Review: KDE 4.6

A couple days ago, KDE 4.6 was released for the world to enjoy. It boasts myriad bug fixes, new features for applications like Dolphin and Marble (among others), a revamped Activities feature, and better integration of GTK+ applications. I've come to enjoy testing new KDE 4 releases because it gets noticeably better with each release (or so I would hope), as opposed to GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, and other DEs which don't change much between "point" releases (i.e. X.Y ("X point Y")).
That said, it's not available for Linux Mint 9 "Isadora", and I don't plan on upgrading that until the next LTS release (Linux Mint 13 "M[...]a") unless some radical change (that I don't like) makes me switch distributions (but given the lead developer Clement Lefebvre's recent statements on the matter, that is highly unlikely). Right now, it's only (in terms of Ubuntu-based distributions) available in Ubuntu/Kubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" and Linux Mint 10 "Julia" through a backport PPA. As I had a Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME live USB handy, I used that to do testing; I will say that this method may have been the cause of many of the problems that you will read about shortly. Follow the jump to see how it went.

After rebooting into the live USB, I typed into the terminal "sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports" followed by "sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop" (all without the quotation marks, of course). It took a little time to install everything, but it all seemed to install successfully. (For the record, when asked, I chose GDM as the default login manager over KDM.) After that, I logged out and logged into the KDE Plasma Workspace session.
This is where the trouble started. After going through the KDE splash screen, instead of showing the lovely KDE 4.6 desktop that I had seen in pictures, the screen went black save for the cursor. I then had no choice (because the desktop wouldn't respond to keyboard or mouse commands) but to do a cold reboot and then a reinstallation of KDE in the live session. I then did this again.
Thankfully, this time the desktop loaded successfully. The KDE desktop hasn't really changed much, though I'm not sure why there's a KDE microblogging Plasmoid present by default. The new wallpaper looks pretty slick; for some reason I'm more of a fan of KDE's darker wallpapers.
I then eagerly tried to find out if KDE's GTK+ integration was as good as advertised, so I loaded Nautilus and Dolphin side-by-side and...it was not to be. Nautilus still used the ugly and blocky default GNOME theme (and not even the Mint-X theme used by default in the GNOME session), and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Interestingly enough, running Nautilus also loaded the default Linux Mint GNOME desktop in the KDE session (sans the GNOME panel). Running "killall nautilus" in the terminal took care of that.
I tried out a few more GTK+ applications as well as Mozilla Firefox to similarly disappointing results (theme-wise). Even going into the KDE System Settings and making GTK+ applications use the QtCurve theme by default did nothing. (I even looked into the .gtkrc-2.0 file and that seemed to show the proper GTK+ and icon themes, but it seemed meaningless, as the GTK+ applications still looked ugly.) Thankfully, the "kubuntu-desktop" package also configures OpenOffice.org to use the Oxygen style, so that at least integrated well with the KDE desktop.
The "kubuntu-desktop" package also comes with Rekonq as the default browser. I've tried it a few times before, and I'm really pleased with the way it operates. It's stable, fast, and has a slick UI, and it can display all the webpages I frequent.
I also checked out desktop effects, as KWin is supposed to be much improved. These all worked smoothly and without any hassles; plus, they even felt a little quicker (or maybe that was just a placebo effect).
Unfortunately, more problems arose here. I wanted to open a few more applications and then try the revamped Activities, but at this point, KDE was throwing up black screens every time I tried. I finally gave up.
By this time, I had enough of KDE, so I logged out. Speaking of which, every time I logged out of KDE, I got a Plasma crash error. At least it didn't happen in the middle of the KDE session. I then logged back into the GNOME session to look for my screenshots...only to find them missing! Because I installed KDE in the live session, there wasn't very much space left at all, and even the screenshots were taking up significant amounts of the remaining space. I have a feeling this space issue was also why KDE was crashing so much. Anyway, that's why there are no pictures here today.
Overall, I'm quite disappointed with KDE 4.6; more precisely, I'm disappointed with how it treated me today. That said, it wasn't as bad as KDE 4.4 which refused to load at all. I'm sure that if I tried a distribution that focused on the KDE 4.6 implementation, I'd have a much better experience, so I will certainly try such distributions in the future. Furthermore, this still doesn't discourage me from testing the next KDE release. This particular bad experience was probably a combination of the way I tested it (and the resulting lack of space), my inexperience, and the fact that KDE 4.6 was released just recently. Nevertheless, it was a bad experience for me.