I recently took a look at Ubuntu Netbook Edition, this week I decided to review its KDE-based counterpart Kubuntu Netbook Edition. As you’ll find out in this review, the two sport radically different interfaces (and I’m not just talking about wallpaper). Which is better for a netbook user? Read on to find out.
Kubuntu Netbook Edition uses the Plasma Netbook interface. Plasma Netbook is geared toward small devices and the interface is very different than desktop KDE. You can use “Search and Launch” to launch applications, or you can browse for applications. You can also search your email, contacts and some web sites. I’ll have more to say about Plasma Netbook in the desktop section.
What’s New In This Release
Since this release is 10.04; it shares some of the same new features as its desktop counterpart. Rather than regurgitate all of them here (since I covered them in the desktop review), here’s a link to the Kubuntu site that lists the new stuff in 10.04.
Hardware Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of what you’ll need to run Kubuntu 10.04:
- Intel Atom processor @ 1.6 GHz
- 512 MiB of system memory (RAM)
- 4 GB of disk space
- Screen of 1024×600 resolution
- Graphics chipset with support for visual effects
The install is as easy as any other Kubuntu or Ubuntu OS. It’s also very fast. The screenshots below walk you through the install process, from beginning to end.
Booting & Login
Bootsplash & Login Screens
The bootsplash screen has the new Kubuntu logo on it. The login screen lets you choose between KDE and a failsafe.
Beyond that, there’s not much to the login screen. You won’t find any of the sort of branding that you see on Ubuntu Netbook Edition. The login screen is sparse, with the default Kubuntu wallpaper featured prominently in the background.
Kubuntu Netbook edition boots pretty fast, and it shuts down just about as fast. Given that this distro is designed for netbooks, it performs exactly as it should.
I covered a little bit about Plasma Netbook in the introduction to this review. It’s a very easy and comfortable interface to use. You navigate around via three main parts: The top panel, the favorites list and the categories. You also have the option of using the search box.
When you first look at the Kubuntu Netbook Edition interface, it might throw you off. It doesn’t look like Ubuntu Netbook Edition at all, and it’s obviously very different than desktop Kubuntu. But give it a few minutes, and you’ll be very pleased with it.
To open an application, click on it if it’s in the favorites, or type in the name in the search box. Or simply browse through the appropriate category. When you’ve found an application, hover your cursor over it for a moment and you’ll notice that a yellow star appears in the upper left of the application’s icon. Click the star to add the application to your favorites. To remove an application from favorites, put your cursor over it, and click the red minus sign.
Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.
One of the first things I did was to install Firefox via the installer in the Internet applications menu. I don’t use Konqueror these days, mainly because it comes bundled with an ad blocker on by default. I’m not sure who’s bright idea it was to ship it that way, but it will never be used by me. Advertising is still the backbone of the web economy and sites like mine depend on it to earn money to keep publishing content. A browser that is released with an ad blocker on by default is a truly evil thing.
It’s one thing if a user decides to use one but it’s another thing entirely for browser/distro developers to have one included and turned on by default. Firefox has also always seemed compatible with more sites than Konqueror anyway. At this point, Konqueror is pretty much an also-ran browser that really serves very little purpose when compared to Firefox, Chromium or Chrome. So there’s not much point in bothering with it.
Kubuntu Netbook Edition uses KPackageKit for its software management. It is not one of my favorite software managers, and I wish the Kubuntu developers would add something similar to what Ubuntu Netbook Edition uses. KPackageKit just doesn’t give a particularly great experience to the end user. That said, however, it is functional.
YouTube & Flash
Flash is not installed by default, so you’ll have to install it before you can enjoy YouTube videos and other multimedia goodies that use flash. DragonPlayer, KMix and Amarok are the bundled multimedia programs that come with Kubuntu Netbook Edition.
Problems & Headaches
My experience with Kubuntu Netbook Edition was very positive, but I did run into a couple of problems. The first thing I noticed was that Plasma Netbook crashed a few times. There was no particularly pattern to it; I couldn’t nail down one thing or another I was doing that set it off.
The other problem I noted earlier. The inclusion of KPackageKit as the software manager takes the value of this distro down. It really is quite a primitive software manager in some respects compared to what Ubuntu or Linux Mint offers.
At this point in time, Kubuntu (netbook and desktop) should certainly be on par with Ubuntu when it comes to software management. I hope the Kubuntu developers have plans to improve the overall user experience in future releases when it comes to software management.
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.
Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And that’s definitely true with this netbook distro. Undoubtedly there are going to be those that very much prefer Ubuntu Netbook Edition to Kubuntu Netbook Edition. Fine, no problem. Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion and should choose what works best for them.
And yet, there’s no denying that Kubuntu Netbook Edition provides a welcome change from its Ubuntu counterpart. Sometimes doing things differently can be a real breath of fresh air, and I’m very glad that this netbook distro is around to offer a choice for users.
Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users should be comfortable with Kubuntu Netbook Edition.
I highly recommend checking out Kubuntu Netbook Edition before you make a final choice in netbook distributions. You might find it to be a pleasant surprise.
|Product:||Kubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04|
|Pros:||Uses Plasma Netbook; comes with a good range of software; fast boot & shutdown times.|
|Cons:||Plasma Netbook crashed a few times; Kubuntu Netbook Edition still uses KPackageKit for its software manager.|
|Suitable For:||Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.|
|Summary:||Kubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04 provides a good alternative to Ubuntu Netbook Edition. KDE users will particularly enjoy having this distro on their netbooks.|