stability) of his Linux box. No amount of cygwin or virtual machine tweaking was satisfactory. Every open source application that was cross compatible was deployed, Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, and the rest, but still it was not enough. Eventually he gave in to dual booting to enable him to use his favorite tools. But the sad truth is, an embedded engineer needs Windows. There are just too many specialized tools for programming devices, analyzing signals, and device drivers that are Windows only and no amount of Wine-ing will do.


His only hope was that he knew Qt was cross compatible with Windows Linux and Mac, and there was talk that someday, KDE was to be ported to Windows. So he waited.


Well, KDE4 was announced and there was much joy. Betas were released and there was much bitching. KDE4.0.0 was released and there again was much joy (and still a little bitching). More importantly an actual honest to goodness Windows port is released.


Here follows that engineer's report.

I could hardly wait. Download the KDE for Windows Installer. (Link is to the Stable version)
(For this review I went with the bleeding edge unstable version 0.8.6 beta4 marked 1/28/08)

Note the disclaimer.

KDE on Windows is mostly in an alpha state, so not suitable for day to day use yet.

My first thought was “1.6 Megabytes, wow that is some port.” Followed by "oh, I see, it's a cygwin-like installer." Hmm, what to install? When in doubt grab it all. Pick a Mirror, I have no preference, I picked a KDE mirror in the US. You have the choice of User or Developer package installation, naturally I chose developer. This gives you all kinds of goodies like Mingw, Qt, Qdesigner, and other development tools.

Ok downloading packages, this may take a while..........

Hours later, Installing Packages this too may take a while, but don't leave because a few packages have installers themselves requiring you to click next, next, next, finish.


All right finished in a blazing 4 hours.


Follow the post install instructions from the KDE guys. Again note the disclaimer:

Disclaimer These are early days for KDE4 on Windows, some programs work better than others and some fail to run altogether.

Never mind all that, lets see what works.

What Works:

Quite a lot actually. See below for Screenshots of included apps that work. Almost all the apps shipped "work". Two are all but useless due to bugs. The rest seem to function perfectly as long as you don't need to refer to Help. Fortunately most apps have an online help while this bug gets ironed out.

What doesn't work?

Sound, at least on my setup there was no sound, any application that tried to make a peep instead produced this error message. Most Apps let you disable sound.

Blinken - Simon unfortunately requires Sound to be playable.

As does KLetres:

MimeTypes for Dolphin and Konqueror.
(I may have missed something and am investigating)

Dolphin is the new Filemanager for KDE and it looks very nice, however It could not run any executables, view any pictures or play and music. It browsed my directories just fine after complaining about not being able to open ~ directory. After setting up my home directory it stopped complaining. But not being able to do anything but browse was disapointing.


Konqueror – KDE's Swiss Army Knife, Web Browser, File Manager, FTP Client, Embedded File Viewer, Etc ... Unfortunately on my Windows box it is reduced to a Web Browser (without Flash support) and a Menu Explorer (without being able to launch anything.)



What is missing?

Besides the things mentioned above. Koffice the KDE Office Suite, Amarok Media Player, Kontact PIM Suite including Kmail, Kopete Instant Messenger. KDEVELOP!!!!!!! These are still being worked on for KDE4, so no real surprise their not ready for Windows yet.

Help Functions on all programs are broken.



So what's the answer?
Can KDE save the dying windows platform?

Not Quite Yet, but they are making a damn fine start of it.
I know I will be pitching in to help them out with new KDE Windows apps and I won't be alone. Qt is already a powerful Windows Toolkit but the KDE family of Applications are a welcome addition. Amarok is coming along nicely, and as soon as KMail, and KDevelop gets up and running, I will have to re-evaluate.

Applications:

Kwrite – Notepad Replacement.


Kate – KDE Advanced Text Editor, the brains behind my favorite IDE Kdevelop. Syntax Highlighting and Code Folding is working perfectly.


Kfind – KDE File Search Tool – I didn't expect this to work but what do you know it does.


Kig- Figure Editor


PixelTool - Zoom tool

Konqueror Web Browser, Nice to see the Konq on XP too bad about the flash and it doesn't seem to support Gmail.


Kworld Clock – It's a Clock for the whole world.



Education:

KAlgebra - Math Education Tool

Kalzium – Periodic Table educational Software


Kbruch – Learn Fractions and Decimal Conversions

Kgeography – World Geography and Capitals

KPercentage - Percentage Study Tool

Kstars – Internet Connected Observtory one click to retrieve gorgeous pics of distant galaxies as well as Wikipedia and Nasa Pages.

Ktuberling – Mr Potato Head for KDE shown here in Space mode

Kturtle – LOGO Educational Programming Environment.

KTouch - KDE Touch Typing Tutor

Parley – Language Phrase Teacher, No files loaded.

Marble – The Earth on your desktop.

KwordQuiz – Flashcard and Q & A Study Tool

Kmplot - Matematical Plotting Tool


Games:

Katomic – Connect Molecules in this Puzzle Game.

Kanagram - Anagram game

Bovo – Tic Tac Toe on Steroids

Kbattleship - KDE sunk my battleship

Kblackbox – I hate this Game and I refuse to describe it.

Kbounce – KDE's Version of Jeezball

KHangman - Hangman for KDE

Klines – Make Lines of 5 or more but don't block your path

KmahJong – KDE Mahjong, The Art Department has been working overtime.

Kmines - KDE MineSweeper

Knetwalk – Get those computers on the Net as fast as you can. This game is like Crack, You have been warned.

Kolf – Minature Golf, This is the fugliest of the KDE games.

Konquest - Galactic Conquest

Kpatience – Several Different Solitaire Card Games

Kreversi – Reversi or Othello finally with fullscreen scaling.

Kshinen – Cross between Tetris and Mahjong

Ksudoku – Sudoku except on your PC

KspaceDuel – Another game I was never very fond of.

Ksquares – You remember that game where you draw a grid of dots and take turns connecting them, this is it without all that drawing and paper.

Lskat – Another Card Game

Kriki – K Yatzee again without the paper.

Kfourlines – Konnect Four was taken I guess.

Kjumping cube – Dice Game, I don't get it.

SameGame - Remove Groups of the same color.

Kgoldrunner - Oh Yeah Lode Runner.





MrCopilot

UPDATE: Some people have taken issue with the Title of this post. Here is my response.

35 comments:

americymru said...

An excellent article...thanks for posting. I have to say though, no matter how good this eventually becomes, I hope the answer to your opening question is a resounding NO!

Anonymous said...

RE: Gmail support in Konqueror

At least on Linux, Konqueror supports Gmail just fine; but Gmail doesn't believe that. Spoof your user agent to Firefox or Safari and things should work perfectly.

skierpage said...

Awesome. I added a link to this to the Discussion page for the KDE on Windows installer page. You could add feedback there and/or file bugs.

After setting up my home directory it stopped complaining. — how did you set this up?

Anonymous said...

As an embedded engineer I can now write and debug code on Linux for any ARM, MSP430, Atmel AVR (with Rowley's Crossworks) and Altera NIOS. I am lead to beleive Freescale are porting Codewarrior to Linux as well. That's a pretty big spread of processors.

I only occassionally now have to use Windows for some TI DSP stuff. Wine will sadly not cope whith .NET based monstrosity that is Code Composer. It's enough variety that we as a company only need one Windows based laptop that we can share around for the rare occasions it's needed.

MrCopilot said...

@skierpage - Settings Home Folder. c:\Home - press Apply

@Anonymous - I agree I write almost all my code on the linux box, I only need the windows machine for certain ICSP and Diagnostic and Analysis programs.

Anonymous said...

Konnect Four :D
http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~johnbent/C4/C4.html

I can't see Kompare in any of the reviews.
Is it included?

GiacomoL said...

Anonymous@FEBRUARY 1, 2008 5:19 PM:
At least on Linux, Konqueror supports Gmail just fine; but Gmail doesn't believe that.

... because it's not true. Konqueror constantly needs upgrades and patches to track GMail. Since the last GMail features were introducted, my Konqui 3.5.7 on Debian broke again, no matter which UA you spoof :(

Anonymous said...

no matter how hard it tries, windows just is not linux. and when linux tries to be windows, well, it just uses WINE. The funny thing is that ultimately one of these operating systems is superior and yet people and developers still waste their time and our security and enjoyment by supporting windows. I would like to say 'there can only be one' but that is not true, there will always be underdogs, like beos, windows however, I believe, will be wiped from the face of the earth and looked back apon only as a bad memory from the time when micro$oft ruled our right to software freedom. KDE for windows?! Cool! Let people know how sweet linux managers are before giving them the real thing. -knifemonkey

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you picked up on this but if you are in Linux KDE 4 desktop, all the KDE 3 applications will run (with the KDE 3 libraries).

Thanks for the big plug on KGoldrunner (I wrote it). Your point about KJumpingCube is taken (I maintain it). It's a nice game. I'll have to find some way to make it clearer ... :-) Ian W. KDE Games Team

Anonymous said...

heh... nice story!! and I feel your pain!! I wish the actual shell would get ported so i wouldn't need to see the green start button... :P

Thanks KDE!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this article.

I'm so exited to see KDE on Windows. This is really great news.

At work I have no choice but to use Windows (Company policy, they won't let me dual boot/wipe the hardrive) and on my game computer I'm stuck with Windows Vista *grr* because of Direct X 10.

Now I can finally have an uniform look between all my machines and don't have to give up on KDE within gaming sessions.

Best of all. My Linux apps will finally run on Windows.

I just need Amarok 2.0 finished an working on Windows/KDE-Windows and I'll be in heaven.

This should also open up the KDE world to more software developers (hopefully game developers as well)

Hopefully people will still screen the open source apps from 3rd party developers for malicious code. (I don't trust most Windows applications that are distributed for free. They haven't learned the Linux way of not being evil yet.)

Anonymous said...

Windows is a dying platform? My god, you've been drinking the Kook-aid for too long. Hey, at least is a platform. Linux is a fragmented chaos. Wake me up when they decide to throw some order into it.

Anonymous said...

He designated it the email machine. That would ensure he used it more frequently. While using it he missed the simplicity and stability (especially the Stability)

What is it with you Linux gurus that you can't even keep a windows machine that only has email on it stable? What the hell kind of client are you using?

MrCopilot said...

@anonymousWhat is it with you Linux gurus that you can't even keep a windows machine that only has email on it stable?

Sorry, but I've used and administered Windows since it's inception. My machine was the most stable machine in the building, but even that didn't hold a candle to the Linux machine.

You might have learned to believe it is acceptable for Visual Studio to lock up if you have a browser open, be forced to wipe your machine every 6 months, bog your machine down with protection from security holes that shouldn't be there in the first place, etc, etc... It takes no time at all to become accustomed to an environment that doesn't suffer these problems and is actually quite pleasant to "work" on instead of "work on".

I'm not quite a Linux guru yet, but I grok it quite well thank you. Building the kernel from scratch has that affect on you.

Meanwhile, my Windows knowledge can be considered expert. That doesn't mean I can fix it's broken OS. Legally I'm not allowed to. Just stick my finger in the dyke. It get better over time ME and Vista excluded, give em 10 more years and they just might catch up to the Box on my desk right now.

As for a client (I assume you mean email) I used web mail in Firefox. It was safe and lightweight on resources comparatively.

Martin said...

I didn't check out KDE on Windows yet but I sure hope that the solution will be something like PortableApps.com provides, i.e. that you don't need administrative rights on the Windows machine you want to run KDE programms on. Otherwise KDE on Windows will have quite limited usage for me, because it's obvious: the Windows machines I have to use are Windows machines because I do not have administrator rights.

Anonymous said...

A Windows expert that does not know how to keep his system running for more than six months... let me doubt that.

Anonymous said...

Lets consider a typical case of engineering on a windows machine. Engineering uC and development work is much more prone to push the machine than web browsing and checking your email, so please, if your at least going to comment on the stability of windows, comment with a mindset coming from his point of view for his use case. Maybe yours is simple enough windows doesn't fail. For developers having the VS crash, or having your program crash and therefore crash your whole system is a total waste of time. Linux handles program crashes with supreme grace most of the time, not to say lock-ups *never* occur, but they certainly occur far less than on on windows machine while developing!

Caemyr said...

My desktop on Windows works 24/7, and nope, it doesnt crash, it doesnt bog down, it doesnt need constant restart and reinstall. I only restart when i have to, once a month due to Windows updates. If you cant make it work properly, blame the essence of the problem, which is in 99% of the cases - hardware, driver, third party app or user issue. Only 1% is really the Windows fault, but it gets blamed for every other problem.

Still, Windows is not dying, no matter how much you want it to, but you are free to stay in your dreams.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean "bear with me" - but just in case, I've removed my pants to read the rest of the article.

ezzep said...

Anonymous, I had to rewrite this three times, both because I started getting personal. But, here it--YOU are ranting like a little school girl!

You have to realize..with windows you have 1 or 2 ways of checking your e-mail, browsing the web, etc. With linux, you have at least 10 choices, and then, you can choose how you want your choice to look. That's what's so good about choice--thunderbird crashes on you, but it won't close? Simple solution--xkill. In windows, doing the same time can require you to restart, especially if you have a pentium 2 running @ 400 mhz.

leuce said...

I downloaded the KDEwin installer, and it seems odd that I can't select all packages with a single keypress, nor can I select individual packages using down-arrow and spacebar. No, for some reason I *have to* use my mouse to individually click each and every item on the list of stuff to install (they're all unselected by default). Silly? Or perhaps just Linuxy?

Joseph Dietrich said...

It's a nitpick, but "Bear with me." To "Bare with you" would be to get naked with you.

Anonymous said...

Man KDE apps look like Windows 3.1 did!

Rey Angeles said...

Why the hell would you want to run KDE on Windows, what is the matter with these damn developers? So again what is the point to have/run Linux if you are going to be porting Linux desktops to Windows, what a bunch of morons. What so they can say yeah we did it, oh please if Gnome does the same then I'm switching back to Wincrap for sure!

Mojo_risin said...

Nice review!
BTW, you forgot KLinkStatus from kdewebdev ;)

MrCopilot said...

@ Rey - The point of porting is to get these apps in front of windows users, when they make the switch they will be comfortable in Linux. OpenOffice, Firefox and others help ease the transition.

@Mojo - I left out a few apps KBugbuster, KTeaTime, Kuiviewer and a host of development tools that came with the full install. Klinkstatus however did not, at least with 0.8.6 installer.

CRT said...

I'm using Linux since 2003 as my primary desktop OS on my notebook.

Unfortunately, Windows is still superior to Linux in the following areas:
* The battery lasts longer.
* The Notebook is quieter.
* No problems with beamers etc.
* Dual head works as expected.
* Hot docking/undocking works (on Linux it works... SOMETIMES).
* Faster suspend to RAM and unsuspend.
* Better hardware control (for ex. on Windows I can turn on/off my cdrom on demand to save power)

So KDE on Windows would be cool! Windows is the better "kernel" for my notebook. Perhaps it is possible to use the same config files on Windows and Linux (like Thunderbird for example). Then, I could use Windows on the road (to have the better hardware support) and Linux at home (docked in desktop mode).

Anonymous said...

Hi, I ran the installer and it seemed to run ok but i dont appear to have update-mime-database executeable. Also amarok and kate error saying missing libanalyzer.dll. Can you help?

MrCopilot said...

please report bugs to kde-windows@kde.org

They are more than happy to help out, I have yet to try the newest version with amarok. but here is
their page.

Post any questions in the comments section.

skierpage said...

Latest 4.00.80 KDE has more fixes, KHelpCenter, and Amarok is an installable package. Still no kdegraphics or KOffice. Get the latest installer (0.9.0-1 or higher) and install the updated packages.

Michael Hurley said...

"Try Vista, it is honestly the most stable release yet. If you disagree, you have no used it."

Had to respond to this...

I currently am using vista...
I am dying to switch to ubuntu and have tried to do so but my preference of graphical applications are not yet supported by linux or wine.

My problem with this post is this:
My config:
Vista Ultimate x86
gateway gt5260
4gb of ram
nvidia 9600gt
intel core 2 duo
and 2tb of storage
250 gb of which is separately partitioned and dedicated to virtual memory.

I have visual effects set to adjust for best performance.

ie7 crashes constantly
windows explorer (the basis of the gui and most native app) has to restart approximately 4 times a day.

I don't use any hacked 3rd party apps, or any that manipulate windows system files, in fact the only apps I have installed are Office '07(mistake), firefox, adobe cs3 web premium, and adobe after affects.

If my Windows Experience Index is 5.6

Why is it than that my younger brother mark can start his machine at the same time as i start mine and when i'm just seeing the login screen he's already checked his email, myspace, and is halfway done watching some crazy prank on you tube.

I would switch to apple if I hadn't already spent close to $6k on hardware and software assuming windows was going to be stable this time, I guess it's my fault really I should have listened to that smart ass who once said, "(ass)-(you)-(me)-(ng) Makes an ass out of you and me"

Thank you
-Michael Hurley
-Web Developer
~Studio12Designs

Anonymous said...

Have you tried a virtual machine in Windows containing your preferred linux distro?

MIke said...

Dying? Are you serious? Have you been living under a rock? KDE4 is a pile of garbage, is the worst that ever happened to Linux.

Amrit Ray said...

Is KDE a new Linux operating system?
Web Designer Web Hosting

Anonymous said...

no it´s a desktop environment

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