KDE 4.3 (& Karmic Koala) First Impressions

Since Kubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is only at Alpha 5 and Alpha 5 was only released less than a week ago, I’m not prepared to draw any final conclusions on it just yet. However, I do have a few first impressions that I would like to share. But first, I’d like to get a few specifics of my experience with it so far out of the way…

I’m only guessing here, but I think that “power saving” is near the top of the list of items that Canonical and the Ubuntu Dev team are trying to get a handle on for this release. That’s really the only explanation I can think of for the fact that they enabled a troublesome power saving feature for HDA sound cards (which are slowly replacing the old AC97 spec). Of course, I could be wrong, perhaps the change made it’s way into Jaunty or Intrepid or Hardy (Wow, have I really been away that long?!), but regardless, the power save feature was enabled in Karmic and set to turn off the card after it hadn’t been used for 10 seconds and it has the unfortunate, (I’d call it a regression) side effect of causing some sound cards to make a popping noise when one of the following happened:

  • When the card is first initialized at boot
  • When the card goes into it’s power-save state (10 seconds after any sound is done playing)
  • When the card comes out of it’s power-save state (when a sound is played any time after 10 seconds without any sound)
  • When the card is turned off during shutdown

As it turns out, my sound card was one of those that has this issue with the power_save=10 setting and it was driving me absolutely insane until I disabled* that “Feature”.

*[ In Karmic, I only had to comment out the line “options snd-hda-intel power_save=10” at the very end of /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf ]

Other than that, migrating over went very smoothly with only one other small caveat that is really of my own making since I chose to be on the front lines with an Alpha release. At the moment, the mouse and keyboard input into my Virtual Machine of XP is all wonky. It turns out that VMWare still needs a little time to catch up to speed with the 2.6.31 Linux kernel. It’s not the first time I’ve had to wait for them to catch up to a kernel, so yeah, being on the bleeding edge has it’s benefits, but there are also some drawbacks. At least I only need Windows in order to sync my iPhone to iTunes every once in a blue moon.

That being said, both the sound popping and the input device problem with the VM are non-KDE related issues, but it was the tragedy that was KDE 4.0, the horror that was KDE 4.1 and the abomination that was KDE 4.2 that made me run for the hills in the first place. So how’s that coming along?

Well, as it turns out, my prediction that KDE 4 would be ready for general, everyday use by 4.4 or 4.5 appears to be right on target. KDE 4.3 appears to be fairly stable but what it lacks right now is the depth of features. This is especially apparent in the core applications that have been rewritten to take advantage of the new KDE 4 libraries, such as Amarok for example.

Amarok, for those who aren’t aware, is a music player and music collection manager for Linux; some would even argue that because of it’s awesome music collection management abilities, it’s THE music player for Linux…. Well, at least it was until they rewrote it for KDE 4, because for all it’s fancy new interface goodness, is a shadow of it’s former self at the moment. At least, it is until they build on the excellent groundwork that they’ve laid down so far and expand it back into its former greatness and beyond.

The same can be said for KDE 4 at this point. A lot of thoughtful effort has gone into planning and actually rewriting everything from the ground up and it’s certainly taken some time, but now that everything is stabilizing it’s apparent that it’s still mostly just the framework that everything else will hang off of. Everything that will (hopefully) start showing up in 4.4 and 4.5.

This of course, is by design, but for now it’s even less configuration friendly than Gnome. Though, on the plus side, for users who are only used to a boring and boorish Microsoft Windows environment, it will blow their minds, but I guess I’ve just been spoiled by choice for far too long to think that not having a ton of features and options instantly at my fingertips is a good thing.

Still, I’m not panning it, nor am I giving it a thumbs up yet either, but at the very least I can say that I’m not packing my bags for good… at least not this week.


~ by ghendar on September 8, 2009.