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Updated: 11 hours 47 min ago

Powered by Plasma: ALBA Synchrotron in Barcelona, Spain

Friday 19th of July 2019 08:57:19 AM

As you go about your daily tasks, you’re probably unaware that Plasma runs on the computers in one of Europe’s largest research facilities. We were also oblivious – until we met Sergi Blanch-Torné at FOSDEM 2019.

We’re always looking for interesting stories from people who use KDE software at their workplace, in school, or in government institutions. You can imagine our delight, then, when we met Sergi Blanch-Torné at this year’s FOSDEM.

Sergi is a Controls Software Engineer at ALBA, a KDE user, and a Free software advocate and contributor. Not only was he willing to tell us about his favorite KDE apps, but he also works at one of the most amazing places on Earth! In this interview, he tells us what it’s like to work at ALBA, and answers the burning question: “what even is a synchrotron?”.

ALBA is a third-generation synchrotron radiation facility in the Barcelona Synchrotron Park, in Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain. Managed by the Consortium for the Construction, Equipping and Exploitation of the Synchrotron Light Source (CELLS), it is jointly funded by the Spanish and the Catalonian Administration.

Aerial view of the ALBA facility. Source: CELLS media gallery.

With its eight operational beamlines (and additional four in construction), ALBA has been serving more than 2000 researchers every year since first opening for experiments in 2010. It comprises a complex of electron accelerators that produce synchrotron light – electromagnetic radiation covering a continuum of wavelengths, ranging from infrared to hard X rays (including visible light). Synchrotron light is millions of times brighter than the surface of the Sun, which allows scientists to visualize atomic structures in extremely high resolutions.

ALBA also happens to be the place where Plasma powers the majority of desktop computers in the controls department. Read more on this, plus a bunch of fascinating details on how synchrotrons work, in our interview with Sergi.

Ivana Devcic: Sergi, thank you for accepting our invitation to the interview, and for taking the time out of your day to do this! Our story begins at this year's FOSDEM, where you met with developers from the KDE community, is that right?

Sergi Blanch-Torné: That's right. I'm pretty much a regular at FOSDEM at this point. I think I attended it for the first time in 2004. One day at work, we had some trouble with Plasma. Conveniently, it was a few weeks before FOSDEM. I told my boss that there will surely be KDE people to ask for help, and there really were! And it was fun to find out they are from Catalonia too.

So we arranged a visit with Aleix Pol and Albert Astals. They looked at the issue and found the right configuration that solved it.

Ivana: Glad to hear you solved the issue! It would make for an awkward start to our interview otherwise. Could you please introduce yourself a bit to our readers?

Sergi: Of course. I'm from Juneda, a small village in the west of Catalonia. Just 20 km away from the province capital Lleida. An hour and a half from the capital, Barcelona. I studied computer science at the University of Lleida. It was there that I started using KDE software, back in 1998. They are Linux evangelists at my university, and KDE's desktop environment was (and still is) the default desktop on the computers running Linux. I still contribute to my university with a yearly talk on how a computer scientist can end up in a weirder job than expected.

After getting my Bachelor's degree, I went to an Erasmus project to the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, Netherlands. That's where I improved my English a lot. When I came back from Erasmus, I tried moving to another country, but ended up in Barcelona.

The final project for my Bachelor's degree was related to Free software. I've had a great relationship with the Mathematics department, and there is a research group that works on cryptography. We thought of doing something practical that could be used by the Free Software community. At the time, the elliptic curve crypto wasn't really known to the general public, so we decided to prepare an implementation for GnuPG. I still maintain the website of our project.

Sadly, I don't have the time to contribute with code any more, but I like to be in contact with the community. That's why every year at FOSDEM, we meet with Werner Koch, the project leader of GnuPG.

Ivana: You've been involved with Free Software for quite a while. How did this lead to working at ALBA?

Sergi: When I was looking for a job abroad after returning from Erasmus, I heard about the ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility), the biggest synchrotron in Europe. I applied for a position there, and in one of the interviews in the hiring process they told me that a synchrotron was in construction near Barcelona. So I also applied there. Many of my current supervisors at ALBA were working at ESRF before.

General view inside the facility. Photo by Sergi Blanch-Torné.

Here at ALBA, I got a position in the controls section. We're part of the computing division that has different sections. One is called the Management Information System. That's where engineers who work mainly with the web and administrative applications. Then there are the people from infrastructure systems. And the sections for electronics and controls, that we have a lot in common with.

Ivana: The controls section... Sounds exciting. But what exactly do you control from there?

Sergi: To help you understand how it all works, maybe I should abstract first what a synchrotron is. A synchrotron is a kind of particle accelerator. In our case, it is an electron accelerator. You've probably heard about the LHC in CERN -- that's a collider, a very different facility, but also an accelerator.

The difference is in the scale and in the purpose. At the LHC they have 27 kilometers in the circumference perimeter. We have about 400 meters. Colliders are made to produce those collisions we read about in the press, for discovering particles like the Higgs Boson. When those electrons in the accelerator are bent to maintain the circumference, they produce photons - basically, they generate light. In the LHC or other colliders, they like to set this light generation to the minimum. But in the synchrotrons, it is the light that is actually used.

We could say that the accelerator itself is a bulb that generates an incredibly brilliant light. And it is because of this brilliance that those facilities are used, instead of other alternatives such as X-rays. There are experiments that require this kind of facility, because with a normal X-ray generator researchers would not be able to see what the experiment requires. In essence, you could also say that this is a big machine we use to see small things. We could even simplify it to the point of saying a synchrotron is like a huge microscope.

It has applications in biology, chemistry, pharmacology... also in paleontology, or even art. Here at ALBA we did experiments on how a virus passes the membrane of a cell. We looked at the mechanisms of how the cell is invaded, and took pictures of that. We can also take a fossil and see inside - without having to crack it open and break it, we are able to see the remaining structure inside. Or we can stress a plastic to know how it will degrade under certain conditions. Sometimes famous artists used layers of paint to draw over something. We can see what's under the paint without destroying the layers.

Beamline 24 end station, where the experiments happen. Photo by Sergi Blanch-Torné.

Ivana: Fascinating!

Sergi: It really is. And my job is to have the instruments under control and integrated to allow an experiment to be carried out. We provide the researchers with the tools they need, but we are rarely there when they're using the synchrotron.

To make sure an accelerator works correctly, many elements need to work together seamlessly. The electron beam is like, say, a train with its carriages. There is not a single electron, but a bunch revolving around in a circle. They are packed in bunches, and those bunches are separated from each other by 2 nanoseconds. So an extremely high level of precision is needed.

First, there is a linear accelerator, with an electron gun that generates those bunches of electrons. We call it linac for short. This linac produces electron beams that travel at speeds close to the speed of light. Then they are passed through a booster ring, where they are accelerated even more. Even closer to the speed of light, but never reaching its physical bound. This acceleration process is repeated 3 times per second, and the beam is stored in a ring that is designed to generate this extremely brilliant light.

For this whole process, there are hundreds or even thousands of elements to control. They have to work together, they have to be prepared to act just in that one precise moment. There are stepper motors, encoders, detectors, cameras, oscilloscopes, and even other weirder elements that need to work together. And we make sure they work properly.

Ivana: Do you use any specialized software in your work?

Sergi: Currently, the control room is running Debian 9 with Plasma. Almost everything in the controls section runs Linux. There are a few computers that require Windows because some manufacturers didn't provide the drivers for Linux...

Computers in the control room, powered by Plasma. Photo by Sergi Blanch-Torné.

As for the tools we use, the ESRF has been publishing the controls system as Free Software for decades now. There is a community of synchrotrons in Europe and many institutions and research facilities participate in this community. It's all about collaboration of several institutions and engineers like me in other facilities. In a way, it's exactly like in FOSS communities: we work on solving something that others can benefit from, and vice versa. To be more specific in terms of software, the distributed control system we use is called Tango.

Ivana: It really does sound like your work has a lot in common with FOSS communities and their principles. After all, science and software freedom have always been intertwined. If I understood you correctly, you also write your own software at ALBA?

Sergi: Yes, we make Free Software, and it's one of the reasons why I work here. I'm happy to have a job that produces Free Software.

We are a public institution and, even though we make Free Software, there are things we still don't publish. That's why we have to keep pushing in this direction. Some of us have also participated in the FSFE “Public Money? Public Code!” campaign. It's an incredibly important initiative.

Ivana: Can you share an example of what kind of software you produce?

Sergi: Sure! From the control room, the people in charge of the facility need to have precise control of all the elements to ensure the stable control of the beam. They are not close to those elements, so it's necessary to be able to control everything remotely, from the network. And those people like graphical interfaces, so, a long time ago, we started a project based on Qt to build a framework that would make it easier to build those graphical interfaces.

We called it Taurus. This is a LGPL framework, and since the latest release (4.5 at the time of writing), it supports Plasma 5.

Screenshot of the Taurus software, courtesy of Sergi Blanch-Torné.

Ivana: It’s nice to hear that. :) Apart from using Plasma as the desktop environment on your computers, do you use any other KDE apps at ALBA?

Sergi: We are a scientific paper factory, so we use Kile and Okular all the time. In the controls section, we use Kate and KWrite quite often. Of course, there are also the Emacs people and the Vim users...

Personally, I use KMail, Amarok, digiKam, and for my astronomy hobby, KStars. Whenever I show someone new how to start playing with a (domestic) telescope, KStars is the perfect application to learn everything you need to know.

Ivana: We’ll make sure to forward the praise to the KStars team. Do you have any advice for young scientists who would like to work at ALBA or similar institutions? What kinds of skills should they have? Any particular programming languages that would be good to know?

Sergi: For sure! The important thing is to apply. Apply to any job you think will make you happy. If there's a nice work opportunity, don't pass up on it.

At ALBA, we work with C/C++ and Python. Sometimes, but rarely in Java. I use Cython very often.

There is a variety of skills that we, as a group, provide. One single person can't do everything alone, so the community aspect is crucial to us. Our work ranges from kernel drivers to graphical interfaces. Some of us are better in one area, some in another. The important thing is that in the end, the group is capable of working on the full stack. And the main driving force is that we're all contributing to science.

Ivana: We hope you know your contributions are very much appreciated. This has been a fantastic interview – we’ve learned so many things! Thank you, Sergi. It would make us all happy if you could come to Akademy, KDE’s annual conference, so please think about it. :)

Sergi: Thanks for having me! The next Akademy is in Italy, isn't it? I’ll be there.

Would you like to meet KDE developers, or learn how to use Plasma in your company? Come to Milan, Italy, from September 7th to 13th and join us at Akademy! Our community conference is free and open to everyone.

Akademy 2019: Talk Schedule is out!

Thursday 11th of July 2019 08:03:46 AM



The schedule for Akademy 2019 is out and it is full of interesting and intriguing talks, panels and keynotes.

On day one (Saturday, September 7), the teams that have been working on the community goals over the last two years will discuss how things worked out and what has been achieved (spoiler: a lot). As many of the procedures and processes developed for the goals have now been worked into the everyday ways the KDE community operates and builds things, it is time to look for new goals. That is precisely what will be happening next, when the panel unveils what the community has decided to work on in the next two years.

Apart from goals, there will also be time for the bleeding-edge tech KDE is so well-known for. You will find out from Aleix Pol how developers managed to make a complex graphical environment like the Plasma desktop start up faster, and Marco Martin and Bhushan Shah will show us how Plasma can work everywhere, including on embedded devices. Taking things a step further still, Aditya Mehra will demonstrate how the open source Mycroft AI assistant can be the next great thing to assist you while you drive your car.

On Sunday, the schedule is equally full of challenging ideas and fun stuff. You will see what's new in KDE's effort to create a completely open, privacy-protecting travel assistant, courtesy of Volker Krause. In Akademy 2018 Volker introduced KItinerary and this year he will be talking about KPublicTransport. Having teamed up with the Open Transport community, KDE is now building a framework which will allow apps to give users a complete travel solution without having to depend on leaky proprietary services.

As projects like Mycroft show, KDE is working on integrating AI into the desktop. Trung Thanh Dinh will be explaining how AI can also be used in the area of face recognition, and how that can be leveraged by KDE's applications. Another thing on the list of revolutionary technologies is that KDE is setting its sights on virtual reality. Cristoph Haag will explain how VR requires a completely different approach to user interfaces from what we are used to.

Obviously, that is not all. It is but a small cross-section of what you will be able to see at Akademy 2019. Soon we will also unveil our two keynote speakers with interviews here, on the Dot. After the weekend of talks, panels and keynotes, the rest of the week will be dedicated to BoFs (Birds of a Feather sessions), where community members with similar interests get together and work on their projects, as well as coding sessions, meetings, and social activities.

Do not miss Akademy 2019! Join us, register for the event now, book your accommodation soon (Milan gets busy!) and meet up with all your KDE friends.

Besides. did we say it is in Milan? That means pasta, pizza, gelato and Gothic architecture. What's not to love?

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About Akademy


Akademy 2018, Vienna

For most of the year, KDE - one of the largest free and open software communities in the world - works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

Plasma + Usability & Productivity Sprint in Valencia, Spain

Thursday 4th of July 2019 04:42:19 PM

The KDE Plasma and Usability teams recently converged on the beautiful Spanish city of Valencia for a combined development sprint. The teams admired Valencia's medieval architecture and stayed up until midnight eating sumptuous Mediterranean food. But of course, the real purpose was work!

We camped out in the offices of the Slimbook company, which were generously made available for the sprint. The aim was not only to hack on Plasma and the Usability & Productivity initiative, but also to benefit from the cross-pollination opportunities provided by hosting both sprints at the same time and place.

The result was a huge amount of work done on Plasma, KWin, Dolphin, Spectacle, and many other bits of KDE software.

Present for the Plasma sprint were Kai Uwe Broulik, David Edmundson, Nicolas Fella, Eike Hein, Roman Gilg, Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Marco Martin, and Bhushan Shah. They had quite a busy agenda:

  • Plasma 5.16's new notification system received a great deal of polish
  • Fixed a ton of bugs in the Plasma Browser Integration
  • Rewrote the widget positioning code for the desktop, making it much more robust, future-proof, and usable on touch:



  • Started work on making the Task Manager understand window stacking order, which will allow it to implement new interaction modes for grouped windows (e.g. bring forward the last-used window when clicked)
  • Worked on architecture improvements for the Task Manager to unify its different presentation modes and improve code robustness
  • Worked on a variety of architecture improvements for KWin to make it more future-proof, which, among other things, will improve multi-screen handling
  • Improved the user interface for the System Tray's settings window
  • Added calculator and unit conversion functionality to Kickoff and Application Dashboard

Kickoff now integrates a calculator and a unit conversion utility.

In addition to making technical progress, the Plasma and Usability teams got together to discuss a number of long-standing Plasma issues, and figure out how to resolve them:

We wanted to make it easier to test a custom-compiled version of Plasma. To do so, we implemented changes that allow you to integrate your custom-compiled Plasma into SDDM by running a single command, after which you can log into it normally. For more information, see this article.

We thought it would be a good idea to make more it obvious and discoverable that Plasma is made up of widgets, and show how they are configured. To do this, we decided to create a new "global edit mode" that's triggerable from within System Settings, as this is where new users generally expect everything to be configured. In this global edit mode, all widgets become visibly configurable, editable, removable, etc. We also want to make it easy to change the wallpaper in this mode. With all that done, we'll be able to remove the Desktop Toolbox as it currently exists.

There was a need to unify the disparate scaling methods, so we decided to visually connect the scale factor chooser with the "Force Fonts DPI" setting, since the former actually affects the latter, but not the other way around. This should make it clear that the scaling slider is the primary way to scale the screen, and the "force fonts DPI" control is nothing more than a way to tweak things further.

We needed Plasma to respect the system-wide scale factor on X11, so we came up with a path forward and a plan for getting it done!

We planned out how to add power actions to the lock screen. We concluded that not only does this make sense, but it will be necessary for Plasma Mobile anyway. In a multi-user environment, the user will have to enter an admin password to shut down or restart the machine when other users are also logged in.

Even during down time, KDE carries on coding!

Over in the Usability & Productivity room we had Méven Car, Albert Astals Cid, Noah Davis, Filip Fila, Nate Graham, and David Redondo. The agenda was similarly jam-packed, and included the following:

  • We ported Spectacle to use KGlobalAccel and away from KHotKeys, made the quit-after-copy feature finally work, and added support for drawing annotations on newly-taken screenshots
  • We implemented user-configurable sort ordering for wallpaper slideshows
  • Dolphin received human-readable sort order text and an auto-play-on-hover feature for media files
  • We added inline name feedback when creating new files or folders
  • Users can optionally close windows in the Present Windows effect with a middle-click
  • Many user interface improvements have been made to the Purpose framework, which implements sharing support in many apps (Dolphin, Spectacle, Okular, Gwenview as of recently, and so on)
  • We started working on improving the default selection of pictures available for user account avatars
  • Initial work has been done on a new "Recently used" feature for Dolphin and the file dialogs that will pull its data from a single consistent location and actually notice everything

We also came to some significant conclusions related to higher-level goals. For example, we plan to pay for professional user research to generate new "personas" and target user groups that represent the people using our software. We will use these personas as the basis for professional usability testing for Plasma, Dolphin, Gwenview, Okular, and other components of a basic desktop.

Additionally, we discussed how we can add release notes data to our apps' AppStream data, so that it shows up in software center apps like Discover. The big blocker was getting the required translations added to the tarball. We've started a dialogue with AppStream maintainer Matthias Klumpp regarding a new feature to pull translations from a remote location, which would support our workflow. The conversation is proceeding nicely so far.

Finally, VDG member Noah Davis dug deep into Breeze to work on visual consistency improvements related to selection highlights. Given his growing familiarity with the code, he's well on his way to becoming the next Breeze maintainer!

All in all, it was a very productive week. KDE Plasma and apps are in a great place right now, and the team's effort to further improve things will reach you in upcoming versions, so stay tuned!

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Plasma 5.16 by KDE is Now Available

Tuesday 11th of June 2019 12:00:00 AM

Say hello to Plasma 5.16, a the newest iteration of KDE's desktop environment, chock-a-block with new features and improvements.

For starters, check out the new notification system! Not only can you mute notifications altogether with the Do Not Disturb mode, but the system also groups notifications by app. Like this, when you run through the history of past notifications, you can see all the messages from KDE Connect in one category, the download information in another, email alerts in a third, and so on.

Discover, Plasma's software manager, is also cleaner and clearer as it now has two distinct areas for downloading and installing software on the Update page. Besides, when updating, the completion bar now works correctly and the packages disappear from the list as the software manager completes their installation.

With each new version, we make Plasma safer, and protect your data better. In 5.16 we have made using Vaults easier and more convenient. Vaults are a built-in utility to encrypt folders, installed by default on Plasma, and you can now open them directly from Dolphin.

Protecting your privacy requires that we focus on the small details, too. When any application accesses the microphone, an icon will pop up in your system tray, showing that something is listening. It doesn't matter whether it is graphical application, a web app or a process started on the command line - the icon will show up alerting you to the fact. You can deactivate your mic by clicking the icon with the middle button on your mouse.

Plasma 5.16 is also spectacular to look at, with our new wallpaper called Ice Cold. Designed by Santiago Cézar, it is the winner of a contest with more than 150 entries. Ice Cold will keep you cool and feeling fresh for the upcoming summer months. Again, giving you options is what Plasma is all about, so we have included a few other contest submissions for you to choose from.

Talking of options, many of the pages in the System Settings have been redesigned, with clearer icons and friendlier layouts. Getting back to wallpapers: the Wallpaper Slideshow settings window displays the images in the folders you selected, and lets you select only the graphics you want to display in the slideshow. To improve visibility, window and menu shadow colors are pure black - something that works especially well when using dark themes.

And if creating themes is your thing, many of the hard-coded look and feel options are gone know, allowing you full freedom to design widgets to your liking. You'll notice it in the small things, like the analog clock handles: Plasma themes now let you tweak their look by adjusting the offset and toggling the blur behind panels.

For a more comprehensive overview of what to expect in Plasma 5.16, check out the official announcement or the changelog for the complete list of changes.

Functional, feature-rich, privacy-protecting and beautiful... What else could you ask for? Look out for Plasma 5.16 in a distribution near you!

Announcing Our Google Summer of Code 2019 Students

Sunday 9th of June 2019 12:00:00 AM

The KDE Community welcomes our Google Summer of Code students for 2019!

These students will be working with our development teams throughout the summer, and many of them will join us this September at Akademy, our annual community meeting.

Krita will have four students this year: Alberto Flores will work with the SVG pipe/animated brush, Kuntal M. is porting the magnetic lasso, Sharaf Zaman will port Krita to Android, and Tusooa Windy will bring a better undo/redo for Krita.

digiKam will mentor three students this year. Thanh Trung Dinh will bring AI Face Recognition with the OpenCV DNN module to digiKam, Igor Antropov will improve the Faces Management workflow, and Ahmed Fathy will make a zoomable and resizable brush for Healing Clone Tool.

Labplot gets attention from two students in 2019. While Devanshu Agarwal will provide statistical analysis for Labplot, Ferencz Kovács will work on the support for importing educational data sets available on the Internet.

Another two students - Piyush Aggarwal and Weixuan Xiazo - will work on KDE Connect. Their projects are quite exciting: Piyush will be porting KDE Connect to Windows, while Weixuan brings KDEconnect to MacOS.

Akshay Kumar will bring Gcompris one step closer to version 1.0, and Akhil K Gangadharan will revamp the Titler tool for Kdenlive. Prasenjit Kumar Shaw will make data sync for Falkon a thing, and Rituka Patwal will bring Nextcloud integration to Plasma Mobile.

João Netto will improve JavaScript support on Okular, and Karina Pereira Passos will improve Khipu and Analitza. Nikita Sirgienko will implement the import/export of Jupyter notebooks in Cantor.

Atul Bisht will create a barcode scanning plugin in Purpose. Filip Fila will work on ensuring consistency between the SDDM login manager and the Plasma desktop, and SonGeon will focus on integrating kmarkdown-qtview with WYSIWYG markdown editor for KDE as a whole.

KDE neon will get a KDE ISO image writer courtesy of Farid Boudedja, while Caio Tonetti will make an improved graph theory IDE for Rocs. Alexander Saoutkin will be polishing KIOFuse, and Shubham will port authentication to Polkit-qt for KDE Partition Manager.

We look forward to our students' contributions, and we're excited to share their progress with the rest of the world. As Google Summer of Code moves forward, you'll be able to read detailed reports from our students, and find out how their work will impact your favorite KDE software. Stay tuned, and wish them luck!

Akademy 2019 registration now open

Thursday 6th of June 2019 08:00:24 AM

Akademy is free to attend, however you need to register to reserve your space.

Once you have registered, take a look at our guide on how to travel to Milan and check out the accommodation we have arranged and recommend for attendees. We also have a guide on how to get from different locations within Milan to Akademy. This guide also includes information on how to move around the city in general -- useful for sightseeing!

IMPORTANT: All attendees are expected to read and required to follow Akademy's Code of Conduct.

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Show your friends you are attending Akademy 2019 by displaying a badge on your blog, your website or social media account:



About Akademy


Akademy 2018, Vienna

For most of the year, KDE - one of the largest free and open software communities in the world - works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

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KDE Privacy Sprint, 2019 Edition

Wednesday 5th of June 2019 12:00:00 AM

From the 22nd to 26th of March, members of the KDE Privacy team met up in Leipzig, Germany, for our Spring 2019 sprint.

During the sprint, we floated a lot of different ideas that sparked plenty of discussions. The notion of privacy encompasses a wide range of topics, technologies and methods, so it is often difficult to decide what to focus on. However, all the aspects we worked on are important. We ended up tackling a variety of issues, and we are confident that our contributions will improve data protection for all users of KDE software.

Both Sandro Knauß and Volker Krause regularly work on KDE's Kontact suite (email, calendar, contacts, etc.), but this time they took on network-related issues. One of the problems is that there are still too many http links (instead of secure https links) within our codebase. This is a threat to users' communication, as http connections - and hence all the messages that travel over them - are unencrypted.

To make it easier for all KDE developers, Sandro and Volker wrote an ECM-injected global unit test. The test gets added to every application and prints out warnings about http links used in your code. Another script tries to update all the links in your codebase to use https, but checks beforehand if the https links would work. For example, sourceforge.org subdomains don't provide a certificate, so the script would ignore those.

Things are further complicated by http links that are used as identifiers in XML documents, and those links cannot be changed. All of the above exceptions and niche cases are the reason a simple search-and-replace would not work.

When the script ran, many of the links it found were updates of user-facing links that a normal capable browser would "fix" on the fly. However, it also found privacy leaks, as some links were routed through URL shorteners and pastebin services, as well as to default download locations.

Another thing we identified is that, unfortunately, the KDE mirror network is still using http and the underlying software is not ready to work with https. This means there is still some work we need to carry out to make mirrorbrain capable of using https. The website needs a valid certificate, too.

Meanwhile, Ivan Čukić and David Edmundson worked on improving Plasma Vault, KDE's solution for encrypting folders. The aim was to fix the issues that arise when other KDE software components interact with vaults. They made several major improvements:

  • vaults can now be opened and closed directly from Dolphin;
  • offline vaults force the network to be disconnected as soon as the password entry dialogue is shown;
  • and thumbnails are not generated for files in FUSE-encrypted directories unless the thumbnail cache is located in the same encrypted mount.

David and Ivan also spent some time on KWallet, KDE's password manager. In a breakout session, David investigated how to handle KWallet sandboxing, and Ivan explored the possibility of doing elliptic-curve encrypted inter-process communication, which could be useful for handling passwords with KWallet.

Florian Müller looked into using the Tor Browser as the default browser in Plasma. He found that it is mostly blocked, as Tor Browser is started with --no-remote, which makes it impossible to trigger new tabs from the outside. To solve the problem, Florian filed a patch against torbrowser-launcher.

The integration of Tor goes way beyond of just using the browser, though. In fact, the team wants all applications to be able to use Tor. To see if this was possible, we picked some applications and worked on configuring their proxy settings. During the testing, we used a .onion address to make sure that data was correctly sent via the Tor network.

On Monday morning, Jos van den Oever presented a proof-of-concept privacy proxy. The proxy is run by the user, and it intercepts all web traffic, storing it in a local archive. This proxy makes it possible to revisit parts of the Web even without an Internet connection. Additionally, the proxy can block unwanted content by defining filters.

The presentation was followed by a discussion on how to use such a proxy in KDE software in a user-friendly manner. Jos himself has been using his own proxy privately for a few years, but the code needs to be cleaned up and updated to the current version of Rust libraries before it can be released.

Then again, working for the future is what the Privacy team does most of the time. Gradually, most or all these features (and quite a few more) will make their way into Plasma Desktop and Plasma Mobile, making your desktop and mobile devices a safe environment against data leaks and snooping without sacrificing functionality.

KDE Plasma 5.16 Beta: Your Three Week Notification for a More Tidy and Composed Desktop

Thursday 16th of May 2019 04:43:50 PM





KDE Plasma 5.16

Thursday, 16 May 2019.

Today KDE launches the beta release of Plasma 5.16.

In this release, many aspects of Plasma have been polished and
rewritten to provide high consistency and bring new features. There is a completely rewritten notification system supporting Do Not Disturb mode, more intelligent history with grouping, critical notifications in fullscreen apps, improved notifications for file transfer jobs, a much more usable System Settings page to configure everything, and many other things. The System and
Widget Settings have been refined and worked on by porting code to
newer Kirigami and Qt technologies and polishing the user interface.
And of course the VDG and Plasma team effort towards Usability & Productivity
goal
continues, getting feedback on all the papercuts in our software that make your life less
smooth and fixing them to ensure an intuitive and consistent workflow for your
daily use.

For the first time, the default wallpaper of Plasma 5.16 will
be decided by a contest where everyone can participate and submit art. The
winner will receive a Slimbook One v2 computer, an eco-friendly, compact
machine, measuring only 12.4 x 12.8 x 3.7 cm. It comes with an i5 processor, 8
GB of RAM, and is capable of outputting video in glorious 4K. Naturally, your
One will come decked out with the upcoming KDE Plasma 5.16 desktop, your
spectacular wallpaper, and a bunch of other great software made by KDE. You can find
more information and submitted work on the competition wiki
page
, and you can submit your own wallpaper in the
subforum
.

Desktop Management





New Notifications





Theme Engine Fixes for Clock Hands!





Panel Editing Offers Alternatives





Login Screen Theme Improved

  • Completely rewritten notification system supporting Do Not Disturb mode, more intelligent history with grouping, critical notifications in fullscreen apps, improved notifications for file transfer jobs, a much more usable System Settings page to configure everything, and more!
  • Plasma themes are now correctly applied to panels when selecting a new theme.
  • More options for Plasma themes: offset of analog clock hands and toggling blur behind.
  • All widget configuration settings have been modernized and now feature an improved UI. The Color Picker widget also improved, now allowing dragging colors from the plasmoid to text editors, palette of photo editors, etc.
  • The look and feel of lock, login and logout screen have been improved with new icons, labels, hover behavior, login button layout and more.
  • When an app is recording audio, a microphone icon will now appear in the System Tray which allows for changing and muting the volume using mouse middle click and wheel. The Show Desktop icon is now also present in the panel by default.
  • The Wallpaper Slideshow settings window now displays the images in the selected folders, and allows selecting and deselecting them.
  • The Task Manager features better organized context menus and can now be configured to move a window from a different virtual desktop to the current one on middle click.
  • The default Breeze window and menu shadow color are back to being pure black, which improves visibility of many things especially when using a dark color scheme.
  • The "Show Alternatives..." button is now visible in panel edit mode, use it to quickly change widgets to similar alternatives.
  • Plasma Vaults can now be locked and unlocked directly from Dolphin.


Settings





Color Scheme





Application Style and Appearance Settings

  • There has been a general polish in all pages; the entire Appearance section has been refined, the Look and Feel page has moved to the top level, and improved icons have been added in many pages.
  • The Color Scheme and Window Decorations pages have been redesigned with a more consistent grid view. The Color Scheme page now supports filtering by light and dark themes, drag and drop to install themes, undo deletion and double click to apply.
  • The theme preview of the Login Screen page has been overhauled.
  • The Desktop Session page now features a "Reboot to UEFI Setup" option.
  • There is now full support for configuring touchpads using the Libinput driver on X11.


Window Management





Window Management

  • Initial support for using Wayland with proprietary Nvidia drivers has been added. When using Qt 5.13 with this driver, graphics are also no longer distorted after waking the computer from sleep.
  • Wayland now features drag and drop between XWayland and Wayland native windows.
  • Also on Wayland, the System Settings Libinput touchpad page now allows you to configure the click method, switching between "areas" or "clickfinger".
  • KWin's blur effect now looks more natural and correct to the human eye by not unnecessary darkening the area between blurred colors.
  • Two new default shortcuts have been added: Meta+L can now be used by default to lock the screen and Meta+D can be used to show and hide the desktop.
  • GTK windows now apply correct active and inactive colour scheme.


Plasma Network Manager





Plasma Network Manager with Wireguard

  • The Networks widget is now faster to refresh Wi-Fi networks and more reliable at doing so. It also has a button to display a search field to help you find a particular network from among the available choices. Right-clicking on any network will expose a "Configure…" action.
  • WireGuard is now compatible with NetworkManager 1.16.
  • One Time Password (OTP) support in Openconnect VPN plugin has been added.


Discover





Updates in Discover

  • In Discover's Update page, apps and packages now have distinct "downloading" and "installing" sections. When an item has finished installing, it disappears from the view.
  • Tasks completion indicator now looks better by using a real progress bar. Discover now also displays a busy indicator when checking for updates.
  • Improved support and reliability for AppImages and other apps that come from store.kde.org.
  • Discover now allows you to force quit when installation or update operations are proceeding.
  • The sources menu now shows the version number for each different source for that app.

Read the full announcement

Bring the Linux App Summit 2019 home

Tuesday 7th of May 2019 06:18:38 AM

The GNOME and KDE communities are looking for locations for the Linux App Summit (LAS) 2019, an event that will be held sometime between September and December 2019.

The Linux App Summit is an evolution of the Libre Application Summit and has a specific focus on the creation of applications that target Linux devices. By co-hosting the conference, KDE and GNOME want to create a space for a more widespread collaboration and work towards a common goal: make the Linux application ecosystem flourish.

If you are interested in hosting LAS 2019 in your town, send us an e-mail to appsummit@lists.freedesktop.org by May 15th with your proposed location. This will allow the organizing committee to establish contact with you and give you assistance as you put together a bid later on.

For more information on relevant deadlines, please check out the LAS website.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Announcing Akademy 2019 in Milan, Italy (September 7th - 13th)

Wednesday 24th of April 2019 10:35:02 AM

Akademy 2019 will be held at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy, from Saturday the 7th to Friday the 13th of September.

The conference is expected to draw hundreds of attendees from the global KDE community to discuss and plan the future of the community and its technology. Many participants from the broad Free and Open Source software community, local organizations and software companies will also attend.

KDE e.V. is organizing Akademy 2019 with unixMiB — the Linux User Group of the University of Milano-Bicocca. unixMiB aims to spread Open Source philosophy among students.

Akademy 2019 Program

Akademy 2019 will start with 2 days of talks on Saturday and Sunday (7th and 8th of September), followed by 5 days of workshops, Birds of a Feather (BoF), training and coding sessions.

Call for Papers

The goal of the conference section of Akademy is to learn and teach new skills, and share our passion around what we're doing together at KDE.

For the sharing of ideas, experiences and state of things, we will have short Fast Track sessions in a single-track section of Akademy. Teaching and sharing technical details is done through longer sessions in the multi-track section of Akademy.

If you have an idea or a story that you would like to present, please tell us about it. If you know of someone else who should present, please encourage them to get in touch. For more details, see the proposal guidelines and the Call for Papers.

The submission deadline is 31st May, 23:59:59 CEST.

About Milan

With a population of over 1.5 million inhabitants, Milan has a rich history that stretches back to 600 BC. The city boasts interesting museums, fascinating archaeological sites and breathtaking architecture and monuments. It is also renowned for its excellent food and wine.

Milan is considered a global city, with strengths in the field of the arts, commerce, design, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, services, research, and tourism. It is the third-largest economy among European cities after Paris and London, but the fastest in growth among the three. It is also the wealthiest among European non-capital cities.

Apart from being recognized as the world's fashion and design capital, Milan has a strong IT-based sector and is home to powerhouses such as Disney and SUSE. The adjacent towns are home to IBM Italia, Samsung and the CILEA supercomputing center, one of the most advanced HPC centers in Europe.

About the University of Milano-Bicocca

Akademy will be held in the halls of the University of Milano-Bicocca. Milano-Bicocca is a public university that provides undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education in a wide range of disciplinary fields including Economics, Informatics, Statistics, Law, Education, Sociology, Medicine and Surgery, Maths, Natural Sciences, Physics and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Biotechnology, and Psychology.

The university is located to the north and east of the center of Milan and can easily be reached by bus and metro/underground.

About Akademy


Akademy 2018, Vienna

For most of the year, KDE - one of the largest free and open software communities in the world - works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

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KDE Applications 19.04 Released

Thursday 18th of April 2019 12:00:00 AM

The first new applications bundle release of the year adds stability, coherence and new features that help users become more comfortable and more productive using KDE software.

KDE's file manager, Dolphin, can now show previews of more types of files, including Microsoft Office files, Blender 3D scenes, and EPUB eBooks. Continuing in the same department, previews of text files containing code or markup will now show syntax highlighting. All of the above will help users identify the contents of a file even before opening it. Other usability improvements include the option to choose which split to close when clicking the Close Split button, smarter tab placement, and a more practical way of tagging files.

Okular, KDE's document viewer, now lets users verify PDFs that have been digitally signed. Digital signatures are used in official documents to confirm that the document comes from the right source, and that it has not been tampered with. Okular also lets you edit LaTeX documents directly in the viewer and has improved touchscreen compatibility, making it much easier to use it in presentation mode.

Kontact has also improved, with KMail receiving most of the changes. Starting with this release, KMail can correct your grammar in the texts of your messages. A new thing you will find in this version of Kontact is KItinerary, a travel assistant developed by Volker Krausse that advises you on how to best get to your destination using meta-data from your e-mails.

Many other apps have been improved: Konsole has made using tabs easier, Spectacle gives you more options when taking and saving screenshots, and Kdenlive has overhauled the timeline, making editing video easier and more fun, just to mention a few changes.

As always, you can read more about KDE Applications 19.04 in the official announcement. Many distributions are currently packaging Applications 19.04 ready for update and install. For the first time, you can install many of the apps on any distro directly from the Snap Store.

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More in Tux Machines

Security Leftovers

  • Researchers Build App That Kills To Highlight Insulin Pump Exploit

    By now the half-baked security in most internet of things (IOT) devices has become a bit of a running joke, leading to amusing Twitter accounts like Internet of Shit that highlight the sordid depth of this particular apathy rabbit hole. And while refrigerators leaking your gmail credentials and tea kettles that expose your home networks are entertaining in their own way, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the same half-assed security in the IOT space also exists on most home routers, your car, your pacemaker, and countless other essential devices and services your life may depend on. Case in point: just about two years ago, security researchers discovered some major vulnerabilities Medtronic's popular MiniMed and MiniMed Paradigm insulin pumps. At a talk last year, they highlighted how a hacker could trigger the pumps to either withhold insulin doses, or deliver a lethal dose of insulin remotely. But while Medtronic and the FDA warned customers about the vulnerability and issued a recall over time, security researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts found that initially, nobody was doing much to actually fix or replace the existing devices. [...] And of course that's not just a problem in the medical sector, but most internet-connected tech sectors. As security researcher Bruce Schneier often points out, it's part of a cycle of dysfunction where the consumer and the manufacturer of a flawed product have already moved on to the next big purchase, often leaving compromised products, and users, in a lurch. And more often than not, when researchers are forced to get creative to highlight the importance of a particular flaw, the companies in question enjoy shooting the messenger.

  • Desktop Operating Systems: Which is the safest? [Ed: This shallow article does not discuss NSA back doors and blames on "Linux" devices with open ports and laughable passwords -- based on narrative often pushed by corporate media to give illusion of parity. Also pushes the lie of Linux having minuscule usage.]
  • How Open Source Data Can Protect Consumer Credit Card Information
  • Open Source Hacking Tool Grows Up

    An open source white-hat hacking tool that nation-state hacking teams out of China, Iran, and Russia have at times employed to avoid detection....

Games: Dota Underlords and Stadia

  • Dota Underlords has another update out, this one changes the game quite a lot

    Valve continue to tweak Dota Underlords in the hopes of keeping players happy, this mid-Season gameplay update flips quite a few things on their head. I like their sense of humour, with a note about them removing "code that caused crashes and kept code that doesn't cause crashes". There's a few smaller changes like the addition of Loot Round tips to the Season Info tab, the ability to change equipped items from the Battle Pass and some buffs to the amount XP awarded for your placement in matches and for doing the quests. Meaning you will level up the Battle Pass faster.

  • Interested in Google's Stadia game streaming service? We have a few more details now

    With Google's game streaming service Stadia inching closer, we have some more information to share about it. Part of this, is thanks to a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) they did on Reddit. I've gone over what questions they answered, to give you a little overview. Firstly, a few points about the Stadia Pro subscription: The Pro subscription is not meant to be like a "Netflix for Games", something people seem to think Stadia will end up as. Google said to think of it more like Xbox Live Gold or Playstation Plus. They're aiming to give Pro subscribers one free game a month "give or take". If you cancel Stadia Pro, you will lose access to free games claimed. However, you will get the previously claimed games back when you re-subscribe but not any you missed while not subscribed. As for Stadia Base, as expected there will be no free games included. As already confirmed, both will let you buy games as normal.

LabPlot has got some beautifying and lots of datasets

Hello everyone! The second part of this year's GSoC is almost over, so I was due to let you know the progress made in the last 3 weeks. I can assure you we haven't lazed since then. I think I managed to make quite good progress, so everything is going as planned, or I could say that even better. If you haven't read about this year's project or you just want to go through what has already been accomplished you can check out my previous post. So let's just go through the new things step by step. I'll try to explain the respective feature, and also give examples using videos or screenshots. The first step was to improve the welcome screen and make it easily usable, dynamic, clean and intuitive for users. This step was very important since the welcome screen is what the users will first get in contact with when they start using LabPlot. Read more

Graphics: Weston 7.0 Reaches Alpha and RadeonSI Gallium3D Driver Adds Navi Wave32 Support

  • weston 6.0.91
    This is the alpha release for weston 7.0.  A lot of new features and
    fixes are shipped in this release, including:
    
    - New internal debug scopes and logging framework
    - Improved documentation
    - HDCP support
    - A new PipeWire plugin
    
    Thanks to all contributors!
    
    We've moved to Meson as our only build system, autotools support has
    been removed.  Package maintainers: please report any issues you have
    with Meson before the stable release.
    
    Full commit history below.
    
  • Weston 7.0 Reaches Alpha With PipeWire, HDCP, EGL Partial Updates & Mores

    Wayland release manager Simon Ser announced the alpha release of the Weston 7.0 reference compositor on Friday that also marks the feature freeze for this Wayland compositor update. Some of the major changes to Weston 7.0 include HDCP content protection support, better documentation, new debugging and logging framework support, and the just-added PipeWire plug-in for remote streaming. There are also less prominent additions like EGL partial update support, various DRM compositor back-end restructuring, build system updates, and a variety of libweston updates.

  • RadeonSI Gallium3D Driver Adds Navi Wave32 Support

    One of the new features to the RDNA architecture with Navi is support for single cycle issue Wave32 execution on SIMD32. Up to now the RadeonSI code was using just Wave64 but now there is support in this AMD open-source Linux OpenGL driver for Wave32. Well known AMD open-source developer Marek Olšák landed this Wave32 support on Friday for the RadeonSI driver. The Wave32 support landed over several commits to Mesa 19.2-devel and is enabled for vertex, geometry, and tessellation shaders. Wave32 isn't enabled for pixel shaders but rather Wave64. Additionally, Wave32 isn't yet enabled for compute shaders due to Piglit OpenGL test case failures.