Tuesday, February 26. 2008
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.
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.
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:
# evolutionThe program 'evolution' is currently not installed. You can install it by typing:sudo apt-get install evolutionbash: 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.
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.Multimedia
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.
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