I have three 320GB hard drives laying around looking for work since I upgraded from a 320 GB RAID 1 to a 2 TB RAID 1 configuration. One is still in the computer, so I decided to do something useful with it. I haven’t played with KDE since version 4.1, with which I was not impressed, so decided to give the latest version a try.
Kubuntu Maverick is based on KDE 4.6, which should be pretty mature. So, I downloaded the 64-bit Live CD ISO, burned it to a CD, and installed it on the spare drive. That drive was still partitioned for a 15GB root partition and my old data on the /home partition on the remaining drive space. I used manual disk partitioning during installation, preserving that setup but not erasing the /home partition so that all my old data would be preserved.
Installation proceeded quickly and smoothly. I left the master boot record on my Solid State Drive. GRUB detected my Ubuntu Maverick setup and created menu items for it. GRUB always makes the latest installation the default one, but it can be changed later.
In retrospect, I should have used the alternate CD for the installation. Even though I wasn’t touching the RAID array, the installation would have detected the array and set up access to it in the Kubuntu installation. As it was, the Live CD did not install mdadm, so the RAID array wasn’t built, mounted, or recorded in /etc/fstab in the new setup. I did all that manually in about 30 seconds later, but it was a lesson learned. RAID = alternate CD even if you aren’t installing to the RAID array.
I apologize that I didn’t take a screenshot of the unaltered desktop immediately after installation. I deleted the Desktop and Blog widgets and added the weather, CPU temperature, and CPU load widgets to the desktop. Given that, here’s the default theme with these mentioned customizations on Kubuntu:
KDE 4.6 is not bad, but not awe-inspiring either. Maturity is better since KDE 4.1. Everything works pretty smoothly. The open source nouveau driver for NVidia installed by default which enable compositing immediately. Though passable, I immediately installed the much more capable proprietary NVidia driver to test drive KDE’s default compositing window manager, kwin.
kwin has stabilized as a good compositing approach. Lots of stuff fades in and out by default. kwin worked fine and its effects proved quite customizable, but it still has a way to go before equaling compiz-fusion’s capabilities. Definitely passable, though, and unmatched in Gnome w/o compiz.
I continue to despise the stupid new KDE menu system which requires click after click after click to get stuff done. Here’s the Favorite menu which comes up first when clicking on the K menu icon in the corner:
If your desired app doesn’t appear on that limited list, then it’s off to click on the Applications tab:
Then start clicking into the structure:
To back up if your desired program did not appear where you first drilled down, you must click the gray bar to the left. Click, click, click, click, aaaarrggggg. Enough already. What are they thinking????? Thankfully, one can go back to a sane menu system by right-clicking on the magic K and choosing the classic menu style.
The Locations widget next to the menu widget acts more like a file manager than Gnome’s Places scheme, allowing you to drill down through the directory structure:
One thing I used to like in KDE 3.5.x was the centralization of all the settings. KDE 4.1 sorely lacked in this area, but 4.6 does much better:
Very nicely done. Gnome does this through the dual menu heading of Preferences and Administration. Both schemes work well.
Lastly, the highly-touted widgets. It appears that KDE has an almost endless variety of widgets that can either be installed on panels or right on the desktop as I have the weather and CPU status information. The user can choose to have the same widgets on all desktops or different ones on each desktop. To add widgets to the desktop, simply right click on a blank area of the desktop and select Add widgets…
The above screenshot shows but a small fraction of available widgets. The variety boggles the mind, but one caveat. Most are what they are and thus cannot be customized very much. For example, the CPU temperature widget will only display exactly that. In AWN and Gnome, I can monitor my GPU temperature, hard drive temps, etc., in any combination I so choose. In that respect, KDE widgets seem much less capable or flexible.
And in the end, that summarizes my lesson from this exercise. Although KDE 4.6 has come a long way from 4.0 or 4.1, it still lacks the flexibility and customization of Gnome with compiz-fusion. kwin has improved greatly, but still has a way to go in offering customizations as detailed and expansive as compiz. While KDE originally attracted me to its desktop with seemingly endless customization possibilities, KDE 4.6 still has yet to match Gnome 2.3x in flexibility.
I’ll keep Kubuntu Maverick on the spare drive for now so that I can experiment with things like virtualization software that can’t be testing inside a VM. But I’ll be sticking with my highly-customized Gnome setup as my production system.