Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 2

Updated: November 28, 2018

More testing, more experiences, more results. But more does not necessarily mean MOAR. Or does it? Anyway, the background story to this ongoing tale is, I bought myself a Slimbook Pro2 machine and promptly installed Kubuntu Beaver on it, to much delight and whatnot. Then, I started testing this system in earnest, trying to use it in a production-like manner as frequently as possible, to see whether Kubuntu can offer the necessary daily delights that are needed. Hence, the first report. There.

Now, we have this second report. It's been another few weeks - worry not, I do not intend to assail your senses with unnecessary drama too often. More sort of, get enough meaningful stuff each time and then give you the summary, so you can judge for yourself how the things are going. Anyway, let's go into more detail.

Teaser

Ergonomics, again

Well, I do have a few small complaints, so to speak. Hardware wise, the location of the power button of the side of the case is tricky. It's normally where I place my hand when moving the laptop about, back and forth mostly, and almost always, due to multi-year muscle memory, my fingers will either touch, brush or even press the power button. Luckily, it needs a longer, slightly more deliberate press to respond, so there have been no annoying out-of-band suspends.

Sometimes, when I'm typing, and typing super-fast, I'll miss hitting the space button hard enough to register, leading to words not being separated, and consequently, typos. This can happen on any keyboard, but still. That said, overall, as far as laptops go, the Slimbook Pro2 has among the most precise and friendly keyboards I've encountered, allowing me to achieve really high typing rates (easily 100+ words/min), almost comparable to a standard external device.

Software bugses, my preciousss

I did hit a few errors and whatnot. For example, Eclipse - as available in the Kubuntu repos - is broken and will not launch. I found a Debian bug that explains why this is an insurmountable issue, which is sad, because you can manually download the Eclipse installer from the official site and use it to manage your installations and instances of the program without any issues.

Eclipse cannot start

I also found two other co-related issues. One, when starting Eclipse the first time, the work environment setup window is oddly cropped and cannot be resized, and there's no easy way to uninstall the program from what I've seen. This is not a Kubuntu issue per se, but if the repo version worked fine, none of this would be necessary.

Eclipse, broken launcher

Google Chrome would sometimes "lose" its pinned state in the icons-only task manager. Suddenly, it would show at the far end, like an unpinned application. I had to repin it, and then it would be fine, and then get rid of the old icon. Another little bug that needs fixing.

Icons pinning

Cumbersomeness

Not sure if this is the word - but it relates to how effective, efficient and elegant (the triple E) are various programs. Since I do a lot of writing, accompanied by tons of images, this type of processing features as a frequent task. Now, normally, I use IrfanView for this. 'Tis a most dope program. Tiny and super fast and does everything you need. Starts in less than a blink, you paste any clipboard contents directly, and you use the mouse cursor in a drag & select fashion to crop. GwenView wouldn't do that. Pasting content only works if you have an image open, and not in the browse mode, which is cumbersome indeed. And then it asks you to save the content, which is not what I want, and then, there's the slow crop. Add this to the issues I've mentioned last time, and this is turning out to be a biggie.

GwenView, cumbersome copy & paste

Likewise, I found some annoyances in Kate, the text editor. There's not enough contrast to visually distinguish the active text file from the rest - only a slim blue bar, which is not visible enough, so you lose a second or two finding your file, especially since double-clicking on the file tab rearranges it to the far left side. I wasn't able to figure out how to override this, or use any theme to make documents stand out. Kate open dialog would also always pop sort of scrunched, so I had to resize it to normal proportions before I could actually use it and open fresh text documents. This is quite weird. Again, Notepad++ seems like a better choice.

Saving files from Google Docs to local disk was slow for some reason, regardless of what format I chose, be it DOCX or ODT. Speaking of ODT ... LibreOffice also needed some visual tweaking. We did sort it out, more or less, but there were still a few productivity tricks needed, both layout as well as icon theme and font size wise before I was happy. We will talk more about this in a dedicated guide. In the end, I had it all peachy, and tight like a tiger. Well, almost. More to follow.

LibreOffice, looks better

WINE programs

At some point, I did install IrfanView and Notepad++, and there were no issues. Now, you can supposedly pin these WINE apps, but they're gone once you close the programs. I have a full workaround for this, so please do check the tutorial. Then, there's the scaling on HD displays, but this can also be solved. In fact, we shall talk about this separately. Finally, if you try right-click, open with, Windows applications available through WINE do not show there, and IrfanView did not open files this way. Odd. Bottom line, I was able to gain some productivity back, and it all looks quite pretty, but there are niggles that I hope will be polished in future KDE releases. It's all about seamless integration.

WINE apps, small font

System stability

Now, this is an interesting one. Remarkably, there were no application crashes per se, but at some point, the system menu stopped responding to either the keyboard shortcut or mouse clicks. But I've not configured the desktop for X restart, and I also didn't want to lose my work session. Luckily, I was able to recover by killing the Plasma shell process inside the konsole window - somewhat like killing explorer.exe in Windows. Things go blank, and then you're back to normal working state:

killall plasmashell && kstart plasmashell

Performance

The system itself shows no slowdown whatsoever, which is expected, of course, but would be highly disappointing if it were otherwise. Programs do nom-nom memory, though. For instance, a week worth of Firefox, with roughly 30-odd tabs open, lots of media streaming and conferencing and such resulted in the base memory footprint growing to about 6 GB and then dropping in half after browser restart - albeit with the session fully saved. The CPU jitter comes from doing a lot of things in parallel, and occasionally, you can hear the fans whirring, but this does not happen often. This be a tight little machine.

Memory usage

Conclusion

I should probably call myself Mr. Bug ... finder. I always try to stress my systems to the limit, and make sure everything works perfectly, because it's the only way you can achieve quality and efficiency. Fighting these odd problems here and there is not fun, and ultimately, they degrade the experience. To be fair, these aren't big issues, but then, it's not about 'it can be worse' - it's about perfection. My Windows 7 systems don't have any day to day niggles when it comes to either ergonomics, applications, odd behavior, or anything of that sort.

That said, I am quite pleased with Kubuntu. Plasma is quite resilient, it's not boring, it's posh and it's slick, something you would not expect from a product with a really free price tag, no strings attached. You're not a product, you're not being anything, and you're fully in control of your machine. And it's not wrestling you, it's working with you. If you feel adventurous, you can explore the layers under the hood, and there's always something new and exciting to discover. This remains a highly positive experience, but I will never settle for anything less than perfect. Or as Vanilla Ice sings: anything less than the best is a felony. That should be every developer's motto. We shall continue. Take care.

Cheers.

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