Kubuntu 9.04 Test Drive

I was traditionally a KDE user till KDE 4.0 came along. While many users are excited about many of the new features (e.g. Widgets) added in KDE 4, I am simply no big fan of fancy user interfaces. So I have been using GNOME ever since. Of course the beauty of Linux is that running one windows manager does not prevent you from running applications native to another windows manager.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I installed Ubuntu 9.04 on one of my home machines the day it became available and while no radical new features introduced I liked the improvements over 8.10 and 8.04. Since haven’t tried KDE for a while, I decide to download and install the latest Kubuntu 9.04 on VMWare and give it a try.

Kubuntu’s installation process is as easy as it could be just like installing Ubuntu. It took only a minute or two longer than installing Ubuntu but within 10 minutes I was ready to log in.

What I liked
The new Dolphin file manager is extremely fast and easy to use. I like the the places side bar where you could create shortcuts to your favorite folders. The performance of Dolphin is also much faster than Nautilus in Gnome. For smaller folder sizes (e.g. folders with less than 100 files) there is usually very little noticeable performance issue in either file managers. But with large folders (e.g. folders with a few thousands files), Nautilus becomes unbearably slow. Dolphin seems to have little trouble handling large folders.

I also like the “filter” capability in Dolphin. It makes finding files in folders much easier.

The new KDE application launcher is also very pleasant to use and I think it is certainly a big improvement over KDE 3’s start menu. The main menu usability has almost been my main issue when using GNOME. Even though alternative menus such as Gnome Main Menu and Ubuntu System Panel provide similar functionalities, they lack the polish and stability of KDE’s application launcher.

The overall performance of KDE 4 seems to be on par if not better than that of KDE 3.

What I didn’t like
One of the main reasons the KDE community developed the Plasma desktop was to provide users a richer visual experience. Unfortunately I have never been a big fan of any UI visual sugars. Of course, this is totally a personal preference and opinion seems to be evenly divided within the Linux community–people either loves the new look and feel or think it is too cumbersome. And the borders of default windows are excessively thick which I think it is a waste of screen real estate.

The new task bar is a bit buggy and seems to be too easy to mess up, it would help to have a menu item called “restore to default layout”.

One of the problem I ran into was that Kubuntu somehow couldn’t remember the screen resolution setting under VMWare (by the way, I was using the 64bit version of Kubuntu). And every time after a reboot the screen size got automatically reset to 640×480. I am not sure whether this particular issue is related to just VMWare (6.5.2), but it was very annoying as I had to manually adjust the screen resolution every time. And once the screen resolution is adjusted, font sizes on certain applications got messed up. It seems that the font in Konqueror got scaled up multiple times somehow and looks ridiculously large.

So I guess I will have to stick to my GNOME desktop for a long while…

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