Kubuntu 11.10

The release of Ubuntu 11.10 also means that all of the related spins have also been updated, including Kubuntu 11.10.

Many people have expressed dissatisfaction with Ubuntu after Canonical added Unity to it. Kubuntu has often been mentioned as a possible replacement for Ubuntu for users who dislike Unity and want to move to another environment. Does Kubuntu 11.10 work well as a replacement for Ubuntu 11.10? We’ll find out in this review.

Desktop

Desktop

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

KDE 4.7
Kontact Suite 4.7
Amarok Improvements
Muon Suite 1.2 (Muon Software Center, Muon Package Manager)
Low Fat Settings

KDE 4.7 includes improvements to the Network Management widget, a breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu, improvements to Dolphin’s default look and visual updates that include a new Oxygen icon theme. Gwenview can also compare two or more images.

I really like the breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu. I have never been much of a fan of the sliding menus but the breadcrumb at least makes it easier and faster to move around. I’ll probably still default to using the classic menu, but I’m glad the breadcrumb is there. The rest of the improvements will also please most KDE users.

Breadcrumb

Breadcrumb

Kontact 4.7 is the latest version of KDE’s PIM suite. This release includes Kmail 2. As noted on the news release page, this is a major upgrade to Kontact so you should make sure you back up all of your mail, contact, calendars and other important data before considering an upgrade.

Kontact 4.7

Kontact 4.7

Amarok has a refined interface, improved reliability and native support for remote NFS & SMB/CIFS collections (see the screenshot in the multimedia section). I don’t listen to music much these days so I’m not a big user of Amarok, but I think these improvements are worth noting (particularly improved reliability). If you want more details on the changes to Amarok, see the 2.41 and 2.43 release announcements.

The Muon Suite is probably the real standout feature for this release of Kubuntu. It replaces KPackageKit as Kubuntu’s software management tool. I’ll have more to say about in the software section of the review (screenshots are also in that section). Suffice to say that I’m very pleased with it. Improved package management and a software center bode well for KDE users.

The last standout feature in this release is the Low Fat Settings. Low Fat Settings are geared toward making Kubuntu run better on older, underpowered computers. They reduce memory usage and can also help speed up the loading time of KDE. Memory usage can be reduced by up to 32% and the loading time can be sped up by up to 33%.

Here’s a list of what the LFS change when you use them:

Turning off compositing by default.
Disabling the automatic loading of various modules, such as bluedevil, the free space notifier, some Nepomuk services, and a other components.
Reducing the number of default Krunner plugins that are loaded automatically.
Reducing the amount of graphical effects used in the window decoration.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

A Pentium 4, 1GHz system is the minimum recommended for a desktop system.

Table 3.2. Recommended Minimum System Requirements

Install Type RAM (minimal) RAM (recommended) Hard Drive
No desktop 64 megabytes 256 megabytes 1 gigabyte
With Desktop 64 megabytes 512 megabytes 5 gigabytes

The actual minimum memory requirements are a lot less then the numbers listed in this table. Depending on the architecture, it is possible to install Ubuntu with as little as 20MB (for s390) to 48MB (for i386 and amd64). The same goes for the disk space requirements, especially if you pick and choose which applications to install; see the section called “Disk Space Needed” for additional information on disk space requirements.

Installation

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end. As you might expect Kubuntu 11.10 is very easy to install. The install is quick and you should be up and running with few or no problems. It’s a good idea to check the box that let you install third party software such as Flash, and also the one that downloads updates during the install. It will save you time and effort later on.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot

Boot

Login

Login

The Desktop
As I noted earlier, this release of Kubuntu includes KDE 4.7. Dolphin has a new, cleaner default look that you can check out in the screenshot below.

Dolphin

Dolphin

Desktop

Kubuntu 11.10 Desktop

The other big desktop change is the breadcrumb feature in the Kickoff menu. The breadcrumb definitely makes navigating more convenient and it helps you to know where you are in the menu without having to navigate backward.

Breadcrumb

Breadcrumb

Still, it makes me wonder if the sliding menus in KDE are really worth keeping in the first place. If you switch to the Classic menu by right clicking the K button you can navigate through application categories without the need for something like the breadcrumb. It’s apparent immediately what category you are browsing.

Classic Menu

Classic Menu

Am I just an old fuddy duddy here? Or does the classic menu seem more intuitive? I don’t know, maybe I’m just nitpicking but the older menu seems much quicker and easier to use even with the breadcrumb included in the sliding menu. What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments, I’d be interested in know how many people switch the Kicker menu back to the classic version after installing KDE.

System Settings
Here’s a look at the System Settings menu for this release. All of the usual tools are there for you to manage your system.

System Settings

System Settings

Bundled Software

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

Games
KPatience

Graphics
Gwenview
KSnapshot
LibreOffice Draw
Okular

Internet
Akregator
BlueDevil
KMail
Kopete IM
KPPP
KTorrent
Mozilla Firefox Installer
Quassel IRC
rekonq

Multimedia
Amarok
Dragon Player
K3b
KMix

Office
KAddressBook
Kontact
KOrganizer
KTimeTracker
LibreOffice

Software Management
The Muon Software Center and Package Manager are a big change in this release. Previously Kubuntu used KPackageKit as its software manager.

Muon Package Manager

Muon Package Manager

The Package Manager is geared toward administrators, while the Software Center is better suited for desktop users.

Applications are broken down into the usual categories in the Muon Software Center. You can see user ratings and reviews when you click the More Info button of an application. You can also see a screenshot of the application before installing it on your system. Add-ons for the application can also be seen on the More Info page.

Overall, I think the Muon Software Center is a good thing for Kubuntu 11.10. It’s very easy to use and makes adding and removing software a breeze in Kubuntu. I’m sure there are some out there that will miss KPackageKit but give this new alternative a chance. I think you’ll be pleased with it once you’ve spent a few minutes using it.

Muon Software Center

The Muon Software Center

Kubuntu Software

Kubuntu Software

Internet Software Category

Internet Software Category

Chromium 1

Chromium in the Internet applications category.

Chromium 2

The Chromium More Info page.

Chromium Reviews

User ratings and reviews of Chromium.

LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice Writer

Software Repositories
Click the Settings menu to change your software sources in the Muon Software Center. I recommend sticking with the default settings unless you have some pressing need to change them.

Software Sources

Software Sources

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very simple to add or remove software. Just find the application in the Muon Software Center and click the Install or Remove button. You can also do it from the More Info page of an application. I had no problems installing Chromium and other applications on my system.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Since I installed third party software during the install, I had no problems running flash videos in rekonq. Sound and video were both fine.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Kubuntu 11.10 comes with Amarok, K3B, KMix and Dragon Player as its default multimedia applications. It’s an okay selection of apps, but I’d definitely hit the Muon Software Center to pick up some of the other programs that are available such as VLC.

Amarok

Amarok

Multimedia Apps in Muon

Multimedia Apps in Muon

 

I’m pleased to report that I didn’t encounter any noticeable problems while using Kubuntu 11.10. Everything worked well from the time I installed it, I didn’t see any burps or bugs. Kubuntu 11.10 seemed pretty fast and stable to me. If you’ve encountered any problems, please share them in the comments below though. Someone might have an answer that could help you or your experience could help someone else out if they run into problems with Kubuntu 11.10.

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.

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. You can access documentation, the technical answers system, free community help or you can purchase paid support for your Kubuntu 11.10 system.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Kubuntu 11.10 provided a pleasant experience for me. Existing Kubuntu users will most likely enjoy it, except perhaps for KPackageKit die-hards that might not want to use the Muon Suite. I suspect those folks will definitely be in a very small minority, however.

Ubuntu users who are still not happy with Unity should definitely consider giving Kubuntu 11.10 a look. It’s a viable alternative to Ubuntu for the folks that are still having trouble accepting Canonical’s decision to move Ubuntu to Unity. I highly recommend it as a possible replacement for Ubuntu.

Kubuntu 11.10 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu 11.10
Web Site:  http://www.kubuntu.org
Price: Free
Pros:  Muon Suite 1.2; Low Fat Settings, KDE 4.7, Kontact 4.7.
Cons:  Could use a wider range of bundled multimedia applications as part of the default installation.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5