Kubuntu Linux 9.10

Last week I took a look at the latest release of Ubuntu. This week I thought it would be great to continue with Kubuntu Linux 9.10. For those who aren’t familiar with Kubuntu, it’s basically the KDE version of Ubuntu (Ubuntu uses Gnome as its desktop environment).

Before I get into this review, I wanted to note the ongoing server problems DLR has been having. Please accept my apologies if you’ve been trying to access DLR or the DLR forum. DLR is growing and the additional traffic has caused some server overloads. My hosting company will be moving DLR to a more robust server (hopefully this week) and that might help. I have also installed the WP Supercache plugin. I thank all of you for your patience while we get the server/bandwidth issues worked out.

Please note also that I have added another page navigation plugin that will let you easily move between pages. Each page has a title so you can skip the parts of the review that don’t interest you. Just look below the regular numbered page links at the top and bottom of each review and you’ll see a handy dropdown menu. I hope it provides some value and makes navigation easier and more comfortable.

I have also added the Sociable plugin to make sharing DLR content easier. You’ll see icons for Facebook, Digg and other social networking sites right at the bottom of each article. Hope that helps for those who wish to share content that the enjoy here on DLR.

Okay, with that said, onto to the rest of the review.

What’s New In This Release
There’s a lot of great new stuff in this release. Here’s a list of some of what you’ll find in this release:

KDE 4.3
Social Networking Features (Various Widgets)
OpenOffice.org Integration
Ayatana Integration
New Look for Installer
Amarok 2.2
Userconfig Returns
Enhanced Network Manager
GTK+ Integration
Firefox Installer

Some folks might not enjoy the social networking features included in this release but I liked them a lot. I have a Facebook and Twitter account so I find apps that let me access those two services to be quite useful and I’m glad to see them in Kubuntu 9.10. Note that if you are on Facebook you can become a fan of Desktop Linux Reviews.

The latest version of Kubuntu comes with social networking desktop widgets.

The latest version of Kubuntu comes with social networking desktop widgets.

The OpenOffice.org integration is nice but really didn’t matter too much to me. I use OO relatively sparingly these days as I write my columns for ExtremeTech using Google Docs most of the time and I write these reviews in WordPress. But I always like to have OO available just in case and it’s nice that it’s better integrated with KDE this time around.

The slicked up installed looked good too though I didn’t notice any significant change in terms of speed or ease of the install.

Requirements & Installation
I was unable to find Kubuntu-specific system requirements on the Kubuntu site so here are the general Ubuntu system requirements:

Bare Minimum requirements
* 300 MHz x86 processor
* 64 MB of system memory (RAM)
* At least 4 GB of disk space (for full installation and swap space)
* VGA graphics card capable of 640×480 resolution
* CD-ROM drive or network card

Recommended minimum requirements
* 700 MHz x86 processor
* 384 MB of system memory (RAM)
* 8 GB of disk space
* Graphics card capable of 1024×768 resolution
* Sound card
* A network or Internet connection

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu. This release has a gussied up installer that is more pleasing to the eye.

Unfortunately, as I noted above, I can’t say I noticed any speed improvement. For some reason Kubuntu takes a bit longer to install than Ubuntu. I’m not sure why but I’d like to see parity in terms of the installation. Though I may be nitpicking here a bit because it’s not like there’s a huge difference between the two. Kubuntu just seems to consistently lag Ubuntu while being installed.

The Kubuntu installer has been gussied up for this release.

The Kubuntu installer has been gussied up for this release.

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu.

Installing Kubuntu is as easy as installing Ubuntu.

Desktop & Apps
When I first booted into my Kubuntu Linux 9.10 desktop, two things greeted me. One was the Desktop folder which was opened and empty. And the other was a microblogging service menu. If you like KDE 4.3 then you’re really going to enjoy Kubuntu 9.10.

Please note that if you prefer KDE 3.5, a remix is available. I’m not going to do a review of it but wanted to note it here for those who are still not ready to make the leap to KDE 4.3.

Personally I find myself liking KDE 4.3 more now than I have in the past. I don’t know if I’ve just gotten used to it or what. But it’s easy on the eyes for sure and it’s a nice break from Gnome and some of the light-weight desktops. Even the sliding menus didn’t annoy me too much this time around.

Here’s a sample of some of the software that comes with Kubuntu 9.10.

DNG Image Converter
Document Viewer
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Gwenview Image Viewer

Krfb Desktop Sharing
Kopete IM
Quassel IRC
Firefox (Comes with Firefox Installer)

Amarok Audio Player
K3b CD & DVD Burning
KMix Sound Mixer
Dragon Video Player

Okular Document Viewer

Adding & Removing Software
Kubuntu uses KPackageKit as its software add/remove tool. I’ll have much more to say about it in the problems section but suffice to say I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. I was able to add some software using it but the experience left much to be desired.

The Kubuntu Desktop

Sound and Multimedia
I had no problems with sound after booting into my Kubuntu desktop.

In order to play YouTube videos in Konqueror, I had to install a Flash plugin. I went into the KPackageKit software tool and found the plugin. I loaded it and then restarted Konqueror. When I first loaded a YouTube video there was no video on the page. The message about the plugin was gone so I knew it wasn’t that that was causing a problem. Looking through the Konqueror settings, I realized that Adblock was turned on by default. I turned it off and reloaded the page and then the video loaded. I have a lot more to say below about Adblock being on by default.

One Adblock was turned off, I had no problems loading YouTube videos. The videos looked great and the sound was flawless.

I was not able to get my DVD to play in Dragon Video Player. The DVD was listed there but didn’t load or otherwise play.

When I started Dragon Video Player it told me I should install additional packages for better multimedia functionality. However, it didn’t specify which ones and the popup message disappeared in a few seconds. This is not exactly a great way to let a user know about these kinds of things. A popup with a link to additional packages or some other clue might be a good idea.

What I Liked Most
I found myself liking this release of Kubuntu a lot better than the last one. I particularly liked the social media networking widgets I was able to run on my KDE desktop. I like to keep track of what’s going on and those two widgets came in handy.

I also liked the fact that KDE is finally moving toward including Firefox by default, hopefully in the next release it will be installed and will eventually be the default browser for KDE.

Problems & Headaches
One of the things I liked least about Kubuntu was the default blockage of advertising in Konqueror. I don’t know who made this decision but for sites like DLR it has the potential to hurt a lot financially. Default blocking of ads in a browser is a great way to insure that the only sites who survive are the ones that charge a subscription fee or who force you to pay to read each article via micro-transactions (charging 99 cents per article or whatever).

Having Adblocker on by default also screwed up the YouTube videos I was trying to play as nothing loaded in Konqueror with it on. I figured it out but it might cause some serious frustration to newbies to KDE based distros and those folks might not have any idea what the problem is on their system.

Come on Konqueror developers or whoever made the decision to have Konqi block ads by default. Wake up and understand the consequences of your decision. It’s bad for the web economy and it’s quite stupid to block YouTube videos from loading in people’s browsers. It’s no wonder that Konqueror has such a small base of users compared to Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc.

And speaking of browsers, another thing I didn’t like was that Firefox wasn’t installed by default. There is a Firefox installer present in the Kubuntu menu but why make the user install it at all? If you’re going to stick the Firefix installer in then why not just have the browser itself already included? I don’t know if this is a KDE thing or what but it makes no sense to me.

Another issue with Kubuntu is the lack of the Ubuntu Software Center. If you download regular Ubuntu you get a very nice software app included that’s easy to use and that provides a nice range of software. Kubuntu lacks this and has an add/remove software tool (KPackageKit) that strikes me as ugly, non-intuitive and just generally disappointing. When trying to view “All Packages,” for example, nothing was displayed. I could view individual categories and it would refresh appropriately but nothing happened when I tried to view all packages.

KPackageKit left a lot to be desired when it came to managing software.

KPackageKit left a lot to be desired when it came to managing software.

I know that the Ubuntu developers put most of their effort into the Gnome-based version of Ubuntu but if you are going to release Kubuntu then why not include the Ubuntu Software Center in it too? KDE users certainly deserve the same attractive interface and ease of use that Gnome users get.

Finally, one glaring omission from Kubuntu is Ubuntu One. Despite some problems I had with it while reviewing Ubuntu 9.10, I generally viewed it as a positive addition to Ubuntu. And yet there seems to be no link to it in any of the Kubuntu menus. Ubuntu One is prominently displayed in the Places menu in Ubuntu 9.10 but no such link exists anywhere in Kubuntu 9.10 that I could find.

Why wasn’t Ubuntu One included in Kubuntu? Since it appears to be accessible in any browser then why not include overt links to it in Kubuntu? It appears to be yet another glaring example of Canonical’s double standard for KDE users. Perhaps the company simply expects KDE users to sit down, shut up and accept second class citizen status? If so, that’s a bad attitude to have and I say that as someone who doesn’t really use KDE all that much. I’d like to see some parity when it comes to Gnome and KDE by the Canonical developers.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Kubuntu Wiki, the Kubuntu FAQ, and the Kubuntu Support Page (forums, IRC, mailing list, commercial support).

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
I’m please to (mostly) give this release of Kubuntu a thumbs up. Yes, there were some things I didn’t like but overall I think this is a step up from the last release and it’s quite usable. I’d like to see a better software management tool but it is functional as it is (though it leaves much to be desired in some ways) and I don’t think it’s a show-stopper.

Kubuntu can be used by beginners and more experienced users alike. However, beginners might want to opt for the KDE version of Linux Mint after it is updated to incorporate the latest version of Ubuntu (9.10). It’s not that Kubuntu isn’t worth using, it’s just that Linux Mint is a bit more elegant and includes additional software that makes using it easier and more comfortable right from the start.

Still, I think that Kubuntu is worth a download and well worth considering if you’re a KDE fan.

Summary Table:

Product: Kubuntu Linux 9.10
Web Site: http://www.kubuntu.org/
Price: Free
Pros: KDE 4.3, social media desktop widgets, Firefox installer, OpenOffice.org integration.
Cons: Poor software management tool. Does not include Flash by default for playing YouTube videos, etc. Adblock is on by default and may potentially impact multimedia experience on the Web.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux user.
Summary: Kubuntu Linux 9.10 updates the KDE desktop to version 4.3 and provides some additional goodies for KDE users. Well worth upgrading to if you are currently running an earlier version of Kubuntu.
Rating: 3.5/5