Mandriva Fork: and Unity

September 20, 2010

It seems a lot of the old Mandriva employees have decided to create there own distribution that will of course be closely related to Mandriva but not MandrivaLinux S.A. The new name is Mageia which means Magic.

There have been a few post and a few people who have wondered about what will happen for the Mandriva based Linux distributions if Mandriva was to go away. Now in the current case if Mageia fails or takes for ever to come up with development structure ie. SVN, BuildServers etc.. What will happen with Mandriva will Unity be based on Mandriva or Mageia?

First let’s start with a little history. Unity Linux started as a fork from PCLinuxOS during the early development stage it was decided to rebase on Mandriva and maintain our own repositories, more specifically Kernel, Xorg version, Window Managers etc.. So we created a SVN repository and started importing packages from Mandriva changing spec files, taking out epochs, adding patches, and updating source. Then the decision was made to use RPM5+Smart dropping any option for urpmi or apt-rpm. Once again packages were rebuilt, so Unity uses it’s own version of RPM and maintains it’s own repositories using smart too install and manage packages.

So now we have some things that are very similar to Mandriva like drakxtools that are basically patched to use SMART instead or URPMI. We have become pretty familiar with drakxtools and themed it for Unity etc.. but it’s still drakxtools and we still sync the source (like we would do with any project) to Mandriva when there’s new upgrades that are worth the time in testing. We also follow PulseAudio pretty closely as it’s no secret that Mandriva has one of the best implementations. Even more on our BuildServer we can pull source packages from Mandriva SVN and build some (very few packages) will little or no changes. We tend to shy away from Epochs though, even though we have some packages that still have them. Yet Mandriva has no issues using them.

So is Unity dependent on Mandriva? Yes too a point we are. We like their configuration tools (some times) and with some packages that really are straight forward to build we may import from Mandriva SVN. However these are just niceties. The real question is could we survive without Mandriva.. Yes we could and may have too until they get a clear direction (for that matter survive) or the fork gets off the ground enough so we can pull and push packages for them. What will this mean? In our case packages may not be updated as fast as normal, because packagers may have to take on a few more packages.

In the long run though if Mandriva does survive and Mageia gets off the ground Unity will have more resources to pull from. Our plan is to not use just one for resources but both. There’s rumors one may choose to upgrade to RPM5 (which will be fine for us) and may even drop URPMI for SMART. Now this is all speculation but in any scenario it seems with time Unity will turn out better off than before. So should the Unity community be worried no, just offer help where you can and test for us and we’ll be good.

Some ask why not just disband Unity and Work with Mageia? Well the reason we have created Unity is too allow more advanced Linux users a core or ground work to create their own distribution. That is our focus. Our focus is not desktop use, or even end users. Someone who uses Unity for it’s packages and core though may decide to create a community driven distribution with these focuses and we will be very supportive of that. We call such project branches and are very friendly to branch maintainers. However if we were merge our efforts at Unity with Mageia than we would loose our focus and direction that we have all come together to create. Unity is a much different concept and a concept we are quite happy with.

Hope this helps expel some fears 😉 and explain why at the very least I am very much excited about all of this..

So this morning I came to my computer and had a special surprise after rebooting. KDE 4 wouldn’t start up. I remembered that yesterday I had ran some updates and knowing I’m running Mandriva cooker I knew something must be up, like an important update. So after a another update and another reboot I found everything to be okay. Well Kinda. Things seemed at times a little bit snappier, but a little more unstable. So I checked my KDE version and sure enough I was running an unstable version of KDE 4. That’s no surprise as I know I am running cooker. What was a surprise are the little changes I have found so far in KDE 4.4 versus KDE 4.3.

KDE 4.4 new Add Widget Dialog

KDE 4.4 new Add Widget Dialog

Adding Widgets Dialog

First I will talk about the most obvious change if you’re a plasma fan. That’s the way widgets are now added to the desktop and the panel. What once was a small list window has now been plasmafied into more of a dashboard look and feel dialog. A check mark on the plasmoid icon now represents if the plasmoid is running or not. There also doesn’t seem to be a option to close the plasmoid within the new dialog box. One must actually interact with the plasmoid itself to close it out. However you can uninstall plasmoids from the dialog as one could before. The dialog also has the same organization features as the old dialog. Plasmoids are placed into categories and one can still search with the search entry field on the top left of the dialog.

Mouse Guestures added to Desktop Settings

Mouse Plugins added to Desktop Settings

Mouse Plugins In Desktop Settings Dialog

An interesting new addition (at least for me) was mouse plugins in the Desktop settings dialog. Back when I was running Compiz-Fusion there was various key combinations (including mouse buttons) you could assign. Up until now such functionality was not present in KDE 4 or was hard to find. Now it’s found. One can now assign keys and mouse buttons to different functions like, switching windows, switching activities and even switching the desktops using the cool cube effect, which for me is hours of entertainment. It is my hope that in the future not only will you be able to utilize the mouse buttons but mouse gestures.

Window Navagation in Configure Window Dialog

Window Navigation in Configure Window Dialog

Window Navigation in Configure Window Dialog

A new addition added to the Configure Window dialog is Window Navigation. In this module one can set the keyboard shortcuts to navigate through windows and choose the kwin effect that will be used. However, the effect drop down menu seems like a after thought added to this module. As everything in this module is for configuring the behavior of the window switching tool when the “no effect” option in the drop down is being used. There’s also other locations in KDE to select what effect to use when switching through windows, but this is the only module with the depth of options for the “no effect” default. These options include changing the way the windows will be listed, by use or by how they’re stacked. The Configure Layout button allows you to change the size and layout of the switch window dialog when windows are listed. They can be listed horizontally, vertically or tabular. One can also decide if they would like to include the application icon in the list or just text.

Aurorae is a built in window decoration engine

Aurorae is a built in window decoration engine

Aurorae

Aurorae (in case you didn’t know) is a built in window decoration engine. For those who have used emerald themes with Compiz you will find this to be similar. Aurorae allows users to create there own kwin decoration themes (via SVG images) and submit them to KDE-Look.org and of course if it’s submitted to KDE-Look.org there’s a get new themes option in the module to download user submitted themes. There’s already quite a few themes that have been done. Some pretty nice and some are just not my taste, but the options are there for everyone. No longer is one tied to installing a distribution package to get a different looking window theme. Now beautifying (or unbeautifying) your desktop is just a few clicks away. I can see much more themes coming as KDE 4.4 goes stable.

So this is what I have noticed my first day of using KDE 4.4 (4.3.73) things are still a little unstable and many options are still redundant and in different places. There’s a few things I didn’t cover because I haven’t really had time to test them just yet. One being the remote plasmoid function. If you’re running KDE unstable also and see something really neat that I didn’t cover feel free to post and I’ll add it too the article with a screen shot if supplied. I’m sure as KDE 4.4 becomes more stable we’ll, as always, see more stability and things getting even more slick (if that’s possible). Here’s to another great release. I can’t wait till February. 🙂 Thanks for reading.

Oh Yes! I am still here and still alive. I created this blog while deployed and now that I have been back in the states for a while I have decided to update it.

Screenshot of KDE 4.4 plasma-netbook

This picture was taken from the KDE 4 Wiki so it may be a little dated.

Here’s the latest Linux related thing I am excited about… Mandriva cooker is back in action. Yes, I am one of the few or maybe the many that run Mandriva cooker on a regular basis. I don’t file many bug reports or report much to the mailing lists, but mainly just use it too see what is up and coming in the Linux world. Yesterday they dropped the latest KDE 4.4 builds (4.3.73) it broke things for a bit, but today after a update all is well again. I can’t wait to see the upcoming features for KDE 4.4. There’s been two new features I have been paying close attention to for this release. One, would of course be the netbook interface. A built in netbook interface into KDE 4 will of forever affect our Synergy-Linux development and where it goes from there. Will we go with the plasma-netbook interface, can we do a resolution detection scheme and default to plasma-netbook for out little netbooks and then use the default plasma environment for our larger net friends? Or just have it as an option for any resolution, acting as an easy mode.  Only time will tell.

The second major feature (at least for me) would be UPnP support in knetwork. UPnP allows network devices such as your DVR to share services over your local network. This would greatly extend the functionality of the netbook, to access content on other devices on the network and be able to play them off that device. For netbooks without the storage capacity this still allows them to play media and act as a front end for different media devices.

So how will all this affect my current Linux world, only time will tell, but if you’re a Unity Linux user, a Mandriva Linux user or a Synergy Linux user you better believe it’s going to affect you in some way in the near future.