If this blog entry had screenshots, they would be “Default KDE4 desktop on OSOL nv77 Core Duo”, “Default KDE4 desktop on OSOL nv70b amd64”, “Default KDE4 desktop on OSOL nv77 SPARC” and “Default KDE4 desktop on OSOL nv70b amd64 with SunRay1” and the trick would be to spot the differences.

The KDE-Solaris team has spent another week wrestling mostly with the dependencies that KDE has. Getting curl to behave as well as gnupg was a bit of a challenge simply because of the amount of configure scripts we have to plow through. My favorite thing to track down – I’m attuned to it now – is the following: main configure stores CFLAGS in config.cache; the main configure calls a sub-configure (in a subdirectory) and passes CFLAGS to that sub-configure with a change in whitespace and that sub-configure then complains that CFLAGS has changed. No shit, sherlock.

Anyway, we’ve got a bunch more dependencies sorted out, and I’ve got KDE4 and its dependencies compiled on my laptop. The packages that that generates will run on other x86 systems with SSE2 (compiling stuff on an amd64 will sneak in 3DNOW! extensions, which breaks when moving the other direction), including my spare amd64 box. On both systems, KDE4 looks like it ought to: pretty slick. Since no SVN modules beyond base have been tried out or ported, it is a pretty sparse desktop. Still, the Sun developer tools get picked up by the K menu automatically; having (XDG) standards helps that way.

Within the project we really could use a pkgtool guru, as we spend a lot of time messing around when new packages are introduced in (re)compiling all the packages that could possibly depend on the new one. My hat goes off to the real packagers out there, I feel your pain (or perhaps it’s pain that is faded and long ago, since you have decent tools now).

One of the things I’ve been experimenting with is KDE on thin clients; I’ve always liked low-power computing, if only as a way to sneak a computer into the living room (if it makes too much noise or is too big or too hot, it’s a no-go). I have a now-sadly-under-utilized Via C3 based box that was my living room terminal and audio server for a long time, for instance. But how is the KDE4 experience on that kind of hardware? Or worse still, on real thin clients that just have an X server and where KDE runs elsewhere?

Well, not too hot. Let’s ignore multimedia and audio issues for now (we still have problems with Xine on Solaris, so Phonon is unexplored territory and NAS is questionable). Just the graphics part is both an uplift – it’s still quite snappy and makes a fine usable desktop – and a downer – the graphical effects perish and we do not have nice fallbacks. This means that all scrollbars look like black blobs with some grey dots on them; the plasma palette is a grey dithered half-circle (it lights up nicely with the plasma icon when you hover over it, but the edges are still dodgy); taskbar items are similarly ugly in a dithered way.

I have not yet tried to track down the cause of the issues; is it lack of color depth? (Anyone remember private Xlib colormaps where as an app got focus all the other apps would flash and get crazy colors as the new colormap for the display was swapped in?) is it a problem with alpha blending? I don’t know, I haven’t actually done and research to try tracking this down. I may head in to the Sirius (patron of KDE and research partner) office today to play with some of their thin client equipment to see if I can pin that down.

But even before pinning down the problem, I had sent this vague complaint to Aaron, adding “no hurry” and “would be nice before FOSDEM” and intending to look into it myself – after all, this is a participative project and it is no sine cure to convince someone to work on a problem he doesn’t have and won’t experience – but when I woke up this morning there was mail from Aaron saying that low-color-depth issues had been addressed in trunk. That’s fantastic service. So in general we should have a nicer thin client experience with KDE now; I’ll have to go try it out. It’s tough keeping up with the pace of KDE development. Be thin and free.