Linux news: KDE Plasma, new Ubuntu App Store, GNOME 45

If you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of KDE Plasma 6, you’ll need to exercise a bit more patience. The release date has been confirmed, and it won’t be available until early 2024. While it may seem like a distant future, this delay is likely aimed at ensuring that Plasma 6 delivers the best possible experience.

What to Expect in Plasma 6

While the exact day for the release hasn’t been set, the developers have five more months to fine-tune the software. Progress is promising, with some noteworthy changes and improvements:

  • Component Updates: Plasma 6 incorporates newer Kirigami components, reducing code duplication and enhancing stability.

  • Recent Work: Plasma 6 includes recent enhancements like custom reordering of K Runner results, double-click and tap-to-click as default settings, better icon theme support, and more.

  • Issue Reduction: The number of open issues is decreasing, with only 15 significant blocking issues remaining out of 75 at the time of this recording.

  • Planned Features: Some features are yet to be implemented, including bringing SDDM into the KDE project list, accentuating title bars with accent colors, streamlining notification settings, and splitting brightness and battery widgets.

  • Framework 6 and Gear Compilation: KDE Framework 6 and KD Gear compilation using Qt 6 are set to release in February, alongside the Plasma 6 desktop, with alphas, betas, and release candidates leading up to the launch.

  • Cursor Responsiveness and High DPI Support: Efforts are being made to improve cursor responsiveness and address high DPI support in both Plasma 6 and KDE Frameworks 5.27.

A Patient Wait for a Polished Release

The decision to delay the release until early 2024 suggests the KDE team is committed to delivering a polished and stable product. Considering that KDE Plasma 5.27 is already a robust choice, this delay should be manageable for most users.

However, it’s essential to note that this timeline may be subject to change as development progresses.

Ubuntu’s New App Center

Ubuntu 23.10 is on the horizon, and it brings with it a new App Center to replace the previous software center. The new App Center, built with Flutter, promises improved performance, responsiveness, and reduced RAM usage.

Notable Features of the New App Center

  • User-Friendly UI: The App Center boasts a clean and user-friendly interface with categorized listings, well-organized app pages, and enlarged screenshots for better visibility.

  • Snap Support: The App Center facilitates snap updates, allowing users to view their installed snap apps and manage installations and removals.

Missing Debian Package Support

One notable drawback of the new App Center is its inability to find Debian packaged applications, which may remind users of Elementary OS’s similar limitation. However, there is hope for Debian package enthusiasts, as there is a pull request in progress to reintroduce this feature.

The absence of Debian package support, while not a deal-breaker, may be seen as a missed opportunity for Ubuntu users.

GNOME 45: Breaking All Extensions

The upcoming release of GNOME 45 promises substantial improvements, but it also comes with a significant caveat – it will break all extensions. This isn’t just a meme; it’s a reality. GNOME 45 has made fundamental changes in how it handles JavaScript imports, impacting the functionality of extensions.

What Extension Developers Should Know

  • JavaScript Modules: Extension developers will need to update their extensions to use JavaScript modules or ESM (ECMAScript modules).

  • Maintaining Two Versions: Developers will have to maintain two versions of their extensions, one for GNOME 44 and earlier and another for GNOME 45. Both versions will need to be uploaded to the GNOME Extensions website.

  • Backporting and Development: Extension developers will have to backport bug fixes and new features to the old version while continuing development on the new one.

While these changes may appear disruptive, they are intended to streamline and improve the extension ecosystem in the long run.

Linux Updates and Improvements

Linux continues to evolve, with a focus on enhancing performance, driver support, and overall user experience.

Notable Linux Updates

  • Intel Arc GPU Drivers: Recent patches aim to improve Vulkan performance for Intel Arc GPUs, benefiting games like Dota 2, Strange Brigade, Borderlands 3, and Formula 1 2022. These patches are expected to be part of Mesa 23.3.

  • Expat Driver for Game Controllers: Kernel 6.6 introduces updates to the Expat driver, enhancing support for Xbox-like third-party controllers to function as if they were Xbox 360 pads.

  • Optimizations for AMD CPUs: Optimizations for certain AMD CPUs without ERMS (Efficiently Reusable Memory Streams) are included in Kernel 6.6, resulting in up to 14% faster memory-related operations.

EU Investigation on iMessage

The European Union is investigating whether Apple’s iMessage qualifies as a “gatekeeper” for messaging services. iMessage is not listed as such under the new law on interoperability, but this investigation will determine whether it should be included.

Potential Implications

  • Interoperability: If iMessage is deemed a gatekeeper, Apple may be required to make it compatible with RCS (Rich Communication Services) by August 2024. This could lead to improved interoperability in text messaging across different platforms.

Apple is already affected by other EU laws, such as adopting USB-C for charging and offering user-serviceable batteries in their devices.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Google is implementing its Privacy Sandbox as a replacement for third-party cookies. With third-party cookies becoming less effective and facing increased blocking, Google aims to improve user privacy while still delivering targeted ads.

Key Features of Privacy Sandbox

  • Local Data Storage: The Privacy Sandbox will store ad topics and website visits locally on users’ devices, categorizing websites visited.

  • Limited Access for Websites: Websites can only access the categories of interest, enabling more personalized ads without extensive tracking.

While this approach enhances privacy, it also raises concerns about Google’s dominance in shaping the digital advertising landscape.

Linux Gaming Statistics

Linux continues to gain ground in the gaming world, with a desktop market share of 3.18% at the end of August. Although Linux saw a slight dip in gaming market share to 1.82%, it remains ahead of macOS, which sits at 1.57%.

Linux Gaming on the Rise

Linux’s status as the second most popular PC gaming operating system underscores its growing appeal among gamers. Game developers may increasingly consider Linux over macOS for porting their titles, given its rising popularity.

Steam Controller Support and Valve Hardware Teasers

Valve is making strides in controller support, with Steam now displaying better indicators for game controllers like DualShock and DualSense. Additionally, the Linux kernel includes support for Valve devices codenamed Galileo and Sephiroth, hinting at potential hardware releases.

Enhanced Controller Support

Valve acknowledges the growing use of PlayStation controllers among PC gamers, and this improved compatibility will likely cater to a broader audience.

While the exact nature of the Galileo and Sephiroth devices remains a mystery, Valve’s commitment to Linux-based hardware is evident.

That’s a roundup of the latest developments in the world of Linux and open-source software. Keep an eye out for these exciting changes and updates as they continue to shape the landscape of technology and gaming.

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