KDE to Say Buh-Bye to Screensavers

by Susan Linton - Oct. 03, 2011Comments (20)

kdeKDE just keeps getting better and better. Developers are working on a new screen-locking implementation which will cause screensavers to stop working. So, let's see, in 4.8 we won't be able to turn off compositing effects and now our screensavers will no longer work. What's next, no more mouse and keyboard support? (Shh, better not give them any more ideas.)

Developers are addressing a security "constraint" in KDE's screen-locking routine, which I guess some folks may welcome. But as a result, screensavers will be rendered inoperative. They hope to include a fallback in 4.8, but will remove that in 4.9. Martin Graesslin says they wish to replace the current engine with a "new solution" built using Qt Quick and they hope users will start to contribute new screensavers.

I don't lock my desktop. I hate desktop effects, they mess with my eyes and give me a headache. I don't need my windows wiggling around or genie-ing into the task manager. I don't care if my windows are transparent when I move them or snap to full screen if I put them in the wrong spot. However, I love Asciiquarium. The first things I do when setting up a new KDE desktop is turn off compositing effects and turn on Asciiquarium. In 4.8, it seems I'm just plain out of luck. All this comes after having to revert to an older version of KDE because they broke Kmail/KPIM in 4.6.x.

Actually, to be fair, if you look at the poll on the above referenced site, screensavers do seem to be falling out of favor with many people. In addition, some of the wording implies they may provide a few new screensavers and, if I'm lucky, Asciiquarium will be ported.

However, it seems that after initially adjusting to KDE 4 (in no small part by totally upgrading my whole computer) that it's becoming more and more alien to me. I'm constantly having to get used to something else changed or adjust the way I do something yet again. I realize they aren't programming for me, but I just don't think they are programming for the average Linux desktop user anymore either.

 <Heavy sigh>

Update: Grasslin has posted that users will be able to disable compositing. He states one will still be able to disable using Alt+Shift+F12 and in Systemsettings - although previous comments state user controls would be removed from the Systemsettings. I apologize for my mistake. 

Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


No one cares susan

0 Votes

You obviously misunderstand compositing window managers.

Firstly you probably should have read the very article you are linking to in which the author explains that even though compositing will still be used the screen decorations will not be used unless you have them enabled. Quoted Below:


As explained above only active effects will participate in the rendering. So if you don’t use the cube effect, it won’t be used and cannot consume power. If on the other hand you use the effect than it is adding usability features. Imagine a user who switches windows using the Present Windows effect. Of course using this effect actively will affect the battery life. But what is worse? Using the effect once very shortly or searching a minute for the window in the taskbar? What will affect the battery life more? The minute searching (one minute less battery) or the animation?"[/quote]

Secondly a compositing window manager allows any widget to paint to the screen in any way fit. Then all the widgets and windows are pushed on to the framebuffer stack and rendered to the screen using efficient hardware rendering rather than the slower and also more power consuming software rendering. The wikipedia article does a decent job of explaining: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compositing_window_manager.

And now on to the screen savers....

XScreenSaver is a package consisting of a lockscreen daemon and executable modules (called hacks) which will draw to which ever window they are told to draw on. The XScreenSaver package was authored by Jamie Zawinski in 1992 and it is still going strong to this day.

What the devs of Plasma have actually stated is that the method currently used to lock the screen and then display an XScreenSaver module needs to be replaced with something a little more up to date. To allow a bit more flexibility. Qt Quick is useful, as a potential screen-saver artist need not be versed in the ways of C/C++. C/C++ being the only way to make an XScreenSaver module. (Though I have heard rumor of some making a python wrapper.) On top of that screensaver developers gain access to the vast resources of Qt. And with each Xscreensaver hack weighing in at an average of only 450 lines of code, ports are only going to take a matter of weeks if not mere days.

So please Susan, don't pull another "FoxNews" and learn a bit about the technology or subject you are writing on.

1 Votes

I do care susan, never mind senseless comment above...

In fact if i could live with a limited choice of screensaver, the removed option to desactivate compositing is **for me** a deal breaker (i often play games with wine and i need to desactivate those damn effects).

Well what happening to the Desktop devs is a "paradigm fever" and the common false believe that the desktop is dead but not buried yet...

0 Votes

totally agree. first thing that goes off is the composting effects and i don't lock my screen either.... no one else is here, so why bother?

0 Votes

Yes we do susan

Kde is the best desktop for any OS..

1 Votes

I care.

0 Votes

This is frightening news and I'm surprised that KDE is doing this to break functionality this late in the development; 4.0 had issues and I understand that, but 4.8 and beyond? C'mon KDE, work with us, not against us — that is GNOME's job, to make our daily activities more frustrating.

0 Votes

Not used screensavers in YEARS. I think that screensavers were meant to allow CRTs to wear uniformly and avoid that image burn in that can happen when a static image persists on the screen for awhile. With the advent of LCDs, that is not only useless but counterproductive. You actually cause MORE wear and tear of the pixels by using them ( as they are transistors). So I always blank out my screen or suspend it after timeouts.

I think that KDE is going in the right direction. If you do want to see images in the background, use wallpapers and set your screensaver to never come on. You get the same result.

0 Votes

"I hate desktop effects, they mess with my eyes and give me a headache."

... and you use KDE because...?

well lolz. you DE folk writhing in agony make for such a spectacle.

0 Votes

@other anonymous:

"the removed option to desactivate compositing is **for me** a deal breaker (i often play games with wine and i need to desactivate those damn effects)."

You, as well as the author of this article, misunderstood the announcment of the KWin developers.

The ability to manually deactivate compositing will not be removed.

What will be removed is support for *automatically* deactivating compositing when going into power saving mode. The reasons are mainly security concerns relating to screen locking...

(Secure screen locking depends on compositing being enabled. It mustn't be allowed to circumvent a locked screen by e.g. unplugging the Laptop's AC to go into battery mode, thereby automatically disabling compositing, thereby disabling the lock-screen without entering the password).

The same thing goes for XScreensaver support - it just doesn't work with the new, secure compositing-based screen locking.

Yes, those security problems could have been solved in other ways, but the developers decided that those ways were too hackish, too cumbersome and too high a code maintenance burden for the (very small) KWin team.

They chose to go the "do it right, and do it clean, and if necessary drop outdated 20-year-old solutions for new, modern replacements" path.

Rightly so.

1 Votes

Worst article I read in years. By far. I do not even feel the urge to write arguments cause most people will understand where my opinion comes from.

0 Votes

Why don't you do an article "Help KDE figure out how to rework screensavers" take my posting on forum.kde.org and link the poll. That way we would reach more users to find our solution.

Now your article has got a few things wrong, which I will correct now. For the future you are more than welcome to just mail me your article before hand so that I can read through to see whether everything is correct.

> So, let's see, in 4.8 we won't be able to turn off compositing effects

This is just not true, you are able to turn compositing off. We have no plans to enforce compositing till Wayland is our primary windowing system.

> and now our screensavers will no longer work

also not true. If you have configured a screensaver it will work the same way as in 4.8. This might change in 4.9 based on the result of the named poll.

> What's next, no more mouse and keyboard support?

We are way a head and will release the touch oriented Plasma Active in a few days ;-)

> I don't need my windows wiggling around or genie-ing into the task manager

You know, KDE does not enable such effects by default. For us desktop effects are about increasing the productivity. Maybe you just have a wrong idea about desktop effects based on early versions of compiz? You should give it a try again :-)

> or snap to full screen if I put them in the wrong spot.

Which has nothing to do with Compositing. That feature is actually in the core available with and without compositing (and yes you can turn it off).

> The first things I do when setting up a new KDE desktop is turn off compositing effects and turn on Asciiquarium. In 4.8, it seems I'm just plain out of luck.

So all the changes we currently discuss don't affect you. Isn't that great? We actually do care about the users who don't want compositing :-) And yes your screensaver is still there (as said that might change in 4.9 based on the poll).

1 Votes

Hi Susan,

It pains me to here your heavy sigh at the end. The good news is that this is a misunderstanding on your part and compositing is not being required or enforced.

So what is changing? Simple: if (and only if) you have compositing turned on, it will no longer automatically turn off when your battery runs low (since that doesn't actually help much at all, it turns out). The second change is that compositing is turned on when the new screen locker is on (not that it affects the display in any way; no effects get enabled, for instance), and when you unlock your screen compositing returns to what it was previously; this is for security purposes as it otherwise allows people to get a glimpse of your otherwise locked desktop far too easily.

So, if you don't use copmositing now ... you won't see any compositing related changes. We, upstream Plasma developers, are quite happy about it being that way, too. Why? Well, because we care about people such as yourself.

Now, screensavers .. yep, as someone else stated earlier, xscreensaver is a nearly 20 year old implementation that it turns out makes a lot of things far more difficult than it should be and even rules out certain possibilities by their design. It made sense 20 or even 10 years ago, but they are fitting less and less into the modern shape of things. Wayland will just be the next step in this. So we've moved to a lock screen that supports anything written in QtQuick (QML) and our software becomes, as a result, cleaner (easier to maintain without bugs) and, more importantly, more secure in this case. Can people write an ASCII-quarian in QML? Yep. :) Best thing is that such a thing wouldn't be "stuck" on your screen saver either .. you could just as easily put it on your Plasma desktop, netbook or tablet to have little fish running around all the time :)

Note that we had extensive discussions on the developer list and then we took it to a poll on forum.kde.org to understand our user base better before making firm decisions. We care and we communicate. Sometimes it comes across garbled, such is human communication at times, but we do communicate.

You can see a follow up blog by Martin here: http://blog.martin-graesslin.com/blog/2011/10/correcting-misconceptions-...

If you could publish an update with the corrected informatoin so all of your readers can find it, we would really appreciate it as that will help prevent the amount of misinformation and confusion we have to deal with to a minimum. Thanks ... :)

1 Votes

If you truly care about screensavers, why not head over to the forums and voice your opinions instead of writing this rant? In this particular case the developers have been very open and reached out to the community for users' opinions, and this is what they get? Sheesh.

0 Votes

"And yes your screensaver is still there (as said that might change in 4.9 based on the poll)."

And even if you decide to remove support for X screensavers from KDE's screen-locking/screensaver system in 4.9, she will still be able to just completely deactivate that system and use the xscreensaver program directly, instead.

0 Votes

Major misunderstanding :-( You should try and read more carefully Martin's article !

0 Votes

I don't think you know anything about KDE nor computers.

0 Votes

For heavens sake... do some research before writing. This sounded much like a maureen o gara report on sco ... absolutely incorrect, and totally obsolete.

0 Votes

I usually like your articles but I think you should do your mea culpa and move on.

You were wrong about not being be able to disable compositing

and it seems you were totally wrong about the screensavers.

But the truly annoying thing was both here and in the forums, the 'i dont use screensavers' opinions. Yes, YOU DONT but others do.

This is Gnome's 'we know better than you what you want' atittude.

You dont have to use it but at least have the intelligence to realize that others do.

And Graesslin's 'let the people speak' poll suggestion is cheap populist-lite rhetoric: KDE.org are NOT the average user. Yes, I am aware that Seigo doenst believe to cater to our grandmothers using computers (although Gnome treats theirs like idiots) but if you are visiting KDE.org, you are NOT an average user. Chances are pretty high that the majority of the forum users can use the terminal commands. In other words, NOT an average user.

I think this probably sums up best what you seem to have totally misunderstood about the screensavers: "They chose to go the "do it right, and do it clean, and if necessary drop outdated 20-year-old solutions for new, modern replacements" path."

The fact that Jaime's old hacks were still being used is both funny and sad.

As for the article, I'll just put it down to trying to rush a blog entry and relying on 4th hand comments to write a faulty article that will be repeated in numerous feeds and spawn similar posts.

I think saying you wrote a crappy article is a lot less worse than calling the cheap headline above what people on the interwebs call writers who come up with titilating titles to get people to click on a link.

0 Votes

Don't listen to martin, he is always rambling about something.

Go Susan! We love your articles.

0 Votes
Share Your Comments

If you are a member, to have your comment attributed to you. If you are not yet a member, Join OStatic and help the Open Source community by sharing your thoughts, answering user questions and providing reviews and alternatives for projects.

Promote Open Source Knowledge by sharing your thoughts, listing Alternatives and Answering Questions!