Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mini Dell Ubuntu!

I recently had the pleasure of leading a "lunch & learn" session at my job in which I got to talk about the value of Ubuntu, both for personal/office use and for public libraries, and one of my colleagues brought in her brand new Dell Mini Inspiron 9. I'm finding that I need a laptop nearby for many aspects of my job, and using her lightweight, ultraportable Ubuntu box got me convinced that I wanted one myself. After a few weeks of investigation, another colleague sent me a link to a deal on a Dell Vostro A90 with Ubuntu preinstalled. I haven't had the opportunity to buy a computer since becoming a Linux convert, and the idea of an OEM-installed Ubuntu laptop was too much to pass up. It came installed with a Dell-specific version of Ubuntu Hardy Heron. Restless as I always am, I immediately began investigating ways to hack the out-of-the-box version into something I could love. I downloaded the Ubuntu Netbook Remix version of Jaunty Jackalope and wrote it to a USB drive to try it out live and I was SO impressed with it, except that the sound was not working. In my search for solutions to this, I came across an excellent help site called Ubuntu on the Dell Mini 9, which has many tutorials and guides about running different versions of Ubuntu - what works, what doesn't, how to configure things, etc.

I finally decided to put Intrepid Ibex on and then install Ubuntu Netbook Remix from the special repositories. Here's a screenshot:

I'm very pleased, though the keyboard is going to take some getting used to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

KDE 4.2 Lures Me Back to Kubuntu 8.10 . . .

Well, I sounded pretty certain in my last post that I was done with KDE 4.1 and Kubuntu 8.10. I was told by a commenter to that post that KDE 4.2 looked pretty promising. I spent this past weekend working with VirtualBox (which itself has matured into a great program - more later) and I got curious about what the Jaunty Jackalope Kubuntu had to offer. I downloaded the Alpha 4 release of Jaunty, and as with my first reaction to KDE 4.1, I was a little slackjawed at the aesthetics of 4.2:

So, deciding that KDE is my environment of choice, and that I'm going to have to grow with it or be left behind, I decided to re-upgrade to Intrepid on my laptop so I could upgrade to KDE 4.2. So far I am very pleased, but I haven't dug in yet. I've decided to keep my desktop on Hardy for the foreseeable future. Like my last post said, my Linux needs very quickly moved from hobby to professional use, so stability (and familiarity) are somewhat necessary. I'll report back on what I find . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Final Word on Kubuntu 8.10

I have been so deep in my new job lately (my position has changed twice in the last year) to really blog much, but I wanted to report on my experiences with KDE 4.1 and Kubuntu 8.10. I first downloaded KDE-4.1 over last summer and had a good first impression because of its sleek design, and I moved to Kubuntu as my job needed a solid and usable terminal environment. Ubuntu's default Gnome terminal just doesn't cut it for me, and I live in Konsole in work and at home. In November I succumbed to the temptation to upgrade from Kubuntu 8.04 (which uses the KDE 3.5.9 version - screenshot) to Kubuntu 8.10 and KDE 4.1. My initial enthusiasm quickly faded, as I found the desktop environment to be buggy and non-usable for my work needs. My main complaints have to do with the strictures on environment configuration. In KDE 3.5 I can drag an icon from the menu to the task launcher bar and I then have a quick launch for any given program, I can drop a file I need to use on the desktop and pick it right back up and drop it somewhere else. This is the way I (and most users) expect desktop environments to act.

By contrast, KDE 4.1 requires that I add a "widget" to either the desktop or task panel that I can then use in prescribed and limited ways. The default menu in KDE 4.1 stopped making sense to me and I reverted to "classic view" fairly quickly, though since I never did figure out how to create a task launcher in the panel, I had to tailor the menu to have my most-used programs all together and visible. These issues had me briefly running back to Gnome, but I can't really go back at this point - I like KDE too much. [There were also Ubuntu-Intrepid-level issues (unrelated to KDE) that bothered me, the most annoying of which was that my CD-ROM drive would only mount sporadically. I'm concerned that Intrepid is not up to my high Ubuntu expectations :-(]

Because of all this, I reverted to Kubuntu 8.04 last weekend, and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. Everything works, everything looks great, and I realized that I needed a fresh install. I hope that the KDE developers will consider keeping a 3.5-level strain of development around for awhile, as I don't plan to try a newer KDE again until at least the end of Hardy Heron LTS support in 2011. . .

UPDATE: Linus Torvalds, original author of the Linux kernel agrees:
I used to be a KDE user. I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster, I switched to GNOME. I hate the fact that my right button doesn't do what I want it to do. But the whole "break everything" model is painful for users, and they can choose to use something else.

I realize the reason for the 4.0 release, but I think they did it badly. They did so may changes, it was a half-baked release. It may turn out to be the right decision in the end, and I will retry KDE, but I suspect I'm not the only person they lost.