Mission "Kubuntu Migration" Accomplished

Tuesday, February 26. 2008

After I had first Kubuntu impressions using a VMware image I finally did it. My SuSE 10.2 partition was wipped out and Kubuntu 7.10 "Gutsy Gibbon" has been installed. This happened several weeks ago. In the meatime I found several pleasant surprises while enjoying a Kubuntu installation for my daily work. However where light is there are also shadows.

This article supplements my initial review. I will use the same categories, where I feel there are updates worth mentioning as well as some new ones. Please consider this article as a delta to my first impressions. To get a full understanding of this review, please read my first Kubuntu impressions first.


As already mentioned in the first update of my first Kubuntu impressions my Laptop (HP Compaq nw8240 with a ATI Mobility X700) was unable to show the desktop of the life CD cleanly. It was flickering heavily and unusable. Seems like my laptop has some problems with the OpenSource radeon driver. So I had to download the alternate install CD, which does not provide a life desktop, but a simple curses based installer. The installer was easy to use and didn't require much steps. However it is not very attractive. SuSEs graphical installer was working with no problems. However after the SuSE installation finished I also had the same flickering X setup. So there is no real difference here. In both cases I had to install the ATI driver later on. However on SuSE I had to download the driver and compile it first, which can be very annoying on a fresh installation, where most development packages are missing. On Kubuntu all I had to do was to enable the restricted repository and run apt-get install. A clear win for Kubuntu.

I criticized SuSE for being unable to activate my Intel Centrino IPW2200 WLAN chip during installation for downloading packages. No problem for Kubuntu. The driver was loaded perfectly and all I had to do was to enter the required parameters to access my WLAN. That's how I expect things to be. Hope this was fixed for SuSE 10.3.

Another thing that impressed me was the speed of the installation. The debian packager is much faster than RPM, but more on that later.

I have just one area of concern regarding the installer. During the installation, some packages require interaction. The installation process is stopped and does not continue until the user has given input. This happened twice at a progress of around 30% and then around 50%. I had started the installation and went for lunch and had hopped that the installation has already completed. Instead I was presented with a question. Would be much nicer, if Kubuntu would simply install the packages and ask the required questions later.


Kubuntus grub boot manager is shown as plain text. Functional but not very attractive. I would like to see something fancy here like the SuSE is doing. Is it important? No, however it is the first impression after the BIOS and a little polishing would not harm.

But what is much more important is the speed of the boot process. I do not have numbers, but my subjective impression is that my Kubuntu installation boots in half the time of my previous SuSE 10.2 installation. Same for shutting down - Kubuntu is much faster.


After I had seen the default desktop using installation in a VMware image there were no surprises.

However what is very nice was the easy installation of XGL. Simply run apt-get install xserver-xgl and Kubuntu is automatically configured to use XGL instead of the standard X server. Run apt-get remove xserver-xgl and you are back to the standard X server. Who ever tried to make XGL run on SuSE 10.2 knows how many pitfalls someone must face until it is running and how troublesome it is to deactivate it again.

However I was not very happy with XGL and there were several points that made it inacceptable for a daily desktop on a laptop. I need to work with a external monitor and then with a beamer for a presentation. This requires the use of xrandr to change the resolution and the ability to use aticonfig to enable external monitors on the fly. Neither worked with XGL. So running XGL was no option for me.

Luckily the latest ATI driver provides AIGLX support and now I am running Compiz Fusion and enjoy all the fancy effects a Microsoft Windows user might enjoy with Windows 7 (the Vista successor) or never.

System Configuration

I haven't missed YaST yet. However I have installed Kubuntu on a desktop and not on a server where I am running Postfix, Bind, Squid and so on... all that can be configured easily with YaST.

One notable thing is the use of Network Manager to connect to wired and wireless networks. I guess this is a reason, why Kubuntu boots much faster as SuSE takes some time until DHCP has acquired a address. In SuSE 10.2 there was also the option to control the network by KInternet. However it never really worked as expected. Network Manager does its job very nicely and makes it very easy to connect to another WLAN on the fly.

Package Management

All the time I was running SuSE I thought that RPM is just good enough. I thought that since I am using apt-rpm and later Smart all the real problems are gone. I didn't know how wrong I was.

First RPM is slow - awfully slow compared to the Debian package installer. Smart makes it worse since it has to update its cache each time it is started.

Then there are virtual packages. Want to try KDE4? Run apt-get install kde4. This installs all KDE 4 packages at once since kde4 is a virtual package that has dependencies on all the other packages.

OK, you've done evaluating KDE 4 (it is a great and very promising desktop, but I am afraid that it has to mature... stay tuned for a review) and want to continue using KDE 3.5.9 and deinstall it. What would you do on SuSE with RPM? You have to find all the packages that are related to KDE 4 and deinstall them. Do you really remember what has been installed, when you've installed all dependencies? All the libraries that are not part of KDE 4 but had been used by it? With RPM you will hardly clean up all installed packages that are no longer required. With the debian file format a package that is installed as dependency is marked as packages that have been installed as required dependency. This enables APT to remove all packages that are no longer required. To clean up all KDE 4 packages all you have to do is to run apt-get remove kde4 and then apt-get autoremove. That's it. All dependencies of the KDE 4 virtual package are gone.

The only thing I am missing is a fuzzy suggestion of a package name in case a package name is not existing. Smart suggests similar package name, when you try to install a non existing package. On the other hand Kubuntu has tab completion for package names. That's right... Simply type apt-get install ama<TAB> and you get apt-get install amarok. Another two TABs reveal all the sub packages like amarok-xine.

Another nice gadget that provides Kubuntu is that it suggests to install a package along with its name, when you try to run a programm that is not yet installed:

# evolution
The program 'evolution' is currently not installed.  You can install it by typing:
sudo apt-get install evolution
bash: evolution: command not found

All together I am deeply impressed by the package management. This alone makes a switch back to openSUSE very hard.

I also noted that Kubuntu has a single package for every single programm. SuSE has kde3-pim which contains numerous applications like KMail, KOrganizer and so on. Kubuntu has a package for almost every single program, which allows you to only install, what you need. The result is that Kubuntu needs far less space compared to SuSE. On my notebook with a 80 GB harddisk, where 50% has to be reserved for that bloated other OS, this is very appreciated even today.


In my first impressions I already noticed that Kubuntu does not really care about security due to its lack of an out-of-the-box IP tables network filter setup (to not say "firewall" again ;-) ). During installation I tried to fiddle with the password fields of the user that is set up and I was surprised that it accepted passwords like foo or password with no warning. It's OK that cheap insecure passwords are accepted, but it should be a good style to warn the user that his password is potentially insecure at least.

Power Management

Unfortunately suspend2 didn't provide my with a working hibernate in combination with 3D acceleration. Worse: It did not even work without it. As soon as I try to suspend to disk, my system locks up. No matter whether I use suspend2 or the kernels standard ACPI functions.

Googling showned that there was a problem with the ATI drivers and a friendly soul (the same soul that brought me to Kubuntu - Hi Murphy!) had the same problems on his IBM Thinkpad. When ATI released a new driver, this fixed the problem for him - but not for me. Further googling showed up that it seems to be a special problem with some HP notebooks.

Well - for now I am living without suspend to disk support and I hope that the next release of Kubuntu will fix that.


Like most other Linux distributions, Kubuntu does not ship audio and video codecs like MP3 or DivX by default. These codecs along with Kaffeine, Mplayer or Codeine can be fetched from the Medibuntu repositories. This contains everything you need to play almost every video and every audio file. Simply add the repositories and run apt-get.


What impressed me most right after the package management were the great Ubuntu community sites. Most of the information that is relevant to Ubuntu also applies to Kubuntu.

While the documentation site covers the usual basic stuff, which won't help much, when you have real problems, there is also a wiki that provides community documentations which clearly surpases the openSUSE wiki that is more or less a wiki version of the former SuSE support database. The community docs are on the leading edge and cover things like the latest ATI AIGLX support already.

Then there are the Ubuntu forums, which has 1.821.026 posts at the time of this writing. Almost everything has been asked there already and in case you were not able to find an answer, post a question and you will get a response very quickly.

Think you have found a bug in (K)ubuntu? Go to Launchpad, the defect tracking system used by Ubuntu.

Using Google finding answers to your questions is very easy and doesn't take very long. With the exception of my suspend to disk problems (where there seems to be no solution) no problem did take more than 10 minutes googling to find the correct solution.


All together I am very pleased with Kubuntu. My review may not be fair, since SuSE 10.3 might have improved several things. However to be honest, before installing Kubuntu I tried to upgrade my SuSE 10.2 installation to SuSE 10.3 and failed horribly at resolving dependencies. Obviously the use of Smart along with repositories like Guru and Pacman introduced so many dependencies that I gave up after half an hour of trying to resolve the dependencies. Since APT is the official supported way of installing packages on Kubuntu I have the hope that the upgrade to Hardy Heron will be much easier.

I would wish that Kubuntu would pay more attention to security like installing a default IP tables configuration and warns of insecure passwords. But other than that it beats openSUSE in almost every discipline.

Kubuntu has won another happy user. Congratulations to the developers.


Trackback specific URI for this entry
    First Kubuntu Impressions
    WAs 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 rep
    Weblog: The Occasional Thoughts of Yaba
    Tracked: Feb 26, 21:34
    Weblog: www.astrolime.com
    Tracked: Mar 19, 23:26


    #1 apokryphos on 02/27/08 at 12:05 AM
    *Since you don't have numbers for installation, I do :-) http://francis.giannaros.org/blog/2007/08/23/comparing-distribution-boot-times/
    Yes, openSUSE 10.2 is pretty old and openSUSE 10.3 is an awful lot better (especially with regard to package management).

    And finally, if you try using a completely unsupported method (that is, using smart) to upgrade to the next version you shouldn't be surprised when it fails.

    I'm sure a Kubuntu upgrade wouldn't work if you tried using YaST to do it too.
    #1.1 Carsten Schlipf on 02/27/08 at 03:06 PM
    *The point is that using YaST in SuSE 10.2 the package choice was very limited. E.g. there is no way to get a kaffeine that can play proprietary codecs. Same applies to latest KDE packages. SuSE does only provide updates and backports. That's why I had to resort to Smart. In Kubuntu there is no need to use a unsupported package manager. One question: Why did SuSE not incorporate Smart earlier but had to work on its own tools for 10.2 and a completely new one for 10.3?
    #1.1.1 apokryphos on 02/27/08 at 03:43 PM
    *I have no idea why you think that you couldn't add Packman or get the multimedia codecs with YaST, but I assure you that idea is incorrect. Just follow the official community guide: http://opensuse-community.org/Restricted_Formats
    # Carsten Schlipf on 02/27/08 at 04:26 PM
    *If you follow the URLs for 10.2 that are mentioned there you end up with http://opensuse-community.org/Repositories/10.2. If you scroll down you'll see that they mention the use of Smart here, which is still much faster and better in dependency resolution than zypper or YaST. However I've learned from your comment, that Smart should not be used... so I have to resort to the even slower YaST or zypper for installing? Just for the record: I am still refering to SuSE 10.2. Another very interesting thing on the same page: The first recommendation is to disable ZMD, which is used by default... Hello? Then why have they used ZMD? Why did openSUSE 10.2 need at least 3 different package managers? Because none of them met all needs? Still 10.3 might be better here - for me it's too late.
    #2 Benjamin Weber on 02/27/08 at 02:04 PM
    *Just for your information, there are patterns in openSUSE instead of meta packages, so you can deselect/select all of KDE at once in yast -> software management -> patterns.

    Or using command line "zypper in -t pattern kde" or "zypper rm -t pattern kde" or "zypper in -t pattern xgl". I doubt that smart supports patterns though.

    As for speed, this is not really an rpm issue, in fact for the actual install/remove part of the process rpm is actually faster. The performance difference you are noticing is the higher level package management tools which deal with repositories (zypper/smart/apt). apt is much faster than zypper in older versions of suse. zypp is much faster in 10.3, and so fast you will hardly notice any delay in 11.0 ( see http://duncan.mac-vicar.com/blog/archives/296 )
    #2.1 Carsten Schlipf on 02/27/08 at 03:02 PM
    *Using patterns you can easily deselect all packages with a name starting with KDE*, that's true. However when you install this, you can get a lot of packages that do not start with KDE like libxml. So how do you remove these while ensuring that you don't break other dependencies? WRT to the performance of the package managers. Yes, SMART clearly adds a significant overhead. However when I compare the installation of a deb package using dpkg and a rpm package using rpm only, dpkg is still much faster. However you may be right that this has improved in SuSE 10.3. That's why I explicitly noted that I cannot provide comparisons against 10.3.
    #2.1.1 Benjamin Weber on 02/27/08 at 03:11 PM
    *My RPM vs dpkg performance experiences are opposite, but YMMV.

    Patterns are like a group of packages, they are not a pattern of package names as you seem to think.

    The KDE "Pattern" installs a basic KDE desktop. Removing the KDE Pattern removes the basic KDE desktop.
    #3 sparti on 02/27/08 at 03:26 PM
    *So if not using smart - What is the best way to integrate the packman repository into SuSE 10.3?
    #3.1 apokryphos on 02/27/08 at 03:42 PM
    *http://opensuse-community.org/Multimedia (and follow the 1-click-install -- recommended) Or you can just go to YaST -> Software -> Community Repositories, and add it.
    #4 ~=wandm=~ on 02/27/08 at 08:55 PM
    *Nice. I use Kubuntu 7.04 on Desktop & openSUSE 10.3 on the Laptop.

    I agree that apt-get is great. BTW make sure you explore 'apt-cache' command. But to defend openSUSE, I have to say that zypper in 10.3 is pretty fast and nice.

    For me, openSUSE beats Kubuntu in Laptop support and in WPA configuration.

    These two have remained my favourite distros for a while, I want to stay 'fluent' with both..
    #5 Naresh V on 02/29/08 at 06:12 AM
    *"Kubuntu vs. OpenSUSE" ?

    As far as my experience goes with Kubuntu Gutsy and OpenSUSE 10.3, the look 'n' feel of OpenSUSE is definitely mind-blowing... but that's about it. Up until you've installed the OS you're happy. What makes a difference is what you do later. And one more thing, OpenSUSE had taken care of the "no sound from speakers" thing whereas Gutsy hadn't ( https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux-source-2.6.22/+bug/131133 ).
    Most laptop users with HDA Intel audio would've been clueless here (the fix cam much later through backports). Kubuntu, thanks to Debian, has a *large* software repository, and you won't feel left out like I usually do on OpenSUSE. There's simply no comparison at this level.

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