Category Archives: desktop

Lumina Desktop 0.8.3 Released!

The next version of the Lumina Desktop Environment has just been released!

This is mainly a bugfix release to correct an urgent issue with the system tray on FreeBSD 11, but there are a number of other slight improvements/updates included as well. The full list of changes is included at the bottom of this announcement, but the notable changes are as follows:

  • New Panel Plugin: “Application Launcher“
    • This allows the user to pin the shortcut for an application directly to a panel.
  • New Utility: “lumina-xconfig“
    • This utility allows the user to easily enable/disable additional monitors/screens within the desktop session.
  • Fix the issue with transparent system tray icons on FreeBSD 11
  • Add support for the XDG autostart specifications.

 

The FreeBSD port has already been updated and this version will be included in the next set of PC-BSD package updates (“Edge” packages being created now) as well as included in the next PC-BSD 11 image for April (coming soon).

 

Reminder: The Lumina desktop environment is still considered to be “beta-quality”, so if you find things that either don’t work or don’t work well, please report them on the PC-BSD bug tracker so that they can get fixed as soon as possible. Feel free to also post tickets for any feature requests or improvements that you think might be useful!

 

Lumina-0.8.3

 

Changes Since 0.8.2

FreeDesktop Standards Compliance:

  •  A number of bugs related to detecting/using XDG mimetypes were fixed.
  • Support for the XDG autostart specifications was added (usage only  — more work is still necessary to convert the current Lumina autostart spec over)
  •  Add some additional fallback routines to account for possible errors in *.desktop files.

 

New Utility: “lumina-xconfig”

  •  This utility is a graphical front-end to xrandr, and allows the user to easily add/remove screens from the current X session.
  • Shortcuts to this utility are available in the user button plugin, and the settings menu plugin

 

Insight File Manager:

  •  Add support for creating new (empty) files.
  •  Add an option for enabling/disabling the use of image thumbnails (useful if you have massive directories of pictures — just be sure you disable thumbnails *before* loading the directory).
  •  Add initial drag-and-drop support for moving files/dirs within a directory.
  •  Load the specific icon for any application shortcuts.
  •  Add the ability to view checksums of files.
  •  Add some additional checks/excludes for copy/move operations in the background to prevent the user from performing illegal operations (such as moving a directory into itself).
  •  Add support for listing statistics about the current directory on the window (number of files, total size of files, percent of the filesystem which is used).
  •  Streamline the frequency of the background directory checker — now it runs much less often.

 

Desktop Changes:

  •  Disable the shutdown/restart options on PC-BSD if the system is in the middle of performing updates. The system may still be shutdown/restart from within PCDM — this just adds an extra layer of safety for users.
  •  Have the shutdown/restart options use the “-o” option on FreeBSD/PC-BSD so that the system performs the action much faster.
  •  Add support for thumbnails, increasing/decreasing icon sizes, removing files, and  cut/copy files to the “desktopview” desktop plugin (the plugin which provides traditional desktop icons).
  •  Add support for increasing/decreasing the icon size for the application launcher desktop plugin.
  •  Update the icon used for the “favorites” system in the user button and the file manager.
  •  Add the ability to display alternate timezones in the system clock. This does *not* change the system time at the moment, it is just a setting for the visual clocks/plugins.
  •  Add a new panel plugin for pinning application shortcuts directly to the panel. (just like the “applauncher” desktop plugin, but on the panel).
  •  Perform the initial search for applications on the system within the session initialization. This ensure that buttons/plugins are responsive as soon as the desktop becomes visible.
  •  Fix an issue with transparent system tray icons on FreeBSD 11, and convert the system tray embed/unembed routines to use the XCB library instead of XLib.

Lumina Desktop 0.8.2 Released!

The next version of the Lumina desktop environment has just been released! Version 0.8.2 is mainly a “spit-and-polish” release: focusing on bugfixes, overall appearances, and interface layout/design. The FreeBSD port has already been updated to the new version, and the PC-BSD “Edge” repository will be making the new version available within the next day or two (packages building now). If you are creating/distributing your own packages, you can find the source code for this release in the “qt5/0.8.2″ branch in the Lumina repository on GitHub.

The major difference that people will notice is that the themes/colors distributed with the desktop have been greatly improved, and I have included a few examples below. The full details about the changes in this release are listed at the bottom of the announcement.

Reminder: The Lumina desktop environment is still considered to be “beta-quality”, so if you find things that either don’t work or don’t work well, please report them on the PC-BSD bug tracker so that they can get fixed as soon as possible.

 

Click to view slideshow.

 

Changes from 0.8.1 -> 0.8.2:

New Utility: “lumina-info”
  • This utility provides basic information about the current version of the Lumina desktop as well as link to various information online (source repository, list of contributors, bug tracker, etc…).
Theming:
  • New Color Scheme: PCBSD10-Default (the default for new PC-BSD users)
  • Lumina-[Red/Green/Gold/Purple] color schemes updated.
  • “Lumina-Default” and “None” theme templates updated significantly.
  • Make it easier for a distributor to set a default theme/color by just supplying the name instead of the full path (since paths can be different on different OS’s)
  • Fix issue with some fonts not loading properly.
  • Distinguish between “Save” and “Apply” in the theme template editor (“Save” to update the file but keep the editor open, “Apply” to update the file and close the editor). This makes it much easier to test changes to the current theme template as you don’t need to close/re-open the editor to try it out.
  • Add the ability to distinguish between transparent/opaque desktop plugins in the theme template.
Configuration Utility Changes:
  • Add a new dialog for selecting plugins of all kinds. This makes it easier to browse through and read the descriptions of the plugins before actually selecting one.
  • Re-arrange the interface quite a bit. Now the general page arrangements make much more sense (Appearance [wallpaper/theme], Interface [desktop/panels], Applications [auto-start/file defaults], Shortcuts, Session [general options/window system] )
  • Add the ability to set your preferred time/date format(s) in the general session options.
  • Add the ability to reset your preferred file manager/terminal/web browser/email client back to defaults.
Insight File Manager Changes:
  • Make all the file operations happen in a separate thread (does not lock the UI any more).
  • Clean up the detection routine for Qt-editable files (for rotating images in the slideshow in particular).
  • When removing a file in the slideshow, make it simply go to the next/previous image instead of the beginning of the list.
  • Make the ZFS snapshot search functionality a lot faster if just refreshing the current directory.
Desktop Session Changes:
  • For vertical panels, have the clock plugin try to use vertical space instead of horizontal.
  • Clean up a few desktop plugin stability issues.
  • Streamline the session cleanup functionality.
  • Fix some issues with 2nd panel functionality.
  • Reduce the number of backend filesystem watchers (only one per session instead of one per screen now).
Lumina Search Changes:
  • When searching for files/directories, make the initial starting point user-configurable as well as add the ability to exclude directories from the search routine (also configurable by the user).

Lumina Desktop 0.8.1 Released

The next version of the Lumina desktop environment (0.8.1) has just been tagged in the source tree, the FreeBSD port has been updated, and pre-built packages will be available in the upcoming PC-BSD 10.1.1 release (or earlier if you are using the “Edge” package repository).

This version includes quite a number of quality-of-life improvements, new plugins, and the usual assortment of bugfixes. There is a full breakdown of the changes below, but for most of you a screenshot (or two) is worth a thousand words.

Enjoy!

Lumina0.8.1

 

New Features:

1) New Desktop Plugin: “Audio Player”

This plugin allows the user to play audio files directly from the desktop (with playlist randomization if desired).

2) New Panel Plugin: “Home Button”

This plugin will minimize all open windows so the desktop will be completely visible.

3) New Panel Plugin: “Start Menu”

This plugin is the classical alternative to the “User Button”, and provides a simple menu for quickly launching applications.

4) New Slideshow file interactions in the Insight File Manager

When viewing an image slideshow, the user now has the options to delete the current image file, or rotate that image file clockwise or counter-clockwise (automatically updating the image file as necessary).

5) New Backend distribution customization framework.

There is a new system file (<PREFIX>/etc/luminaDesktop.conf), that can be set by the distributor of the Lumina desktop or a system administrator to provide system-wide defaults. This allows full customization of the initial desktop experience for a new user (will not change existing settings), allowing the distributor of the desktop to easily create a customized experience for their users. Along with this comes the ability for a user to reset their desktop settings back to defaults should the need arise (either system defaults or the defaults set by the Lumina project itself). This can be performed through the desktop configuration utility (in the session settings).

 

Updated Features:

1) Allow a customized user icon for the user button (this same icon will also be utilized for the user in PCDM). This option is available through the desktop configuration utility (in the session settings).

2) Have panels follow the current desktop theme by default. A customized color may still be specified through through the desktop configuration utility (in the panel settings), and any previous color setting for the panel is still saved as the customized color for that panel.

3) Have desktop plugins now follow the current theme. This allows for a much more unified look and feel, with simple user modification through locally saved modifications to any theme templates.

4) Convert the “Note Pad” desktop plugin to a file-based utility. Now all notes are automatically created in the ~/Notes directory (with the .note extension), and a generic non-note text file may also be loaded into the plugin for editing/watching. All notes in the previous format will be auto-converted to the new format the first time the new version is used. Warning: if you currently have multiple notepad plugins on your desktop, only one of them will have all the notes successfully converted to the new format. Before updating to the new version, it is a good idea to move all your notes into a single plugin instance (and remove the others) to ensure a proper conversion to the new format.

Bug Fixes:

- Fix when auto-hidden panels are re-hidden. This fixes a Qt5 bug where moving the mouse over the system tray was re-hiding the panel, preventing access to the system tray applications.

- Make the userbutton open even faster than before (auto-updates the menu in the background if applications are added/removed from the system).

- Various stability fixes involving the removal of desktop plugins.

- Filenames with multiple “.“s in them will now be properly handled through lumina-open.

- Have the log-out window appear on the current screen (instead of always the left-most screen).

- Make sure the log-out window is closed at the start of the log out procedure.

- Various other small bugfixes

 

Quick Lumina Desktop FAQ

I am seeing lots of interest and questions about Lumina since it was mentioned in the PC-BSD weekly update last week, so I am just going to try and answer some of the big questions that I have been seeing.

(1) What is Lumina?
Answer: Lumina is a lightweight, BSD licensed, standards-compliant desktop environment based upon Qt and Fluxbox. It is being developed on PC-BSD, and is being packaged for distribution on the PC-BSD package repository as well (although I believe the FreeBSD port is going to be submitted to the FreeBSD ports tree by the PC-BSD project as well).

(2) How complete is it?
Answer: It is currently alpha version 0.1, so lots of things are still unfinished. It has full backend XDG-compliance through the “lumina-open” utility for launching applications or opening files/URLs, but the graphical interface is still being fleshed out. It also has a plugin framework for toolbars, toolbar plugins, and desktop plugins already written, even though there is not many plugins written to actually use yet.

(3) Since it is an alpha, is it usable?
Answer: Yes, if you are used to very minimalistic desktops. I would currently label it a step above pure Fluxbox for usability, since it uses the XDG compatibility to provide access to system applications and desktop files, and is tied in to xdg-open on PC-BSD so that individual applications can open files/URLs using the current system default for that type of file/URL. The main thing is that the interface is extremely bare at the moment (no desktop icons/plugins yet), so you just end up with a background and toolbar(s). It is also still missing some configuration utilities, so you might be stuck with the current defaults for the moment.

(4) Why create a new desktop environment? Whats wrong with KDE/GNOME/XFCE/<other>?
Answer: There are many reasons for needing a new desktop environment instead of using the existing ones, mainly because all the major existing DE’s are developed on/for Linux, not BSD. This causes all sorts of problems on BSD, and I am going to try and list a few of the big ones here:

(4-a) Porting time
Since the DE’s are written on/for linux, they have to be ported over to BSD, and this introduces a (sometimes significant) time-delay before updated versions are available (GNOME 3 anyone?).

(4-b) Porting quality
It takes quite a bit of time/effort to port a DE over to BSD, and I have to give lots of thanks to the people who volunteer their time and energy to make them available. The problem is that quite often “linuxisms” still bleed through the porting process and cause system instability, desktop/X crashes, and loss of usability on the part of the user. This is particularly true when you start looking at KDE/GNOME/XFCE because of the large number of individual pieces/applications/plugins that have to be checked during the porting process, and it gets quite difficult to check everything while doing the port.

(4-c) Linux development trends
As Linux trends continue to diverge from BSD through reliance on Linux kernel functions or Linux-specific systems/daemons, the porting process over to BSD is going to get even more difficult and take longer to accomplish. This means that if we want to have a reliable/stable desktop on BSD going forward, we have to have one designed specifically for the BSD’s.

(4-d) Linux dependency bloat.
If you look at current DE dependency lists, it is easy to see that when you install a desktop, you might be getting a lot more than you bargained for (such as additional compilers/programming languages, network libraries/daemons, audio/video daemons/applications, etc). While there might be some debate on this, my opinion is that it comes from the Linux distro mentality. Just as a Linux distribution is the Linux kernel + the distro’s favorite packages, the desktop environment is becoming the graphical interface for the system + all the favorite applications/libraries of the developers, whether or not they are actually necessary for satisfying the actual purpose of a desktop environment.
I feel like the approach on BSD is quite different because the OS is a complete entity, independent of the packages that get added later, and simply provides the framework for the user to do whatever they want with system. By this same approach, a desktop environment should simply provide the graphical framework/interface for the user to easily interact with the system, independent of what applications are actually installed on the system. Now, I understand that at this point in time a user expects that certain types of applications are expected to be available out-of-box (such as a file manager, audio/video player, pdf viewer, text editor, photo viewer, etc..), but is that really the realm of the DE to decide what the defaults are, or should it be left to the distributor of the OS? I think a point can be made that the file manager is considered essential to integrate with the DE appropriately, but I think that things like audio/video applications, text editors, pdf viewers and such are really up to the preferences of the distributor, not the DE. The DE just needs to provide a simple framework to setup those initial default applications for the distributor, not require a ton of additional applications by default. Because of this, I am taking the approach that Lumina will have a very limited number of applications included by default (there are only about 2–3 that I can think of, all written from scratch for Lumina), and will try to include basic user-level functionality within these few applications to try and cover 90% of standard user needs (at a basic level) without any additional dependencies. For example, the Lumina file manager will have basic audio/video playing and image viewing capabilities built-in because those types of abilities are available through the Qt framework without many/any additional dependencies.

(5) What kind of graphical appearance are you planning for Lumina?
Answer: Highly configurable… :-)
By default, I am planning for Lumina to have a single toolbar on the top of the primary screen with the following item (from left to right): UserButton, DesktopBar, TaskManager, SystemTray, and Clock. This toolbar can be configured as the user desires (or completely removed), and other toolbars can also be added as well (only two per screen at the moment, one on top and one on bottom).
I do *not* plan on having the desktop be covered with the traditional desktop icons (that is taken care of with the DesktopBar toolbar plugin). Instead, it is simply a graphical canvas for the user to place all sorts of desktop plugins (directory viewers, picture viewers, notepads, application launchers, and other “stuff”).  I have not decided on any default desktop plugins yet, simply because I have not written any yet.

(6) What is the “User Button”?
Answer: This is what would correspond to the “Start” button on other desktops. This provides a central place for the user to do things like launch an application, open up one of their directories, configure their desktop settings, or close down their desktop session. Basically, an easy way for the user to interface with the system.

(7) What is the “Desktop Bar”?
Answer: This is a toolbar plugin that takes the place of the traditional system of desktop icons. The original purpose of desktop icons was to provide quick shortcuts for the user to open applications or put links to commonly-used files/directories, but quickly became abused with people putting everything on the desktop — destroying the intended purpose of the desktop by forcing the user to spend a lot of time trying to find the particular item they need in the chaos that became the desktop (I am sure you have all seen this many times). The desktop bar takes the original purpose of the desktop, and refines it to provide the quick access the user needs even if there is tons of “stuff” in the ~/Desktop folder. It does this by an intelligent system of sorting/categorization, splitting up the desktop items into three main categories: application shortcuts, directories, and files. Each of these three categories gets it’s own button on the toolbar with items sorted alphabetically (if there is anything in that category), so that it is easily accessed by the user at any time, even if you have the desktop covered with open windows, or you have a lot of that type of item. Additionally, it also separates out the actual files in the desktop folder by type: audio files, video files, pictures, and “other”. This should also help people find “that one file” that they need with a minimum of effort.

(8) Is Lumina the new default desktop for PC-BSD?
Answer:  NO!!! While Lumina is now available on the PC-BSD package repository, it is by no means the new default desktop.

 

(9) Will it become the default desktop for PC-BSD eventually?

Answer: Possibly, it really depends on how well the development on Lumina goes and if  the PC-BSD development team decides to make the switch to it at a later date.

 

(10) Will it become the *only* supported PC-BSD desktop?

Answer: Definitely not!! PC-BSD will continue to support multiple desktop environments and window managers through both the installer and the post-installation package manager.
I hope this help to clear up some of the questions you have!