Updated: May 13, 2015
After we've seen Ubuntu 15.04 in action a fistful of days ago, the second distro I'm going to review this spring season is Kubuntu Vervet, and it comes with the lovely, awesome Plasma desktop, again, a second showing after Netrunner. Indeed, we want to enjoy the latest Plasma offering, but first and foremost, we want to explore what Kubuntu can do for us.
I will be testing on my G50 machine, and if you've read through my Plasma 5.3 article, then you know there might be some rough patches ahead. But that was beta, and now we have a proper, official release. Follow me, ladies and gents of the Web.
Much like the beta version, Kubuntu 15.04 struggled with UEFI. This is really strange, because Ubuntu and Kubuntu share the same family tree, and yet, things are quite different. I had to change the UEFI settings to Legacy mode before Kubuntu would boot. This is really disappointing. Vivid Plasma is pretty enough, though.
The Realtek Wireless card issue did not surface here, like it did during the beta testing and in the Ubuntu session. Samba sharing worked fine, although it was a little slow. Overall, okay, I guess.
The drag & drop icon problem came back to haunt me. I mean, c'mon. Really? I reported this stupidity many months ago. Why would something so trivial suck? If users want to have their icons show up in the panel, then this is how they need to do it, and you can't mess up something so elementary. Damn. This is a classic example of the QA rushed to conclusion just to meet the release date. Ubuntu seems to have done this right, and Kubuntu stubbornly keeps on making the same mistakes. The first weeks are always rough, and it's starting to annoy me more and more. It's almost like blindly hitting your head against a wall, and without any real zeal or conviction. Just because there's a wall.
Wallpapers and themes cannot be downloaded. The errors we've seen in the past have now been replaced with a different set of errors. The problem also persists after installation, making this ordeal smell like a camel's balls.
I decided to displace Netrunner for the time being. The installation worked fine, with the same kind of errors we've seen with Prometheus. This is immensely stupid. We're in 2015, and there's no excuse for this kind of nonsense.
But let's go into some detail. First, I find it really silly that Kubuntu 15.04 did not suggest installing itself side by side with the existing systems. Must be the UEFI thing. Which also makes it quite dangerous, as you can end up deleting all your precious stuff.
Manually, you can do whatever you want - and should. Then, the bootloader code thingie crap. It's really annoying and confusing, and if you are not very savvy, you might fail to realize this is a bogus message.
The installer was somewhat slow and boring. You have a small, unenthusiastic slide show running at the bottom of the wizard screen, but it's nowhere near as impressive as what you get with some other distros. Be proud, dagnabit.
In the installed session, Kubuntu continued to misbehave. It did not automatically offer any updates, the way we've seen it in Ubuntu Vivid. Then, the Wireless card issue still refused to show up. However, I did get a prompt to install some proprietary firmware, which wasn't the case with Ubuntu. I love this inconsistency. Really builds confidence.
Manually, I was able to grab all the missing packages. Muon works, but it is a little slow and not very inviting. However, nothing really helped resolve problems. All of the bugs still remain around, and there's been no major upgrade available yet.
The set of tools you get by default is quite decent, if not eye-watering, mouth-watering, mind-exploding. Firefox, KMail, LibreOffice, Firefox, Okular, Telepathy, Amarok, Dragon, and a few others. Decent, Additional stuff is available in the repos.
You can easily get extra stuff - the useful and important bits and pieces, like GIMP, VLC, Steam, Skype, and such, all of which worked without any issues. In this regard, you can very quickly make Kubuntu look and behave, but it's a conscious decision and effort.
Then, you also get some programs that really serve no purpose. One of them is KDE Connect, which seems to be badly named for a Plasma tool, plus I have no idea what it's supposed to do. Let's not forget all the little windows element misalignments everywhere, adding to the OCD chaos.
Kubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet did not cause me any trouble on this front. MP3, Flash and HD video, all of them worked fine. Finally, some smooth sailing.
Kubuntu Vervet is hungry like a wolf. There's about half a dozen puns and jokes all in this one little line, plus that cool wallpaper, so think about it. But it's really rather ravenous. Even Netrunner 15 with all its trimming was leaner. Indeed, Vivid Vervet with Plasma 5 likes to toll some 1.1 GB of memory. At least the CPU is rather quiet, at about 2% most of the time. The system is responsive, but it's nothing stellar.
Kubuntu is fairly thirsty, as evident by its resource usage, but this does not affect the battery life too much. Having about 2 hours of time left at 50% makes it an impressive achievement. Then, the battery meter can also sometimes show really wild readings, especially as it needs some time to calculate all the different parameters.
This is a new sub-test that I'm going to start adding to my distro reviews. Some people will probably find this rather useful. Well, one of the screenshots above suggests we have an iPhone that we can use. Not quite, which is why there's going to be a big and detailed article on that topic. As to Vivid Vervet with the Plasma desktop, it didn't have any issues with Android and Windows Phone devices, but it did not like Apple's products. We shall discuss this more. For now, let it be a teaser.
We had that firmware thingie, iPhone thingie and such. Apart from those, there were no issues. Suspend & resume worked fine, the system would sleep or wake within a second or two. All of the Fn buttons function correctly, justifying their name.
Nope. Broken. Stupid. There's no Samba option. Why?
No problems, no screenshot. Good.
They worked just fine and pretty. Much like KDE.
There were a few other bugs that shouldn't have surfaced in the official release, and this is contrast to the composed start that Ubuntu Vivid had. Amazing. Logic defying. Well, one, Dolphin does not preserve location shortcuts in the sidebar. They are gone when you close the program. Two, sometimes, when closing Dolphin, the screen may flicker once or twice. Ugly. Three, when copying files to Samba, the timestamp is not preserved. This means you get your files all showing with the copy date rather than their original time. Stupid.
And yes, I've mentioned this before, but many GUI elements need polish and alignment. Lots of both. I just hate those tiny, inconsistent gaps, unequal margins, all sorts of crazy things like that. Simply does not look professional.
With a slightly sour taste in my mouth, the finale:
Kubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet is like a neverending download. So unsatisfying. The distro itself comes with a boatload of goodies, excellent looks, and enough variety to keep you entertained for a while. Provided you want to be entertained, when there are so many bugs around.
A couple of months from now, we will probably all be happy, but this is a recurring pattern with Kubuntu. It does not respect itself enough to make you respect it. The baseline isn't posh enough for a stable release, no matter what. Many things did not work for me, and all of them diminish the value and affection I may have allocated for this distro. It pains me, but with almost beta quality, loads of problems, disregard for modern technology and environment, plus some more niggles and crinkles and blisters, I'm having a hard time recommending the distro. Which makes me angry, because I was counting on it, counting on Plasma. We shall convene again in two months. For now, Kubuntu is a lukewarm, underwhelming performer that disdains its own heritage. 6/10.