Kubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr review


Updated: May 9, 2014

Several days ago, I reviewed Ubuntu 14.04. In the Linux alphabet, letter K comes after U. Wait, did I use this same lame joke before? I must have. Never mind. The distro did exceptionally well. Beyond my expectations. Excellent hardware compatibility, a solid desktop session, lots of tiny improvements, plus stability.

Let us explore Kubuntu Tahr now, shall we. I am going to do that on an aging LG laptop, which is now about five years old. It houses two distros, including one Kubuntu Ringtail and one Netrunner Enigma II. I am going to replace the first, but retain the user data. And what makes this laptop interesting is the Nvidia graphics card. Let's rock.

Teaser

Live session - Dull and functional

The boot-from-USB part was decent. Kubuntu looks slick. You also get a prompt for language support and proprietary drivers, so it's a positive sign already. Furthermore, all my Wireless networks were properly detected, both in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz range. Bluetooth and Samba also worked without any problems.

Live desktop

Prompt to install third-party drivers

Menu

The network applet is really cool. It's almost identical to the one used in Windows, so fresh converts will feel happy and free. Moreover, you have the option to enable or disable wired and Wireless connections, or to set the device in the airplane mode. Not bad.

Network

And that's enough. Now let's do something more exciting. Wait, what? Yes. You don't get any pr0n-friendly codecs in the live session, so all the good parts happen after the distro is installed. Shall we?

Installation

The installer has improved slightly. The font is still too small, and too close to the step-by-step sidebar, but there's a little more class and breathing space in the wizard design, so it could mature into a nice-looking beast one day.

Installer, begin

The partitioning step is decent, with fine colors and a draggable slider/marker, which is supposed to help you resize partitions in a very crude way. We won't be doing the suggested layout. We will instead replace Ringtail with Trusty Tahr.

Partitions

Partitions selected

The installation was relatively quick. And rather boring. So far, Kubuntu aims to underwhelm, and this has not improved much in the last few releases. In fact, this is true for most KDE distros out there. The one notable exception is openSUSE, which ships with the most stunningly beautiful KDE theme around. Back on topic, there were no problems. The setup completed in about 20 minutes. The GRUB bootloader did its work well.

Installing

Now, let us enjoy ourselves

It's time to start doing things that normal people like and expect. All right. First, the user data migration worked fine. When I say migration, I merely reused the old account, and it was elegantly integrated. No errors or weird bugs. The only thing that did not work was a bunch of programs that needed reinstalling, but that's perfectly normal. Oh, one thing that did funk up was the bottom panel losing its transparency. But I fixed it switching between desktop themes.

Desktop installed

Applications

Good and bad. On the positive side, Firefox is the default browser, and there's no more need for the installer to get it configured. On the negative side, the Steam installation still does not work through Muon Discover, and you need to add the repository manually. Other than that, you get a solid collection. LibreOffice, Amarok, KTorrent, Dragon, GwenView, Okular, and still more besides. Pretty decent.

Apps

One thing is missing, though - no webcam utility. Now, Kmail is the default mail client, and it did not work well. It complained about Akonadi not running, and if you skip the user setup, it will terminate with an error. Fugly.

Kmail errors

Package management & updates

Muon Discover is pretty, but it's not really nice to use. The search box is small, and search results not as good as its Ubuntu family siblings. Updates worked fine, though. Fast and true. To wit, screenshots showing a failed search for Steam, as well as the updates progress progressing swell.

Muon Discover

No Steam

Package management

Nvidia drivers

The setup worked without a hitch. No need for hacks.

Nvidia update

Nvidia ok

Desktop effects

After installing the graphics drivers, I tried desktop effects. Fail.

Multimedia playback

On this front, we're covered. MP3 and Flash. Yippie!

Youtube, Flash

MP3 playback

Printing

Das ist broken!

Printing broken

System resources & stability

There were no crashes, no segmentation faults. Suspend & resume did not work fine, though. I was unable to resume the system and had to hard boot. Beyond that, there were errors in the session, like we saw earlier, but no ugly code suicide. However, from the purely system usage perspective, Kubuntu 14.04 is not as lean and sprightly as its predecessors.

System usage

The CPU was rather noisy, even though the memory footprint is similar to the older versions, at about 600MB without any additional activity. As far as responsiveness goes, it has noticeably worsened. You do notice slight delays when opening applications. True, this is an old machine, with just two cores, a slow disk and an olden graphics card, and you can still use the system pretty well, but it's no longer butter milk ride down the slopes of Valhala.

Conclusion

Kubuntu does retain most of its charm in this LTS release. Overall, Kubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr is a decent system, and it will serve well for the next five years or so. But you should choose your hardware well. Furthermore, some of the stuff won't work. In my example, webcam, desktop effects and printing were botched. Suspend & resume is another itch.

There were no application crashes, the overall visual appeal is decent, and the system has been packaged with elegance. But you need to work hard to sweat all that goodness from underneath its skin, because it does not show or shine by default. The live session is dreary, and even later, after the box has been installed, you need to labor to get the fun to bear. This is not as it should be. Kubuntu can be more fun. Better looks, more fun apps, a smarter package manager. I demand it. Overall, average unless you invest some time fixing things. 7.5/10.

Cheers.

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