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Ubuntu 19.04 is out – gHacks Tech News

I’m playing around with Kubuntu 18.04.2 “Bionic Beaver” on an eight-year-old Dell Latitude. As a Windows refugee, I like KDE Plasma a *lot* better than Gnome 3.x. It’s pretty, it’s highly customizable out of the box, it’s no longer a RAM hog, and it’s *familiar*. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve run into any really *major* problems with Kubuntu so far.

The KDE System Settings panel is still on the complex and confusing side, although maybe less so than in the recent past. I added one of Pale Moon’s two officially approved PPA repos and am using Pale Moon as my default browser. Google’s Web-initiated install routine for Google Chrome (which I use almost exclusively for Netflix) worked without a hitch.

I imported my user profiles for Pale Moon, Firefox, Waterfox, Google Chrome, and LibreOffice from Linux Mint Cinnamon 19.1, and they seem to be working fine, by and large. I did a manual install of FreeFileSync and made launchers for FreeFileSync and RealTimeSync using pretty much the same procedure I’d used for Linux Mint Cinnamon, without a hitch. I also did a manual install of YouTube-DL-GUI, with launcher, and that seems to work fine, too.

Major Complaints:

* Kubuntu LTS seems to have only a three-year lifespan, whereas Ubuntu LTS (on which Kubuntu LTS is based) has a *five*-year lifespan. (So far as I can make out, as of 18.04, Ubuntu LTS actually has a *ten*-year lifespan … for enterprise customers who pay for extended support.) Anyway, that’s a major strike against Kubuntu compared to Linux Mint, which like Ubuntu LTS is supported for five years.

The less often I have to even *possibly* be put in the position of having to do a clean upgrade, reinstall all of my apps, and redo all of my configurations, the better. If Texstar weren’t seriously ill and if Solus were a bit further along in its development, PCLinuxOS and Solus would be serious contenders for my next primary OS, as rolling distros that you “install once and update forever.”

* Discover, Ubuntu/Kubuntu’s GUI software manager, isn’t as good or helpful as Linux Mint’s Software Manager. And a lot of distro reviewers seem to agree with me on that point. End of complaint.

* This problem may well be specific to Dell laptops with Track Stick pointing sticks, although it’s one that I have NOT been able to minimize using Kubuntu’s bundled input-device settings so far: I’m *addicted* to the pointing stick for mousing and scrolling, and Dell Track Sticks are simply not as smooth and accurate as Lenovo TrackPoints, in either Windows or Linux. I intend to search for tips and special utilities for configuring pointing sticks in Kubuntu sometime soon.

(By the way, Kubuntu seems to come with a hot corner in the upper right of the screen that’s activated by default. It switches between displaying the active window to displaying a preview of all open windows on the desktop. Thanks to the wonky Track Stick, I regularly overshoot titlebar close buttons and trigger the hot corner. If I can’t improve how the Track Point behaves, I’m going to have to deactivate the hot corner.)

* This next complaint actually applies to every Linux distro I’ve tried: the US International (with dead keys) keyboard layout doesn’t work as well as the equivalent Windows layout does. So far as I’ve been able to surmise, the Windows layout sends dead keys’ nominal characters (e.g, an actual ‘, “, ^, ~, etc.) as soon as it registers an immediately-following spacebar *press*, whereas the Linux layout doesn’t do that until it registers a spacebar *press-and-release*.

Either that, or the spacebar press-and-release simply doesn’t register a lot of the time. Regardless, the end result is that if I don’t type more slowly and deliberately in Linux than I do in Windows, I end up with a lot of garbage like Iǘe, Iḿ, and thatś instead of the I’m, I’ve, and that’s I intended to type. (Some of the characters, like ç and Ç are composed differently, too, but a completely identical layout may be too much to ask for.)

I intend to try to research the spacebar issue at some point and maybe bring the matter before the shadowy High Council for Linux Keyboard Layouts. 😉

Major Plus (pertaining to KDE specifically): My eyesight isn’t the greatest, and I appreciate windows decorations (minimize button, maximize/restore button, close/quit button, etc.) that I can see and accurately target and click on. KDE Plasma is highly customizable and I’ve been able to choose windows decorations that work for me.

I generally find Linux Mint and Cinnamon to be more consistently well-thought-out, more user-friendly, and less glitchy than Kubuntu and KDE Plasma, but I’ve been having vision-related problems with the version of Cinnamon in Mint 19.1. Apparently, in order to improve scalability on HiDPI displays, the Cinnamon team radically reduced window customization options, at least for now.

My problem is that the remaining options all have tiny, super-subtle windows decorations that can be a *sumbitch* for Mr. Magoos like me to click on — even on a ThinkPad with an accurate TrackPoint. If they give me some big, boldly colored squares instead of tiny, quasi-camouflaged balls in the next release, I’ll be a lot happier!

All in all, I would at least *consider* Kubuntu as my primary OS over Linux Mint Cinnamon if it weren’t for the shorter lifespan. I understand why Linux Mint KDE users were upset when Mint stopped offering official KDE releases after 18.3. Cinnamon is a great DE and it’s constantly improving (well … for twenty- and thirty-somethings with 20/10 vision ;-), but KDE still outshines it in many areas, admittedly at the cost of some glitchiness.

PS: Someone mentioned Manjaro. I tried out Manjaro KDE in a bare-metal install for a few weeks and concluded that while it might be a *great* distro for intermediate-level Linux users and above, it doesn’t make the cut as a beginner-friendly distro.

There were a few packages that I really wanted or needed. In many other distros, they required manual installs, but in Manjaro, they were available in AUR. I was so excited! One install script (for TuxGuitar) ran to conclusion and reported a successful install … and then TuxGuitar wouldn’t run. Another (for FreeFileSync) took repeated (six or more?) attempts, spaced out over time, to install … and ditto for the subsequently released version, except that I never *got* it to install.

The software update GUI (either Octopi or Pamac, I forget which) began flagging a bunch of library conflicts, but provided no information beyond that. My fault for installing packages from AUR? Maybe. But the thing is, I haven’t gotten library conflicts in distros where I installed the same apps manually. Anyway, Manjaro is obvsiouly *dramatically* more user-friendly than stock Arch, but to my mind, it’s still not *remotely* user-friendly enough for Linux beginners like me.

PPS: I think it’s *very* smart of the Mint team to be maintaining a parallel Linux Mint Debian Edition, in case Canonical turns to the Dark Side of the Force or just does something incredibly boneheaded with Ubuntu. Linux Mint and Cinnamon are still the most hassle-free distro and desktop environment I’ve used (recent Mr. Magoo problems notwithstanding), and I hope the team sticks it out and keeps developing these projects for a long time to come. To *consistently* release products that are as stable and well-functioning as theirs in an environment as complex and chaotic as the GNU/Linux world is quite an accomplishment.

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