Test Driving Kubuntu 8.04

For all of my love of control and the other great stuff that comes with my usual distro, I also like to try out new thingsThe Kubuntu Logo and see what’s going on elsewhere. To that end I decided to give Kubuntu a go. And I have been pleasantly surprised.

Firstly, the install itself. When you first boot up the build disk you are given several options, the one to use the disk as a live disk is still there, but you can choose to install directly from boot (as with other distros), I chose that and it went very quickly, as you would expect. I won’t go through the steps here as there were only a small number. Kubuntu installs a limited number of apps on first install, leaving you to use them or add to them as you wish.

The basic Kubuntu desktop with DVD inserted

All of my hardware was detected and installed, even my wireless card, with no tweaking from me. On first boot you are presented with an empty KDE 3.5.9 desktop – the trash icon is down by the clock. Very clean, very attractive. All the apps (where possible) are KDE apps – Kopete for IM, Konqueror for browsing, digiKam for photo management and so on. Oddly, the office suite is OpenOffice.org rather than KOffice – probably because OO.o is the most well known. Loooking through Adept (rather than Synaptic) you can also choose to install Firefox 3 instead of (or as well as) Firefox 2.0.0.14. The software is new enough without being totally bleeding edge and seems very stable.

As I’m a laptop user, I have the suspend/hibernate options available and so far have briefly tested suspend. It works absolutely fine with no tweaking – though it should be said that I am on a Thinkpad R40 which is old enough that it should work: there are no brand new bits of kit to get used to. I suspended for a few seconds and it came back with only one problem: randomly keys repeat even though I only press quickly. This may not be down to Kubuntu, though I haven’t seen it in either Debian or Slackware. Small gripe number 2: my wireless card had to be removed and reseated as hibernation disabled it. It’s PCMCIA though, so a matter of a second to get it redetected. Otherwise, suspend seems to work well and with minimal problems. To compare with a well known OS, I have known of Windows laptops to also have great issues with suspend and hibernate, so it shouldn’t be taken as a showstopper or that Kubuntu is left wanting.

For those of us who find sick pleasure in having to search for solutions to things that you would expect to work well, Kubuntu comes up trumps. I wanted to test playback of commercial DVDs and so assumed that they would work out of the box. Not so. Because of legal limitations on libdvdcss in various countries, you need to install that seperately. This is a 2 step process as I have learned: first you install the Medibuntu repositories. Medibuntu stands for “Multimedia, Entertainment & Distractions In Ubuntu” and provides for all the codecs you need to play various multimedia files but are restricted from doing so in various countries. This will give you win32 codecs and libdvdcss – among others. The latest version of libdvdcss is 1.2.9 and does not work. Instead, you need 1.2.5 and everything works fine. Unfortunately, when Kaffeine loads up it tries to find this itself and looks to http://kubuntu.org/packages which doesn’t have the required files. Hopefully this will be fixed in future releases because it gave me a frustrating time. Instead you should run /usr/lib/kaffeine/install-codecs and, after accepting the legal warning, it installs the older version and gets things running.

Kaffeine playing

(click for better quality)

In previous versions of Kubuntu, I have fallen foul of the root user/password restriction. Some programs require root rather than sudo access. So far, this hasn’t been an issue. Frankly 8.04 seems, within the first 24 hours of usage, to be the first version I could envisage keeping on my system for more than few days. It seems stable and doesn’t have any long term quirks that would prompt me to remove it.

A good first system for the average computer user and a decent system for someone who doesn’t want to have to delve too deeply into the inner workings of the OS.

Download the current version here. Get the KDE 4 Remix version here.

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Posted on 27 April, 2008, in Computer Stuff, Distro Reviews, Open Source and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I might play around with this distro a bit. I tried one of the alphas and didn’t like the quirks at the time. And, I’ve gotten used to Gnome’s simpler application menu structure, so I’d have to hack out the default KDE one, as I don’t like all the submenus any more (too much work). There’s some other cool stuff that’s been included, like Policykit, which solves one thing that’s been a bit of an annoyance in the GUI for a while.

    BTW, if you sudo su and then passwd you then have root access and nobody else does. I think that’s safer than not doing it. But, that’s just my opinion.

  2. The KDE menu is massively simplified on this release, by default there are no submenus. It makes finding things easier if you are used to plain menus, but harder if you’re used to stock KDE! As to the root password, I’m happy, for now, to leave it as it is – I suspect that some of my preious problems were down to trying to make Kubuntu too much like Debian or Slack.

  3. The issue with distributing multimedia codecs really get me mad.

    Why should there be any legal restrictions on distributing media codecs and why the hell shouldn’t Linux users be able to watch DVDs on their systems if they’ve bought it legally?

    Content Scrambling is a shameful procedure adopted by the media companies to deny their paying customers fair use privileges and I consider it nothing short of pathetic that many people who know no better think that just installing and using a codec is a “crime” and adopt a holier than thou attitude.

    Long live libdvdcss!

    haris last blog post..BiaMovE – advanced mencoder GUI

  4. Absolutely agree with you Hari.

    Rays last blog post..Test Driving Kubuntu 8.04

  5. I watch DVD’s on my 42″ LCD HDTV. Watching such things on a computer or laptop just doesn’t cut it in my opinion nowadays. 😛

  6. I normally watch them big screen, but i prefer the laptop because there’s less messing about and I don’t have to watch trailers!

    Rays last blog post..Test Driving Kubuntu 8.04

  7. Yeah…I am not crazy about watching my computer screen like I watch a TV. There is just something about laying out on a couch and watching a big screen. In a world with high def, I am surprised that people still watch a tiny movie screen.

  8. Between kids TV, football, cricket, teletext and whatever else may be on that everyone else wants to watch, I’m lucky if I even see the TV let alone watch a film on it. The laptop is my area and I can watch what I want, when I want on it!

  9. This sound really cool.
    thanks

    Free Widgets for Websitess last blog post..Sleek RSS Feed Reader Widget

  10. Good article. Thanks. Got dvd’s working fine now in my Kubuntu.

    It’s a bit of a nuisance to install all these codecs at first, bu everything seems to work smoothly for me now.

  11. Ah, but once you’ve got them, the job is done 🙂

  12. Great article. In linux based operating systems- ubuntu, kubuntu etc- this is a common problem, I guess. They have got some built-in media players which runs totally not commonly used media formats. Even to play mp3 you need to install codecs.

  13. Great review. I wanted to try Kubunto for a while now – this is my sign.

    Mike @ Acai Berry and Colon Cleanse Review´s last blog post..Colon Cleanse Pro

  14. Well-written post! I am finally updated on this information

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