Slimbook & Kubuntu 18.04 - Combat report 14

Updated: February 14, 2022

It's been quite a while since I last wrote a Slimbook Pro long-term usability report. More than a year in fact. By now, my Slimbook laptop is more than three years old, approaching 3.5 years, and I've been using it daily, for serious productivity tasks, for fun, when traveling abroad, all of it. A real attempt to see if and how a Linux machine can be relevant for everyday use, beyond the usual stories focusing on just developers writing code.

For those of you wondering what this is all about, a few summers ago, I got myself a Slimbook machine, and since, I've been writing about this experience in a series of "combat" reports, summarizing the good, the bad, and the weird of using a Linux-powered laptop. No glamor, no nonsense, and no fanboyism. Well, it is time for another story. To wit.

Teaser

Overall, smooth sailing

Pretty decent, I must say. The laptop shows no visible sign of damage, despite being constantly used. There aren't any big glaring issues. Discover does its job reliably. My applications work and aren't regressing. A variety of old bugs and problems I've reported in previous reports have mostly been fixed. This is quite encouraging, although there is a small element of unpredictability. Keeps me on me toes, what.

Updates

I also decided to play a bit more with various languages and keyboards in KDE. Normally, I'm opposed to non-ASCII character sets, and I believe that computers should only ever use a single interface language, and that's American English (despite my awesome polyglotic abilities). But I did it in part to see what Plasma can do on this front, as well as examine usability cases that ordinary folks that converse in foreignese would encounter. Great results, I must say. As friendly as it gets.

An interesting problem with the battery

Now, Plasma reports a healthy battery with 99% original charge. However, I did encounter two weird cases in the past two months. First, after turning the laptop off due to travel, and then turning it on a day later, everything was seemingly fine until suddenly, the laptop complain that it's running low on battery and turned itself off. This happened with the battery charge at 50% mark, which to me sounds either like bad reporting or half the pack going dead.

I powered the machine back on, and let it charge for about thirty minutes. It showed the battery at about 65%, so I decided to unplug the power, to see what gives. This time, there were no issues, and I was able to continue working for a good couple of hours before the cell drained to about ~15-20%. I repeated the exercise a few times since, without issues.

Then, once again, I encountered a similar problem, only this time, much close to the low-battery mark. The laptop reported 9% charge left, and then informed me that it's going critical, and promptly shut itself off. Once again, either the battery is misbehaving, or perhaps Plasma is misreading the charge values and then activating its power-saving measures prematurely, so to speak.

Overall, looking at the typical battery capacity reports, usage under battery, and charging cycles when not in use (suspended), it doesn't seem like the battery pack has deteriorated in any way. But then, hardware can be finicky, including batteries. Not sure what to make of it. The fact the battery isn't easily removable, or replaceable does pose a "modern era" problem.

Some crashes

I encountered a few odd ones. The Dev build of Microsoft Edge crashed, and so did the Plasma shell when I changed the order of icons in the system area. Similarly, I encountered an old bug whereby the system area popup rectangle (however you call the component that expands above it) would not show after switching the network to Airplane mode. Restarting the Plasma shell fixes it, of course. But still.

Edge crash

Plasma shell crash

Nokia & MTP problem

Another odd issue - I've got three different Nokia smartphones, 5.3, 5.4, and X10. Please read the relevant reviews in the Hardware section, I won't be linking those here. Anyway, I am able to plug in and open the second and the third of these three devices in Dolphin (with MTP) without any problems. But not so when it comes to the third device, Nokia 5.3. For some reason, Kubuntu throws this error:

Nokia phone, MTP problem

This happens every time, consistently, no matter what. Hm.

Conclusion

My Slimbook brings all the nerds to the yard, and they're like. Indeed. The laptop works well. Kubuntu 18.04 proudly holds its ground. The experience is slick and modern. I often compare the looks in Plasma 5.12 to the new crop, and there's something rather professional and yet charming in the more classic layout of this older LTS. The new releases have a bit more crayony, flatter feel, and while it isn't bad or ugly, it feels slightly less expensive, so to speak.

I am quite pleased. The device is fast and does every task well. There are some questions marks regarding the battery, but I don't have more data on that just yet. The system performance remains excellent, and nothing has really changed in the past three odd years. Every reboot, the save-session feature of Plasma makes me grin. Yes, there are annoying bugs, mostly inside applications, and stubborn won't-fix issues in the desktop itself, which are only fixed in newer versions of Plasma. But all in all, even with an odd crash and some silly errors, the general feel remains good. Thinking about it, with Windows 11 looming over the horizon, I might have to seriously rethink my day-to-day choices and go full-KDE 24/7 (except gaming, of course). So far, the Slimbook Pro2 and its Kubuntu operating system prove that this can be done with joy, elegance and efficiency. We're done. Until the next report.

Cheers.

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