Monday, November 29, 2010

Kubuntu 10.10 Review

A few years back, Ubuntu was my first taste of Linux. As I spent more time using it, I found there were other "flavors" available (namely Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc) Sharing many things with its big GNOME brother, it felt natural for me to get my first cup of KDE through Kubuntu.

Unfortunately, back then KDE was going through some major changes (KDE 4.0), which added to the questionable stability of Kubuntu itself made the whole experience frustrating and disappointing. Initially, I thought it could be down to my lack of understanding of KDE, or perhaps that I didn't install Kubuntu correctly. After reading many forum posts, though, I quickly realized that most people agreed that Kubuntu was not a good implementation of the KDE desktop. The average reply was recommending other alternatives, such as OpenSUSE, Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, etc.

After such a disappointing first encounter, Kubuntu became a distro to forget for me, and it was not until a few days ago that I felt I should give it another try.

FIRST CONTACT

After taking a look at the OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT, I have to admit I was impressed with some of the features listed there. I downloaded the ISO and proceeded to test the standard installation.

INSTALLATION

Plain and simple, Kubuntu 10.10 has one the best installation (along with Pardus and OpenSUSE) wizards I have seen in a KDE distro. There is an undeniable resemblance to the one in Ubuntu 10.10, but with a nice KDE flavor throughout. Here's a few screenshots to showcase what the Kubuntu installation process looks like.


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As can be seen below, the Kubuntu 10.10 installation process includes many of the features that made their debut on Ubuntu 10.10, such as providing users with useful recommendations before the installation starts.


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Disk partition management is clear and simple, and so are setting the time zone and selecting the keyboard layout.


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ReKonq is the web browser of choice for Kubuntu 10.10. I believe it is will be short lived in most Kubuntu installations, though, as it simply cannot compete with some of the most popular alternatives out there, like Firefox, Google Chrome, Chromium or even Opera.


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All in all, the Kubuntu installation process is great. Highly informational and intuitive, it should make installation a piece of cake for most users, even those with little Linux experience.

DESKTOP AND APPLICATIONS

Kubuntu 10.10 sports KDE SC 4.5.1 and up to date compilations of many KDE applications, including Amarok, Kmail, etc. Leaving all that's common to most KDE distros aside, the most notable application in Kubuntu 10.10 is probably the much improved KPackageKit, a software manager with an easy to use interface.


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Ubuntu users will probably recognize the influence of their distro's own software center, at least visually. Unfortunately, KPackageKit is still not there in many areas, but it is a definite improvement over other software managers I have seen in other KDE distros. For example, PCLinuxOS is still using (what looks like ancient software at this stage) Synaptic.


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Searching applications is simple and intuitive, and queuing installations is truly possible, in a way that reminds me of Synaptic. As is the case with many of the latest software managers, users can browse by category or perform a text search. Double clicking on the package entry will display a description on the panel below including a screenshot, if available. In addition, managing software sources is also simple with KPackageKit.


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Kubuntu also includes its own "Message indicator" system tray applet, which is compatible with Kopete and Pidgin (probably compatible with other instant messaging packages, but I haven't tested any others).



BLUETOOTH AND NETWORKING

When it comes to KDE distros, I almost exclusively use PCLinuxOS, which does inherit certain elements from Mandriva. One of those elements is the network manager, which does many things very well, but it also has its share of flaws.

In my experience, the most annoying thing is that it cannot automatically connect to several wireless network connections. In other words, if a machine is connected to wireless network A and it is "moved" to wireless network B, it will not connect automatically. The user is then forced to manually manage that connection. After that, repeating connections to wireless network B will happen automatically, but the problem will happen again when "moving" back to wireless network A.

Another element that I find annoying is that the PCLinuxOS network manager is quite slow in general (starting up the application, browsing wireless connections available, rescanning, or simply connecting). Last but not least, it's interface is a complete departure from KDE's, so it feels alien and a bit obsolete.

On the other hand, Kubuntu uses the KDE network manager, which in my testing showed superb performance and very nice features. It is seamlessly integrated on the system tray and within the plasma desktop, providing all the relevant information in a quick and non intrusive way.



In addition, it allows users to drill down on the connection in use for further details. When that happens, a small chart displaying the current activity of the connection is displayed. A great feature, if you ask me.

On a different note, Kubuntu sports a fully working BlueDevil implementation, which is very much welcome. Among other things, it allowed me (for the first time in a KDE distro) to successfully configure my mobile phone, making browsing the device and sending files to it as quick and simple as is usually the case in GNOME desktops.

BUGGY AND UNSTABLE?

Unfortunately, while there are many reasons to congratulate Kubuntu developers for this latest release, there are still things that feel somewhat sloppy and buggy. For example, users who want to use Compiz and Emerald, will be forced to use a small hack that enables both at the beginning of every session.

Another thing that feels buggy is font rendering. As part of the default installation, Kubuntu uses the new Ubuntu fonts, which do look great. However, according to my testing in two different machines, font rendering starts to behave strangely as soon as size or font type is changed. Even after setting all parameters back to their original values, fonts still don't look as they did after the installation. Very very strange.

WORTH A SHOT?

Kubuntu 10.10 is a more solid and overall better version of this popular distro. There are still certain areas that require some definite polishing and I wouldn't place it up there with the best KDE distros available. Having said so, users who can live with the few workarounds required to get Kubuntu 10.10 to work 100% should enjoy a number of features that are hard to find in other KDE distros.

In my opinion, Kubuntu 10.10 is worth a shot, specially if you appreciate the Ubuntu influence. For those who couldn't care less about it and/or require top stability, it may be wise looking somewhere else.

13 comments:

  1. What computer do you use man?

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  2. @Chema wrote: "Another thing that feels buggy is font rendering. [...] Even after setting all parameters back to their original values, fonts still don't look as they did after the installation."

    Hi Chema, could you go more into details about that font rendering problem? Links, or something? Thanks in advance and keep up your excellent work / articles.

    Best regards, mark

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  3. Damn I used Kubuntu 10.10 but yours is very beautiful.

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  4. Your screenshots are always beautiful. I'll not hesitate to call you expert at making screenshots. I think you could also try photography and designing.

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  5. Thanks all for your comments!

    I am using Kubuntu 10.10 on an HP DC7800 and on an HP tablet 7230p, both of which suffered from the same font rendering problems.

    As for the font rendering problem itself, it is not easy to describe exactly. Basically, when installing Kubuntu for the first time, fonts look smooth and correct in terms of dimensions (ie, Ubuntu fonts look the same as they do in Ubuntu and Liberation Sans also look the same as they do in Linux Mint or PCLinuxOS). However, I am not exactly sure how, they change and start looking slightly different. They look similar, but not as smooth and definitely not the same as in other distros. I am sorry I can't provide any more details, but if you pay close attention to some of the screenshots above (KPackageKit settings, for example) you will realize that Liberation Sans does not look 100% smooth there.

    Thanks for the compliments on those screenshots, I always like to keep my desktops looking good... I find it motivating! ;-)

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  6. Thanks for the nice review. Those who wish to compare Kubuntu with PCLOS and/or Mandriva may have a problem. It has been my experience that grub2 will fail to boot PCLOS without manual editing of at least one configuration file.

    If you already have PCLOS installed, and then install Kubuntu (or Ubuntu) using grub2 to boot, and then reboot and select PCLOS at the menu, grub2 will not find PCLOS. grub2 knows that PCLOS exists, but the sector is identified incorrectly in the config file.

    This phenomenon has been discussed in the PCLOS forum as well as Ubuntu forum, and various other forums for the past year. A bug report has been filed.

    grub2 can be fixed by editing /etc/grub.d/40_custom as suggested in Mel's blog:
    http://melpctec.blogspot.com/2009/11/dual-booting-mandriva-2010-with-grub2.html

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  7. Your screenshot are very nice.
    But I'm not referring to Kubuntu shots but Pardus shots.

    How did you manage to install GNOME on Pardus?
    As far as I know, Pardus uses KDE instead of GNOME?

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  8. It seems Chema Martín forgot to add the step of updating the system.

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  9. I would have to disagree with the review from my experience with Kubuntu 10.10. I am Solid die hard user of most ever aspect of the desktop on KDE and PClos and SUSE has been my core use over years. But Not anymore. I Don't have time write a very in depth view of Kubuntu 10.10, But I would and acknowledge it as the Top KDE distro. when I compared 3 identical systems side beside on performance and Net Usage Kubuntu owned in performance and resources over SUSE and pclos but not over my gnome machine. With that said. I would rank Kubuntu leading Ubuntu as for a desktop experience. I liked your review. But because emerald and compiz does not work right on distro is because if you read more in depth on KDE eye candy. It utilizes a less cpu drain on performance while such is running. (Hench KDE not the Distro is bigger part of this makeup ) I would subjest looking into information on Kwin.

    Best Regards. (Forgive me for my Poor English)

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  10. I agree about the font rendering. I'm currently running Kubuntu 10.04 and experienced the same problem as you described, though it has mysteriously gone back to normal after I fiddled back and forth with the settings. I'm using the Ubuntu font though.

    By the way, what icon set are you using?

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  11. Sorry I didn't reply earlier:

    @Isen: I am using Oxygen with some custom icons I like and manually set up myself.

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  12. @isen
    I have the same problem with Kubuntu 10.10. Any ideas what exactly brought the fonts to their original state?

    Maybe anyone else can help? I tried switching various settings back and forth and what I got at the end of the day was even worse font rendering :( !

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  13. Thanks for sharing information about installation..It will be great guide for us while we are going to install kubuntu..

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