March 5, 2018

Checking In With Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver Daily Build - Here Are Some Thoughts

A long time ago in a land not so far away I ran Kubuntu, the KDE Plasma flavor of Ubuntu. These days I run KDE Neon, but I try to keep a close eye on Kubuntu and like to check in from time to time to see how things are progressing as we near the release of Bionic Beaver in April. Based on all accounts from what I've read and seen on social media and the YouTubez things are pretty solid over in the blue-tinted version of 'Buntu. For example, the Total OS Today YouTube channel gave a good review of Kubuntu a few days ago, which can be seen below, where the host doing the review even titled the article "Kubuntu 18.04 Linux Future Looking Good". A few years ago I'm not sure this would have been a likely review title. The highlight of the video is, for me, at the 10:30 mark when he says "A lot faster then Ubuntu Gnome, I can tell you that". Coming from a user who does not use Plasma as his daily driver, that is a pleasant observation. There are a few reasons for this newfound way of looking at a distribution that was once referred to as Canonical's "Blue Headed Step Child". Let's investigate a bit further.

There's been a lot of press recently about improvements in KDE Plasma and all of the praise is certainly well deserved. The quality improvements of the desktop environment are certainly one factor in the polish and overall feel of the distro of late, and this can in no small way be discounted. Plasma is getting better each month and it certainly shows. Just read Planet KDE and try to keep up - it's almost a daily occurrence. But there's more to it than that.

The new-ish team at Kubuntu has been getting better at doing it's collective job, as well as getting faster at getting new Plasma releases, KDE Frameworks, and KDE Applications into the hands of users. What once took possibly weeks before (if such backports occurred at all, which was never an absolute guarantee) now takes mere hours or days. If a user chooses, they can stay current with the very latest KDE has to offer. Additionally, there is a sense of really wanting Kubuntu to return to being a hallmark KDE Plasma distro; One that represents KDE well and equips users with all the tools, codecs, drivers, and applications they need to work, learn, and play.

Latest kernel series, latest Plasma & Frameworks
strive to ensure a quality user experience

As the video above states, Kubuntu's future is looking good. While it still does not deviate from stock Plasma too much in the looks department (and there are some who wish it did), it does deliver a rock solid Plasma experience out of the box, along with an extensive set of applications that aim to cover just about any use-case one might have for computing on a laptop or desktop computer. So instead of a likely boring and in-depth review, I'll cover a few brief observations. Here are a few good points and also a wish list I wrote down as I took Kubuntu for a spin in VirtualBox:

Nice touches:

  • Fast, snappy feel
  • Breeze Dark as the default theme is a welcome change and, in my opinion, superior to the more vanilla Breeze theme
  • Inclusion of Cantana Music Player, which can be set up on first run as a single-user or client-server setup was an interesting choice
    • Not a native KDE app (though still using Qt5), likely due to Amarok's slowness in getting up to snuff in the post KDE 4 era, along with newly-minted Elise and Babe music players not quite baked enough for inclusion on an LTS release, which Kubuntu 18.04 will be
  • Inclusion of Qt dev tools was, in retrospect a nice touch. Anything to encourage users to explore and learn to better understand and create code is a Good ThingTM 
  • Inclusion of the sometimes maligned KDE PIM
    • More users, the better. And it does everything a user of a PIM suite could possibly want. More users = more bug reports and more code fixes and ultimately a better product
    • It even includes Outlook tools for those users who are not 100% Microsoft-free in their day jobs. Nice
  • K3b disc tool and KDE Partition Manager's inclusion were thoughtful additions

Of course there are a few things I'd add or do differently if I were king of the Kubuntu Universe.

Wish list:

  • While there's Spectacle for taking screen shots, it does not do simple graphical edits. I'd like to see Kolourpaint included here, as one thing Spectacle can do is export an image into an application like Kolourpint for these minor edits that so often need to be made to screenshots. This functionality is coming in Spectacle, but for now this work-around could represent a thoughtful addition 

Using KolourPaint with Spectacle gives a good user
experience in being able to make graphical
notations on captured screenshots

  • If Kubuntu came with a USB creation tool for making a bootable USB image, I missed it
  • Would be a bit more functional and aesthetically-pleasing if the default home screen showed the Home and Computer icons. This again likely comes from stock Plasma, but leaves the desktop in a live session rather empty-looking and barren
  • The addition of useful tools one might want to run, like KDiskFree, prior to installation to metal would be a nice touch
  • In my opinion Steam should be installed by default in a distro like Kubuntu
    • If media players, office suites, a full PIM suite, and dev tools are included, why not Steam for Games?
  • Would like to see KBackup or similar backup solution included by default
  • The inclusion of a few more themes or Look and Feel packs would be welcome

Although Breeze Dark is a stock theme, it's a welcome
change of pace to this author from the lighter, stock Breeze 

All in all however Kubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver is shaping up to be a both a solid release and a good representation of all that the Plasma desktop has to offer. It's default application set represents some thought given to cover most anything a user would likely need to do in order to be both productive and entertained. 

If you'd like to check it out yourself, the daily images can be found at, and the full release is slated for April 2018.

Addendum 03/09/2018 - Kubuntu Beta 1 was released for testing

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