We are probably in the end of our journey to improve design and usability of plasma-nm and new release is almost behind the door. There are still some small design issues in the current design, but it’s almost impossible to find a designer with spare time and especially now, where everything is about Plasma 2. This is also probably the last major change for KDE 4/Plasma 1 and we should move on and focus to KDE 5/Plasma 2. Currently we are working on a new model, which is going to be same for the applet and the editor, so the editor will be more powerful. I would like to also have a new kcm, but this is for further future.
If you want to try it, you can compile plasma-nm from git (master branch), but you also need a new version of libnm-qt (NM/0.9.8 branch). Or if you are a Fedora user, you can install it from COPR repository. Otherwise you will have to wait for your distro packagers or for new tarballs.
At first, I would like to thank you, becase we’ve got quite a lot of comments during our usability studies and it was really helpful. You could see a prototype in Björn’s blog post and now, when it’s almost finished, I would like to show you our result to get again some feedback. I hope you like it more than previous versions.
The last missing functionality are options for opening the editor and turning on/off wireless etc. We are still not sure where to put them, so there is still a space for your ideas. And again, we really need a design hero, because as you can see in the video, our icons needs some polishing, i.e the vpn icon is barely visible and the ethernet icon with question mark is quite ugly, that’s a proof that developers are not good designers.
Last week, we (RedHat guys, but mostly Daniel Vrátil) hosted KDE PIM Sprint here in Brno and this was a great opportunity for other hackers/friends to join us earlier and hack on Solid. I was working mainly with Lukáš Tinkl on libmm-qt (Qt library for ModemManager), which has now full support of ModemManager 1.0. We made some changes even in plasma-nm, but mostly bugfixes and we improved support for displays with high resolution. Another thing that was going on over the past week was usability study (thanks to Björn Balazs) and you can still tell us your opinions and vote for Björn’s ideas, because we really want to make plasma-nm better. We also discussed usability with Thomas Pfeiffer on the PIM Sprint and I hope you will like the result, but I will write about it later when we have some demo so we can get some criticism :).
We also released a new version of our “networkmanagement compilation” including plasma-nm, libmm-qt and libnm-qt and we decided to follow versions of NetworkManager and ModemManager to make it less confusing.
- libmm-qt 1.0.0 - has full support of ModemManager 1.0
- libnm-qt 0.9.8.0 - has full support of NetworkManager 0.9.8 and this version is only compilable with the new libmm-qt
- plasma-nm 0.9.3.2 - with a lot of bugfixes and improved support for HDPI displays
It’s now quite confusing which versions of libmm-qt and libnm-qt you need, because we have two stable releases of libmm-qt and libnm-qt, but it’s pretty simple. If your distribution has ModemManager 1.0, you need the new versions (libmm-qt 1.0.0 and libnm-qt 0.9.8), if your distribution has ModemManager < 1.0, use previously released versions (libmm-qt 0.5.1 and libnm-qt 0.9.0.1).
Just a small announcement that we are releasing a second version of our new networkmanagement applet.
Here is a list with changes in this version:
- plasma-nm is renamed to match the names from the old networkmanagement applet (kded module, applet name etc.)
- visual changes (different icons, improved speed of animations, applet is a little bit smaller)
- improved notifications
- experimental support for ModemManager 1.0 (must be compiled with libmm-qt and libnm-qt from git using master branches)
- ModemManager support is optional
- StrongSwan VPN plugin
And some closed bugs:
- #325783 – plasma-nm doesn’t install icon network-defaultroute, which is need by kde-nm-connection-editor.desktop
- #324016 – plasma crashes when a vpn connection is activated
- #324708 – Crash when launching second user desktop
- #325290 – Cannot add static routes on OpenVPN connections using the latest plasma-nm in Kubuntu Saucy
- #322192 – WPA2 dialog blocks Plasma
We also released a small bugfix release for NetworkManagerQt , which is needed for this version of plasma-nm. ModemManagerQt  doesn’t have new release and you can use the previously released version. If you want to compile plasma-nm with the new ModemManager 1.0 support (mostly necessary for new distributions like Fedora 20, OpenSuse 12.3, Archlinux etc.), you have to compile NetworkManagerQt  and ModemManagerQt  from git using master branches.
 – http://download.kde.org/unstable/plasma-nm/plasma-nm-0.9.3.1.tar.xz.mirrorlist
 – http://download.kde.org/unstable/networkmanager-qt/0.9.0.1/src/libnm-qt-0.9.0.1.tar.xz.mirrorlist
 – http://download.kde.org/unstable/modemmanager-qt/0.5.1/src/libmm-qt-0.5.1.tar.xz.mirrorlist
 – http://quickgit.kde.org/?p=libnm-qt.git
 – http://quickgit.kde.org/?p=libmm-qt.git
We released the first stable version of plasma-nm today, but that was not the only thing I was working on during the last (3) months. I was working on my GSoC project and because GSoC almost ends I would like to show you my results. My GSoC project has two parts, the first part is network applet optimized for Plasma active and the second is active settings for configuring network connections.
The first idea was to have two versions of plasma-nm applet, one version for desktop and one for plasma active, but we had a session/discussion at the Akademy with Thomas and Bjorn and we came up with the perfect design which is suitable for both parties. No additional changes are needed to make the applet easily usable on Plasma active.
Some screenshots from Plasma active running on Nexus 7
My focus in this GSoC was especially the network active settings, but it was much more difficult than I thought. So far I have fully functional wired, wireless (except WPA Enterprise) and (almost finished) GSM connections, which you can add or edit. VPN connections has no configuration yet and you can only connect/disconnect them. Since GSoC ends in a few days, I will focus now on bugfixing and small improvements and leave the rest (VPN and WPA2 Enterprise) after GSoC, because it is beyond my power to implement everything during GSoC period and those are the most complex and I think they are not so common on tablet devices.
You can find it in plasma-nm git repository (http://quickgit.kde.org/?p=plasma-nm.git) under “active” branch.
I was at Akademy for the first time and it was a really great week with all the people there. It’s an amazing event, because you can meet all the people personaly and you finally find out who is in the other side of computer. I arrived to Bilbao on Friday afternoon with Daniel Vrátil so we had time to look around Bilbao before Friday evening in a pub where we got finally our Akademy badges. Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to talks. I especially liked the talk called “Declarative widgets” presented by Kevin Krammer, because I really like QML and I like the idea that I can use QML even for QWidget based GUI. But all the talks were good and some of them gave me a lot of informations how to improve my applications and how can I use effectively some tools for debugging for example for QML.
On Monday we had a usability BoF. The BoF was organized by Björn Balazs, Björn is an expert on usability and he cooperates with KDE for several years. For this BoF Björn has selected a few applications (KScreen, plasma-nm, Plasma Media Center, KStars). Each application was represented by one of the developers who had two users (who doesn’t know anything about that project) for testing. The aim was to give user a task (related to the application) and navigate the user through some steps like “What do you think you can do?” How do you think you can do that?”, “What do you expect from this step?” etc. Developers can then track how users think and improve their application. The basic task for plasma-nm was “connect to the Akademy wireless network”. Both users thought that they can connect simply by clicking on “Akademy” connection in plasma-nm applet, but unfortunately they were wrong. Then I realized that I’m doing something wrong. After the lunch when I had almost fixed all the usability issues we started discussion with Lamarque Souza how we should improve the plasma-nm applet. Well, after a while we ended up in front of blackboard with Björn Balazs and Thomas Pfeiffer and we started to completely redesign the entire applet. It took about 2-3 hours and finally we came up with this.
Tuesday was the worst day, because I had health problems with my left ankle which was swollen and I almost died of pain. I decided to go to the hospital and fortunately two guys from the local team on Akademy went with me, because there was almost nobody who speaks English. In the hospital, I spent 10 hours waiting for the results, they gave me antibiotics for an infection, which I probably had and some painkillers and injections as a prevention before thrombosis. We left the hospital with Mikel Gutierrez at midnight and his parents took me by car to the pharmacy and back to our hostel for which I am very grateful. The next day I spent in our hostel, meanwhile the rest of Akademy attendees were on the day trip.
On Thursday I had to go again to the hospital, but it was quick visit and they told me that my foot is better, so I was able to attend the Solid BoF. Lamarque Souza was already waiting for me with a few bugs in plasma-nm so I spent almost the entire Solid BoF with bugfixing. At the end of Solid BoF we discussed Network Active Setting for Plasma Active with Thomas Pfeiffer. The current status of Network Active Setting is
Thomas’ idea was to replace the connection details with connection setting, which is actually a really good idea and user will have everything in one window. I’m going to implement this as soon as possible.
In the evening we had a boat trip and we saw the rest of Bilbao from the boat and we could finally take pictures of all people from RedHat on Akademy. Then we went to a local pub, where we tasted the local ham which was really good. On Friday our participation in Akademy ended and we had to fly to home. But I hope I will attend Akademy next year and I’ll see all the people again. At the end I would like to thank to the local team for a really great organization and again especially to Mikel Gutierrez and thanks to RedHat for sponsoring my travel to Akademy. See you next year :)