The last time I reviewed Kubuntu was in December 2013. (Click here to read it) I was largely positive about the experience at the time and so I decided to review the latest LTS release to see if it is still a good alternative to the main Ubuntu Unity release.
I have to admit I have a love / hate relationship with Kubuntu. On one hand it has some really good applications which are provided as part of the desktop environment but Plasma or not the KDE desktop just feels clunky to me.
I also have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with the main Ubuntu 16.04 release. It does feel like it has taken a few steps back especially when it comes to installing software such as Skype and Steam.
I was hoping that the issues that I had with Ubuntu were unique to Ubuntu and would therefore not be issues in Kubuntu. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Read on to find out more.
You can download Kubuntu from http://kubuntu.org/getkubuntu/
There are 2 versions available, the 16.04 release which I am reviewing today or the 14.04 release which is the previous long term support version.
Each version comes in 32-bit and 64-bit.
To create a USB drive I admit to doing it the easy way. I downloaded the ISO image, opened it using Windows Explorer and extracted the files straight to a formatted USB drive.
Create a user by entering your name, a username and a password.
You can also choose a name for your computer and whether you wish to login automatically or enter a password when you first boot up.
(I always recommend the require a password option).
The Kubuntu 16.04 desktop is nice and bright and for the first few minutes I am quite happy using the system.
Connecting to the internet for instance is straight forward. Click the network icon, choose the wireless network and enter a password.
The Plasma menu is also nice and straight forward. There are essentially 5 available menu views:
The applications show a list of categories such as entertainment, games, internet, graphics, multimedia, office, settings, system and utilities. Within the categories you can access your programs.
The computer view makes it easy to go to your home folder or access an attached device or network. You can also run a command and access system settings.
The history tab shows recently accessed items and finally leave shows options for logging out, rebooting and shutting down.
Wow I don’t normally put this at the beginning of a review but the default tool is so flawed and so intrinsic to the issues I faced with Kubuntu that I felt like I needed to start here.
You see the thing is this. If you haven’t already installed the 3rd party tools when installing the system then you will want to do this otherwise you can’t listen to MP3 audio.
The tool for installing software in Kubuntu is called Discover which is yet another graphical package manager.
It looks pretty enough although as you can see from the image above the ratings overlap their edges. (Cosmetic issue. I’m not particularly bothered by those).
However what is more concerning is the ability to search for software. The restricted extras package is used to install all the goodies not yet installed like multimedia codecs but searching using Discover returned nothing.
Now with Ubuntu there was an issue when trying to install applications like Steam and Skype and I wondered whether the restricted extras package suffered from the same issue.
I therefore searched for other packages using Discover to see what would happen. As you can see from the front screen Geany is available, as is Synaptic.
Searching for software in Discover always seems to return zero results as shown below.
I searched for dozens of programs but nothing appeared. The only way I could find programs in Discover was by navigating through the categories. (The restricted extras, Skype and Steam weren’t available).
The upshot was therefore that I was left using the command line to install the restricted extras package. Now this isn’t difficult but not something the everyday computer user wants to be doing.
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-restricted-extras
I have included the command above for all of you that are unsure how to do this. Half way through you will see the following screen.
It might not be immediately obvious that you need to press the tab key to highlight the OK button.
You need to use the command line to install things like Steam as well and you will need to press the tab key to accept the license agreement.
The good news is I guess that at least Steam works which isn’t always guaranteed.
The best remedy for installing software is to install Synaptic which luckily is available on the front page within Discover as a popular program. Maybe it isn’t lucky. Maybe everybody has gone in search of Synaptic because Discover doesn’t work.
I like to follow bad with good and I have to say that Kubuntu is fully of decent applications.
The KDE desktop has a decent set that are available anyway. For instant you get these just because you are running KDE:
- KTorrent (bit torrent)
- Akregator (RSS reader)
- Konversation (chat)
- KMail (email)
- KRDC (remote desktop)
- K3b disk burning
- kAddressBook – Address book
- Kontact – personal information manager
- KOrganizer – personal organiser
- Kate – text editor
- KNotes – Sticky notes
- kCalc – Calculator
All of these are very usable and decent applications. Akregator is a really nice RSS management tool and KMail has all the features you could need from a mail client.
I have written guides for many of the KDE applications:
Kubuntu fills in the blank with some other common applications:
- Firefox – Web browser
- Amarok – Audio player
- LibreOffice – Office suite
- Dragon – Media player
- Imagemagick – Image editor
- Gwenview – Image viewer
Amarok is a fairly nice audio player although I have to admit to preferring Clementine when it comes to audio players for the KDE desktop.
The left pane basically has all of your collections whether locally or on other devices such as portable USB drives or attached audio players such as a Sony Walkman or a mobile phone.
You can create a playlist by simply dragging the songs over to the right side of the screen. You can then save and load playlists as you wish.
There are loads of options including the ability to read wikipedia information about the artist, songs and albums, the ability to show song lyrics and you can also get content from online sources.
I did have an issue with the Wikipedia part however because it says that composer needs to be installed for this function to work.
I installed composer but nothing changed. It simply doesn’t appear to work.
Unfortunately my experience with Kubuntu has been far from trouble free.
I have already covered the Discover software manager not working correctly so I won’t go over that any further.
There is a screenshot tool called spectacle and obviously screenshot tools are something I use regularly whilst creating the images for the reviews.
If I ran Spectacle from the KDE menu the menu would stay active and the screenshot tool would slow the system right down and after saving a screenshot an error would appear. I couldn’t get a screenshot of the error because the screenshot tool crashes.
It was also impossible to get decent screenshots of the Discover tool because if you click on a category and then go back to the KDE menu to launch another tool it automatically resets the view to the front screen.
The menu also hung whilst viewing other applications such as Amarok and Dragon and any sort of file copy would bring the system to its knees.
I also had issues whilst installing Chrome. Chrome doesn’t appear anywhere in the repositories although you can install Chromium which is almost as good.
You can download Chrome from the web but there are libraries missing when you install it. You therefore have to install extra libraries to get it working.
I was able to set up my printer without any issues and I could also connect to the WD My Cloud network drive.
My phone connected as a drive which I could navigate through using Dolphin and I could play the audio files within Amarok and view pictures using Gwenview.
My Sony Walkman was also picked up and I could again access the files via Dolphin and Amarok.
My experience with Kubuntu has done nothing to convince me that I want to use KDE in the long term. If I did want to use KDE long term then my experience with Manjaro would definitely make me lean in that direction.
This is an LTS release yet there are so many little niggles. New users to Linux will not be enamoured with having to find solutions to simple things like installing software.
The problems are worse than those that I experienced with Ubuntu. At least with Ubuntu I could install a separate application for installing the good stuff like Chrome. With Kubuntu it is command line all the way and searching forums for solutions.
With Linux Mint being so good it is hard for me to recommend Kubuntu 16.04.
I am not the only person to have issues with Kubuntu, read this review by Dedoimedo, he runs into many of the same issues as I did.
See you again in another 2 years Kubuntu.
Thanks for reading.