Plasma 5 Desktop on FreeBSD Branding

The FreeBSD packages of KDE software — the KDE 4 desktop, and soon KDE Frameworks 5 and Plasma 5 Desktop and KDE Applications — have traditionally been shipped pretty much as delivered from the upstream source. We compile, we package, and there is very little customization we do as a “distro”. The KDE 4 packages came with a default wallpaper that was a smidgen different from the one shipped with several Linux distro’s. I think Ivan Cukic did that artwork originally. For Plasma 5 Desktop, we also wanted to do a tiny bit of branding — just the default wallpaper for new users, mind.

Thanks to the tremendously helpful Plasma crew who answered my questions about setting a default wallpaper by producing the necessary files on the spot. After a tiny amount of massaging, I’ve now got a package that does the FreeBSD branding of the Plasma 5 Desktop for us. Of course we retain the upstream settings and wallpapers too.

Also great thanks to Timothee Giet, for producing the image (based on his Flying Konqui) that we’re now going to use as the default wallpaper — Konqui flying on BSD, that’s just what we want, after all.

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A bit on Tooling

Last weekend, I finished the construction part of my garden shed. The last bit mostly playing with the circular saw, taking rough boards and making them square, then angling them so that they would fit under the roof. It took a couple of hours, but I ended up filling the 3m-by-65cm gable with vertical planking, quite neatly. At the beginning of this year, I wouldn’t pick up a circular saw — power tools, scary. So I planned building a shed to force myself to learn something about carpentry. The next-door neighbour is a handyman, so we worked together and basically he taught me how to use the tools and get things done. (The Czech animation series “Pat a Mat” is popular in the Netherlands as “Buurman en Buurman“, and we style ourselves thus).

Anyway, I think my point is that learning to use the tools is half the battle.

So on the weekend I also worked on updating Qt 5.6.1 to Qt 5.6.2 on FreeBSD, which involves using new and scary tools as well. Power tools, they can be really useful, or they can take off a finger if you’re not careful. In this case it was Phabricator, which is also used in KDE — but not everywhere in KDE. For FreeBSD, the tool is used to review updates to ports (the packaging instructions), so I did an update of Qt from 5.6.1 to 5.6.2 and we handled the review through FreeBSD’s Phab. The ports infrastructure is stored in SVN, so the review is relatively straightforward: update the ports-tree checkout, apply your changes, use arc to create or update a review request. I was amazed by how painless it was — somehow I’d been frightened. Using the tool once, properly, makes a big difference in self-confidence.

At this point, the tooling no longer stands in my way, and we can expect to have KDE-FreeBSD updates rolling out a little faster (until we’re caught up, finally). Current status is: Qt 5.6.2 is in exp-run (last stage before committing), KDE 4 infrastructure has landed, KF5 is being prepared for review by Tobias, and the plasma5/ branch of area51 contains the latest bits of everything released by the KDE community that we can port.

Posted in Bla Bla, FreeBSD, KDE | 1 Comment

Qt 5.6.2 on FreeBSD

Qt 5.6.2 was released today, the second patch release to the LTS (long-term support) Qt 5.6 release. Tobias had done prep-work by writing the FreeBSD ports for the last snapshot; I accidentally nuked that this morning, but now this afternoon I’ve restored Qt 5.6.2 final to the area51 unofficial ports tree. Since this is a patch-release, I’ll PR it shortly and then we can expect it to end up in official FreeBSD ports shortly.

One little blurb from the release-blog:

Qt 5.6.2 is well suited for users that can not upgrade to a later version of Qt, for example due to dependency to C++98 compiler.

In our (FreeBSD) case, what’s blocking is Qt 5.7 and WebEngine, which remains a big pain in the butt to get working at all (because its upstream doesn’t care about all the platforms that Qt cares about, or that KDE cares about, or that I care about — in decreasing size of audience, I think). How big a pain in the butt? Well, I’ve heard of efforts to update WebKit (not only in BSD-land, mind) and even efforts to port current KDE PIM back to an updated WebKit, thus dropping the WebEngine dependency introduced there. I imagine — or hope — that the pain in the butt of doing that is smaller than the pain of massaging WebEngine into shape. Basic economics — reduction of pain in the butt. I have no idea what’s happening there long-term. Suffice to say that for now, Qt 5.6 is where it’s at on FreeBSD.

KDE Frameworks 5 is lined up for use; there’s a big change in KDE ports infrastructure on FreeBSD going down, which will make it easier for us to keep KDE4 and KDE Frameworks, Plasma and Applications running side-by-side for now, and will help ease the porting maintainence burden. That big change has reached the last stage: an exp-run, which rebuilds everything on every version on every architecture. Once the fallout from that is cleared, KDE Frameworks 5.27 is ready for landing.

Posted in FreeBSD, KDE | 2 Comments

KDE Frameworks 5.27.0 on FreeBSD

The latest KDE Frameworks release — this month is 5.27 — is available in the unofficial KDE-FreeBSD ports repository, area51. Users of the plasma5/ branch in that repository can update as usual. or from the bleeding-edge packages provided by the KDE-FreeBSD team.

The state of those ports with respect to the official ports tree is unchanged: we’re working on getting the infrastructure updates needed to subsequently push KDE Frameworks into official ports (just Frameworks, initially, not Plasma or newer applications) and that’s a long-ish process.

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KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS on FreeBSD

There’s an LTS (long-term support) release of KDE Plasma 5 available now. The dot story is quite extensive. The FreeBSD ports for this LTS release can be found in area51 (as usual) in the plasma5 branch (as is the norm as long as we’re not done settling other KDE foundations in official ports).

There are also packages available, although those are obviously not sourced from the official FreeBSD package servers but from the KDE-FreeBSD team’s servers. Ask in #kde-freebsd on freenode if you need instructions for adding that repository server.

While the upstream release is an LTS one, we (as in the KDE-FreeBSD team) have not thought about how this translates to FreeBSD ports. The official ports tree doesn’t really support LTS-type releases without forking the tree. What might happen is that we branch off in area51 and keep that around — then users specifically interested in the LTS aspect can merge that with their ports tree. Then again, it might not: we don’t have a lot of energy left over to spend on even more branches.

So where are we regarding the rest of the KDE ports (modernizing KDE4, adding KDE Frameworks 5, etc.)? Well, there’s a Phab review going on to adjust the infrastructure to make the KDE ports more flexible; that is a prerequisite for pushing in the rest. However, once it’s in then we have area51 trunk lined up to add KDE Frameworks 5 ports. Since those are new ports, it’s a lot more straightforward than adjusting infrastructure that a lot of ports depend on.

Answer: slowly getting there.

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Akademy: the technical bits

Agh, when I wrote about the social bits of Akademy in Berlin, I intended to follow it up closely with a post on the more technical things I did at the conference. Sadly, that escaped my grasp and much has slipped my mind, too. There was GPG keysigning, and I finally wrestled gpg into shape on FreeBSD at home to be able to use my new keys (when it works, it’s fine, when it doesn’t, the error messages are maddeningly meaningless).

There was a great KMail / KDEPIM BoF, which combined a run-through of the options in KMail — led by Dan — to tally which ones made sense in the modern world. It led to two lists, one of “does this work?” and another of “get rid of it.” There was also a regular stream of “can it do that? neat!” KMail is huge, and it has a lot of really neat features that don’t get a lot of promotion. And during the session David piped up with “yup, killed that one” (which was the intended-as-a-demonstration-plugin never-meant-for-release ROT-13 encryption plugin).

There was more technical stuff, packaging, trying to work on CI, but it’s a little hazy by now. I can still recommend the wrap-up page, which also has the videos of each afternoon’s summary session.

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Akademy: the social bits

So far at Akademy and QtCon, I’ve been quiet on the blogging front. That’s mostly because it’s been really really busy from morning to night with technical and social things. Quick recap of the social bits:

  1. Jonathan rented a non-party flat, and having seven (eight?) KDE peeps in a flat is pretty cool. Nicer than hostels and hotels, at any rate.
  2. I’ve written one bedtime story (about Sally the Stegosaurus), but wasn’t really satisfied about the plot.
  3. Helio wants cookies and/or brigadeiro, and I have not yet gotten around to making any.
  4. Scarlett, Hanna and Rohan make the best grocery commando’s a guy could wish for. The resulting rice and veg-curry was most excellent — just a little too hot for Austria. For a lark we also made chocolate-covered pickled piri-piri peppers, but those were a little disappointing.
  5. Chairing sessions means you sometimes hear talks you wouldn’t choose normally, and they can be awesome too. I learned a lot about medical devices, multithreading, PR, KDE Neon, and GIS widgets that I otherwise would have missed.
  6. “Frozen” breakfast cereal with sweetened condensed milk and Nutella is the closest thing you can make to Calvin’s “Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs”
Posted in Bla Bla, KDE | 2 Comments

Going to Akademy



I’m going to Akademy! Akademy 2016, as part of QtCon, that is. I missed last year in A Coruña because it conflicted with my family summer vacation, but this year is just fine (although if I was a university student I’d be annoyed that Akademy was smack-dab in the middle of the first week of classes — you can’t please everyone).

Two purely social things I will be doing are baking cookies and telling stories about dinosaurs. I have a nice long train ride to Berlin to think of those stories. But, as those of you who have been following my BSD posts know, the dinosaurs are not so backwards anymore. Qt 5.6 is doing an exp-run on FreeBSD, so it will be in the tree Real Soon Now ™, and the Frameworks are lined up, etc. etc. For folks following the plasma5 branch in area51 this is all old hat; that tends to follow the release of new KDE software — be it Frameworks, or Plasma, or Applications, or KDevelop — by a few days. The exciting thing is having this all in the official ports tree, which means that it becomes more accessible to downstreams as well.

Er .. yeah, dinosaurs. Technically, I’m looking forward to talking about Qt on BSD and KDE Plasma desktop and other technologies on BSD, and about the long-term effects of this year’s Randa meeting. I have it on good authority that KDE Emerge^WRunda^W KDE Cauldron is being investigated for the BSDs as well.

Posted in Bla Bla, KDE | 1 Comment

Time flies for FBSD updates, too

So it’s been some time since I last wrote something about the KDE-FreeBSD ports. Time flies when you’re having fun (in my case, that means biccling around Zeeland and camping). In the meantime, Ralf has been hammering on the various Qt ports updates that need to be done — official ports are still Qt 5.5.1, but we have 5.6 done and 5.7 on the way. Tobias has been watching over the plasma5 branch of the unofficial ports, so that it’s up-to-date with KDE Frameworks, Plasma and Applications.

The older KDE stuff — that is, KDE4, which is still the current official release for the desktop on FreeBSD — is also maintained, although (obviously) not much changes there. We did run into a neat C++-exceptions bug recently, which was kind of hard to trigger: running k3b (or ksoundconverter and some other similar ones) with a CD that is unknown to MusicBrainz would crash k3b. There’s not that many commercially-available CDs unknown to that database, so I initially brushed off the bug report as Works For Me.

Good thing Methyl Ethel is still relatively obscure (but a nice band to listen to). They trigger the crash, too.

At issue is the visibility of C++ exception symbols; when -fvisibility=hidden is used and C++ exceptions are thrown out of a shared object, then users of that shared object may not catch the exceptions. Making exception classes explicitly visible fixes the problem — which in our case was because libkcddb catches exceptions from MusicBrainz, except when -fvisibility=hidden is used in linking and executable that uses libkcddb and libmusicbrainz5, in which case the exception isn’t caught and ends up crashing the application.

https://gcc.gnu.org/wiki/Visibility has been very useful in sorting this bug out. After Tobias identified the exceptions as the root cause, I played with code across the shared-object-dependency chain until I came up with a patch which I’ve proposed upstream (e.g. libmusicbrainz5) and in the packaging for FreeBSD.

Even older software sometimes shows interesting bugs. And time flies when you’re having fun, but also when tracking down unhandled exceptions.

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Farewell to the Mountains

So the last train has left Randa, and we can look back at a — judging from the bugs that were fixed and the ideas that were traded and the code that was written — successful sprint. The last two days were characterized by the authentic Randa Internet experience, in which a mountain goat eats 18% of the packets, but that doesn’t stop KDE developers from writing code and sharing AppImages.

Peter Simon from AppImage stopped by to give a talk and lend a hand in building AppImages for those that wanted them. Talking with him has clarified a few ideas in my mind about how I’d do something similar in FreeBSD. It’s also clarified the rationale behind these bundling (upstream-) application formats: a <foo> application image is for when you need the latest version of a specific application for a specific purpose, or when you’re testing an application; in both cases you want nothing else to change. These are not my own words: they have been expressed several times on lwn.net recently, and Boud puts it eloquently on his own.

Given that, we can conclude that a given user will have only a few to a dozen <foo> application images in use.

With those assumptions, certain objections to the whole format go away. Not all of them, but enough to make me wonder if something like that could be done for FreeBSD, and if it would make testing easier.

Saturday I played the cook; I have tremendous respect for Hadrien who ran the show the rest of the week by himself (it is a full-time job). Fortunately I had great help in the kitchen: Mario’s parents who helped clean and drove me to the grocery store. Ayrton and Lays who convinced me to make brigadeiro. Grace and Scarlett who minded pans and cut potatoes. Alexander and Pinak who also stirred and scoured. If I’ve forgotten anyone, my apologies: it’s your help that made the community kitchen a success, too.

The following things were developed for saturday dinner: schwytserbrigadeiro, with 85% cocoa Swiss chocolate, doppelgeschnitzelteknoblauchbraten because we had leftover schnitzels and 20 cloves of garlic, and a potato-salami-raclette melt which just melted away in front of the hungry developers.

We also all got Cholera, but that is a local specialty.

Anyway, this puts me in mind that we could possibly do a cooking thing in Berlin at Akademy, if we put our minds (hearts? tongues?) to it.

Here’s a gigantic thank-you to Mario Fux and Randa Meetings e.V. for putting this week together, special thanks to Scarlett and Grace for being there at the right moment, and to all the other participants for making it a great and productive week.

Posted in Bla Bla, KDE | 1 Comment