Slimbook & Kubuntu 18.04 - Combat report 13

Updated: August 28, 2020

Once again, I want to delight you (or annoy you, depends how you look at it) with another report of my extensive, real-life usage of the Slimbook Pro2 laptop in production-level conditions, a part of my long-term experiment slash desire to establish whether it's possible - and then how much - to use Linux as an everyday driver for a varied list of tasks (and not just hammering code). We've done twelve parts so far.

The general impression is good. This is a decent system, with a sturdy case, an amazing keyboard, nifty battery life, and 'tis pretty, too. The operating system de jour, Kubuntu 18.04 does a good job, too - we shall dare an upgrade sometime soon. Like I said, we had twelve reports so far, and if you're in the mood, do take a look at the last one perhaps. Now, not all is peachy, but it's mostly okay. So let's see what's changed since the last time we talked about this topic.

Teaser

All is quiet on the laptop front

At this point, given that I've had the device for a while now, I've tweaked and tamed the various problems, and underlying bugs have been (mostly) fixed by the Plasma team, I am probably more bound to find bad things than good things. People get used to what works for them, and accept that as a norm, so anything that changes that immediately stands out. So I'm mindful of this, and I try not to forget the goodies when assailed by regressions and bugs.

Overall, the Slimbook performs reliably. It's consistently stable and fast, it does not overheat, it handles the elements well, the battery has not deteriorated (just a tiny tiny amount), and I'm able to achieve pretty much everything I need (within the context of what a Linux machine can and ought to do).

Suddenly, all my troubles seemed (not) so far away

Ah. Well. Funny you should say that. But approximately a month or so before the Plasma 5.18 LTS release, a bunch of issues arose. Some of these are super-annoying, as you would expect never to actually occur, or rather, re-occur. Because we've seen them before.

Phone connectivity went kaputt. I was doing some photo backups from various phones and onto the Slimbook, when Dolphin started throwing errors. MTP timeout errors, mount errors. Over the years, typically, Gnome and Xfce have done better with the smartphone support, but Plasma had improved lately, and I felt I'd not have to face nonsense problems with something as simple as getting your phone correctly showing up in the file manager. Then, we get this, and it's like someone's wound the clock back.

I also discovered a brand new problem - copying files off my Moto G6, they would get labeled in a weird way that happens to include the full file path, rather than what you'd normally expect - Screenshot_XXXX.jpg. Then, the same happened with iPhone, too. Which makes things worse, because we're talking both MTP and PTP protocols.

Broken photo names

Le confusion

I also noticed a prompt to install a new Wireless adapter driver. This didn't show up as part of the normal update cycle, but entirely on its own. No idea why. Furthermore, that checkbox line is utterly useless to ordinary people. It's total technobabble.

Wireless driver

Ze crash

After months of piece and quiet, Konversation decided to bork up. Naughty naughty program.

Konversation crash

Usability

Various ergonomic problems persist, and I seem to have found a few new ones. For instance, I am still super-annoyed that the ambiguous keyboard shortcut conflict remains in GwenView. I know that future versions resolve it, but then having a badly designed piece of code on LTS feels like a cruel joke. Similarly, we have that stupid Wireless disconnect/connect problem on first login. In the same vein, Konversation, or rather IRC servers, almost universally, struggle with (fast) reconnects. What I mean is, open the IM client, connect to a network, join a server/channel, then within seconds, connect to a different network, and it won't really be able gracefully reestablish the connection to the server.

Twilight zone: Notepad++ would sometimes get unresponsive, in all sorts of odd ways. It would freeze and then unfreeze itself, or the keyboard would respond slowly, or typing normally would result in unpredictable behavior, like a complete line of text vanishing.

More twilight zone: Using DOSBox breaks the system menu shortcut. I happened to be playing a few DOS-era games, and every single time, after I'd do this, I would lose the ability to open the menu with the Super key. Worse, nothing but reboot fixes this, neither kwin nor plasmashell restart.

Conclusion

There we go. I think my combat report experience has plateaued. There won't be any revolutionary new stuff coming up in this release, and I don't believe any of my long-standing annoying will go away unless I upgrade. And I think this could be the next sensible thing on my list - upgrade from Kubuntu 18.04 to 20.04. This should give me plenty of fun activities, and hopefully the revamped and refreshed Plasma desktop will make the naughty bugs go away. With disk encryption in place, plus a bunch of third-party apps, this ought to be interesting.

In general, 18 months down the road, Slimbook & Kubuntu is a good combo, especially since I'm being extra rigorous. To put things into perspective, looking at my Windows-based systems, there are all sorts of tiny problems that won't go away. Keyboard repeat speed on my Y50-70 machine, fullscreen alt-tab gaming experience in Windows 10, Explorer search, and whatnot. But that does not absolve Kubuntu in any way. We want perfection. All in all, though, for most standard-use purposes - gaming and office aside, Kubuntu does a pretty solid job, and remains robust and dependable. Onto the next chapter in the adventure then!

Cheers.

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