Home > linux > Kubuntu KDE 4 Review

Kubuntu KDE 4 Review

There have been plenty of reviews deriding KDE 4 (the Linux Desktop Environment). I decided to see if it were really the case of KDE 4 being a bad nut, or just the distributions that shipped it.
My emphasis is on the desktop pliability of distributions, with a minimal use of the command line. So if there are complicated, script-type, workarounds to bugs and problems, and there isn’t a simple solution, I am afraid it does not hold for me.

So with all that in mind, I decided to use Kubuntu as my first KDE 4 distro to check out. Why did I choose this in the beginning? OpenSUSE 11 has a powerful KDE 4 option, as does Fedora. But I believed that the KDE 4 version of Kubuntu is only a community version, so it should be the closest possible to the original state of things. This does not, however, mean that I am reviewing KDE 4 (or 4.0), only the distribution Kubuntu KDE 4 Remix, along with its particularities.

KDE 4 from Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy

I may also point out here that I had tried installing KDE 4 from within a running Ubuntu installation (from the Software installation tool, and choosing ‘KDE 4’). That got KDE 4 installed, and I was able to restart my computer and log in to KDE 4. The resolution was incorrectly picked up: it did not detect my simple native resolution of 1024×768. Furthermore, changing the resolution from the ‘System settings’ > ‘Display’ tool changed the resolution, but only until the next restart of my computer, when it went back to the old configuration. I already had everything else installed and configured from my Ubuntu installation, so there was not much else to test out. Nevertheless, I noted the ugly look in most applications, as they had failed to adapt to the KDE4 theme properly. But I suppose that was only to be expected.

Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy KDE 4 Remix

At this point, I decided that if I was going to be really testing out a KDE 4 distro, I must install it from scratch. So I downloaded the Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 Remix from the website.

My test machine is an Intel P4 (2.4GHz) with 512 MB RAM. This is not too low, and has run most Linux distributions satisfactorily.

So in went the freshly burnt LiveCD. And the problems began immediately: the screen resolution was still incorrect. Nevertheless, I persevered and went ahead with the install in a skewed screen. Fortunately, the install went ahead and I was able to boot into my fresh Kubuntu installation.

But the woes were back, the resolution, no matter how hard I tried to correct it, would not correct. More on that later.


I have always maintained that aesthetics are an important part of any desktop operating system. Kubuntu KDE 4 turns out to be an ugly deal. The huge black taskbar does not go well with the Mac-ish windows theme. If they wanted a horrible looking cross between Vista and OS X, they certainly achieved that. The colours were bad, the effects poor.


Kubuntu KDE 4 stuck with the standard complement of programs. Amarok, GIMP, OpenOffice.org etc. were all there. The Dolphin file manager was default, but the shortcomings of this were somewhat redeemed by the inclusion of Konqueror, which seemed to have taken up the KDE 4 theme well, as opposed to most other apps that looked like as they were glued on.


There is very little to differentiate Kubuntu KDE 4 from a generic installation of KDE 4. Indeed, the only obvious branding and stylization I noted was the ‘Kubuntu’ tag on the K Menu.

Stability and bugs

After about ten minutes of use, I had not suffered any crashes or major bugs. There were plenty of screen tearings and glitches here and there (like ‘Widgets’ not deleting properly, clicks not being recognized now and then), but nothing really major.

But these small annoyances do stack up, and within twenty minutes, I was feeling irritated. To add up, I found that the PrintScreen button on my PC was not bringing up the Snapshot tool. I opened it up from the the newfangled KDE 4 ‘Kicker’, but to my consternation, it failed to take snapshots: it just did not do anything at all. That also explains the lack of screenshots in this review…

By now, I was getting fed up trying to work on a wrongly resolved screen (which I might try to describe as a higher than normal resolution, all shifted to one side and flickering very slightly). I opened up the Display tool from the Settings panel once again. This time, I checked ‘…Apply on startup…’ when setting the resolution correctly.

That was a major mistake. Just for charms, I restarted my computer. I got to the login screen, logged in, and then…. nothing. Yes, simply a black screen. Ctrl+Alt+Backspace? Nothing at all. Ctrl+Shift+Esc? Still nothing.

I had to do a hard reboot, and this time opted for the command line, even though I did not particularly feel like it. And here was the ultimate surprise: nothing! No prompt, no text area, just a blinking cursor that did not respond to any keys that I could throw at it. This was certainly the end.


I do hope that this Kubuntu KDE 4 Remix disaster is only particular to my machine. Enough said.

Update: A sentence in the beginning of the review edited for clarity.

Categories: linux Tags: , , ,
  1. 31 July 2008 at 2:48 PM


    I do hope that this Kubuntu KDE 4 Remix disaster is only particular to my machine. Enough said.

    Not at all, this is a notrious issue and all ubuntus 8.04 series has plauged me too.

    I hated Ubuntu and now i hate it more.

  2. 31 July 2008 at 3:01 PM

    Indeed, the more I test Kubuntu, the poorer it seems.

    Nevertheless, I cannot compare it to the orginal Ubuntu, which though not good, was not particularly poor either.

    But I’d not recommend the Ubuntu series to anybody yet. OpenSUSE and Mandriva would be more to the tune.

  3. Eddie Wilson
    31 July 2008 at 5:22 PM

    Well we have to remember that the the Kubuntu Kde4 is a community project and not put out by Ubuntu. Also to Dr.Saleem Khan, It could be particular to the machines for this is not a notorious issue to all Ubuntus 8.04. To be honest Ubuntu 8.04 is the only one I’ve tried except for Kubuntu and for me anyway in any of my installs on different machines I’ve had no problems. I differ in my opinion of the original Ubuntu from what Muhammad Fahd Waseem states. Even tho I do use OpenSUSE and Mandriva in my case Ubuntu is the most stable (or more to the tune). I do agree that Kubuntu Kde4 is not very good with a lot of problems but then again in my opinion Kde has always had quality problems and I say this after using Kde for several years when I first started using a linux distribution. As far as the review goes it was good and right on the mark.

  4. 31 July 2008 at 6:12 PM

    Somehow I am a traditionalist and conventionalist. I wonder if I will ever be able to swtich and adopt to KDE 4 series,may be someday but not now,I am rather quite at home and will carry on with KDE 3.5 series for a long time.

    Regards U/K buntu series,If any distro really works for me ,it is Kurumin 8.06 NG,it is out of box in real sense.

  5. 31 July 2008 at 7:02 PM

    I agree that Kubuntu KDE 4 is a community project. Nevertheless, the very fact that it is available as a download alongside the official Kubuntu on their website, covers for its stability and quality. Or supposed quality, at least.

    I have admitted that Ubuntu is not as bad as Kubuntu. But honestly, in terms of sheer power and usability, is even Ubuntu any match for the Mandriva 2008 Spring?

    I hope KDE 4 achieves maturity quickly, as some of its new concepts and implementations are downright futuristic. In the case of a rapid maturity, it will herald a new front for Linux desktops, and possibly even for desktops as a whole.

  6. Alexis Claudio
    1 August 2008 at 12:20 AM

    Were you using KDE 4 or KDE 4.1? Version 4.1 is far more complete but it is still work in progress although it is mature enough to make a switch if you do not mind the rough edges and not having some applications ported from KDE 3.5.X to KDE 4. But you can use the 3.5.x versions instead. This might explain why some programs look ok and other KDE programs do not…. The dark theme can be change to one that suits your needs (right click and go to properties) Many things can be customized however since KDE4 is very recent there aren’t many resources available on the web.

    I have been using Kubuntu 8.04 for a while now and never had a problem, it autodetected my atheros wireless card and all the other stuff, just had to install the nvidia drivers to be able to get some 3D eyecandy 🙂

  7. Aurum Chalice
    1 August 2008 at 3:22 AM

    Have you tried Kubuntu-KDE4 8.04.1?
    It can be downloaded from

  8. 1 August 2008 at 12:14 PM

    I was using KDE 4.0.x
    At the time of testing, KDE 4.1 final was not released, so I deferred from using it.

    I will be testing the latest KDE 4.1 too, and soon be posting that review too.

    @Aurum: Yes, I have checked that out too; the crash never occurred, but the rest of the problems remained the same.

  9. Cevo
    7 August 2008 at 11:39 AM

    Really man, how can you write a serious review when the whole WORLD knows that KDE 4.0 WAS NOT MEANT FOR DAY TO DAY USE!!!

    I am not a KDE fanboy at all, but I get really miffed when yet another blogger deems it necessary to write a poor review based on anticuated software that was never even meant for general use anyway.

    Oh, and no way is Kubuntu KDE4 ‘close to the original’. Nor is Suse’s. Try Arch. It may be a bit difficult to install, but their KDE4 basically IS the original. You will then see that KDE 4.1 is what it is SAID TO BE by the developers: a very good early adopters release.

  10. 7 August 2008 at 11:57 AM

    @Cevo: That was my primary aim, to see if KDE 4 (on Kubuntu) is as bad as it was deemed to be. It may not have been “general use”, but I do know of people who have adopted it as their mainstream desktop from day 1, with a fair degree of success.
    I have tried (not tested) KDE 4.0 in Arch on another computer. First impressions were flaky there too.

    You call it a poor review. Perhaps you could provide the reasons for saying so, apart from the fact that I chose to test KDE 4.0, which you do not really seem to like?

    As for KDE 4.1, I am not there yet. I will be doing a test on that too, and figure out.

  11. Cevo
    7 August 2008 at 5:43 PM

    I called it a poor review because of the following.

    If you really wanted to test the useability of KDE, no way would you have chosen a KDE 4.0 implementation on a distro that is known not to be the best KDE distro in the first place. Moreover, with KDE 4.1 looming around the corner, you should have waited for it to become final.

    KDE 4.0 was put up as a developers release. Period. It was not meant to be usable. KDE 4.1 is an early adopters release. So that means it is usable, but will not cater to the needs of all users.

    You now draw all kinds of conclusions about KDE4 that are no longer valid. You stated you wanted to see if ‘KDE4 is really as bad as they say’ and anyone would have been able to tell you that KDE 4.0 indeed was very bad.

    I find it unfair to review a development release as if it were a user release and base your findings on that. It is a free world of course, but you have not done the free software community a favour by adding to the unfounded insults that KDE4 has had to cope with so far. A lot of damage has been caused by this kind of articles that could have been prevented if people had just read and understood the release announcement.

  12. 7 August 2008 at 6:39 PM

    @Cevo: I see your point of view.

    Well, first of all, I have not said that KDE 4 was particularly bad. Remember that this is a review of Kubuntu KDE 4 with KDE 4.0, not KDE 4 or KDE 4.x at all. Indeed, KDE 4 as itself does not seem as bad as people make it out to be – SUSE 11 utilizes KDE 4.0 and from the short exposure I have had to it, I found it mostly good.

    In fact, not at any point in the review have I said that KDE 4 (or 4.0) was bad – or anything to that effect.

    Secondly, if you were slightly more familiar with my online activities, you would not blame me of causing damage. I urge you to check out my postings on the distrowatch weeklies.

    Thirdly, it was a 4.0 (whole number) release. It was not a development release, no matter what anybody claims to have read. It was meant for adoption – by whom, it is not necessary to say. Maybe early users, maybe those on the cutting edge; it is irrelevant to the fact that it was a full release – otherwise it would not have featured on major distributions (and at least one [SUSE] has done a good job).

    This time, it was the case of the distro being a bad nut.

    Hope that clarifies.

  13. Cevo
    7 August 2008 at 6:57 PM

    I insist 4.0 was NOT a release meant to be fed to users, nor was it meant to be. Don’t believe me: see here: http://aseigo.blogspot.com/2008/01/talking-bluntly.html

    Secondly, there’s your introduction: ‘But I believed that the KDE 4 version of Kubuntu is only a community version, so it should be the closest possible to the original state of things.’ This leads the user to believe that the conclusions you draw here will be sufficiently generic so as to be extrapolated to KDE 4 ‘vanilla’. And many users will thus interpret accordingly.

    True, I have not read the rest of your blog, but I just said that this kind of articles causes damage, referring to KDE4 articles throughout the globe, not your blog as a whole. Sorry if you understood it that way.

  14. 7 August 2008 at 7:58 PM

    @Cevo: Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. KDE 4.0, in my opinion, is, like all x.0 releases anywhere in the software world, a fairly complete release that was there for mainstream use.

    As for the introduction, I have slightly edited that paragraph to remove any misunderstanding. Thank you for bringing that interpretation to my view.

  15. 15 August 2008 at 12:42 PM

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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