KDE Papercuts and bandaids

· by Raghu Rajagopalan · Read in about 3 min · (610 words) ·

KDE frustrations

On my home desktop, I have KDE Neon ever since it came out and before Kubuntu 16 I guess. I should also mention that my home desktop also happens to be a common machine with each family member with their own accounts (so it’s sort of a shared computer). Not once in the last 5+ years have any of them complained that something didn’t work as expected. However, this doesn’t mean that KDE is the bright, shining light of Linux desktop UX. Rather, none of the others are heavy users or have tried to change from defaults.

I, however, as the sole administrator and in general, primary user, keep running into KDE’s papercuts. Today’s sample:

  1. Lock screen lets you pick Picture of the Day as a background but doesn’t actually work. Why? Because the lock screen doesn’t access the internet. Back in 2017, somebody suggested that if this was the case, they should probably not let the user pick the option.

    • As an aside, I do like Bing’s POTD images - so you can just ln -sf ~/.cache/plasmashell/plasma_engine_potd ~/.cache/kscreenlocker_greet/plasma_engine_potd and it’ll work nicely.

  2. I also wanted SDDM to use the bing POTD as well. SDDM has a theme.conf and a theme.conf.user. I initially tried symlinking to the bing POTD in my plasmashell cache folder. You’d think that’ll work. In fact, it works if you try sddm-greeter in the test mode. Try to use it actually, and it doesn’t. A few google searches later, it seems that during login, home folder access is denied and hence the suggested solution is to put the background into some system wide folder like /usr/share/wallpapers. The person who reported the issue rightly said that this isn’t a a good solution. This was back more than a couple of years ago and there’s no clear path forward. I won’t hold my breath. For now, I have an entry in cron.hourly that copies over the file if there’s a newer one.

  3. KDE with nvidia drivers has it’s share of problems. Now this is of course Nvidia’s fault but your average user isn’t going to understand that. Today’s case - with compositing on, plasmashell crashes when I start remmina snap.

    • My current workaround - shell script with nohup plasmashell --replace that I’ve bound to a keystroke.

  4. KDE’s screenlocker kscreenlocker_greet is pretty shitty. If you have more than one user who’s logged on and you switch sessions, kscreenlocker_greet will peg one core at 100%. It’s gone back and forth and AFAIK, has never been fixed properly. I’ve tried the workaround QT_QUICK_BACKEND=software and that used to work but then you don’t get desktop transparency and other polish. Go pick your poison!

Desktop Linux - Polish is always 404!

BTW, before anyone else says it, yes - these are nitpicky. I don’t usually spend much time customizing my desktop - functionality trumps UI slickness…​ and in any case, most of the time is spent in Konsole and Neovim. But these are functional issues. I know that there’s always bigger fish to fry and that’s what gets developer/volunteer attention (if I was up to snuff on C++/Qt etc I’d give it a shot - but I’m not). But that’s the same reason that Linux on the Desktop for the masses will never be a reality.

Make no mistake - warts and all, I will always run GNU/Linux on my desktop (and most likely KDE Neon, provided plasma keeps improving). But the depressing thought is that it will never be a viable alternative for your average user.

PS: Installing Linux desktop on your Dad/Mom/close relative/friend/family doesn’t count since I believe the goal there is to reduce our IT support calls :).