On 19th April 2007, Kubuntu became the feistiest release of Ubuntu family. Since then my Kubuntu edgy installation was informing me about a new version of Kubuntu. Finally I decided to try it and ordered a i386 CD through Kubuntu Shipit. Ubuntu guys promptly shipped me a CD free of Cost. Some of the notable things I read on the CD were
- Kubuntu will always remain free of charges.
- Kubuntu CD contains only free software applications, and the most remarkable
- Pass it on! Yes, Kubuntu people actually ask you to share the CD with friends and family.
Kubuntu Fiesty Fawn incorporates the excellent base of Ubuntu and an implementation of KDE 3.5.6 on Linux kernel 2.6.20.
Last Saturday, I decided to do a fresh system install and popped in the Live CD. The Live CD auto detected all my hardware and booted to a clean KDE desktop, though I must admit it took a good three minutes to come to a stable KDE desktop. I wanted to test if my peripherals were working OK so I just connected my Sony digital camera through the USB port. Immediately KDE gave a pop up about a new device connected and an option to open it. I choose to open with digikam; to my amusement digikam worked as designed and downloaded all my photos. Kubuntu had auto-detected and configured my Ethernet network, so I fired Konqueror and logged on to internet. Here I was working on my computer, browsing internet and downloading pictures from the camera without even installing the OS.
The default desktop was clean with only an icon for installing to the hard disk and an icon for the mounted digital camera.
The GUI installer was easy and intuitive. I just had to manually mount my hard disk partitions and select my time zone, rest for every thing all I did was click next.
One thing I noticed was, during installation, after I specified the mount point of my home directory, the home directory was mounted and a corresponding icon was displayed on the desktop. Ksnapshot came to my help and I took some snapshots detailing the installation. As
I was connected to internet, I expected install to give an option for an installing an online updated version of packages, but I was sadly mistaken. The installer process did connect to internet and downloaded some packages, but most of the packages were installed
from the disk. The installation took around thirty minutes and required minimal intervention from my part. Overall the progression was sensible and each step to be performed was explained in a clear and concise manner.
On rebooting after the install, I was presented with a text based grub menu (text based !! and I thought that Kubuntu was a beginner friendly distribution.)
Later I even checked in Adept Package manager that a package by the name kubuntu-grub-spalshimages exists. Not sure why canonical decided not to install it by default.The KDE version installed is 3.5.6 though the current version is 3.5.7. Interesting thing is that 3.5.7 is not even in kubuntu-backports repository, though we can install it by adding another repository. However, I feel that an upgrade package version should always be in backports if not in current. I liked the clear desktop and the KDE theme used. The install took all my settings from my home folder and I got a familiar looking desktop.
Needless to say that my network was auto configured and my USB camera was auto detected.
A small link in the task bar for Adept package updater showed that I have more than 170 updates ready, now this increased my displeasure with the previous step. I have just
installed and again I have to update my system. Why cannot the install process take care of it?
Here Kubuntu scores over most other distributions. OpenOffice, Amarok, Kopete, Kontact, K3b, Kaffine, Ktorrent etc are the best in their class and perform the task very well. One problem though, the only web browser included is Konqueror. Konqueror is a standards-compliant web browser, still many sites do not support it. For example mail sites like yahoo mail and gmail do not treat it as compliant and we get a reduced functionality. Firefox is becoming the defacto standard and I would have appreciated to have Firefox installed as default.
The graphic applications included also impressed me; digikam and showfoto does the job of getting the photos from the camera and managing and editing the photos. Though there seems a duplication of similar applications when I found gwenview also installed.
With these defaults, Kubuntu presents a complete desktop for a normal user. I would even say that Kubuntu even fits a corporate desktop with ease.However, no package is installed for a programmer, but installing package is the easiest thing in Kubuntu, thanks to Adept.
Kubuntu has roots in Debian and uses apt as the package manager. They have developed a custom front-end, Adept, for installing and uninstalling the packages. Adept integrates well with the KDE theme and performs most of the tasks well, however, if there is network interruption things can go nasty. I had to use aptitude to clean up the mess and release the lock on package database. One major problem I had was a huge list of repositories. Even for upgrading KDE from 3.5.6 to KDE 3.5.7 I had to add a new repository. Why cannot they take the lead of Fedora and just have two repositories, say official and extra.
One more issue I had was that some of Bluetooth packages were installed even when I do not have a Bluetooth device in my computer. Kubuntu has got very good hardware detection, so why not use it and install only the packages for which there is a supporting hardware? I had to manually search and uninstall all Bluetooth related packages.
If Bluetooth was irritating, the CUPS packages went a step further.I was extremely frustrated when I saw that I cannot even uninstall all the CUPS packages (libcupsys2- shared library for CUPS) without uninstalling most of KDE packages, Adept and Amarok. Why do I need to have printer packages, when I do not have a printer? Not sure why Kubuntu debs have such tightly coupled dependencies.
This apart Adept provides nice features and very good look and feel. Specially preview and undo features are very useful. Overall I like Adept even more than the highly acclaimed synaptic.
Kubuntu includes only open source software (OSS) as default packages. Any proprietary or patent and copyright restricted packages do not form part Kubuntu default installation.
However, this does not mean that wecannot play MP3 songs, or watch DVD. We just need to select Ubuntu restricted extras package in Adept , which would allow to play most common media formats like MP3, DVD, Flash, Quicktime, WMA and WMV. Similarly for DVD, package libdvdcss2 need to be installed, for flash plug-in flashplugin-nonfree and for java sun-java6-bin and sun-java6-jre.
Documentation and Support:
Ubuntu documentation is probably the best in its class and Kubuntu shares most of it. Ubuntu has two types of documentation - Documents from Cannonical and Communitydocuments. It is very likely that we will find answers to most of our questions here. If not then there is always the Ubuntu and Kubuntu forums. Both of these forums are famous for being highly
active and Ubuntu enjoys the privilege of having the most helpful community. I feel the Ubuntu community is the major reason for Ubuntu gaining popularity. No other distribution comes close to Ubuntu when it comes to documents and community support.
Kubuntu provides a very usable and integrated desktop out of the box. It has a very good mix and match of default applications. Configuring Kubuntu and installing package is very easy and intuitive. I like the policy of not providing the non-OSS with default install, rather offering a very easy way of installing them accompanied by good documents for making it further easy.
Kubuntu appears a dream desktop distribution, yet it lacks some very basic features, like an option to install online updated packages during basic install itself, installing non-hardware
supported packages e.g. Bluetooth and CUPS packages, not including Firefox as part of default install and lastly having multiple repositories.
These small problems apart, Kubuntu scores very high on usability, default configuration and hardware detection.The best part about Kubuntu is that it is usable from the word go. I would suggest Kubuntu to everyone, from the computer newbie/ recent Windows convert to the seasoned Linux programmers.