2012-07-19

Long-Term Review: Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin"

This is the second of a handful of long-term reviews I will be doing this summer. The initial subject of this was the 64-bit edition of #! 11 "Waldorf", so follow the jump to see how that turned out.

Day 0

I was able to install and run Mozilla Firefox (and not just Iceweasel), LibreOffice, Skype, Google Talk, Mupen64Plus 1.5, and Redshift all fine on the live session (through a live USB made with MultiSystem) on my laptop. That said, installing the Debian menu to get an automatically-updating Openbox menu did not work, in that while the Debian menu did show all the installed programs, it did not automatically update itself to reflect newly installed applications.

Day 1

I quickly checked stuff out on the live session on the office desktop just to make sure things worked OK. I couldn't find a shortcut to the installer in the live session, so I rebooted and picked the boot menu option to install #!. The #! installer reminds me of a combination of the Debian installer and the Debian-based Linux Mint installer, and it seemed pretty nice. That said, when it came to actually loading and installing packages, the installer kept looking for a CD and couldn't find any because I was using a live USB. Looking at the #! forums, it seemed like this was a problem with live USB systems made with UnetBootin, and while I had used MultiSystem instead, I suspected that they make live USB systems in similar ways.

I then tried the "dd" command to write the full ISO file to the USB drive. While once again the live session worked fine, the installer again got stuck regarding how I was using a USB drive rather than a CD. I figured that was not the problem, so I reformatted my USB drive and put MultiSystem with the #! live image back on it; this also allows me to conduct my usual reviews again in my usual fashion.

I saw some forum posts about how the live session file system has a folder called "sid" which needs to be renamed "wheezy", so I did that from the installed Chakra session (which had not yet been touched) and tried again. Just to be sure, when rebooting into the #! installer, I also added the boot parameter "cdrom-detect/try-usb=true" to the commands in the boot menu entry. This time, the installer did progress and was able to properly format appropriate partitions of the hard drive in the office desktop and install #! properly. That said, it had trouble configuring APT and could not install GRUB. I rebooted into the live #! session and followed steps in the forums to properly configure APT and install/configure GRUB through the "chroot" command. Finally, I rebooted back into the newly-installed #! system and performed the final required steps as outlined in that same forum post, and after all that song and dance, GRUB worked. Then, I hit a brick wall in the form of the login manager SLiM. I mean, it seemed to say my username and password were fine, but it could not execute the command to actually log me in.

Here, I again turned to the forums for help. Apparently it's a known problem with this prerelease of #! 11 "Waldorf". There were a few possible solutions, but all of them, including purging the system of SLiM and then reinstalling it, failed to fix the issue. Finally, I gave up and tried logging in as the root user, and that actually worked. That said, I was greeted not by the nice customized #! Openbox session but by a completely bare (no Tint2 panel, no custom themes, no wallpaper, no custom Openbox menu except for the submenu containing the Debian menu) Openbox session. Granted, I was able to use all of my programs just fine, but it was extremely cumbersome having to manage windows manually (i.e. using 'ALT'+'TAB' all the time to switch windows).

More related to my work, none of the issues that I had with SSH and X/11 in Chakra appeared in #!. I didn't need to quit and restart SSH just to use Gedit consecutive times. I was able to copy text from Gedit in the SSH session to LibreOffice in the host session. And logging in was very fast, as it should be.

To be honest, given that there appears to be no solution to me not being able to log in as a normal user, I don't think I'm going to go any farther with #!. It apparently just isn't ready for my desktop. That's fine, though, because it's a year away from achieving a final, stable release. Frankly, I was shocked that even the live session worked as well as it did. That said, I would like to see the #! developers put a little more time into making the ISO files play nicely with USB drives, because even the recommended "dd" method seems rather hit-or-miss. In any case, I'm going to switch to a different distribution to review. I'm thinking Fuduntu if it works out, because I'm putting out a (regular) review of that today; if it doesn't, it'll be Sabayon, SolusOS, Kubuntu, or something else. Whatever it ends up being will be reflected in the final title of this post.

Day 2

Before getting to what I actually did install to replace #!, I'll briefly discuss what I tried out before that. First, I tried Fuduntu 2012.3. I am still attracted to the fact that it uses GNOME 2. Things like Mozilla Firefox, Skype, Google Talk, and Mupen64Plus 1.5 all installed fine, as did the Linux Mint Menu. All of those worked fine except for Mupen64Plus, which, when closed, caused the whole system to freeze. Furthermore, I had encountered another random crash before that too, and that caused menu items and open programs to stop working as well as panel applets to disappear one by one. Finally, neither F.lux nor Redshift worked properly. The two major crashes combined with that minor hiccup mean that I'm not going to use Fuduntu.

Next, I tried the 64-bit edition of Sabayon 9 KDE (where previously I had reviewed the 32-bit edition). Mozilla Firefox, Skype, Google Talk, codecs, and Mupen64Plus 1.5 all worked great, which would basically make it workable on my personal laptop. However, using SSH to access the computing cluster for my UROP did not work for whatever reason; issuing the command caused the terminal to just hang there. This makes it totally unsuitable for my office desktop; also, for future reviews, I'll probably add using SSH to log into my account on that computing cluster to the things I test.

At this point, I was getting a bit desperate for a replacement for #!, so on the advice of commenter Jagdeesh Deshpande (and also because I had the ISO file still on my computer), I made a live USB of the 64-bit edition of Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" with UnetBootin. Before using it on my office desktop, I gave the live session another run on my personal laptop. While Mozilla Firefox and Google Talk worked, codecs did not, and neither did any attempt to install them in the live session. Furthermore, installing the 64-bit edition of Skype failed miserably despite following instructions elsewhere to install the requisite 32-bit libraries and other dependencies, because some packages simply weren't present as listed in the repositories. Maybe this is because additional repositories enabled in the installed session are disabled in the live session, but unless I really messed up somewhere (which is probably the case), the required repositories were already enabled anyway, yet the packages just weren't there. Also, Mupen64Plus 1.5 did not fully work because of the lack of two key packages; starting it worked, but I could not configure the input settings, which is the biggest reason why I stick with version 1.5. While this meant that I probably won't be using Kubuntu on my laptop anytime soon, I went ahead and installed it on the office desktop. The installation itself took a couple minutes, but because I had also told the installer to download proprietary packages and apply some updates, the whole process took longer. After all of that, I rebooted and used "sudo apt-get update" followed by "sudo apt-get dist-upgrade" in the terminal to upgrade the system. (Also, GRUB and everything else worked just fine.)

After rebooting again to allow kernel updates to take effect, I customized the desktop in exactly the same way that I did to Chakra, including the KDE Lancelot menu, the Plasma theme (Ronak, which is the default in Chakra), the shortcuts on the panel, and the widgets on the desktop. I also set the keyboard shortcuts for switching workspaces, assigned applications to different workspaces, and made windows of the same parent application automatically tab together, as I did in Chakra.

After that, I installed Mozilla Firefox using the given menu entry. Strangely, there was another dummy menu entry for Mozilla Firefox that did not work. But even more weirdly (in a very good way), Mozilla Firefox came with exactly the same customizations as I had done in Chakra. This really weirded me out, but I was quite happy nonetheless.

Following that, I installed Redshift and its accompanying GTK-based panel icon (the latter of which was not available in Chakra but is available in Ubuntu and its siblings). Even more weirdly, when I went to the KDE System Settings program to add it to the list of programs to start upon startup, it was already there (though I had to change "redshift" to "gtk-redshift" to get it to display in the panel). The only conclusion I can draw from this is that these customizations that I made in Chakra were saved in my home folder, and those were carried over because I only changed the root partition when installing Kubuntu and left the home partition intact. This also explains why Mozilla Firefox was already customized to my tastes and why there may have been another dummy menu entry for Mozilla Firefox. I guess from now on, I'm going to try to make a separate home partition unless space constraints prevent that from happening.

Regarding my UROP, SSH again worked just fine. GUI applications like Gedit were not at all problematic, and I was able to copy text from Gedit through SSH to other applications on the host session like LibreOffice Calc.

Overall, Kubuntu seems quite smooth and workable. Again, it probably won't fit my personal needs, but it seems to fit my (rather minimal) work needs quite well, and I like the way it has worked so far.

Day 3

There really isn't much to report here about Kubuntu, except that it works really well. This was also the first day in Kubuntu that I tried logging into sites that required MIT web certificates, and I found that even the web certificates from my time with Chakra were still saved and usable in Kubuntu.

Day 4

Today, I experienced a similar hang-up with Mozilla Firefox in Kubuntu as I did in Chakra: when I clicked on an image and held the mouse button down for a little too long, the cursor tried to drag the image somewhere, and that caused the cursor to become unusable (aside from being able to drag it around). Thankfully, I figured out that by using 'ALT'+'TAB' to switch to the Mozilla Firefox window and using 'ALT'+'F4' to close it, I was able to regain full control over the cursor; I didn't need to log out and needlessly end running programs as I did in Chakra.
Also, at the end of the day, I updated and upgraded the packages in the system. Only two packages needed upgrading, and that went without a hitch.

Day 5

Today I did another update/upgrade and found nothing needed upgrading. Also, I found a few days ago that the Plasma theme I was using ("Ronak") was showing scrollbars that were way too thick; that bug went away as of today. Otherwise, there really isn't much to report.

Day 6

Today I did another update/upgrade, and that went well. Also, I realized that I could be making some use of the fairly large amount of free space on the hard drive through SSH. After installing the server-oriented OpenSSH packages, I was able to use SSH to access the desktop remotely; that said, I was unsuccessful at doing so from my personal laptop and was only able to login from either the UROP computing cluster (into which I normally log in through SSH) or an MIT Athena cluster computer. Furthermore, using Dragon Player to play an MP4 file remotely took forever and often caused the process to hang and the rest of the system to slow down noticeably, and the sound didn't work either. Anyway, I'm getting an external hard drive soon, so this won't be as big of an issue; it was just a little experiment to see if I could get it to work. Otherwise, work went fine on this computer as usual.

Day 7

There really isn't much to report today. Everything worked just fine.

Day 8

Today, I did one final update/upgrade, and that went smoothly. The nice thing was that before I did it, a notification about updates popped up in the system tray, but after I did it using the CLI tools (rather than clicking on it and using the Muon Update Manager), the notification went away anyway. Also, I was finally able to change the Plasma panel theme to "Elly" while leaving the theme of the other parts of Plasma as "Ronak"; this success is to be contrasted with the failure from a few days ago (which I haven't reported until now because I didn't think at that time that (1) it was worth reporting or (2) that I would try again). I like the "Elly" theme for the panel and taskbar because it has good color contrasts among active and inactive window buttons, unlike virtually all other Plasma themes for the panel.

That said, I prefer the "Ronak" theme for everything else because it looks better, but more importantly, "Ronak" shows a small circle with an arrow in it where a menu item in the KDE Lancelot menu can be activated without clicking, whereas "Elly" doesn't show that so I have to guess where to hover the cursor.
That said, when I modified the themes, for some reason the font settings reverted to their defaults (the Ubuntu fonts), so I had to change them back to what I had set before (the Droid fonts).
Otherwise, there isn't much to report. UROP-related things worked fine today too.

Conclusion

I would say that I had a pretty good time with Chakra, but it was marred by the occasional stability issues. I would say that I had a much better time with Kubuntu in that regard; I got to benefit from all of the great things about KDE along with the stability and support of an Ubuntu base. I still wouldn't use Kubuntu on my personal laptop because of the issues with other programs I use frequently, but this positive experience here could be a good sign for something else like Linux Mint with KDE.

Speaking of which, the next long-term review subject will probably be Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce RC. Granted, it's not at the stage of an official release yet, but it will be in a few days, and it will be cool for me to see the process of upgrading the packages in an RC to those of an official release. Also, I realize that I haven't reviewed it properly yet, but I've checked it out, and I like what I see thus far, so I'll be posting a full preview tomorrow in conjunction with the start of the new long-term review. After that will come the final long-term review of the summer, and the subject of that will probably be Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE (which should see its official release by then).

Finally, I'm not posting a picture because my Kubuntu desktop is almost identical (save of course for the modified panel and taskbar themes) to my Chakra desktop from before, and that is entirely by design. You can look at that post if you want to see the customizations that I made.

20 comments:

  1. Not sure why the abbreviation for Crucnhbang is wrong throughout the article. You should just write "Crunchbang" if "pound sign-exclamation mark" doesn't work.

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    1. @Anonymous: As far as I can see, I have abbreviated CrunchBang as "#!", which is the proper abbreviation. If you're seeing something different, please let me know/link me to a screenshot. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. Does this work?

      [IMG]http://i47.tinypic.com/358w94n.png[/IMG]

      Or: http://tinypic.com/r/358w94n/6

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    3. Hm. Curious to see what happens when I reply here using pound sign-exclamation mark. Here goes: The proper abbreviation for "Crunchbang" is #!.

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    4. Nope, doesn't work.

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    5. Perhaps an issue related to Google Chrome. I looked at the page in Firefox, and the abbreviation looks fine there. In Chrome, the exclamation marks don't show up correctly.

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    6. @Anonymous, MALsPa: It looks like Google Chrome has trouble rendering an exclamation mark adjacent to another special character. I'm using Mozilla Firefox for this, and it has shown no issues with this. Thanks for the comments!

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    7. It seems to be related to Chrome, but the incorrect rendering I see here is something I have not seen elsewhere around the internet while using Chrome. It looks fine at other blogs, at twitter.com/crunchbang, at the Crunchbang forums, and even in the title of your Jan 11 2011 post (but not in the rest of the post):

      http://dasublogbyprashanth.blogspot.com/2011/01/review-crunchbang-linux-10-statler.html

      http://tinypic.com/r/2gy0fg4/6

      Interesting, huh? Bugs me when I visit your blog, but it's no big deal, I'll probably get over it. :)

      Just thought someone should point it out to you. Crunchbang's current development release comes with Chromium browser, according to the release notes.

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    8. @MALsPa: Actually, when I thought about the notion that Google Chrome would render the "#!" combination incorrectly, I did think it would be ironic considering that the default browser in #! is Chromium. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Please can you try Mageia 2, the KDE edition. Use the livecd version and have a great time with it. Only problem is mupen64plus is not in the repos, but you can make package request or try out mupen64plus from Mandriva Cooker. Should work without any issue. I have used many KDE edition pass this year and Mageia 2 is the best of them all.

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  3. Please, can you try Sabayon 9, the KDE edition.
    I am very pleased with it. I installed the 64 bit version on my HP dv6 2180 with an i5 520M
    I tried all versions since 4 and 9 is the best ever.
    Appears to be the safest and friendliest of user friendly OS..
    I haven't any problems so far with any of the programs that I added.
    Only the update that i decided to do, I canceled twice due to the delay.
    the older versions, did not like the installer.

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  4. @Anonymous: I would like to try Mageia 2 but I can't because I have never been able to successfully create a live USB system of it.

    @avelinus: I have reviewed Sabayon 9 KDE recently. If you read this article, you would see that the reason I won't do a long-term review is because using SSH to login to my research computing cluster does not work correctly.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  5. Did you tried openSUSE KDE?
    Best KDE experiance by far...

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  6. @PV
    That is because Mageia uses hybridiso like Chakra does. You all need to use dd from command line to create liveusb. For me one of my usb did work with dd and the failed. So unetbootin will not work so good with hybridiso to create a liveusb.

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  7. There is info om mageia Website in the wiki hos ro make a bootsble USB. Use the command dd oh and mageia is superb.

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  8. @Stefan Ivić: I tried openSUSE 12.1 KDE, and to be honest, I felt that it had regressed a bit from version 11.4. I may try version 12.2 when that comes out.

    @Anonymous 1, 2: Typically when UnetBootin doesn't work, I use MultiSystem, and Mageia refused to cooperate with that. At one point, I did attempt to use the "dd" command to make a live USB system, and that failed as well. (That said, the "dd" command failed to make a bootable PC-BSD live USB system as well, so that command in general may not work quite right on my installed system.)

    Thanks for the comments!

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  9. @PV
    I had the exact same issue with one of my usb-stick. It failed with both Mageia and Chakra. But then I tried my other usb and with that usb it worked like dream with dd. So if you have more then 1 usb it could work for you also.

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    1. @Anonymous: Unfortunately, it hasn't worked with either USB drive. That's because both are SanDisk Cruzer Micro models (the one I usually use for testing is 8 GB and the other that I usually use for general storage and occasionally for testing is 2 GB). Thanks for the comment!

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  10. Just for the record "#!" shows up just fine on my system and I'm using Google Chrome. I've used Firefox since ver.2. but now I use Chrome 80% of the time and Firefox 20% of the time. No IE. :)

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    1. @Eddie: Thanks for the clarification!

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