Well, it's that time of year again. The time of year when the Ubuntu faithful crash servers everywhere trying to download the newest version of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu, or derivative (all at the same time). So instead of doing my usual column, I'm listing what's new in the latest release of Kubuntu and everything that it offers.
Kubuntu Hardy has a lot of nice welcome features. First, there's a KDE 4 version, which packs the latest and greatest (but very unstable) desktop environment, as well as the default version with the rock solid KDE 3.5. Compiz Fusion support has (finally) come to KDE with the new Desktop Effects app. Wubi has been bundled as well, making it dead simple for Windows users to install and uninstall Kubuntu.
As far as looks, Kubuntu is basically the same. The theme is slightly different (apparently, an upgraded version of Crystal) and the window manager widgets are now powered by QtCurve, which offers really nice integration between Gnome and KDE. But you've still got the nice familiar KMenu, the powerful taskbar Kicker, and all of the Kicker applets.
The applications have all had incremental upgrades. In the kubuntu-restricted-extras metapackage, IcedTea Java replaces Sun's official Java. OpenOffice.org has been upgraded to the latest version (2.4.0). Many KDE-PIM pieces have been stabilized and enhanced. And as noted above, Compiz Fusion can be easily added with a click of a button.
I'll admit it. Even though I'm a diehard KDE fan, I can't stand Konqueror as a web browser. It's the most awesome file manager in the world (Finder and Windows Explorer have nothin' on it), but it is a horrible web browser. KHTML (the engine that powers it) is most possibly the worst renderer ever. It's not quite as fast as WebKit (the Safari engine) and won't render everything like Gecko (the Firefox engine) will. Most important of all (to me), it won't work perfectly with Gmail and Google Calendar. Yes, that's Google's fault. But if I can't check my email or my calendar, I've got problems. Plus, I've grown to love Firefox's extensions. And since Firefox 2.0 always worked pretty well in KDE, I always used Firefox over Konqueror. But Kubuntu Hardy shipped version 3.0 of the popular browser. One of the new "features" was the ability to automatically theme according to the platform. So Windows XP users got an XP theme, Vista users got a Vista theme, OS X users get a Mac theme, and Linux users get a... Gnome theme. No KDE theme available. And Gnome themes look plain ugly in KDE. Plus, there is the fact that it doesn't always display right. Like in the case of Firefox 3.0. The tabs won't even display right. I know Firefox is a Gnome/GTK app, but it has always focused on a consistent interface across the platforms. Firefox 3.0 has failed that for now.
Also kind of upsetting is the video card changes. Before, you used to have two options for configuring your graphics card: running the command
sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg or using the graphical interface. However, they've now taken out the video portion of the first code. Why's that bad? Because the second option doesn't always work. In fact, for me it didn't. It certainly detected my Radeon x300 card off the bat, but it gave me an older driver (
ati, rather than
fglrx) and wouldn't let me change it. This took away my ability to use 3D acceleration, which meant that I couldn't play too many 3D games. Or run Compiz Fusion. Not a good situation to be in. I finally figured it out, but it wasn't exactly intuitive.
Finally, I've started having a problem that I had in Edgy but seemed to be fixed in Feisty and Gutsy. That is, when Kubuntu shuts down, it often will hang. The only way to turn it off is to hold down on the power button or run the old REISUB trick. I'm thinking this is probably related to my fglrx driver, but it's kind of annoying since it wasn't there before.
Overall, I'm not as excited as I originally was about Kubuntu Hardy. The Compiz Fusion enabler was especially nice, since I never quite got Compiz to work on previous distros. Wubi is certainly nice, but only for switchers (not old-time Linux users like me). And with problems that should definitely not be there, Kubuntu Hardy is rather mediocre.