Kubuntu 9.04

No writer is completely without bias. I do the best I can to be even-handed and objective when reviewing a distribution. I have to admit though that I’ve been far too biased toward covering Gnome-based distributions and haven’t nearly covered as many KDE-based counterparts. I’ll be trying in the future to have a more balanced selection of reviews that cover both desktops plus some other environments.

So, with that said, I thought it would be fun to take a look at Kubuntu 9.04. I reviewed its Gnome counterpart on ET a while back and it’s fitting that Kubuntu be one of the first distributions reviewed here on DLR.

What’s New in This Release
Quite a few new goodies in this release and here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:

KDE 4.2.2
New Package Kit app for software management
Printer config in System Settings
Quassel (IRC client)
Amarok 2.0.2
KDE 4 plasma widget network manager
Digikam 0.10.0
Ktorrent 3.2
Qt 4.5
GTK app integration

Installation
Since Kubuntu 9.04 is a Live CD you can run it without installing it to get a taste of it. I installed it as I like to see how long it takes to install and if any snafus come up during the install process.

I ran into one problem while installing but it had nothing to do with Kubuntu. I had not been keeping track of the space on my disk and VMWare stopped the install because I didn’t have enough space. So I had to restart the install after freeing up some hard disk space. Whoops! I lose track sometimes because I usually have a few distros hanging around plus all of my usual stuff. I wish I had a 100 terabyte hard disk…now that would come in handy doing these reviews for sure!

After restarting the install, I had no problems getting Kubuntu 9.04 running and I was able to boot into my KDE 4.2 desktop.

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Desktop & Apps
It’s definitely a change of pace for me booting into a KDE desktop rather than Gnome. The first thing I saw was the Desktop folder open. I closed it as I dislike having it open.  The sound also worked fine as my desktop booted up.

The KDE panel is attractive to look at and clicking on the K button is the functional equivalent of the Start menu in Windows. The folder with a star allows you easy access to the following parts of your computer:

Desktop
Documents
Music
Pictures
Public
Templates
Videos

You’ll also notice on the panel that you can configure multiple desktops and access the Plasma Dashboard that will let you configure widgets for your desktop. Widget options include but are not limited to the following:

Notes
Weather
Dictionary
Life (Game)
Comic Strip
Binary Click
System Tray
Eyes (XEyes clone)
Network Manager
Luna (display moon phases)
Timer
Twitter
Fuzzy Clock

There are quite a few widgets to choose from, more than enough to clutter up your desktop and drive you mad as you try to organize them. As you can tell I am not really a widget person. My desktops usually end up cluttered enough with this or that so adding a lot of widgets could potentially make it worse. Your mileage may vary, however.

Note also that there is a software updates icon on the panel too. Click that and you can begin updating your newly installed Kubuntu system. I had no problem downloading and installing all of my updates. My system was connected to the internet right after booting into my KDE desktop, no additional network configuration was necessary on my end.

Kubuntu 9.04 includes some of the following in its base install:

OpenOffice.org
Konqueror
Gwenview (image viewer)
KSnapshot (screenies)
Okular (doc viewer)
Kontact (PIM)
Kopete (IM)
Amarok
KTorrent
Akregator (feed reader)
Krfb (desktop sharing)
K3b (CD & DVD burning)
Dragon Player (video player)
KAddressBook
KOrganizer
KMail

If you want to add more software you can click the K button then System Settings and then Add/Remove Software under the Computer Administration menu section.

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Problems & Headaches
One thing I noticed about Kubuntu 9.04 is that the Live CD boot up time seemed slow compared to Fedora 11 or even Linux Mint. I’m not sure if this is a KDE thing or what but…chunky…is how I would describe it. Not that that is that big of a deal but a speedier loading time would surely be nice.

I was annoyed to notice that Firefox and GIMP were not installed by default. Okay, I get that this is a KDE distro and that Konqueror is the main browser. But come on, no Firefox? I like Konqi but I’m not going to use it as my main browser all the time. And GIMP is simply a must-have app on any Linux system. There’s no reason not to include it by default. Oddly enough I did a search and there seemed to be some GIMP help files included but not the application itself. Weird.

I was also annoyed by the way the menus would slide back and forth as I navigated the Applications menu. This is clearly a KDE thing but I don’t like it all. I’d prefer a cascading menu to the sliding back and forth thing. Perhaps this is something I will get used to over time as I use KDE more and more. But right now…grrrrrrr…I don’t care for it.

I also thought the Add/Remove Software tool sucked. You can search and you can apply filters but you can’t seem to easily or comfortably browse categories of software. That really isn’t acceptable as some users, particularly newer ones might prefer to browse for new apps. I’d like to see this changed in future versions of this tool.

I found it strange that when I clicked on the icon in the panel for the Plasma Dashbord, my panel disappeared. Why must the panel go away when the Plasma Dashboard pops up at the top of the screen? The panel is at the bottom so shouldn’t it just stay? This is peculiar behavior for a desktop environment, I didn’t care for it.

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Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
You are either a KDE/Kubuntu person or you’re not. I didn’t particularly enjoy using it and I would not use it as my main Linux distro. Given that we have alternatives like Linux Mint that are so much more of a pleasure to use and are at least equally pleasing to the eye, Kubuntu falls short.

Who should use it? Probably experienced Linux users that enjoy KDE and prefer it to Gnome. I would not recommend that newbies to Linux bother with it except as way to tinker and get some KDE experience on their desktop. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad per se but there are other alternatives out there that might be better for newer folks.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu 9.04
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org
Price: Free
Pros: Easy install, colorful desktop. Good selection of desktop widgets.
Cons: Crappy add/remove software tool. Annoying sliding menus.
Summary: Kubuntu offers a KDE based alternative to regular Ubuntu.
Rating: 2.5/5