Technology and Internet

Plasma 5

Upon the release of the new version of Kubuntu, I decided to update my Ubuntu machine and move from the rock solid KDE4 to the new Plasma 5 desktop environment. In this post I do a small overview of my experience with it until now.

I first started with the version 5.2 since it is the one that comes with the default repositories. I spent several days on this release and then moved to the newest 5.3 that was launched roughly around the same time as the new Kubuntu version.

So why I decided to move to Plasma 5? Because it is gorgeous, the new default theme and the overall design is a breath of fresh air, it makes all other DE I’ve used with their default themes feel ugly. Second because it is the future and I like the change in strategy used by the KDE team to split the previous huge monolith into several small libraries that can be used independently. The releases are now also divided into Plasma 5 (de Desktop Environment), KDE Frameworks (those libraries) and KDE Applications.

Plasma 5 is great because it maintains the KDE tradition of giving you a huge amount configuration capabilities, so you can make it work the way you want. It also does not try to enforce a tablet/phone user interface, I’m working on a laptop with keyboard and a track-pad not in a touch device.

These were the things that I liked the most in this new version:

  • The overall new look, including the theme, new icons, splash screen, etc.
  • The new system tray widget. The new aggregation feature is awesome and now includes the clipboard contents.
  • Keyboard backlight controls work great (out of the box) on my machine.

It is new but almost everything works as it should. For sure there are still some missing features and personalization capabilities that were present before and weren’t ported for the new version but nothing that time will not solve.

Even though the experience has been pretty good, there are still some rough edges that need to be addressed and lots of widgets/plasmoids are still missing. For example in the last few days I’ve struggled with two issues and haven’t been able to solve them completely. The first one was described here in the official forum and it seems many people had the same problem, the second one is related to the dark version of the theme that suddenly stopped working, as you can see in the following screenshot:

Breeze theme working as it should
Something is wrong with this Breeze Dark theme

Other thing is that the developer documentation is still in its early days, so, good luck if you want to develop something for this new version.

Summing up, if you are using a UNIX based operating system and like to have bleeding edge software installed, I definitely recommend that you try Plasma 5. You will be surprised with it, but for the time being do not forget to also have other DE installed, in the case you run into some problems, like I did, in moments that you don’t have the time to search for the solution.

Random Bits


Recently I’ve started “folding” again, to give a small contribution to science and research on important topics such as Alzeimer’s disease among others (as the above video shows). After 2 previous failed attempts (the old computer could not handle it), I’m currently on my longest streak and have just completed the first 100 work units. I know that many people would like to contribute to a project like this but simply don’t know of its existence. So sharing is important.

With almost 15 years, the project continues to thrive and the performance of the overall system continues to grow, mostly pushed by the advances of technology, because the participation, as Wikipedia shows, is far from its peak of 450k processors in 2011. During its existence the team responsible for the project was able to publish 118 scientific papers, based on the results obtained by the collaborative work done by all personal computers that joined the network. It is a visible amount of work that is certainly important in humanity’s continuous fight against these diseases.

The project maintains a leaderboard with stats of its users and teams, making it somewhat fun to see your performance and to compare with others (Portuguese fellows come on and join the team). Contributing is relatively easy and cheap, so i challenge you to start. If you have interest to know what kind of work is being done at the moment throughout the network, the project publishes that information in their website.

To make it easier to see your progress without having to open other programs or websites, I’ve made a simple plasmoid to give you that information.

fah-plasmoid screenshot
Screenshot of the current version of fah-plasmoid

So if you are a KDE4 user (one version for Plasma 5 is coming out of the oven soon) you can get it here. It isn’t complete yet, since I’ve done it quickly while learning about KDE development, but it is usable.

Technology and Internet

KDE Connect

The KDE ecosystem is filled with great applications, an awesome DE and great tools to develop computer software. I’ve been a satisfied user for a couple of years and I’m still learning and discovering new features and capabilities of this software collection.

The last one was “KDE Connect“, available since 2013 (I’m late to the party), allows you to pair your Android mobile device with your computer, giving you the ability to do stuff like:

  • Manage and transfer files between both systems in your file manager (ex. Dolphin)
  • Receive the phone notifications on the computer
  • Easy access to the phone information (ex: battery) in a widget
  • Control your computer’s media player through your phone
  • Transform your phone in a touch-pad and keyboard
  • Share the same clipboard

It started as a Google “Summer of Code” project, but the development continued and many more features seem to be planed according to the blog of the developer. The installation was pretty easy and the first synchronization straightforward, but you have to be careful and set your firewall rules accordingly or the devices won’t detect each other.

If you didn’t tried it yet and use KDE, please do. The design of the application is basic but the functionality is great. Here is a little video of the software in action: