Kubuntu 10.10

This week can definitely be summed up as Canonical Week, first with the release of Ubuntu 10.10 and then the release of its sister distros (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, etc.). This time around I took a look at Kubuntu 10.10.

My impression of the last release of Kubuntu wasn’t very positive. Well imagine my surprise when I finally got a chance to look at Kubuntu 10.10! It’s got some great changes in it that make it a definite upgrade for current Kubuntu users, and that also make it worth looking at by non-Kubuntu users.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Combined Desktop/Netbook ISO Image
Ubiquity Installer Changes
KPackageKit Improvements
New Browser – Rekonq
New Ubuntu Font

The combined ISO image is a nice touch that will save some downloading time for those who wish to use Kubuntu as a netbook OS, as well as a desktop OS.

The changes to the Ubiquity installer are quite good. I’ll have more to say about them in the installation part of the review.

I was thrilled to see that KPackageKit has finally come into its own as a software manager in most respects. See the software section of the review for my detailed comments. Suffice to say, it’s a huge improvement over previous versions of KPackageKit.

Rekonq is Kubuntu’s new browser, it sports a new interface that is designed to save space and minimize clutter. I spent some time using Rekonq and found it to be tolerable but nothing that would woo me away from Firefox or Chromium (the Firefox installer is also included with Kubuntu so you can install it from the Internet applications menu, and you can get Chromium from KPackageKit). I can’t see myself actually using Rekonq as my default browser, there’s just nothing in it that makes it better than Firefox or Chromium.

Konqueror is also available via KPackageKit if you prefer to use it instead of rekonq.

Another thing I don’t like about Rekonq is the bundled ad blocker. The Kubuntu developers have irresponsibly decided to bundle an ad blocker into Rekonq. This is a terrible thing to do and has the potential to adversely affect content producers since most web sites rely on advertising revenue to survive. It’s one thing for a user to decide to use an ad blocker, that is his or her choice (hopefully they will wisely white list the sites they really enjoy so that those content producers can survive financially). But it’s another thing entirely for a distro developer to do it.

Somebody at Canonical needs to have a few words with the Kubuntu development team and have the ad blocker either removed from Rekonq or turned off by default. I suspect that this has not caused Canonical any headaches because most people are probably unaware of it. Well the time for that is over. Canonical needs to make a decision about whether it wants to support the web economy or not. Bundling an ad blocker like this is pretty much a slap in the face to content producers, even if Rekonq isn’t used by very many people.

Shame on you Canonical. It’s time for you to reverse this awful decision.

The new Ubuntu font family looks as good in Kubuntu as it did in Ubuntu 10.10; kudos to Canonical for including it.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Kubuntu 10.10:

1 GHz x86 processor
512 MB of system memory (RAM)
5 GB of disk space
Graphics card and monitor capable of 1024×768
CD-ROM drive
Sound support
Internet access

Installation
Kubuntu uses the Ubiquity installer. When you first boot into it you’ll see a welcome screen that gives you the option of whether or not to install Kubuntu or try it as a Live desktop (see the booting section to see the screenshot of the welcome screen).

The first install screen gives you the option to install third party software and to download updates while the installer runs. I opted to do both during my install and I’m glad I did. It’s a very helpful time-saver to have the third party software and updates installed by default instead of having to do it after the installer finishes.

Once the install starts you can view a slideshow of Kubuntu features while the install completes.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.


Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot & login screens look like.

I love the new Welcome screen, as I did in Ubuntu. It’s slick and it makes it easy for newbies to understand that they can simply load the Live CD desktop and try Kubuntu without actually installing it. I think other distros should copy this welcome screen; Canonical did a great job with it.

The Desktop
The desktop itself seems pretty much unchanged, for the most part, in this release. Kubuntu’s Message Indicator Plasma Widget is now on by default though, for IRC and IM applications.

One of the things I hate about KDE in general is its sliding menus. You can easily change that by right-clicking on the Kicker (K) icon on the panel and choosing the classic menu. I did that and it made it a lot easier and faster to navigate the menus. I don’t know who thought sliding menus were a good idea in KDE, but it was an awful initial decision and it still is. Please change this, KDE developers. It just irritates the hell out of me when I see them still included.

You can see the difference between the default and classic menus in the screenshots below.

Admin Tools

System Management
To access the admin tools, click the K button on the panel and choose Settings then System Settings. The tools are broken down into the following categories:

Common Appearance & Behavior
Workspace Appearance and Behavior
Network and Connectivity
Hardware
System Administration

It’s quite easy to find your way around the tools, even if you’re a complete newbie to KDE and Kubuntu.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Games Available in KPackageKit

Graphics
Gwenview
KSnapshot
Okular
OpenOffice.org Drawing

Internet
Akregator
bluedevil
KMail
Kopete IM
KPPP
KRDC
Krfb
KTorrent
Firefox Installer
Quassel IRC
rekonq

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
K3b
Kmix

Office
OpenOffice.org
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KTimeTracker
Okular

One rather obvious omission from Kubuntu is the KOffice suite. KOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager, graphics tools, etc. OpenOffice.org certainly is enough for most people, but let’s not forget that some folks might use Kubuntu because they prefer KDE applications. KOffice is available in KPackageKit though, so you can easily install it if you really want it.

Another glaring omission is the lack of GIMP or any other serious image-editing program. Ubuntu itself includes Shotwell to give folks a tool to manage and edit photos. Unfortunately, there doesn’t see to be any equivalent bundled into Kubuntu. This omission is rather puzzling, but there are plenty of image editing tools in KPackageKit. GIMP is there as is KolourPaint, Krita and many other helpful tools. Still, something of significance really should be included with Kubuntu in future releases.

Software Management
KPackageKit is Kubuntu’s software manager. Frankly, I have not liked KPackageKit at all…until this release. KPackageKit has finally come of age and come into its own as a software manager.

It has been changed to use aptcc on the backend and it is now possible to find individual packages by searching by name. You can also easily browse categories of applications. I remember hating KPackageKit each time I looked at Kubuntu, but with this release those days are finally over and it has made using Kubuntu much better. You can even see screenshots of applications before you install them.

These screenshots will give you a look at the new KPackageKit. What a difference one release can make in a software manager!

Adding & Removing Software
To add or remove software, just find it in KPackageKit and click the Install or Remove button. Then click Apply and your changes will be applied.

I found KPackageKit to be a pleasure to use in this release. It’s something I’ve been waiting to see in Kubuntu for a long time, and now that it’s here I couldn’t be more pleased with it. However, there’s always room for improvement even in the best software management tools. It would be nice in future releases to be able to rate and/or review software packages, similar to the Software Manager in Linux Mint, etc. I suspect we’ll probably see that kind of functionality at some point. Until then this release of KPackage Kit is still a tremendous improvement over prior release.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
When I did my install, I opted to have third party apps installed. Flash seemed to be included with that, so my test YouTube video worked fine.

Multimedia Applications
Kubuntu 10.10 comes with a number of multimedia programs including Amarok, Dragon Player, K3b and KMix. There’s also a ton more available in KPackageKit, so you should have no problem finding whatever you need.

When you first start Dragon Player, you’ll get popup message asking if you want to install video & MP3 encoding tools. It doesn’t take long to install them, so I recommend that you do if you find that you require that kind of functionality. See the screenshots below for details.

 

Problems & Headaches
One of the things I harped on last time (probably too much) was that Kubuntu is rather ugly looking compared to Ubuntu. That, unfortunately, has not changed in this release. You won’t find the same gorgeous desktop colors and finesse in Kubuntu that you see in Ubuntu. Kubuntu is still more of an afterthought in terms of desktop branding than Ubuntu. I’m not going to penalize Kubuntu for this, but I do want to point out that it’s still a shame that Kubuntu is rather drab and plain looking compared to Ubuntu.

The other big annoyance I encountered was Rekonq’s ad blocker, but I already covered that in the beginning of the review so I’ll skip ranting about it again.

GIMP or some other image editing program needs to be added by default to Kubuntu, and it would be nice if KOffice were also included.

As I noted earlier, I’d like to see user reviews and ratings included in a future release of KPackageKit. It would be the icing on an already sweet cake.

My overall experience with Kubuntu 10.10 was quite good. It seemed very stable and I did not see application crashes, bugs or other headaches while I was using it.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Kubuntu support page, which contains link to free documentation, community help, paid support and a technical answers system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m much happier with this release of Kubuntu than I was with the last one. It’s made some great strides in software management, installation and readability (thanks to the Ubuntu fonts). It’s a much more worthwhile distro and is catching up to Ubuntu itself (though it still lags in some things such as desktop theme, branding, etc.).

I definitely look forward to the day when Canonical starts to treat Kubuntu as equal to Ubuntu in every way. KDE users certainly deserve that and I think it will come to pass eventually.

This release is pretty much a no-brainer upgrade for existing Kubuntu users, there’s plenty here that will improve their overall desktop experience. Those who are interested in learning more about Kubuntu should also consider it; it’s definitely worth a download.

Kubuntu 10.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

Click to the next page to view this distro’s full image gallery.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit Eye On Linux for more Linux coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org
Price: Free
Pros: New Ubuntu font; KPackage Kit improvements; installer changes; new Rekonq browser; combined desktop/notebook ISO.
Cons: Still rather ugly looking compared to Ubuntu; Rekonq browser includes an ad-blocker turned on by default.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Kubuntu 10.10 sets a new standard for this distro; it’s almost (but not quite) as polished as Ubuntu itself.
Rating: 4/5