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.comment: The Developers Haven't Heard

Don' Need No Steenkin' Distribution

  • April 3, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

As one distributor after another moves away from the idea of selling desktop Linux to mere people, it becomes increasingly clear that the developer community hasn't gotten word that Linux isn't suited to be a desktop operating system for the likes of me and thee.

Good.

On Monday, GNOME 1.4 either was or wasn't released, and if it wasn't we can pretty well assume it will oneday be. (I write this on Monday with the issue still in doubt.) When it is, my colleague Michael P. Hall, who has really cool initials, will very ably tell you about it.

And though GNOME is not my desktop of choice, surely it is the one that seems most specifically aimed at the single-machine desktop user as opposed to the enterprise, what with the variety of content provision either offered or envisioned for it. I suppose there are ways that this could be turned to the advantage of businesses, but it is the single/home/hobbyist market that seems to me to be most likely to make use of these services. If the desktop is no place for Linux, the people at GNOME (and Ximian and Eazel) haven't heard about it.

Nor have the people involved with KDE, where some exciting stuff is going on.

KDE-2.1.1 was released last week. It is a bugfix. Not to criticize in any way those who undertook the often difficult, usually unexciting, and always important task of finding and exterminating bugs, but the really exciting stuff is going to be in KDE-2.2.

Major Advances

Three things have consistently annoyed me about Linux: its typeface handling, its poor printing support, and the lack of what I think of as a decent word processor (I'm writing this in an ancient beta of Lotus WordPro '96 just to see how it compares with Linux word processors; so far, the answer is "favorably"). The KDE folks are taking serious steps to resolve all three.

You can already see how the typeface issue is being addressed, at least to some extent, in the option to use font anti-aliasing in KDE-2.x, if you have Xfree86-4.02 or better and have compiled QT to enable it. This is not, I hope, the end of it, for problems remain: A limited number of character sets are currently supported. With QT-2.x, you can enable anti-aliasing in KDE and use TrueType and Type1 typefaces, or you can decide to do without anti-aliasing and use your bitmap typefaces as well, but you cannot have anti-aliasing for some typefaces but not others. (There is a workaround for dumping anti-aliasing in Konsole, which is otherwise just about useless, but that's as far as selectively turning it on and off goes.) The Trolls say that having it all won't be possible until QT-3.0. That's true unless one of the master coders at KDE decides it's important enough for a miracle to be done.

It would not, interestingly enough, be a first. More about that in a minute.

The printing issue is being addressed in what looks to be a very robust fashion through a new printing architecture contributed by Michael Goffioul. The Kprinter class seems to effectively replace Qprinter. It's based on plugins and is accompanied by a printer management tool. The library itself is split into core and management parts. It is very CUPS-friendly (indeed, CUPS was the first system to receive full plugin support, and CUPS is good enough, and freely available, so an obvious solution for many if not all users is simply to get and install it), but the hooks are there for any other print engine, spooler, or system one wants and is willing to hack his or her way toward. Before it is released, other plugins will likely exist as well -- there is rudimentary support for LPR even now. Though I'm expert in neither code nor architecture, Michael Goffioul's work looks as if it's something that will address a world of complaints about printing in Linux, at least for KDE users.

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