Monday, October 29, 2007

Techno-Whining (Kubuntu)

I've been using Kubuntu (KDE flavored Ubuntu) for a little while, and I'm using this space to make complaints about it. I'm doing this (hopefully) to voice what I believe to be short-comings of the OS and to give a place to find solutions to issues I've encountered.

While I'm relatively new to Kubuntu, I've used Linux going all the way back to 1995. I intend to give my criticisms from the perspective of an average user, but hopefully I can make the criticisms constructive at least occasionally. Please note I plan to update this document directly so comments could become out of date as this updated.

I'm running Kubuntu 7.04 on a couple of test machines, but the main one I'll refer to is a laptop (Dell Latitude D610 with the Centrino chipset).

1. Wireless

Kubuntu handled my Centrino wireless well (i.e. it just works unlike those unlucky folks with Broadcom chipsets), but I had to go command line to get it to connect to a hidden unsecured network (a network without encryption w/o broadcasting SSID). To get that to work, I used iwconfig (with sudo of course) to set the SSID to the network name and "enc off" to turn off encryption.

Another thing that I would like to see in Kubuntu/KDE is the ability to have a Preferred Networks list like in XP and Mac OS X. There are location profiles, which can be nice but are really better for situations where there are fixed IP addresses.

2. Photo attachment viewing

OK so I got an email with a photo attachment, and I opened it directly from the browser download. The only option I got to view it was Gimp. This is no slant on Gimp, a fine program, but something more lightweight and simple like Preview on Macs or Photo Viewer in XP would have been much more appropriate IMHO.

3. Netbeans/Java SDK install

Definitely had to go command line on this one, as the graphical Adept Manager could not handle this (accepting Sun/Java's terms from command line seemed to thwart the process as did the manual download of Netbeans), more later...

4. Synaptics touchpad

The tapping feature was really killing me. Personally, I never "tap" to click-- I use the buttons for clicking and the touchpad exclusively for mouse movement. The tap was very sensitive by default and I wanted to get rid of that feature anyway. Luckily, the Adept Manager had a program for configuring Synaptics touchpads. I got the library and the KDE GUI, but when it came time to configure it, an error came up and grayed out all of the options. Luckily the error that came up gave the fix for the problem, but on the down side it required going command line to edit a monster config file (with syntactical knowledge required to boot).

So it works (tapping disabled), BUT now as I touch the touchpad the pointer gradually creeps up and to the left. That's a weird one...

5. Adept Manager

Can you say jumbled and overwhelming? The list of packages is way too long and TMI (for the casual user at least). More later...

This and all of my whining posts to come are written with the hopes of improving the technology. Feel free to let me know if I'm missing the mark with that.