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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kubuntu 11.10 Komprehensively Explored !

Kubuntu is a Bemba word which means "kindness towards Humanity".
Kubuntu is also the official Ubuntu derivative that uses the K Desktop environment a.k.a KDE.
I have already explained Desktop environments here. If you are new to Linux or don't know about Linux, then I would kindly suggest that you check my previous blog posts so that we both are on the same wavelength.  

The Kubuntu 11.10 release announcement states:
"We are proud to announce the release of Kubuntu 11.10, the Oneiric Ocelot: the latest release of our friendly OS, built on Ubuntu's core, polished with KDE’s applications and workspaces.
Kubuntu 11.10 is a grand example of friendly, fast, and beautiful software. We recommend it as the perfect OS for casual users, social butterflies, Linux gamers, software developers, professionals, and anyone interested in a free, open platform that is both beautiful and useful."

I have been using it since its release(approximately two months now) and I am highly impressed. Let's see if Kubuntu is able to impress you by the end of the post.
The default KDE wallpaper "Horos"created by Nuno Pinheiro.
Kubuntu 11.10 comes with KDE 4.7.1 which has seen subsequent upgrades and we are currently running KDE 4.7.3(By the way, KDE 4.7.4 has been released and updates will be coming soon).
KDE since its 4.x iteration uses the Plasma Workspaces. Plasma Desktop and Plasma Netbook both are available in Kubuntu but first, let us develop an acquaintance with the Plasma Desktop.  
The Plamsa Desktop basically comprises of these elements:
  1. The Panel which is also referred as the taskbar. 
  2. The Desktop
  3. The Plasma Tool Box which is located at the top right of the screen as well as at the end of the panel.
Let us first get acquainted with the panel.  The panel contains a number of widgets also referred as plasmoids.
1) The K on the panel is the Kickoff application launcher.Click on it and you are greeted with "Favourites" Tab. The applications that you use the most can be quickly accessed from here, sort them alphabetically or just arrange them to your preference like I did by dragging them up and down.
Also you can type straightaway and launch an application with the Kickoff's search box either by searching an application by name or by description. Like in this case, I typed "mar" pressed Enter and launched Marble.
The "Applications" Tab is where all the apps installed on your system are present in their respective categories. Right click on any application an you will find the options "Add to Favourites", "Add to Desktop" and "Add to Panel" options. I prefer to keep my desktop and panel clean of application icons. 
The "Computer" Tab is where you fill find links to system application,your favourite places and available storage media. 
The "Recently Used" Tab is where your recently used application and files show up, right clicking will give you the options to clear recent applications/documents. 
The "Leave" Tab gives you options to leave your KDE session or shutdown your computer.
There is a computing philosophy that applications must be accessible in two clicks or less. For people believing in that school of thought, there is the Classic Menu. Right click on the Kickoff and select "Switch to Classic Menu Style".

2) The three dots next to Kickoff is the Activities widget. 
The Activities takes multitasking to a whole new level. With the help of Activities you can basically design and keep different desktops as per your needs. 
The first one is "Mohammad Kamil Nadeem". I prefer to keep the following widgets on it:Folder View, Analogue Clock and System Monitor.
Have just finished reading "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". Excellent book, highly recommend.
For the purpose of taking screenshots for this post I created a new activity and renamed it to "Kubuntu 11.10 Explored!".   
Consider the following example: A student needs certain widgets for his college work but not always. So he creates a "New Activity" with the widgets he needs and switches to it when he needs them. Makes sense right. The widgets running in the screenshot below are:Eyes, Folder View, Timer, Trashcan, Notes, Comic Strip with the xkcd comic(plenty comics available in the likes of Dilbert,Garfield,Snoopy and more). Kcalc is your calculator and it's not just any calculator. The wallpaper used in the screenshot below is courtesy Georgi Karavasilev. The shortcut for switching between Activities is "Meta+Tab".

3) Next to Activities is your Pager widget for managing your virtual desktops. I prefer to keep four virtual desktops but one can keep upto 20 virtual desktops.
4) Task Manager widget for managing your running applications.
5) Show Desktop for minimising all windows and showing the desktop.
6) Notification widget for your notifications.
7) System Tray widget. One application that I would like to mention here is Klipper which is an excellent clipboard tool. 
8) Digital Clock

I told you above about the Plasma Toolbox(the thing that looks like a cashew). 
The Plasma Toolbox on the panel allows you to configure,control add new widgets to the panel. 
And the Plasma Tool Box on the desktop allows you to configure and manage the desktop.
You can move the Tool Box to anywhere on the screen edges. Add another Panel if you may and configure it into an application dock or whatever pleases you. I have used the default desktop theme "Air" in the screenshots above. Now let me show you "Oxygen".
How To: Add an empty panel>open panel's Plasma Tool Box>place it on your desired screen edge(I placed it on top)>drag and drop wanted applications from Kickoff to the panel>use the sliders to get the desired length>More Settings>Center+Auto-hide. Voila.
Great many widgets come with Kubuntu 11.10 install, few of them you have already seen and here are some more.
The widgets running are: Dictionary, LCD Weather Monitor, Picture Frame, World Clock, News and Fuzzy Clock. Notice that the World Clock has a configuration handle. This configuration handle will appear on every widget on the desktop when your mouse is over it and will not appear if you lock the widgets. You can use it to increase/decrease the size of the widget, rotate it and configure it.      
More widgets can be installed easily by "Get New Widgets".
KDE is extensively Kustomizable. In many places you will find "Get New ------", "----" being the thing that you will be inspecting. is the hub where everything KDE related is present and it is this source that "Get New -----" taps in. 
After you are at peace with your widgets and panel use Lock Widgets and lock them in their place.

Right clicking on the desktop will present the Standard Menu.
Run Command leads to KRunner. "KRunner is a tool for searching and launching files and applications. It can also be used for more generic operations such as calculator or unit converter. KRunner can be activated by pressing the Alt + F2 key combination".[2]
I use KRunner for most of my work and it is excellent.
There are people who use Google for calculations(Yes Internet has enslaved humans)because using the calculator seems a hassle. Not here.
KRunner does your calculations too. Just add "=" before or after your calculation. 
I would recommend that you check its tutorial to learn about more functions. 

Desktop Settings.
Layouts in Kubuntu 11.10 present you with four options. Desktop is your classic desktop that works and acts like, yes you are right a desktop. It is the one we mainly use.
Newspaper Layout puts your widgets into columns much like in a newspaper. With more widgets(depends on your screen size)there will come a scroll bar at the side. Notice that the Plasma Tool Box's  options will change as per the layout.

Then there is the Folder View Layout that displays the content of the Home folder or the one you choose on the desktop much like the Folder View widget that you have seen above.

Search and Launch Layout brings a full screen application launcher with search.

KDE is a Single-click environment by default. If you find it a sudden change in the routine you can easily change it to Double-click from System Settings>Input Devices>Mouse, but I would encourage you to embrace it as it prevents carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and other nasty repetitive strain injuries.

Dolphin is your file manager and in my opinion it is the best file manager.
It is seamless, configurable and highly productive. You would notice there is no Menubar. I personally prefer not to have it but if you want it you can have it from settings. 

Kubuntu 11.10 has Muon Software Center that takes care of your software installations.
Kubuntu 11.10 has Muon Package Manager for your package management and system updation.
Updation is fairly simple. 
Check for Updates.
Apply Changes. It will prompt for your password, Enter it. Done.

Let's have a look at some of the applications that come with Kubuntu 11.10. You will notice that simplicity is a key factor in default apps selection.
rekonq is your default web browser.
Rekonq works great, is tightly intergrated, very fast and easy to use. It is a young project and hence not at par with Firefox or Chromium. You can easily install Firefox or/and Chromium from the Software Center.
I would recommend that you install Oxygen KDE 3.6 add-on on Firefox to make it seamlessly blend with the KDE.

"Kontact is the integrated solution to your personal information management (PIM) needs. It combines well-known KDE applications like KMail, KOrganizer and KAddressBook into a single interface to provide easy access to mail, scheduling, address book and other PIM functionality".[3]
Kontact provides great functionality in a single interface. 
You can run these applications individually also.(KTimeTracker is buggy at the moment and doesn't works but it will soon be fixed).

Kopete is your default chat client and supports all of your major service providers.

KTorrent is your default bit-torrent client. It is a great application.  

Amarok is your default music player.
Dragon Player is you default video player. It is a straight forward application but it is very basic.
 I prefer SMPlayer as my default video player.

LibreOffice is your default office suite.
Some of my personal favourites apps are:
Choqok(micro-blogging client), SMPlayer(video player), VLC, Basket(multi-purpose Notepad), Marble(Desktop Globe). 
You can easily install them from the Software Center.

System Settings is comprehensive and brings all your configuration modules in a single interface.
You can explore it at your will but I would like to bring a few settings to your attention.
"Oxygen" is Kubuntu 11.10 default in Application Appearance and Wokspace Appearance but  as I said earlier, KDE is highly Kustomizable. 
This is the Application Appearance module.
This is the Workspace Appearance Module.
Desktop effects will works as per your system configuration and hardware acceleration is not a must as it works even with software rendering(Although some effects will not work in this case).
You can switch between windows in five ways, "Alt+Tab" being the shortcut for Windows Switching. 
My personal favourite are:
 Present Windows.
and Cover Switch.   

The Desktop Cube effect is a favourite of many in the Linux Universe. Its Shortcut is "Ctrl+F11".
You can configure the shortcuts to your liking from the "Shortcuts and Gestures" module in System Settings. 

Workspace Behaviour is where you can configure the Virtual Desktops, Screen Edges and Workspace(switch between Plasma Desktop and Plasma Netbook).
By the default the top left corner is set to "Present Windows-All Desktops" so when you place your mouse there it activates.

Plasma Netbook is designed for Netbooks and similar portable devices.
In Plasma Netbook you don't have the Panel as in the Plasma Desktop. Plasma Netbook will present you with the Search and Launch Layout. At the top is the "Activity Bar", you can place it on any of the screen edge's, increase/decrease its size and select whether it auto-hides or not.
There is also a "Page" present by default with the Newspaper Layout.  
You can add more Pages using the Plasma Tool Box and configure it in the way you want.
The Applications in Plasma Netbook run full screen which basically makes sense as Plasma Netbook is designed for small screen devices. 
The application controls will be present on the "Activity Bar" which will present itself when you mouse over on the top screen edge. Other than these few things your KDE functionality remains the same.

When you would have seen the first screenshot a thought, "It looks like Windows" would have come to your mind. I believe you will understand why I didn't mention it.
Also as development never stops in the Linux Universe, here is a sneak peak at what you can look forward in KDE 4.8 which will go live some time in January 2012.  

You can download it from here. All the information pertaining to trying and installing Kubuntu is provided there.
Are you Impressed?

This will be my last post for the time being as I have to pickup studies now. I had great fun in writing this Blog and this is my humble contribution back to the community, A community that has given me so much.
Peace Be With You.
If you have any comments/questions/suggestions please feel free to contact me via the comments section, Google+ or twitter. Also if you like what you have read, do share it with others.



  1. Very in-depth and well written article about KDE. A very enjoyable read. Thank You.I've always liked KDE but it is still a bit of a memory hog. I generally run it on my laptop which has plenty of memory to spare and Xubuntu on my old Dimension 2400 desktop.

  2. @Joseph most of the modern day computers will run KDE fine. And well Xubuntu is perfect of older hardware. and if someone has a more limited hardware configuration he can go for Lubuntu.
    And there are still plenty of options left to explore.
    The Versatility of Linux never ceases to amaze me.

  3. Once again sir, well done. When I was new to Linux this is exactly the kind of article I was looking for - a detailed presentation of what free software is capable of. Thanks again for the tweet. KDE is getting better and better and I've always felt that is more integrated than the other desktop environments. Really, really nice. I'm surprised that more people don't recommend Kubuntu to new users because it's more similar to Windows 7 and Vista don't you think?
    Anyway thanks again and best of luck with your studies.
    Feel free to check out my blog if you have time too.

  4. Nice job...thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi! Yes, I am more or less convinced.. but I have an important question that needs to be answered: I have Ubunty 11.10 running on my laptop, and I don't like the Unity UI.. my machine hangs ever so often, and rather than roll back to 10.10, I though of adding KDE as an alternative desktop (on my Ubuntu machine). Is this a good idea? Will I have problems... I am a bit reluctant to remove Ubuntu altogether, because I have so many files and customizations done already... Please do advise.. I'll be grateful. Thanks for a wonderful article.

  6. @Rajan Nair Brother What are the system specs of your machine? Ubuntu runs along fine on most modern day systems with no problems and there is no hint of hanging. I would suggest that you Install KDE over your machine and see how it works. If it works well for you then good otherwise try Xfce.

  7. really well written article friend..

  8. Awesome review. Looks like I will really have to try KDE as I'm extremely dissatisfied with GNOME3 and Unity. I've never used KDE before but by looking at this article I really should. I also hear a lot from people who have recently switched to KDE and love it. I really have to find some time to explore it.

  9. Happy that you found it Awesome. It is a matter of preference as I really like Unity and not Gnome-Shell but hey that is the best part of being in the Linux Universe options are their. Hoping that KDE suits you. Thanks for the comment.