Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver - Long-term uncertainty

Updated: April 30, 2018

The day of reckoning is upon us. Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver has been released, and with five years of promised support, it's potentially a great candidate for a production desktop setup. The emphasis is on the adverb used in the previous sentence, as we know how fickle and erratic and regressive Linux distros can be.

But I am genuinely intrigued. I may want this in my production setup. After all, Kubuntu Zesty was the ultimate Plasma release, the best Kubuntu ever, and among the finest Linux systems released in the past decade, and it spiked my interest and desire to deploy Plasma on my serious big-boy machines. With such gentle expectations, let us commence.

Teaser

Live session

The boot splash on the eight-boot UEFI/GPT-powered Lenovo G50 was clean save for a single entry complaining about some firmware bug. Other than that, it was exceptionally quiet. The desktop is classic Plasma, with some extra attention to detail. The widget button is on the right side. You have the fixed clock, and the Show Desktop widget - although Minimize All is a better option, but still, it's a nice start. The overall theme is Breeze, but the desktop theme is Breeze Dark, and this actually makes more sense, and looks prettier than before.

Live desktop

Menu

More look & feel

Some of the bugs that I've mentioned in my various Plasma reviews recently linger. For instance, Spectacle does not seem to have changed much. It still has a wonky config hidden under the Save button, it still defaults to capturing the mouse pointer, and it still creates huge transparent borders with shadows, which makes for tricky post-editing, and it means I will need to install gnome-screenshot to make my work easier. The bottom panel vertical height resize is still drag 'n' drop with no numerical values. C'mon.

Network connectivity

It was odd and frustrating. Wireless connected fine, no double-prompt for password, but then, it didn't really work. I had no actual connection, and had to re-connect, and then it was okay. Bluetooth sharing was also wonky. Supposedly, the pairing failed, but it had actually succeeded despite the bogus message, and I was able to send files to my mobile device. Printing kind of worked - no Samba at all - and the Wireless printer was detected, but it showed with an empty string, and then there's also the visual misalignment of text strings on the right side of the printing wizard, like for instance the word Address. Why did this half-failing nonsense make into the LTS, beats me. Just proves that we need prison penalty for software bugs, regressions and missing validation.

Printers

Bogus failed message

BT works, bogus message

Samba sharing in more detail

So, this sucked. Remember my Ubuntu 18.04 Beta review? Well, there I complained that Samba sharing did not work, and as expected, it also does not work in Kubuntu Beaver.

Samba nonsense

Of course, the community was quick to place blame on Microsoft, as always, where in fact this is 100% Linux foobar. Let me explain:

My operational setup has not changed in years; I can access ALL my Samba shares in ALL my distros, except the new Ubuntu 18.04 family.

Things are getting worse over the years.

Until about two years ago, you could easily connect to Samba shares anonymously. Not anymore.

In Ubuntu 17.10, Samba connectivity and discovery was slow - fixed later on.

In Ubuntu 18.04, Samba does not work.

This is, of course, because of useless security nonsense. The default Samba configuration has changed, and a different protocol version is used by default, which prevents basic connectivity. The solution is to edit the /etc/samba/smb.conf file and add  client max protocol = NT1 anywhere in the file. I'll discuss this some more in a separate tutorial, but in a nutshell, that's it.

After that, no need to log out or reboot, fire up Dolphin (or any file manager), and Samba will work. Indeed, I made this change in Kubuntu 18.04, and lo and behold, I was able to connect to my Windows machines. The discovery was fast, but I did need to authenticate (because paranoia is the best).

This example shows how stupid and pointless "desktop security" really is. There's no point using strict security settings if they break functionality. That's just pure and utter failure on every level. These new settings destroy connectivity for 90% of desktop users out there. For that matter, why not make the computer offline, that will make it secure against hax0rs. Useless crap.

Multimedia playback

Reasonable. HD video worked fine, and MP3 songs played too, plus cover art and that. I will be testing network connectivity after the installation. But at least you get the basics, and they're covered in the live session. Not bad.

HD video

MP3 playback

Installation

Meh. Annoying. Overall, it worked well. But first, there's the language, keyboard and timezone crap. I selected English (US) for both my language and keyboard. But then, in the timezone step, you cannot separate the regional language from the timezone selection. What's with the nationalistic attitude? Of course, after the installation, the language was set to whatever region I've chosen and not my original choice. You can try this yourself. Go for English variations, like US, UK, CA, etc, and you will see. The installer knows better than you.

Then, the installer took forever to display partitions - and then, showed no labels. So you need to know what's installed where to make the right choice, and when you have eight operating systems spanning 16 partitions, this becomes tricky. After that, the user setup step took almost 30 min to show - after all the files have already been copied, whereas in the past, this would pop up immediately, and actually let you enjoy the slide show, which, by the way, in this case, is quite bland and boring. Hardly an LTS offering.

Installation type

Partitions, no labels

Slides

Post-installation

The system booted fine, with no splashy splash errors or ugly messages. Clean if slow. The installed desktop did not preserve the Wireless settings. But then, Bluetooth settings were retained. Odd. Well, we've seen worse, right.

Desktop

About

More networking

Now, things weren't really nice and peachy. After suspend & resume or when logging into the system, the Wireless would try to connect then fail then succeed. Must be some crappy KDEWallet bug. So it works, but it's not a simple and seamless action. Worse yet, this works perfectly well in KDE neon, installed on this same laptop and running the same framework!

Wireless nonsense

Then, Samba again. Only, even worse, samba-common is not installed, so there isn't even a config file! You will need to create it and add the hack I mentioned earlier. Or if you install samba-common later on, then it will complain about a conflict with the local configuration file; no option to merge.

The printers applet did show the Wireless device name this time. No Samba option. I installed some dozen different packages, including various python-smbc libraries, which are supposed to fix this, and nothing. So we have another monumental failure at our hands.

Printers, installed

Package management & updates

Discover remains an odd and largely useless program. For instance, I searched for Steam and got something called Steam Support. What. It took almost two minutes to display a screenshot - and when it did, it showed a screenshot of Gnome Software. What? It also kept on searching for updates, like all the time, and this is obviously a bug, and a silly one, because THERE ARE NO UPDATES AVAILABLE AT THE MOMENT. But the program is a joke. And it will be a five-year LTS joke.

Discover

Forever searching for updates

Forever updates, I wanna be forever updates.

I tried Muon - it lets you customize everything you need, except drivers, but those come separately. No updates, because there were none available, which means no remedy for any bugs that we find, and find some we shall. The Partner channel is disabled, but once you turn it on, you can install all sorts of nice programs, although Skype and Chrome need external sources.

Muon

Desktop errors and freezes!

As I began exploring the system, errors started cropping up. We have the wireless nonsense, but then Baloo also crashed a few times. Worse yet, after a few minutes of work, my desktop seized. Completely. The keyboard became nonresponsive and then everything else. I had to hard-boot the box. Twice.

I discovered this was being caused by Baloo, the file indexer service. I stopped the service and removed its configuration file, and the system settled. Until updates are provided, it kills the Plasma desktop. I didn't get a screenshot, because I was busy fighting this thing, but it literally ate 6 GB of RSS in about one minute, and then quickly hit the swap, and eventually, everything went kaput. Now, I wonder why this was allowed into the production release? Which mediocrity committee decided it's okay to ship shit into an LTS, because there's an arbitrary go-live date for the 18.04 edition?

[  242.353704] baloorunner[1663]: segfault at 7f3a95b9d5f2 ip 00007f3a95234b6a sp 00007ffd114fa348 error 7 in libc-2.27.so[7f3a950a6000+1e7000]

Baloo crash

Baloo error

I punched my laptop in anger and frustration - luckily, I didn't break anything. It's this kind of complete incompetence that kills every hope. It doesn't really matter what else happens onwards, this release is flawed. Even when a dot release comes and all the bugs are fixed - because QA in Linux is shit and everyone pretends it's fine - even then, it will be just meh. A mediocre sadness made slightly less sad. Blithely, we move on.

If you're affected, disable Baloo (this is NOT a new issue, which makes it ever sadder):

roger@tester:~$ balooctl disable
Disabling the File Indexer

Oh, Kmail also crashed!

Kmail crash

Smartphone support

Surprisingly good. For the first evar, if I'm not mistaken, solid iPhone support! Boom. Out of the box. Then, Windows Phone and Android, too, complete with music playback, metadata and cover art. 3/3. Very nice.

Android phone

Windows Phone

iPhone

Multimedia playback

More improvements here, especially network wise. Once I had Samba fixed, I wanted to see if I can play from remote shares. Clementine did this without a hitch. VLC, as Nate Graham wrote in his lovely Plasma usability & productivity series, prompts for password, and you can quickly authenticate, and job done. This is good, fast and seamless. Not the best Samba wise, but under the circumstance, much better than manually hacking the VLC settings.

Clementine, Samba playback

VLC, Samba connectivity

Applications

Kubuntu 18.04 weights about 1.8 GB (how poetic), and that gives you Firefox, KMail, LibreOffice, Okular, VLC, GwenView, and a few other programs. It's a useful collection, but it's not the best, although from a pure KDE perspective, it's among the most balanced offered by any distro. Of course I added some extras, but it's decent.

Apps

Hardware support

Overall, looks good. Suspend & resume worked just fine. Webcam, good, although I did need to install Kamoso. Fn buttons, yup. Power management is solid. And drivers wise, the utility did not find anything, so I wonder where Intel firmware fits into the wider scope of things.

Drivers

Werbcam

Resource utilization

Frugal, with only about 500 MB on idle and 1-2% CPU, even with compositing. It does not feel as ultra snappy as my all-time favorite Zesty, but then, it's still a very fast and elegant performer. I haven't looked yet into everything that's happening under the hood, and I wouldn't be surprised some patches fix all sorts of regressions and bugs in the coming days. I did NOT test the battery life just yet - because the current, buggy state of the desktop will not necessarily reflect the true usage, so that's something to follow on in the near future.

Resources

Why do some Plasma apps have a border and others do not?

Fonts

Now, this is one thing that needs no additional comments. Just fine. Lovely. Even the LibreOffice interface renders nicely and correctly and everything, and you don't need to manually fiddle with DPI settings.

Good fonts in LibreOffice

Other observations

One thing I noticed is that Gnome apps show with a slightly weird aspect ratio. Case in point, Gnome screenshot. Works fine, but just feels stretched vertically. Also, at first the app didn't have the icon reflected correctly in the icons-only task manager (not with the Breeze nor Papirus icons sets), but then after a while, it sorted itself out.

Gnome apps vertical stretch

You also get that missing language nonsense. Why not just install the stuff right away?

Missing language support

Customization

Kubuntu is quite pretty, and I didn't need to invest a lot of energy. Now, you often ask me about screenshots, so I've decided to include the link to the selected choice. In this case, a very neat 8K forest wallpaper. And there's also a nice gray Papirus set, and I've always talked about black & white icons as something that I wanted to see more in Linux distributions.

Gray Papirus

Wallpaper: search for cool forest and/or yosemite on wallhaven.cc.

Final 1

Final 2

Conclusion

First impressions are everything. I remember trying Trusty, and instantly I knew, this was going to be my LTS darling. I don't feel that way about Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver. Let's start with the good things: decent app set, good performance, excellent fonts, multimedia and smartphone support, solid and slick Plasma desktop. Were this the focus on my review, we'd be celebrating with champagne now.

Alas, there were issues. Various cosmetic ones, which Plasma needs to fix, but I can sort of ignore those. The package manager is useless. Samba connectivity, a thousand unicorns died from misery over this. And worst of all, desktop crashes and freezes. That has no place in an LTS edition. That's pure amateurism. That's so bad there are no words to describe it. Yes, the memory-eating bug in Baloo will be fixed, blah blah, but the emotional scars cannot be healed with makeup and fake smiles.

Bottom line, I was expecting zero issues. I got more than a fair share of crap. In two months, this will most likely be a usable distro, perhaps much more so than most other LTS-like candidates, maybe, but for now, it's just an average offering from the forges of mediocrity and apathy. And it highlights the cardinal issue with Linux since day one. Dev-centric development, done in isolation and with no validation. Well, there you go. My first take on Beaver KDE. I will also run an in-vivo upgrade to see what gives, and follow up in a few weeks once the turds are polished. You should check it, but please rein in your colts of enthusiasm. 5/10. For now, Trusty stays.

Cheers.

You may also like: