Test Driving Kubuntu 8.04
Posted by Ray
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 things 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.
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 188.8.131.52. 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.
(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.
Posted on 27 April, 2008, in Computer Stuff, Distro Reviews, Open Source and tagged Desktop environment, distro, Graphic Subsystems, Kaffeine, kde, Kubuntu, linux, Open Source, OpenOffice.org, Operating system, Windows. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.