Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kubuntu. Install, Configuration and experience.

I have been running various distributions of Linux for about 4 years. I started out with RedHat and later switched to SuSE. I was by and large satisfied with SuSE and used it till OpenSuSE 10.1. However, all the chatter about Ubuntu on the various Linux forums that I visit really piqued my interest and I wanted to try it. The main obstacle for me to try Ubuntu was that it was a Gnome centric distribution and I am used to KDE. Hence, I kept monitoring Kubuntu and as soon as I found out that they had a release based on the latest and greatest Ubuntu I decided that it was time for me to take the plunge.

Described below in brief are my experiences installing and running Kubuntu.

Install system

The installation system is a Dell D600 laptop with a Mobile P4 at 1.3 GHZ, 512MB of RAM, Radeon R250 graphics card, an ethernet interface and an internal wireless interface based on a Broadcom chip.

Install process

The installation of Kubuntu starts with the download of the install iso from one of the various mirrors and the creation of the boot CD. The boot CD in Kubuntu is both the Live as well as the Install CD unlike in OpenSuSE.

Upon booting into the Live CD a clean and rather spartan looking KDE desktop comes up. The desktop has an icon for the install. The installer detected the existing Windows NTFS, ReiserFS and the Swap partitions on my hard drive. I opted to keep the same partitioning scheme and install into the ReiserFS partition. The installer requires user input for the selection of the language, keyboard layout, timezone and the creation of the non-root admin user. The installation was uneventful and took about 50 minutes.

Use & Configuration

On login, a KDE desktop is presented that is similar (I am not sure if it is exactly the same) to the Live CD desktop. The KDE menu is simple and the applications are grouped into categories. The application selection is rather sparse and includes only the basics. The non-open plugins for the browser were also missing. Though I should say it is quite easy to install the needed software using Adept, the included software manager.

The only components that I had previously faced issues configuring were the graphics card and the internal wlan. The graphics card has a binary only, non-open driver from ATI which gives better performance. However, it is not installed by default. Also, the native linux driver for the Broadcom chip does not support WPA. I downloaded and installed ndiswrapper, wpa_supplicant, KNetworkManager for the wlan and the non-open driver for the graphics card after enabling the non-open software repository (required to download the binary only driver for the graphics card). The package manager resolved the dependencies and installed all the required supporting packages as well. Since the wlan was not yet working I connected the laptop to the network using the ethernet interface.

The configuration of the WLAN was easy once I had ndiswrapper, wpa_supplicant and KNetworkManager installed. I loaded the firmware, the ndiswrapper kernel module and the new wlan interface was visible, after which I opened up KNetworkManager and configured it to use WPA. The whole process worked like a charm and in no time I had a working WPA encrypted wlan connection.

The graphics card can be configured using the Display option in the System settings (the combined KDE control center and system configuration interface) in the KDE menu. The graphics card was correctly detected and I was given the option of using the open source radeon driver or the binary only fglrx and I opted for the later. I restarted X and expected to see the fglrx driver in action. However, due to a problem in the OpenGl library the fglrx driver was not being used. The solution turned out to be replacing the library file with an older version.

The system tends to run hot since the cooling mode was set to critical and the critical temperature was set to 101. I tried changing the cooling mode to active but I could not. The speedstep functionality seems to work, the suspend functionalities however are not working (maybe because I am using the non-open fglrx driver).


The Kubuntu distribution seems to have lived up to its Ubuntu lineage. The installation was simple. The configuration interface is clean and not intimidating. The Adept software installation tool is easy to use (the default open repositories are enabled by default) and last but not the least excellent community support available on the Kubuntu forums.

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