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First Look: KDE4.2 Windows Version

K Desktop Environment (KDE), based on the Qt Framework, is a desktop solution for Unix environments. However, many KDE users have wished that popular KDE applications could be ported to Windows. I tested the latest version of KDE, released in late January, to try out this proposition.

Could KDE applications such as Kate, a powerful and versatile text editor; Konqueror, a WebKit-powered browser and file manager; and Amarok, a rich, full-featured audio player, be made to run on Windows XP?

In the past, incompatibilities with the Qt widget framework used by KDE had made porting apps to Windows impractical. However, rewritten libraries used in KDE version 4 have made running cross-platform applications a reality. For the purpose of the test, I chose KDE4.2 because I wanted to test the improvements made over KDE4.0 and 4.1.

Installation Process
Installing KDE4.2 on XP is fairly simple. A nice installation utility will fetch the source code from a mirror server. It then compiles the code for you and installs it. This process may take an hour or more, depending on server load and the components you choose to install. I installed everything except for extra language packs I didn't need. The installation process took about 45 minutes for me.

Figure 1
[Click on image for larger view.]
Figure 1. The desktop in KDE4.2.

After the installation, the KDE applications will be available in your Start menu programs list. They're sorted in much the same way as on a traditional Linux system, with categories such as games, office, education, multimedia, etc.

Launching programs from the Start menu will make them run like normal Windows applications. However, if you want to see the full KDE4.2 environment, you'll need to invoke Plasma -- the KDE desktop-rendering engine -- manually. There's no launcher for this, but running C:\Program Files\KDE\bin\plasma.exe, the standard installation path, will superimpose the KDE desktop over the normal Windows desktop.

When I ran the KDE desktop, I noticed that the KDE taskbar didn't work properly. I had to ALT+TAB to switch between applications.

Work in Progress
Although getting KDE4.2 working on Windows is an impressive feat, it's not very usable in its present state of development. KOffice consistently crashed for me and just wouldn't work. The Amarok 2 beta music player was very glitchy. Some applications, such as Kate, Konqueror and Dolphin, did work, but overall KDE 4.2 on Windows was unbearably slow. This alone severely hinders the usefulness of this release.

IT Spending Slows

Research firm IDC has released a revised IT spending forecast for 2009, and the numbers are down from two previous 2009 forecasts, which were made public in August and November of 2008.

  • IT spending will total $1.44 trillion in 2009, an increase of 0.5 percent over 2008, but down from IDC's 2.6 percent growth forecast from November and well down from the 5.9 percent growth IDC predicted in August.

  • Global spending will contract in the hardware market by 3.6 percent.

  • The new projection calls for software sales growth of 3.4 percent, down from a 4.6 percent growth expectation in November.

  • IT services are now also expected to grow by 3.4 percent, which is down from an earlier expectation of 3.7 percent growth.

This release should be regarded as a proof-of-concept. Due to the KDE port's incompleteness, slowness and instability, users shouldn't consider it for production use. However, the KDE development team should definitely be commended and encouraged for their attempt at porting KDE to a new platform.

Beyond Windows, the KDE tools are very useful in their native environment. Users who wish to experience them should try out a Live CD, such as Kubuntu, that uses KDE4.2 or the still-popular KDE3.5.

KDE4.2 can be downloaded free at the KDE project page.

About the Author

Will Kraft is a Web designer, technical consultant and freelance writer. He can be reached at will@willkraftblog.com. Also, check out his blog at http://www.willkraftblog.com.

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