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.