The Road to KDE 4

by Harley Babcock-Doyle (Chomp)

I've been using PCLinuxOS for … ummm … I'm not exactly sure actually, but I believe I made the switch to the distro hopper stopper in early '09. I've never bothered to praise the efforts of Tex and the devs of PCLinuxOS for the excellent work they did with KDE 3.5 for some reason. When Tex stopped supporting KDE 3.5, I switched to KDE 4 shortly after. I had a mixed reaction to this. I was used to the excellent implementation and super stable KDE 3.5 in PCLinuxOS, and found KDE 4 to be rather slow and a bit of a pain to use because of this. Additionally, serious problems (for me) occured in Firefox under KDE 4. Firefox was so unresponsive and slow that I was forced, for the first time since Firefox 1.0, to switch to a different browser. I made a forum topic about it, and shortly afterwards, Tex released an update that improved Firefox enough for me to be able to switch back to using it as my full time browser. It was still rather unresponsive and laggy, but usable enough it didn't frustrate me to the point of not using it. I wasn't upset about all of this, however. Patience, I told myself. You can't expect the devs to make an implementation as solid as they did with KDE 3.5 overnight. It will take them time to work out the kinks, and besides that, you have to work with what you are provided with and try to make the best of it.

A little while later, a somewhat sizable update for KDE 4 occurred. Performance was improved slightly and users came to the forum to praise the increased performance. I held back from commenting, as I felt the DE was still not as snappy and responsive as it should be. Patience young padawan, I repeated to myself. You know perfectly well you have a good idea of how these things work, and the difficulty that can be experienced when working with software on a development/packaging end.

It had been a couple of days since I had checked for an update, so about 45 minutes ago I opened Synaptic (I prefer manually checking for updates for some reason), and found another sizable update to KDE 4 was available. After I finished updating, I logged out to restart X, and then back in, not really expecting anything significant. I re-opened all the programs I had opened before in my previous session (Firefox, Chromium, Kmess, Xchat, Ktorrent, Synaptic, and Amarok), then went back to doing what I was doing before. But something was different. I got a weird feeling in my stomach. Everything was just so darn responsive and snappy! "What the heck is this?" I cried out loud (I have a bad habit of talking to myself, even when others are present). I quickly started playing with apps I knew to be what I considered uncharacteristically slow. The quick response by the apps to my actions both surprised and delighted me. Then it came time for the ultimate test. Just how much more responsive was Firefox now? The first thing I did was my scroll test. I navigated to the PCLinuxOS forums, as I knew it to be slow when scrolling. My scrolling test consists of rolling the middle click as rapidly as possible back and forth. The response I was used to was about 5 to 10 seconds of the page continuing to scroll up and down after I physically stopped scrolling. Not this time. As soon as I stopped scrolling so did the page. "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!" I screamed out loud (good thing my upstairs neighbour is used to hearing me talk to myself). I furiously started clicking on the folders in my bookmarks toolbar, as I found before the update that it would take about 3 to 4 clicks before the folder would actually display the content it held. This wasn't consistent but it did happen on average, I'd estimate, 50% of the time. Every single click on the folders in my bookmarks toolbar immediately opened displaying the juicy contents they contained. WOW!!!!

So here is my long overdue kudos to Tex and the rest of the PCLinuxOS team. Thank you for all of your hard work. You guys are responsible for what I consider to be the best distro out there and I appreciate your efforts.