Slimbook & Kubuntu - Combat Report 9

Updated: June 28, 2019

Linux, the final frontier. These are the voyages of OSS Dedo, his continuing mission, to test his Slimbook laptop, to use Kubuntu in a production manner, to boldly write about what no one has writ before. Yes, indeed. You dig? We're now commencing the ninth report on my Slimbook & Kubuntu saga. That means there's a whole bunch of reading for you right there.

This time around, it's all about hardware. I got to play with a whole bunch of devices, and this led to some rather unexpected results on the peripheral front. Namely, I got to configure another printer, and then also tried to hook my new Android-based phone, Moto G6, to Kubuntu Beaver. Let us feast on details, shall we.

Teaser

Out of print

My first endeavor slash challenge was to configure my Wireless printer (Bob) in Kubuntu - this after what I talked about in the last report. Step one in the printing wizard was simple, and rather encouraging. The device was properly detected on the network. The next step is something that should not have to happen in 2019 - manual selection of the manufacturer and device model, followed by a selection of a printing driver.

Printer setup

I wasn't really sure what to select, so I tried the HPLIPS drivers first, only to be greeted by a big error and a non-working printer. Moreover, for ordinary users, this is a complete non-starter, as I have no idea how someone without technical skills would be able to troubleshoot this. Or even set this up.

HPLIP error

I tried again, only this time I used the HPCUPS drivers. And it worked. I was able to print without any problems, but the ink level status isn't shown. I guess you'd need a dedicated HP utility for that, and this is something I've explained in great detail in the past.

HPCUPS

Touch me

My second rite of passage was with the Moto G6 phone. Being Android (the phone, not me), I expected things to be seamless. Alas, they were not. When I connected the phone and allowed MTP, there would be a popup in the system area, through which I could open Dolphin. Every single time, this lead to a read-only device, which prevented me from creating files on the phone (like copying music over). In some cases, I couldn't even copy files off the phone (like pictures), and I had to re-connect the phone once or twice to get it working.

Going through Dolphin separately (not via the system area), and clicking on the phone entry in the sidebar yielded better results. Even so, there were supposedly writable folders that I could not access. Strangely, in the Music folder, I couldn't paste songs, but I could create a new text file, after which the paste operation did work. This also happened after creating a Documents folder.

Phone write error

Next, I tried KDE Connect, and unfortunately, this also led to a bad experience. Trying to access the device contents led to a weird error full of text and numbers. Then, the device would supposedly not respond, and the system was not able to mount it. And then some. What really bothers me is the plethora of errors, and none of which are easy to debug.

KDE Connect, Moto

KDE Connect error

Phone not responding error

Phone timeout error

Some annoyances

The Google Chrome icon pinning issue is back. And so is the fact every time there's an update, the desktop file gets overwritten, and I lose the scaling factor I added, as I've described in my Plasma & HD scaling article. I do have a backup of that file, and that helps, but still. Then, as I was trying to actually make changes, I hazarded using Kate to open the file, and got the root thingie error:

sudo kate google-chrome.desktop
Executing Kate as root is not possible. To edit files as root use:
SUDO_EDITOR=kate sudoedit <file>

Sounds good, but then the file launches with some random temp name, and gets overwritten while it's loaded, so you can't really save your progress in an elegant way. You end up using other tools to write as root to files in desired locations, and so there's nothing useful about this limitation. I thought PollKit is meant to handle this gracefully.

Lastly, twice, after I'd lowered the volume to zero (muted the system) using the keyboard buttons (Fn), the system area stopped responding to mouse clicks, and I had to restart the Plasma shell to be able to resume working normally. I really don't know if this is some odd corner case, a regression or something else. But my impression is that there are more problems than previously. Or I'm more attuned and sensitive to errors.

Discover

Not everything was bad. I am pleased with how Discover is slowly shaping up to be a useful, practical, elegant package manager, the way it should have been on first launch. There's more cohesion, the UI is clean, it's working faster, it's more robust. I like the progress.

Discover, improvements

Performance & battery

The speed remains top notch - you really won't hear the CPU fan kicking in unless you're doing something quite rigorous. The laptop remains silent most of the time without any compromise on speed, and this also results in good battery life. The initial 4-5 hours figure remains consistent, even with moderate workloads and ambient temperature variation.

Conclusion

My overall impression of the Slimbook and its Kubuntu Beaver operating system remains unchanged. I'm rather happy with my choice. That said, there are some glaring bugs and rather annoying niggles that should be fixed. It's the kind of things that can really ruin the experience and harm the user's loyalty long-term. Not being able to print (which usually happens when you DO need to), or having your phone connectivity not work are exactly the problems that block the adoption of Linux among ordinary folks. No one wants to put up with system errors, especially when other operating systems out there offer a more streamlined experience.

I'm not saying Windows is flawless, but in general, I have fewer problems with my production Windows machines than with my Linux ones. Small things. But important things. Plasma is constantly getting better, but some of the improvements do need to trickle back into the LTS release, because having good features for five years is awesome, but having long-term bugs is dreadful. That would be all from yours humbly this time. Stay tuned for future chapters in this neverending adventure.

Cheers.

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