Outta the way, KDE4

A comic panel from Mary Worth showing the Central Park Shover

The Central Park shover gives a bad example.

KDE4 has been rudely moved aside on FreeBSD. It still installs (use x11/kde4) and should update without a problem, but this is another step towards adding modern KDE (Plasma 5 and Applications) to the official FreeBSD Ports tree.

This has taken a long time mostly for administrative reasons, getting all the bits lined up so that people sticking with KDE4 (which, right now, would be everyone using KDE from official ports and packages on FreeBSD) don’t end up with a broken desktop. We don’t want that. But now that everything Qt4 and kdelibs4-based has been moved aside by suffixing it with -kde4, we have the unsuffixed names free to indicate the latest-and-greatest from upstream.

KDE4 users will see a lot of packages moving around and being renamed, but no functional changes. Curiously, the KDE4 desktop depends on Qt5 and KDE Frameworks 5 — and it has for quite some time already, because the Oxygen icons are shared with KDE Frameworks, but primarily because FileLight was updated to the modern KDE Applications version some time ago (the KDE4 version had some serious bugs, although I can not remember what they were). Now that the names are cleaned up, we could consider giving KDE4 users the buggy version back.

From here on, we’ve got the following things lined up:

  • Qt 5.10 is being worked on, except for WebEngine (it would slow down an update way too much), because Plasma is going to want Qt 5.10 soon.
  • CMake 3.11 is in the -rc stage, so that is being lined up.
  • The kde5-import branch in KDE-FreeBSD’s copy of the FreeBSD ports tree (e.g. Area51) is being prepped and polished for a few big SVN commits that will add all the new bits.

So we’ve been saying Real Soon Now ™ for years, but things are Realer Sooner Nower ™ now.

(The image is from Mary Worth, november 19th 2013, via Mary Worth and Me; this character is known as the Central Park Shover, and he, um .. shoves people out of the way. The Shover does not manage to steal her purse.)

Event Notes

From a KDE event somewhere in 2017 I found this note in the KDE-booth-crate that I keep at home:

1. thin, sour, 4/10 2. slap in the face, gummi bears, fotlcs 5/10 3. citrussy note 6/10 4. aardberg, smokey x3 8/10 5. nothing happens, competent

I can reconstruct that this particular event had some whiskey, but except for the Ardberg I would have no idea what any of them were. There are no alcoholic notes from FOSDEM, except that we ordered a beer because it was described as “trés désalterante” and we decided after tasting that that was French for “pretty gross”. It certainly quenched our thirst for more.

But if you’re thirsting for more KDE events, there’s the list of KDE Sprints which is where you will find the small, focused, fairly short events for hacking on a well-defined project. Some are open for visitors, and if there’s something you want to hack on with a group of KDE contributors, get organising! (Like, seriously, getting a hacking weekend together is just a few phone calls to reserve a rental house somewhere nice and to arrange for transportation — if you can get the people together, which is usually the biggest problem).

And of course there’s Akademy 2018 in Vienna — I suppose tasting notes will be of terrible coffee and that horrible Mozart liqueur — which is the two-litre stein of KDE interaction each year. The call for presentations is open, so you can pour your wisdom, wit, or vinegar on the audience this summer.

Plasma 5.12 on FreeBSD

“Of course it runs FreeBSD, too” is something I said a lot in the past week (regarding the Pine64, mostly, but also about my Slimbook). I also said “Of course it runs on FreeBSD, too” a lot. Naturally area51, the unofficial KDE-FreeBSD ports tree, contains the latest in released KDE software. Plasma 5.12 and KDE Frameworks 5.42, with Qt 5.9.4. We just bumped Qt to pick up a patch from KDE’s Eike Hein to fix some weird hover behavior. So we’re all up-to-date on the KDE front, and I’ve been running it as my main desktop since the build finished in poudriere.

On the official ports front, Qt 5.9.4 and KDE Frameworks 5.42 are what we’ve got. There’s a big move coming up of KDE4 ports, which is to make room (in a sense) for KDE Applications and the Plasma Desktop ports. If you’re using KDE4 from ports, then expect package bumps and renames over the weekend (no functional change, just a lot of ports will get a -kde4 name to distinguish them from the currently-maintained, up-to-date un-suffixed ports which will land afterwards.

Who, wha, FOSDEM?

Last week, Roman wrote about going to FOSDEM. Huh, so did I. And then, in a flash and a whirlwind, 8000 Free Software supporters descend on Brussels and leave again. After picking up the pieces and catching up on some sleep, here are my post-event impressions:

Photo of laptops

KDE Slimbook, Konqui Pinebook

The cutest thing I brought back from FOSDEM is probably this Konqui Pinebook. The Pinebook is a low-cost ARM-based laptop, which runs KDE Plasma from an SD card I brought along. But a pure-white, totally blank laptop just cries out for some decoration! Timothée Giet was kind enough to use the permanent markers I’d brought for the booth, to create a one-of-a-kind Konqui Pinebook.

Underneath the Konqui Pinebook is my KDE Slimbook. Someone was handing out Nopetopus stickers; I wish I had gotten more. My Slimbook is starting to look a little beat-up — which is good, from a Hitch-Hikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy point of view, since it’s been baked under the suns of Kakrafoon^WAlmeria, shivered in the snows of Allosymanius Syneca^W^WBrussels. At the KDE booth we were also could show a second-generation machine: the KDE Slimbook II (in Spanish, their English site doesn’t mention it yet). A faster, brighter version of the Free-Software friendly laptop with Linux and KDE Plasma pre-installed. This generation is a little more angled / chunky than the previous generation. It might get fewer “why do you guys have Macbooks .. oh, hey” comments. So an aluminum but not-quite-clamshell look might be more distinctive.

Photo of booth

Early morning booth setup

Early in the morning (as in, 8am on a Sunday) while setting up the KDE stand, things are calm. We had time to set out the ARM64 machines and FHD screen for the live Plasma demo on low-power hardware. Jos ran his Rust-Qt clock as well; full-screen it was rather laggy, but windowed it ran nicely while we experiemented with Firefox and KDevelop. Lots of people were mystified by the Sun type 5 keyboard, but by golly, that’s where Ctrl belongs (next to the A). Speaking of keyboards, we got some heated comments, even from people looking for tall enter keys.

As always in building K, we were next to the GNOME stand, with whom we did a little trading game: they used our power bricks, we used their scissors. Big thanks to the guy in the purple GNOME jumper who helped me sort out firmware for the wireless dongle attached to the Pine64 board.

Building K ground floor has some venerable Free Software projects, the giant Free Software Foundation Europe stand, Operating Systems (the big three, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, plus Gentoo, FreeBSD and Illumos) and also has a filesystems corner. I’ve since learned of the existence of LizardFS and MooseFS .. oh my.

Photo of booth

Booth hidden behind people

Once people start showing up, then the KDE booth is well-hidden. Here’s Neófytos smiling through the crowds. We’re not allowed to stick stuff to the windows behind the booth, so it can be hard to tell that there’s a booth there. Something to solve next year.

We had people coming up to the booth with comments like “I love KDE! And activities, those are soooo useful”, as well as “I love KDE! But I don’t understand activities”. Also “yeah, but I use xfce”. There’s room for all kinds of choices — I don’t use activities myself, but for some kinds of workflow they’re really nice.

Speaking of activities, we had the pleasure of showing a painting activity. That’s part of KDE’s application story, and a few artists stopped by to show off Krita in particular.

Photo of artist at work

Using Krita to draw Kiki

Here we see Wolthera hard at work at her tablet. She’s not using either of the Slimbooks, but her own laptop hidden behind the table. The monitor is hooked up to the laptop, so it was a live painting demo. I wish my camera’s autofocus worked better to do this justice.

In the early morning, it was charcoal sketching, which before lunch turned into full-color Konqui and Kiki as Paladins battling the forces of Evil. In this shot, Kiki is being lightly colored in (I’m a kolourpaint guy, I don’t know what this stuff is called — if it’s not flood fill, it’s too complicated). Because Wolthera was hidden behind the monitor, some people thought it was a recorded screencast, not a live demo. In the foreground on the booth table, you can see a few adorable knitted Konqui plushes, which come from la Fabrica de Miritich. I’m happy to report that all of the Konquis were adopted by FOSDEM attendees (including one attendee who was wielding a big rubber T-Rex — I was told it was a friendly Rex and of course Konqui is a dragon and can hold their own).

So, until next year in Brussels (or sooner, at Akademy or elsewhere).

Posted in KDE

Virtual Machines with ZFS Volumes

My main workstation runs FreeBSD; my work on Calamares is all Linux, so I use a lot of virtual machines and do a lot of disk-swapping. My tool of choice is VirtualBox, which is really darn useful for running complete desktop environments.

But I’ve just added a new item to my toolbox. It’s called vzvol.

A very recent addition to the official ports collection, vzvol is a script that helps with, and automates, creating ZFS volumes. I saw the commit adding vzvol to the ports tree, and immediately thought “hey, that’s really nifty.” And it ticks an awful lot of boxes for me in my regular workflow.

A ZFS volume is just a reservation in a zpool (which is a storage pool, composed of one or more disks; zpools have their own administration layer) which is treated as a block device by the host OS. It’s like an image file — except it’s not a file, and the blocks in the reserved space are addressable just like any other block device. For a volume called kde-neon-dev in the pool zdata, the corresponding block device is /dev/zvol/zdata/kde-neon, and you can treat it like any other disk. For instance, you can dd(1) zeroes into it, and then run fdisk(8), or gpart(8), and experiment with disk utilities.

That’s quite different from disk images as files, where you need to loopback-mount or memory-disk-wrangle them; worse still are disk images created by VirtualBox, which are hard to manipulate from the host side with regular tools.

VirtualBox can use “write-through” devices, though — it’s a bit fiddly, but you can create a VMDK that points to a block device. Any block device, including ZFS volumes! All of a sudden, the disk blocks used by my VM are also easily manipulable from the host OS. For my day-to-day disk-wrangling, this makes a huge difference.

vzvol makes manipulating and maintaining these ZFS volumes a snap, and it’s saved me tons of time in just the past two weeks. Hey, let’s try the latest Manjaro:

vzvol -s 20G -t virtualbox -p zdata -v manjaro-test

after the test, vzvol --delete cleans it up. (And vzvol runs on Linux, too, if you have ZFS there).

Events: FOSDEM 2018

The annual FOSDEM event is really close now. It’s a kind of geek valhalla, with carousing and quaffing and a whole lot of technology things. There’s a KDE stand where you can see some of the latest KDE bits and pieces, including Plasma 5 running on low-power hardware. 2GB ought to be enough for everyone, right? We might have a phone available running the existing Plasma Mobile code, since hardware continues to be tricky to come by (Nexus5X is fine).

Come by and chat about Plasma, Kirigami, artwork, Krita, databases, graphics on low-power ARM devices, KDE on FreeBSD, Konversation, Discover (Nate Graham gives really good overviews of what’s happening), translation and more. See you soon!

A Fistful of Ports Updates

Here’s a list of KDE-related stuff (mostly official FreeBSD ports) the KDE-FreeBSD team handled recently. You could call it “a week in the life of some packagers”, packagers who are also otherwise busy with $work-work.

  • Updated otter-browser (a Qt webengine-based browser) to latest version 0.9.94
  • Added a GTK QPA
  • Updated latte-dock to latest released version 0.7.3
  • Clang6 fixes to older KDE and Qt software (out favorite #define nullptr NULL)
  • Reworked packaging of Qt 5.9 to fix a broken (generated) qconfig.h

And in area51, the unofficial ports tree where we do preparatory work (use the branch kde5-import, which supercedes the plasma5 branch; this one contains the current plan for adding Plasma5 to the ports tree and updating all the KDE Applications), we’ve also got:

  • Updated digikam to 5.8
  • Updated KDE Frameworks to 5.42 (this is waiting on an exp-run to move to official ports)
  • Improved powerdevil backend, thanks to Henry Hu
  • Added plasma5-browser-integration
  • Support Qt4 on aarch64, thanks to Fedora

As usual: you can run a full modern KDE desktop system with Plasma 5 and KDE Applications, from the area51 repository, from the kde5-import branch; official ports have the latest Qt and KDE Frameworks, but not the desktop.

Qt 5.9 on FreeBSD

Tobias and Raphael have spent the past month or so hammering on the Qt 5.9 branch, which has (finally!) landed in the official FreeBSD ports tree. This brings FreeBSD back up-to-date with current Qt releases and, more importantly, up-to-date with the Qt release KDE software is increasingly expecting. With Qt 5.9, the Elisa music player works, for instance (where it has run-time errors with Qt 5.7, even if it compiles). The KDE-FreeBSD CI system has had Qt 5.9 for some time already, but that was hand-compiled and jimmied into the system, rather than being a “proper” ports build.

The new Qt version uses a new build system, which is one of the things that really slowed us down from a packaging perspective. Some modules have been reshuffled in the process. Some applications depending on Qt internal-private headers have been fixed along the way. The Telegram desktop client continues to be a pain in the butt that way.

Following on from Qt 5.9 there has been some work in getting ready for Clang 6 support; in general the KDE and Qt stack is clean and modern C++, so it’s more infrastructural tweaks than fixing code. Outside of our silo, I still see lots of wonky C++ code being fixed and plenty of confusion between pointers and integers and strings and chars and .. ugh. Speraking of ugh, I’m still planning to clean up Qt4 on ARM aarch64 for FreeBSD; this boils down to stealing suitable qatomic implementations from Arch Linux.

For regular users of Qt applications on FreeBSD, there should be few to no changes required outside the regular upgrade cycle. For KDE Plasma users, note that development of the ports has changed branches; as we get closer to actually landing modern KDE bits, things have been renamed and reshuffled and mulled over so often that the old plasma5 branch wasn’t really right anymore. The kde5-import branch is where it’s at nowadays, and the instructions are the same: the x11/kde5 metaport will give you all the KDE Frameworks 5, KDE Plasma Desktop and modern KDE Applications you need.

Auditing Licenses in KDE Frameworks FreeBSD Packaging

FreeBSD is getting more serious about license metadata in the packages produced by the project — that is, the binary distribution of software produced from licensed source code. A lot of software in FreeBSD “proper” is (naturally) BSD-licensed, and a lot of Free Software packaged by FreeBSD is (also naturally) GPL licensed. But the different licenses carry different obligations, so it’s good to keep track of the exact licensing applied to each bit of software.

To this end, there’s the LICENSE= line in each port’s Makefile. Its meaning is “this software has such-and-such a license”. For conciseness, SPDX identifiers are used, so that you can write

LICENSE=LGPL21

and we know what you mean. Because licenses can carry textual obligations (e.g. the GPL expects you to receive a copy, and the BSD licenses generally require you to include the copyright notice with distributions), there’s
an additional setting to include the actual text, called LICENSE_FILES:

LICENSE_FILES=COPYING.LIB

There’s a third source of license information, and that is the headers of the sources themselves. Usually you put a copyright-and-license header at the top of each file; some licenses such as the MPL even require some administration in there. The reuse.software site (by the FSFE) provides good guidance and best-practices information for providing licensing metadata in software packages.

Anyway, for KDE Frameworks 5 I was going through the ports Makefiles and adding LICENSE information. The KDE Licensing Policy tells me that frameworks should be licensed LGPL21+, with a few variants allowed; an interesting one is (at your option) “LGPL21 or LGPL3 or any later version approved by KDE e.V.” Right now, in 2017, this choice is the same as LGPL21+ because no later versions exist, but it is not always-in-the-future-same, so I hesitate to write

LICENSE=LGPL21+

for KDE Frameworks until I’ve checked the files. The license text is usually included, but it’s not quite consistently named, so I need to look into the tarballs anyway. And as a double-check, I read a couple of source headers to see if the license named in the code, matches the license text elsewhere (e.g. some files say LGPL 2.1 only).

It’s a bit of a slow process — one which upstream (that is, the source code) could support a little better with consistent naming. It’s also a process that needs to be monitored continually, to ensure that the whole body of software remains properly and consistently licensed — hopefully following best practices, too.

Anyway, as of today only ten of the KDE Frameworks 5 ports in the official FreeBSD ports repository  have all their licensing information set, to the best of my ability to check their accuracy. As an ongoing project in keeping-license-info up-to-date it’s not very high-priority but something that gets done in-between other things.

Sayonara

Not goodbye, but hello to a new music player on my desktop. It is already packaged for FreeBSD and has a long development history.

Music players stand or fall per individual user whether they satisfy the user’s needs — no duh there, but it means I should note what my use cases are before enthusing about some music player in particular. I would be fine with playing music from the command-line, most of the time: mpg123 --shuffle /mnt/music/*/*/* is just about right (except it fails with an argument list too long error in the shell). This is for music-while-I-hack, so I don’t listen too closely, it’s not hi-fi at all, basically I want “play in a genre until I switch it off“. Tagging is largely done when ripping my CDs (I still buy physical media!) and I don’t care for album art (I can look in the jewel case if I want that, and they’re all stacked in boxes upstairs). So play, pause, stop .. and if it can avoid mixing Mahler with Morrissey and Mötorhead, that’s a bonus.

Screenshot of Sayonara main windowOff to the left here is Sayonara, which describes itself as:

Sayonara is a small, clear and fast audio player for Linux written in C++, supported by the Qt framework. It uses GStreamer as audio backend. Sayonara is open source and uses the GPLv3 license. One of Sayonara’s goals is intuitive and easy usablility. Currently, it is only available for Linux.

Clearly that’s not true, because it’s available for FreeBSD as well 🙂 . I forget how I configured it; there’s a File > Open Directory entry and I probably filled in /mnt/music and it went and found everything that gstreamer will sensibly play. The screenshot is of the minimal playlist-only view. It can be broadened to include a library view which is a bit chaotic, but which searches reasonably well (e.g. for Mudhoney). Sayonara is actually where I discovered the luxury of stay-on-genre autoplay: when I started on some Dutch punk and it kept pretty close to that, wandering off to de Kift occasionally — but no Drs.P.

I contributed a few small fixes to get Sayonara building on FreeBSD, cleaning up the CMakeLists for newer CMake, that kind of thing. Now that it runs on my Plasma desktop all day, I can spot some more  minor issues — the system tray media player control doesn’t interact with Sayonara at all, for instance. For my use-case, that’s not so important, since the fire-and-forget genre play does it for me until I hit pause in the main UI.

I’m looking forward to KDE music players Elisa and Babe, for comparison purposes: maybe they tick my requirements-boxes just as well, or better. Certainly Elisa seems to be fairly playing-music-focused. I’ve even got a FreeBSD port for Elisa ready, just waiting for Qt 5.9 to show up on my doorstep (I can get it to compile against 5.7, but it won’t run due to QML runtime thingies).