Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 3

Updated: December 14, 2018

More proverbial miles (well, kilometers really) on the digital road, more findings. New experiences ready to be reported. A couple of months ago, I got meself a new laptop, one Slimbook Pro2, and it is now serving a noble cause. It's being used in a real, production setup, doing all the things that I'd normally do on a Windows box. The goal is to see whether Linux can be used for everyday desktop work. Every facet thereof.

I'm a pragmatic fella, and I like everything to work clockwork, including games, office work, whatnot. At the moment, this is mostly a Windows domain, and Linux still isn't quite ready to usurp it. True, I've been using Linux for some serious productivity desktop stuff for many years, but never 100%. And I'm still not doing it. But I'm trying. This Slimbook journey is an attempt to examine this case, plus it's fun. So far, you've had two merry reports on my experiences with this machine and its operating system - Kubuntu Beaver. Here's a third installment. After me.

Teaser

Hardware & ergonomics

Finally, I did find something that bothers me. The major niggle is - no Caps Lock indicator anywhere except the login screen. I don't see any hardware LED that would make me know whether the button is active, and the Plasma desktop also has no overlay mark (even a temporary one) that would help the user understand if they're actually going to come across all too raging when they start typing.

I also bought a USB network dongle. This one works without a hitch. Kubuntu has no problem using the device. And as always, like any appliance, it can be tweaked. It's a mini-router if you will. So you can access its internal Web console and make changes, including the very important default admin password. A while ago, I've shown you how to tame and tweak and neuter a Wireless printer, and the same logic applies here.

Mobile dongle

Office stuff, more stuff

I've encountered a whole bunch of new annoyances working with LibreOffice as well as various online suites. These comes across all sorts of dimensions - visual, functional, performance. There are many papercuts and aesthetics inconsistencies in the LibreOffice suite. Nor does the Plasma Breeze theme yield to a most optimal spatial awareness setup, as some elements have low contrast, visibility or grabability.

Calc, working

Lots of problems here, but we will discuss them separately.

When you use things online, there's the obvious, inevitable network latency problem, and if it's more than about 15-20 ms per keyboard click, it will be quite noticeable, no matter what. In fact, there's really too much to list here, so I'm going to dedicate a whole article to just this topic.

Le problems

There were all sorts of new problems I've encountered.

Plasma is configured to save my work session on log out, so that I can resume work from where I last stopped. Well, this works for most applications, but not all, it seems. For instance, GIMP did not preserve its session. I had about 20-odd images open in the program, and none of them were restored on next login. This is disappointing, whatever the reason might be.

Firefox restore was also odd. It would restore all tabs, but it would struggle doing this. Normally, it would show as a full-size window but the actual contents would only span a window size that matches the browser's un-maximized frame. Double-clicking on the titlebar a couple times to expand, shrink and then re-expand the browser does the trick, and all the UI elements are sorted well thereafter. But this is silly.

I also wanted to use perf, but this wasn't installed by default. Maybe this ain't a biggie, but then a lot of important admin tools aren't present. You won't get the likes of sar, dstat, build tools, or the good ole ifconfig by default. You need to install those manually. And on the topic of perf, the following set will get you going:

apt-get install linux-tools-common linux-tools-generic linux-tools-`uname -r`

My Lumia 950 is suddenly listed as a double-SIM RM-1104 device, which it is not. I guess some udev rules were updated in Kubuntu or some such. But to be fair, this is better than Windows 10, which actually shows my phone as the older 520 series. Loopback devices show in Dolphin, including deleted ones. This is a known bug, a series of known bugs actually. I would like to see this fixed the proper way. Also, why are the encrypted drive and the same actual physical drive both listed, and yet ever so slightly different in size?

Lumia, identifier

In the icons-only taskbar, right click and Kate > Start new instance does not start a new instance. It does nothing. I guess this is some weird bug that will eventually, hopefully be resolved - or might even have been resolved in newer versions of the desktop environment.

Kate, start new instance

Performance

I had a chance to battle-test the battery properly recently. I did a 45-min full-screen video sharing with several participants over Wireless - well, to be more exact, a mobile USB dongle, and with the screen brightness set to about 50%. With an extra 45 minutes of work, mostly mail and some light document editing, but with both Firefox and Chrome open, the battery level drained down to half. This isn't bad on its own, and it translates into roughly 2.5 hours of solid, high-CPU usage, 3 hours moderate usage, and 4-5 hours of standard activities, as we've already established in the early Slimbook tests. Pretty neat. And I did bleed a whole GB of data in the 45-min period!

Steam & Windows games

This is a big one. Remember my recent article on Steam Play? The thing is, Valve is now testing a new WINE-like framework that should allow Linux folks to play Windows titles. I tried this, and the first brush with the technology wasn't too good. Alas, among the few whitelisted titles, there were too many payware items, a few odd games that I couldn't or wouldn't test, and the one that was free and compatible didn't run.

I did this again with my Slimbook & Kubuntu setup, and I actually tried with my own game set. As it turns out, quite a few of my favorites are already Linux-capable, which is really good. But then I tried one that wasn't listed, and that would be the legendary Age of Empires II. Installed, tried to run the game. Nothing. Not even an error. But this sweet title sure didn't run. Maybe one day.

System area integration

Steam, right click notification

At least the system area integration is seamless.

Steam, AoE attempt

Conclusion

And we're done. I am not sure what kind of message you're getting - or you think you're supposed to be getting from my articles. Overall, I am quite pleased with my Slimbook & Kubuntu experience. But if I had to choose, I wouldn't abandon my Windows. I simply cannot. The games, the office stuff, even simple image manipulation and text editing. All these are currently not the killer features of any which Linux desktop.

That said, Kubuntu purrs nicely. Runs fast and true, and there are no crashes or errors. The desktop is extremely flexible and extensible, it's pleasing to use, and I'm having fun discovering things, even if they sometimes turn out to be bugs or annoyances. In general, it's the application side that needs to be refined, and then, the system can just become a background for you to be productive and enjoy yourselves. Until the next report.

Cheers.

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