Sometimes, stuff just works without getting into kinks. That’s how I would like to describe the June release of Plasma5 for Slackware, KDE-5_19.06.
I built new Plasma5 packages in less than two days. I did not run into build issues, there was no need for a bug hunt. The Ryzen compiled and compiled, and then the power went out in the building today… but still, moments ago I uploaded KDE-5_19.06 to my ‘ktown‘ repository. As always, these packages are meant to be installed on a full installation of Slackware-current which has had its KDE4 removed first. These packages will not work on Slackware 14.2.
Plasma 5.16.0 is the start of a new development cycle for the Desktop part of KDE. See https://www.kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.16.0.php. In creating the 5.16 release, the focus has been to make Plasma smoother, as well as more intuitive and consistent to use.
A few highlights: the Networks widget is now faster and more reliable to refresh Wi-Fi networks; the Desktop notification system has been completely rewritten; and there’s initial support for using Wayland with proprietary Nvidia drivers.
Once I upgrade the Qt5 package to 5.13 (not released yet) I want to create a new ‘testing’ repository focusing on Wayland support.
I finished generating ISO images for Slackware Live Edition 126.96.36.199. These ISOs are all based on Slackware-current “Thu Jan 17 04:52:06 UTC 2019” which means it will boot a Linux 4.19.16 kernel.
Available variants are:
Slackware (unaltered complete) in 32bit and 64bit flavors, ~3.5 GB in size
XFCE (minimalistic Slackware) in 32bit and 64bit flavors, ~700 MB in size
MATE (Slackware without KDE4 but with MATE added) is a 64bit ISO of 2.4 GB
PLASMA5 (Slackware without KDE4 but with KDE Plasma5 and a lot of other goodies added) comes in a 64bit flavor at 4.3 GB
The squashfs modules in the XFCE ISOs are compressed with ‘xz’ to keep them as small as possible (so they will fit on a CDROM medium). All of the other ISOs are compressed with ‘zstd’ which gives the Live OS a speed boost of ~20% at the cost of 10% increase in the ISO size.
There’s 15 GB to upload to slackware.nl so it will take a while to get there… even with 3 MB/sec upload speed. Rsync download is possible via rsync://slackware.nl/mirrors/slackware-live/ … you just have to be a wee bit patient.
Here is your monthly refresh for the best Desktop Environment you will find for Linux. I just uploaded “KDE-5_19.01” to the ‘ktown‘ repository. As always, these packages are meant to be installed on a Slackware-current which has had its KDE4 removed first. These packages will not work on Slackware 14.2.
It looks like Slackware is not going to be blessed with Plasma5 any time soon, so I will no longer put an artificial limitation on the dependencies I think are required for a solid Plasma5 desktop experience. If Pat ever decides that Plasma5 has a place in the Slackware distro, he will have to make a judgement call on what KDE functionality can stay and what needs to go.
There’s a new dependency to ‘OpenAL’: ‘SDL_sound’. And I finally decided to add ‘freecell-solver’ in order to be able to compile the KDE ‘kpat’ package. The ‘freecell-solver’ package needs ‘python3-random2’, ‘perl-path-tiny’ and ‘perl-template-toolkit’ to compile, so these were also added as packages.
I added ‘drumstick’ so that I could compile the KDE ‘minuet’ package.
And finally, I upgraded ‘phonon’ and ‘phonon-vlc’ and rebuilt ‘phonon-gstreamer’.
There was no August release of a Plasma5 Live ISO as you will probably have noticed. The reason was that around the time when I released the August update of Plasma5 for Slackware, I was working on new liveslak functionality and wanted to finish that before releasing new ISOs. The testing took some more time than I anticipated due to increased work load in my day job. But I finished what I wanted to have in a new liveslak release, and today I want to write a post about the new stuff.
Slackware with Plasma 5 instead of KDE4 (64bit) to showcase the KDE Plasma 5_18.09 desktop. This ISO also contains Calibre 3.30.0, Chromium 69, LibreOffice 6.1.0, and VLC 3.0.4 among many others.
The new liveslak version 1.3.0 has several memorable updates:
Support for a new compression tool ‘zstd’ that will increase the speed of extracting squashfs modules greatly (and ‘paying’ for the increased decompression speed with an increase of compressed size with around 10%). The “make_slackware_live.sh” script was enhanced with a new commandline parameter “-c” with which you can indicate a non-default compressor (xz being the default and zstd, gzip, lzo as the alternatives).
Raw decompression speed is up to 5 times faster using zstd compared with an xz-compressed squashfs modules, but due to the nature of the storage medium, OS kernel and program execution times, the observed speed gains for the actual Slackware Live Edition vary from 20% to 80%. Largest speed gains are found when you boot a Live ISO in a virtual machine; the smallest speed gains will be found when you boot Slackware Live from a USB medium where the medium’s read speed is the limiting factor.
During ISO creation you can now specify your own custom default country/language. The script default is still “us” but you can select any of the other languages that are supported on boot, for instance to have a Live OS that boots into German localization and language settings without any input.
A new commandline parameter “-l” to the “make_slackware_live.sh” script enables you to specify the ISO default language.
Due to changes in package lists (mostly adding new packages introduced in slackware-current) make it hard to keep the XFCE ISO below 700 MB. That was not different this time. Continuous pruning in the filesystem is unavoidable. But I think I have reached the limit of what I can cut away in relation to unneeded libraries and stuff. The ever growing footprint of Slackware-current’s applications demands that eventually I may have to start removing complete packages from the XFCE live ISO. Any thoughts as to what you find least relevant in a small ISO? Is it the GCC compiler? Is it the Asian TrueType fonts? Is it Firefox, ImageMagick, …? To me all of those are equally important and yet I may have to decide on their removal eventually.
Compression of the ISOs
I have used ‘zstd’ compression for the SLACKWARE, PLASMA5, MATE ISO images. You will notice substantially reduced boot-up times.
The XFCE images are still compressed with ‘xz’ but as a curious test, I have re-compressed the “min” module of the 64bit XFCE ISO with zstd. That increased its size with 21 MB but it’s still below CDROM size. There is a noticeable speed increase even by just using zstd on the “min” module – I get a 10% faster bootup of the XFCE Live OS in a virtual machine.
In order to keep the PLASMA5 ISO fitting on a DVD, I had to take the multilib module out. If you need multilib in a Slackware Live Edition and you are running it off a USB stick, you can simply download the module from the ‘bonus‘ directory on the mirrror server, and copy it to the “/liveslak/addons/” directory on the Linux partition of the USB stick so that it will load automatically when the Live OS boots.
The ‘testing’ branch in my ‘kown’ repository is currently identical to the ‘latest’ branch, so there is no Wayland support in it now. For a future ‘testing’ release I’ll most likely re-visit Wayland but I want Patrick to add Plasma 5 to Slackware first so I can do my own stuff in just the ‘latest’ branch again and use ‘testing’ for actual tests.
Where to get the ISOs
Some download locations (mirrors may need 24 hours to catch up) for the Live ISOs are:
The ISO images which I created with zstd compression are all using Slackware-current. Because zstd support for squashfs was added to the Linux 4.14 kernel and Slackware is using these kernels. no modifications were required for the Live ISOs to work with this new compression type. A package for ‘zstd’ or a recompilation of ‘squashfs-tools’ to add zstd support is only needed when creating the ISO. When the Live OS boots, the Linux kernel takes care of the compressed squashfs filesystem transparently.
In order to extract data from a zstd-compressed squashfs module you will of course need a squashfs-tools package with support for zstd. Therefore I have both a ‘zstd‘ and a ‘squashfs-tools‘ package for Slackware-current in my repository. I am not providing these for Slackware 14.2 because its older kernel (4.4.x) is not supporting zstd anyway.
Refreshing your USB stick instead of re-formatting
If you already use a Slackware Live USB stick that you do not want to re-format, you should use the “-r” parameter to the “iso2usb.sh” script. The “-r” or refresh parameter allows you to refresh the liveslak files on your USB stick without touching your custom content. If you want to modify other parameters of your USB stick, use the script “upslak.sh“. It’s main feature is that it can update the kernel on the USB stick, but it also can replace the Live init script. As with most (if not all) of my scripts, use the “-h” parameter to get help on its functionality.
Historical info on liveslak
More detail about the features of Slackware Live Edition can be found in previous posts here on the blog.
Last week, Slackware-current updated its poppler package . The ‘ktown’ repository for Plasma5 contains a custom built ‘poppler’ package, one that includes Qt5 support. That means that the ‘ktown’ version needs to be kept in sync with the Slackware version to prevent breakage in your Slackware installation. Therefore I recompiled my ‘poppler’ and at the same time, I used the opportunity to grab all the latest sources from the KDE download server and built a whole new and fresh Plasma5 experience for Slackware.
Important to know is that I have bridged the ‘latest’ repository to the ‘testing’ repository. Meaning: I have said goodbye to the LTS (Long Term Support) versions of Qt5 (5.9.6) and Plasma (5.12) and will focus again on the bleeding edge of KDE’s development.
I did this after talking to Patrick to see what his ideas are about Plasma5 and whether he would adopt LTS releases of the software, or perhaps stick with the latest and greatest. Based on discussions in the LinuxQuestions.org forum it was clear that the latest Qt (5.11) combined with the latest Plasma Desktop (5.13) gets rid of bugs that have been annoying Slackware users who have been installing my ‘ktown’ packages. So that settled it, and the difference between ‘latest’ and ‘testing’ is gone again. In future I will probably use the ‘testing’ repository to test Wayland usability in Slackware, like I did in the past. For that reason, it’s best if you point your package manager (slackpkg+ comes to mind) to the ‘latest‘ URL instead of using the ‘testing‘ URL.
If you had not yet installed the Plasma 5.13 from my ‘testing’ repository then you will see a fresh new Plasma Desktop with a lot of visual and under-the-hood changes. Read more about those in the official releasenotes. Highlights:
browser integration: you need to install a browser extension from the respective browser web store, and then your Firefox, Chrome or Chromium will be tighter integrated into the desktop. Plasma media playback controls will operate on browser tabs; etcetera.
re-designed System Settings
re-designed login and lock screens
fall-back to software rendering if the OpenGL drivers fail
plugging in a new monitor will cause a configuration window to popup
Apart from the new Plasma 5.13.3, the other updated components are Frameworks 5.48.0 and Applications 18.04.3. There’s also some updates in the ‘extras’ section for Applications: I rebuilt ‘calligra’ and ‘kile’ because of the newer poppler library incompatibility and updated ‘krita’ and ‘okteta’ to their latest versions.
Go get it
The KDE-5_18.07 is running smooth & stable here on the Lenovo T460 laptop, and I am interested to hear about your experiences. As always, the README file in the root of the repository will tell you all you need to know about installation or upgrade.
I have updated the ‘qt5’ package in my regular repository to 5.11.1 as well, to prevent surprises when you upgrade to the latest ‘ktown’ but stick with qt5-5.9 by accident, like I did today. That was a bit scary for a moment, seeing the new Desktop Environment break inexplicably on the laptop (I had already tested all of it in a virtual machine).
A new Plasma Live ISO is currently being generated, based on the latest slackware-current with kernel 4.14.59. I hope to upload that one later today so that you can check out the new Plasma Desktop without having to install it to your computer.
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