The release of Ubuntu 11.04 has garnered an enormous amount of attention, mostly due to the inclusion of Unity as its default desktop environment. But, as with any new version of Ubuntu, there are alternatives available and one of the most prominent is Kubuntu. Kubuntu 11.04 is a KDE-based distro that might work well as a substitute for those who are uncomfortable with Ubuntu’s Unity.
I know that there are some folks out there who are die-hard GNOME users or who might otherwise view a KDE-based distro with a suspicious eye. I urge you to give Kubuntu 11.04 a chance. As you’ll find out in this review, it’s turned into a pretty darn good desktop distribution. It’s definitely worth a look for anyone who hasn’t settled on a preferred distro or who might be questioning continuing on with his or her current choice.
What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:
Plasma & KDE Applications 4.6.2
New Language Selector Module
Printer Configuration Bug Fixes
Phonon GStreamer Backend
GTK Oxygen Theme
Patience game included
Enhanced DVD Installation
LibreOffice is the default office suite
The Samba filesharing is definitely cool. Just right click a folder in Dolphin and select properties to share it on your network. This is an excellent tool that should make it easy even for total Linux newbies to share files over their networks.
I detest dealing with printer problems. In fact, I hate printers in general because they always seem to run out of ink or otherwise cause me headaches. The bug fixes for printer configuration are quite welcome. I appreciate anything that minimizes printer headaches.
OwnCloud is an interesting file storage tool, but I suspect that most desktop users will probably not want to bother with it. It’s not a managed cloud service like Ubuntu One. You have to set it up on your own hardware and manage it yourself. That said; check it out if it interests you.
The GTK Oxygen theme is a nice touch in this release. It makes GTK applications like Firefox fit in better when running on your KDE desktop.
As with Ubuntu itself, I’m very happy to see LibreOffice as the default office suite in Kubuntu 11.04. If you haven’t spent any time with it, check it out.
Hardware Requirements & Installation
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:
The minimum memory requirement for Ubuntu 11.04 is 384 MB of memory for Ubuntu Desktop. Note that some of your system’s memory may be unavailable due to being used by the graphics card. If your computer has only the minimum amount of memory, the installation process will take longer than normal; however, it will complete successfully, and the system will perform adequately once installed.
The minimum memory requirement for Ubuntu Server 11.04 is 128 MB of memory.
Systems with less memory may be able to select “Install Ubuntu” from the boot menu to run just the installer, rather than the whole desktop, or may be able to use the alternate install CD.
Kubuntu 11.04 is a live CD distro; you can simply opt to boot off the CD and run it without having to install it. The welcome screen gives you the option to install it or run it off the CD.
The install itself is a breeze and should be no problem for anybody. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. Please be aware that you can install third party applications (flash, etc.) and download updates while doing the install (see the Install 1 image). I highly recommend doing this since it will save you time later on.
Booting & Login
Here’s what the boot menu and login screens look like:
The Kubuntu 11.04 desktop is uncluttered, all you’ll find when you boot into it is the Desktop Folder and it’s empty by default. So there are not tons of little icons infesting the desktop. The panel at the bottom contains the kicker button, if you right click this you can switch to the classic KDE menus and use that instead of the sliding menus. Also on the panel is a folder link to places on your system, multiple desktops, show the desktop, clipboard, volume, networking, date/time and a panel configuration button.
If you click the toolbox icon in the upper right corner you’ll get quick access to the following: Add Panel, Add Widgets, Activities, Shortcut Settings, Desktop Settings and Lock Widgets.
Kubuntu comes with a nice selection of desktop widgets that serve a variety of purposes. You can browse these to add the ones you want or click Get New Widgets to obtain more for your system.
Air is the default theme and you can get more by clicking the Get New Themes button. When you pull up the Get New Themes menu you can search or browse for additional themes. You can also order the themes according to newest, rating, most downloaded and installed.
The default wallpaper is a funky bluish color with somewhat surreal images on it. There are no other wallpaper included with Kubuntu but if you click the Get New Wallpapers button in Desktop Settings you’ll find a bunch of other ones that might tickle your fancy.
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.
LibreOffice (Spreadsheet, Drawing, Presentation, Formula Editor, Word Processor)
KPackageKit has gotten much better over the years to the point where it’s a pretty good software management tool. Applications are broken down into the appropriate categories and you can also search for them if you want. In the left side you’ll see three options: Get and Remove Software, Software Updates and Settings. The settings tool lets you change your update settings, and configure repositories (among other things).
Adding & Removing Software
When you find an application you want, click it and you’ll see more information. You can opt to click the install button or click the More drop down menu to see more info on dependencies, etc.
The system settings menu contains lots of different options for you to configure your system to your liking. Click the kicker button on the panel to access the System Settings control panel.
Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
When you go to install Kubuntu 11.04 you get the option to install flash and other third party software. I recommend that you do so or you will have to install it later on. I opted not to since I prefer to see the default selection of software so I can include that list in the review.
Since I didn’t opt to install flash, YouTube videos did not run. So make sure you click the little check box (see the Install 1 screenshot in the install section of the review) for third party applications while doing the install.
The selection of multimedia applications installed by default is quite modest. Amarok, Dragon Player, K3b and KMix are all you get. However, there are quite a lot of multimedia applications available in KPackageKit (Kubuntu’s software management application) so you should have no problem finding what you need.
Problems & Headaches
KPackageKit has improved but it still lags behind the Ubuntu Software Center. You won’t see user ratings and reviews in KPackageKit. This is unfortunate because it can be very helpful to know what other users think of an application before taking the time to install it yourself. I hope that a future release of KPackageKit contains these features since many people (myself included) have really come to expect to see what others think of an application.
Beyond that, I found nothing really to complain about. Kubuntu 11.04 ran very well for me, I had no problems with speed or stability.
Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.
You might also want to check out the Kubuntu support page where you’ll find documentation, community help and even professional support services.
Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Kubuntu 11.04 is an excellent alternative to Ubuntu 11.04. I strongly suspect that some disenchanted Ubuntu 11.04 users will be taking another look at Kubuntu 11.04.
If you’re a KDE hater than obviously Kubuntu is not going to appeal to you under any circumstances, but if you are able to keep an open mind then I think you might find yourself enjoying it immensely. The Unity controversy has really made me glad that generic Ubuntu is not the only game in town for those who love the whole “buntu” thing. Ubuntu’s loss just might end up being Kubuntu’s gain as dissatisfied users defect away from Ubuntu because of Unity.
Kubuntu 11.04 is appropriate for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
|Pros:||KDE & Plasma 4.6.2; new Samba filesharing; printer configuration bug fixes; new language selector module; GTK Oxygen theme.|
|Cons:||KPackageKit still lags behind the Ubuntu Software Center, user ratings and reviews are not available.|
|Suitable For:||Beginner, intermediate & advanced Linux users.|