Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PC-BSD Day 12: A closer look at Kontact

On day 9 i tried my hand at KMail. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t overwhelming either. Having used Thunderbird for quite some time (with a small collection of extensions) it appeared a bit bare. KMail is a lot faster to load though and that is a boon when you are running everything in a virtual box.

The KDE desktop has two major items that really add some spice for the desktop user: the KOffice workspace and Kontact. Maybe it is not correct to call them parts of the KDE desktop, because they need to be installed. There is no real counterpart of these two on the GNOME desktop. GNOME Office is far from an integrated set of applications. Evolution could be compared to Kontact, but only up to point.

Kontact appears to be a shell that wraps around various separate KDE based applications, that can also be used as standalone programs. There is KMail, KAdressbook, Akregator (RSS feeds), KPilot (PDA synchronisation), KOrganizer (calendar), KNotes (memo notes) and KNode (newsgroups). The taks bar on the left side provides quick access to each function, which is loaded in the main screen.

It could be me, but I have the impression that Kontact has a cleaner and brighter look and feel than for instance just KMail. The level of integration with other parts of the KDE desktop is remarkable. For the article I wrote yesterday I found some RSS feeds that I wanted to keep. Konquerer informed me that there were feeds on a webpage by showing a radio button in the lower right corner. Clicking on the button revelead the option to add the feed to Akregrator. Once you see an article in the feed that you like to read it become a matter of double-clicking the link and Kontact/Akregator opens a new tab. No, it won’t open Konquerer or any other webbrowser, just the tab. It’s a bit slow at first, which almost made me think something was wrong.

Kontact/Calendar is a straightforward calendaring application. There is even a plugin to link to Exchange 2000. I work with Outlook at my workplace and I haven’t found a single function lacking in Calendar yet. Kontact/Contacts again is clear enough. It can be linked to an LDAP server, which should be interesting for organizations that want to go open source all the way.

Overall, I am mightily impressed with Kontact. It is fast, it is clean, it fully functional as a personal information manager. KDE has the reputation of being ridden with possibilities to set options and change them. Kontact indeed has quite a few of those, but when you consider that you actually managing multiple applications through one interface and that everything is neatly organized the issue disappears. I do believe that presenting Kontact as the default PIM for desktop users beats offering Evolution.

Planning the rest of the month
There are a few things I want to try in the coming weeks. For one, I am testing PC-BSD in a virtual environment and it would be nice to check the performance on a real harddisk. I wouldn’t mind giving it a spin on my laptop and see how it handles the wifi stuff, but that will have to wait. My laptop needs to be returned to the manufacturer.

Secondly, I want to see how easy (or difficult) it is to install PC-BSD next to Windows and Linux. How good is the installer for that task and will I be able to boot into the other OS via the boot loader?

Networking is another one on the list. How well and how easy can I connect to the various shares? Can i just as easily adjust fstab to mount those shares at startup? That will bring me to a brief tour along the differences between *BSD and Linux. Then we have the suggestion by Manolis to alter the PACKAGESITE environment and in that way getting more recent packages. That’s the really nerdy stuff, at least for me.

Other than that I will be exploring the various other applications that come with the KDE desktop. And I shouldn’t forget GNOME. Can I add it just as easily as all the packages? Anyway, feel free to point out some other experiments.

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3 thoughts on “PC-BSD Day 12: A closer look at Kontact

  1. I have been using PC-BSD for while,it has been so far so good.I really the way it works.But i have been having problems to set up my wifi.I am using a 3Com pcmcia 3CRWE154G72.So i wish you luck.

  2. I’ve got PCBSD running on a dell 8600 laptop along with XP and Ubuntu Studio.

    You may need to resize existing partitions to accomodate all 3 on one disk. I’m assuming you don’t want to backup and restore to another drive.

    PC-BSD doesn’t come with any non-destructive partition resizing software, nor is any available for FreeBSD to my knowledge. I think GParted and QTParted only work under Linux. I had XP installed first and added Ubuntu then PCBSD.

    So to get PCBSD installed alongside the others, choices are (before the PCBSD install, depending on what OSes are already installed):
    – Use partition resizing software in windows such as partion magic, the install PCBSD and Linux
    – Download the Gparted liveCD, boot from it and carry out the necessary resizing.
    – Run QTparted or Gparted from linux if already installed.

    I’ve been able to multiboot using the GRUB installed from within Ubuntu. I’ve been able to install GRUB from within PCBSD, but at boot time GRUB seems unable to load properly from the PCBSD partition, so I’m using the GRUB that loads properly (stage2 files, menu.llst) from the Ubuntu ext3 partition. Has anyone been able to get GRUB working properly from a PSBCD installation? Other than this difficulty, I much prefer GRUB than BSD’s boot loader for multibooting.

    Re networking, once I had wireless networking set uo properly, it was easy point and click stuff to connect to shared folders on a separate XP machine over my home wireless network.

    Haven’t yet tried to share print resources attached to the PCBSD machine with the Windows machine over the network via CUPS, it was enough of nightmare to get CUPS working locally…

  3. On the issue of Gnome… Tell me if I am wrong but…

    Xorg is a windowing system
    Windowing system supports a Window Manager
    On top of these two you can build a windowing Environment

    KDE, CDE, Gnome, etc are Windowing Environments.

    I remember reading somewhere on the forums that Gnome does not completely support FreeBSD. You can get it installed and running but there are some parts that just don’t integrate at this time. (I wish I could find the post…)

    In any event… PCBSD is not really (the easy for your mom to use) PCBSD without KDE. I have run KDE on FreeBSD in the past and it has so many application built to expect Linux that it was painful for me to use.

    PC-BSD has a LOT of work gone into fixing inconsistencies with the KDE applications so that they work properly on FreeBSD.

    I guess I don’t understand why someone would want to try Gnome on PCBSD?? If you really want your OS foundation to be FreeBSD and you really want Gnome then I think you should install FreeBSD outright and install Gnome. (Why would I try to install KDE or Gnome on a Mac??)

    PC-BSD provides Updates from time to time. I hope one of your day articles talks about your upgrade from 1.4rc to 1.4Release. I think you would really be asking for trouble if you attempted to apply a PCBSD update to a PCBSD box that was changed to Gnome.

    I don’t expect PCBSD to be a completely open system like FreeBSD is. If I want to muck around with stuff on the OS I install FreeBSD. If I want my desktop to just work so I can get something done I install PCBSD and use PBI’s whereever possible. (Yes, Yes… I have some ports installed as well but only when I must and I don’t expect any of the updates from PCBSD to protect applications that were not installed via PBI.

    Even if some dear soul makes a PBI for Gnome. My point is Why? It is nolonger (really) PCBSD

    FreeBSD + KDE + special tweeks = Easy to use PCBSD

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