While everyone was distracted by IBM's $34bn takeover bid, Red Hat quietly wrote a death-note for KDE – within Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to be precise.
On October 30, the Linux distro biz emitted Fedora 29 and RHEL 7.6, and in the latter's changelog the following appears, which a Reg reader kindly just alerted us to:
KDE Plasma Workspaces (KDE), which has been provided as an alternative to the default GNOME desktop environment has been deprecated. A future major release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux will no longer support using KDE instead of the default GNOME desktop environment.
In other words, if you're using RHEL on the desktop, at some point KDE will not be supported. As our tipster remarked: “Red Hat has never exactly been a massive supporter of KDE, but at least they shipped it and supported you using it.”
Hats off to our sharp-eyed vulture: Red Hat's long list of deprecated features isn't particularly user-friendly, because a great many deprecation announcements are carried over from previous releases.
Steve Almy, principal product manager of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, told El Reg in an email: “Based on trends in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux customer base, there is overwhelming interest in desktop technologies such as Gnome and Wayland, while interest in KDE has been waning in our installed base.”
Almy added that while Red Hat made the deprecation note in the RHEL 7.6 notes, KDE has quite a few years to go in RHEL's roadmap:
'Deprecated' as used in Red Hat Enterprise Linux is simply a warning that certain functionality may be removed or replaced in the future with functionality similar, identical or more advanced to the one deprecated. KDE, as well as anything listed in Chapter 51 of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6 release notes will continue to be supported for the life of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, currently planned through 2024.
RHEL 7.6 features not buried in the minutiae of release notes – in other words, the stuff Red Hat wants highlighted – include better disk encryption, various other cryptography improvements, and better firewall management.
Network Bound Disk Encryption (NBDE) gets TPM 2.0 support and a policy-based decryption capability for hybrid-cloud operations. There's also improved
nftables support for easier firewall management, and ten strong ciphers added to RSA by default.
Other enhancements include better management and automation, including a collection of Ansible modules called RHEL System Roles; and a container toolkit including Buildah, Skopeo, CRI-O and Podman.
To be clear, Red Hat heavily backs the Linux desktop environment GNOME, which is developed as an independent open-source project and is also used by a large bunch of other distros. And although Red Hat is signalling the end of the road for KDE support in RHEL, KDE is very much its own independent project that will continue on its own, with or without future RHEL editions' blessings. ®