posted by Robert C. Dowdy on Tue 8th Oct 2002 02:36 UTC

"Yes, it is still KDE - Part I"
If you've been following the controversy surrounding the KDE implementation in 8.0 but haven't actually experienced it for yourself, you probably have no real idea of just how modified Red Hat's KDE truly is. I'm not a software engineer. As a simple user, I can state that aside from the beautiful font rendering and the removal of certain things (such as KDE's excellent font installer and MP3 functionality from Noatun) the majority of the changes appear to be only skin deep. The changes may in fact run much deeper than that, but if so the effects are not immediately obvious to me. With only a few minutes effort I was able to undo the changes I didn't like and bring my KDE desktop into line with my personal tastes. In short: Yes, it's modified, but it's still KDE. This section will show you how to get started with making Red Hat's KDE your own.

You'll notice as you explore that there's a small, seemingly useless blank space in the KDE system tray. When you launch an application that requires root privileges and successfully supply the root password, this space will be filled with a small set of keys. The keys will continue to display for a short while (I haven't timed it), during which time your user privileges remain escalated. This way you can carry out several related tasks as superuser (such as working in the Start Here folders) without having to repeatedly supply a password. Always bear this in mind when making changes that effect your entire system (or when walking away from your system in an insecure environment!).

GDM

The first component of Psyche's desktop the user is confronted with is of course the login manager, which in Psyche is GNOME 2's GDM. The default look is tasteful and attractive and, no offense to the KDE developers, vastly superior from a purely aesthetic point of view to KDE's own KDM. Add to this that GDM is easily and fully themable and KDM doesn't stand a chance. From Kicker, you access the GDM configuration tool by navigating to System Settings -> Login Manager. From there you may choose among several options, including automatically logging in a user at boot time or having a user logged in automatically after a specified amount of time has passed. You might also wish to configure XDMCP (for remote logins, such as from your laptop to desktop) and login security settings as your needs require. A small selection of themes (including the infamous Bluecurve default) are included. To obtain more, a great starting place is the Theme Depot, which also contains themes and skins for other popular tools such as Mozilla and XMMS. You might also want to check out the list of “Related Sites” on the front page, which provides links to other theme-oriented destinations.

If you find a theme that appeals to you, save it (it will most likely be a gzipped tarball archive) to your machine. From the GDM configuration applet's Graphical Greeter tab, select "Install New Theme" in the lower right-hand corner. In the resulting dialog, point to the saved file and click OK. Your new theme should now appear in the list. Select it and you'll see a small preview. Repeat this for any other themes you've downloaded. Note that in accordance with the GNOME 2 human interface guide, the configuration applet has no "Apply" button. The theme selected when you close the applet is the theme that will be in use the next time GDM is displayed.

THE KDE CONTROL CENTER

Psyche's KDE Control Center will behave pretty much as you expect, with the previously mentioned exception of the missing Font Installer. We'll start by doing away with some of the more GNOME-like changes to which Red Hat's KDE defaults. So, fire up Control Center and we'll see how bad the damage really is.

By default, KDE will be set up to use double-click for activation. This may be jarring to long-time KDE users (as well as people like me who are just too lazy to click twice when once will do). The fix is simple. Point to Peripherals -> Mouse and select "Single click to open files and folders". You might want to make other changes, so have a look around and see what's available. Clicking the "Advanced" tab will allow you to change more esoteric settings, such as pointer acceleration and the number of scroll lines a single click of the mouse wheel generates.

If you like having visual confirmation that the program you just started is actually doing so, you should turn on "Busy Cursor" and "Taskbar Notification" under Look And Feel -> Launch Feedback. This is one of those features you don't really notice until it's not there anymore. Being a KDE user, I was subconsciously accustomed to watching the little hourglass spin in the taskbar and having the blinking icon following the pointer around. Using Psyche for the first time, I found myself wondering at times whether the program was really starting – which sometimes led to inadvertently starting multiple instances of a program (stop making fun of me, you've done it too at some point!). It's interesting how such small psychological cues can have such a large impact on the user experience.

One of the first things I did after being dropped into my desktop was to remove pretty much everything from the default panel and start fresh. I then right-clicked and reset the size to "Normal". You may then add back any buttons and applets you want using the panel's right-click context menu. You use the panel a lot, so setting it up efficiently for your computing style is worth a few minutes of your time. You might also want to navigate to Look And Feel -> Panel and on the "Look And Feel" tab select "Enable Icon Zooming" (you'll either find this feature is useless or that it provides useful visual feedback when selecting a panel button). To return the "KDE 3" image to your Kicker menu, click on the "Menus" tab and select "Show Side Image". At this point, we've undone many of Red Hat's modifications and a familiar-looking KDE is beginning to emerge. Just a few more changes to go.

Table of contents
  1. "Introduction"
  2. "Nvidia Drivers"
  3. "Fonts"
  4. "APT, Mp3 and DVD Playback - Part I"
  5. "APT, Mp3 and DVD Playback - Part II"
  6. "Yes, it is still KDE - Part I"
  7. "Yes, it is still KDE - Part II"
  8. "Red Hat Ambition, Modified KDE"
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