Monday, October 17, 2011

Kubuntu 11.10 'Oneiric Ocelot' Review

Just a few days ago the latest from the X-buntu family went live, including Ubuntu Studio, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, and of course, Kubuntu. I was looking forward to playing around with it, specially since I had liked the previous release quite a bit. Kubuntu has indeed come quite far since I first tested it, back in 2008, from a KDE distro most people ditched as "not recommended" for Ubuntu users who wanted to take a look at KDE (me included), to a very decent contestant in a very tight fight for the K crown.

Kubuntu 11.10 incorporates many interesting features and new applications that make it extremely interesting. Here are some highlights:

- KDE 4.7.1 (4.7.2 available on the update repositories): The much anticipated Kontact 4.7 features, the exciting new OpenGL-ES and improved rendering effects, the enhancements in network manager, as well as fixes to Nepomuk, Dolphin, Amarok and many others, the latest from KDE is certainly exciting and worth checking.

- Muon package manager: Finally an up to date replacement to KPackageKit!

- Kernel 3.0 series

I guess it would be legitimate to claim most of those features/enhancements/fixes are not Kubuntu's but upstream, but the integration the Kubuntu developers put in place is critical, the factor that can make them fly or crash. Therefore, I will not try to limit this review to Kubuntu exclusive features, but look at the whole picture and see how it goes. Let's jump into it.

INSTALLATION AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Kubuntu sticks to good old LiveCDs ISO images, which means download times are short and convenient, which is welcome. Being so popular, it is standard for applications like UnetBootin, so creating a LiveUSB on a spare 1GB thumb drive takes just a few seconds.

After booting from the LiveUSB, we are given two options: Try or Install Kubuntu. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, I ALWAYS recommend trying first. It will give you a very good idea of where you stand in terms of hardware support and save lots of headaches in the long run.

The installation process in Kubuntu 11.10 is almost identical to that of 11.04, with one minor feature addition that allows for the installation of third party software (this time apparently including Wireless drivers) while the installation takes place. The lack of change is nothing but good news in this case, because the (K)ubuntu installation wizard is mature, solid, quick and pretty... about as good as it gets, really.

Booting for the first time is not that exciting, though, for no changes are apparent in this latest release. GRUB2, Plymouth, KDM and its splash screen all look exactly as they did in 11.04. One has to wait until reaching the desktop to see KDE 4.7.1 in action, as well as other new Oneric features. The overall feel is that Kubuntu 11.10 is somewhat more responsive than its predecessor, though.

DIVING DEEPER

The first welcome thing is that Kubuntu 11.10 managed to detect and correctly configure all the hardware onboard of my HP Probook 5320m, including its infamous Broadcom wireless card, webcam, etc. I am guessing Kernel 3.0 is to blame here, but having said so, Kubuntu 11.10 still incorporates its advanced features to help identify and solve hardware recognition issues, probably the best among KDE distros.

With wireless working right out of the box, it was time to get system updates (the 1st most important step to complete after installing a Linux distro). As expected, for I was installing one day after release date, there was nothing waiting for me. However, I was eager to get my hands on KDE 4.7.2, a recommended upgrade because it includes important Kontact and Nepomuk fixes, but also noticeable improvements on effects rendering (see my post on this HERE). In fact, for those interested, let me quickly go over the few steps I took to get my Kubuntu installation up to speed:

1.- Run a quick system update. You may do so using Muon or CLI:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

2.- Enable all repositories (main, universe, restricted, multiverse). Simply open Muon, Settings Menu > Configure Software Sources and tick all options once you authenticate as administrator. From the Other Software tab, click Canonical Partners as well.

3.- Change your Download Server. Depending on where you live, you may find it useful to choose a different server than the one set by default. It's a bit of trial an error, but if download times are reasonable, I would say there is no need to change anything. In case you have to, though, you can do so from the "Download from" picklist under Settings Menu > Configure Software. You can select "Other..." and find which server works out faster from your location.

4.- Add the Update repositories PPA. Simply run the following command from a terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/ppa.

5.- Install codecs. You can do so by installing the restricted extra PPA. Just click HERE and complete the steps required.

6.- Update sources. You can easily do so from Muon or from CLI:

sudo apt-get update

7.- Upgrade to KDE 4.7.2. From a terminal, run:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

This may take a while!

After getting everything up to speed and very little tweaking, here's what my Oneiric Ocelot desktop looks like:


Click on image to enlarge

Hot stuff, huh? ;-)

ABOUT KDE 4.7.2

KDE continues to improve release after release. With the updated Oxygen icon set, it looks even better than before, so anybody can set up a beautiful desktop filled with gorgeous smooth effects after literally just a few clicks. Surprisingly, 4.7.2 also feels lighter, faster and more solid (even if 4.6.5 was already great), and the enhanced desktop effects truly make a difference. In fact, I think this is the first time I feel Kwin effects perform as smoothly as Compiz, which is quite something considering KDE users get the whole package natively inside Kwin, certainly a big plus.


Click on image to enlarge

Now, like I said, those effects are quite something, but there are lots of interesting things coming with this latest release. One of the most impressive ones is Kontact and the whole KDE PIM suite, which get significant updates.


Click on image to enlarge

To begin with, I loved the account creation wizard, which set up my Gmail account easily and quickly. Setting up the calendar and contacts was a bit harder than it would be on, say, Thunderbird, but Kontact provides better integration within the KDE environment, plus it provides other interesting features, such as the impressive Akreggator.


Click on image to enlarge

All in all, I am very impressed with Kontact as a whole, it is a mammoth application that covers a lot of ground, yet it does not feel particularly heavy. I have experienced a bit of a lack in stability here and there, but given I am testing so short after Kubuntu 11.10 was released, I cannot really complain.


Click on image to enlarge

Dolphin also got some changes, most noticeably, the removal of its top menu. I have no opinion on this change, don't really mind, specially because the menu can be brought back if the user so wants. Other than that, it continues to look amazingly good, but it is also fast and light, even more than Nautilus on GNOME 2.32, according to my testing. With the enhancements in Nepomuk (which will get even better come the next dot release, according to Sebastian Trueg), searching truly works great and allows for pretty complex queries from the GUI. In fact, Nepomuk and Strigi work better than ever in 4.7.2, with fast indexing and reasonable consumption of resources.


Click on image to enlarge

On the media department, Amarok 2.4.3 is on duty. I personally tend to gravitate to Clementine myself, but it's hard to deny Amarok's strengths... plus it's become much more responsive and feels lighter now. Dragon is the default video player, perhaps one of the weakest application choices. VLC took over pretty quickly as I began installing applications.


Click on image to enlarge

Internet browsing duties are managed by Rekonq, which is now two releases old. It is therefore a very young project, but very promising looking at how much improvement there was in just 6 months. Rekonq works great, is tightly intergrated, very fast and easy to use. On the down side of things, it's not as stable as the "big names" in the browsing business and lacks important features (automatic spell-checking for a start, but also cloud synchronization a la Chrome-ium/Firefox). In fact, I tend to think these projects are a bit of a waste of time myself, specially considering Mozilla Firefox is fully open source and, thanks to the OxygenGTK project, looks very much native in KDE. Why reinvent the wheel when there is already something available that is THAT good?


Click on image to enlarge

MUON SOFTWARE MANAGER

The brand new software manager suite in Kubuntu 11.10 well deserves a section of its own. Muon is an interesting departure from KPackageKit, and one that I personally very much welcome. As was the case with Rekonq, one could expect Muon to be slow, unstable or short in features, but it does a great job at providing a good looking and performing software manager to Kubuntu users.


Click on image to enlarge

Muon does many things incredibly well, such as:

- Performance. Start times are short, search results are very fast and even application information comes back very quickly. In that sense Muon does much better than old brother's Ubuntu Software Center.

- Information. Not only does Muon provide ratings on applications, it also includes add-on suggestions should the application support them.

- Keep Track. One can easily follow up the installation activity thanks to its interesting History feature.


Click on image to enlarge

All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised with Muon. I expected an immature application, but I guess the decision from its main developer to skip Kubuntu 11.04 was nothing but right. I hope Muon continues to be actively developed and improved, for if that is to happen, Kubuntu users will have a software manager that will lead the bunch in the KDE World for a long, long time.

THAT GOOD? REALLY?

As is the case in any release, Kubuntu 11.10 was not free of issues, and I have seen a few crashes here and there, most of which were "one-offs". One issue that I cannot get around of is related to the main menu "edit applications" feature, which allows for customization of application shortcuts, descriptions and icons system wide. I have noticed that, whenever I change an application icon, not only does the change not work, but it will make the application entry disappear from the "edit applications" menu, forcing me to reset to system menu. This is annoying because I love to tweak things and change some of my favorite apps icons, but it can hardly be considered a major thing. Besides, the first month is usually busy bug-fixing time on all releases, so I am sure things will get further polished as we go along.

Kubuntu also suffers from the huge notoriety of its older brother, and the fact that it inherits bits and pieces from a project that is VERY GTK oriented. As such, I was disappointed not to find qt-recordmydesktop, which forces users to have to put up with the GTK interface of this good screencast application. Moreover, and even if Oxygen-GTK is supposed to work for GTK applications, all of them look like crap on Kubuntu 11.10. Anything from GIMP to LibreOffice looks like something was broken.

Still, Oneiric Ocelot it is the most solid Kubuntu release I have used to date. It excels in hardware management, successfully setting up all devices on board, as well as dealing with historically "sensible" features, such as suspend and hibernate modes. I have used it non-stop since I got it, going into sleep mode and then waking the machine up numerous times, and not only did it work perfectly, but Wireless connection always resumed flawlessly (and fast!). Installing my HP 2600n printer was a breeze, literally plugged it in and got confirmation of successful configuration after 20 seconds.



In fact, I dual boot on my HP5320m with Windows7, and in so many ways Kubuntu simply blows it out of the water. In boot times it is around 40% faster, but also faster overall in day to day desktop activities. Similarly, hardware support is simply more convenient (even with the Windows 7 license on board being HP tweaked, it took several minutes to download an install my printer drivers), unless talking about a specific device which is not supported by the Kernel. The only bit Kubuntu (and Linux in general) still misses is better power management, a category in which Windows simply rocks thanks to its optimized proprietary drivers.

GO GET IT!

So there you have it, an awesome Kubuntu release that I recommend to all kinds of users.

Download, install and have fun!

41 comments:

  1. I see you got Dropbox to work. I tried it after the beta 1 release but Dropbox would hang, like it was looking for Nautilus. Did it work out of the box or did you have to do some tweaking?

    Also, does KDE 4.7.2 give us any features like the new KDE Active?

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  2. I had just installed Mandriva 2011 in my quest to try new distros, but I am having more and more second thoughts about it. The fault is not mainly Madriva's but PCLinuxOS' which has spoiled me (how is it possible that a 32b distro is faster than a 64b one?). Therefore, I might try Kubuntu and see if I like it better. By the way, Martin, you can easily come out of the closet and admit that you prefer KDE to GNOME any day! =D

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    Replies
    1. Having a larger address space 64 bits versus 32 bits does not mean that it is supposed to be faster. If anything it is the opposite. If the system has to look through more addressing space it will take longer. 64 bits shines when you can add more memory because it allows more ram so more can run it it. But if you aren't using stuff that is using more than a couple gigs of ram (the limit in 32 bit windows xp), or if you only have a couple gigs installed on your 64 bit machine, you would probably find at best that the differences in speed are a wash. This is pretty well known.

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  3. Hi Larry, thanks for your comments!

    Getting Dropbox to work is fairly easy once you know the quirky bits necessary in KDE. Please check my article on this below and let me know if you still have issues:

    http://cristalinux.blogspot.com/2010/11/install-dropbox-on-kde-desktops.html

    As for Plasma Active (I assume that´s what you meant), it is a separate project meant for touch screens mostly, so no, it has nothing to do with KDE 4.7.2. That does not mean the latter is not amazing, for it brings great improvements/fixes to very important elements such as Kontact PIM, Nepomuk, Rekonq, desktop effects and a long list of applications. The whole desktop experience takes one significant step forward, specially if you use KDE software (which I recommend, even if only to understand what the project is doing).

    Go get it and enjoy

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  4. For better understanding of the features in KDE 4.7.x, please check my article below:

    http://cristalinux.blogspot.com/2011/07/awesomeness-to-land-in-kde-with-release.html

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  5. @Lupi: I loved some things about Mandriva 2011 myself, but it's downright unstable in many aspects. For example, I kept getting update notifications for Firefox and Chromium, only to get errors every time I was trying to upgrade them because the system could not resolve dependencies (WTF?). I think it is a very promising project, but it needs a few more releases to settle down.

    As for GNOME over KDE and viceversa, well, I do admit I am way more interested in the KDE development these days. I still think it's got some quirky un-intuitive bits here and there, but I like how the project consistently grows and improves release after release.

    Long story short, it's not so much that I think KDE is better per se, it's just that GNOME went through a huge makeover and needs time to readjust and grow. The same thing happened to KDE when the move to 4.0 took place, lots of people stopped using it. It was a lot quieter back then because nobody likes to hear about bugs all the time. Another reason why GNOME talk went quiet here is that I pretty much hate Unity so far, so the only bit I can talk about is GNOME Shell, and I waiting until Fedora 16 goes live.

    Just hang in there, there will be plenty about GNOME Shell 3.2 in just a few weeks, when Verne is finally released.

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    Replies
    1. And most of the other Gnome distros are rpm based. ugh!

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  6. Recormydesktop (qt version) is presente in ubuntu reposiotry, but i think is presente a bug on muon. I have same problem, not all package is avaiable. But if you surf in web repository of ubuntu , it is present!
    Es.: http://packages.ubuntu.com/oneiric/recorditnow

    Bug : https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/muon/+bug/856380

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    Replies
    1. As ugly as it is, I still install the synaptic package manager. I have never like kpackage nor the new muon. The functionality of synaptic is so far above these dumbed down package managers it makes the brief ugliness when installing new software very endurable.

      The other bit of unprettyness I install is firestarter. Simply the best firewall manager ever. Straight to the point, clear, concise, outbound and inbound rules. Alerts. And none of this "trusted", "home", and "external" interface nonsense. You know what you want to let in and out and to what domains, regardless of the interface (eth0, eth1, wlan0, etc.) being used. There is no need of these supposedly user friendly interfaces to confuse things the way they do. Just let me simply say what I want to go in or out. :) I thought for a short while that firestarter wasn't available for KDE any more. Fortunately because you can install stuff from the dark/Ubuntu side, it is easy to add firestarter to Kubuntu. If it weren't for firestarter I would just keep using my own iptables scripts. They may be messy but are far more understandable than most of these 'smart' firewall managers. lol.

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  7. No need to use Muon for that:

    shred@KubuntuOneiric:~$ sudo apt-get install qt-recordmydesktop
    [sudo] password for shred:
    Reading package lists... Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information... Done
    E: Unable to locate package qt-recordmydesktop

    Note that I am talking about the UI here, not the recordmydesktop package. gtk-recordmydesktop is available, it's its qt sister that is missing.

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  8. Does anyone like the irony / humor in the first screenshot showing the chameleon :-)) ?

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  9. Hi, can you tell me what plasma theme you use in the screenshots? Very slick!

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  10. @Mark, that was definitely not intended, I am not much of a SUSE fan by any means.

    @TimDS, I believe it is called Helium.

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  11. I am finally having a chance to see Nepomuk and the semantic desktop working thanks to Kubuntu 11.10, and I am loving it!

    Simply clicking alt+F2 and entering a search term brings anything from results in my music collection, calendar entries, matches from my contacts, emails, documents containing those words, etc. (always assuming the match the search term)! It is incredibly powerful!

    I can tell it goes a bit crazy with applications such as Dropbox, which can do somewhat quirky things with file updates, but then again, updates are on their way to fix unnecessary indexing, so Nepomuk and Strigi should work faster and take less resources come KDE 4.7.3!

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  12. I am having a couple of issues with this release. My Epson Stylus Photo R340, is not being detected properly. Others with similar problems are saying it's a cups problem and have filed bug reports. This is only with 11.10. Also get frequent crashes on exiting settings when exiting printer settings. May have to go back to PCLinuxOS, since my printer works fine with that release.

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  13. PCLinuxOS is a sure bet when it comes to hardware recognition, that's for sure. Having said so, Texstar decided not to move to KDE 4.7 for now, and reading his reasons, does not feel like that's going to change anytime soon.

    I cannot tell if they will help you, but I know there was an update on cups today, or at least I got it today. I'd say you run an upgrade and find out?

    Having tested KDE 4.7.2 now (and acknowledgin I barely print anything myself), I would have a hard time settling down with KDE 4.6.5, but your mileage may vary. It really depends on your needs.

    Good luck

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  14. I tried the update, but my printer is still being identified as a storage device, vs printer and not getting recognized. This is the bug others are having with certain Epson printers and Cups. Mine worked fine with 11.04.

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  15. I see... Well, I guess the question would be if that is coming from 11.10 or from Kernel 3 series. To be sure, you can quickly create a live ISO from another distro using Kernel 3 series (best if not Ubuntu related) and find out.

    In any case, having been raised by many as a regression from the previous release, I believe it should be fixed fairly quickly. If not, Fedora 16 is just a couple weeks ahead, so it would be another good alternative.

    Good luck

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  16. Chema I have been a Ubuntu user and Liked KDE a lot on Chakra but the only thing was that it is not as easy as Ubuntu so I gave Kubuntu 11.10 a try and I am really liking it. I found your review after installing it and hence I was able to update to 4.7.2. But I have been having few Problem(s). Every time I boot up the system the audio is muted in the Mixer and I have to unmute it(I have looked high and wide even IRC's no solution). Also on restarting/shutting down the screen dims(a little) but the system continues to function. Also are there any KDE related blogs(apart from yours)in the sense pf OMG!Ubuntu
    that I may follow to increase my knowledge base about KDE. In the End, even with all the teeny-weeny problems that I am facing, I have taken quite a Liking to Kubuntu.

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  17. Probably will take Kubuntu.
    Or switch to Debian.
    I use Ubuntu last few years and prefer Gnome.
    Now they blew it by forcing stupid and counterproductive Unity, useless piece of (false) "glamor".
    Who knows, I might try Mepis too, and give some comparison.
    But not 11.0, my Wi-Fi won't work out of the box and I'm lazy.

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  18. @Mohammad: No idea about that mute issue you mention, sorry.

    As for KDE material, there are lots out there. IRC, as you say, is probably the best, but the Kubuntu forums are also amazing. The KDE community forums are also a perfect place to ask questions about the K desktop.

    Last but not least, I find it very interesting to follow some of the KDE masterminds (people like Martin Graesslin, Sebastian Trueg, Aaron Seigo, etc.) blogs. They are the true gurus and share very interesting stuff about the semantic desktop, the graphical side of things, Active Plasma, etc.

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  19. @Chema Thanks for replying , the auto mute problem is fixed now thanks to Kubuntu IRC(phoenix and I have not faced the screen dimming at shutdown from then. Chema I have decided to settle at Kubuntu as I quite like it here so It will be nice If you keeps tabs on the Kubuntu development and Improvements and also some nifty customisations.

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  20. Glad to hear the problem is gone!

    I will try to stay tuned to updates/changes worth mentioning, of course, but my interest involves more than one distro, so I will keep it diverse. For example, Fedora 16 is almost here, so it will get attention once I have a chance to test it.

    thanks

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  21. I ran another upgrade today and found a bunch of cups updates coming in... maybe the ones to deal with the Epson printing issues described in an earlier comment here?

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  22. Seems like my problem was with the Kernel that shipped 3.0.0-12. Updated Kernel to 3.0.0-13 via pre-released update repostories, and now my printer is detected. According to launchpad, Kernel 3.0.0-12 had some problems with detecting certain USB printers. All is good now with Kernel 3.0.0-13.

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  23. Glad you found a solution and thanks for sharing it here!

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  24. @Mohammad: If you read this, it would interesting if you could share the solution to that muted sound on boot. It could benefit others who may be having the same problem.

    Thanks!

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  25. Well there are many fixes proposed for the auto-mute on startup problem but what worked for me is this:
    Open konsole(terminal) and type "alsamixer" and then use keyboard keys right and left and find an option auto mute and disable it by using the up arrow key,then press escape for exit. After it run "sudo alsactl store", it will give some output but it is irrelevant. Close the konsole then restart. I hope this will fix it and if not do check #kubuntu Irc channel for more help.(This solution was provided to me by person with nick "BluesKaj")
    Here is what it will look like on running alsamixer http://i.imgur.com/Fvq7k.png

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  26. Thanks!

    I have been experiencing the problem sometimes (it is not consistent), but the fix you proposed didn't work for me. I have no "auto-mute" option, not even after clicking F5 to display all available channels.

    Thanks anyways, I hope it helps others who may be experiencing this issue as well.

    Cheers

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  27. I want to recommend you all using Kubuntu 11.10 to upgrade to KDE 4.7.3. It is a great bugfix release which includes relevant enhancements for the semantic desktop, as well as overall fixes all over the place.

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  28. I installed kubuntu a few days ago, i like the amount of little things that you can do with it, the only problem that i have with it is that it takes a lot to boot almost 2 minutes after i put my password, and i can't find the kubuntu updater anywhere, any idea what can i do with both?

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  29. Hey

    I think you may want to try a few things here

    The most relevant one may be opening the kde control center, go to startup section at the bottom, then go to session management and choose the option to start with a new session. If that does not work, I would try the kubuntu low fat settings script.

    As for the update manager, it is based off muon and starts automatically when needed

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  30. I run regular Ubuntu but with the Kubuntu desktop installed on it, seems to work pretty well.

    My ubuntu blog.

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  31. i'm loving kubuntu.. but what happens when i completely ditch nepomuk? Need more speed.

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  32. Thank you for the awesome review..

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  33. Hey Swaroop, glad you enjoyed the review.

    If you stop Nepomuk, nothing terribly bad should happen, you would simply lose the ability to run semantic desktop searches, which may be fine if you don't use them. I personally like Nepomuk, so I keep it active, but Kubuntu is fast anyways.

    In any case, if you want more speed, why don't you try Kubuntu low fat settings? Just Google for it, it should be easy to install.

    Good luck

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  34. Chema, I am using PCLinuxOs which is great. However I want to dual boot my laptop with Debian based 64-bit distro. Mint KDE/LMDE and Kubuntu are my best bet I would imagine?

    How would you compare the two?

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  35. @Anonymous: Well, you can do it easily with PCLinuxOS as well. As long as they are on different partitions, the fact that they are 32 and 64 bit should pose no threats. Now, PCLOS uses GRUB Legacy, but that's alright:

    Install your Debian on the partion you choose, then boot from a PCLOS LiveCD/USB. From the desktop, run "Redo MBR" application, which should be on admin tools or something like that (don't have it in front of me right now). It will find Debian for you and will show it under its GRUB Legacy menu.

    Good Luck

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  36. Thanks for your post, Chema. I am really liking Oneiric Kubuntu after a lot of frustration from Ubuntu Unity. I have been with Ubuntu for over 4 years, but Unity just soured it beyond recovery. There is just one app in Ubuntu that I need badly for Kubuntu and am wondering if you know of a KDE equivalent: apton-cd.

    Thanks.

    ja

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  37. Thanks for your feedback, Ja.

    No need for a replacement for AptonCD... Unless you are a complete purist and don't want any GTK dependencies, that is. AptonCD can be installed through Muon Center like any other application, and it looks entirely native (probably thanks to Oxygen GTK). I just installed it myself and it works very well!

    Good luck

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  38. Just thought there was a KDE equivalent. But you are right, it works just as well. Thanks for the quick update.

    ja

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