This was supposed to be a review of the new Ubuntu release (Oneiric Ocelot), however the only thing the new Ubuntu did not do to me was jump out kick me in the head. From an incomplete upgrade because I was running Dropbox, a UI that fails miserably in being a useful User Interface (UI) and the going out of its way to trash the whole system while trying to get 2 screens working made me believe that after 2 releases, Unity is still not ready for prime time.
Instead, I decided to look at Kubuntu, the Ubuntu varient using the KDE desktop. Previous attempts at Kubuntu left me slightly cold. I love KDE, and I liked the KDE3 version, however previous Kubuntu versions lacked the full power of Ubuntu and lacked that polish that I wanted for a operating system.
Not anymore. If anything, Kubuntu has leaped ahead of the parent distro, with a full and vibrant desktop with all the graphic elements switched on, and having a user interface (UI) that does not actively work against the user.
Above you can see the KDE desktop. The cluttered surface is all applets running in the desktop, akin to the widgets you find on Android phones. From the classic xeyes to system resources, Web Pages, bouncing balls to post it notes, you can make the desktop as clean or as cluttered as you want (the default app is a simple directory display. Yes a directory can be an app in Kubuntu).
Full desktop control, over virtual and real windows is also available. This is the Kubuntu when <ALT> <TAB> is pressed. The level of graphical detail and tricks is up to the user, you are free to change the details and graphic intensity available to the workspace.
You still have the wide array of QT/KDE applications. Comparing Chrome and the KDE Browser rekonq is quite easy to make, as both derive from webkit. Applications loaded by default include LibreOffice, Kmail, Amorak Audio and Firefox. Some old open source favourates are missing like GIMP and VLC, but it is still easy to add programs via the excellent Debian based packet manager.
Again, I do not know what the KDE based distro would be like on slower machines, and that is one reason I stopped using KDE previously, as it put a noticeable load onto my computer. I normally would test in a virtual machine, but since I destroyed my Ubuntu partition, I am running this on my AMD 6 core monster.
This is not to say Kubuntu is perfect, but it is noticeably better than Ubuntu 11.10, if only because the native programs don’t force themselves to the front then fail miserably. The classic example of this is the Ubuntu Software Centre, a slower and more app store like program. Kubuntu uses Muon Packet Manager, a more traditional Debian graphic apt-get tool that is faster and has more options.
If you want to try Kubuntu, I recommend using a virtual machine like VirtualBox to test. It will work in all modern virtual machine software, so Mac users should be able to use Parrelles or VMWare Fusion to install.
Update: Originally this article was titled Review: Kubuntu 10.11. However it is in fact a review of Kubuntu 11.10 (kudos to Guest, Indian_Art in the comments).