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Greetings all! Sorry to have been absent for so long, but was starting up a Linux diary (blog) in another space. I started writing about Open Source software, primarily Linux and *BSD (with a smattering of rant thrown in) back in early April this year, nearly six months since I made the switch to Open Source systems. It's been an eventful year, and if you have any stories you'd like to share, or just anything tech-related you want to talk about, then pull up a chair, and have at it, whether it's Open Source or not.

This diary was cross-posted at my new blog home--located here. I'll try to post here over the next few weeks, with the release of all the major Open Source operating systems fast on our heels, though if any slip through the cracks, you can always find me there. If you follow me past the fold, you can take a look at a first impression of Kubuntu 7.10 beta (Gutsy Gibbon), and what you can expect from the final version. Cheers!

I've been playing around with PCLinuxOS (GNOME version) and really come to appreciate it; PCLOS normally uses the KDE desktop (Tex reportedly doesn't much like GNOME), though it's hard to tell from this fine release--more about PCLOS in a subsequent post--today I want to take a look at the latest beta release of Kubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon).

This distro is the perfect choice if you are going to dual boot (either Windows or another Linux distro); it's absolutely flawless when it comes to recognizing another install, resizing the partition and fitting itself into the resulting space, while neatly listing all of the available systems in the start up GRUB menu.

Unlike Ubuntu 7.10 (GNOME desktop), Kubuntu 7.10 does not offer 3D effects out of the box, though with the Adept package manager it's the work of a few moments to add the CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM) as well as all of the support files to get that 3D madness going.

I'm writing this post in Kate (the default KDE text editor) because for some reason when using Wordpress (I suspect the Auto-save mechanism) with any Linux distro, I continually get a system lock-up (requiring a hard re-start) when the auto-save feature kicks in; I figure that by writing and posting it, then quickly hitting publish I can avoid that mess.

Anyway, back to Kubuntu--it feels very responsive, much more so than 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), and uses the new Dolphin file manager to navigate around the system. Dolphin is, well, lovely is the best description, as well as being very intuitive and functional; the polish that the Ubuntu team put into this has to be seen to be believed.

The installer is noticeably faster than the previous version, and startup and shutdown times are improved too; if there is more of a no-brainer installer out there, I'd like to know about it--choose keyboard layout and language, system language, timezone, partition scheme (mentioned above as being made for dual booting), input name, username, password, and then hit install, and roughly twenty minutes later you are in a nice shiny Kubuntu desktop, minus the 3D effects (just as well, as it's just so cool and a total timesink).

The start menu at the lower left corner of the screen has all the usual KDE goodies, nicely laid out in their respective places: Graphics--digiKam (photo management), Gwenview (image manipulation), Kooka (scan and OCR program), KPDF (guess what), and Ksnapshot (screen capture program); Internet--Akgregator (RSS feed reader), Knetwork manager (for connecting wirelessly), Konqueror (web browser), Kopete (IM), Konversation (IRC) Ktorrent (torrent client) among others; Multimedia--Kmix (sound mixer), Amarok (full-featured music manager and player), Kaffeine (mediaplayer), and K3b (CD/DVD burner extraordinaire); Office--Open Office, Knotes, Kontact (personal info manager) and a couple of others; Settings (3D effects), System, Utilities, Add/Remove Programs, Help (help), Strigi (desktop search), and System settings round out the rest of the menu.

One of the nicer features in KDesktop is the ability to automatically go to KDE-Look and preview and download new wallpapers; you'll find yourself downloading scads of truly breathtaking wallpapers, just because. Just right-click on the desktop, and choose 'configure desktop' and a window pops up, allowing you to go to town on the eye-candy.

Just as in Ubuntu 7.10, all of the buttons on my Thinkpad were recognized (or nearly all, not bad for a beta), the proper screen resolution was detected without a hitch, and (very subjectively speaking now) it feels to be a very well integrated system.

Package management is handled by the Adept package manager (Ubuntu uses Synaptic) which is a much better fit and feel for this KDE distro; updates (the local mirror was automatically configured for fast download) went very smoothly, which is pretty astonishing as the first update had over 200M in upgrades to download--it was handled by adept in just a matter of minutes. The only limiting factor will be the speed of your web connection--I maxed out my DSL connection when getting the updates/installing new software.

From the look and feel, as well as the high degree of polish in this still only beta OS, one is led to suspect that the folks at Canonical are working closely with the KDE team to provide an absolutely stunning package--KDE4, when it is released, will be mind-bendingly good on this setup. Only two more months until that becomes a reality.

It's clear from their implementation of a KDE desktop that one half of my dual boot has a place reserved; now the only question for the other half is: Mandriva or PCLinuxOS?

Update: After having used Kubuntu for the past several days pretty much non-stop, I have to say that it is very stable, and an absolute joy to use; if you have any questions during usage, then a quick click on the Konversation (IRC chat client) leads you directly to the #kubuntu channel, where any and all questions are answered quickly and clearly, pretty much around the clock.

The 3D effects are simply amazing when integrated with the KDE desktop environment, and a total waste of time, though there are a few 'productivity' uses, such as the expo effect and the fast window switching. Setting up all the necessary web requirements (flash, mp3, video, etc.) are truly effortless, and all handled by simply clicking on the various media files you wish to play, much the same as in Ubuntu. The one exception is Flash, where you have the option to use the Open Source gnash player or the proprietary flash, and both are a breeze to set up through adept, or Firefox, your choice. Wireless is well-supported (much better than in the previous 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) release, and power management is also hugely improved. Startup, shutdown and reboot times are nothing short of phenomenal, clocking in from between 10-15 seconds.

Originally posted to fareast on Wed Oct 03, 2007 at 08:50 AM PDT.

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