Kubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx)

Last week I looked at Ubuntu Linux 10.04 and found it to be a delightful surprise. This week I thought it would be fun to look at the KDE version, Kubuntu 10.04.

Alas, I was not nearly as pleased with Kubuntu as I was with Ubuntu. While there have definitely been some improvements in Kubuntu 10.04, it lacks some of the important things that defined Ubuntu 10.04.

Read on to find out why you should avoid Kubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS.

What’s New In This Release

Here’s a list of some of what’s new in this release:

The Kubuntu logo has been updated on the splash screen and in the desktop menus
KDE Plasma Desktop 4.4
Linux kernel 2.6.32
Amarok 2.3
Installer slideshow
Touchpad configuration
Firefox KDE integration
System notification updates
Gnome application system tray integration

The updated Kubuntu logo is fine but seems to only appear on the bootsplash screen and the desktop menus. Beyond that there is no other branding to indicate that Canonical is behind the release of this distro.

The new Plasma desktop has some goodies in it including an improved system tray that includes widgets, better search via Dolphin and the ability to let you browse through a recently used timeline. You can now also group windows into tabs.

The inclusion of a slideshow during the install is a great idea. It lets newbies know what’s available in this distro and helps keep the user entertained while the install concludes.

If you’re using a laptop then the touchpad configuration in System Settings is a welcome addition. I rarely use my laptop so it’s not particularly relevant for me but I’m glad to see it in this release.

The system notification updates are also helpful. When I first opened Konqueror, I was greeted with a menu asking if I wanted to install additional codecs. See the screenshot of this in the Sound and Multimedia section of the review to see what it looks like.

I’m very happy to see Firefox integrated with KDE. That’s an excellent thing for those of us who prefer Firefox as our default browsers instead of Konqueror. It’s also good to see GNOME apps blending into the KDE Plasma desktop in a more cohesive way.

The new Kubuntu logo appears in the desktop menus. 

System Requirements & Installation

System Requirements
Here’s a list of what’s necessary to install and run Kubuntu:

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

The Kubuntu install is similar to the regular Ubuntu install and should not present any problems for experienced or inexperienced users.

The screenshots below walk you through the install from start to finish, and you can watch a slideshow while the install is completed.

Booting & Login

The bootsplash screen in Kubuntu is one of the few places in this distro that you actually see Canonical’s new branding. The Kubuntu logo has been updated to reflect Canonical’s changes. Unfortunately, this is about the only thing that is on par with its GNOME based cousin in this respect.

The Kubuntu bootsplash screen.

Login Screen
The login screen immediately disappoints, it has nothing on it to indicate a connection with Canonical. It simply comes across as a generic login screen that could be a part of Joe Blow’s distro as opposed to something from a major Linux company like Canonical. The login screen is a harbinger of more disappointment to come in Kubuntu.

The Kubuntu 10.04 login screen.

The Desktop
As noted earlier, Kubuntu uses the KDE 4.4 Plasma desktop environment. I noted some of the good things that come with this version of Plasma in the What’s New section, so I won’t repeat those here. But suffice to say, Plasma definitely has some pluses to it.

If you are expecting Kubuntu’s desktop look and feel to resemble the gorgeous Ambiance theme used in Ubuntu 10.04, think again. Kubuntu’s desktop does not resemble Ubuntu’s at all. Frankly, I dislike it. It’s bland and dull. There’s nothing striking about it whatsoever and I recommend customizing Kubuntu as soon as possible to change the look and feel.

I know that some will say “…but it’s KDE you idiot! Why should it look like the GNOME version?” It’s called branding and Kubuntu utterly lacks any significant kind of Canonical branding on the desktop and in general (with the exception of the bootsplash logo and the logo in the menus).

The fact that Kubuntu is KDE-based is beside the point. It has the “ubuntu” in its name so it’s right and reasonable for users to expect it to have a similar look and feel to the GNOME version. Instead it looks like a desktop that could have been included in Joe Blow’s Distro rather than something major from Canonical.

If you want to download new themes to change the style of Kubuntu, access System Settings then click on Style. The default style is Air and you can change it to Oxygen if you want. But there are other choices available via the Get New Themes button on the Style menu.

The default wallpaper is Ethais, an icky light-bluish mess that I immediately wanted to replace. To change your wallpaper, go into Desktop Settings and click on Wallpaper. There’s a whole bunch of different ones you can download to replace the default Kubuntu wallpaper.

As with styles, you can change your icons by clicking on the Icons button in System Settings then clicking the Get New Themes button.

The Kubuntu 10.04 desktop is bland and dull looking.

Bundled Software

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

No games included.

Document Viewer
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Image Viewer

Kopete IM
Quassel IRC
Firefox Installer

Dragon Video Player



Software Management
One of the biggest problems with Kubuntu is its lack of the Ubuntu Software Center. Kubuntu uses KPackageKit to manage software and, frankly, it sucks. It’s ugly, it’s non-intuitive and it really has no place in any distro with “ubuntu” in its name. The word “ubuntu” suggests ease of use and comfort in a desktop distro, but KPackageKit provides little in that regard.

It would be one thing if there was no Ubuntu Software Center available at all; users would not have very high expectations and might settle for KPackageKit. But we’re way past that point and something needs to be done to improve the software management experience in Kubuntu.

KPackageKit needs to be replaced with a KDE version of the Ubuntu Software Center.

Sound and Multimedia
I had no problems with sound working in Kubuntu. The only thing I needed to do was to install flash to run YouTube videos. Once flash was installed the videos played well and sounded fine.

One thing I found lacking was the non-inclusion of the PiTiVi video editor. I was puzzled to find that it wasn’t available in Kubuntu. It certainly would have made sense for it to be included in the Multimedia applications menu by default for users that want to edit videos.

If it’s available in Ubuntu 10.04 then why not have it available in Kubuntu 10.04?

Flash wasn’t installed by default in Konqueror.

When first opening Konqueror, a menu will popup asking if you want to install plug-ins.

Problems & Headaches
As I noted earlier, one of the things that puzzles me about Kubuntu is that it uses a totally different desktop theme that looks nothing like Ubuntu’s. Some may find this pleasing but I do not. The Ambiance theme in Ubuntu 10.04 helps set it apart from other distros and makes it easy to identify at a glance. I’m not sure why the folks at Canonical don’t do a KDE version of Ambiance for Kubuntu. The default desktop theme is basic and essential branding for Canonical’s desktop product and there’s no reason for Kubuntu to look so different from Ubuntu.

The use of F-Spot as a replacement for GIMP has been very controversial among Ubuntu users. But in Kubuntu, neither application is installed by default. So there really is nothing for desktop users to use as an image-editing program. This is an odd decision on Canonical’s part. Why isn’t one application or the other included in Kubuntu?

One truly bizarre omission is Gwibber. Gwibber is the social media client found in Ubuntu but there seems to be nothing similar available in Kubuntu. This is particularly odd in light of this bit of text from the Kubuntu News page:

“Our selection of tools and applications will provide you with all that you need for most of your tasks, with many more available just a few clicks away. Whether browsing the web, playing your music, composing an email or connecting with your friends on social networks, Kubuntu 10.04 LTS brings you a stable, innovative and attractive platform for all your desktop needs!”

Huh? Connecting with friends on social networks? How? With what? I looked on the Internet applications menu but Gwibber wasn’t there and neither was anything else to replace it. If Canonical is going to market Kubuntu as being social media friendly, it really needs to make sure that there is something along the lines of Gwibber included with it.

Another inconsistency is that the title bar buttons are on the right, unlike in Ubuntu where they are on the left. Yes, I know that some people prefer them on the right but it seems clear that a single standard from Canonical on this would make sense. And no, I’m not buying the excuse that since this is KDE the buttons are fine on the right. Some interface consistency would probably be helpful to most users.

Firefox was not installed by default but there is an installer built into the Internet applications menu. Frankly, I’d rather that Firefox be the default browser but this is a KDE distro so it’s not surprising that Konqueror is the default browser. Konqi is a fine browser in its own right but I still prefer Firefox or Chrome for my daily browsing needs.

Finally, I was shocked to notice that Ubuntu One was nowhere to be found in Kubuntu. Um…isn’t Ubuntu One (the music store and the online service) an important part of the Ubuntu experience? Shouldn’t there be some trace of them in Kubuntu? Is Ubuntu One only meant for GNOME users?

What a strange situation for Kubuntu users. It’s as if their money isn’t wanted by Canonical. The decision to omit Ubuntu One from Kubuntu makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

You’ll find a Firefox installer built-into the Internet applications menu.

You’ll need to install Firefox.

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 Wiki, FAQ, and Community Support page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I had high hopes for Kubuntu after last week’s review of Ubuntu 10.04. However, it seems clear that Kubuntu is still a bit of an orphan and not very high on Canonical’s list of priorities. The lack of similar theme, title bar buttons on the right, no software center, and various other problems mean that Kubuntu just isn’t up to par with Ubuntu.

Frankly, anybody could have released Kubuntu. There is little or nothing here to indicate that it is part of Canonical’s product family. It’s just a generic KDE-based desktop distro with little or nothing to set it apart or to draw users to it. I’m forced to wonder why Canonical even bothers with it in the first place. I think it’s time for the company to decide whether or not it really wants to continue releasing Kubuntu. Either make it on par with Ubuntu in all ways or simply discontinue it altogether.

I recommend that everybody avoid Kubuntu. If you must use a KDE-based distro, wait for the KDE version of Linux Mint. You’ll have a much better experience and you won’t waste your time with Kubuntu. I’m sorry to have to say that, I had hoped for much more from Kubuntu 10.04. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t measure up to Ubuntu 10.04 and it’s best avoided if at all possible.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu Linux LTS 10.04
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org/
Price: Free
Pros: Provides the latest KDE 4.4 Plasma desktop. Install includes a slideshow to entertain users. Touchpad configuration menu for laptop users. Firefox integrated with KDE. Better system notification updates.
Cons: Lacks a social media app like Gwibber. F-Spot, GIMP and PiTiVi are not installed by default. Ambiance theme from Ubuntu not available. Uses KPackageKit for software management, the Ubuntu Software Center is not available. The Ubuntu One online service and music store are also not included.
Suitable For: Only the most die-hard KDE users who simply must have “ubuntu” in the name of their KDE-based distro. Others should wait for the KDE version of Linux Mint.
Summary: Kubuntu is a sad disappointment and should have the “ubuntu” removed from its name. There is nothing in this release that remotely puts it on par with Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS.
Rating: 2.5/5