Updated: May 11, 2022
Spring. Flowers. Hay fever. Linux distros aplenty. This is how one can summarize the doings in the northern hemisphere this year, and every year. A fresh crop of Tuxies has hatched, and with modest reservation, stoicism, skepticism, and a lack of delusion, I shall set about sampling the harvest. Carefully, sparingly, because things ain't as rosy as they once used to be. Today, I will try Kubuntu 22.04 Jammy Jellyish, the new LTS.
My test rig will be the brand-newish IdeaPad 3, equipped with AMD processor plus graphics and adorned with three operating systems, one of which the aforementioned 22.04 will displace today. Hopefully, it will be a rather fun process, because I was super-happy with Plasma 5.24, and I'd like to believe, against all odds, that the lucky stream will continue for a while longer. I would also like this distro to become my next production system. To wit, let's commence to start.
Mistakes were made that day ...
And so, let us begin with a rather anti-climactic fubar. The installer, once it completed its work, popped up to inform (me) it has finished the task. It did so by stealing focus, and as it happens, at that very nanosecond, I had hit Enter, which was intended to be input into a different program. Naturally, the wizard captured the key stroke, and to make it more interesting, naturally, the default action for the "Installation complete" prompt is to restart the system. TL;DR: I lost me screenshots, and I decided not to redo the live session.
Thus, I must regale you, in this first portion of the article, with text-only delight. There will be screenshots aplenty, but that's a bit later. How did it go then? The live session boot was clean but extremely long. Some three minutes or so. I thought the system had a problem, but then, the desktop loaded just fine.
I spent a little bit of time fiddling about, and then started the installation. The partitioning step is a bit meh. You get no labels, so you must manually "research" your partitions to figure out what gives. Furthermore, the device column is quite narrow, obscuring the important bits of information there. Yes, all it takes is to resize the column, and you can see the device and partition numbers, but why isn't this the default, ask I must. The slideshow uses Ubuntu fonts, Kubuntu uses Noto. Aha. The whole setup took about 10 minutes. In the end, I had a working triple-boot setup in place, with two Linux distros and one Windows instance side by side.
It's my jam-my
First real boot. The GRUB menu says Ubuntu, not Kubuntu. Why. Then, the clean beauty of the boot process is spoiled by a momentary diversion into a console-like screen, where you're told about some X.509 Certificate nonsense. Why do I care? I don't. The very first boot was rather long, almost 17 seconds. Subsequent boots take about 10 seconds. Not the fastest, but not the worst either, for this machine. The Wireless configuration was not preserved. KDE Wallet asked me to save the network credentials. Then, I set about taming the system to my liking, and this was a somewhat frustrating process ...
A slew of annoyances
For an LTS, Kubuntu 22.04 sure has a lot of weird default and little niggles. The chief amongst them: system language. As always, the installer defaults to your timezone regional dialect (if there is one, or the nearest equivalent), even if you explicitly choose a different one. I absolutely detest this. Well, here we go, a pointless change and a fresh session login. Much better.
The fonts look a bit washed out, which wasn't the case with KDE neon only a couple of weeks back. After increasing the display scale, things became decidedly better, but I was still force to use my Brooze tricklet to get the fonts to look the part. I also tried to change the theming, as I don't like pale window borders, and this didn't really work. The classic theme is there, but I could not activate it. Hm. It did work after a complete system reboot, though. So, we have a bug, and 'tis an LTS. Tsk tsk.
Le reboot, and now the things are peachy:
So yes, display scaling works great, but the system menu icon stays small whereas pinned app icons grow bigger once you go above something like 52px height for the taskbar. And this creates a disjointed look. Furthermore, if you do want to change the system menu icon, the system only has the blue-themed Kubuntu logo available, not the black & white one, so not sure where that icon comes from.
And if you go down from 54 px to 52 px, this magic happens - it all looks fine:
Eventually, I was able to tame the system. But the annoyances did not stop. Unnecessary things like the battery indicator hiding itself away rather than being shown all the time. And then, you do get VLC and Elisa, with the latter being the default. All right, but then, there is no configuration for the default media player, what. Both media players fully close when you click on X, and they never minimize to the system area. Not sure if this is good or bad, just is.
The Plasma integration prompt didn't show for quite some time, and then finally, it did. Discover now uses a different layout to show programs. While this isn't bad per se, it leaves a lot of empty space, which gives an impression of an unfinished product. Another culprit is the new Plasma System Monitor. No KSysGuard for you, but we will touch upon this a bit later.
Kate is also (somewhat) annoying. First, on the left, there's an extra pair of tab navigation arrows (< >), but they are inert and don't do anything. Then, on the right, you get a second pair, and this one works great, but there's a visual theming issue (no proper border and whatnot). Third, by default, the one open tab stretches the entire width of the text editor window, and this creates a jarring visual effect. Shame, because it's a nice text editor.
Trying to have fun
Eventually, I was able to get past these zero-hour problems and start having a somewhat meaningful session. I modified the system layout to my liking, and then focused on the important stuff. Samba sharing works without a hitch. It's fast and responsive. The only downside is the somewhat inconsistent throughput - it varied between 7 MB/s and 15 MB/s, usually hovering around the lower number. But I was able to play media files from Windows hosts just fine, and in general, Kubuntu Jammy had no issues with various media formats and codecs. I guess it's almost safe to say that in 2022, this is no longer an everyday concern for Linux users. One can hope.
Resource utilization & the art of pointless numbers
There are two things we need to address here. One, the actual system performance, responsiveness and hunger for bytes. Two, the tool used to tell us all about it. Plasma System Monitor does a mediocre job here. Its visual side of things is lacking, it doesn't do justice to data and graphs, and worst of all, the old KSysGuard ain't no more in the repos, so take it or leave it.
I felt so angry that I actually spent time customizing this new utility, contrary to what should be the rightful course of action, just to show that it is possible to create a meaningful set of graphs that provide the user with good system information, and none of that pseudo-modern pies and dials and whatever other nonsense. And here we are, normal graphs. Even so, things aren't rosy. You need to change the colors for selected lines, because the defaults are pretty bad, and you don't get any mouse-hover data for any desired (time) point.
Here you go. The CPU graph goes only to 100%. Easy to read. Intuitive. Not a bunch of useless lines that stack to give you an over-representation of the actual utilization in the form of a crude multiplication of the number of logical CPU cores on your machine:
That aside, the utilization is ... well, we still have a problem. Memory information has changed from KSysGuard. The new tool now includes cached memory, too. But then, much like the Gnome tool, which does the same thing, this is a pointless metric. The concept of cached memory means nothing, because there are tons of cache types, and how the memory pages there will be retrieved or dropped depends on various factors. But in essence, if and when these pages need to be freed, they will, hence showing them is just noise.
Finally, you don't really know if the cached portion is calculated in the total. So when the system says 1.2 GB and the cached memory value reads say 650 MB (should you display it), is this out of the total used value, or is this in addition? Well, I know the answer, but the casual user will not. And so, a graph that provides more confusion that answers is a pointless one.
Other than that, the system is fast. Verily so. The Plasma desktop is nimble, sprightly.
I wasn't able to get a very accurate reading in my early tests. The estimate varied wildly between over-optimistic 9 hours for light usage and something like 5 hours for light to moderate usage. With brightness taken into account, I can probably expect something like 5-6 hours, which is a decent, upper-range results for this laptop. Not bad.
I will receive feedback on this review, I am sure. And some people will probably say: you know you should wait a couple of months until the first dot release for all those early bugs to be fixed. And to that I say, yes, true, but then, why release the distro now then? Why not test two months more and then unleash it when it's ready? This is true of most "modern" systems, like the half-beta Windows 11 and whatnot. Low bar for quality is not how it should be, and Kubuntu 22.04 is no exception. There are half a dozen issues in this release, obvious ones, which never should have made it past the QA team. But then, testing software seems to be an afterthought since around 2014 or so.
Anyway, Kubuntu 22.04 is a decent system, but I also feel angry and frustrated. With my recent mission of migrating away from Windows for good (look for it in my Linux and Windows categories) in the coming years, any setback or regression in Linux, especially LTS versions of big distros, creates a great disturbance in the force, and makes me feel extra dejected. As always, always, whenever things start getting slightly better, slightly more stable, distros seem to implode, seemingly terrified of what stability might bring. It's a self-perpetuating, self-destructive cycle. It's getting quite boring in 2022. It was all fun and games and nerdy tinkering in 2005, but now, it feels like Groundhog Day, except it's Penguin Day. But then, who cares anymore right.
This distro is decent-ish. It's fast, there were no major problems, and you can tweak Plasma any which way you like, almost. Then, you have things like the unresizable main menu, screenshot borders, dubious defaults, and whatnot. Functionality wise, solid, but you have to work hard to get the best out of the system. Worst of all, there is no sense of majesty that an LTS is supposed to deliver. Just another day in the neverending grinder of code and frivolous hobbyism that is the Linux desktop. I guess 6-7/10 for now. Yes, I am sure I will eventually upgrade to this release, blah blah, and I'll be enthused and deluded and such. But the first impression is a bit meh. We are done here, folks.