I want to like KDE 4.3. I really do. But I don't. I want to keep an open mind about where "Plasma" is heading. But I can't. Hear me out, before you log me off.
I have used nearly every Linux desktop available. From the bare minimum to the plain gaudy, I have seen and tried it all. And I've always been a proud cheerleader for the fact that Linux is, unlike any other operating system, about choice. No matter what technology you are looking at, if there is something about Linux you do not like, you can easily change it or find a different tool for the task. If you don't like the lack of integration that Fluxbox offers, bump it up to GNOME. If Compiz's eye candy is torturing your system, turn it off or switch to Enlightenment for less CPU-intensive eye candy.
But where it all comes to a grinding halt is KDE. KDE used to be a rock-solid desktop that resembled Windows 2000 (in many ways) and allowed Windows users a fairly straight-forward path to migration from the Windows desktop to the Linux desktop. But then the KDE developers decided to toss everything out the window and start all over again. The resulting wreckage is KDE 4.x. KDE 4.x wanted to be something special, but it has failed. The damage is done and it's time to either re-re-invent the wheel or scrap it all together. Personally, I would like to see KDE head back to the drawing board and re-re-re-invent themselves as a whole and attempt to re-define the desktop.
But wait...Isn't that what they tried to do with 4? They saw (or thought they saw) what Google was doing with the Google Desktop and their "Gadgets" (or "Gears"), so the KDE team pounced on the idea and ran, nay - walked with it. Now KDE is a desktop with some "Widgets" that can be added which, honestly, do little to improve the desktop experience.
"Hey, look! I can add a comic strip to my desktop!" Oh yay, been there, done that in the '90s with Super Karamba.
Yes, KDE tried to re-invent the desktop, but it obviously didn't work. If KDE wants to see who is really re-inventing the desktop, they need to look at more fringe teams like Elive Compiz. Instead they play off a re-working of some old '90s desktop tricks and claim them to be the future of the desktop.
I hate to say this, but the future of the desktop (at least as envisioned by those who claim they know) is a very Web-centric, Chrome-like OS where the desktop serves more as a portal for the Web than it does for widgets and plasmas.
When KDE 4.0 came out I gave the KDE team a chance. Their new baby was in its infancy, so it was expected to barely walk. It didn't. Now we are supposed to be enjoying KDE 4 in its teen years and it still feels like a mewling baby, spewing and sputtering and hardly able to walk without guidance. KDE 4 is so bad I can understand why, when a new user experiences KDE 4.x as their first Linux desktop, they run screaming back to Windows.
I spend a lot of time poking around developers corners to see what is in the works. If you go over to the KDE 4 brainstorming forum, you will be surprised at the lack of creativeness. In fact, what you will mostly see are gripes and complaints, which makes me believe the KDE developer team has closed themselves off to user feedback.
But why all this vitriol for KDE 4? That's simple: KDE 4 has become nothing more than a black eye on the Linux desktop. Where GNOME has continued to improve to become one of the more stable, user-friendly desktops on the market, KDE 4 has floundered. Yes, I am all about choice, but KDE 4 is a choice that needs to be removed until it can come up with a real modern alternative for the Linux desktop.
Can the widgets.
Eject the plasma.
And please, fix that dreadful networking app while you're at it!
I understand that most everyone hates the idea of the evil Cloud. I am one of those "haters." And most people think Chrome OS is nothing more than a joke. It's actually not a joke - it's a Web browser masquerading as an operating system. But at least Google is thinking, creating, and re-defining. If KDE wants a model to use as a brilliant example of where the desktop is most likely heading, they need look no further than Android. Yes, it's primarily for smart phones, but Android could teach a dev team a thing or two about where the desktop is heading - and I don't mean into the hands and pockets of the users. It's all about connectivity, social medium, instant access to everything...all wrapped into a snappy, user-friendly package.
So, KDE, what's it going to be? Are you going to continue disappointing with 4.x until you make it to 5 and realize that no one is using your desktop but a few straggling fanboys? Or are you going to open your eyes, admit defeat, and start all over?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.