or Alexis Menard in the real world.

KDE 4.8 is really really nice! Congrats! Just KMix popup is confusing…



Today I upgraded to KDE 4.8, thanks to ArchLinux to provide the packages really fast. Globally I’m pretty happy with the move, more polish, more stable, it really shine! So far the only glitch I had was nepomuk resetting where to index (I on purpose disable where my dev environment is) so it started indexing like hell my development directories, freezing my machine at the very first startup. So I’d say congrats to the KDE for such a beautiful release. Nice work!

On the more down side I’m really confused about the new KMix popup when you click on the speaker icon in the systray. I felt confused about it (so were all my colleagues around) :

I have hard time to understand this popup. It seems that moving the slider to the right would decrease the volume (as it goes in direction of the mute button which is anyway against the regular left-to-right == increase for people using the LTR layout) but no *cough* it increases the volume.

Also clicking on the mute button doesn’t give feedback whether it is checked or not again leading to confusion. Any idea from some designer (Nuno, …?) on how to improve it? I would implement it myself.

UPDATE : It seems that the button is not properly updated as it should. That helps a bit to understand how it works :D.

Anyway thanks all for the work!


Author: darktears

Software Engineer at Intel Corporation.

46 thoughts on “KDE 4.8 is really really nice! Congrats! Just KMix popup is confusing…

  1. Since when kde planet is a place to put such posts?

    • Since I’m looking for feedback from usability people to fix it myself. PlanetKDE is for KDE contributors, so am I, so it’s totally legitimate for me to post what I dislike so I could improve it myself.

  2. Did not see it till now, but as you say it, you are right, that looks really a bit confusing. I prefer the slider being vertical.

  3. The bug seems to be that the icon on the right (muted or not) reads its state only on startup and does not reflect later changes. When you unmute it, quit kmix and start it again you’ll have the right icon (until you mute it again).

    Can you report a bug about it, please? 🙂

  4. I do agree with Manolin that this really doesn’t belong in the Planet KDE. That being said the KMix applet really needs some work. Veromix isn’t quite there either but QML/Plasma applet is definetly the way to go. That would give better workspace integration for free and it would make fixing issues like this pretty damn easy.. I think.

    There was talk and screencasts in polentino’s blog almost a year ago. I have no idea what happened to that project.

  5. Don’t listen to them, this kind of posts are very welcomed. Don’t get discouraged.

  6. I see one more very weird/annoying issue – kmix behaves like it is muted all the time. The tray icon is always muted, no matter what I do (restarting has no effect) and mouse-wheeling-up on that icon always sets it to 5%, while turning the wheel down works as expected. Here’s a bugreport for it — https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=291163

    Is anyone else experiencing this?

  7. It belongs on the Planet. It’a a KDE contributor’s blog aggregator. Personal posts are allowed once in a while, so are job offers.
    This might have been an email to kde-devel but it was not.
    Please do not tell people that stuff does not belong here unless it violates the rules.

    “The majority of content in your blog should be about KDE and your work on KDE. Blog posts about personal subjects are also encouraged since Planet KDE is a chance to learn more about the developers behind KDE.”

    “Posts can be positive and promote KDE, they can be constructive and lay out issues which need to be addressed […]”

  8. for change, my kmix don’t changing slider when changing volume. it’s little messed up 😉

  9. And since when Planet KDE is not a place for the KDE community discuss KDE?

  10. I don’t see why this shouldn’t be on planetkde either.

  11. This post doesn’t belong here. It’s extremely damaging for the KDE community.

    This destructive behaviour is in no way allowed in the Planet.

    I hope your blog gets removed from the Planet ASAP.

    • In what it is damaging the KDE community? Can you explain me? I opened the dialog here on how to improve the popup (which I volunteered to fix myself). If I read the history of the planet you can find many post on usability issues : http://www.icon-king.com/thoughts/few-things-about-kdm-that-do-not-make-much-sense-to-me/ for example and all posts helped for the good. I think your comment doesn’t belong here as you obviously don’t know what you are talking about, I totally follow the guidelines of the planet and I feel legitimate to raise critics on KDE as I myself contributed on KDE quite a lot in the past (and was open to critics). I’m not bashing KDE here, not at all, just pointed some problems.

    • Wow. Talk about the wrong reaction to a problem.

      By the way, I agree that it is damaging to the KDE community. People don’t expect something as simple as a volume slider to break when updating to the latest version. It speaks to a quality control problem.

      But this post is not the damaging part. The damaging part is that this bug exists. The additional damaging part is responses like you, which sound like you’d rather try to cover it up.

      The helpful part is this blog entry, where darktears is trying to actively fix this problem.

    • Just to make it clear, it is not me (sebas@kde.org) who posted it, but someone else who happens to have used the same name as I use. (Unfortunately, I can’t claim universal ownership of that nick. ;)) I think the above comment is out of line, and I would not have said this. It’s not my line of thinking.

      Alexis’ critic is rightful, thought through, and I generally concur, although the bug which doesn’t update the icon has not struck me, so it’s less apparent here.

  12. @Sebas: Destructive?

    “Any idea from some designer (Nuno, …?) on how to improve it? I would implement it myself.”

    I think blogs about usability should be ALWAYS on the Planet cause usability is one of the weaker points of KDE. No need to hide it, just a need to address and work on it.

    Nice post, and I do agree with the ‘vertical would be better’. Just like the old days (thought myself I tweaked my system too much so had no clue it became default otherwise I would have filed a usability bug)

  13. The vertical direction is very logical – when the knob is low, so is the volume and vice verca.
    In denmark, we say “turn up” or “turn down” (the volume), to my knowledge this is very common. Physical mixer devices also follow that logic.
    The position of the mute button have nothing to do with this being wrong, even if it may seem so. It is just not logical!

    Why change something that works well? :$

    • and vertical movement with mouse or touchpad seems a lot easier for me

      (and thanks to the author of this post, there are some pretty hateful comments here… 🙂 )

  14. Heh, maybe i should post this under the nick “aseigo” and troll as well.

  15. I can see why some people don’t think this belongs on the Planet – most developers prefer if you take it up directly with them. However, I wouldn’t go as far as sebas (not Sebastian Kügler 😉 ) above.

    Anyway, let’s return to the topic…

    I agree that the new layout is confusing (it seems to have some bugs as well which significantly contribute to this) and I personally prefer the old, vertical one. One reason is that it’s easier to move the mouse cursor vertically than horizontally.

    Still eagerly waiting for the KMix QML Applet. http://polentino911.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/kmix-qml-applet-the-real-one/ 😀

  16. Kmix is just broken in KDE 4.8. In addition to this, the global volume level is always reset to 0 during each reboot. And also at least 3 other levels “Digital”, “Capture” and “Capture2” are also reset to 0 after reboot, I have to manually set them after reboot cause skype microphone does not work with this levels zeroed. I was initially thinking that this was broken by alsa or by some other system lib, but now I see this was hit by other kde 4.8 users too.

  17. Actually I do not understand why the volume slider itself is going from left to right now. This is very uncommon – I think in most (if not all) languages people say turn the volume UP (or DOWN resp) – not turn it LEFT or RIGHT. It helps to build the interface upon these language models, so I strongly argue for making it vertical again.

    Btw: the setting dialogue of KMix allows something like that, but only takes the actual dialogue in effect and not the initial pop-up…

    • Actually, those words (“volume up/down”) come from the usual layout of those physical sliders. Most non-DJ equipment has a turning wheel and up/down does not fit there. In combination, you “turn” (-> wheel) the volume “up/down” (-> slider). This doesn’t actually make sense but that’s language.
      Btw: the real words are louder/more quiet, and those strangely do not imply any direction 😉

  18. I sent a possible fix using your picture:

    I hope this can help 😉

  19. Even the mixer icon on the left of the slider shows an “up/down” slider. That’s very inconsistent and confusing.

    @gejobj nice idea.

  20. @gejob nice one 😉

    But really, changing something that for ages was vertical to something horizontal without even the possibility to vote if we do prefer this way, or worst the possibility to change back, and what’s even funnier the mixer is still vertically!?
    I do understand that KMix developers have the authority to change it the way they want, but this is pretty much of a core feature that nearly all KDE users use.
    I feel sad for KMix current state as most of the time I have to open Pulse Audio Volume Control to change the output of Skype and such things, so improving KMix to provide these features should be higher priority than making changes in the “usability” name.
    Please, next time ask users.

    @darktears if you can please add an option to choose the preferred orientation 😀

    That being said, somehow I think KMix was trying to get attention so more devs could help it out, ( I must say that when I first saw the change I had the will to make a plasmoid and add the Pulse features to the mixer… ) if I wasn’t so busy…

  21. If the developers do want to leave it as a horizontal slider (I think most would prefer vertical) it is easy enough to make it user friendly. Just overlay the slider on a triangle – just a subtle triangle outline would be fine. That clearly shows that as the triangle height grows/shrinks so does the volume.

  22. In my opinion it would be great if KDE had a team of usability experts that looks after the base applications. There are also other applications and applets which need or needed some usability improvements in the past.

    The network management applet comes to mind, amarok had an usability review in the past, dolphin uses some interesting controls in the search panel etc.

    I know that you don’t find manpower out on the streets, but maybe some people have connections to usability experts or at least people with experience in this field.

    There has been quite a lot of improvement in the past few months (also with some blog posts on planetkde, I don’t really see why this would not fit in there), but some things are still a bit less than optimal. Mainly how the user can interact with the applications, some important functions are placed out in the nowhere, and there are lots of unneeded switches between keyboard and mouse (try to manage applets or activities with the keyboard only. There are shortcuts to bring up the GUI, but then you can’t navigate in it without the mouse).

    Based on past experience, usability “bugs” are usually not treated with high priority on bugs.kde.org. Of course it is not as important as a crash, and it is less fun than adding new features, but in the end it is a very important factor on how happy the end user is with the product. Bad usability can lead to frustration and loss of productivity, very similar to crashes and other bugs.

    So I really would love to see the KDE usability getting a bit more attention. But unfortunately I don’t have a magic spell to change that. I just hope that some interested people find their way to KDE, and learn that you can commit great stuff to it without a single line of code.

    • No usability people will come as long the community doesn’t drop it’s stupid development model*.
      This Model is incompatible with a usability or quality guideline because the devs are free to not to follow it. Running after them to fix their mess is just stupid. Besides this, the high flying devs won’t accept any criticism – as already stated from the first sebas: criticism is seen as a destructive behavior.

      * http://kde.org/community/whatiskde/devmodel.php

  23. The horizontal sliders are very logical if you think about it. It supports PulseAudio streams, which means you can have 5 volume sliders there pretty much all the time (playing music, flas player in browser, system sounds etc). Imho it looks way better when horizontal and stacked in column rather than vertical and stacked in a row. All things opened from systray are horizontal and stacked into column.

    Also when it now provides mpris controls (see http://wstaw.org/m/2012/01/31/plasma-desktopA28064.png ), the vertical sliders would have to be veeery wide (even when providing space just for the name). That would make the whole kmix popup very wide. And that would look horrible. This approach seems to be better.

    One more thing – some people up there say that volume is up/down, thus it should be vertical slider. Well I have two stereos at home and one home cinema, all of them have analog knobs, which you turn left and right while setting the volume down and up 😉

    • > One more thing – some people up there say that volume is
      > up/down, thus it should be vertical slider. Well I have two
      > stereos at home and one home cinema, all of them have
      > analog knobs, which you turn left and right while setting the > volume down and up 😉

      No you don’t. You turn knobs left, right exactly as much as up and down. Think about it. In reality you turn knobs clockwise, or anti-clockwise.

  24. Just to make it clear – there are 3 problems discussed here:

    1. Someone does not like horizontal slider vs vertical. As for me, I like horizontal slider better – it is quite logical (left-to-right volume increasing is also quite common for many music/video players for example) and it requires less mouse move when “click on panel > click on volume handle”.

    2. Kmix is broken in the way that it does not save its state after reboot and shows 0 volume level – this is a bug and should be fixed.

    3. And also the mute button has the same icon for on and off states (it always looks muted) – this is a bug and should be fixed and this is the one that caused the confusion here. Quite strange how such obvious problem made into final 4.8.

  25. A good way to improve it would be to use a different type of slider, one that indicates minimum at the right and maximum at the left, like in vlc (http://www.geek.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/VLC-for-Windows-screenshot-001.jpg).

  26. Pingback: Links 2/2/2012: DEFT Linux 7, Mozilla Firefox 10 | Techrights

  27. This is really confusing and is one of these things that actually drive people away from Linux. Sure, if you feel the burning desire to make a horizontal slider then add one as an option but to totally take away the vertical option? Why? Oh yes. Usability. Yes. Gnome 3, anyone?

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