Friday, July 29, 2005

Playing With Distros

The last few days I've been trying out Kubuntu and Fedora Core, whereas my distribution of choice has been SuSE since version 6 or so. I thought I'd comment on the experience. Incidentally, this is not a review, it's just some uneducated comments about installing and setting up those distributions. So no posting this on Slashdot and then flaming me, ok?


First impressions: Text mode installation - does the job, but looks pretty ugly: bad. Didn't ask me which packages I wanted to install - just went ahead and put a default set on: not sure if that's good or bad. Detected my dell laptop display without asking me any questions: good. KDE's defaults didn't look very nice: indifferent - I've never found a distribution which makes KDE look nice yet. Had a nice KDE network control panel: good. Couldn't work out how to make my wireless card work: bad. Didn't give me a root password, and I had to use another computer to google for the answer: bad. The fonts looked ugly - it wasn't using the freetype bytecode interpreter: bad. Plugged in my memory stick and it appeared on the desktop with a sensible name: good (SuSE doesn't put it on the screen, and calls it something like usb-p0-0023932746593249). Couldn't find many nice GUI tools to set things up with: bad.

Fedora Core

Nicest installer I've seen: very good. Nice boot screen: good, but not as good as SuSE - you still get a lot of text before it goes graphical. Needed me to select the laptop display: indifferent - until Kubuntu I wouldn't have expected any different. Default setup of KDE actually looks reasonably nice, although I still needed to fiddle with a lot of settings to make it look really nice: ok. Fonts look as good as SuSE: good. Uses RPMs: good (since that's what I'm used to). Uses firefox and evolution instead of konqueror and kontact by default: bad.

Overall FC4 just feels like a much more professionally put together system than Kubuntu. Which means the choice is between FC4 and SuSE. I think SuSE probably does things slightly better than Fedora, but Fedora has to advantage of being a bit more open, so there's perhaps a chance I could contribute to making it better.

So, I'm currently posting this while using FC4, although I'll probably put my SuSE hard drive back in before too long, since all my work is on it. But it is very tempting to change to FC4, as it's a lot better than I was expecting. The only thing I'm not sure about yet is how well supported KDE is on it. I liked having KDE in /opt/kde3 on SuSE, but on FC4 it's all mixed in with everything else. Which is probably more correct, but it complicates things a bit.

And I noticed that I'm listed down the side of planetkde now. So hi to everyone reading the planet!


Kleag said...


You should try Mandriva before choosing definitively FC :-)

I use it since a long time and I'm really happy with it. Note that I did not try another distribution since approximatively the same time (except an old RH9 which not count here), so I cannot be sure that it's better.



Pablo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pablo said...

>Didn't give me a root password, and I had to use another computer to google for the answer: bad.

K/Ubuntu handles the root user in a fundamentally different way from any other distro. It doesn't have a single root user: everyone can use sudo (ksudo) with their own password
when an application must be run as root.

While it's true you don't get any indication of this, your criticism comes from it being different to what you're used to, but it's not necessarily bad in itself.

In fact, I believe this approach is a bit more user-friendly than asking for a root password during installation, at least for home users. However, you have to remember to remove from sudoers all users that shouldn't have administrator access.

mkoljack said...

I agree. Kubuntu was also really buggy -- KDE aapplictions crash regularly.

Fedora Core 4 very nice. I'm tinkering with it, configuring, experimenting, learning linux on it, etc.

SuSE 9.3 is fantastic -- everything just works without much hassle! I use it for my life.


Ian Monroe said...

Well, in #amarok we more or less detest FC4. They're using gcc 4.0.0, the backlisted compiler. They've removed MP3 support which of course just makes amaroK look bad (as does Suse and Kubuntu of course). And Fedora always seems to have more then its share of problems in general. As you would guess, I've never used Fedora so all I see of it are its problems. :)

Really a test of a distro isn't installing it, but running it over a period of some time. Of course, this isn't a review. :P

drizek said...

FC is ok, after some tinkering, it worked pretty good actually with kde. i wouldnt recommend suse because it is really slow IMO. im using mepis right now, its nice, but the kde kde 3.4 packages(officially, it still uses 3.3.x)dont have working kdm, so i have to use gdm with it, and they still havent updated to 3.4.2 :(.

kubuntu was buggy and just overall unfriendly IMO. its nice that they support the latest kde packages though. i stopped using it after i broke it when trying to install initing. i didnt really feel like reinstalling and went with mepis instead.

i wish there was a KDE distro that had a unified look and had all kde components tightly integrated.*hint*

drizek said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aaron J. Seigo said...

so what in your mind would qualify as a nice looking KDE desktop?

James Ots said...

Let's see; when I log into a fresh KDE desktop some of the things I do are:

Make the panel 48 pixels high (just tall enough for two rows of icons in the tray) and semi transparent, with a smaller hide button and faded out handles. I add the lock/logout applet and make it transparent, reduce the number of desktops to two, add the quick launcher with various apps (konqueror, konsole, kwrite, openoffice, eclipse, firefox, inkscape and the control centre). Make sure one click is turned on, the MacOS style menu bar is used, the clock is on the menu bar rather than the panel. Plastik (with animated progress bars) is used for the style and window decorations. I add some space between the close button and the maximise button on the title bar. Set all the fonts to be Bitstream Vera 9pt (except for the mono one), switch on sub-pixel hinting, set the background to blue-bend. Change the colour scheme to KDE default, but have the active title bar red. Make sure crystal SVG icons are selected, and have 48 pixel desktop icons. Remove some buttons from konqueror.

Or see fto see what it looks like just now.

And that's still not as nice as I'd really like it to be, but maybe plasma will make it nicer?

Pablo said...

A few comments on your customization:

Two rows of tray icons is very nice, but a 48 pixels high kicker is too big for me. Maybe the icons could me made smaller (like those in Quick Launcher)?

I have no idea how to decrease the size of the hide button (at least in 3.4.1).

_Transparent_ lock/logout: nice! Didn't know that.

Quick Launcher is nice. No need for small icons if you use few apps, though.

I definitely don't like MacOs menu bar. Takes some space, plus I'm really not used to looking for the menu at the top of the screen.

Plastik with Smooth Blend, and a nice cursor theme (I'm using Pinux's Gentoo Cursors).

Separating the close button from the maximize button is an interesting idea, but I prefer apps to either minimize to the tray (amarok, kopete) or pop-up a confirmation dialog before closing,

Fonts here are Bitstream Vera 10pt, with anti-alias and sub-pixel hinting (everything that can be done to improve fonts is worth the effort).

Crystal SVG icons. KDE Default colors.
Konqueror as-is, but I agree it needs some streamlining.

Overall, I agree that distros need to put a little more work into delivering a more usable KDE. But I'm using Gentoo, so who am I to complain? ;)

I've heard good stuff about Mepis and PCLinuxOS. Maybe for your next test?

iago said...


Remember that Hoary is the first Kubuntu release. I'll say you to wait for breezy or remember to try breezy colony cd's.

I won't choice Fedora to use KDE. You have a lot os GUI to make configurations, but all are gtk2 because Fedora is a Gnome Distro. In the devel-list I see some post about introduce YaST in Fedora, but people say Fedora has their own tools, don't mind about kde user needing gtk apps :P

Kubuntu at least try to became a bleeding KDE-only distro :D.

Personally I choice Kubuntu because there's no gtk on the installation cd and it look a promissing kde distro for everybody. (And because I can upgrade to 3.4.2 the same day it has been released).

Looking to the TODO list it seems a interesting distro for me:

See You

James Ots said...

fromoze: I have to say the speedy KDE support in Kubuntu was what was attracting me to it, but it's just not ready for my desktop yet. If I had a spare machine I'd probably install it for hacking on.

pablo: The transparency in the lock/logout applet was added by me - one of my first pieces of KDE coding :) I prefer the MacOS menubar because I don't often maximise windows, so I save space by not having a menu on every window. And it gives me some more dock space, so I can put the clock there and have more space on the panel at the bottom. And my screen resolution is 1400x1050, so 48 pixels doesn't seem a lot to me.

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