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Saturday, April 10, 2010

First look at kUbuntu 10.4 Lucid Lynx or why I hate KDE4

Close lynx by Tambako the Jaguar from flickr (CC-ND)

One thing that still amazes me is how in 2010 operating systems still require ridiculous amount of work from inserting installation DVD to having a semi-decent system - even though no technical reasons prevent that from being a 5 minute zero-click operation.

First, installer decided to crash a few times. It is only beta 2 I've been testing, not final release - but seriously, that just shouldn't happen. Random installer crashes a couple of weeks before Long Term Support release?

Next there's a few classic system configuration questions - region, timezone, keyboard - and shouldn't they just set the defaults based on DHCP + geoip? Anyway, it's a small issue compared to those to come.

And here we come to my first big complaint - partitioning. First, why the fuck do they still use swap partitions instead of swap files like every other operating system? Don't make it more difficult for users for some marginal gain in performance. If they cared about performance that much they wouldn't be using KDE, you know. And second - how about some sane defaults? There was an ext3 partition from some old Linux and ntfs partition on that computer, but I had to manually tell the installer what I want to do with them - as if it was so difficult to suggest / and /media/c or somesuch so as defaults.

Did I mention installer was ridiculously slow? Did they use framebuffer graphics driver or what? Anyway, a few clicks, and the system is installed - this is of course only the beginning.

Go to the OSX-ripoff system settings panel (Applications > Settings > System Settings), and let's start fixing things.

It's been an ancient tradition in all operating systems I know that mouse and keyboard defaults are designed for old people with Parkinson's - so we need to go to keyboard, reduce repeat delay and increase repeat rate to saner values. Of course unlike every system since probably Windows 3.11 KDE didn't even bother including test box in its keyboard speed configuration dialog. Seriously guys? If you cannot get even something as obvious as that right, what chance do you have for even chasing the 2x overpriced Apple, let alone Microsoft?

It's even worse when it comes to configuring mouse. Instead of one mouse speed slider there are 6 confusing numeric entry boxes. Tip: increase the first from 2x to 5x to restore sanity.

While in keyboard and mouse settings I was wondering if I can make one of special keys launch a browser - but application launching didn't seem to be available anywhere. And I stumbled upon something really ridiculous - monitor brightness controls are under "KDE dæmon". With a ligature. You're trying to outhipster Macs or what? Seriously, fix that spelling - or even better label these "monitor settings" or something like that.

hello by elekesmagdi from flickr (CC-NC)

Now it was time to install some software to make the system useful. Konsole was hidden deep is "Applications > System" and I needed to scroll down to get to it. I know it's a trivial inconvenience, but even Windows fucking 95 had that right. Do not use tiny constant height widgets for Start menu - and to add insult to injury make them use huge icons. It can only display 8 programs without scrolling, and they're not even arranged in any sensible order (it's supposedly alphabetic, except "Konsole" is under T for "Terminal"). Are you trying to repeat the spectacular success of "let's throw away everything and reinvent GUI" OLPC?

So I was looking for apt-something, and because it was not obvious I just typed "apt" in the program search box - it came with literally 15 results, and KPackageKit was not even in the first half.

While I looked around the menu I accidentally clicked Akregator - there's zero pixels of inactive margin between clickable areas to run programs - Fitts' Law called me and told to says hello - and instantly proceeded to quit it. Instead of quitting it showed me the "You're not gonna catch me, I'm going to stay in the system tray" message - I tried looking for it but the system tray in fresh KDE is as filled with unnecessary garbage as a Windows 98 installation which has been running since literal year 1998. Why do I need half of that? Anyway, I located some icon which looked like Akregator, asked it to quit and it proceeded to enrage me with "Are you sure you want to quit Akregator" dialog? What kind of question is that? I've told you to quit twice in the last 30 seconds you dumb program! And there are no unsaved documents or anything there - you're a fucking RSS reader! If there were unsaved documents you should tell me about them - and there is never ever under any circumstances any reason why a program should ask if it should quit or not, other than unsaved documents. How is it that every minute of using KDE I stumble upon such a basic usability failure?

So, KPackageKit started - let's install Firefox because you won't catch me using Konqueror even for web testing and I'm the kind of person who still tests in IE6. Actually I wanted to check if Firefox is maybe already installed - the useless Konqueror is prominently displayed in Start menu, but maybe Firefox is somewhere there. So I typed "firefox" in start menu search box and clicked on something called "Mozilla Firefox Web Browser Installer" - the only result this time. It steals the whole screen for some reason (all right, some video came installers use fullscreen mode, but I've never seen any regular installer do that before...) and when I click "Install"... it tells me that "Requested packages are already installed".

So is Firefox installed or not? KPackageKit search for firefox only lists "kubuntu-firefox-installer" package - exactly the same one which fails so hard. I even tried to search for "iceweasel" - in case kUbuntu shares Debian's obsession with legalistic minutiae of its trademark amendment to DFSG but no. I typed "firefox" in Konsole to get "Program 'firefox' is not installed. You can install it by typing sudo apt-get install firefox" - apt is the most awesome thing that ever came out of Linux - but when I tried that I've been told firefox package is not available.

Wait, did they even get apt repository listings? I assumed they must have done it automatically, as KPackageKit showed no button or anything suggesting that manual action was required - but "sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install firefox" actually did the trick. I wrote a whole post about configuring Firefox 3.6 a couple of months ago, so I won't be repeating myself now.

Faces of God by Unitopia from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

So, time for some serious package installation. Now I've noticed something I'm rather ambiguous about. Dragging a window to the left or right edge of the screen semi-maximizes it to full height / half width - which is an idea so brilliant that if I ever meet the person who came up with it they're getting some free booze. Unfortunately X is also the only graphics system with usable virtual desktops (if any of you ever mentions Mac Spaces, God is going to drown some puppies) - and usable virtual desktops work even better if screen edges move between desktops - especially since by default there are no keyboard shortcuts to move windows either - Mouse and Keyboard > Global Keyboard Shortcuts > Window to Desktop 1 > Custom > Ctrl+Shift+F1 etc. fixes that fortunately. I like having both ways of moving stuff from one virtual desktop to another, but at a very least one way should be provided, no? (right clicking on title bar doesn't count)

So package installation. First, 159 packages got updated since beta 2 release - maybe not that surprising so shortly before the big release. And upgrading programs with apt is such a joy after suffering of MacPorts.

Back to Firefox for a moment. Why is there no Bing in default search engines list, when they have ever obscure ones nobody uses like and creative commons? Is it all Firefox or just kUbuntu's? It's not a big deal by any means, but if you want Microsoft to offer users choice of browser with its operating system, why not offer users choice of search engine with your browser? And speaking of browser choice - why nobody asks me which browser I want as default? Because the answer is very much not Konqueror. Konqueror is the MSIE of ... well, of not-Microsoft. I have about as much interest in using Konqueror as I have in using Safari or IE. Basically, default browsers for all platforms somehow suck massively, and all sane people use Firefox... or maybe Opera. So I went to youtube to see if Flash works. I've been greeted with the usual "Missing plugins" message, so I clicked some buttons - and the relevant plugins have not been found obviously - why would it work if it can rather not? Fortunately apt-get install flashplugin-installer worked - by this time I abandoned pretty much all hope of installing anything from GUIs and went straight to good old console, as if it was 1999 and I was still using Debian 2.1 slink... By the way did you know youtube had ads? Wow, sometimes I don't realize how different the Internet for smart people is from the Internet for everybody else.

Crazy Kitten? // Nikkor 50mm 1.4 by Merlijn Hoek from flickr (CC-NC-ND)

This installation guide/diary gets ridiculously long, and we're still quite far from a usable system. From memory I just typed apt-get install build-essential irb1.8 irb1.9 octave3.2 unrar ttf-mscorefonts-installer mplayer mc git subversion mongodb - I'm sure I forgot half the programs needed, but I'll figure them out someday. By the way, how hard would it be to just have apt-get install everything? Yes, there will be a couple of conflicts, complicated packages, and such, but 90% of packages should be installable everywhere without any hassle. I couldn't find Sun Java, and I know past Open Source javas like Kaffe and gcj were essentially useless - but I'll give that OpenJDK a try. Once. Like I did with Tesco Value.

At this point the system is reasonably close to usable except for a few things which I'll keep open:
  • Why don't PageUp / PageDown / Home / End work in Konsole (or xterm)? They work in Firefox just fine and my keyboard is not unusual - just awesome.
  • How do I make Konsole and Firefox start when I log in? It's right there in dock menu on Mac, so it shouldn't be too hard in KDE either.


Anonymous said...

Moan, moan, moan.

Anonymous said...

Huh, I'm thought you could install Java using apt-get install in Ubuntu.

"sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin sun-java6-fonts"

taw said...

Dorne: Yes, I tried that, it seems this no longer works in 10.4 (at least in 64bit beta2), allegedly for some vague security reasons.

Yossarian UK said...

To install Java in 10.04 you must enabled the partner repo in sources.list

Most of your KDE issues seem to related to the Kubuntu implementation - I have to say since Kubuntu has gone to kde4 it has been shoddy, that doesn't mean KDE4 itself is, try opensuse, fedora, mandriva or what use - Arch - all of these distros have a better version of KDE4 - The distro with the least issues for me is Arch...

Quickshot said...

Using openJDK is probably not a good idea. assuming it's the one I think you are referring to. A gentoo dev complained it ran out of memory on his 32 GB system. So if it's that one, it's probably no good in real life.

Yossarian UK said...

I wasn't referring to openjdk at all, I was referring to Sun Java.

Previously it was in the standard repos, now you have to enable the partner repo to get it .

See the 10.04 release notes for confirmation this is correct :-

Yossarian UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk M said...

The problem is Kubuntu, not KDE. I would recommend trying the Linux Mint KDE version (the one based on Lucid Linux will be available around the middle of May) and I'm sure you'll have a much better experience overall.

Stan said...

yeah, I hate KDE too. The normal Gnome Ubuntu uses Firefox as the default browser.

I enjoyed the "internet for smart people" comment, I use NoScript rather than Adblock though.

and by the way, thanks for making JRPG, its a great reviewing tool.

taw said...

Stan: Nowhere did I imply that I hate GNOME any less than KDE ;-p

Anonymous said...

First thing I did in Kubuntu 10.4 Beta 2 was install synaptic (after removing #`s in sources.list).
One problem with KDE is accessing my Windows files (dual boot), it`s in the Gnome menu.

Anonymous said...

I have the same issue with the mouse under ubuntu 10.4

But unfortunately in gnome the situation is worse: Even if I drag the acceleration bar to the maximum, it's still in "grandpa"-mode... That is VERY annoying.

Besides that I find this a huge step forward for ubuntu!

Anonymous said...

Moan, moan, moan.

Unknown said...

Yeah seriously, get a Mac. Having tried Gnome and KDE across several distributions shaping up the OS to your "liking" is just that, "your liking." It can take a few hours of getting it to your preferences, regardless of the OS.

A one-click 5 minute install would exclude implementing things like mdadm or the choice of file system; believe it or not there is life after ext3&4.

I'm not trying to pick holes at this, but these rants can be copied and pasted to any OS......

Anonymous said...

ahhaha, just stopped reading after reading about the swap

you dont know that most operative systems dont use swap files for a reason? a very important reason?

Complain if you know what are you talking about or ask instead if you dont

Learning wont hurt
Cheers ^^

Anonymous said...

@Abonymous: +1

"Learning won't hurt" - I'm not so sure. Y'see, I used to think the same way, but it seems way too many ppl on the web work together to change my thinking.