KDE neon 5.22.5 - When you come undone

Updated: October 8, 2021

Hot off the heels of my Fedora 34 KDE testing, I downloaded a new ISO of neon and promptly booted it on my IdeaPad 3. There were several reasons why I wanted this done. Primarily, I wanted to compare it to my KDE experience in Fedora, including verifying the presence of a bunch of annoying bugs in the desktop. Then, I also wanted to see how neon handles my new hardware on its own and all that.

I've done a whole bunch of neon testing and installations recently. In fact, I installed it on no less than three old laptops, and the results were all excellent. A mix of ancient processors, Nvidia graphics, and full-disk encryption. No worries, no troubles. Well then, let's have another go, shall we.

Teaser

Gone in 60 seconds

Okay, so I can confirm that a lot of visual bugs that I encountered with Fedora are Plasma-specific. Namely, the system area mangling in the live session, and the inability to set the active titlebar color for Breeze themes, which forces one to seek alternatives, dabble in command-line, or suffer degraded contrast and separation between fg and bg windows.

On top of that, the installer complained that I've not selected a /boot/efi mountpoint, even though I've done that. Then, it finished the entire installation in only about 1 minute. I kiddeth you not. This was the fastest I've seen so far on this box. After reboot, everything was swell. Boot time, 9 seconds, significantly faster than Fedora, not as fast as some other distros. But still decent.

The Wireless connection was preserved. HD Scaling works fine. But ... but ... there be fresh new artifacts! Why oh why? Every few Plasma releases, old issues come up, bleeding my soul and patience and sanity. There is no reason for any resolved problem to ever recur. That's what rigorous QA testing is meant to do. Wait. QA? Testing? In my Linux?

New scaling problem

Then, I couldn't install Steam - we shall have a tutorial on this soon. Easily solved. But another phenomenon of modern software that is so utterly pointless and annoying. Apt says no Steam found, and if you try to install anything that depends on it:

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
steam-installer : Depends: steam (= 1:1.0.0.61-2ubuntu3) but it is not installable
E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

The distro also complained about "limited" connectivity - another bug I've mentioned a long time ago, especially in relation to Wireless connections + (usually) VPN usage. Here, I wasn't using any VPN, just normally and casually using my computer. Still, it kept on annoying me. I had a download speed of 9 MB/s comfortably, and even 11-12 MB/s, plus low ping and no packet drops. Behold, a cropped picture showing the right bottom corner of a terminal window, inside which a system update is running, and farther below, the system area, the network manager, and the Wireless icon with an exclamation mark symbol next to it. Nonsense.

Limited connectivity

Resources and battery life

The new System Monitor annoyed me plenty. Like pretty much any new tool, it is not as good as the old tool. KSysGuard remains superior, due to its data reporting accuracy, simplicity of use, superior presentation layer, no visual bugs, and such. The speed dial views are absolutely ridiculous. What are the dials supposed to represent exactly? Linux memory management and processor scheduling aren't linear like fuel consumption, rev counts or speed in a car. Therefore, using a circular, linear design makes no sense! Notice the list of cores being truncated, of course, because new and modern.

System Monitor

Notice the CPU graph, too. It is not scaled to 100%, but rather the sum of all cores. Which is overcounting. Either you show each core separately, and count to 100%, or you show them lumped together, and then count to 100% x number of cores. This makes the visual representation absolutely useless. What am I seeing on that graph really then? And let's not ignore unreadable data for cores 7/8.

Swap info, another joke. The new tool reads Used Swap Memory at 0B - which would mean what? That there is swap but it is not used? The fact is, the system did not configure any swap at all, not even a simple swap file, which is yet another divergence from the rest of the Ubuntu-based family, and I guess it's related to the use of the Calamares installer.

And then, you use the old tool, and everything is (mostly) fine.

KsysGuard

Data and data visualization are art. Hard, scientific art. There are no two ways about it. Very simple.

Anyway, memory usage on idle is about 600 MB, comparable to the other Plasma distros I tried on the system. The CPU was a bit noisy, about 2-3%, which is a fair deal. However, the responsiveness was excellent. Now, battery life? With light to moderate usage and 50% brightness, the system reported about 3.5 hours left at 82%, which translates to 4.5 hours for a full cell, less than what I had with say Manjaro on this box. This is a disappointing result.

Battery life

Other things ...

Well, the Settings tool is friendly. Konsole comes with new auto-layouts. Discover is REALLY fast and responsive. In general, the updates are ultra-fast, and the system flies. On the IdeaPad 3, KDE neon 5.22.5 is probably the sprightliest of distros I've tried so far. Instant response, everything.

Customization

Konsole

I tried to install new window decorations - the built-in via-Settings applet never displayed anything, just kept on spinning endlessly. The same function worked through Discover. Bugs, bugs, annoying little bugs, and why oh why.

Window decorations never load

Don't get me started on the useless window shadows ...

If you try to run KWrite (which is also inferior to Kate, btw) as sudo, you get the annoying and useless security warning, still. This is infuriating on so many levels:

Executing KWrite with sudo is not possible due to unfixable security vulnerabilities. It is also not necessary; simply use KWrite normally, and you will be prompted for elevated privileges when saving documents if needed.

Unfixable security vulnerability? Well, change the code. Kill the app. Build a replacement. And again, what security vulnerability? A user deleting their own files? They can still do that with vi, nano, cat, or a thousand other ways on the command line. This is a protection against no one for no reason. Like saying, due to bad drivers, we removed all the cars from the roads. No.

And then, System Settings crashed when I tried to navigate through several categories a bit too quickly:

Crash

Conclusion

This is a short review, yes, yes, it is. But, we learned something. KDE neon is really fast. KDE neon is pretty. KDE neon 5.22.5 also brings in regressions, which I find super-annoying. We're talking the titlebar theming, we're talking network manager, we're talking scaling issues, yet again. Steam? Yup, that's another, entirely unnecessary hurdle for the common user.

On their own, these problems wouldn't be an issue. Except, toss a D&D 20-sided cube, and you get your random damage points, and that's about as arbitrary as issues that keep coming back into an otherwise solid and fun distro. I know that KDE neon is a test bed, but the User Edition is meant to be stable and robust enough. Overall, I am happy, but this wasn't the best Plasma experience. In fact, I'm on a jinx ride. Two out of two for a less than satisfactory outcome. Now, I need to cry. The end.

Cheers.

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