Just yesterday, Canonical released one of the most important Ubuntu versions of its history: “Natty Narwhal”. The most famous Linux based desktop officially did away with the Gnome shell and replaced it with the Gnome based Unity shell (wikipedia to the rescue).
There was a time (see here) that I really wanted to like KDE 4 as opposed to Gnome. I only reverted back to Gnome, because KDE was slower than a pair of mocassins in a pot of molasses. So, yesterday, I started the regular upgrade process: The upgrade to Unity/Narwhal went fairly smooth and when the much touted shell finally showed up properly, I was fairly impressed. While toy-ish, the window handling appears fairly intuitive (“Mac-like”) and the general layout looks, well, clean. However, it’s buggy and it’s slow, with disk-activity and processor activity spiking out of control without any particular reason.
Returning back to Kubuntu, (you know, all things KDE), I was pleasantly surprised to find out it that is a lot more stable than I’ve seen almost 1 year ago. Heck, it’s even usable. Kubuntu or Ubuntu? Kubuntu, for now. Maybe in another year, I’ll be looking at Unity as my default desktop environment, but as far as it looks like right now, I won’t be looking at Unity for a while.
05/05/2011: It looks like my laptop (equiped with an Intel 9xx GPU) wasn’t the only one with sudden freezes: it seems to have been fixed, right a couple of days ago.
I work in both environments: that is, whenever I think there’s a need for working in KDE or Gnome, I just logout and change session (I have both window managers installed). But that wouldn’t really answer the question, I guess.
Obviously, I really like KDE 4: it’s generally more streamlined than Gnome and while the new Plasma ‘paradigm’ was not really well received during launch, it has improved a lot. However, it’s still buggy, which is the reason, why I mostly login to Gnome. Gnome, is not without issues either: compared to KDE it’s visually less appealing and (from a user-perspective) less intuitive. At one time, I strictly logged into KDE because of Amarok: KDE’s music player is superior to the bunch of media players that come with Gnome.
So, for me the answer to the question ‘Gnome vs. KDE’ would be Gnome. We’ll see how the KDE team fares in the next (K)Ubuntu release.
I run a mix of Gnome and KDE on one of my computers: for a couple of Mono related things, I ended up frequently running the Gnome desktop. Just today, I decided to follow-up on the notifications telling me that I needed to do a dist-upgrade (or rather a partial upgrade), which seemed to suggest that the latest KDE version was finally making it to me. Yay.
Everytime I re-open (or rather revisit) KDE I get surprised, and today was not an exception: once again, it looks like the KDE team seems to hammer out excellent releases. I don’t see a point to go through what has changed, this something you can probably find from the release notes, which, today, I don’t feel like pointing out where they are. OK, that was a joke.
But seriously, on this lowly laptop, windows zoom by, close up, roll down and all in a sober and subtle manner. There appears to be less disk activity, which suggests that performance has improved since the latest Neon release I was running here a while ago. I find Konqueror still clunky and not so flawless yet (there’s that evil non-Flash player bit), however, the spelling checker finally seems to be working. There are still too many unnecessary messageboxes popping up (the notifications are pretty good and useful) asking me to confirm too many things at times. I definitely (still) can’t stand the “Plasma” desktop windows. For some kind of reason, I can’t stand the way how the “close bar” seem to automatically appear on the right or left side of the window.
I‘ve been working so much on Vista and XP lately that I forgot about the release of the first beta for KDE 4.2, so naturally, I decided to download the latest binaries (“Neon”). Barring any bugs, I have to say I’m impressed. The following I felt were worth mentioning:
- There’s an interesting fade out from initial boot-up screen to Desktop. It’s subtle but extremely effective.
- The Taskbar is finally looking good, and yes, it does actually auto- hide. Grouped applications are shown actually better than in Windows: KDE shows them stacked with a number of open ‘grouped’ windows. There’s plenty of more settings you can finally set: however, I’m not sure if I like the way how you have to set and move sliders to resize the Taskbar.
- The KDE Main menu has been overhauled (more ‘blackish’) and there’s a (once again) subtle change in the ‘hover over’ tabs in there
- The ‘Cover flow’ like Screen Switcher works smooth and perfect, even on lower-end graphical system.
- There’s a whole bunch of notification popping up when some actions finish. I don’t like them all (the less the better), but it’s (generally) visually ‘pleasing’.
- Wallpapers can be made dynamic: actually, these are more or less plug-ins now, which means that you can have running slideshows and even running Mandelbrots…
If you happen to run KDE 4.1, the easiest way to upgrade is to add the following line to your sources.lst file:
deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/project-neon/ubuntu intrepid main
Then run a normal apt-update followed by an ‘sudo apt-get install kde-nightly’. Remember to log-out and select the KDE-nightly session at the boot screen and you should be good to go.
12/23/08: KDE 4.2 beta gets high marks from ArsTechnica
Earlier I upgraded to Kubuntu 8.10, which took (with my connection) approximately 2 hours to download and another couple for actually installing the whole thing. Since I have both KDE and Gnome installed side by side, I ended up with a couple of weird errors, which (like magic) were corrected by apt-get. I was only surprised to see that most of my settings were gone. On the flip-side, KDE seems improved: particularly graphically. I see that window transparency was adopted, plus, that the fonts seem to have been smoothened out (smaller?). The default ‘task’bar looks a lot like KDE 3 (again) and I’m almost positive that this was done to help people migrate to KDE 4.
Earlier, we drove into town: the last couple of days the sun managed to break through after we had that downpour of rain at the beginning of the week. Good for Halloween. Talking about Halloween: we were better prepared this year, however, we didn’t get the amount of kids we expected, which means that for the next couple of weeks I’ll be spending my days eating candies and that. Anyway: the nights will be getting shorter and this weekend we’ll be moving the hands of time an hour back. I think this is either a week or a couple of weeks later than they did in Europe.
The word ‘panchromatic’ is in my head and I can’t seem to shake it off: The dog is, for example, panchromatically panting her lungs out. The little kitten (‘Puff’) is slowly coming out of her panchromatic surgery. And the ‘Hissy Fit’, is one big panchromatic pain in the rear end. At panchromatic times, of course. If only the word meant something else.
If you weren’t aware of it, K/Ubuntu 8.10 is about to be released in a couple of days, actually, to be exact, on October 30th. I’ve seen the casual screenshots around of sand-brownish looking desktops and windows-dressing. Those reviews all concentrate on Gnome, of course: As I mentioned earlier, in August, I moved to KDE 4. To say it politically correct, GTK+ is just not my cup of tea.
I read that Kubuntu (The KDE-based Ubuntu) 8.10 will (finally) introduce KDE 4 to the masses (KDE 4.1.2 previously on xsamplex) and, as I then mentioned, visually not too much seem to have changed. There are still silly bugs and (generally) if you were happy with KDE 3, you should probably stick with Ubuntu (which by default will still come with KDE 3.2).
There was a (long) discussion on the Postgres list about how to properly reply to questions to a mailing-list: the issue is (as many of the contributers already suggest) in the ‘stupid MUAs’ that people are using. If I remember correctly (in the days when I actively took part in the development of an e-mailer), when your MUA encounters the X-Mailing-list headers, a ‘Reply To All’ should use the mailing group’s e-mail address and not the individual listed addressees. I think this was even mentioned in an RFC (I wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t RFC 822).
Assorted links I was thinking about this week:
I read that Cunard’s “Queen Elizabeth 2″ is officially retiring: in a couple of months the ship sails for her last destination, Dubai, to become a state of the art ‘floating hotel’. I mention this, because a couple of weeks ago, the ship anchored in Saint John.
I’m only slightly following both US and Canadian elections. I’ve not really listened or watched yesterday’s Palin vs. Biden debate, mainly because, I had other poor excuses not to watch it. The Canadian elections I have been following through notes and postings at The Internationalist and of course, the CBC. I actually expect ms. May to do very well: well, at least that the party gets some MPs in the Commons.
If you’ve played Ultima games, you probably remember the name Richard Garriot: via Information Week, I found out that he’s planning to go to the ISS and conduct some official experiments for NASA (link here, apologies for annoying ad in between). I’m, however, surprised to learn that Garriot’s dad was an astronaut. This probably explains the Garriot brother’s obsession with computers and programming. I have fond memories to one of the Ultima games, where the main story highlighted the dangers of sects.
And then, just today, the KDE desktop team released KDE 4.1.2, which is a highly unremarkable release that is supposed to fix a lot of issues in KHTML and Konqueror.
Observations on KDE 4.1:
1. Everytime I restarted, Kate (the editor) and Kopete kept starting up: I didn’t find any references to these programs in the regular location (.kde4/Autostart), so I did a grep on ps (as in ‘ps -e | grep kate’ and ‘ps -e | kopete’), killed both instances and this seems to work. There’s probably a file (cache) related to this, but you know, this is Linux and it doesn’t hurt to kill an app so once in a while.
2. The Wifi Manager: Don’t forget to install the WIFI manager (KWifiManager): it doesn’t get installed by default! Additionally, to force autoconnection to your router, you must store the router password in KWallet.
3. I cannot stand the fact that if I choose to Shutdown KDE, that I have to confirm this in a second dialog box.
4. Both Dolphin and Gwenview currently don’t support RAW image view or thumbnail generation. Nautilus (Gnome’s filebrowser) does.
5. If you keep the control key pressed for a couple of seconds, Konqueror will show the shortcut keys for all links and buttons currently in view. This works pretty good.
KDE starts up pretty fast but takes a while to close off, that is, longer than shutting down Gnome. I’ve seen Windows Vista take longer to close off. Heck, even KDE starts up faster than a (fully) loaded Windows XP. Additionally, I have the feeling that (for example) Konqueror doesn’t properly dispose of its resources. However, I will readily admit that I made KDE the default desktop environment for this computer.
I decided to give KDE 4.1 a go on my current Ubuntu (Hardy Heron) install: There are many sites around with instructions how to install KDE on your Gnome-enabled installation, so I won’t go in too many details. The idea is to add specific Kubuntu sources to apt, log-out by choosing a different window manager (using a different session, particularly if you plan to keep Gnome) and then log-in as usual.
You still need the install applications of course: So, you may want to look for Konqueror (Firefox works OK, but, will look ‘GTK-ish’), Amorok (audio) and Kaffeine (video), KPhotoAlbum and yes, digiKam: Kubuntu uses the (KDE specific?) Adept application to install 3rd party software.
I’ve used KDE 2 and 3 in the past: KDE 4.1 is generally impressive but still shows inconsistencies so once in a while. For example, during the first startup, a default Folder View shows up empty (Desktop): The point (apparently) is that you’re supposed to drag your frequent used applications in there. There are other quirks, like non-hideable panels (what?) and that widget stuff: uh, don’t count on it working too well because, on the overall, it doesn’t feel thought out.
If you can live with that, there are a lot of excellent applications for KDE. Amarok feels like a work of love and makes all those Gnome music players look like Windows 3.1 applications. Kaffeine looks (a lot) less boring than Gnome’s ‘Movie Player’. Konqueror feels fast, but, be forewarned that you probably have to muck around with settings: for example, GMail refuses to work in Konqueror unless you set it to send the ‘Mozilla 1.7′ or ‘Safari 2.0′ identification strings. This is not entirely Konqueror’s fault: Google itself doesn’t (officially) support Konqueror.
Earlier, I was already surprised about Gnome/AWN’s minimal system requirements. The same is true for KDE 4.1: it runs excellent on the current system (a 512 MB Centrino based laptop with one of those crappy GMA video cards).