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Maintenance–The Achilles Heel of Linux

I grew up in a farming and ranching environment. It’s not the easiest life and it can beat you down if you let it. There’s always something broken, something that needs to be fixed, and if you let it get away from you it can become an overwhelming task trying to set it right.

When my Dad decided to retire from the business, we set about the task of getting things ready for prospective buyers or their agents. One of my jobs was to make sure that the tack shed was in order and all of the tack was wiped with linseed oil and evened up on the wall racks. I was already way behind in my chores and getting to the tack shed was low on my priorities.

Linux Old BarnThe very first prospect took the tour with me and my dad. We were showing him some of the out buildings of which the tack shed was one. When the buyer pulled out one of the trace harnesses, it had a broken coupler and the leather was cracked up and down the trace.

My dad looked at me with murder in his eyes. We never knew if that buyer passed us up because some of our stuff wasn’t in good repair, but to his last days my dad always pointed at my failure as a life-lesson.

Fast forward to present day.

I was out setting up a Reglue computer when I was asked about how to change different aspects of the desktop. If it has nothing else, KDE is rich in a bazillion different ways to customize the UI. I opened up settings and began the Grand Theming Tour of KDE.

One of the great things about KDE theming is the fact that the middle man is cut out of the deal. Many theming features invite you to browse different theming possibilities right where you sit. You don’t have to find the websites and the themes; KDE is built to let you choose those things right inside the app. This is pretty cool. From there you can download and install it right from the same GUI.

Except when you can’t.

Who fixes Linux when Linux is broken?

KDE LinuxIt didn’t matter if it was a new color scheme, a new set of icons or a desktop theme. Combined, I am guessing, one third of the choices rendered an error instead of the desired change. Some of them did not install the theme but told me the link was producing an html file and asks if I want to go to that page and download the theme manually. Why is that even offered? Clicking the link is supposed to install the theme for me, not send me to a page that may or may not have the file…not to mention instructions on how to install it.

If nothing else, it was embarrassing. Even with that setback, I was able to demonstrate to the young lady how to change various areas of her desktop and how to ignore the ones that reported errors. I shouldn’t have had to do that. Those errors show a complete lack of housekeeping.

So I get back to the shop and start digging into this. What I found was links and pages no longer in existence or redirects that were no longer redirecting. Some of them going as far back as 2004.

Really? Links to files from 2004? A lot of those themes are no longer even compatible with present day KDE. Why is a new Linux user invited to install something that’s obsolete or broken and the maintainers know it to be obsolete or broken? This problem is now identified and documented but that only leads to the bigger question.

Who fixes it?

Is it up to the desktop/distro maintainer to correct this or do the KDE folks do it? This is one of the major problems facing desktop Linux. Sure we’ve made some amazing strides in usability and stability, but none of that makes a bit of difference if your project is broken within the core of the machine.

And there’s no way in hell this problem isn’t known by the people who have the ability to make it right. I’ve always accepted it and moved along, but a new user won’t be as generous. Personally, as a new user I wouldn’t use a system with that kind of sloppiness. To me, it speaks to the entire system being sloppy.

Let me get to the heart of the matter. We’ve become complacent. Aside from the kernel, people who produce and maintain any part of Linux are not accountable to anyone. There’s no product quality control. There’s no one being paid for doing this job. There’s no one who is accountable for things like this. There’s no monetary loss or job loss attached to these mistakes or omissions. Heads will not roll for something like this.

“Whaddaya Expect? It’s free. Now shut your pie hole and don’t bother us.”

You know as well as I do, this isn’t even close to the only blemish upon desktop Linux. It’s simply one I had to try to explain to a new Linux user. So what does it all come down to? There’s no financial liability here. There’s no one screaming for the head of the person who let this problem remain for a decade.

And if this actually does come into the view of Those Who Fix Stuff, I’m afraid it will become a finger-pointing exercise and absolutely nothing will get done.

I’m reminded of the legendary quote from Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” when the family was being forced off their property as a result of repossession. The sheriff wasn’t happy with a gun being pointed at him so he tells Muley he’s just doing his job and that it was a corporation that was ordering him off his land.

To which Muley calls out in frustration: “Well, then who do we shoot?” That is used simply to illustrate my point. When you have faceless, nameless entities that are controlling your environment, it’s hard to find the person who can at least answer for their actions. Or lack of actions in this case.

So for those who lament the “hobbyist tag” Linux has been stuck with, well, I think I found the problem. Not that it was that hard to find. It’s the one with the moss growing on the north side of it.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project that refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area.

40 comments to Maintenance–The Achilles Heel of Linux

  • Michiel van der Wulp

    You are responsible.
    Why did you not attempt to remove the dead link yourself?

  • Andrew

    Welcome to my world Ken, I spent years working on cleaning up the mess FOSS developers left behind them because it wasn’t “sexy” enough for them to waste their time on. Careful though, don’t go too far over that line or the trolls will come out of the woodwork and start attacking you, it’s the only thing they know how to do.

  • CFWhitman

    You know that the proprietary approach may not be as much about accountability as you imagine. It seems to me like it’s more about PR and control. I think that, to an extent (and only an extent), the type of problem you saw with themes is just inherent to having user creatable themes. The solution to a problem like this usually seems to be a smaller contolled set of themes that is actually part of the release, and then perhaps a link to an Internet site with a disclaimer of any responsibility for what you may find there.

    As an example of what I mean, have you ever fiddled with “Gadgets” in Wndows 7 (I think they may have been in Vista as well)? There are the included gagdets, and then there’s a link to “Get more gadgets online.” At first that link worked pretty well. A bit later, you would find quite a number of broken gadgets. Soon, the link said that gadgets were no longer supported and basically whatever you found may or may not work, and nobody was obligated to care. Now, the link says that “Gagdets have been discontinued” and “Apps do more and are more secure” (which is telling you to get Windows 8 if you want this kind of functionality). Basically, Gadgets for Windows 7 ran into the same sort of problem as themes in KDE, and Microsoft’s solution was to divest themselves of the responsibility for them. The apps that they promote as part of Modern UI are the responsibility of their creators, and Microsoft doesn’t have to worry about them being broken. It’s up to the developers to care.

    Some other window managers or desktop environments in Linux deal with this by supporting themes, but not taking you to any themes other than a couple of pre-installed ones. If you find more online, great, but they aren’t concerned with whether they are broken for the current version of the GUI or not.

    It seems to me that proprietary software companies just avoid including features that can result in this sort of problem. The set of software that Microsoft gives you with a Windows installation is much smaller and more controlled than any large desktop Linux distribution. They’re not better at housecleaning they just insist on maintaining a one bedroom apartment instead of a ranch.

  • “You are responsible.
    Why did you not attempt to remove the dead link yourself?”

    Are you a KDE user? The links are hard wired into the Gui. Are you suggesting I re-write the app? Do you think I’d complain about something that I could not fix myself? Hardly not….

    This is a job for the KDE maintainers to fix. This problem has been around for years.

  • SET

    You need some other OS, please move to them and don’t make us waste time.

  • “You need some other OS, please move to them…..”

    So just jumping to another distro is your solution? You’ve made my point for me. Thank you. No, don’t move to another distro, Work to get one that’s broken fixed.

    Respectfully, your “solution” is largely what’s wrong with the Linuxsphere today.

  • Marty

    > I’ve always accepted it and moved along
    So it’s your fault in the first place, had you opened a bug report with either your distro or upstream, the issue would probably have gotten resolved…

  • SET

    Not another distro, another operating system.

  • Really Marty? A bug report? You mean like the others dating back 5 years ago? You gotta be kidding me.

    All my input would have done was to get it marked as a duplicate and ignored like the rest of them.

    https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=179948

    https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=222270

  • Karl

    Ken,

    You are correct that quality control is an issue, but simply expressing your frustration is not particularly useful. As you say, everyone already knows the issue is there.

    A form of the 80-20 rule applies to the functional capability of software. Relatively little effort is required to make a program do the job ‘well enough’, but it takes a great deal of work to handle all the corner cases, create extensive tests, polish the interface, and do complete documentation. This is the reality that both developers and users face.

    What distinguishes free software is that we *DO* face the challenges together; the line between user and developer doesn’t exist except to the extent that you, as an individual, wants it to. If you choose to stay on the user side then you’ll have to accept the fact that the developers are not providing you a finished product. If you want products rather than a community process, you can always go back to the proprietary OS vendors. You know damn well that’s no solution at all.

  • Andrew

    Damn it, someone let the trolls in! Who forgot to lock the door?

    @Marty you are right, everyone else should clean up these developer’s messes for them because they can’t be bothered to wipe the seat, put the lid down, or flush when they are finished.

  • SET – You bet. Great idea. Now you donate the $$$ for 100-300 licenses and we’ll jump right on it.

    And a virus software solution

    And a subscription to office 365

    and…….

  • Elder-Geek

    It is a joint problem between whoever runs kde-look and the kde project.

    kde-look should host all downloadable content. Many times links take you download sites. Then kde itself can’t download those themes/icons/etc, that is a kde issue, they should verify what can be downloaded or test for offsite links and filter, or something.

    Both ends are broke. And as a user all you can do is thow your hands up in the air and say, “Well I guess it is free so it being broke is ok”

    They should track versions so it is possible to download updated versions and avoid old versions that do not apply to your version of kde.

    Even a “bug finding day” every 3 months or twice a year to find obsolete or broke stuff.

    Heck, some adds on the left hand side of the site below all the nav links and use the funds to pay a $5 bounty on broken links or jacked up version info. It would be fixed in no time flat. I know I would be able to score a quick $200 without any real work.

  • W. Anderson

    There are a couple of bad assumptions and presumptions made in Ken Starks article that need to be cleared up.

    First, because support and maintenance are critical in a “business” or professionally run organization, the approach and position to Linux maintenance in that sphere is substantially different from than to personal/casual Linux use.

    To characterize Linux maintenance as problematic – in a very broad and general sense – to be the same as would be for RedHat Enterprise Linux support, Canonical Ubuntu Linux support or any professional Linux support service who have exceptional knowledge and expertise in Linux is nonsensical and misleading.

    Furthermore the article content might give false impression that Windows maintenance support – from a propriety company is inherently superior, which is a fallacy since no matter how large or reputable the proprietary software support entity – HP, Dell or IBM, they are limited in their Windows support without any access or authority to Windows source code to fix problems or update packages, as would be for a Linux support company run by a “core” Debian or CentOS developer, as example, who can proceed to fix a previously unknown problem and forward correction to Linux Kernel team.

    Every time I ask a Windows user, desktop PC or server, what steps they take for Windows problem indicates reporting problem to support subscription entity, who must forward issue onto Microsoft if beyond heir capability.

    The extent of this supposedly serious Linux support problem is substantially less traumatic with several organizations, companies and municipalities in Europe and South American countries, who possess significantly more “in-house” or available inux expertise for support maintenance than in USA where the practice has always been to throw money at highly advertised services provider, whether competent or not.nor

  • W Anderson.

    It seems to me the problem Ken has pointed to is is an easily fixed problem that merely requires a willingness to deal with it. The fact is no one, who can, seems willing to deal with it.

  • RobG

    The author is criticizing an OS and variants because he found out that most themes of his KDE did not work. Please allow me to share my opinion with you. This is for me like you go to a city, stare at one building that is deteriorated and all of the sudden, you know what is the problem of that city or maybe the population. First, some or most themes are created by contributors and there any many versions of Linux being used every day. Second, KDE is only one graphical user interface of many for Linux. When you work on a project, sometimes, you have to establish priorities by importance. The development of Linux is constantly working and evolving and there are more productive ways to point at issues (bug report submissions) other thank writing a negative article judging Linux because you could not find a theme you like working. A theme issue might take longer to fix because other more important things are being worked. Eventually the issue will be addressed, I am sure. I wonder how was your experience on Windows 8 without any help. Perfectly smooth; wasn’t it? I doubt so. It is an extreme challenge for me to deal with people that think that they snap their fingers and the world has to run to cater to them and the only priority that matters is theirs. They are bad customers even when they pay, and worst when they get something for free. Spoiled, whining, negatively complaining, and most contribute to nothing. Instead of finger pointing, learn,participate and use the appropriate channels to work on issues. If you are not the one fixing it, then have patience. In my experience, the beauty of the Linux community is in our sense of a community and our desire to learn and contribute. Please be patient and open to learn if you can before you jump into generalizations like this. We are free to express our feelings, but this article sounds to my just like a rant based on generalization. No software, paid or unpaid is perfect.

  • Lawrence

    This is one very charged discussion and being a long time linux user I think I appreciate both sides of the argument. May I suggest though, that someone who understands how it should be done, share with us the best procedure to follow to fix this particular problem? This would help a lot of us who simply don’t know how to fix these problems (never mind a new user).

    BY this I mean, for example, is there a way to filter themes by version, release date, whatever, and where would you make these settings?

    To a developer a pretty theme might not mean a lot, but to those of us, having made the point that linux is better, it is really embarassing to hit upon this problem – in front of the user of all things! This is equivalent to a developer showing off his latest release of an app and just as it gets exciting you get an error message and everything scrolls off the screen. Its embarassing even if its a compiler bug and your code is perfect. But would you now like to be told to go fix the compiler?

    So let’s be reasonable. The right information properly put can solve this and a whole lot of similar problems. Its the open source way! So let’s do it. We can cuss and laugh while working at it.

    Aye!

  • Duncan

    As ElderGeek mentioned, it’s a joint problem between kde and the (AFAIK indepependent) folks who run kde-look.org… which is just one of a *BIG* family[1] of similar sites under the opendesktop.org umbrella, supporting theming/apps/etc on various Linux/Unix/X-based desktops.

    FWIW, there’s also kde-apps.org and qt-apps.org, to pick two of the kde-related sites, but theres gnome and gtk and e17 and gimp and blender and vlc and … related sites too.

    Anyway… it *IS* an independent site that exports a common API that can be used by other sites and by desktop-environments and various apps for integration, if desired. Given the public API, other operators could do the same thing, but I’m not aware of any doing so, at least publicly and at anything like the same scale as opendesktop.org does.

    Back in the kde3 days when I first discovered kde-look, you pretty much had to discover it on your own. But late in kde3, kde developed the KGHNS (kde get hot new stuff) api, tho few apps supported it until kde4. With kde4, that was integrated, with several kde apps using it at first. Over time various other kde4 apps have taken advantage of kde’s common GHNS api to do their own integration with the still independent website.

    Meanwhile, keep in mind that kde integration only really happened with kde4. While the web site existed before that and still carries kde3 color schemes, for example, today (on kdelook, if you click on color schemes in the menu for example, it expands to let you choose kde3 or kde4), it was only well integrated and that integration broadly used in kde4. While the site does break out kde3 and kde4 compatibility, it doesn’t break down compatibility further than that, and arguably, it shouldn’t really need to, as kde4 is a major version that should maintain backward compatibility — only with kde5 (now under development as kde frameworks) should compatibility be broken.

    But as is well known, the early life of kde4 and the upgrade from kde3 did not happen particularly smoothly (certainly an understatement!) and still leaves a bitter taste in a lot of users’ mouths to this day. Part of that early history was immature implementations of various things and perfect backword compatibility within kde4 hasn’t always been maintained, thus the incompatibilities with early third party themes, etc, today.

    Additionally, kde-look /is/ an independent third party, and cooperation between the site admins and the kde devs wanting to integrate it into kde isn’t always entirely seamless. I’m just a user but I follow kde development quite closely[2] and I’ve seen various times when the kde devs had to wait for the kde-look folks to change something the kde folks needed for integration to work a bit better.

    But of course kde5 aka kde frameworks is what the kde devs are most focused on now, and signs so far suggest that kde took at least /some/ lessons from early kde4, and unlike in early kde4, they’re much more heavily focused on individual kde 5/frameworks apps modularity and
    the ability to continue to run bits of kde4 along with kde5/frameworks, so people (distros and users) can upgrade individual apps to the kde5 versions as they feel ready to… or choose to run non-kde versions of some things if they prefer, all while keeping whatever bits of kde4 and kde-frameworks-5 they have working reasonably well together.

    I expect kde-frameworks-5 to continue the GHNS kde-look integration, and of course with kde5, the incompatibilities between the early third-party kde4 stuff still available on kde-look/kde-apps and current kde4-integrated GHNS should be gone. Hopefully, with the more incremental and more mature and modular nature of the kde5 upgrade, kde5’s GHNS/kde-look integration won’t suffer the same compatibility issues as the kde4 version has over its lifetime, but that’s a continuing story that mostly hasn’t been written yet, so we’ll see.

    Meanwhile, as a pragmatic kde4 user often interested in extending my kde via various bits from kde-look.org and kde-apps.org, I’ve found the /best/ way to explore what’s available is to actually go to the site in a web browser and look around. The UI isn’t as limited that way, and there’s more information exposed about the various components/themes/etc I’m interested in, including user comments and often component uploader replies. =:^) Once I’ve found something on kde-look that looks interesting, I’ll often actually download and install it using kde’s integrated functionality instead of doing it manually from the browser, but for actually finding what I want in the first place, actually browsing the kde-look site seems to work better than trying to use the more limited kde-integrated functionality.

    And that’s what I’d recommend you demonstrate for your users as well. Show them how to browse kde-look.org for what they want using their brwoser, then how to actually install it using kde’s integrated functionality. That really does seem to work best. =:^)


    [1] Opendesktop.org is a *BIG* family. I’m just a user but after finding one of them, I’ve used several and occasionally just go and browse to see what’s current in my desktop communities of interest. Just going there and picking a few from each class on its menu… gnome-look.org, xfce-look.org, e17-stuff.org… kde-apps.org, gtk-apps.org, qt-apps.org… debian-art.org, gentoo-art.org, kubuntu-art.org… gimpstuff.org, blenderstuff.org, vlc-addons.org…)

    [2] I follow kde development quite closely: Actually, on gentoo I run the kde-live-branch ebuilds, currently 4.12-branch except for kde-workspace packages which are still 4.11 as development there is focused entirely on 5/frameworks and 4.x gets only limited bugfixing, updating and rebuilding anything which has changed every week or so, so I get changes much faster than the monthly bugfix releases. As part of following branch, I often read the git logs to see what updated between my updates, and they often reference bugs which I’ll occasionally check out as well. So while I’m not a dev, I’m definitely following things much closer than a normal user, or even a normal sysadmin, would.

  • Eddie G.

    Hmm….aside from the fact that I just couldn’t be bothered with the myriad settings and configuration options within KDE I never really did like it from the beginning. Not everyone who uses Linux wants to have to configure and tweak every aspect of the OS desktop environment…and while yes…it IS also able to be set just the way you want it…like I said…I don’t have that much time! (have you ever “RIGHT-clicked” on a KDE desktop fresh from its initial install?…there’s nothing on that menu I can use, without having to alter it!) So for this kind of an issue I would agree with what some say…and move on. I know it CAN be fixed, but why spend three months chasing down a person who can do it…..only to find out they either can’t or won’t because of whatever reason?. I’ve been using Gnome, and XFCE for a long time and they both work out of the box the way I need them to. And before the “Desktop Demons” come out to trash me….let me be clear…these are MY opinions and I’m entitled to them! If you use KDE….if you LOVE KDE…then that’s your God-given right…as is mine to avoid it!

  • arthur

    Why the hell is this called ‘Maintenance–The Achilles Heel of Linux’ when it is about KDE themeing?

    Would not a more apt title have been ‘Themeing – The Achilles Heel of KDE’?

  • Arthur – this is just one of a series in Maintenance – The Achilles Heel of Linux. We could have made that more clear…good eye.

  • Michiel van der Wulp

    > https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=179948
    > https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=222270

    The first sentence in this 2nd bug is clearly not a duplicate of the first bug. Someone made a mistake by putting it on duplicate.

    Ken, please use your writing skills to explain that in the bug report.

  • And this is why:

    http://www.islinuxaboutchoice.com/

    yet whenever we try and tell people that, they pitch a hissy fit. You can’t have it both ways. You *either* have infinite choice, *or* everything works. “Both” is not an option.

  • Andrew

    “Linux is not about choice” crap is the issue’s root cause, thanks for parroting status-quo.

    It’s very interesting that other operating systems aren’t marred with silly problems like these even though they all allow infinite choice and everything (mostly) works.

    The difference is that they put the consumer of their platform first where in the FOSS community instead the opposite is done because as you said, it’s not about “choice”.

  • Chris Guiver

    Thank you Duncan for your post/explanation.

    That issue (year(s) back) used to bug me; I too filed a ‘bug report’ & got back a ‘duplicate’ & ‘more’ I didn’t understand. Your explanation probably would have helped explain the other text ['more' ] I didn’t then understand.

    Now if I get a ‘html: want to load browser?’ I just hit no, and try the next interesting choice. I’d love to help fix the data; but don’t know how.

    Anyway thanks for your explanation Duncan. Greatly appreciated.

  • Anon

    Many seem to think this is a KDE-look problem. It isn’t. This is why I don’t file bug reports any more, for any linux distribution. It’s a waste of time. Linux developers don’t care about bugs, they just want to “scratch their own itch”. It’s a disease. Userspace needs a benevolent dictator like Linus.

  • joncr

    And here I always thought that business of KDE linking to HTML files instead of actually installing a theme — in a gizmo that says, you know, that it will install themes — was just a matter of perverse laziness.

    Linux is the only OS I use these days. I like it. But the FOSS model — particularly the cultural expectations that surround it — often expect users to be so committed to that culture that they will overlook and excuse the shortcomings of the software.

    IMHO, FOSS exists almost exclusively for the benefit of developers. Users like me do benefit because we use the software. But, because FOSS developers have no dependence on users — we don’t pay their bills — most of them can do as they please with no constraints imposed by any user. If I report a bug, say, in Gnome or KDE, and it isn’t fixed, what recourse do I have? Not buy Gnome or KDE?

  • Duncan

    joncr said: “If I report a bug, say, in Gnome or KDE, and it isn’t fixed, what recourse do I have? Not buy Gnome or KDE?”

    While that’s true (and I have kde bugs open that I’ve authored or am CCed to, a couple with patches even altho I don’t claim to be a dev, to prove it), to be fair, at least you /can/ report the problem. Back on proprietary servantware (in the context of the quote below), as an individual user not a big multi-million-dollar-account-corporate or gov user, what option did I have to even /tell/ MS about the problem?

    Well, I could hand over more money for the privilege of telling an N-levels-removed support-tech what was wrong with their software… only to have them then do the same ignore thing to me because I’m not that multi-million-dollar-account that FLOSS devs may do because I’m not a dev… only on MS I would have had to pay them for the privilege of being ignored!

    Those bugs with rather curt comments from the devs? What chance would you have to even /get/ a comment of /any/ kind direct from the devs on the MS desktop?

    While the FLOSS world isn’t perfect by far, it /does/ both narrow the communication gap between devs and users, and allow the users at least /some/ power to fix a problem themselves either directly or by convincing (which can be with money, for those with that, or PR for those with a bit of a bully pulpit like Ken Starks, or time invested in the upstream project itself in non-development areas such as art or the forums/lists/IRC, as I do on a couple projects) someone else that there’s value in fixing that problem.

    In fact, if everyone using FLOSS would pick just one little project they’re already interested in and contribute something back, whether it be money or time and talent (which may be code or other contribution), as many people already do, the whole community would be, and already IS, better.

    Certainly Ken and the Reglue folks do that, and Christine and the FOSSForce folks do that, and I do that. We’re not perfect and neither are our contributions, but I know for a _fact_ that they DO help! There’s nothing quite like being able to say, as I can, that my contributions as a long-time-list-regular are likely what kept the lights on long enough on a project when the former primary dev found other things to do and quit (he appealed for someone to help and ultimately take over, but there was no one interested and able at the time), for other devs to find it and get involved, such that the almost dead project was resurrected and now has several new features as well as continuing to work instead of succumbing to bit-rot as it looked like it was going to do for awhile. I /almost/ unsubscribed from that list several times during those dark days when perhaps a question would come in perhaps every couple months, but I’m glad I didn’t! It made a difference. *I* made a difference! =:^)

    So the FLOSS world has problems, but I’d still a whole lot rather be there than the proprietary software world! =:^)

  • Duncan

    Forgot the quote I mentioned. Luckily it’ll still be “below”:

    “Every nonfree program has a lord, a master —
    and if you use the program, he is your master.” Richard Stallman

  • anonymous

    Hi Ken,

    maybe your KDE version isn’t maintained anymore ?!
    maybe the distro isn’t maintained anymore ?!

    Then you should first go to an up to date installation, and then try to configure around in your KDE. And when you then already have problems post bugreports to the maintainers.

    KDE also had more than once timeperiods where it was known to be unstable. But KDE is not Linux, you are free to use another Desktop Environment. We do not know if your KDE is such an unstable version. We don’t know anything about your system.

    And all in all, you are free to use another operating system or another distro when you are dissatisfied with your installation. It’s your choice.

  • As I mentioned in an earlier comment, this “bug” has been around for a few years and it’s never been resolved. This isn’t a software bug…it’s the lack of motivation to fix a fixable problem.

    “And all in all, you are free to use another operating system or another distro when you are dissatisfied with your installation. It’s your choice.”

    Thank you. You make my main point perfectly. This is exactly the problem we face. First off, I realize this is a KDE problem but it lends itself to the greater series on challenges we face in Linux. We’ll do an article a month on stuff that needs fixed but hasn’t been touched in years. We’ll also be talking about some of the things Linux excels at. Not just the negative points.

    But to your comment, and I am as guilty of this as anyone. “Accepting” the problem “and And all in all, you are free to use another operating system or another distro when you are dissatisfied with your installation. It’s your choice”.

    That’s giving the developers and maintainers a free pass. Yeah, you found a problem, yeah, you submitted a bug, but it get’s put into a “duplicate bug” report and shuffled off to a archive, never to be acted upon again.

    I’m running Linux Mint Maya KDE, LTS and my KDE version is 4.11.XXX. And so it is clear, my organization Reglue is discussing the dollar amount we’d be willing to spend on getting this fixed. A “Bug Bounty” if you will.

    If the people in charge won’t fix it for free, we’ll see what kind of money they will accept to fix it permanently.

  • An analogy: Imagine if your software was a hotel. Linking to sites you don’t control is like putting a diving board on your third floor balcony above your neighbor’s pool and advertising it. A decade later, you still have the advertising and the diving board, but the pool was replaced with a parking lot. Guests are complaining and you wonder: Is it your fault or your neighbor’s?

    How is anyone developing software today ignorant enough to hard link specific urls on the net? Sites come and go. Links die. The solution is easy: Either link to a curated site that aggregates links, or even better…DON’T LINK AT ALL.

    I don’t use KDE, so I have no idea what it does, but I am a developer. Just create a single well defined theme file format that takes into account versioning. Allow users to import theme files with easily understood messages regarding out of date/too new/corrupt files. Bundle a few samples with the software. Make a note in the UI about more themes being available on the net and leave it at that.

    Sheesh. Not rocket science.

    P.S. There’s another reason linking to sites beyond your control is a horrible idea. It’s a security issue as well. Who’s to say those sites haven’t become compromised or hostile?
    (Maybe your neighbor put alligators in his pool.)

  • @Mike If we had a “like” button for comments, I would “like” your comment. :-)

  • Ian

    In my opinion that list of themes shouldn’t really contain anything that not directly installable. They can put a comment on the dialog to say “goto KDELOOK.org” (or where-ever) to find other themes but putting links in that list is a bad idea and creates this situation.

  • The issue is actually also found in some games. World of Warcraft includes the option to install user-developed interface elements (add-ons). Blizzard changes their interface API every so often, and not all of the add-on developers keep up. Some of them leave the game. Some of them just stop caring about their particular add-on. And so you get used to the idea that not all add-ons will be maintained or work. This sort of behavior is going to be a given no matter what sort of user-generated content or modifications your software uses.

    I guess the difference is that WoW has a means to check whether the add-ons are compatible with the current version of their interface API, and make this obvious to the user. What would it take to code that sort of functionality into the “Get More Themes” apps? What would it take to get opendesktop.org to support it, and to demand that submissions comply with its requirements?

  • Lot of commentary. Some has been pointless, some has been insightful (I liked the one about Windows 7 gadgets).

    But one thing someone said is a common claim, often accepted, and I think dead wrong: “simply expressing your frustration is not particularly useful.”
    No, I think it’s quite useful. One of the things that drives improvements to Linux is precisely what developers see as pissing off the users. When people get annoyed enough, someone will start a project to clean up or fix whatever it is. I’ve seen it many times over the years. In order to get such processes moving, people, especially people with some kind of audience, have to simply express their frustration. This may be an annoying reality that developers would prefer was not the case, but I believe it is the reality nonetheless.

  • Mike

    I would have believed that for a big UI-oriented project like KDE, it would be mandatory to have someone, or several someones, responsible for quality control on the user experience. People in a position to tell developers “This doesn’t meet expectations”, and cut unpolished features from a release before it sees the light of day.

    Without that, the best you can hope for is to stumble along blindly, hoping users don’t get fed up.

  • dd

    of course is a kde problem and is very simple to solve. linux mint did it with cinnamon decorations. they have their own page which is linked in the system and you can import everything like in kde with one klick. to say that is hard to control and maintain is not true. kde can take 15 icons, 15 windows decorations, 100 wallpapers, etc and the user has a choice for everything. in 5 minutes enybody can see if something don’t work and erase the thing or replace it. to cry that it takes time and is complicated it is stupid like the argument that is free and everybody should accept all the mistakes. a bug report it’s an insult! the atitude of the developers and mainteiners chase away the users. this is why linux have 1% users as a better and free system.

  • CFWhitman

    I wanted to make it clear that in my first post I was not excusing the situation with KDE. I pointed out ways that other projects dealt with the same sort of situation. I also pointed out that this type of problem is not unique to open source software or Linux. It affects other systems as well.

    The difference here seems to be that, though it may not be possible to “fix” this issue so that everything works, it certainly is possible to deal with this issue in a way that doesn’t advertise breakage to the user. Microsoft couldn’t fix a similar issue, but they didn’t leave it indefinitely (though their approach involved giving the user the shaft by discontinuing all support for Windows 7 Gadgets). There are approaches which neither remove the functionality nor abandon the user in a junkyard of old themes. One of them should be adopted.

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