As some of you know, I like KDE. I like it a lot, but starting with 4.x, I was very limited on using it. I like lightweight desktop environments. For me, personally, using a computer is rather utilitarian. The machine and OS should be there to let me do what I want to do on it, not get in the way. Yet I like KDE for a number of reasons, though I do not use it an dhave not really done so in some time. So, when /someone/ said, "Hey, how about you review this distro because you have been a fan of KDE," a certain part of me was jumping up and down with excitement to play around with KDE.
Kubuntu, as the name implies, is a Ubuntu based distribution, focusing on KDE.
Now, my "test" environments are somewhat limited. There is the machine on which I run virtual machines. Typically, this is where I do most testing. Sometimes, I will grab an old machine that is good for little else. (Note: old machines with big volumes and fast NIC's make really good file servers, but are not so good at checking out this sort of distribution.) Because this is KDE and Unbuntu that we are talking about, I did not want to use a low-resource machine, or a virtual machine because I want to see what the OS can do, not see what it can do with chains and shackles.
This leaves me testing this out on my "standard system" - my netbook. AMD 64, dual core, blah, blah, stat this, stat that. So, okay, here was my experience.
1) Download the ISO (CD)
There were a few options for downloading Kubuntu 11.04. Reading the differences, it seemed that the CD one was the best for me as I did not need extensive language packs.
2) UNetBootIN to flash
Okay, for all of you out there what are not "Linux users" - you want to get unetbootin. It is available for Win (patui) Mac and Linux. It is a tool that will make bootable USB sticks for, like, whatever OS. It can pull distro's off the interwebz, or in this case, from a local ISO. I used a 1G stick for this operation, so obviously there is not a huge investment required here.
4) Boot and test live
So, I booted and took a look at the "Live" boot. (This means that I have booted off and am running from the ISO image on the USB stick. Nothing on my HDD was changed, but I still get to check out Kubuntu. This is a great way to sample Linux OS's - hint hint.)
What can I say - it is KDE. Big, pretty icons, applets and widgets all over the place. Everything that is "there" in Linux is there is one way or another. There is the panel - up top by default. More little applets and launchers can be added to it. The "Menu" though is (a la Mac) in the context of the focussed app. Also, and this may be because of the netbook-ness of things, it wants to run everything maximized - even otherwise small dialogs.
5) Reboot and choose to install.
This is not a requirement. I /could/ have installed from the running Live, but I chose instead to just run the installer, as I was not sure what I was in for.
Plugged in to power - check
4 GB HDD - check
Internet connection - check
3rd pty Software prompt - yeah, sure, give'em to me.
Download updates during installation. Yep... gonna have to do updates anyway.
7) "Disk Setup"
Well, I /could/ use the entire disk for Kubuntu - just let it have it.
Or - I /could/ set it all up manually.
Or - Take the prompted side-by-side installation where it wants to resize the partition and make a new one with Kubuntu. Hmmm... I think this is the option I want because then I can just blow away the partition I do not want when all is said and done and fix the bootloader.
Taking a quick peak at the "Manual" options. Okay, they look pretty standard - I can make new partitions, resize, format / and leave /home alone.
Next step it install. Did I mention that I had already backed up?
(After the spinning cursor...)
Okay, there was a list to pick from.
Well, it had been working on that since it finished setting up the partitions.
And, installing the updates... zzzz..... (Slow connection, not the distro's fault.)
11) Okay, done installing and rebooting. Yes, it looks very KDEy. (Kay-Dee-Eee-ee) This much KDE-ness may be a little much for a netbook.
12) The user experience:
Out of the box, this feels a lot like "Here, this is what you want to do... it is all right here, in your face... games, interwebz AND office productivity." So, I have a lot of things to turn off, but at least the system settings app it right there on top with my e-mail, because, you know, right aft I check my e-mail, I am always going to adjust my system settings.
Oh, and having a "menu" with one item - "Close" - makes me really want to use it, but that is me.
So, there are "pages" instead of "workspaces"
I have to give it "props" for defaulting the theme to "Air - for netbooks"
Oh, and I should go on to say that for pretty, KDE has always done it well.
Also, KDE has done settings rather well. They are easy to find and fix, you know? Even the one that I am resisting much - Put away the toys and just gimme a desktop.
Also, also, is the "Live" really does represent the installed product quite well. If you have unfamiliar with KDE, PLEASE play with the "Live" for a while first.
And look - there is Amarok. Hi, Amarok - how is it going?
Oh-Kay... "Page One" is not a desktop/workspace... it is ... a widget? Yeah, well, it seems like that sidebar that Vista likes so much, but full-screen. I /could/ set this up with toys and apps... It does get out of the way fairly well; just sitting there in the background.
It (the desktop manager) seems rather keen on a cloud-type desktop. There was this login-thing that just said "You need to log in to access this site" - What site? Really, I would like to know. Maybe later.
Whoa! I was looking for like, the apps, and not finding them, clicked on "search and launch" - presto - back to that first screen I got. It was a bit of a face-palm moment. Let me just get out to the interwebz for a moment.
Got distracted again. You know what I do not like about having this, "search and launch" thing for all my launching needs? I have to go to it to use is. I want to just click on my launcher. Okay, but so it has "apt" but it cannot find my online backup package... will have to "go get" it. Sigh... going to look around a little bit more before I do that.
Installing sshfs - mounting my lan mounts. No, that is not something dirty.
This is _so_ Mac-like that it is a little creepy. I think I have a one-button mouse around here somewhere.
So, I was, then, adding some things to the panel, task-swapping, setting up backgrounds and whatnot, and I seem to have dragged my mouse somewhere I should not have. It gave me that little "tab" to adjust the applet and ... well, so my DESKTOP MANAGER was not responding. I could not clear the thing, and could not put focus back on the taskbar or anything. It finally said - hey, that thing is not responding, wanna close it. I said "sure, it is not like it is doing anything." Then I lost it all. Had to use the power button.
Okay, back up and playing around again... stripping things back down - removing widgets, etc.
13) Wrapping things up
I have more apps to install, and more playing around to do. As for right now, this thing is cool - fun and pretty as expected. Yes, I am going to see how "thin" I can get it, but I am not going to hold up this review for that.
14) Another thing on the positive side:
No extra drivers to install afterward. Worked fine with wireless and display and figured out that it was a netbook all on its own.
15) Final assessment:
This is an excellent distribution for someone who wants a nice, good-looking system handed to them with what they need to get going. There is a lot there to get news and information at your fingertips straight away.
The Live bootup provides an excellent preview of exactly what to expect with the desktop. And, like one would expect from a Live boot with installation, the system is available for use during the installation. (Not that I took that option - but I /could/have.)
The installation package is one I have seen before, nice, up-to-date and working well; but not the only place to get it.
Not the thinnest running system out there today - KDE was never meant for that - so it will not replace my standard system distro, but I think this is right there, good as any, for one of those entertainment-system setups.
I highly recommend this distribution for human usage. In particular for humans who plan on interacting socially via the interwebz, watching movies and listening to music. (It will, of course, do way more than that, mind you. Way more.)