Updated: May 20, 2013
It is time to test the third sibling in the Ubuntu family, the one named Kubuntu. So far, we've had Ubuntu, which was somewhat bland. Then we also had Xubuntu, which worked like a charm, except for a kernel oops thingie affecting the entire range, a silly thing to coincide with the official release. The KDE version is next.
However, unlike all other tests this spring, I will do something rather unusual. I am going to attempt to upgrade Kubuntu, in-vivo, from Quetzal to Ringtail, using the package manager's internal functionality. True, this kind of review will skip a lot of what I usually demonstrate in the live session and during the installation, but it will expose many other interesting little bits. In general, I always advocated against doing these upgrades, because they were buggy and often ended in a fiasco. What now, you wonder.
You can narrate that in either male Russian or female German voice, so you end up with a Bond-style secret lair villain klaxon thingie. Oh, joy. To make things even more interesting, you should consider the following facts. The test box is an HP laptop with an Nvidia card, plus it hosts a total of seven operating systems, including Kubuntu, which is stored on an external USB Passport disk. Not that this should make much difference, but it's far from the simple setup you see everywhere else.
Anyhow, fire up Muon and follow up the prompts. I deliberately avoided installing updates for Quetzal and skipped directly into the upgrade step to see what would happen. As it turns out, the distro did not care about some 190MB worth of packages for the 12.10 release.
With a slight sense of trepidation, I moved forward, wondering if the system might end horribly unbootable, although, the title of this review probably spoils the thrill and uncertainty, as you can guess what might happen.
The packages were downloaded fairly quickly, and then installed, again, fairly quickly. The entire episode took about forty minutes, and even the Nvidia drivers were setup during the process, which is really nice. At the end of it, I was asked to restart.
I must say I was impressed. The upgrade process was simply perfect. Flawless. Not a single error, bug, glitch, or otherwise. After quickly updating the GRUB2 bootloader in the Pangolin instance controlling the system's boot, Kubuntu with kernel 3.8.0 came up, nice and dandy. Even the splash screen is cool and clean, without any interfering text. The Nvidia driver was also loaded properly. 'Tis a very good start.
Now, what you're about to see is my experience with Raring Ringtail, but you must remember that this is already a somewhat pimped up distro, as I reused my settings, including various programs, codecs, themes, and whatnot. Still, it's a fairly good indication of what the latest version of Kubuntu can manage.
You might find it a little hard figuring why and how this Raring is different from its predecessor. In fact, the most visible changes are some transition effects and a few extras, like the slightly redesigned Dolphin interface. I did mention Ubuntu being bland and boring, by being virtually identical to its earlier release. Here though, the boredom is graciously evaded, and Kubuntu manages to be both precise and true to its heritage, as well as exciting.
Desktop effects & webcam
No worries there, just as you would expect.
Again, everything was in perfect order, including video, music and Flash. So far, I have not yet encountered the kernel oops we've seen on Xubuntu. On that note, if sound is supposed to be affected somehow, then I have not seen it happen yet. And this lack of consistency, for better or worse, is even more worrying that having the crash happen really.
System resources, responsiveness
Canonical put a lot of effort on making their distro snappy and fast, and this really shows. Even the stock Ubuntu is lean and highly responsive. Xubuntu is WARP 9 starship. Kubuntu gladly joins this club, with a phenomenal KDE experience, the lightest and fastest I have come across so far. Simply stunning. The CPU is quiet, visual effects are silky smooth you want to lick your screen, or gently press your groin against the pixels and hump them electronics. Memory consumption has not changed much, but it feels like you have upgraded your processor and disk by three generations of technology.
Stability, suspend & resume
The word of the day is cushty, and it applies here.
Alas, this one did not work. What a shame. I was actually forced to install the classic Gnome printing utility to be able to configure the Samba printers. Someone needs to sort this out, and fast.
And the system-config-printers tool:
OK, so this was an unusual review. What does it lack? Well, I didn't show you any of the stuff happening in the live session, and I kind of skipped on the default application set. On the other hand, you get everything else, including a first-ever successful upgrade over Wireless network on a crazy-complex laptop setup, and all the other usual goodies you would expect from a decent review.
Speaking of reviews, Kubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail seems to be a very polished release, with some small niggles and flaws. The biggest one is printing, the other one the lurking threat of kernel panic, and we don't like that. On the bright side of life, everything else was in good order. The upgrade was perfect. The responsiveness is phenomenal. Absolutely stunning. The desktop is clean and beautiful. And you get rich, colorful functionality all over the place, just as you would expect. Really sweet.
If not for the printing thingie, it would be almost 10/10. But as it is, 9/10 seems like a reasonable grade. I'm in a benevolent mood, do not spoil it! Honestly, Raring Ringtail looks great, KDE is more beautiful and faster than ever, and you get a solid box of excitement, waiting for you. Take it for a spin, and you won't be disappointed.