The Plasma desktop for a newbie


So, having seen Norbert and @codewiz mentioning Plasma frequently, I decided to give it a try. My desktop box is Fedora33, which comes with a quite current version of Plasma.

Some years ago, I tried gnome - but Gnomes “let’s make it as simple as possible, leave buttons out”-strategy does not stick well with me. I don’t want a dumbed down window manager.

I use WindowMaker since dozends of years. It’s nice and lean, but does not seem to have a future with Wayland. I use xdm with an old style ~/.xsession file.

First step for Plasma: dnf groupinstall kde-desktop-environment. 1.6GB of installed files, and seeing so much stuff I don' intend to use makes me shiver.. but well, worst case I can remove the packages afterwards. I currently run ‘exec wmaker’ in my .xsession. Plasma inherited from KDE, so that becomes ‘exec /bin/startkde’ now for me.

Plasma

Also, cleanup time. I am sometimes using my Thinkpad on the road, so only the internal display. At home, my monitor is connected via HDMI, and then I disable the internal screen. Until now, I have some bash code in .xsession which uses ‘xrandr’ to do that detection, and disable the internal screen if the monitor is connected. Commenting that out, as Plasma will do that.

Until now, I also start pulseaudio, the ibus framework for switching to Japanese input, and run redshift for making colours softer in the evening - all that gets disabled as it’s implemented in Plasma - needs to be configured there though.

Then logout from WindowMaker, logging in with xdm, and Plasma is running. Preferring the Thinkpad screen by default, but that is configured quickly. Let’s try logout/login.. urgs, when logging out from Plasma the desktop gets stuck, and xdm does not appear. After a reboot, the internal screen is directly disabled, good.

Switching global theme to ‘Breeze Dark’, and Plasma style to ‘Oxygen’ fits my colour needs better.

On to configuring. Ok, so the ‘virtual screens’ I heavily use are ‘Desktops’ here. I create 8, and configure the 2 keys above the Thinkpad cursor keys to switch between the Desktops. Switching to ibus-kkc for Japanese input works directly - nice!

Since forever I use gkrellm on one of my ‘Desktops’ to keep an overview on how busy my system is, network throughput and so on, using that also now. After starting it, I see some load on the system, and I/O. Turns out indexing for desktop search was running, process ‘baloo_file_extr’. Disabling this at System Settings/Search quiets the system.

Changing between applications on one Desktop works with + as usual, good. Dragging an application window to the left or right of the screen is not moving it to the next/previous Desktop.. that’s what I’m used from WindowMaker. TODO, search how to move apps to other Desktops. I know right moust button click on the title bar has ‘move to desktop’, but there might be something simpler.

Now for terminals. Since years I use xterm with white on black fonts, let’s try Konsole. Default font is smaller than my previous config.. but seems usable. Just my mutt, irssi and vim colour schemes are not very usable with the default “gray font on grayish background”, so getting a customized profile with real black background. Ah, much better! On-the-fly changing of the font size is a nice feature.

So, I read an email from a Japanese friend with mutt, mark a Japanese sentence and want to paste it into https://www.deepl.com/translator for translation with the middle-button.. that did somehow not work in my first Plasma session, but since the second.

Notifications: by default, these were collected and showed in the panel - I’m used to see direct popups from Firefox for mastodon actions, that could be configured easily. Notification sounds were off by, I would have preferred ‘on’ per default.

A pain point from WindowMaker also exists on Plasma: in firefox, after opening https://9gag.com , when unmuting sound on videos, the sound is to loud. Adjusting that in settings is just adjusting the sound for that single video, and the next one again plays at to high volume. There is a generic setting for firefox in “audio -> applications”, but it has apparently no influence.

TODO: I use multiple terminal windows, not a single one. I have ‘Konsole’ pinned in the panel, I would like to start new instances when clicking it, but it is just minimizing the running Konsole instance.

Other cool things: I use a dark Plasma theme, firefox title bar is now also dark, and also websites seem to show a dark theme. Nice!

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