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How to run both stable & development versions of KDE with Debian

It's easy to be trendy & safe at the same time

(LinuxWorld) -- I still use Ion as my default window manager, but I have occasional bouts of homesickness for KDE and have been tempted to return to it on several occasions. The main thing holding me back lately is that I've always compiled and installed a custom version of KDE, and one of the more recent snapshots of KDE source code wouldn't compile properly on my system. I haven't found the problem yet, but since then, I've discovered a couple new ways to get recent versions of KDE installed more easily on my system.

Here's the conundrum: I run the unstable branch of Debian. Yes, I know that can be dangerous, but the stable and testing branches of Debian tend to include software that's more out of fashion than my 1970s wardrobe. That would be just dandy if outdated versions of software, like bell-bottoms, ever came back into style. I don't anticipate the trend beginning anytime soon, so for me it's a problem.

Debian aficionados love to justify Debian's tendency to remain on the trailing edge as an intentional effort to keep the distribution safe and stable. I can think of other reasons why it probably lags behind other distributions, but I don't doubt the good intentions and results, so I won't quibble.

I don't want to run KDE 2.2 or GNOME 1.4, which is currently the latest you can get from the standard Debian servers. I don't want to give up using Debian to run the bleeding-edge versions of KDE and GNOME. That's where the good news comes in. I recently discovered how to have your Debian and eat recent versions of KDE and GNOME, too. You don't necessarily have to download and compile the source code to get them.

KDE 3.0.3 on Debian

If you want to get KDE 3.0.3 on your Debian system, here's a way you can do it using Debian packages and the apt-get system. Edit your /etc/apt/sources.list file to include something like the following:

deb http://download.at.kde.org/pub/kde/stable/3.0.3/Debian/ ./
deb http://ftp.du.se/pub/mirrors/kde/stable/3.0.3/Debian/ ./

The URLs above are two examples. You don't need both, and I recommend you find and use a mirror server closer to your location if that's possible. You may need to visit the mirror with your browser or use an ftp program to see if and where the path to the Debian directory exists, and then use that path as part of your URL. As you can see from the above two examples, not all of the servers will use the same path. Make sure you follow that path with a space and then dot-slash (./). I'm not certain this is the politically correct way to format the line in your sources.list file, but it works for me, so I'm not going to fix it unless someone tells me a good reason why I should.

These are most of the packages from which you can choose if you decide to install KDE 3.0.3 this way. Once you've modified your /etc/apt/sources.list file, simply use the commands apt-get update and then apt-get install [package names] to install the packages you want. In most cases, the apt-get system resolves dependencies automatically, but you can put many package names on the command line.

kdeaddonsadd-on plugins and applets provided with KDE
kdeadminKDE Administration tools metapackage
kdeartworkthemes, styles and more from the official KD
kdeartwork-missvarious multimedia goodies released with KDE
kdeartwork-screensaverscreen savers released with KDE
kdeartwork-styleswidget styles released with KDE
kdeartwork-theme-desktopdesktop themes and related goodies released
kdeartwork-theme-windowwindow decoration themes released with KDE
kdeartworkthemes, styles and more from the official KDE release
kdebaseKDE Base metapackage
kdebase-binKDE Base (binaries)
kdebase-dataKDE Base (shared data)
kdebugdialogKDE Debug Settings
kdecarddecksCard decks for KDE games
kdegamesKDE Games metapackage
kdegraphicsKDE Graphics metapackage
kdelibsKDE core libraries metapackage
kdelibs-binKDE core binaries
kdelibs-dataKDE core shared data
kdelibs4KDE core libraries
kdelibs4-devKDE core libraries (development files)
kdemultimediaKDE Multimedia metapackage
kdenetworkKDE Network metapackage
kdepasswdKDE password changer
kdepimKDE Personal Information Management metapack
kdeprintKDE Print
kdesdkKDE Software Development Kit
kdesdk-scriptsa set of useful development scripts for KDE
kdesktopKDE Desktop
kdesshKDE ssh frontend
kdeutilsKDE Utilities metapackage

On the edge

I like having a stable yet recent version of KDE, but I also like to live dangerously. I tend to run snapshots of KDE in development in parallel with the stable versions of KDE. This is easy to do. I install the latest snapshots in a target directory such as /usr/local/kdecvs. I also keep my own copy of the Qt toolkit in /usr/local/qt. There are several ways to start KDE in Debian, but here's how I do it. If I want to run KDE 3.0.3, I run the command:

xinit /usr/bin/startkde

Before I can run the CVS version of KDE, however, I usually modify the startkde script in the CVS install directory (in my case /usr/local/kdecvs/bin). I add these lines near the top of the file:

PATH=/usr/local/kdecvs/bin:/usr/local/qt/bin:/usr/lib/j2sdk1.4.0/bin:$PATH
QTDIR=/usr/local/qt
QT_XFT=true
KDEDIR=/usr/local/kdecvs
KDEHOME=~/.kde3
LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$QTDIR/lib:$KDEDIR/lib:$KDEDIR/lib/kde3:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH
export PATH QTDIR KDEDIR QT_XFT KDEHOME LD_LIBRARY_PATH

Note that I put the kdecvs binary directory at the front of the PATH so that it won't automatically find and run duplicate KDE 3.0.3 programs when what I really want to run are the CVS programs. Then, when I want to run the CVS version of KDE, I execute the command:

xinit /usr/local/kdecvs/bin/startkde

Until recently, I used a program called lftp to get the latest source tarballs. When I noticed that those files hadn't been updated for a week or two, I switched to a program called CVSup. You can use anonymous CVS to get the same source code, but CVSup is a nifty utility that makes it easy to automate updates from CVS source code repositories. In order to compile the latest version, I use a modified and simplified version of a compile script from the KDE folks.

I put the script in the directory /usr/local/src/kde/kde-cvs, which is the base directory where I put all the CVS source code, and I run it from there. It's not a perfect script, in part because it doesn't keep up to date with changes I make to my system. There have been several times when it fails on one of the packages because it suddenly needs a new configuration parameter or some other tweak. I make that change and compile the rest of the packages manually.

#!/bin/sh

## Script to compile KDE ## (C) 1998 Gerd Knorr ## modified by Nicholas Petreley

KDEDIR=/usr/local/kdecvs QTDIR=/usr/local/qt PATH=$QTDIR/bin:$PATH MANPATH=$QTDIR/doc/man:$MANPATH LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$QTDIR/lib:$KDEDIR/lib:$KDEDIR/lib/kde3:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH export KDEDIR QTDIR LD_LIBRARY_PATH

#########################################################################

PACKAGES="arts kdesupport kdelibs kdebase kdeadmin kdegames kdegraphics kdemultimedia kdenetwork kdepim kdeaddons kdesdk kdeutils kdevelop"

for package in $PACKAGES do cd $package || exit make -f Makefile.cvs || exit ./configure --with-qt-dir=/usr/local/qt --prefix=/usr/local/kdecvs || exit make || exit echo -e "\007installing $package now..." make install || exit cd .. done

I still haven't been able to finish compiling the latest CVS code, but I haven't spent much time looking into the problem. If I figure out the glitch and the solution turns out to be useful, I'll pass it along. In the meantime, I'll let you know in my next column the easy way to install GNOME 2.0 on your Debian system, and give you my first impressions of the latest version of GNOME.

More Stories By Nicholas Petreley

Nicholas Petreley is a computer consultant and author in Asheville, NC.

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