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.