Monday, September 19, 2011

Kubuntu 11.10 Beta Test Drive

Kubuntu Desktop
Canonical recently released its Beta version of Kubuntu 11.10, Oneiric Ocelot, with all eyes toward the final release scheduled for October 13.  We take a look at this release and the new KDE 4.7 Desktop and Netbook Plasma Workspaces.

Kubuntu uses KDE 4.7 with Plama for a beautiful and functional desktop including a new Oxygen icon theme.

I downloaded the .iso here and used UNetbootin to set up a bootable flash drive with the live dvd image. After booting*, The welcome screen offers language selection and choices for 'Try Kubuntu' and 'Install Kubuntu'

I clicked 'Try Kubuntu' and after a few minutes, the desktop loaded elegantly with nice visual effects working out of the box. The delicate login chimes indicated that sound was working properly.
Kubuntu boots into one of two default workspaces, depending on your hardware: Netbook and Desktop views. It also adjusts the level of desktop effects to your hardware so it feels snappy, even on older computers.

Netbook Desktop
Netbook Workspace:
Designed for portable devices, the simplified interface is customized to compliment the usage patterns common in these smaller netbook sized computers.

The default netbook desktop features a search box for quick access to applications, email, your contacts, even websites including Wikipedia.

Below the search box is a row of icons for accessing common tasks. Including:
  • Bookmarks
  • Contacts
  • Multimedia
  • Internet
  • Graphics
  • Games
  • Office
The Top Panel contains:
  • Menu (used for menus for running applications)
  • Search & Launch
  • Page One
  • Notifications and Jobs
  • Clipboard
  • Most Recent Devices
  • Sound Controls
  • Battery Monitor
  • Network Manager (no icon, just tiny arrow)
  • Show Hidden Icons
  • Clock
  • Lock Screen
  • Leave (aka 'Shut Down' menu)
  • Running applications
An icon in lower left brings up panel with options for
  • Add Widgets
  • Configure Search and Launch
  • Shortcut settings
  • Add Page
You can choose from thousands of useful and fun widgets to further customize your workspaces, all easily installable and configurable.

Adding Pages is like adding additional workspaces. These can be configured separately with their own widgets and wallpaper. Click the icon at top to move quickly between these pages. The effect is similar to multiple screens in your smartphone.

To switch between the two Workspace views (netbook and desktop) go to System Settings and select the Workspace Behavior icon. Click on 'Workspace' on the side menu and make your choice in the 'Workspace Type' drop down menu.

Desktop Menu
Desktop Workspace:
Desktop view is more like the classic KDE desktop with the capability of adding widgets to further customize your view. There is the familiar Kickoff button in the lower left, which brings up a menu with search capabilities and links to applications and computer locations.  A new breadcrumb addition makes navigation easier.
Click on the three colored dots next to the Kickoff menu to open an activity launcher with shortcuts to common desktop tasks. Click 'Add Widgets' to open a sliding panel with dozens of choices, or you can click Get New Widgets/Download Plasma Widgets to open the Plasma Desktop Shell Add-On Installer.

Widgets Menu
Here you can browse through hundreds of additional widgets, including descriptions, details, user ratings and screenshots. Select to order by Newest, Rating, Most Downloads and Installed. Simply click the 'Install' button to add it to your widget list.

Clicking the tiny icon for network manager brings up a new and improved widget with an easy to use interface which lists all available wireless networks. Click on your network and a window opens where you enter your password and wifi connects instantly.

Flash installed easily
Opening the browser Rekonq (both Firefox and rekonq are installed by default), pops up a notification in your task bar that extra packages can be installed to enhance the browser functionality. Clicking the icon opens a window which offers to install Flash (marked with checkbox). Click the 'Install Selected' button and Flash is installed painlessly.

Muon Software Center
Kubuntu uses the Muon Software Center for installing packages. Select from general catagories or use the search tool to browse thousands of software packages. Simplify your choice with the help of user reviews and ratings and view screenshots.

An updated Amarok 2.4.3 is included as the default music player and it features an spiffed up user interface, improved reliability and support for and native support for NFS & SMB/CIFS collections. Opening Amarok, a notification icon appeared and offered to download and install all the necessary plugins.

Gwenview Picture Viewer
Attaching my Android phone, Kubuntu recognized it as portable media player and attached USB device. I chose to open the pictures with Gwenview, the default picture viewer. Gwenview provides basic photo editing options such as Rotate, Resize, Crop and Red Eye Reduction. It also has a new feature which allows it to compare two or more images.

Kubuntu includes the new KDE PIM suite, an integrated personal management system. It includes KMail for mail, RSS and news readers, microblogger, address book, alarm clock,calendar and more. Be sure to back up all your important information, calendars and address book before you migrate to this new system.

This version of Kubuntu is beautiful, intuitive and surprisingly stable. It ships with the versatile KDE 4.7 and includes many new features and updated software. For experienced KDE users or estranged gnome users searching for an alternative to Unity, Kubuntu 11.10 is a breath of fresh air and joy to use.

More information can be found   wiki and  kde.
Hardware Specs:
  • Asus eeepc 900
  • 16 + 4 GB SSD
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 900 MHz Celeron Processor
  • Atheros AR5001 wireless adapter
  • Intel 915GM Graphics Controller
This article was originally published in on Sept. 19, 2011

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