Today was a day of still waiting for my U45 SPARC builds to complete – a single core is just not what it used to be, eh – and shifting around disks and hardware in x86 platforms. I merged my aged-and-failing (best guess is that the motherboard is giving up, since it fails the POST memory test regularly and this morning took many reboots to get as far as the boot loader) FreeBSD machine with my OpenSolaris machine. That was a real case of “ok, so if this disk goes on that controller, then that makes four for the disk cabinet …”

In passing I upgraded from Nevada 83 to 101; that’s nearly 8 months of improvements in OpenSolaris. One reason for doing so is that we, the KDE4-Solaris team, need to make doubly sure that KDE4 is ready for OpenSolaris 2009.4 which comes out in about six months. That means KDE 4.2 goodness on the desktop, probably even KDE 4.2.1. We have a dual mission of making sure KDE4 works properly and in finding bugs in OSOL itself.

We found one issue related to libc on SPARC after nv93, and there’s some other weirdness that is X-related after nv95, so I would not say our efforts are in vain.

A few things have markedly improved: support for NVidia SATA controllers, which makes some of my add-in SATA controllers superfluous. This makes a big difference for regular home users who want to play with OSOL on normal consumer motherboards – NV630-based boards are quite common. Similarly, support for the HDA audio chipset has been added. Another step – now your mini-ATX board can run both disks and play sound. To some extent it’s like watching Linux and FreeBSD’s growth in device support all over again.

For me the upside is I could take out the ancient ES1371 sound card I had added; on the downside, there still seems to be no support for the NIC (NVidia GbE, PCI ID 10de,82b3), but given the PCI slot just freed by the audio card I could slip in something else. I remember wrestling with this before and adding an entry to /etc/driver_aliases.

Now, what good does a tale of hardware upgrades do on PlanetKDE? Well, an upgrade like this affords me one of my rare glimpses of GNOME. 2.24 in this case, and it is well integrated in the system with all the fancy bits like hotplug and autorun in there. There’s a battery notifier and icons on the desktop. I can appreciate the polish put on to it, but at the same time it seems lacklustre in a way I can’t really define. It’s not as much an integrated desktop as KDE is.

At the same time, the default (widget, windeco) theme for GNOME under OpenSolaris is thinner and more lightweight than the corresponding KDE defaults. And, dare I say, more functional on thin client setups. This is where I can step back and say “hey, that looks pretty well done” and consider how to do it in KDE as well – and that’s part of the power of Free Software.