2011-10-28

Review: Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot"

You can consider this to be the second part of a series of reviews of the relatives of Ubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot. Today I'm reviewing Kubuntu.

 Main Screen
I've said some bad things about Kubuntu in the past. Mainly, it has to do with how a couple years ago on Ubuntu, KDE and GNOME would not mix very well, and Kubuntu's implementation of KDE, while vanilla-looking, wasn't very vanilla-working (and really didn't work well at all). Things have improved since then: Kubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" was generally lauded as the first good Kubuntu release since the transition from KDE 3 to KDE 4. Kubuntu 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" was even better, and this version has been reviewed by others as the best ever; not only that, but the aforementioned other reviewers have also said this is among the best KDE distributions out today, period. That's quite a lot of praise, so I'm seeing if (1) that praise is warranted and (2) I need to change my previously sour opinion of Kubuntu.

I tested Kubuntu on a live USB made with UnetBootin. I was going to test the installation...on a real computer! A $friend of mine in college heard me and another friend discussing computer-related things and how I thought it would be interesting and ironic if I could put Linux on an Apple iMac/MacBook and use it instead of Apple's Mac OS X.$friend had a slightly older Intel-based Apple iMac that $friend wasn't using, so$friend was willing to lend it to me for the year; $friend was cool with me using it to test and install Linux distributions on the hard drive, because$friend actually used a triple-boot Linux setup on the Apple iMac on a regular basis before it fell into disuse. I figured I should use this opportunity to try to install Kubuntu, so I followed the instructions on the Ubuntu website to create the appropriate live USB with another 2 GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro USB stick I got 4 years ago but haven't used at all since high school; unfortunately, while the Refit bootloader (that I installed beforehand) did apparently recognize the live USB, booting just hung at the white screen. While I am aware of a few potential solutions, I've also read on the Refit website that different Apple iMac generations tolerate live USB booting at different levels: some are fully cooperative, while others pretend live USBs don't exist. I believe this particular Apple iMac is closer to the latter end of that spectrum, so I didn't pursue it further. I do know another friend who has been collecting many desktop computers that are a few years old, so I might ask that friend to borrow a working one for such installations. That'll have to wait for a future review though. In any case, this time around, despite my best efforts, installation did not occur. Follow the jump to see what Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" is like.

After the boot menu, I was treated to a fast boot and a nice boot splash with a blue screen and dots typical of recent versions of Ubuntu. This is better than the black screen with which Edubuntu greeted me recently. After that, I was taken to a nice screen asking if I wanted to install Kubuntu right away or try out the live session; I opted for the latter, so that quickly took me into the desktop.

The desktop is stock KDE 4.7; the only icon present is an icon to install Kubuntu. Otherwise, there really isn't much to say. I will say though that it appears that the change in the Kickoff menu of the large back/forward buttons to small category breadcrumb buttons is an upstream KDE change. I remember chiding Kororaa 15 "Squirt" KDE for this, but now I know it's a KDE issue and not a Kororaa issue, so I hereby retract the statement I made regarding this in my review of Kororaa.

Rekonq is the default browser. Though codecs are not included, instead of trying and invariably failing to find plugins as in Mozilla Firefox, Rekonq took me straight to the Adobe site which recognized the Ubuntu base of the system and told the package manager to install Adobe Flash plugin from partner repositories. This is really quite sophisticated on the parts of both Adobe and Canonical. The package installed almost unusually quickly; at first I thought something went wrong, but no, it was really that fast. After that YouTube and Hulu worked fine, which is good. Also, Kubuntu recognized my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts fine, which is to be expected from a relative of Ubuntu.
Right after this, Rekonq crashed, but I didn't even feel it because it happened after I already closed it.

LibreOffice is included and integrated well with KDE at version 3.4. I'm glad it is at version 3.4 because for some reason the LibreOffice Ubuntu PPAs still haven't included that new version so I'm personally still stuck on version 3.3 using Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora". Otherwise the software selection is pretty standard and sparse.

Kubuntu now has the option to select "low-fat" desktop options to work better on older hardware, but because I have a newer laptop it worked fine with its full settings. I sincerely believe this, and not what GNOME 3 does, is the way to properly do fallback settings.
 Desktop Cube + LibreOffice Writer + Dolphin + Kate
Kubuntu used ~300 MB of RAM at idle without effects, and it used about ~30 MB more with effects. In my experience, this is slightly less than the average KDE distribution, which is fine.
Desktop effects worked really well. In fact, the keyboard shortcut to transition between effects and no effects is absolutely seamless — I couldn't tell when it had been done, and I actually had to try out a few effects to make sure there was a change. In a sense this is good because it makes the fallback experience feel almost identical to the full shebang, but it's bad because users who feel a performance lag (though I didn't personally feel any such thing) may wonder what the cause of that lag is and they'd have no obvious way of finding out.

Skype and Google Talk worked fine, though I had to install Mozilla Firefox using the button in the menu to use Google Talk, because despite being able to use Chromium plugins for some reason Rekonq couldn't use Google Talk. Mozilla Firefox also comes with great KDE integration, which is great.
A lot of the animations and transitions seem a lot more polished than in other distributions. The fonts look a lot better and clearer with the Ubuntu fonts than with the default Liberation/DejaVu fonts; in fact, they may be the clearest and cleanest default fonts I've seen in any KDE distribution.

There are two package managers: the Muon Software Center and the Muon Package Manager. Interestingly, I was able to run both side-by-side simultaneously, which is contrast to older versions of Ubuntu and Linux Mint which would complain if two applications using APT were open simultaneously.
 Muon Software Center + Muon Package Manager
The Muon Software Center is basically like the Ubuntu Software Center but built for KDE, though it looks like the older interface that shipped with version 11.04 "Natty Narwhal" as opposed to the new shiny interface. It is still quite user-friendly: it shows different categories of packages, and its details are presented in a very neat manner. The only problem is that it would occasionally hiccup and return the list of all packages when trying to search for one package. Installing Skype from this took way less time than I remember, which is great.
Muon Package Manager is basically like Synaptic Package Manager but built for KDE, so it is good that Kubuntu still cares about power users; it seems even a little nicer than Synaptic, which is amazing as it is, and it too is blazing fast.
Also, QApt is basically like GDebi for KDE, and that was what was used to install individual packages like Adobe Flash and Google Talk. It also seems way faster and nicer than GDebi ever was even in GNOME 2.

As I tried typing this post and uploading pictures, Rekonq crashed twice more. Three crashes and a nonfunctional popular plugin makes me feel like Mozilla Firefox should be installed by default even in the live session. Sure, it makes the distribution "impure" as there won't be purely KDE/Qt programs present by default, but frankly, Mozilla Firefox is still far superior to Rekonq in terms of stability and extensibility.
One nice thing about Rekonq is that it has nice tab previews when hovering over inactive tabs. It would be nice if the same thing were enabled in KWin for windows in the taskbar by default (it is enabled in Chakra, but for some reason it apparently isn't possible at all in Kubuntu). Another nice thing is that in the URL bar (similar to the "Awesome Bar" in Mozilla Firefox), visited URLs have little preview pictures next to them.

That's where my time with Kubuntu ended. Barring a few Rekonq crashes which could be fixed by Mozilla Firefox, Kubuntu is absolutely amazing. It is stable, polished, and really, really fast. Plus, it brings with it the benefits of a familiar interface (compared to Ubuntu's Unity) along with the large package selection and the PPA system of Ubuntu. I would strongly recommend that newbies try this, and if the trend of improvements is an indicator for future versions, I might just consider installing Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" on my laptop as my main distribution, now that I know that it will be supported for 5 years. It, along with Linux Mint, Chakra, #!, and Pardus, is now a contender. Bravo Kubuntu!
You can get it here.

1. The installer now has a checkbox for installing codecs, as well as a box for installing updates, it's pretty handy.
Previews for inactive windows in the taskbar has always been on by default for me in Kubuntu, either way you can turn it on from the desktop effects settings.

I have used Kubuntu for many years as my main desktop and it really has improved a lot. I don't mind the vanilla KDE so much as I always customize KDE to my liking. I don't know why they keep trying to push rekonq though, it will never be as good as FF or Chrome.

2. @Anonymous: I have heard about that checkbox, and it seems like a good way to get around shipping the codecs by default without making users do the whole thing manually. I guess they're trying to push Rekonq because it's a pure KDE application as opposed to Mozilla Firefox, and because more exposure = more bug-finding = more improvements, but I agree that if the aim is a good user experience, Mozilla Firefox would be hands-down a better choice than Rekonq. Thanks for the comment!

3. Took a look at Rekonq recently in another distro; crashed on me about 3 times, during something like a 5 minute session. I would have played around with it longer, but that was enough for me. If I installed Kubuntu, I'd add another web browser right away.

Nice review as always, but I'm still hoping you'll start doing reviews with actual installations. Yeah, I've read all of your explanations about why you don't, so no need to repeat all of that. But it's the only area where your reviews fall short, at least for me. (Please don't take offense -- just calling 'em like I see 'em.)

4. @Anonymous: Just as you hope, I too would like to do actual hard drive installations, but I'm too scared of messing with my own laptop's hard drive just on a whim like this. As I said in the post, now that one of my friends has been collecting a whole bunch of older computers (and he may not use all of them), I might borrow one of those for testing purposes. And yes, while it is a good thing that there's a one-click button to install Mozilla Firefox, I'd frankly prefer it if it were included right out-of-the-box. Thanks for the comment!

5. One downside of Kubuntu 11.10 is the inclusion of KMail2 which uses Akonadi and therefore needs all of your mails migrated to the new database - and inevitably fails to do so. People who don't read the official release statement, which makes it quite clear that the KMail2 migration assistent is unreliable and explains how to migrate manually, will be put off entrusting their data to KMail2.

6. Some lost features from kde 4.5, are comeback, like daysi task and fancy task.
I recommend strongly change kickoff for lancelot.
Another tweak is install xfwm4 for use instead kwin.
Is a really good kde distro. I use like my principal distro. But I still waiting for LMDE KDE.

7. @Kelhim: This isn't really an issue for me because I check all my email within a browser, but I could certainly see how this could be an issue for many other people. I sometimes wish distributions would create desktop icons for different documents detailing different issues like these and their fixes, because sometimes the release notes just aren't visible enough, if you know what I mean.

@carretillo: I'm also a fan of the Lancelot menu, because it's pretty close in functionality to my favorite Linux Mint Menu. I've actually never heard of swapping out KWin for Xfwm, so I'd love to see screenshots of it and I'd appreciate it if you could post some screenshots if you have done this yourself. Finally, given how long it is taking to get Debian-based Linux Mint KDE out and the fact that right now the Linux Mint developers' top priority is Ubuntu-based version 12 "Lisa", I think you should be prepared to wait for even a few more months.

8. Anybody who's running Kubuntu please take a look at Dolphin, and tell me if the top toolbar (File Edit View Go Tools Settings Help) is missing when the window isn't maximized. What I noticed is that several Kubuntu applications were behaving in a way that requires full-screen (like Unity, in other words.) and the weird thing about Dolphin in particular was that maximizing would restore the top bar in Ubuntu/Unity, not Kubuntu/KDE.

Eventually, I installed Kanotix, a live CD distro based on Debian Stable and KDE.

9. @blackbelt_jones: This is a new feature of Dolphin in KDE 4.7, not a bug. The point is that the menubar has been replaced by a menu button represented by a wrench icon on the right under the window control buttons. I do believe there is a way to make the menubar appear instead of the menu button (for people like you who would prefer the menubar), but if what you are saying is that this functionality [of trying to restore the menubar by configuring Dolphin's settings] is broken, then I can't help you. Thanks for the comment!

10. @blackbelt_jones:

Ctrl+M brings the menubar back and removes the menu button. The missing menubar is just a new default, and I can't see any problems with that other than inconsistency within KDE SC.

11. A review that's done on the basis of a few hours use just on a machine is sure to go meaningless. The hardware world and users' requirements are just bewildering.

Here's my 10 days experience of Kubuntu 11.10 on Asus 1215b and Lenovo G6.

Good things:
1. KDE 4 on Kubuntu feels lighter than before
2. Installing multimedia codecs is just one click thanks to kubuntu-restricted-extras
3. Bootup and shutdown is faster
4. Not many crashes

1. Muon is just too dumb. It doesn't show what's going under the hood, and sometimes removes packages that's useful to you. For example, as a trial I removed akonadi on Muon, it didn't show any message, removed akonadi as well as 100s other packages (some of them are kde core packages).
2. Handling laptop hotkeys is worse in this release. I could not get any of the hotkeys of my eee pc working.
3. Hardware detection is worst perhaps. Even it did not detect my uvc webcam.
4. It could not do catalyst/fglrx quite well. After some fight when I got it installed. On next reboot I lost oxygen theme. I'm clueless what fglrx has to do with oxygen theme.
6. KDE themes don't talk to gtk apps even after installing wrapper for them. That means synaptic and other such gtk stuff look like win95 apps.

I am not impressed by this release. My request to all reviewers.

1. Use an OS at least on 2-3 systems
2. Use it for at least a week
3. Learn something about system and OS internals

Just installing a distro and meandering on the surface for an hour is misleading.

12. Tried..but back to Kanotix...

13. I had similar issues with Rekonq in Live version. Firefox / Chrome are much better.
In general, I was disappointed in Kubuntu 11.10.
Then I tried to install Chrome on installed, and it did not work, like in Ubuntu. Luckily, there's Chromium in repositories and I did not notice any difference between them.

14. @manmath sahu:
>My request to all reviewers.
There are different reasons while people are doing Live reviews. I have listed some of them already. If you're not happy with approach, just don't read the review. Nobody urges you to do so!
If you're so good with advices, it would be much better if you use your energy to write own review(s). I am sure Prashanth will be happy to publish. If he's not, please come to my blog, and I will happily guest-post your article.

15. @Kelhim: I appreciate the clarification.

@manmath sahu: Your point about installing is moot, because as you can tell, even within the live session I could see that none of the problems that you experienced were ones that I experienced.

@Anonymous: Huh. Well, use whatever makes you happy!

@DarkDuck: That's interesting, because this may be the first review of Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot" reporting of crashes.

16. @darkduck

Google Chrome works, but the deb doesn't initially due to missing dependencies. If you follow up your installation of the Chrome deb with

sudo apt-get -f install

This will install the necessary dependencies and finish the Chrome install. And I saw crashes with Rekonq as well.

17. Prasanth thanks for the prompt reply. I agree you didn't come across any like I did. Would you give it another try on an Asus Eee PC 1215B? I am sure you'll know what I meant and what I went through.

Delve little down, kde-workspace, xorg, kernel and the wide range of hardware don't always talk to each other so nicely. For example, the same distro Kubuntu 11.10 sits pretty on my office system, that's an all intel dual-core system. I could not experience any ugly surprise there. Whereas that was a nightmare on this new AMD platform.

Now, I am all set to taming Kubuntu 11.10. Removed some apps, ported eeepc-wmi to my own custom kernel, most of the problems are gone, but alongwith I lost 3 hours. That was my point - one machine, virtual install or a livecd walkthrough for a few hours might leave many points untold. Btw, I like some of your reviews too.

18. @Eric Proctor: I appreciate the clarification.

@manmath sahu: I don't really have an ASUS Eee PC, so I couldn't really verify your claims even if I wanted to do so, but regardless, I believe you. I have no reason to doubt what you are saying at this point. What I'm saying is that with our respective computer hardware, both of our experiences and claims are equally legitimate.

19. As promised... here is my review.

20. @PV

My suggestion is to do a disk image backup of your drive using the free Clonezilla Live for that purpose. Even without taking your concerns about installing Linux into consideration, drives failures and more happen, and program updates can cause issues, malware can cause problems, and human error can destroy data. So, having a disk image backup is always a good idea.

Clonezilla Live is pretty fast and compresses the backup by default so it doesn't take up as much room on an eternal drive. So, you may want to consider burning the current stable release .iso to CD and making a backup of your laptop's drive to an image file on an external drive.

Just boot into it and use the beginner mode and select the device to image choice, where it will prompt you for a drive to mount to store the backup on, and select a USB attached drive formatted as NTFS for it to use (since FAT32 won't support file sizes larger than 4GB).

Make sure you've got the hard drive selected as the drive you want to back up (it will probably be labeled /dev/sda for the first hard drive in the system, and give you it's size in the list of drives found). Then, give it a different backup name if desired (it will default to the current date for the backup name).

Then, just use something like isorecorder to burn it to CD so you can boot into it. It adds a menu option under Windows Explorer labeled "Burn Image to CD/DVD" you'll see if you right click on the clonezilla .iso file you downloaded (and you can burn any other .iso files to disk using it, too).

http://alexfeinman.com/isorecorder.htm

Here's a tutorial geared towards Windows users:

21. @DarkDuck: Regarding your review, Chromium will never be worse than Google Chrome. In fact, Chromium is the upstream of Google Chrome (or so says one of my friends familiar with such matters), meaning every feature that Google Chrome ever gets will come into Chromium first. Also, if you're unhappy with the resource usage, have you considered installing the "Low Fat Settings" package? It's new with Kubuntu 11.10 "Oneiric Ocelot", and it's designed to strip desktop effects to the bare minimum, not run Nepomuk and Strigi when possible, and otherwise optimize Kubuntu to run as fast as possible on the given hardware. This may alleviate a few issues.

@JimC: I appreciate the clarification, but unless you're saying an 8 GB USB flash drive is sufficient, I don't actually have an external hard drive to work with. If I did, I would just do installations on that and not worry about my laptop's internal hard drive at all.

22. @PV:
There were some features in Chrome which were not in Chromium few months back. And they were features I used a lot. That's why I could not use Chromium at that time.
Now I checked some of those features and found they are in Chromium. No reason for Chrome then. 8-)

23. @DarkDuck: Well, I'm glad that you had enough patience to wait until the problem worked itself out. Thanks for the comment!

24. I use Kubuntu myself, but unlike the reviewer I find this review not as polished. two obvious things come to mind.

The first is that Muon basically is not ready for prime time. It does not show i386 packages if you have a 64 bits install. That is bad, What is worse is that it gets its dependencies all wrong. When I wanted to uninstall pulseaudio, it ripped the entire KDE desktop apart by uninstalling a myriad of packages. Doing the same by using good old apt-get just cleaned out pulseaudio and left the rest intact.
That brings me to the second thing: pulseaudio. Why do we need it? It just causes problems. I did not get sound from Youtube until I removed it. It serves absolutely no purpose and just gets in the way.
Last but not least: external monitor detection is broken. In 11.04 I got correct resolutions for my VGA monitor, whereas in 11.10 I need to mess with xrandr to get it right.

Kubuntu is OK, but the devs should focus more on stability and not force packages onto the users that are not ready yet.

25. Errata: where it says 'I find this review not as polished' it should read 'I find this release not as polished'

26. @CevO: Because I tested the 32-bit version, I obviously didn't see any issues of that sort, but considering that I would probably install the 64-bit version for myself (because my laptop has 64-bit hardware), that would be bad if that was Kubuntu's normal behavior. Also, it isn't just Muon Package Manager that rips out a whole bunch of other dependencies; sometimes I've noticed that on some systems even Synaptic Package Manager can suggest basically uninstalling all of GNOME to get rid of one peripheral package. In addition, I have personally found PulseAudio to be the way to go for good audio detection on my laptop, but if it doesn't work for you, that's bad that the dependency resolution is so messed up. Finally, monitor detection isn't an issue for me either, but is messing with XRandR really so bad? Thanks for the comment!

27. Hi,
Well, I don't know about Synaptic dependency issues, but I believe synaptic works OK as long as you don't mix and match different repos.
Messing with xrandr is bad. Very bad. Just as bad as having to compile your own software. I know it can be done, but it is unnecessary hassle. This is 2011, we should be able to expect for basic things to just work instead of hunting down the Internet for an obscure solution.

28. @CevO: Oops. I think I mentally mixed up XRandR with a GUI tool like LXRandR. I now remember how painful working with XRandR (on the one or two occasions that I did have to do that) is, and I agree that you should have to be forced to work with XRandR in 2011. Thanks for the comment!

29. Hi Prasant, Synaptic is still better and Muon is turn down for me and many other users for the following reasons.

Muon - Removing a package doesn't prompt removing other dependencies, if any, and goes on removing them.
Synaptic - It prompts about what other dependencies it's going to remove, where you can cancel the process.

IMO, this problem with Muon is perhaps the biggest bug in a package manager I've seen in a couple of years. Also this problem is there in both 32- and 64-bit versions.

30. @manmath sahu: Huh. Well, it looks like all the Muon Package Manager needs is a bit more work. I'd suggest that you file a bug report, and considering that the Kubuntu developers appear to be a lot more receptive to bug reports and complaints than the Ubuntu developers, it might be fixed before the release of Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin". Thanks for the comment!

31. Great. The Kubuntu devs already know about this problem. Most probably it will be fixed in the next LTS release. But the tragedy is how could they make such a big miss. I can clearly see, deadline determines quality in kubuntu, when it should be the other way round. OpenSuse has made a pragmatic move by stretching release cycle to 8 months. Fedora won't do it as everybody knows it's bleeding edge. But *buntu should take care as it targets non-techies.

32. @manmath sahu: I'm not trying to excuse their behavior, but do note that recent Ubuntu releases have had far worse problems stemming from the 6-month release cycle. Thanks for the comment!

33. "In any case, this time around, despite my best efforts, installation did not occur."

Best efforts exhaust all options. Like... installing it to the hard drive. I stopped reading there.

34. @Anonymous: Well, that's a shame. Because if you were really serious about finding out why I didn't do that, you would have read about it.

35. I had Kubuntu 11.04 running on my Asus eeepc 1015 pem dual core 2 gb ram 320 hhd and was happy with it. I had replaced the native software centre (Kpackeit..sh) with Muon and got really satisfied. Nice native cube effects (intially struggling with Kwin settings.. though better than my luck with Compiz in the previous Ubuntu 10.10 I ran there..), windows effects, different slideshow on each workspace etc. Purged Amarok and other useless media player that came with it I had installed only vlc for both audio and video files. Successfully got read of the issue with wallet and the redundant asking of passwords, replaced network manager with wicd. Firefox, kept rekonq (though always buggy and crashy .. I agree with the previous posts..still webkit) and konqueror , very light on memory (though never allowed me to access hotmail).
I was happy.
Then I relocate to England. I know, it sucks, but what can u do?
Muon didn't like it either, (probably less than I did) and refused to update its connection to the new servers and basically stopped working.
I so had the choice of Ubu, which I tried for few instants and regurgitated immediately (Unity sucks on my laptop and I suspect being not the only one with the grudge..) before hitting Kubu 11.10 ( I had to wait for a "stable" release (..which never came btw).
The result has been 7 fresh installs in a row. Each attempt (made with bootable usb) gave me a pile of shit every time.
Kwin blanking and blacking the desktop forever, gconf -f , SYSs.. ATTR ATTRS bug, muon not breathing anymore (and reanimation didn't work),desktop slow motion (actually zombie motion) another time, system update screwing everything forever right after fresh install (do not install linux-headers-3.0.0-13generic ever!) and finally now, with no updates installed (and not even ticking options to dow updates and third party softw on install) , I am running a partially functionning system. Libreoffice although appearing in the software center as installed does not work (and yes I've got open JDK java6 tool), the splash loads, task bar appears and then nothing. A series of bugs here and there reported at the shut down (normal with fresh Kubu installs I suppose) and not a clue of what is happening.
So bottom line I am a Kubu user/fan who's got some thinking going on.
Why the f*** do you call it a stable release?
And why there is no a decent forum for KDE users to exchange info and get fixes?? (like Gnome has) Whatever goes by that name seems to me to be just a ludicrous attempt to say "hey, we have a forum for users encountering problems here!! come and join us".
And why the hell I can't download previous release from get kubuntu?
Cheers

Btw, 3 times out of 3 when installing Ff I had automatically installed somehow Chromium! I guess is Muon screwing there..(??)

36. @Anonymous: It does seem like the issues are pretty darn bad, so maybe you could search for the actual mirrors and find the old releases...? Thanks for the comment!