Posted by: reformedmusings | May 6, 2012

Tweaking the KDE 4.8.2 desktop on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise

I posted here about exploring a KDE desktop installed on top of an Ubuntu MinimalCD 12.04 LTS Precise installation. That worked out pretty well. So well, in fact, that I’ve been playing with that virtual machine today. If I get something that I like better than Unity, then KDE here I come.

KDE is pretty flexible in setting up its panels, which can be maximized across the screen or grow as needed like a nice dock. That latter capability works great, but not all widgets handle it well.

I started by creating another panel at the top of the screen to hold the yaWP Weather widget, hardware temperature, and network activity widgets. That freed up the task manager space on the bottom panel so that it doesn’t get too cluttered by running apps.  But then I found the icon-only task manager widget which is exactly what the doctor ordered. Not only that, but it will keep icons in the widget even when they aren’t running. When you execute such an icon, it jumps to the right to the active task management area. Pretty cool. Not as slick as the AWN or Unity displays which differentiate between active and inactive launch icons, but probably good enough for now.

After setting up the bottom panel with the icon-only task manager, yaWP, etc., widgets, I had pretty slick dock that would even dodge active windows! Ah, but there was trouble awaiting in paradise. It turns out that icon-only task manager apparently calculates its available space for icons based on current panel dimensions allocated to it. It doesn’t seem to know about self-expanding panels. AWN handled this by implementing scrolling in the launcher widget. I’ve been playing with the settings, but haven’t found a solution yet. So, back to a maximized bottom panel for now.

So now, the desktop itself is clean except for the moon status and all my other widgets fit easily on the panel. That’s a rough approximation of my previous AWN setup. Here’s what I have so far:

Current KDE desktop with useful widgets all on the panel except the moon (because it looks great where it is)

KDE 4.8.2 has come a long way since 4.0. I’m not married to any desktop, but KDE is so much more configurable than Unity or Gnome 3. Plus, I like most of the KDE utilities better than the Gnome ones, especially Krusader, and my mainstays of Firefox, Thunderbird, and Moneydance don’t care which desktop they run on. My favorite Gnome panel app, Hardware Sensors Indicator, apparently isn’t being updated for Precise.

I’m also thinking that it may be easier to install Kubuntu 12.04 and cull the chaff from it rather than go the MinimumCD route. Haven’t decided yet. Another alternative is to install KDE-desktop into my Unity setup, then uninstall Unity, compiz, and the Gnome stuff. That would prevent me from having to do a fresh install and taking days and days to regain my current capability.  I think, though, that the individual distributions know what they are and won’t let you cross-update the next revision. For this example, installing Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, then installing KDE-full and removing all the Unity/compiz/Gnome stuff would probably still garner a Unity update to 12.10.  More research required.

I’m off to play with my Kubuntu 12.04 LTS virtual machine and compare it with my new KDE benchmark VM.

The little grey cells are smokin’!

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