Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 10

Updated: August 1, 2019

The mission continues. We're now in the Delta Quadrant, chasing the Borg. Or rather, you are reading my tenth Slimbook report. If you've got some time, you should read the first through ninth installment. If you ain't got time for that, the long story short is that I've bought a Linux laptop, and I'm using it for realz, production stuff, serious work. And does it work?

Well, quite so. In fact, while there are many subtle differences between the worlds of Linux and Windows desktop, the big differentiating factors are gaming and office. That's all. But the devil is in the detail, which is why you're reading this piece now. Let's see what happened in the past few weeks.

Teaser

Improvements

Overall, I must say it's been quiet lately. Boringly predictable, which is awesome. That's the sight of true maturity one needs for a stable, production setup. The Slimbook has really settled in, and I didn't have any super-major issues to fight, well, most of the time - more about that later.

This particular report took me the longest to compile and write yet, as I was waiting for exciting new things and problems to crop up so I could include them here. There were some interesting twists. For instance, the update manager now also tells you about security patches separately. Not bad. But I guess the next step would be, if possible, to allow the user to install only the security fixes. However, this is a greater Linux question.

Updates

Audio volume management is also really cool. Granular, smart. Plasma lets you control each stream separately, including individual browser tabs. You can also mute them, one by one, or raise the maximum volume, if you feel whatever the default range is, isn't good enough.

Volume management

KSysGuard remains a splendid program - we talked about it at length. But if you hover your mouse over for network history, it will actually show you the data for every single network adapter you have separately, including the different virtual NICs from your virtualization software, containers, emulators, and alike.

KSysGuard, network

PDF woes

I had some fresh problems with PDF content. Another form with buttons and toggles and such. Okular handled these fine, but then, when I re-opened a filled and saved file, the selected toggle states weren't showing up until I clicked the form notification (Okular tells you if files have writable forms, and you can allow or disallow these, i.e. read and write modes if you will). And I had Okular crash (again) after working on a 20-page document.

I then tried installing a different PDF tool (which can handle annotations, comments and forms), and I realized that there are very few programs of this nature available. Adobe hasn't updated Acrobat for Linux since about 2013, and Foxit Reader, while it worked fine, looked a bit weird, and the uninstall was sort of messy. This is an opportunity to make Okular much more powerful, because this could easily push people toward Windows if and when they need to handle fancy PDF forms.

Okular crash

Windows software usage

I've found extra use for IrfanView in Plasma, and that's for taking timed screenshots, which can be really useful for gaming. Yes, one can do this using native tools, too, but since I like IrfanView, and I think it's the dopest image viewer of them all out there, why not. Behaved just fine in Linux and everything.

IrfanView, timed screenshots

Some problems

There were a few oddities, too. Now, don't be alarmed by the quantity, I took much longer compiling this report, so there's more stuff to share, and it does not indicate any sudden surge in problems in Plasma. On the contrary, I waited so long, because there wasn't enough to talk about.

Once, I attached Kindle, and when I tried to open it in Dolphin, I had a malformed URL error. After that, I closed the file manager, tried again, and everything was fine. Power management also went kaput on me, and the screen would no longer dim or blank after a period of inactivity. I tried a variety of workarounds, but the only thing that truly helped was a reboot. I'm not going to link to any articles about this, because I don't have sufficient data for a proper analysis just yet. We shall see if this happens again.

Another thing - Chrome normally runs with HW acceleration disabled in Linux, I turned this on, so we'll see how this affects battery life and CPU utilization, especially when running VoIP sessions and such. I expect there will be less noise and heat, and more juice for essential stuff.

HW acceleration in Chrome

Speaking of Chrome, the odd icon pin-unpin issue came up again, and my desktop file was overridden, so it no longer had the HD scaling configuration. This is super annoying. The package manager should not allow configurations to be changed if the user made/added any.

I also encountered oddities that are not Linux specific, but since they came up, I might as well mention them. After all, part of this experience is using Google Docs rather than Microsoft Office, and Alt + Shift + 5 to use strikethrough in the former conflicts with Firefox tab switch. Aha.

On a side note, as part of the overall experience, I also used WordPress in its Gutenberg shape, and that ain't looking good. Things like comments randomly added to the source, difficulty converting HTML to actual code, difficulty selecting text backwards, using mouse cursor to scroll up and down while inside a block, and many other woes. My efficiency in this regard is down, a fair deal. I should probably dedicate a fresh article to this topic.

At the end of the day ...

Pretty good. More stability, fewer niggles, crashes or bugs in general. This is a very cool operating system. There are some lingering problems with software quality, but again, this is is nothing Linux specific. Then again, it is also indicative. Should you try Linux for your production setup, it's not just the system you need to think about, it's also individual programs. That said, Plasma has the smallest gap.

Desktop

Conclusion

It's been about nine months since I bought the Slimbook - a bit more for you by the time you'll be reading this article. Every report brings fewer issues into focus, and that's good. I am also aware that my testing has a different angle from most Linux laptop stories - usually, it's developers who run Linux on their rigs, and they have other needs.

It seems quite conceivable to be using Plasma in the full-production mode, and I'm about 90% as quick and productive as with Windows, I'd say, but this also includes Notepad++, IrfanView and such. Sometimes, I do feel there's more that could or can be done, especially when it comes to documents, forms, nerdy stuff. The one thing worth praising over and over is the Slimbook keyboard. While laptop keyboards rarely match the rugged elegance of full 105-key devices, this one allows me to write with abandon, speed and almost no misses, muscle memory and all.

Since I've purchased the Slimbook, I've also had a chance to test a couple of dozen distros, including many other desktop environments. Previously, Unity was my productivity benchmark (well, still is), but with Plasma under a microscope, I've gained additional sensitivity to judging various ergonomic and efficiency elements in the system. With the tenth report wrapped up, I'd say Plasma is a serious piece of software. Definitely the most advanced thing Linux wise. And with some extra refinement, I'd even gladly pay a license if that could give me the extra layer of freedom. Almost there. But then, the year of the Linux has been a unicorn for at least 15 years, maybe more. Report 11, here we go. See ya.

Cheers.

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