Updated: November 18, 2020
It is time for another distro test. But wait. It's going to be my new-style testing. Short unless proven fun. Because life has more to it than going through motions with software and getting annoyed. As I've told you not that long ago, I will be doing a somewhat different approach to my distro games, and only invest energy if the basic threshold of usability and fun, the way I see it, exists. Otherwise, I can't.
Kubuntu 20.10 Groovy Gorilla is the test de jour, after my recent Fedora 33 attempt. You know I love the Plasma desktop and use it daily, but then, this love comes with some pain, odd problems that shouldn't be there, and regressions that drain my soul. Well, without much further ado, let's see how Kubuntu fared.
Mixed feelings. The desktop itself is rather presentable. Sharp, clean, consistent ... shame it's not using the latest Plasma 5.20, which turns out to be so much more polished than previous versions. Alas, Kubuntu 20.10 ships with Plasma 5.19.5. This was an unexpected and less-than-ideal surprise. Oh well.
I spent only a little bit of time in the live session. I decided to install the distro first, and then perform additional testing once Groovy is groovily settled in the multi-boot nest. As always, the installation process presented me with a basket of inconsistencies and little problems, which remain unresolved for at least four or five years, and come up in random, spontaneous bursts of incomplete QA.
The partition discovery step took about 15 minutes. The partitions are not labeled - so you might wonder, is there a reason why it takes 15 minutes to scan 16 partitions and then not even identify what sits on them. The installation completed without issues.
Groove is in the Tux
More mixed feelings. The Wireless password prompt shows up twice - a bug that's been with us since forever. Spectacle stills grabs screenshots with huge alpha shadows, because. But don't worry, this seems to be a new thing in Gnome Screenshot, too, so now we have almost 100% useless screenshot tools across the board!
The system is fast, stable. I am quite impressed with the Samba responsiveness. The overall throughput wasn't stellar, but at least the remote filesystem responds instantly, as though local. However, once again, the playback from Samba was meh.
Then ... VLC could not play any media! Boom. You have to go into the program's interface and manually add credentials. This is funny, because the Samba connectivity option in Dolphin allows you (now) both anonymous guest (as used to be the case) and authenticated user, which I used. So why should I have to provide the same credentials twice? Then, there's only one SMB option in the program's settings, so if you want to access to multiple Samba shares on multiple hosts, tough luck.
Your input can't be opened:
VLC is unable to open the MRL 'smb://XXXX@192.168.1.111/Path/MVI_1348.MOV'. Check the log for details.
But then, the media files opened only intermittently - the read buffer issue that I mentioned in a separate tutorial. We still are facing this, months and months later, and I'm not sure this will ever be properly addressed. Furthermore, this only affects the Plasma desktop.
Once the files started playing, the playback was smooth, clean - no jittering, no choppiness, no horizontal lines or whatnot.
Discover, reasonable behavior. Pretty quick. Noice.
When it comes to resource utilization, Plasma is a top dog. The idle memory consumption was low, only about 400 MB. The CPU was a bit noisy on any sign of activity, though. However, this did not harm the performance or responsiveness. Snappy, instant, very elegant. This also translates into reasonable battery life. With low usage and display brightness at 50%, the system reported 130 minutes at 98% charge and 57% total original battery capacity. Effectively, with a brand new battery, you'd get about 4 hours. Quite solid. But we've seen better.
Speaking of power management, the battery & display icon is hidden by default. Why?
There's a new cap lock indicator, and it's nice. The desktop is really pretty. Quick and easy configuration, Bob's your uncle. Overall, the distro is more or less in line with its predecessor, Kubuntu 20.04, perhaps even a tiny bit more refined, but then it also has more bugs. The natural balance of the Linux desktop. And that's pretty much all I had to say this time, folks.
On one hand, Kubuntu 20.10 Groovy Gorilla is a solid distro. It has some really cool features - it's stylish, consistent, fast, stable, and sort of fun to use. Definitely ahead of the game when it comes to your typical Tux offering. But then, this release is a missed opportunity, because it could have nailed it with Plasma 5.20, which really is so much better than what you get by default. Honest.
And then, of course, there's the "pick your regression of the day" game. Any which issue with networking, sharing or media playback, all these are problems we've seen before, some have been addressed, some have gone back, and some have returned, and there's really no point for me to talk about this again. As long as the Linux desktop development remains focused on the concepts of amateur/project/fun instead of product, and as long as there isn't the tightest of integrations of all components, it doesn't seem feasible we will ever see a steady-state desktop that can maintain core functionality without erratic changes over consecutive releases.
Now that said, Kubuntu 20.10 is a bright ray of goodness and almost pro level of attention to detail and finesse in the Tux arena, and if you're on a hunt for a desktop, this seems like the most reasonable choice of late. There you go. Good but it could have easily been so much better.