Quick look at Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 Remix

A few weeks ago, a researcher at work received a new HP 6910p laptop. As he’s a Kubuntu Linux user, we decided to try the new Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 remix to get an idea of all the new features in KDE 4.

The first impression was not very good. Already quickly after the installation, we discovered lots of bugs and missing features. It was impossible to drag and drop an application to the panel at the bottom. The battery monitor looked huge and ugly compared to kpowersave, which is what we are used too. There was no possibility to suspend to RAM and suspend to disk in the user interface. When doing it from the console, the laptop did not always come back from hibernation. Only a very few Plasma desktop applets were available, of which some seemed to be duplicates (I had the impression there were two different RSS readers), while others had funky, incomprehensible names.

We tried activating some of the window manager effects. When we chose the default OpenGL method, we were presented by a black screen. We pressed Esc, in the hope that it would return to the previous working state, but it seems that this actually accepted the setting in the (invisible) confirmation dialog: the screen remained black, and we had to remove ~/.kde4 in order to have a usable desktop again. The black screen was certainly caused by the lack of DRI for the Radeon HD mobility card in the free ATI driver. KDE should have really warned us that DRI was not working, and should immediately have disactivated the compositing effects with OpenGL When we tried the window effects with xrender, the results were less dramatic, but the effects did not display correctly.

We installed ATI’s binary fglrx driver. However, one week later, we decided to switch back to the free driver, because the kernel and/or the X server locked up very often with the binary driver.

Half of the time, when logging in into KDE 4, the window manager does not seem to be started, and panel settings are not loaded. Getting a multiple monitor setup working, was also very problematic: the KDE 4 display settings tool, did not seem to work at all (nothing happened when changing the settings, and the Apply button remained disabled). In the end, we got it to work with the xrandr command line utility, following the hints on ThinkWiki. But even then there were problems: when using a multiple monitor setup, the external monitor’s image sometimes is shifted about 5 centimeter to the right, giving a black border at the left, and a part of the desktop invisible and unreachable to the right of the external monitor. When maximizing a window on the smaller laptop screen, where the panel is active, the maximized window seemed to take the height of the higher external window, so that part of it was hidden behind the panel. Also when using the xrandr utility to switch to a different mode, the window manager often crashed.

So all in all I’m very negative about Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 remix. KDE 4 should never have been published as being a final release, but should have been published with a clear Technology Preview name. Even KDE 4.0.4 from the backports repository, did not help fixing the many issues we had. Distributions like Fedora 9, OpenSUSE 11 and Kubuntu are making a huge mistake by shipping this alpha quality desktop by default in a final product. Apart from that, it seems (K)ubuntu 8.04 has other problems related to the kernel and the binary ATI driver.

I’m hoping of installing a machine with KDE 4.1 beta on Mandriva Cooker this week-end, and I will try to retest some things there and report the problems to KDE’s Bugzilla. I don’t have too much hope though. Several features have again been postponed to version 4.2 (for example the multiple-line taskbar, like was the default in KDE 3), while kdepim will only gets its first release for KDE 4 now, so I expect it to still be buggy at this moment.


  • Krono

    “Distributions like Fedora 9, OpenSUSE 11 and Kubuntu are making a huge mistake by shipping this alpha quality desktop by default in a final product.”
    I fully agree with that. The KDE developers themselves says KDE4.0 is for testing purposes only.
    There seem to be an odd so-called ‘bleeding-edge’ trend that is just in contradiction with providing a stable and pleasing system.
    They just manage to provide their users a bad experience.

  • makosol

    Kubuntu 8.04 KDE4 remix is only a remix, it is not “shipped by default” like you say. The official version still uses KDE 3.5.9 and is advised for people looking for stability. So yes, it is known to have some bugs.
    Apart form this, some of the problem you mention are caused by well-known ati driver issue : today the free driver is still imature and the proprietary one have problems with hanging up X. By the way, I have the same problem with Mandriva One 2008.1 and the official ATI driver, so it isn’t at all a KDE4 issue.
    About the multi-line task-bar, it is here now by default (it adapts automatically when there is too many items to display).
    For the Fedora case, they plan to put KDE 4.1 in updates so this will resolve, by waiting 2 months, most of the issues ; and Fedora is always cutting-edge, like with pulse-audio in Fedora 8, so it’s normal to have bugs.
    And Finally, OpenSuse have both KDE3 and KDE4 installation options, so again, there is no shipped by default. By the way, OpenSuse 11 will be out by june 19th and their KDE4 is very slick and adapted with backports from KDE 4.1. And again, there will be packages within a month with full KDE4.1.
    I plan using OpenSuse 11 when it will be out, being now with Mandriva 2008.1 with KDE 4.0.4 and before being a Kubuntu user.

  • Frederik

    What I mean by “shipping by default” is that there is a CD which installs KDE 4 by default. This encourages normal users to install this alpha quality software. At least they should not have called this KDE 4 Remix, but for example KDE 4 Technology Preview, so that its state was clear from the name alone.

    Compare this with Mandriva 2008.1 on the other hand which also includes KDE 4; however it is never installed by default, but users have to explicitly choose to install it by hand after the installation of the OS.

    About OpenSUSE 11: on under Downloads, I only find KDE 4 and GNOME live CDs (no KDE 3 live CD) so KDE 4 again seems to be the default here.

    Several of the multi-monitor bugs we encountered, are really KDE 4 bugs: they happen with both the prorietary fglrx and free ati driver. And the free ati free driver did not stop kwin from not being started (or immediately crashing?) at login and serveral other serious multi-monitor bugs.

    You state that “in Fedora it is normal to have bugs”. Well, as Linux is often presented as a more stable and better alternative to Windows, I think this is unacceptable. Windows (think of Vista!) is often bashed for much less than this. I’m afraid that this whole KDE 4 hype while the product is still immature, is hurting the reputation of LInux in the end. I think distributions like Mandriva and Debian (testing), are succeeding in finding the best balance between bleeding edge and stability. Those two remain clearly my two preferred distributions I would recommend to all other users: not only did these distributions take much more rational decisions about how to deal with KDE 4, my daily experience with both distributions on desktop systems confirms that these are mature and stable distributions.

  • makosol

    Well I would say it depends on the version. For example, Kubuntu 7.04 (feisty fawn) was very stable and easy to use. On the contrary, 7.10 (gutsy gibbon) had some problems. I think that with the full move to KDE 4 in Intrepid Ibex (8.10), things will be great. All in all, I think that distributions like Mandriva or OpenSUSE should note underestimate the simplicity of the *buntus distros : they are progressing fast and although they don’t have admin tools like MCC or Yast, they try to integrate these tools with desktop’s configuration, which is less confusing for users.

  • LostBritannian

    Thank you for writing this. I’m a Linux newbie, trying out various LiveCDs to figure out which distro I want to install, and Kubuntu KDE 4 has such nasty display issues that I haven’t managed to explore anything else about it. It has my monitors (10″ laptop & 22″ widescreen) mixed up, plus the larger screen is stuck showing a magnified copy of the lower-right 70% of the tinier one. Until I found your article via Google, I thought that perhaps either my LiveCD was damaged or I’d screwed something up.

    All I can say is that I’m very glad I was able to burn copies of Kubuntu KDE 3, Ubuntu, and Xubuntu to try out! If I had only tried KDE4, I probably would have decided that Linux just isn’t equipped for my needs yet and unhappily given up for another few years. (That happened 3 times in the past for other hardware/driver issues.) I hope KDE 4’s “bad” Kubuntu LiveCD release doesn’t give other eager newbies the wrong idea about Linux.

    BTW a lot of my biggest Linux-loving friends & allies are blind or have visual-identification problems and live independently. When blogs use visual-only captchas, people like them basically can’t comment unless they have a sighted person to drop what they’re doing to come let them in. There are free captcha setups out there that include audio alternatives, it would kick ass if you would include one; that way they can contribute freely and we’ll get the benefit of the knowledge/experience from their community too. Thanks for listening!

  • A.Lizard

    Just tried KDE 4.1 update to Kubuntu-Hardy KDE 4.0 . (update failed from the commandline as specified by the Kubuntu site… oddly enough, the GUI worked)

    The same level of EPIC FAIL as KDE 4.0… though it might be stabler, I’m leaving it up for a few hours or until it crashes, whichever happens first.

    Drag and drop fails. Installing icons to the taskbar VIA FILE MANAGER works… and when you click, they flash and don’t open anything.

    If I wanted this kind of behavior from my desktop, I’d be running Vista.

    All we can do as users is to keep bashing 4.x until the developers realize that the problem is NOT “people refusing to get used to a new way of doing things”.

  • Anton

    Neither is filing bug reports for bugs and missing features/apps that the developers were fully aware of before they shipped their buggy products out the door. This distro rush to already start shipping their releases with KDE4 as the new default KDE is a brainfart and a bad decision. OpenSUSE doesn’t even offer an OpenSUSE 11 LiveCD with KDE3.5 They’re only shipping the buggy and incomplete KDE4.0 as their KDE LiveCD. Meh. Keep it. Same brainfart over at fedora. They should have waited for a couple of months and put out a decent product, instead of this buggy, unfinished stuff for which they have to make excuses.