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- dbus and HAL, which made several improvements to the user experience possible. For example...
Yes, HAL is a godsend, and everyone benefits from that. dbus.. Well.. it's ok. It's good because its a standard, but from KDE's perspective, it's not significantly better than the dcop they already had.
- ...gnome-volume-manager (from Project Utopia), so USB and Firewire devices "Just Work". Went in on 2.8.
Yeah I love this feature. KDE has the equivalent, dunno what the name is though.
- NetworkManager, so WiFi "Just Works". Going in on 2.20.
Also, brilliant feature. Thank you to whoever came up with that. KNetworkmanager is a wicked frontend to it for KDE and it was one of the main reasons I can actually use linux on my laptop. Far better network handling than Windows now.
- gnome-power-manager. A must have for laptop owners (does KDE have a proper HAL frontend for power mgmt yet, or is that also going to be a 4.0 feature?)
There is none included in KDE yet, but KPowersave (0.7.2) does exactly that and works great. I'm not sure if it will be included in KDE 4 or what. I sure hope so. Either that or HAL support will be added to klaptopdaemon.
- Gstreamer and Totem. We know Gstreamer 0.10 was a major improvement, but things continue to get better with improvements pushed by projects like Jokosher. Totem 2.18 has a *much* improved browser plugin (openSUSE for instance shipped an early 2.17 release with their latest release). So, when you visit a site that has multimedia content, it "Just Works".
Not really a big fan of gstreamer. They like to break compatibility a lot, and the xine engine seems to cause a whole lot less issues every time I've tried it, and Codeine has taken over all my video player tasks.
- Orca, a much improved screen reader, was introduced in 2.16.
This is important. KDE 3.x is lacking in the accessibility front. Gnome has been paving the way here with atk, and KDE will hopefully catch up with version 4.
- Cairo. Version 1.4.0 came out just before GNOME 2.18 with major improvements. Of course, GNOME has been using Cairo since 2.12, and KDE will see something similar when KDE 4 is finally released.
Shows promise, but it's still too slow.. 1.4 goes a way towards fixing that though.
To me, it looks like the GNOME guys are working on fixing the problems and bugs people face when they actually use a GNOME based desktop, instead of rewriting code that works just for the fun of it.
I assume that is a jab at KDE. But they're not rewriting code just for the fun of it. They're rewriting code to make writing the next generation of apps easy for developers. That is of _critical_ importance. Nothing is more important than providing a very advanced set of tools for application developers. That is what has allowed people to create amazing applications for KDE in a very short amount of time. With KDE 4, that will extend to Windows and Mac, and more people will have a chance to build on that platform.