Moving Beyond Kubuntu

Over the years I’ve used many Linux distributions… far too many to list here without boring everyone. Needless to say, I cut my teeth on Linux during it’s early 1.2.x kernel days and I haven’t been wanting for choices over these many years.

I started using Kubuntu about two years ago when I wanted to see what the hype was all about and not only was it far easier to get going on my laptop of the time than the Debian installation I had been using, it was easy enough to use that I could recommend for new users.

So I stuck with it and I learned its myriad of quirks and all those little deviations that inevitably occur between releases as a distribution project matures. I didn’t just stick with the KDE variant either, I downloaded and used the gnome desktop. xfce, as well as the studio version and often ran the bleeding edge of everything. However, through all of it, KDE has pretty much remained my default desktop.

It seems that now… for me at least… it’s time to move on.

Part of it is the Kububtu team’s transition to KDE4 in Kubuntu 8.10. with no option for users to stick with KDE 3.5.x if they chose. As much as I’m trying to love KDE4 and as much as I see the potential in it, for day to day use it’s just not ready yet and probably won’t be for another year (at least that’s my personal over/under on it). I’m not alone in this assessment either. There are many other people out there who are not just avoiding KDE4, but are jumping the KDE ship altogether due to the developers being so focused on KD4 that they are letting KDE 3.5.x stagnate.

[edit: Even Linus is abandoning KDE as a result of KDE4 and has switched to GNOME (which he’s historically on record as not liking very much).]

Yet even before KDE4 blew in, I was hankering for a change away from K/Ubuntu. For one, I’m not a new user and I certainly don’t need any hand holding. One of the things I do for a living is build GNU/Linux servers, so I think I can handle it for my own desktop.

Secondly, the cost of using a distribution that hand holds their user base is that they are all pretty much developed as point releases. And in all honesty, after experiencing the joy and ease of a rolling release like pure Debian, it’s very hard to not want to strangle someone every six months when the newest version is made available. Since I don’t need that kind of hand holding help, it really doesn’t make sense for me to bear the cost in aggravation.

Another thing that’s been irking me is how all the major desktops on all the platforms (have you seen Microsoft’s Windows 7 Beta and it’s clone of the old KDE launcher yet?) all seem to be merging towards the same unified goal. Yet it’s not a goal I’m particular in favor of. I don’t have desktop icons and I don’t want them either. Nor do I don’t want to waste screen real estate on a button that launches a menu for me. Call me old school, but I like my desktop to be closer to CDE on Solaris or the old HP-UX system I used to have at work, in other words, something that isn’t trying to be anything like Windows or OSX. In particular, I’ve been reminiscing a bit lately of the days when I ran e.

Lastly, these point releases leave me feeling like I’m stuck in a rut. Kubuntu 8.10 came out with OpenOffice.org 2.4 and even with backports turned on, OOo 3.0 is still nowhere to be seen. I know I could get it on my system, (either through an alternative repository, by installing downloaded packages or by compiling from source if need be), but I’m getting tired of having to perform special tasks for things that to me, are everyday wants/needs.

So basically, what I’m looking for is:

  • Any reasonable (Non-KDE4) Desktop Environment (DE)
  • A return to enlightenment (the Window Manager (WM), though I’ll take spiritual enlightenment any day too)
  • A distribution with current if not cutting edge versions of applications that are available in a reasonable time
  • A distribution that is Debian based (Thanks, but I’ll pass on RPM… been there, done that) and on a rolling release schedule
  • A distribution that doesn’t believe in zealotry and plays nice with proprietary drivers (I prefer OSS drivers and believe they are the way of the future, but until they catch up in functionality I still want my hardware to work the way I bought it for)

Combining those last two will be tough, as the closer a distribution gets to sourcing with Debian, the more “pure” they try to be. Though, the great thing about Linux (excuse me… GNU/Linux) is that you have the freedom do whatever you want. So even if the distribution developers poo-poo proprietary drivers, they can’t stop you from using them.

Anyways, based on what I’m looking for I have a distribution in mind. (I just won’t mention it at this time in case something goes horribly wrong) There are a few quirks about it that I’ll have to get used to, one of which is that it isn’t very friendly to e due to upgrades tending to break the e installation, but running e on it is possible and that’s what I intend on doing. Besides, I’ll be running e17 and that pretty much breaks on every distribution at some point because it’s the development line. If I wanted to play safe I’d use e16… but safe just isn’t my style (for my personal system that is, production servers are a different story).

In the mean time, for all the moaning I’ve done here, I will still recommend Ubuntu for new users, or even older KDE 3.5.x based versions of Kubuntu. At least until I take the new distribution for a spin and have lived with it long enough to give it an honest evaluation.

Speaking of which, it’s time to burn it to disk and get started… See you on the other side!

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~ by ghendar on January 23, 2009.