Talk Me Down

Disclaimer: This is a question for the geeks among you. If you’re not a geek, don’t be surprised if this post makes no damn sense whatsoever.

Having gotten that out of the way:

I run Ubuntu on my PC at home for everything except gaming. I’ve generally been very happy with it. Last month they released a new version (Ubuntu 8.10, “Intrepid Ibex”) which promises a ton of new goodies.

However, I don’t really run Ubuntu per se. I run Kubuntu, the KDE version of Ubuntu. I’ve preferred KDE to GNOME for years, so this seemed like a natural thing to do.

However, as I contemplate making the upgrade to 8.10 I find myself thinking of switching to plain old Ubuntu and GNOME rather than staying on board with Kubuntu and KDE. There are two main reasons why:

  1. It feels like Ubuntu and GNOME get most of Canonical’s attention, and Kubuntu is more of an afterthought. There’s fit and finish issues with Kubuntu that I don’t see when I sit in front of an Ubuntu workstation. It just feels… unfinished, somehow.

  2. KDE4.

To expand on point #2: Kubuntu 8.10 is the first release that requires you to switch from KDE 3.x to KDE 4. In previous releases, KDE4 was optional; now it’s not just the default, it’s mandatory.

And the thing is, if I believe what I read, KDE4 is a bit of a train wreck.

The incompleteness, which will likely frustrate some users, gives KDE 4.0 the feel something akin to a technical preview rather than a production-ready release. The developers frame the 4.0 release as a first step towards creating their envisioned “KDE 4” platform. The foundation is now in place and much more, they say, will follow soon.

Supposedly many of the crash bugs and other outright busted parts of KDE4 were fixed in the most recent release, KDE 4.1, which is the version that ships with Intrepid. But it still feels like taking a giant leap into the dark — especially given that once you make the upgrade, there’s no way to roll back to KDE3 if you suffer upgrader’s remorse.

So why not just move to GNOME and be done with it? I still love a lot of things about KDE, that’s why. I love how powerful the Konqueror file manager is (seriously, if all you’ve ever used is Windows Explorer, Konqueror is like getting a love note from the future). I love KIO-slaves. I love Amarok.

But I don’t know how much of that love will still be relevant in the Brave New World of KDE4. Konqueror has been thrown overboard in favor of Dolphin, a file manager that feels like it’s designed for ADD sufferers. Amarok 2 (the KDE4 edition of this outstanding music manager) isn’t ready yet. And do KIO-slaves even still exist in the KDE4 universe? I have no idea.

Of course, none of that stuff is available in GNOME, either (except Amarok). But GNOME is, you know, stable. It works. It’s not trying to push desktop computing through a Great Leap Forward. And it sure feels like it’s getting a hell of a lot more attention from Canonical than KDE is.

So here’s what I want to know — if you use KDE, have you made the Great Leap Forward to KDE4 yet? How did it go for you? Were the gains worth the pain? And how does it stack up to GNOME in your experience?

Inquiring minds want to know…



December 9, 2008
10:14 pm

If you’re happy with your distro, I’d wait for a few more kinks to be worked out of Intrepid.
I dist-upgraded to it from 8.04 and network-manager and ifconfig stopped working. completely. no network access, even without network manager. That prompted me to wipe and reinstall (and upgrade to 64bits, but that didn’t make much of a difference AFAIK)
Intrepid doesn’t feel much better/newer/faster than heron. The only main difference I’ve noticed is a reworked shutdown/logout button. At worst, burn a LiveCD and see if you like it, how it works, on your hardware.
BTW, i’ve been using xubuntu lately. gnome feels, constrained, xubuntu feels like a snappier gnome desktop.

Mark Kretschmann

December 10, 2008
2:34 am

It’s not very smart to base your opinion of KDE 4 on a sole review of KDE 4.0, the first release in a long series. But whatever floats your boat.
KDE 4.1.3 (the latest stable release) has come a long way and works very well. And yes – KDE still offers KIO. Plus, Amarok 2.0 is finished. Expect a release today.

Mark Kretschmann
Amarok Developer –

Jason Lefkowitz

December 10, 2008
7:07 am

Mark, my opinion isn’t based on a “sole review of KDE 4.0”; I only bothered to link to one review. As I said in my post, opinion was pretty much unanimous that 4.0 wasn’t ready for prime time. A little Googling will confirm this, but I’m sure you know that.
As I also noted, I’ve heard that 4.1 fixes most of the egregious bugs that were present in 4.0; I’m more concerned at this point about the general direction of KDE4 and Canonical’s commitment to it than I am about its stability.
On a positive note, though, it’s great to hear that Amarok 2 is ready to go! Congratulations.


December 12, 2008
10:28 am

Jason – there was a big update to KDE packages in Kubuntu overnight. Maybe *now* you can give it a look and check for fit and finish stuff.

Jason Lefkowitz

December 12, 2008
10:31 am

Thanks for the tip, Oscar — I’ll check it out.
I’ve actually set up a VirtualBox VM as a sandbox to try out Kubuntu 8.10/KDE4. KDE crashed twice just in the process of setting up the VM — once during the initial startup and then again when I used Adept to grab package updates released since the CD shipped. Not encouraging…


January 5, 2009
7:22 pm

I’ve tried Kubuntu 8.10 and was less than impressed with the buggy functionality and lack of polish in places. Having tried a number of prior versions of Kubuntu in the past I have to say my conclusion is still the same. Canonical concentrates the bulk of its efforts on Ubuntu and it shows. This is not to disparage Kubuntu developers, not in the least. It’s just that the more pairs of eyes examining and testing the code, the faster they can track down and fix any issues. And I’m sorry to say it but Canonical focuses mainly on Gnome.
I recently compared Kubuntu 8.10, Mint 6, PCLinuxOS 2008 (KDE3), and openSUSE 11.1. IMHO openSUSE 11.1 has a much better implementation of KDE4 than Kubuntu and a more polished interface than any of the others I tested. It uses KDE 4.1.3 and actually backports a number of features from KDE 4.2 (to be released in 3 weeks btw) for fuller functionality. While Gnome has come a very long way since the last time I tested it, I find KDE still has more robust utilities and interfaces. So despite my preference for Adept, I’ve switched to openSUSE and so far am quite pleased. Mind you, if you want restricted formats you’ll have to install them separately, but the openSUSE community has a one-click install here: Very convenient.