Linux's old KDE 3 desktop lives!?

June 23, 2010 7:37 PM EDT
I love it. KDE 3.x, which has always remained my favorite Linux desktop interface, is making a come back. A tiny group of open-source developers from Pearson Computing is trying to bring KDE 3.x from the grave in a project that they're calling Trinity.

I'm not sure how much will come from this project. The group behind Trinity seems to be quite small and the Web site has been swamped to the point where it's been unusable. Still, the very fact that someone is trying to keep KDE 3.5 alive is good news as far as I'm concerned. After all, I am the guy who suggested that KDE be forked into KDE 4 and KDE 3 branches back when KDE 4.1 was the newest KDE desktop.

Specifically, according to the lead developer, Timothy Pearson, on the KDE 3.5 Maintainers page the project is meant to support "KDE3.5 for Ubuntu Intrepid and above. Emphasis is placed on keeping KDE3.5 as a viable Ubuntu desktop environment, easily installed and used alongside others, just like Gnome, XFCE, and KDE4.x."

While I've warmed to KDE 4 beginning with the KDE 4.3 edition, I'm still not crazy about it. For me, at least, KDE 3.5x is still easier to use and manage. Indeed, I still use KDE 3.5.10, the last official version on my main Linux desktop, which runs the Debian Linux variant MEPIS 8.

I'm not the only one that feels that way. While I haven't seen the problems with recent version of KDE 4, which is now up to KDE 4.5 beta 2, that other users have reported, what I have found, as I did at the start, is that its Plasma interface just doesn't work as well for me as KDE 3.5 does or GNOME 2.8. I'm sure it works fine for a lot of people, but I'm not one of them.

That said, after several years of gathering dust, bringing KDE 3.5 back won't be a trivial task. Sebastian Kügler, a member of the KDE board, lists a large number of reasons on his blog detailing why bringing KDE 3.5 up to snuff will be a very hard job indeed.

Kügler is right. It won't be easy. His most important objection is that official support for Qt 3, the cross-platform application and user-interface framework, ended on July, 1st 2007. That means, Trinity's developers would face either maintaining the open-source Qt 3 themselves or trying to port KDE 3.5 to today's Qt 4. The difficulty of doing the latter was what proved the main impetus to developing the new KDE 4.x interface in the first place.

That said, I'm not sure the Pearson crew, which appears to be only a handful of developers, are capable of doing it. Still, it would be nice if they, with some help from other developers, could do it. While I no longer feel as strongly as I once did that KDE 3.x should continue, I would certainly welcome KDE 'Classic' living on. I'd certainly use it.

I'm not the only one who feels that way. RevLinux, the nom de plume of the head of the new RevLinuxOS Linux distribution remarked on Kügler's page that "Our distro is still using KDE 3.5 because many of our users practically hate KDE 4.x because of lack of usability/features & serious crashes." He continued, "Even though we are a small and very recent distro, we are now looking to see if there's some way our 4 person dev team can help the Trinity project."

For now, the Pearson site continues to be dark, but there are reports that the group has managed to deliver KDE 3.5.11 for Ubuntu. The main Trinity development site is live and on Launchpad, Canonical's, the company behind Ubuntu, Web-based collaborative software development Website.

Personally, I'm wishing the Triniy developers the best of luck. And, I'm really looking forward to giving KDE 3.5.11 a try. What about you?