First Kubuntu Impressions

Tuesday, December 11. 2007

As I already wrote I am getting curious what is really behind this Ubuntu hype. All the time I google for some kind of problems I find plenty of information dedicated to Ubuntu. Colleagues started to use Ubuntu and are happy with it. Also the media reports more and more about it and someone could get the impression that Ubuntu is the only end user distribution that really matters.

However as a long term SuSE user I will not simply delete my openSuSE 10.2 installation and replace it by Ubuntu. Especially since openSuSE became better and better and is currently really not a bad distribution. Also as a software developer with quite some experience in the IT world, I do not believe hypes until I experienced them myself (that's why I don't use Mac OS X or Windows Vista ;-)).

Since I like KDE better than Gnome for its configurability, I have chosen to start with Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu.

The first step of my potential Kubuntu migration is an installation on a VMware to fiddle a little bit around with Kubuntu before passing the point of hard return, which is deleting my openSUSE installation. They may be SuSE biased and sometimes wrong, as I am not yet familar with Kubuntu. On the other side this review is intended to help SuSE users to decide, wheather it is worth to switch to Kubuntu or not - so a openSUSE bias is even intended to a certain degree.

I would be very thankful, if you could leave a comment at the end to help me in case I made a statement that is caused by my lack of knowledge about Ubuntu. And if you expecting some either openSuSE or Kubuntu bashing you'll be disappointed. Finally here are my first impressions and naive findings about Kubuntu.

Different Distributions for Different Users

Before I start with my findings let me explain my definitions of some types of users to which I will refer later on:

  • The beginner has almost no experience with Linux. Typically he has used that piece of software that some folks from Redmond call an Operating System, who are lead by a man, who is best known for behaving like a gorilla on steroids - or short Microsoft Windows. In some cases that user may have used a Apple operating system before. The user expects to be able to install the Linux distribution easily and that the distribution comes with a preconfigured desktop that can be easily used based on his experiences with the operating system he used previously. He is willing to learn how to configure things using an UI, but the shell and config files are something he is afraid of - yet.
  • The professional user just wants to do his work. He has already some experience with Linux, knows how to use google to find solutions to problems and can fix them also without a configuration UI and may even recompile some programms to solve his problems. However he hates the time he needs for such tasks as he wants to concentrate on his real work and prefers an easy and fast way to configure his system.
  • The Linux enthusiast doesn't care of configuration UIs or a convenient preconfigured desktop. His hobby is constantly tweaking the configuration to find out, if something can be done better. He will change every linux distribution to match his needs as good as possible and expects the underlying mechanisms of the distribution to stay out of his way during this process. The later is something he really hates - when some kind of configuration or update mechanism ruins his careful configuration.

If you would put this on a scale, the bloody beginner at a 0, the professional user in between at a 5 and the Linux guru enthusiast at 10, I would consider myself as a 6.5. So this should give you an idea, where my priorities are in this review. However I'll also try to give some objective advices for the beginners and enthusiasts.

Now that we have clarified that, let's start with the review:

Installation: Launching

openSUSE is doing the old style installation: You insert the CD, start your computer, boot from the CD and then the installation will begin in exclusive mode. While the installation is running the computer is occupied by the installation. There is nothing you can do other than watch the progress or some fancy splash screens. This may have some technical advantages as the installer has the system exclusively, but the user is forced to wait until the installation has finished.

Kubuntu is following a different way. The CD contains a live image of kubuntu. After booting from the CD you have a (almost) fully working kubuntu running and you can start playing around and discovering the system, before you start. Yes, the openSUSE CDs also contain a live image. But what is unique for kubuntu is the 'Install Kubuntu' icon on the desktop. Trigger the icon and the installation starts in a window. While the installation is running you can continue to explore the live CD and play a little bit around. Really cool!

Manual partitioning during the installation of Kubuntu.

I guess a Beginner might not care about that although I don't see that it will trouble him. But a more experienced user will definitely like this kind of installation.

No real difference.

Due to the ability to play around during the installation.

Due to the ability to play around during the installation.

Installation: Preconfiguration and Package Selections

The installation wizard of openSUSE is well designed, easy to use and a help is always available on the left. I never had any problems understanding the installation or made wrong selections by accident. So I would consider the installation very user friendly. Most pages have 'Advanced...' buttons to allow a deeper fine tuning of the settings for advanced users. Beginners can select between either a standard Gnome or standard KDE desktops with a preselektion of the most important applications, while more sophisticated users can select and deselect single packages and configure the installed software up to a very fine grained level. After the packages have been installed, the user is prompted for a detailed network configuration of his interfaces, including proxy servers and internet service providers. There are even predefined settings for the most popular ISPs to make the configuration as easy as possible. These are mandatory steps for the first update of the fresh installation that can be done before the first boot, but may also be done later.

Although a beginner may simple accept the defaults for the most cases, there is a chance that we gets lost or does a serious misconfiguration that results in a unusable system later on (e.g. during the boot loader configuration). A professional will most probably not care. He is familar with all that technical stuff and everything can be done in a convenient way. On the other hand the preconfiguration takes some time before the package installation starts and again some time after the packages have been copied. The enthusiast will love the fine tuning he can already do at the installation and will take some time to review the default package selection and adjust them to his need.

The Kubuntu wizard is a simple six step process:

  1. Language selection
  2. Timezone selection
  3. Keyboard Layout
  4. Prepare disk space and Partitioning - Kubuntu makes a suggestion, but you can also resize existing partitions or do a completely manual partitioning (see screenshot above).
  5. User details: Name, Password and Computer Name
  6. Installation

There are no advanced help texts, but the wizard is so simple that these are simply not needed. Clearly the best option! I can't image an installation process that is easier.

On the downside the installation is just a 6 step process - nothing more. No detailed setup of the network - DHCP is the default. No setup of an ISP. And no detailed package selection. You have to accept the defaults and configure the system later on. And please don't forget to run an update.

Another - minor - thing I've noticed is that there is no check for a secure password. I entered 'foo' into the password field and the wizard accepted it with no warning that the password is too simple.


Clearly the most easiest installation.

Easy and fast installation process.

openSUSE offers much more options during the installation

Installation: Hardware Recognition

Hardware recognition is very good. On my laptop (HP Compaq nw8240 that is dominated by Intel chips for LAN, WLAN and Audio but the ATI Radeon Mobility X700 graphics chip) everything worked out of the box with 2 exceptions: First the X server shows random artifacts after the installation with the open source radeon driver, which got solved by installing the proprietary ATI drivers and then the WLAN chip, which required to install the firmware for the driver.

The later means that you cannot do the online update during installation, when you are not connected to a wired network.

While the Intel WLAN firmware was delivered with openSUSE and just waited for being installed, the ATI driver had to be downloaded and compiled first. Before I could compile I had to install a couple of development packages. All in all not a big problem for me, but a beginner might have been over strained, since all these steps had to be done on a console. While some Linux and GPL enthusiasts may have objections against including proprietary drivers into a distribution, this would have solved a big problem especially for beginners.

Well, remember that I just installed Kubuntu on a VMware image yet. VMware provides emulations of very well known hardware, so there is no surprise that Kubuntu recognized all the hardware. But what I didn't expect that the VMware started with a resolution of 1680x1050. Kubuntu includes the VMware display driver and has used it already when booting the live image from the CD. That gives some hope that I will not face the same problems with my ATI chip like I had with openSUSE.

Since I haven't installed Kubuntu on my real physical hardware yet, I omit the summary here.


SuSE applies extensive modifications to the desktops. The KDE menu is replaced by KickOff, a completely redesigned menu that offers much more functionality, but sometimes also requires more mouse clicks to perform an action. Some like it, others - like myself - don't. KWins window decoration is a custom theme by openSUSE and there are quite some more or less usefull icons on the desktop. After all it's preconfiguration seems to be targeted at Microsoft Windows switchers, which may not be a bad choice due to its market share.

SuSE also did heavy modifications to the Gnome desktop - modifications that most Gnome users will hate. Normally Gnome has a menu bar with the system tray at the top and a taskbar at the bottom. openSUSEs Gnome desktop is also Windows oriented: A single bar with a launch button that opens a menu (also a custom menu similar to KickOff) and the system tray with a taskbar in between. While the default out of the box KDE desktop does not look bad and makes a polished impression, openSUSEs desktop seems to be the unloved alternative.

The Kubuntu desktop right after its installation.
Kubuntu on the other hand seems to neglect KDE just like openSUSE does it with Gnome. While I personally favour a clean and empty desktop and I generally do not see the benefits of a printer and other icons like help on the desktop. However these icons can easily be deleted.

For beginners however an empty desktop will raise the question where to start? On SuSE a beginner has no problems to find a way to browse the file system or read the openSUSE help pages to get started before he has to open the K Menu. There is nothing bad about the K Menu, but it lists all the applications that are installed. A beginner is overwhelmed by application choices.

Kubuntu does not provide a own window decoration. Instead Crystal is used as windows decoration and Polyester as style. For GTK applications the GTK-QT engine is used. The preconfiguration is nice, but boring.

As desktop search engine Kubuntu is using Strigi, which will also become the default in KDE 4. However the version that is included with Kubuntu seems not to be on par with Beagle, which is used by openSUSE. There are plugins for Firefox and Thunderbird and almost every other applications alreadu available for Beagle, but not for Strigi. Also the Beagle UI looks much more polished in contrast to the simple web based UI of Strigi.

In case you dislike the Kubuntu desktop you can always switch between Ubuntu (Gnome), Xubuntu (XFCE), Edubuntu (Gnome for educational purposes) and back to Kubuntu later. Since I just had a VMware I switched to Ubuntu. And yes, Ubuntu did a much nicer job to present a nice Gnome desktop. The desktop really looks great. So when you judge the out-of-the-box look of the desktop Ubuntu clearly wins. I played a little bit around since I did not use Gnome for a long time. And I must admit that Gnome wasn't sleeping. Well and then I just wanted to adjust the toolbar of nautilus and it was not a big surprise that Gnome does not allow that. Bye, bye - I'm back to Kubuntu. However don't do this on a productive system, if you want to keep it clean from applications you don't use generally. When switching to Ubuntu a lot of Gnome applications were installed, like the F-Spot picture manager, which is no comparison to the powerful DigiKam (IMHO). After a switch you either can leave these applications installed and live with a crowded KMenu (all Gnome applications are listed there) or spent some hours to deinstall these applications.

The Gnome desktop of Ubuntu

A professional or a enthusiast will not care. Both know already how to configure KDE to match their needs. Both know which applications to use to solve which problem. However for beginners I would recommend openSUSE.


When you want to go with KDE, openSUSE offers the best preconfiguration while Kubuntus default desktop is very basic.
No clear winner, as the user will adjust the desktop to his needs anyway.
No clear winner, as the user will adjust the desktop to his needs anyway.

System Configuration

openSuSE makes the system configuration very easy thanks to YaST. There is a YaST module for almost everything: Scanner, firewall, Bluetooth devices, printers, users, backup, DSL provider and even server services like DNS and postfix. YaST is very easy to use and offers the same wizards with contextual help as for the installation.

Almost all the settings you do in YaST are also accessible as text files via files in /etc/sysconfig using your favourite text editor like vi. However changes to these files do not affect the services directly in most cases. YaST and its config files provides an easier abstraction layer above the systems real config files. You have to call SuSEconfig after you've changed files and SuSEconfig will then read in the files from /etc/sysconfig and write the application specific config files, like updating /etc/mail/ and then running postmap. Even the YaST UI is running SuSEconfig at the end of most configuration wizards.

While very easy for the beginner, this has some disadvantages on the downside. First it is slow - sometimes awfully slow. But what is much more trickier is that you'll experience conflicts once you edit the applications config files directly and not via the /etc/sysconfig files. Sometimes you find generic information how to do something with the real config files, sometimes the desired options are not exposed to YaST and you are forced to edit the files. In this case SuSEconfig tracks the md5 checksums of the files and as soons as a file got modified it is no longer overwritten by SuSEconfig. When this works, you can not work with YaST 2 anymore - changes in YaST2 will have no effect. In some cases (which admittedly ocurred less and lesser during the last releases) a conflict is not cleanly resolved and the result were inconsistent settings that did somehow not work and you have to dig deeper into the system to solve the issue.

Another thing that annoyed my in the past was that openSUSE removes some very useful tools from KDE that are more powerful than the YaST equivalent like the KDE printer manager.

Kubuntu provides a System Settings program that partially provides new tools, but also leverages existing KDE tools, like the KDE printer manager. The modules of the System Settings program cover only the most basic aspects, like networking and printer setup. However even modules for configuring a Scanner or the firewall are missing. No need to talk about a mail server of DNS server setup. Kubuntu leaves a unfinished impression here. It seems to rely heavily on tools provided by other developers or leaves the configuration open up to editing config files. E.g. for the firewall configuraiton Kubuntu does not preinstall any configuration tool like Firestarter or Guarddog (more about that later). These tools are available in the standard repositories, but the user must install them manually. Not something I would want to face a beginner with.

On one hand this is bad for beginners, but better for advanced users. You can apply any information you find on the web even for other distributions for configuring applications as long as you deal with standard config files. That would frequently cause configuration troubles with SuSEconfig on openSUSE.

A very pleasant surprise was that Kubuntu had installed the hpijs toolbox for using HP printers. This toolbox allows to query the fill level of the ink cartridges and trigger self cleaning of the print heads. Why isn't openSUSE installing this toolbox, when the user configures a HP printer?


Clearly YaST2 makes configuration much easier.

Kubuntu stays out of the way, when directly editing config files.

Kubuntu has no problems with direct configuration changes. No slow update process required.

Package Management

For KDE and Gnome openSuSE bundles the several standard applications into one logical package. E.g there is a package kde-pim that contains applications like kmail, kontact, knode, korganizer and akregator. This means, that you cannot install kmail, but not akregator. Either you install all kde-pim applications together or non at all. On todays hard disk this is not a big problem, but anyway - you have to install quite some applications that you might never launch just because of one application that you use.

In openSUSE 10.2 Novell's zmd has been used for package management. What a crappy thing! It's slow, awfully slow. On my old server (PIII 500) it even takes several minutes to launch. Luckily the openSUSE project noticed that and removed it from 10.3. Since I haven't used 10.3 yet I cannot talk about the current package manager. However for 10.2 the use of zmd was a big mistake. I really hope that openSUSE finally found a stable solution with 10.3.

So for 10.2 I got rid of zmd and used Smart instead - a great tool. It allows to combine YaST, apt-rpm, plain directories and many more kinds of repositories. The command line tool is easy to use and the GUI is also pretty useable. However the use of Smart silently introduced a new and bigger problem... more on that later.

The Adept Manager is the apt-get frontend that integrates into KDE.
Kubuntu is using the well proven apt-get tool with deb packages. I can't write much about the advantages of the deb format as I do not have any experience with it. From what I've heard the biggest disadvantage of RPM distributions (manual resolvment of dependencies) is solved by tools like Smart or apt-rpm.

There are several different front ends for apt-get to make this powerful tool accessible for beginners. Kubuntu install Adept by default. However it crashed several times during my evaluation. Too bad - it looks very great. I love it. I just would wish, that it would be more stable. But you can also use synaptic as front end - not a bad choice either.

In contrast to openSUSE, Kubuntu provides a package for every single program. When you know, which program you need this is great. You just have to install what you need and omit all the other stuff you never start. Disadvantage: You have to select every single program. Just time consuming for a professional but worse for a beginner, who does not already know the applications. On the other hand a beginner may have it easier to install a program, once he heard about it, while on openSUSE the beginner must first search for the package that contains the program. For example akregator is contained in kdepim.

There are pros and cons for beginners. However for openSUSE 10.2 a beginner will have to configure Smart before having a good package manager

Proven and stable apt-get.

The user is able to strip down the installation to the absolutely needed programs.


After the installation a firewall is active on openSUSE, which prevents access to all ports, but ssh. The X server port is closed as openSUSE recommends tunnel X11 through SSH forwarding. Not a bad choice.

Some may argue that this is not user friendly as a user will experience problems when providing access to his computer via the network using Samba, NFS, a http server or other network services. However the user is notified several times during installation that a firewall will be configured, so he should be aware of that. In my opinion security should preceed convenience. It's better for a user to know that a service cannot be accessed than not knowing what is exposed to the network.

Kubuntu does not install a firewall. It even does not provide configuration options for a firewall in the network setup module of the System Settings application. In fact I haven't found that a Firewall was mentioned anywhere. Very bad! I wonder how long it will take until a Kubuntu worm can be found in the wild. On the other hand the Kubuntu repository provides nice firewall UIs like Firestarter or Kubuntu? Why not preinstall one of them and preconfigure it and make it accessible via the System Settings application? I really would like to see this improved and it could even endanger the good reputation of Ubuntu as soon as a worm will attack Ubuntu installations.

After all even Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows XP SP2 activate a firewall right after the installation. Who thinks that a Sasser-gate would not be possible for Linux just because Linux is claimed to be more secure may recall worms like Ramen or Slapper.


A beginner may not notice the lack of a firewall and expose a potential vulnerable system.

openSUSE comes with a easy to configure Firewall frontend. No need to manually install a configuration tool.
Applications like Guarddog or Firestarter provide more options than openSUSEs firewall tool. However these applications can also be used on openSUSE.

Power Management

For power management openSUSE relies on the standard ACPI support. Either your laptop provides a compatible ACPI support or not. In the later case you may manually patch the DSTL table to make it work.

Good news for me is that my laptop (HP Compaq nw8240) comes with a Linux friendly ACPI implementation. Although suspend to memory does not work, suspend to disk does and that's what really matters, when the battery runs out of power. So far to the good news.

Bad news: The proprietary ATI driver blocks the system from going into the suspend to disk state, when the 3D kernel module is loaded. So on openSUSE I have the choice: Either 3D or suspend to disk. Either fancy screensavers and games or possible data loss, when I run out of power. So my answer was to dismiss 3D support.

That is what pushes me to use Kubuntu: I really would like to have a fancy hardware accelerated desktop with Compiz-Fusion. Kubuntu uses the Suspend2 kernel patches. Suspend2 allows a suspend-to-disk without ACPI support. My hope is that this also works with ATIs kernel module loaded. At least that's what a friend told me. So far I have only tested it in VMware. I do not believe that there is a real ACPI support in a VMware session available. Anyway it did work with Suspend2.

Therefore the clear winner in this discipline is Kubuntu.


Distribution Upgrade

An upgrade of openSUSE has almost no difference to a fresh installation:

  1. Download a DVD image or multiple CD images of the latest openSUSE distribution.
  2. Burn it the image(s).
  3. Reboot from the installation media.
  4. Choose to upgrade instead of new installation.
  5. Follow the wizard.
  6. Resolve package conflicts manually
  7. Follow the wizard.

This works reasonable well, as long as you stick with the SUSE packages. As soon as you install a lot of packages from third party repositories, you're doomed. I have done an upgrade from SuSE Linux 9.1 to openSUSE 10.1 with no problems.

Now I am stuck with my upgrade from 10.2 to 10.3 in the step 5 above. Since I used Smart to fetch and install packages from several repositories that are not officially supported by SuSE like Guru or Pacman, these repositories are not considered for upgrade during the distribution upgrade. Smart is not supported by the YaST package management. All I can do now is to install fresh openSUE 10.3 installation. Or I could try Kubuntu as well.

As Kubuntu is based on Debian there are long term experiences available with apt-get and Debian users enjoy the simple rolling upgrades for a long time already. Since apt-get along with its frontends is similar to Smart there is no need to use an unsupported package management software. So all configured repositories will be available during upgrade and since you do not need to reboot to do the upgrade you even can continue to work with your system while the upgrade is done just like it is possible during installation as desribed above.

Kubuntu made this even easier by providing a graphical upgrade wizard. This article [de] shows a visual guide to the simple upgrade process. Can it be any easier? Hardly!

Once again Kubuntu is the clear winner here.



So let's sum the results up to get an idea, which distribution is better for who according to my findings.


Well, seems like Kubuntu is the clear winner for professional users and also for enthusiasts. For beginners there is a draw. So I would recommend to use the distribution that is used by a friend who is willing to help you with your first step. From the results it seems like a beginner cannot do much wrong.

Please remember that this summary is still biased by my personal point of view, my experiences with openSUSE, my lack of experience with Kubuntu and that I do not claim completeness for all disciplines I have examined and listed above (have an idea of a discipline I should add? Add a comment! It's free ;-) ). Also I still haven't even installed Kubuntu on a real system and used it as my daily development system. There may be come up new issues or new features I do not know and I would soon miss when I might switch to openSUSE.

I will keep you posted of my findings - as soon as I have time to do a Kubuntu migration of my laptop and as soon as I find the time to write.

Update #1: Don't know why I haven't tried it earlier, but I just tried to boot the Kubuntu live system from my Laptop. The X screen is flickering wildly :-(. So I tried to boot with the safe graphics mode - worse! X quit after a short time: Xlib: extension "XFree86-DRI" missing on display ":0.0". When I've installed openSuSE 10.2 I had the same problem with the flickering screen - however after the full installation has been completed. I had to install the ATI fglrx driver to have a non-flickering screen as the default radeon driver caused the problem. On openSUSE that was not a big deal, since I already had an installed system. But what shall I do with Kubuntu? How can I install it, when I cannot make the live CD work? Is there also a command line installer for Kubuntu? Or has someone an idea what I can do to make the Kubuntu live image show a clean image on my Laptop with an ATI radeon X700. I just get the impression that the old fashioned installer of openSUSE has a very good reason ;-)

Well in the worst case I'll have to run the installation on a flickering screen and hope to hit the correct options, when they are hard to read.

Update #2: In the meantime Kubuntu replaced my openSUSE installation and I posted a update that describes my second impressions.


Trackback specific URI for this entry
    The Ubuntu Hype Hits a SuSE User
    Finally the day has come, where me as a long-term SuSE user (my first distribution was SuSE 5.3) is going to check out Ubuntu, or more specifically Kubuntu, the Ubuntu version with KDE.Previously I had worked with many Distributions (Red Hat, RedHat Ent
    Weblog: The Occasional Thoughts of Yaba
    Tracked: Dec 11, 21:54


    #1 sunshineboy on 12/12/07 at 01:07 AM
    *Adept sucks it has destoyed my complete debian installation try synaptic(ok is an gtk-tool but this is ok for me)
    #2 Anonymous on 12/12/07 at 08:50 AM
    *Why do you kompare Kubuntu to an old version of openSUSE!?

    Why do you give points to Kunbutu for having a Live-CD with installer when openSUSE 10.3 offers exactly the same?
    #2.1 Yaba on 12/12/07 at 01:15 PM
    *Because I was not able to upgrade to SUSE 10.3 yet ;-). I didn't notice that SUSE 10.3 allows an installation from a running Live CD. When I booted from the 10.3 installation media, I was prompted, if I would like to run an installation, boot from the hard disk, run the live image... all those options that also were available for 10.2, 10.1, 10.0 and even older versions. I just tried the installation and that launched the old school wizards.
    #2.1.1 Anonymous on 12/12/07 at 03:05 PM
    *There is an installation and there is an installable Live-CD (same as for Kubuntu), you have to pick of course the Live-CD for the Live system. :-)
    # Yaba on 12/14/07 at 10:31 PM
    *OK, when I understand the intention of openSUSE correctly then the standard installation is still the prefered way as this is the way the install media provides. Installation from the Live CD seems to be a more or less convenient method for those that already downloaded the Live CD.
    #3 Bob on 12/12/07 at 10:53 AM
    *As I understand the Linux kernel, netfilter and iptables are integral components which regulate net traffic and form a firewall. Thus, Ubuntu, like SUSE, has a firewall installed by default, as does ~any Linux distro. In Ubuntu, this is closed on ~all ports after a fresh install. By "firewall", you appear to be referring to GUIs which provide simplified configuration management of the settings for iptables, which can be configured manually but are complicated. The GUIs (eg. firestarter) aren't the firewall, just the interfaces to it. So the absence of a GUI to manage the integral firewall isn't a security hole in Ubuntu, though I agree provision of the tool by default would be preferable.
    #3.1 Yaba on 12/12/07 at 12:18 PM
    *Yes, you are right with saying that the mentioned applications are just configuration tools. The firewall core is part of the kernel. However it is not true, that iptables is configured to block ports on a fresh Kubuntu installation. What is true is that Kubuntu does not install any network services by default. That's why there are no ports open. As soon as you install network servers like ssh or samba, all provided ports are reported by a portscan. Also iptables -L shows not a single REJECT rule.
    #3.1.1 lenooh on 12/13/07 at 12:59 PM
    *Regarding the firewall: as you may have noticed during installation, k/ubuntu presumes that you are already behind a firewall/router that's why it sets the ethernet to use dhcp, and that's why it does not ask you any questions regarding ISP and internet setup. All routers have a firewall built in, so what's the point of having two firewalls one behind the other?

    another thing i did not notice you mention it, and it's the reason why i switched from suse to kubuntu, is that all suse versions are desktop+server. so if you install the default system for desktop usage, you get a ton of apps and services that are server related, not to mention the kernel configuration... bloated in whichever way you look at it.
    k/ubuntu on the other hand has separate versions: server and desktop. each has its own kernel, its own services and apps, and its own configuration. so you always get only what you need.
    # Yaba on 12/13/07 at 02:02 PM
    *Remember the Sasser Worm? It caused considerable harm to corporate networks, all that were thought to be "protected" by a corporate firewall. Shall we do nothing for Linux distributions and just believe that all Linux applications are always secure or shall we learn from the errors Microsoft already suffered from? Face it: Today a desktop firewall is required to protect your computer against a colleagues computer, who hibernated his system in an unprotected environment and accidentially releases the monster behind the corporate firewall. However you are right that the need for a firewall on Kubuntu is not that high as on openSUSE, where server software is installed. However people will soon want to work with others in the network and have to share files from their system or give the corporate support organization remote access.
    #4 Hugh on 12/12/07 at 03:22 PM
    *Nice, informative review. I currently use Ubuntu and like it a lot.
    You might want to look into Mandriva 2008 Free edition. It too is a very polished, up to date, everything works right out of the box KDE distro.
    #5 Jim on 12/12/07 at 11:20 PM
    *Nice review. Have you seen the one this guy did:

    Very similar style to yours, I think.
    #5.1 Yaba on 12/13/07 at 08:46 AM
    *Believe it or not - I have not seen it. But the similarities are obvious. Although this guy covers more distributions on a higher level. Respect to him! That must have taken several weeks.
    #6 Chris on 12/13/07 at 06:30 AM
    *Excellent round-up, interesting read, thanks for sharing your experiences!
    #7 roland on 12/13/07 at 06:38 AM
    *Greetz from Germany :-

    Thumbs up for this fine Review. I've used Kubuntu for about 2 Yeras and switched to "sidux" , because it use the Sid-Rep from Debian and I was a little bit tired of "Dist-Upgrading" every 6 Month *scrn*

    Just one thing.. Ubuntu/Kubuntu deactivate the "root"-account, so you don't need a "secure" Password at the installation. You need only a "normal" User :-) .. this, and the fact that by default there are no open ports by default, make Ubuntu secure. A Personal Firewall is obsolte, because it's not really secure...Port 80 for a Browser needs the most :-))

    An Iptable is hard to configure...

    Sorry for my bad's 30 years I've left the school...

    #8 Sid Boyce on 12/13/07 at 02:19 PM
    *The basic false premise of Windows users coming to Linux is that they know all about computers. There used to be a time when people understood that there were different hardware platforms and different OS's all behaving differently. Now everyone thinks she knows everything and how it behaves. The manufactures and the retailers don't think it's pertinent to let you know the source of manufacture of anything, so you couldn't even identify most motherboards sat on a shelf in anti-static bags, everything is sold as a lump that as far as they are concerned, you need to know nothing other than which CD to use. I've even had a question from a youngster of 13 asking when Bill Gates invented the computer.
    Having installed Linux on SPARC, mainframe and PC's, I don't find any distro particularly difficult. I've installed openSUSE and SimplyMEPIS for users ranking from basic Windows users to complete novices aged 78+ and 67+. Once configured, they have no difficulty in using Linux and like Windows users, will at times need assistance with the installation of a new piece of hardware like a printer or change of ISP.
    I run openSUSE as my main distro, but run Mandriva, Kubuntu, PCLinuxOS, SimplyMEPIS, freespire etc. on other hardware and in KVM/Virtualbox on top of openSUSE.
    I think familiarity is the key and if you get accustomed to a particular distro, it will most likely be the one of choice, but they all do the job. Where I would feel powerless is if I didn't have a Linux dostro to work on, even Solaris is a let down as far as usabilty is concerned.
    The one big thing that every time seems to confuse my newbies is when they get a new piece of hardware, hook it up, insert the dreaded Windows driver CD and get lost - seemingly however many times you tell them it's for Windows only, but their more "knowledgeable" close friends and family tell them they need to put the CD in to get the hardware to work. It's difficult for them to understand how just plugging that new digital camera into the USB port makes it work as by magic.
    Many people seem to critique Linux distros by the number of pretty straightforward steps you have to take. Once installed and configured, typically people get on with work/play and most of the time forget the long past installation woes. Articles also dwell on nits like how long it takes to fire up, though when it's up, the next several hours successfully spent doing a spreadsheet or a document seems to count for nothing, it's just the insignificant nits that seem to condemn the application outright.
    #9 heathenx on 12/13/07 at 02:42 PM
    *Very interesting article.

    I am a long time Suse user. I have many computers in my house and all of them run a flavor of ubuntu. On my main rig/server I run openSUSE 10.3. I love openSUSE, I really do, but I do not suggest it to new Linux users. I steer them to ubuntu every time.

    Although I like gnome, I like kde just a little more and that's why I use opneSUSE. They have a very polished kde desktop. kubuntu on the other hand could use the same love that they give ubuntu. When that happens I may even give kubuntu a full go.

    The only gripe that I have with ubuntu flavors is that I cannot easily get the latest and greatest software releases. For example, I have an ubuntu 6.10 desktop and I wanted to upgrade gaim to pidgin and gimp 2.2 to gimp 2.4. It's a difficult thing to do for me. Whereas, this does not seem to be an issue in openSUSE. Maybe I'm wrong here.

    Anyway, I am still evaluating kubuntu but I'm not quite ready to switch to it just yet. kubuntu seems a little bare to me. Both distros keep getting better making the decision to switch harder and harder.
    #10 spiritraveller on 12/13/07 at 04:59 PM
    *You might be interested in testing Ubuntu (Gnome).

    Some of the complaints about configurability in Gnome are not (or at least are no longer) really warranted.

    For example, in Ubuntu 7.10, there are far more options available for printer configuration than there used to be. I believe this was the work of the ubuntu team, rather than the Gnome default.

    It is true that Gnome keeps many configuration options behind the scenes, but usually you can do whatever you want by changing some settings in gconf. Granted, that may not be as intuitive as having it directly available in the System menu, but at least it can be done without too much trouble.

    I personally like the way Gnome hides most of the settings. It is more aesthetically pleasing to me that way. And I still have the ability to tweak finer details if I choose. But I can understand the other side of the argument.

    To each his own.
    #10.1 Yaba on 12/13/07 at 05:09 PM
    *OK, can you show me how to strip down the toolbars of Nautilus and - most of all - Evolution?
    #11 mythus on 12/13/07 at 05:02 PM
    *Nice article. If I may I'd like to touch on a few things.

    heathenx mentioned the reality of kubuntu not getting the same attention as ubuntu. While they are planning on (attempting) to change that in their next release, one must understand that while kubuntu is in the ubuntu family, it has it's own team of developers separate from ubuntu. Kubuntu upgrades have seemingly focused on making kde functions already there work better, while ubuntu upgrades have focused on adding to gnome. Thus, ubuntu has a more polished look, while the things in kde on kubuntu integrate and function smoother.

    There seems to also be some discrepancy upon security of openSUSE and kubuntu. Having been a computer tech using linux, windows, and mac, I can tell you that there is no perfect answer. Now openSUSE does a great job of showing it's use of firewall, and giving the end user the ability to set it up and control it by default (without having to download extra gui's for the firewall), while (k)ubuntu's approach is more simplistic. It instead relies on linux's native firewall, the router's applied firewall, and the deactivation of the permanent root access. They also add in the abiltiy to download gui's to fine tune things, but for most users, this isn't as needed. Most average joes won't set up servers, and the like, while openSUSE sems to come with server kernels already pre-installed.

    Having used both openSUSE and kubuntu (as well as debian, fefora, linux mint, and mandriva), I much prefer the clean desktop o kubuntu over having lots of needles icons. I can always go into kmenu and add shortcuts to the desktop, or the taskbar, or both. Plus I have always had more luck with .deb packages over .rpm (though there are more packages in rpm format than .deb last I checked). So to me, having nothing on my desktop gives me room to display widgets and such, and keeps my computer looking more organized.But that is just my thought on that.

    Anyways, the bottom line is that there is no single o/s (whether it be a linux distro of any kind, windows, mac, bsd...) that is for every single person. Thus the beauty of linux... you can change and change again, and even build your own.

    If you really want to further test (k)ubuntu without completely migrating to it from openSUSE, why not install it in a seperate partion? You can dual-boot kubuntu with other linux distros. Just a though.
    #11.1 Yaba on 12/13/07 at 05:15 PM
    *I agree with everything you said and I also like a clean desktop. Thanks to KDEs configurability it's not a problem to change it to your likings. WRT installing Kubuntu on a separate partition... I would like to do that, if I just would have more harddisk space. But Windows is also needed on my laptop for some rare business reasons.
    #11.1.1 mythus on 12/13/07 at 06:50 PM
    *Yes, hard-drive space issues can be daunting. However, you are still using your hard-drive space to run (k)ubuntu in virtualization. So instead of running it in virtualization, use that same amount of space to run (k)ubuntu in a separate partition. Thanks to tools such as QParted, it is easy to change the partition sizes later, and even get rid of unwanted partitions later. But installing it into it's own partition would then grant you a better experience on how everything works with your set-up, and thus give you a more complete opinion.. For example, you would then be able to see the wondrous kubuntu application called Restricted Devices manger, which automatically tells you that there are restricted drives for your software, and gives you the option to apply them. Truly a big step up for dealing with proprietary devices such as nvidia and ATI. However it has been reported that ATI drivers may still experience problems (something ATI is well aware of and are supposedly trying to fix on their end).

    I too run Windows XP on a separate partition. After all, being in the technical field, I need to keep familiar with windows, to assist the many who can't be bothered with o/s changing. And then there I also use software that isn't available or Linux yet (such as Adobe InDesign.. but I am working on converting my indd documents to scribus...). Despite all that, on the 30 gig I have partitioned for WinXP, I am using around 40%. (K)Ubuntu with all of the programs and such takes even less than that.There's also the option of making kubuntu your main o/s and running openSUSE in virtualization. At least then you'd still have access to the tools you love in openSUSE, as well as being able to fully use kubuntu. Also, there is the option of buying an external hard-drive. While being a somewhat costly option, they don't cost near as much as buying a new computer for the purposes of running a separate o/s. With linux, trully your options are numerous. You always have the option of switching to different distros, just as if deciding to eat a different flavor of icecream. The only real differences between the distros is the tools given, and the packaging methods used. But underneath all that they are still Linux. Instead of having to build each one ourselves though, we get to try out pre-configured versions. If you do consider switching distros, or even upgrading your current one, I definetly suggest making backups of your current system. Make a disk containing all of your packages, and a disk containing all of your settings, and a disk with all of your files. That way you haven't lost anything, and should you decide to use that distro again, you won't have to go through the process of re-configuring everything.
    #11.2 stolennomenclature on 12/14/07 at 10:26 AM
    *You can hardly ever read any thread about Linux distros without someone reciting the "no single os will suite every person - the beauty of Linux is that there is a distro for every taste" mantra. I would like to remind people that Linux is the OS - all the Linux distros are the same OS. If you are talking about peeople getting the distro that has the right colour wallpaper, fine. Or get the distro that has fewer bugs. But the reality is that once the distro is installed, provided the distro happens to have all the apps you need in the repo, or you are avle to compile from source, then all the distros are the same (cosmetics excepted).
    And really, everyones expectations of the OS are exactly the same - load and run programs, and support all the hardware on the computer.
    #11.2.1 mythus on 12/14/07 at 05:10 PM
    *Indeed.. however please note what I said about that. "No OS will fit for every single person (including Windows, OSX, Linux...)." I wasn't singling out the distros necessarily as separate o/s'es. Also Further down I even stated that the only differences with the distros were the tools and package managers, that they were all still linux. However from a end-user point of view, installing each one of them would be like installing a new o/s, just like installing windows 98, xp, and vista would be like installing a new o/s for each windows version. They all three are simply windows, just like all the distros are simply linux. However when you go to install ubuntu, debian, openSUSE, you are installing a new linux kernel (despite if it is the same kernel version as on the others) with a modified GUI and set of tools. SO in that respect, it would be like installing separate o/s'es. and thusly each one will not suit every user.
    #12 Spanky on 12/14/07 at 07:12 AM
    *Welcome to the Kubuntu family.
    #13 icecruncher on 12/17/07 at 09:22 AM
    *you should try openSuSE10.3 is't so much better than 10.2.
    Kubuntu is nice but Suse is so much smoother
    #13.1 Yaba on 12/18/07 at 12:50 PM
    *One major point for me is that Kubuntu supports suspend2, which allows me to do a suspend to disk on my laptop while having 3D acceleration. I haven't found an indication yet that openSUSE 10.3 uses suspend2.
    #14 Lars on 12/17/07 at 12:32 PM
    *The flickering screen problem in the live-cd-startup can be solved by downloading the alternate-install-cd image. Gets you an old fashioned installer with lots of things to configure to :-).
    #14.1 Yaba on 12/18/07 at 12:47 PM
    *Thank you very much. I'll try that.
    #14.1.1 Sukhoi on 12/22/07 at 09:15 PM
    *Hello Lars,

    I tried to install alternate CD. It was taking lot of time to get installed on an old 810 test PC with 512MB RAM. Believe, it was more than 75 min!! I couldn't wait for a longer time, will try this later.

    Could anyone please tell me how to invoke new GUI install setup rather than using this old style installer? Thanks in advance.

    BTW, that was a great review. Keep it up :-)

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