2010-05-07

A Disappointing Review of Kubuntu 10.04

Before you continue reading, a word of warning: I am sick, so I am not quite in the clearest state of mind. All I am asking is for you to forgive me if my level of writing is not quite up to snuff (which is already at a pretty low level anyway).
I am a fan of DistroWatch and try to look for reviews of popular Linux and BSD (and, occasionally, Solaris) distributions. As Ubuntu 10.04 and its derivative distributions came out last week, I wanted to find out if any new reviews had been posted to DistroWatch, as Ubuntu 10.04 was being heralded as a landmark release (and of course, as always (but, sadly, never truly so), the distribution to make 2010 "the year of Linux on the desktop"). I had already seen a few reviews of Ubuntu 10.04 [GNOME] but not yet one of Kubuntu 10.04 [KDE]. I've read a few reviews on the site called Desktop Linux Reviews by Jim Lynch; they are all very well-written, giving nice screenshots, a comprehensive overview of features, a thorough review of how well it works, and a nice summary recommending it to certain audiences over others (and giving it a rating out of 5).
This review, however, has brought the standard down to a low never seen before. Follow the jump to find out why.

At the beginning of the review itself, Jim Lynch says that Kubuntu 10.04 was not as good of an experience than Ubuntu 10.04 (which he has also reviewed). This is fine to start with, but I think saying that one should read to "find out why [one] should avoid Kubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS" is a bit off-putting, to say the least. Why would anyone be interested in reading on, given that bold (no pun intended) statement?
That said, read on I did.
I was glad to see him praise KDE 4.4. He also does praise the much-improved integration of Mozilla Firefox into KDE 4.X.
The next page just shows some screenshots of the installation process - he doesn't talk a whole lot about it, and what he does say is mostly full of praise.
The following page is where things start to get messy. His praise of the boot splash screen is a lead-in to the criticism that Kubuntu doesn't use enough consistent Canonical branding. It starts with the login screen.
Why is that so important? The majority of Linux users who know about Canonical know that Kubuntu is maintained by Canonical, and the rest of the users couldn't care less about Canonical - they only want to use Ubuntu/Kubuntu; in either case, the point about the login screen not having sufficient Canonical branding is totally moot. I am of the opinion that this way is better in that it emphasizes the customizability of the operating system (and Canonical has become rather paranoid about use of its branding of late (though do remember that Kubuntu is maintained by Canonical (while other major derivatives of Ubuntu like Xubuntu are not))); of course, that is just one take. In any case, I think that branding (or lack thereof) aside, the login screen looks beautiful.
I also think the default desktop looks quite nice, and I really don't understand Jim Lynch's complaints. For some reason he is fixated on the issue of Kubuntu not being properly branded with Canonical's name all over it (and I haven't ever really seen Canonical go overboard with branding in a regular Ubuntu release either, so I really don't see what the issue is). Also, why does the common source distribution necessitate a common look? I know that Mandriva creates a consistent look and feel for both its KDE and GNOME versions, but openSUSE and PCLinuxOS do not. Kubuntu has always been Ubuntu with a stock installation of KDE. In fact, Ubuntu's implementation of GNOME was pretty much stock (aside from the brown and orange colors) until the 10.04 release; Kubuntu isn't broke (in terms of looks, like the Human theme was), so it doesn't need to be fixed.
I will agree that KPackageKit is a mess and really shouldn't exist - the existing front-ends for APT need to be better integrated with KDE. I am still of the opinion that Synaptic Package Manager is the most versatile and newbie-friendly front-end (Ubuntu Software Center, as far as I know, doesn't have as many options) for APT, so it should be the gold standard for Kubuntu.
Jim Lynch does concede that Kubuntu functions perfectly fine, then goes on to rail (again) about how Kubuntu isn't properly branded by Canonical. Reallu? Can we please talk about something else?
He does mention that while F-Spot has replaced GIMP as the default image viewer/editor in Ubuntu, neither is included in Kubuntu. I can only assume that digiKam (KDE's image viewer/editor) is present instead, but I don't know for sure. (For the uninitiated, all 3 are photo editors). Based on JH's recent blog posts, I would even recommend that all 3 be replaced by Shotwell.
The next paragraph astonishes me in its astounding lack of knowledge about Gwibber, which is a GNOME microblogging (e.g. Twitter) applet. Jim Lynch says that the omission of Gwibber from Kubuntu (in contrast to its inclusion and many improvements in Ubuntu) is very strange.
It isn't strange. The reason why Gwibber isn't included is because it still doesn't work right with KDE. The recommended alternative to Gwibber for KDE (which I've read works just as well) is Choqok. Do your homework, Jim Lynch!
I still don't understand why Jim Lynch wants so much consistency between the KDE and GNOME releases - it doesn't really serve a huge purpose: this time he attacks the placement of the close/maximize/minimize buttons (due to Ubuntu's change in their placement) as inconsistent. I just don't get why that's a problem - in fact, Kubuntu may then be the better distributions to which newbies fresh from Windows should be introduced.
He goes on to comment about the absence of Firefox out-of-the-box (there's an "Install Firefox" icon on the desktop that is a script to install Firefox) as well as the absence of Ubuntu One (Ubuntu's new "cloud" service to store users' data (which now also has a DRM-free MP3 music store)). I agree that too many KDE-based distributions are doing the wrong thing by making Konqueror rather than Firefox the default browser. For new users, Dolphin works just fine as a file manager, and most new users are accustomed to Firefox. In any case, there really isn't any good reason to include Konqueror by default (over Firefox); in fact, for the die-hard KDE users, Firefox should be there by default and the desktop icon should be a script to "Install Konqueror - the KDE web browser" (for it to make sense for new users). I also agree that the omission of Ubuntu One is very strange - given that Ubuntu One is a "cloud-computing" service, it really should be present in all major derivatives of Ubuntu (and that includes Kubuntu).
The next page just lists his final thoughts and rating out of 5. He gives Kubuntu a 2.5/5 because...it isn't branded properly with Canonical's name and image.
Seriously? I have never seen so much pettiness by Jim Lynch. I've never seen him make such a big fuss when the GNOME version of another distribution looks like GNOME and the KDE version (of that same distribution) looks like...KDE.
I do agree that Kubuntu is often the hated stepchild of Canonical when compared to Ubuntu (note that Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Mythbuntu, and (as far as I know) Edubuntu are not made by, but are sponsored by, Canonical). In the past, it hasn't gotten as much bug-testing time, so it often comes out more buggy than Ubuntu, which turns off a lot of new users from KDE.
It is an awful review on the whole. Jim Lynch, you are in danger of losing a previously excited reader.

2 comments:

  1. I read that sad review as it was the first result in a Google search. It reeks of fanboy homerism, the kind of self-righteous attitude that one might associate with a Windows user bashing Linux. Jim allows his love of Ubuntu to prevent an appreciation of the merits of Kubuntu 10.4: a beautiful, Debian-based KDE distro that will have three years of support. I am not a Kubuntu user, right now I use Gnome on Fedora and KDE on ArchLinux. However, given everything that has gone wrong with Kubuntu since 7.10, and the build-up to this release (as in, finally everything is up to par with Ubuntu again), I was disappointed to find that Mr. Lynch would spend so much time complaining about superficial issues. If the worst that he could find was a lack of Gnome applications, maybe that speaks volumes about how far Kubuntu has come. I will be trying Kubuntu LTS soon; Jim's article will get a one star rating from me.

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  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I have generally forgiven him (in my own mind), though I did see in his review of Xubuntu 10.04 the same kind of attitude (though in this case he was praising Xubuntu for retaining its ties to Canonical and Ubuntu in its branding). Whatever. It'll pass, though I'm a little confused as to why he is so focused on branding all of a sudden (as far as I know, he didn't knock previous versions of Kubuntu for this to this extent).

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