Time sure flies when you’re having fun and now we are about ten days from final release of Ubuntu 9.10 – Karmic Koala. What kind of stew did Ubuntu guys cook for us this time? Four days after the FinalFreeze stage in the Ubuntu development cycle means that what didn’t make it in the distribution will be left out and that we will get the Release Candidate in three days. I decided to install Kubuntu 9.10 which differs from Ubuntu regular in primary desktop environment and installation program. Instead of Gnome based desktop you will get KDE based desktop. Is KDE 4.3 up to the task? Let’s dig in and see how Koala tackles the legendary horned rabbit! ;)
I’ll leave the Language, Timezone and Keyboard selection to you. You know what is best for you and what timezone you live in. We will stop at Disk Setup. If you decide to erase and use the entire disk installation program will create two partitions, one for swap and the other for files. This is a bad idea. First, because you might not want to erase your disk and second, it is wise to keep your personal files separated from operating system and programs. When running a server disk partitioning is always something that you need to think about. When dealing with workstation I stick to the simple philosophy: Swap, ten gigs for the system, the rest is home.
EXT4 file system is now selected by default and who am I to argue with the default. I will entrust my data to developers that claim that all the hiccups were fixed and my home partition will not suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke, leaving me to contemplate on what to do next. After the manual partitioning you will need to enter User Info and here I found a little surprise which I don’t remember from previous versions – an option to encrypt your home directory. So I boldly selected it and let the installation run.
Installation itself was quick, somehow too quick for my taste. Installing 64-bit version of Kubuntu inside a VirtualBox machine took less than fifteen minutes. Installation also took care about the latest updates and security fixes. First start was messed up, the keyboard and the mouse inside a virtual box didn’t respond. Reboot helped. When I logged in and and clicked the notification icon in the tray, an alert popped up about my encrypted home and recovering the data if I forget the password. Konsole started automatically and I had to run ecryptfs-unwrap-passphrase. TAB key didn’t work so I didn’t run that command. I’ll just take a risk of a sudden amnesia where I forget my password.
After that, I was notified that there are 396 packages that I need to upgrade. Wait, 396? Yes. Apparently my beta ISO image from two weeks ago is not brand new anymore. After I selected all the packages to upgrade I clicked Ok and the whole thing crashed on me. Lovely. I decided to open System Settings and upgrade from there. I tried and failed because I had insufficient privileges to do that. Now wait a minute, what about the “Enter your password.” pop-up window? There wasn’t any. Ok, fine. I shall do this the old fashion way.
$ sudo systemsettings
There, all better, right?
What on earth?! This surely must be because it is still beta, right? No, wait. This is because I am running 64-bit version in a 32-bit version of VirtualBox. It turns out that this is a known issue in Beta and it is a priority fix. I would classify this as a showstopper bug that would surely delay the release if the fix is not available at FinalFreeze, if you ask me.
What’s New in Karmic Koala and worth mentioning?
- Bling Installer
Qt 4.5.x based Kubuntu installer has a new look. As far as usability goes I am more of a man not the machine type of guy and clicking Next five times in a row for installation to start is way too simple for me1. However, Linux for the masses needs to be simple and easy to install.
- KDE 4.3.22
KDE 3.5 was the ultimate desktop environment. Nothing was better, flexible or more customizable. KDE 4.0 was a disaster and it wasn’t usable at all. When it comes to customization nothing can beat KDE. It is easy to use and easy to customize. Other windows managers are also customizable3 but nothing can really compare with KDE. Now, with KDE 4.3.2 we are almost at the standard that was set with 3.5. Stability is almost there, so are usability and speed. If you’ve been Gnome user so far give KDE a try, it is well worth it.
- Firefox Installer
Firefox is not installed by default with Kubuntu. You will get standard issue Konqueror and Firefox Installer which will install Firefox 3.5.3. Another thing that Linux community copied from Windows? ;)
- Kernel, GRUB ext4 and other non-important stuff
We got new kernel – 2.6.31. We got new boot loader – GRUB2. Now editing and controlling the boot process will be even more complicated! ;) EXT4 filesystem by default and an ability to encrypt your home directory with ecryptfs, completely transparent and it really requires just a single click to turn it on.
- Social networks
This is the big thing in Kubuntu 9.10. A bunch of plasma widgets for Twitter, Facebook, Google Calendar and Flickr. There is also OpenDesktop.org plasma widget and a couple of more microblogging software like Choqok4.
- OpenOffice.org KDE look
OpenOffice.org is now KDEized. If you will be using the default Oxygen theme then your OOo will look like every other KDE application and it will also use KDE file dialogs. Rejoice!
Kubuntu 9.10 brings many new things but you will be walking on thin ice at least with Beta1. K3b the CD/DVD burning software is still in alpha stage. Amarok2 is for my personal taste far from useful, it became bloated and complicated to use. Being old school I just want simple things like Open All Files / Random Play. Dive into social networking requires more integration. Choqok is usable but it lacks some features5 and bells and whistles. Opendesktop.org is yet another social network which means even stronger need for aggregation.
Stuff that is under the hood, ext4, grub2, ecryptfs and others are currently the bleeding edge, in a some cases working beta quality. This gives us a lot of new things together with the general feeling of instability and distrust. Ext4 had serious issues not so long ago and it wasn’t production ready yet. Hopefully everything is fixed now and safe to use. Grub2 is a similar cookie. Much powerful and yet much more complicated. Scripted configurations and other what-nots are certainly handy if you need them but I can’t help myself feeling a little intimidated by the sheer complexity of new grub2 integration into Ubuntu. Complexity brings complications and I hope the force is strong with Ubuntu.
Nevertheless 9.10 made a lot of progress since 9.04 and Ubuntu bunch did a great job so far, congrats! But, where do I wote for 9 months release schedule, two months would be used for polishing existing critical bugs and one month for better integration and usability?
- Keep in mind that my first Linux installation took about three hours and it involved around 50 (yes, fifty) 1.44MB floppy discs. Yes, I am that old. [↩]
- Beta1 shipped with KDE 4.3.1 but it was instantly upgraded to 4.3.2 from the kubuntu repositories. [↩]
- I used at least half a dozen of them, I should know. [↩]
- Where the hell did they get the name?! [↩]
- Clickable @names for example [↩]