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Clean, appealing and free! Thats Kubuntu and a whole different world to proprietary alternatives! 9.10 offers faster boot-times the excellent hardware recognition you've come to expect and a massive community!

I run several distro’s and have good reasons for doing so.  My most recent version of Ubuntu that is left on one of my rigs is a heavily modified 8.04LTS.  Having spent time getting into KDE, I thought there was no better reason to try out the latest Canonical offering KDE style!  I wanted this review to be a little different to the others out there since there are plenty of them (and probably much better) this article is going to look at some of the changes I have made to Kubuntu, my reasoning and my quest for the perfect distro!

It is the first time Ive ever run Ubuntu with the KDE DE and (as I frequently mention) have been an avid Gnome supporter.  This support is somewhat lessened by my other love (XFCE 4) and its a subject we will be covering shortly with Sam Linux Xfce.  That being said, this review is of Kubuntu, so without further ado lets press on with the review!

INSTALLATION/HARDWARE RECOGNITION

Ease of installation and Ubuntu go hand in hand with Kubuntu 9.10 being no exception.  The stalwart of any distro claiming to be new user friendly is the option for either an automatic dual boot install or a complete HD install.  Both features are happily present in Kubuntu and just like previous versions of Ubuntu, the install process is a series of easy to follow steps with prompts which lead you by the hand.  Great stuff and simple, I would challenge anyone to go wrong with the install process that Canonical implements.

PACKAGES

Some great stuff on offer and some rather strange choices in my opinion for the default packaging of 9.10.  The most welcome of which (for most users will be OpenOffice which is presented here in version 3.1.  Ive personally long been an advocate of Abiword (since I don’t need all the extra features of OO) and I’m glad to say Abiword is available from the repositories in the form of version 2.6.8.

Firefox was not bundled as default which to me is strange since Ubuntu seems to pride itself on being new user friendly and FF is something that most users will recognize.  In my opinion someone coming to Ubuntu from a Windows background will feel more at home with a familiar face (Firefox)

Linux is all about making it into what you want, so with a little tinkering I was running the latest build of Chromium and all was well.  Ive long since given up my dependency on Firefox and now only keep it on my system “just in case”  Ubuntu 9.10 and Chromium play very nicely together and the package is just as fast/stable as it is on my other Ubuntu rig running 8.04LTS.

KTorrent 3.2.4 handles your BT needs however I am a Transmission user and I haven’t yet been convinced with KTorrent or Deluge which whilst good are not the packages I am familiar with.  I have been a user of Transmission for a considerable time, so I suppose its simply a comfort zone for me.

K3b v 1.68.0 handles your disk burning requirements and whilst I have mainly used Brasero, I have spent enough time with K3b to be happy with it, so that stays in situe

Kwin was replaced with Compiz (personal choice) the whole process was painless and took a very short period of time.    I must have my spinning cube and wobbly windows if I am going to have eye candy. (edit: although I am informed Kwin offers both these features, I stick with the “devil you know”)

For a full list of included packages read this.

CONCLUSIONS

If anyone says to you that Linux requires excessive use of the command line, they are either trying to deceive you or they have had no experience with Ubuntu.  From installing my Nvidia drivers to replacing Kwin with Compiz, I did not have to touch the command line.  The only exception was when installing Chromium which for most will not be the browser of choice (if the stats of Chromium v Firefox are correct)

With the incredible hardware detection of a Canonical offering, the whole process from download to install was painless.  What I will say about Kubuntu is that it is just as problem free as its Gnome relative.

Bootup times seemed considerably faster than 8.04LTS as well as shutdown on the distro-hopping rig.  Setting up of user accounts is simple and really reviews of the Ubuntu product are pretty generic since they all (in my experience) are so good.

So what did I have issue with?  Well firstly I have to say its not a fault of Canonical that I prefer Xfce over KDE.  KDE on the test rig used for this review did not feel as “punchy” as other Xfce or Gnome DE’s.  That being said it was no slow coach and compared to the average Windows experience, it flies. (IMO)  I think Linux users get very quickly used to the responsiveness of their OS and when presented with anything less than immediate (often the case on a Windows system) they tend to feel it is slow.  Thats what I believe anyway.

It may seem like I am being fussy with minor (easily correctable points) but why does the default setting have to be a single click for opening folders?  Having been brought up for years on the theory of one-click for focus and a second to open.  I will never get my head around folders that open with one click.  I bring this up as is always the case for a Canonical distro there’s very little to dislike and if I didn’t the review would consist of “its great, get it!”..having said all that, changing back to my beloved double click was painless.

I know many people consider a pretty screen saver to be bad for the environment.  In these days where people are telling us to save energy, the automatic standby mode of your monitor is a better option.  Screen savers though, are something which I would have personally expected to be installed as default and having to install Kscreensaver seemed to be a little odd.  Unless I’m mistaken 9.10 Gnome includes them as default, so why not Kubuntu?  The one stumbling block for a new user to Linux could be searching the system for screensavers that don’t exist…just a thought.

Canonical have built a reputation of bringing Linux to the new user (and keeping the old vet happy too)  and Kubuntu 9.10 is no exception to this.  It boots quicker on the same specs than 8.04.  It looks visually more pleasing and it offered no compat issues with any of the hardware on test.

For this review I was running on an AMD 1.8ghz system with 512mb ram,  NVIDIA Driver Version 173.14.20 (on a GeForce Fx 5200) so its a pretty old system.  None the less it flew like an off the shelf modern PC.

If you are looking at alternatives to Microsoft Windows or you are wanting an out-of-box distro which will be up and running with little fuss, the obvious answer is Ubuntu…although since version 8.04 (in my opinion) is that really surprising to anyone?  It should be noted that there are a great many other distro’s which are just as good as Ubuntu (they’ve been covered here) but Canonical has done what many others have not yet achieved, that being mainstream brand recognition.  Before anyone shouts OpenSUSE or Redhat, keep in mind I am talking about “the average Windows user” and I think that if Linux is to receive mainstream migration, its going to need names like Ubuntu in order to introduce people to the wonderful world we Linux users already enjoy.

Visit http://www.kubuntu.org/ for your copy!

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com