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