Posted by: reformedmusings | October 20, 2008

Kubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex Beta

I couldn’t resist a quick peek at the new Kubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) beta. So, I cranked out a new virtual machine using VMWare Workstation 6.05. I ran into problems with VMWare Tools in the setup which I discuss here. I got things rolling in the end and played around a bit.

One highlight up front. Kubuntu 8.10 uses the new KDE 4.1.2 desktop. I talked a bit about KDE 4.1 in this post and was not overly impressed then. So, we’ll see how does it works in a full-production distribution.

There’s also a major disappointment: this distribution only includes OpenOffice.org office suite 2.4.1 rather than the new 3.0. The latter was released last Monday, so it couldn’t have been included on the beta’s CD image. However, it could have been in the initial updates for 8.10 but it wasn’t. Indication are pretty solid that the final 8.10 release will not include 3.0, but you can easily get it with the instructions from here. Just add the following repositories to the Adept list (Edit Software Sources):

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/openoffice-pkgs/ubuntu intrepid main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/openoffice-pkgs/ubuntu intrepid main

I tried using these repositories to update OpenOffice.org to version 3.0 in Intrepid and it worked just fine. It’s an extra step and takes a few minutes, but provides the desired results. I think that OpenOffice.org 3.0 provides a nice upgrade to the office suite and has been perfectly stable for me. It runs under Compiz Fusion better than 2.4.1.

Kubuntu Intrepid Ibex’s installation proceeded smoothly and graphically. All the hardware available to the virtual machine appeared as expected. The new startup and shutdown screens sport some very nice graphics work. After installing VMWare Tools as noted above, the default screen looked like this:

Default Kubuntu 8.10 desktop

Default Kubuntu 8.10 desktop

Default intrepid desktop

Note the panel at the bottom. It can be minimally configured by clicking on the “cashew” at the far right of the bar. This produces a settings bar above the panel:

Launcher panel with the settings panel above it

Launcher panel with the settings panel above it

The panel’s horizontal size is set with the green and blue arrows in the middle row. The green arrow designates the panel’s minimum size, the blue arrow its maximum size. The white arrow on the left side controls the location of the panel. The three “text” icons in the center control whether the widgets on the panel are left, right, or center justified.

In testing, it appeared that the panel doesn’t grow from min to max as a result of the number of running applications appearing in the task manager widget, but by the system tray contents. That seems counter-intuitive and less than useful. Nor can the panel’s height be increased to allow for stacking items in the system tray. In KDE 3.5.10, all this behavior can be configured.

The default tools in the system tray are pretty standard, except for one widget to collapse the plasma bar and one to indicate newly mounted hardware (like USB plugin devices). The latter pops up a small window like this one:

Device window when a USB stick is inserted

Device window when a USB stick is inserted

Placing the mouse pointer over a device in the window offers to open it in the Dolphin file manager. This is a nice setup, but you cannot “safely remove” a device from here, only open it. That capability would be highly desirable in a future version.

The pager provides a quick ability to switch between desktops. I normally use 4 desktops, each with particular functions so that I don’t lose stuff. I couldn’t find a way for the pager to clearly show what was active on particular desktops, though, like I can in KDE 3.5.10. That’s a particularly helpful ability, so I’m sad to see the regression. It may just be a limitation of the height of that panel, but it’s hard to say.

By default, Kubuntu Intrepid installs the Desktop and Notes plasmoids. There are desktop plugins that can be easily added or removed by clicking on the “cashew” in the upper right corner of the screen. Unlike previous editions of KDE 4.1, this installation includes quite a few plasmoids, but unfortunately few of any great use. I tried out one that will put a daily comic on your desktop. It defaults to Garfield, but I set it to Dilbert:

Comic plasmoid with daily Dilbert

Comic plasmoid with daily Dilbert

The cartoon plasmoid looks cool and would be enjoyable, but it doesn’t add any real functionality. It would be nice to see weather or news plasmoids included. Perhaps later.

KDE 4.1.2 comes with a new menu system which I panned before. Here’s the application tab:

KMenu application tab

KMenu application tab

Unlike the classic KDE 3.x KMenu, the user must click on a desired category. Then the category slides on top of the existing menu and takes over the pop-up. A vertical bar appears on the left which must be clicked to go back one level at a time. So, instead of nested, cascading menus which could be moused-over like before, this setup uses overlapping windows that require a lot of mouse clicking to work. The Favorites tab helps alleviate some of that tedium by keeping your presumably most-used apps handy, and the Recently Used tab for those programs and documents, but it’s still a pain. Kubuntu offers the option of returning to the KDE 3.5.10 menu system, of which I’m very appreciative.

Kubuntu 8.10 comes with desktop effects enabled by default if your video card supports them. It sports quite a variety of visual effects, including transparency, fading windows, animation, nifty task switchers, etc. Unfortunately, these only produce a black screen in the virtual machine so I could not test them. But, the list of included effects seems quite long and is much appreciated. Intrepid can do this because unlike KDE 3.5.10, KDE 4.x includes composite 3D support as an integral part of the system. Compiz Fusion is no longer needed in KDE 4.x to get the full 3D desktop eye candy. That’s sweet.

Kubuntu Intrepid Ibex introduces some new KDE applications like Dragon Player for video and Okular for general viewing of a variety of file types. I tested Okular with some images and pdf documents and it worked very well. Here’s a png file in Okular:

png image in Okular

png image in Okular

And here’s the pdf file:

Large pdf document as viewed in Okular

Large pdf document as viewed in Okular

For both, notice the thumbnail panel on the left. For pdf files, you can alternately view the document outline in that panel. Seems like a nifty utility, offering a one-stop-shop for viewing a wide range of file types.

Dragon player worked fine once I installed the proprietary codes from the medibuntu repository. It seems to have very little configurability, though, compared to VLC Player or Kaffeine. Not much to write about there.

The KDE System Monitor received a minor cosmetic makeover:

KDE 4.1.2 System Monitor

KDE 4.1.2 System Monitor

The functions appear to be the same as earlier, but the graphics look nicer.

The Session Settings available for Kubuntu Intrepid Ibex are somewhat limited in scope. The limitations mainly concern the new KDE features other than the 3D desktop effects. For instance, the Display settings have no gama or color control, and no ability to select hardware. The screen saver timeout has been moved to the Desktop setting area. However, some new advanced settings were introduced, including an Autostart list for programs that should start automatically on startup and a welcome GRUB editor. Kubuntu veterans will be hunting around the settings panel to find what they need for a while.

Overall, Kubuntu’s Intrepid Ibex beta seems to offer little over Hardy Heron except for the new KDE and GNOME desktops. The graphics and desktop effects are very nice, but I can get those in KDE 3.5.10 with Compiz Fusion. Plus, KDE 4.1.2 seems incomplete compared to 3.5.10 in Kubuntu 8.04, especially in the configuration settings. KDE has been all about its configurability to the user’s taste, but 4.x has yet to deliver on that capability. I’ll try the final version in a virtual machine when it’s released later this month, but it looks like I may be sticking with LTS (Long-Term Support) Hardy Heron and KDE 3.5.10 with Compiz Fusion until KDE 4 matures a bit more. I don’t mind learning new capabilities, but I certainly don’t want to lose those I already have.

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Responses

  1. […] what does this have to do with Kubuntu 8.10? I took a quick look at the Intrepid Ibex beta here and made a few observations. As I mentioned then, I cannot run the desktop effects in a virtual […]

  2. […] under VMWare Workstation, I cannot test 3-D window managers in those. You can read about my Kubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex tests here, minus the 3D desktop […]

  3. […] I’ve written before about Kubuntu 8.10 with KDE 4.12. I’m not impressed with the current state of KDE 4. Even the KDE website suggests staying with 3.5.10 on production systems unless you like living on the bleeding edge. That’s exactly what I’ve done to date. I like KDE 3.5.10 very much, including the KDE applications. Most seem way ahead of their Gnome counterparts. But… […]

  4. […] decided that I wanted the USB and other improvements in Intrepid Ibex, but didn’t want the big step backwards in capability from KDE 3.5 to KDE 4. Based on my testing of Ubuntu 8.10 on my backup disk, I […]

  5. […] peaked my curiosity. On the one hand, Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy with KDE 3.5.10 was great. Then again, Kubuntu 8.10 Intrepid with KDE 4.1.2 leaves much to be desired. I contrast Kubuntu Intrepid with Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid and their excellent Gnome 2.24 […]


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