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I am Eric Hameleers, and this is where I think out loud.
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November 2014
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First preview for Slackware of Plasma 5

qt-kde-620x350Today is my son’s 16th birthday, and I do have a gift for all of you, not just for him. I present to you a first preview for Slackware, of the KDE Frameworks 5.1.0 libraries, combined with Plasma 5.0.1, the next-generation desktop workspace from KDE.

I wrote about this in my previous post, but now you can experience it first-hand: Plasma 5.0 improves support for high-DPI displays and comes with a “converged shell”, i.e. one Plasma codebase for different target devices like desktop computers, laptops, tablet, phones etc. Plasma 5 uses a new fully hardware-accelerated OpenGL(ES) graphics stack. Plasma 5 is built using Qt 5 and Frameworks 5.

And with the Breeze themed artwork and its own Oxygen font, this desktop looks clean and modern.

If you want to start an application quickly, use the new KRunner (usually hidden behind Alt-F2) which will now be activated directly when you start typing when your desktop has the focus.

 What to expect from these Slackware packages

I think it worked out very well that I waited with my packages until after the first bugfix release of both the Frameworks libraries and the Plasma programs. The latest sources provide a much stabler desktop with more functionality. Still, we are only at the beginning of KDE 5 (or whatever the name for the software compilation will end up being). KDE 4 will be here for a while and developers are busy porting their applications away from Qt4 and kdelibs, to the new Frameworks libraries based on Qt5 and QML. Give it a year to mature and then we will be able to leave KDE 4 behind, is my guess.

These new packages are only going to be useful if installed on top of Slackware -current and my KDE 4.13 packages (plus dependencies). KDE 5 is still very much  a work in progress and needs the KDE4 applications and artwork to provide you with a fully functional desktop.

Testing Repository URL

I created a repository URL that you can use for slackpkg+ or slapt-get or whatever package manager you use.

The URL (for 64-bit) and (for 32-bit) will remain permanent, even when the versions of the software gets updated. Currently “testing” points to “5.0.1″ in the repository because that is the current version of Plasma 5.

Enabling SDDM in runlevel 4 instead of KDM

Runlevel 4

If you want to see the new graphical session (login) manager SDDM in action, add the following lines to the Slackware file “/etc/rc.d/rc.4” right after the line: echo “Starting up X11 session manager…”

# — 8< ————————————–
if [ -x /usr/bin/sddm ]; then
exec /usr/bin/sddm
# — 8< ————————————–

… and then switch to runlevel 4 by typing:

# init 4

Select “KDE Plasma 5” from the SDDM session dropdown. Alternatively, if you prefer good old runlevel 3, you can type:

$ xwmconfig

… and select “xinitrc.plasma” as your default window manager for X11. Then run:

$ startx

To enter your desktop session.

Installing or upgrading Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5

As always, the accompanying README file contains full installation & upgrade instructions. Note that the packages are available in three subdirectories below “kde”, instead of directly in “kde”. This makes it easier for me to do partial updates of packages. The subdirectories are “frameworks” “plasma” and “plasma-extra”.

Note that the new Plasma5 packages do not upgrade any package from my KDE 4.13 set, although they will upgrade several Slackware original packages. Be careful when upgrading Slackware packages afterwards. Slackpkg+ will help you, if you add the above repository URL to the slackpkgplus.conf file and give these packages higher priority than the Slackware originals.

If you decide to remove the Plasma 5 packages but not KDE 4.13 (or whatever latest version of KDE I have in my ktown repository), be sure to re-install two packages at least: akonadi from my ktown repository and harfbuzz from the Slackware-current repository.

Separated configuration files

I have taken great care to ensure that the configurations for the new KDE5 are not overwriting your old configuration files for KDE4. New configurations will be written to ~/.local5 , ~/.cache5 , ~/.config5 and ~/.kde5 . That way, you should be able to go back to your stable KDE4 desktop without ill effects after having played with KDE5.

One “issue” you will notice, is that some non-KDE applications will forget their configuration and will start as if you are using them for the first time. Chrome/Chromium is such an example. If you want to use the old configuration in Plasma 5 as well, simply create a symlink, This is how I did it for my Chromium after I found out (first remove the new chromium directory that was created by starting Chromium in Plasma 5):

$ rm -r ~/.config5/chromium
$  ln -s ../.config/chromium ~/.config5/

Where to get the new packages for Plasma 5

Download locations are listed below (you will find the sources in ./source/5.0.1/ and packages in /current/5.0.1/ subdirectories). Using a mirror is preferred because you get more bandwidth from a mirror and it’s friendlier to the owners of the master server!

Known issues

The “known issues” section ends this article, and I will keep it updated with the feedback I receive in the comments section below, direct email,, Google+ etc. Be sure to visit here regularly! For the first batch, I simply used the information that Willy had already gathered on his own blog:

  •  When you switch back to KDE 4, in some cases, all the icons in the Applications tab in the KDE  Menu will change to a blue folder icon.
    • Solution: reinstall KDE 4.13.3 packages, log out and login again. That will fix it.
  • Adding a new entry to the KDE Menu using the Menu Editor sometimes does not seem to work.
    • Solution: Logout/login and the changes you made will appear. This happened to me and Willy -but only the first time we tried it. After that first time, all seems to work normally.
  • HPlip shows an error message about not finding a system tray area. The reason is because the Plasma 5 workspace does not implement the X11 “Xembed” protocol. The system tray area works differently now. Not just HPlip, but all other applications that are not part of  Plasma  5, will have this issue, but only HPlip shows an error. You will not see any icons for Dropbox, SCIM etc… as they don’t have a place to dock.
    • Solution: There is a short-term solution which is not elegant, but it gives you back your old systray ocins. Use third-party Xembed system tray implementations like stalonetray or wmsystemtray . I have stalonetray in my own repository, and both are also available at SBo.
  • There are now two SystemSettings programs. One is part of Plasma 5 and the other is the one from KDE 4. The Plasma 5 version is found in the “Favorites” tab of the K-Menu, while the one from KDE 4 (which is more complete) is available in the menu as “Applications > Settings > System Settings“. The Plasma 5 version is not yet feature-complete.
  • Certain conditions may crash your Plasma Shell. E.g. typing in the  Search field in the K-Menu “Favorites” tab and then removing that text will crash plasmashell (your desktop goes black), fortunately it will restart automatically.
  • KRunner (Alt-F2) will not save your command history.
  • Public holidays are not yet shown in the System Tray clock. See this URL for more information.
  • Resource usage of this new desktop is currently rather high due to a design limitations in KWin, The cause is known and this will be fixed in future releases.
  • In some cases, if your desktop becomes unresponsive, you might want to take a look at “top”. You may find that kded5 runs at 100%, eating all CPU resources available.
    • Solution: Killing the kded5 process or logout/login will fix this.
  • The updated harfbuzz package breaks the library’s ABI. As a result, LibreOffice 4.3.0 will no longer work (error looks like “symbol lookup error: undefined symbol: hb_icu_script_to_script“).
    • Solution: Downgrading to the original Slackware harfbuzz package solves it, which is a pity because I thought I had taken care of the ABI breakage by applying a patch which re-adds that missing symbol.
  • The hardware keys for altering volume and mute do not work on a global level. They seem to work for some applications – VLC is one of them. Sound is working fine though.

Have fun! Eric

KDE Frameworks 5.1.0 and Plasma 5.0.1 on the horizon

kf5_startup A week ago, the sources to KDE Frameworks 5.1.0 were released and together with Willy Sudiarto Raharjo we did some private beta testing of the packages I created from those sources.

A couple of hours ago I received word that the sources for KDE Plasma 5.0.1 were tagged, but unfortunately some of the tarballs were not generated properly so I have to wait until after the weekend so the release team can fix them.

It is my intention to release a set of packages for Frameworks 5.1.0 and Plasma 5.0.1 when the Plasma sources are publicly announced. Please note that this is still very much an early-adopter experience. Do not expect to find a 100% functional desktop after installing the packages. The Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5 packages should be installed on top of a KDE 4.13.3 installation on Slackware-current (no KDE 4 packages will be replaced) and I have taken great care to keep KDE 4 and KDE 5 separate, down to to the level of configuration files.

This means that you should be able to try out SDDM (the replacement of the KDM graphical session manager) and the new Plasma-shell and KWin and get a hang of what is all to come next year. If you’re done play-testing or want to get rid of it, it will be as easy as removeing the KDE 5 packages and you’ll be back in your KDE 4 desktop.

You don’t have to remove the KDE 5 packages in order to get logged into your familiar KDE 4 desktop by the way – just choose the appropriate Desktop Environment. As I said, the two environments don’t bite.

One thing you will notice, is how fast the new desktop is. The Plasma Desktop in KDE 5 uses an all-new, fully hardware-accelerated graphics stack on top of Qt5 and the Frameworks5 libraries, and the effect is amazing. Resource usage is still high but the reason for that is known: it is caused by a design issue in KWin and that is currently being worked on.

KDE 5 has been my default desktop for the past week (using Plasma 5.0.0 package), and I hope that the update to Plasma 5.0.1 will fix a couple of pesky bugs.

Wait for my packages, they should be available before the next weekend – I hope.


LibreOffice moves up to 4.3 – today, you can’t own a better Office Suite

Two versions of LibreOffice were released in quick succession. You’ll find the latest iteration of the successful 4.2 series announced here, but slightly ahead of that 4.2.6 release, there was also the bump to a new development cycle. I was on a field trip to the US at the time of the 4.3.0 release announcement and was unable to devote time to updating the SlackBuild script and provide packages earlier than today.

The 4.3.0 announcement claims that the new release comes with “a large number of improvements and new features, including: Document interoperability, Comment management and intuitive spreadsheet handling“.

What’s new in LibreOffice?

Here is some more detail about these three major improvements in 4.3.0:

  • Document interoperability: support of OOXML Strict, OOXML graphics improvements (DrawingML, theme fonts, preservation of drawing styles and attributes), embedding OOXML files inside another OOXML file, support of 30 new Excel formulas, support of MS Works spreadsheets and databases, and Mac legacy file formats such as ClarisWorks, ClarisResolve, MacWorks, SuperPaint, and more.
  • Comment management: comments can now be printed in the document margin, formatted in a better way, and imported and exported – including nested comments – in ODF, DOC, OOXML and RTF documents, for improved productivity and better collaboration.
  • Intuitive spreadsheet handling: Calc now allows the performing of several tasks more intuitively, thanks to the smarter highlighting of formulas in cells, the display of the number of selected rows and columns in the status bar, the ability to start editing a cell with the content of the cell above it, and being able to fully select text conversion models by the user.

Equally interesting news is that the developers state the following about the first 4.3 version even though this is a milestone release: LibreOffice “has reached a point of maturity that makes it suitable for every kind of deployment, if backed by value added services by the growing LibreOffice ecosystem“. This is a claim which would be made in the past only after several bug fix iterations had seen the light. To stress this point, the announcement informs us that “the quality of LibreOffice source code has improved dramatically during the last two years, with a reduction of the defect density per 1,000 lines of code from an above the average 1.11 to an industry leading 0.08“. Impressive maturing of a complex piece of software, which tells something about the dedication with which the developer community works on LibreOffice!

If you want to read more about all the new stuff in LibreOffice 4.3.0 there’s also the release notes. Lots of information there!

Note that I upgraded the LibreOffice packages in my Slackware 14.1/current repository from 4.2.5 to 4.3.0, which means that currently there is no 4.2 version to be found anymore (I offer LibreOffice 4.1.6 in the Slackware 14.0 repository). I am assuming that there are no major regressions in the 4.3.0 release but in the case where LibreOffice 4.3.0 proves unworkable, let me know and we’ll work something out with regard to availability of the old 4.2.5 packages. I added a build script for LibreOffice 4.2.6 in the sources directory, in case you want to try building 4.2.6 yourself.

Font compatibility:

With regard to MS Office compatibility, I have another remark. In the 4.2 releases I added copies of two open source TrueType fonts which are metric-compatible with two popular Microsoft fonts. Having these fonts available to LibreOffice means that the layout of MS Office documents when you open them in LibreOffice will be unaltered because the replacement fonts (Carlito for MS Calibri and Caladea for MS Cambria) have the same font metrics as the Microsoft ones. When updating the libreoffice.SlackBuild script I decided that I would rather have these two fonts available to the whole system, not just to LibreOffice. Therefore I created two separate packages for these fonts, and if you do not yet have the (non-free) Microsoft web core fonts installed I advise you strongly to install the open source Carlito and Caladea font packages.

Package availability:

LibreOffice 4.3.0 packages for Slackware 14.1 and -current are ready for download from the usual mirror locations:

A note about KDE integration:

If you are on KDE and simply “upgradepkg” the libreoffice packages, your application may suddenly look very out of style, having switched to a GTK look & feel. All you need to do is “installpkg” the new libreoffice-kde-integration package (I split the KDE support out of the big LO package and into its own separate package for LO 4.2.3, so it’s possible that you already have it).


VLC, the VideoLAN player, in version 2.1.5

largeVLCThe VideoLAN team released version 2.1.5 of their VLC player a while ago. The development of this versatile multimedia player has slowed down quite a bit as the team seems to have more focus on improving the OSX and Android versions (the previous release for Linux was almost half a year ago) so I was not really in a hurry to provide new packages.

The new 2.1.5 version is another maintenance release, mostly “fixes a few decoding bugs, on MP3, MKV” and the remaining changes are not relevant for our Linux based player.

Where to find the new VLC packages:

Rsync access is offered by the mirror server: rsync:// .

For BluRay support, read a previous article for hints about the aacs keys that you’ll need.

Note that I only built packages for Slackware 14.1 & -current. I stopped creating packages for Slackware 14.0 and earlier because of the effort it takes to build 4 packages for every Slackware release.

My usual warning about patents: versions that can not only DEcode but also ENcode mp3 and aac audio can be found in my alternative repository where I keep the packages containing code that might violate stupid US software patents.


New KDE: 4.13.3

The weekend in San Diego was a good time to get rested from my training activities (training a new helpdesk team here) and prepare Slackware packages for KDE’s monthly maintenance release 4.13.3. These packages were built for Slackware -current and have not been tested to work properly on Slackware 14.1. YMMV

I hope that this final 4.13 release will work its way into Slackware-current. After the recent kernel updates in -current and other stability updates and functional enhancements, today saw an awesome upgrade of X.Org and the stage is now set for an upgrade from the rather stale KDE 4.10 to a new super stable and feature-rich KDE 4.13!

Then I can finally move to working on a package set for Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5, both of which got released after I started my US trip (Plasma 5 was released earlier today). The evenings in my hotel give me little opportunity to do the required testing/rebuilding/retesting. And yes, getting loaded with two pints of Stone IPA, the local alcoholic beverage, causes the brain to wander off .-)

News for all you conservative types: when moving to KDE 4.14 in august, I will build a set of KDE 4.13 packages for Slackware 14.1 to please those who prefer a stable Slackware and have no desire to run -current.

What’s new in KDE 4.13.3 ?

This is another maintenance release, so it’s targeting more stability and fixing bugs. The packages I upgraded next to KDE 4.13.3 are kdeconnect-kde (even more cool things to do with your Android phone) and the Calligra office suite (upgraded to the very latest version 2.8.5). Search my older posts on KDE 4.13 if you want to know more about what the highlights of this release cycle are.

How to upgrade to KDE 4.13.3 ?

You will find all the installation/upgrade instructions that you need in the accompanying README file. That README also contains basic information for KDE recompilation using the provided SlackBuild script.

You are strongly advised to read and follow these installation/upgrade instructions!

Where to find packages for KDE 4.13.3 ?

Download locations are listed below (you will find the sources in ./source/4.13.3/ and packages in /current/4.13.2/ subdirectories). Using a mirror is preferred because you get more bandwidth from a mirror and it’s friendlier to the owners of the master server!

Have fun! Eric