Review: Kororaa 15 "Squirt"

KDE: Main Screen
I've been swamped these past couple weeks. I mean, I've been absolutely, completely, and totally bogged down by work. I had 4 problem sets to do, on top of my recently-started UROP and other work-study stuff I'm doing, so I seriously had no room to breathe, until now. I briefly thought about starting work for next week tonight, but then I realized that whatever sanity I had left at this point would go out the window if I worked any more. I needed a break, so what did I do instead of working? I wrote this review! (This is my pre-emptive excuse if some people may feel that this is not thorough enough, or whatever. Yeah, yeah, sue me.)

GNOME: Main Screen
I've reviewed Kororaa before, and that was version 14 "Nemo" which featured KDE 4.6 and GNOME 2.32. This new version 15 "Squirt" has an unchanged semi-major version of KDE, but GNOME has been upgraded to version 3.0. Other applications have been updated too, so I figured it would be time to give it another go.

I tested both versions through live USB systems made with UnetBootin. I did not test the installation processes because there haven't been significant changes to the Anaconda installer since Fedora 14 "Laughlin". Follow the jump to see what each is like.


After the boot menu, I was greeted by a couple lines of text ominously reporting some odd failure regarding my NVidia graphics card. I was a little concerned that Kororaa wouldn't boot at all and I wouldn't be able to write this, but thankfully, about 10 seconds later, I was greeted by the KDM login screen. It has been customized heavily compared to the stock KDM 4, which is nice; my only small issue is that it requires the user to click to log in when the username and password are already entered, so I don't know why the developers didn't just skip the login process in the live edition entirely.

KDE: Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
The setup of Kororaa is extremely vanilla KDE 4. There really isn't much to say here, other than the facts that the wallpaper is a slideshow of pictures, there are some other themes available, and otherwise it looks much like Kororaa 14 "Nemo" KDE.

Mozilla Firefox is present at version 6. It worked fine, and after I was able to add multimedia codecs, YouTube and Hulu worked fine, as did my laptop's sound card and volume keyboard shortcuts. Also, I really liked the Oxygen KDE integration; not only did the theme integrate very well, but Mozilla Firefox used the native KDE dialogs, which I find to be a lot more appealing for some reason (as opposed to using the Mozilla Firefox dialogs specifically in KDE).

Adding those codecs was a little more time-consuming than I anticipated, though. I mean, once I found the package manager, I could search for the codecs and install them fine. The problem is that Kororaa has 3 package managers included: in the KDE edition, only YUM Extender works, while KPackageKit and Synaptic Package Manager, which are also included, don't work at all. KPackageKit constantly crashes (note: I actually subconsciously typed "KPackageKit konstantly krashes" the first time), while Synaptic Package Manager only shows already-installed packages and can't seem to get packages from the repositories at all. Thankfully, YUM Extender is fairly straightforward and does its job well. Another nice thing about it is that it offers to close itself after a job is finished.

KDE: Dolphin + YUM Extender + Desktop Cube
Similarly, installing packages not in the repositories was a bit annoying: I speak specifically of Skype and the Google Talk voice/video browser plugin. After downloading these RPM files, Mozilla Firefox gave me the option of opening them with one of the aforementioned three package managers; none of those worked, as they kept giving me odd errors. Eventually, I had to save the files in a folder, find them in Dolphin, and right-click them to open them with the Software Installer to actually install them; sadly, the Software Installer was not one of the suggested programs in Mozilla Firefox, and I couldn't find its binary file in the /usr/bin/ folder. I think the developers need to fix that: if an RPM file is downloaded, the suggested program with which it should be opened needs to be the Software Installer. After that song-and-dance was over, thankfully both Skype and Google Talk worked flawlessly, recognizing my laptop's webcam and mic out-of-the-box.

Other installed applications include LibreOffice, VLC, KDE games, and other stuff included in version 14 "Nemo" as well.

KWin desktop effects worked fine, which is good. In terms of memory consumption, according to the KDE system monitor, the desktop used 330 MB of RAM at idle with desktop effects disabled, and 360 MB of RAM at idle with desktop effects enabled, which I don't think is so bad, considering that I've seen KDE use on average about 400 MB of RAM at idle. Also, compared to version 14 "Nemo", version 15 "Squirt" did not give me any kernel panics.
On that note, unfortunately, as I was typing the third paragraph of the post, something in the desktop froze up. I don't know if it was Mozilla Firefox or KDE, so I'll lay the blame equally, but the whole system came crashing down to its knees. That's much more serious than a "kernel panic" (as in version 14 "Nemo") that doesn't actually do anything do the system. That's where my time with KDE ended, and honestly, it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.


After getting past the boot menu, the same warning showed up, and again, it took about 10 seconds to get past that into the GDM login screen. After the automatic login (and again, given that this is the live edition, I think it would be better to skip the login screen altogether), I was taken to the desktop.

Unlike the KDE edition, which is pretty vanilla KDE 4.6, the GNOME edition is GNOME 3.0 but subtly customized. For example, there are desktop icons where there were none before (including the help document as from the previous version, which is nice), and this also adds the ability to right-click on the desktop as in GNOME 2.X. There are also some extensions on the panel, like the "Places" widget, and the addition of an option to shut down (and not just log off). The Activities view has a Themes pane in addition to Windows and Applications; given that I've never seen it before and despite the fact that there's only one other GNOME 3 Shell theme included, I'm guessing this is an addition by the Kororaa developers, so kudos to them on that. The default Mutter and GTK+ themes are Adwaita as in stock GNOME 3, but the default icon theme is Elementary as was the case in the GNOME edition of version 14 "Nemo". Overall, the desktop looks and feels a little better than stock GNOME 3.
GNOME: Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice
There are a few other nice things about the desktop, some thanks to the Kororaa developers, others thanks to the GNOME developers. One is that when the last window in a workspace is closed, the workspace is automatically changed to one that has open windows unless there are no other workspaces with windows open. Another is that the windows have buttons to maximize and close, but not to minimize; I think that's a nice compromise between having all 3 buttons, as minimizing doesn't make sense in GNOME 3, and having just one close button, as users will still want to maximize their windows without clicking and dragging. However, one issue I did have is that some windows like Mozilla Firefox's "About" window completely lacked buttons to close the window, so I needed to right-click on the window titlebar and select the correct option to close it, which is quite cumbersome. Then again, I don't know how often such windows will be opened in the first place.
The other goody included by the Kororaa developers is the icon to switch from GNOME 3 Shell to GNOME 3 Fallback, though rather confusingly, it is named either "GNOME 3 Desktop Switcher" or "Switch GNOME 3 Desktop", and neither of those make it clear that the user is going to switch to GNOME 3 Fallback. I'd suggest the name "Switch Between Shell and Fallback", or something like that.

The included applications were mostly the same in the GNOME edition as in the KDE edition. The only other very minor issue I encountered was that Mozilla Firefox used the Clearlooks GTK+ theme instead of the Adwaita GTK+ theme, as evidenced by thinner blue scrollbars instead of thick white scrollbars. Of course, that's just a small aesthetic thing, so it's not a big deal.
One other thing I did see was that now GNOME 3 uses modal dialogs, which are dialogs that slide down and up and have no window titlebars (i.e. they are fixed with respect to the parent window); I'm pretty sure they were first found in Apple's Mac OS X. I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but I'm glad to see that applications like Mozilla Firefox and LibreOffice which are not true GTK+ applications also use modal dialogs, and that makes the whole experience more consistent.

I didn't try installing other packages again because I knew it would be mostly the same; in any case, the same 3 package managers were included, though this time it was only Synaptic Package Manager that refused to cooperate, as both YUM Extender and PackageKit worked fine.

Unfortunately, GNOME 3 and Kororaa came with quite a few annoyances as well.
The first is that the sound theme is kind of annoying. For example, if I wrote some text in Gedit and then tried to move the cursor beyond the end of the file, it would make a dinging sound eerily similar to the one included in Microsoft Windows (and there, it too sounds when the keyboard cursor is moved beyond the end of a text file). I haven't seen this in any other distribution, so I think that needs to go.

GNOME: Nautilus
The second issue is that some applications didn't work as expected despite being included. The first of those was Gloobus Preview, which is a super-versatile file previewer that I use in Linux Mint on a regular basis. The problem was that I couldn't get any file to open with Gloobus Preview via the GUI; I had to open files in Gloobus Preview using the terminal, which was cumbersome and frankly pointless for quick previewing. In addition, Gloobus Preview doesn't seem to have a settings manager anymore, so I couldn't set the keyboard shortcut to quickly preview a file within Nautilus, which again defeats the purpose of quickly previewing files. Then again, GNOME 3.2 is supposed to come with a native quick file previewer called Sushi which is supposed to work basically like Gloobus Preview, so this point will become moot soon enough.  The second application that didn't work was the GNOME Appearance Properties; I'm guessing that's because the application is deprecated in GNOME 3, but then I must ask why it was included and visible in the list of applications at all.

These two problematic applications also made me see further issues with GNOME 3. With regard to Gloobus Preview, when I was in Nautilus and I tried to open files using non-default programs, I was given a list of suggested alternatives and a list of all commonly used programs to do the job, but I wasn't given the option anymore to enter a custom command (e.g. "gloobus-preview"). With regard to GNOME Appearance Properties, I couldn't find a single way to change things like the Icon, GTK+, and Mutter themes using a GUI. Well, I found out online that both of these things can only be fixed by editing GNOME text configuration files. This makes me wonder if GNOME has basically become something like Openbox but with a really polished default configuration, in that if the user wants to do any real customization, that person has to edit text files by hand, or else it's too bad for that person and they'll have to deal with the default workflow. Then again, GNOME 3 is certainly way less configurable than Openbox as far as I've seen.

The final issue is that Nautilus doesn't appear to have breadcrumb support anymore, which is a pretty odd regression from GNOME 2.X. Now, all file paths are editable strings of text, which is great for power users but bad for users like me who just want to click a button to go up and down directories.

GNOME used 350 MB of RAM at idle, which is basically as much as KDE, so now KDE isn't necessarily the heaviest DE. The desktop effects in Mutter worked fine, which is to be expected because if GNOME detects that they won't work, it should automatically revert to Fallback mode. That's where my time with GNOME ended.

So what's the deal then? Well, in the KDE edition at least, Kororaa doesn't really bring any improvements over the previous edition. Instead, it brought me a Plasma crash I thought I'd never have to experience again. Now turning to GNOME, given that GNOME 3 is such a stark difference from GNOME 2, it's hard to make an adequate comparison because that would be like comparing apples to oranges. That said, I do appreciate the subtle tweaks intended to make GNOME 3 a little more usable, but GNOME 3 comes with its own set of problems to the point where I'd rather just not use it at all. The one other good thing about this version which was a sore point for me in the last version is that this has come out before Fedora 16 "Verne", while Kororaa 14 "Nemo" came out after Fedora 15 "Lovelock". Given all this, I don't think I could use Kororaa 15 "Squirt" on a daily basis, and if someone was interested in a user-friendly, stable Fedora derivative, I'd probably point them elsewhere (e.g. Fuduntu).