Kubuntu 10.10 review
Gareth Halfacree takes the KDE spin of popular desktop Linux distribution Ubuntu, known as Kubuntu, through its paces…
Pros: Plasma interface offers plenty of eye-candy, simple installation process, and an excellent selection of pre-installed applications
Cons: Unfamiliar default browser, old-fashioned software installation GUI, and several areas such as Activities are still poorly documented
Canonical’s Ubuntu is one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions around, but it’s easy to forget that there is a wealth of alternatives built on the same user-friendly base – including, most famously, the KDE-based Kubuntu. While the back end of the OS is identical in both cases, the interface couldn’t be more different.
Kubuntu 10.10, also known by the same codename as Ubuntu 10.10 ‘Maverick Meerkat,’ differs from its parent distribution by ditching the GNOME interface for KDE – and while it’s very much a case of personal preference as to which you prefer, the latest KDE build brings some fascinating new features which users can explore in the Live CD or Live USB environments.
Chief among these is Plasma, a workspace framework that allows KDE to be modified according to the users’ requirements – including offering the ability to quickly switch between a desktop-style layout and a netbook-style layout more optimised for a small screen on the fly.
The most obvious feature of Plasma for an end-user, however, is Widgets: in place of the traditional desktop, Plasma offers a surface that can be populated with widgets offering everything from weather forecasting, a Twitter and Identica client, file browsers, web page snippets, and even physics-driven eye candy such as a bouncing ball that can be thrown around the desktop.
If you’re used to GNOME, KDE Plasma can take a little bit of getting used to – and certain aspects are, sadly, still somewhat user-unfriendly. The best example of this is KDE’s support for Activities, a method of quickly switching between groups of programs and even desktop layouts for different tasks, which is sadly poorly documented within the OS and difficult for a less technical user to experiment with.
Despite some issues, KDE’s Plasma framework offers a clean and modern-looking user interface reminiscent of Apple’s Mac OS X, and – like Ubuntu – offers a Desktop Effects menu to enable desktop compositing for even more impressive eye candy.