Plasma 5.12 - 28 Days Later

Updated: March 26, 2018

The pun is strong in this one. As it happens, your favorite Jedi, ergo me, went about testing Plasma 5.12, and it proved to be a very reasonable, rounded edition. A good start for what is essentially the current slash next LTS baseline for the wider KDE desktop experience. I performed my exploratory delights in the official Plasma demonstrator, AKA KDE neon Stable Dev Edition.

Now, a bunch of weeks have passed, and there's been a flurry, no, blizzard of activity getting all sorts of little bugs and problems and issues that I've raised fixed. Those and more. Lovely plummy. Which begs some follow up testing, don't you think? Indeed, let me show you the other side of the bug fixing coin, the user side. After me.

Desktop

Update

With KDE neon running nice and solid like, I fired up the command line and let the distro update itself. 'Twas long, because when you have an eight-boot setup and GRUB discovery takes fifteen minutes each time, with a dozen odd kernel and initramfs updates, the procedures does tend to take half an eternity. Why can't all kernels be updated with one command? Why run it sequentially? Anyway, 400-500 MB later, plus a reboot, the neon splash screen was reading 5.12.2 now (psst, up to dot three now, but never mind).

About

Hey Peter, what's happening?

I didn't retest everything, of course, and sure did not run a regression test against the 200+ odd bugs that have been polished, smoothed and squashed lately. I went about looking at some of the obvious things, to see what, who and where.

Hot stuff

There could be some placebo, but if I'm not deluded, fonts look ever so slightly better, and managing the system menu is a tad easier than before. I even managed to add a Microsoft Office Online entry, although the so-called open application defaults to Firefox (the default browser), and I didn't have an option to pin the app to the task manager. Or rather, the option is there, but it does not work. You can add it as widget, but then, you have to keep it either left or right of the icons-only area. No mixing the two. Meanwhile, Manjaro does a wonderful job in this regard.

MS Office Online entry

Add app to panel as widget

GwenView has also received a lot of attention. Looks more professional to be sure, and it does have a handful of extra plugins. However, these plugins aren't that amazing after all, although the export and share options are really cool. Still, it's a step in the right direction.

GwenView

GwenView share

GwenView plugins

Spectacle is also friendlier than before, although you might not notice it in a working, well-configured setup. I still believe the options should be separate from the screenshot capture button. Then, there's a lot of small, tiny stuff you won't immediate notice, however the work and effort are highly appreciated.

Still missing

From what I could see, Discover is slightly prettier but still doesn't work well enough. The panel height change still requires a manual drag action. And I'm still not seeing the CPU time-graph per process the way it was shown in the official blog post for the 5.12 release, although it's there in Manjaro Hakoila Plasma. Is this a configurable setting I'm missing, I don't know.

Panel height

CPU graph missing

Samba remains spotty, even though all and every Plasma app has no problem accessing and using or even writing directly to remote shares - the timestamp issue is still there. Printers wise, and I'm not sure if this a KDE thing, neon thing, Dev channel thing, or all combined, but the printing utility kept on pestering me to provide the root password - and failing. So I had no way to "easily" add a printer device. Hopefully, this is a short-lived regression that will disappear soon.

I also found no way to edit the SDDM to blank - I believe Kubuntu does have this, makes for a prettier and ever so slightly faster login. Again, this might not be a pure KDE thing, but with neon being Plasma and Plasma being neon, and versioned improvement increments coming our way, this should be achievable.

My biggest disappointment was the online account functionality, though. Not only is the application actually not installed (missing in the settings menu, you need to install it, and the name is not trivial - kaccounts), but once you have it, it only lists three options. Really? Why not the dozen popular networks. After all, if Google and Twitter are there, then Facebook and Microsoft should be there, too. Yahoo, Live, you name it.

Online accounts

Conclusion

Plasma 5.12.2 brings in a lot of real, noticeable improvements, and it's a delight to see a living, breathing desktop environment that is pushing hard to become better and more accessible to its users. That said, the expectation of overnight miracles should be avoided, otherwise, you will, a bit like me, wrestle (naked) with frustration. Plasma is on the right course, but it will take a while before it becomes the dreamland bucket of code we want it to be. But the sooner the better, because competition, history and relevance won't wait.

I know it's easier to fix small things - but the ones that need attention and focus are the big ones. The things that ordinary people will see first, no matter how seemingly trivial they might seem. This is even more important for new users, because those already dabbling in Plasma will have made custom configurations that already cater to their needs and work around the system inefficiencies and problems. But then, if it were so easy, I'd have nothing to write and complain. I'm happy. Catch you in the sequel.

Cheers.

You may also like: