Natty Review


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Network Manager seemed to work for me at first. It seemed to accept the static IP, wired, and wireless settings (for the first time). After a half day, though, it reverted back to its old problems with instability. Connections were dropped randomly, especially when I used it with static IP addresses. Same old story.

Network Manager now has a number of KDE helper apps (for OpenVPN, VPNC, PPTP, and StrongSwan), but if the connection isn't stable, I don't know what the point is.

I reverted back to Wicd again and the instability ceased (as usual). (The Wicd interface has been updated, as well. Why don't they just make Wicd the default?)

At least upgrading from Network Manager to Wicd is easier in Natty. I could install Wicd before removing Network Manager. In the past I had to remove Network Manager (knetworkmanager and the 2 associated packages), then installl Wicd using a wired connection.

When I installed the wicd-kde package, it was integrated into the System Settings control panel:

K menu -> System -> System Settings -> Network Settings -> Wicd preferences

This I really like! (If Wicd were able to integrate OpenVPN, PPTP. and OpenSwan like Network Manager does, it'd be game over! I'd never even try NM in the future. Of course, there is Kvpnc, which is a GUI frontend for several VPN clients. It can be used with Wicd. I wish they would make a module for System Settings to integrate Kvpnc... )

I had a problem with the Grub2 resolution, which had to be solved using the advice here:


Plymouth still doesn't work properly on several of my computers, but since I now routinely switch off the Plymouth splash (quiet), I don't even notice any longer.

However, I like the ease of adding a Grub splash image by merely adding an image to the /boot/grub folder and then reconfiguring Grub2 (with sudo update-grub).

Firestarter firewall (which still works better for me than ufw/gufw) can't access the system logs and throws an error message to this effect (every time it starts). I fixed it with the solution here.

(Ufw/gufw was a bit of reinventing the wheel, in my opinion, and only now is it almost starting to approach Firestarter in usability. I still use Firestarter, therefore. Don't flame me.)

Natty still has the same bug I found in Maverick -- fonts reset themselves to the default repeatedly. After resetting fonts some 15 times, it now seems stable to me. Perhaps this is a configuration problem that occurs with new graphics drivers, etc. (It only seems to happen to me when tweaking the system in the first week after installation.) I recommend installing all programs, hardware drivers, fonts (like msttcorefonts) first, and then choosing the system fonts only after all the rest has been installed and is stable.

I did not have any problems with my nVidia integrated graphics card either with or without the proprietary Hardware Drivers. (When I switched to the proprietary driver, of course, all my fonts became screwed up).

KPackagekit makes a bit more sense than before and is now more similar to the Ubuntu Software Center concept. The best thing I like is that updates are done on a checkbox basis. It is easier to select which updates to install, and the packages to update are described with descriptions and it isn't as cryptic as before. This is nice, because many times I don't want to update packages/modules because the installed version is a dependency for another package. Automatic updates or bulk updates often make several other complex packages unusable; this method allows me to keep back some packages until I make sure that the other apps (which rely on a specific version) are ok with the update(s).

One thing that makes me very nervous, though, is that when a package is removed, KPackageKit no longer indicates which dependencies are being removed at the same time. I haven't yet had a problem, but whenever there is a lack of transparency, there is bound to be a snafu that can't be fixed.

The KDE System Settings package has improved in its modularity, and that is great. The ability to add modules (e.g. the Cron Task Scheduler is now a module) makes it more extensible. Modules for tablets, Grub2 configuration, and so on can be developed independently and then installed as modules. I really love this concept. It also allows streamlining. For example, I don't have Bluetooth on any computer. I can turn off and remove the Bluetooth modules (for the first time). This allows me to speed up and streamline my system.

KDE has always been more customisable than other interfaces, and that is why I like it better. Modularity is key.

The KDE Partition Manager has been added by default. (Finally.) KDE Partition Manager is nearly identical to GParted in this incarnation, and I like it. (I haven't looked to see if it is on the Kubuntu LiveCD, yet, but if it is, that is important to me.)

Natty switched to Gstreamer as an audio backend, and Gstreamer has always been pretty reliable.

The (KDE Netbook Remix) netbook user interface ("workspace") is now included by default (as an alternative to the desktop-oriented interface), so a Netbook/Mobile user can choose between interfaces with a single click. No more hassles like the Unity/Gnome crowd must endure. Again, the ability to customize KDE is so much superior to other user interfaces.

K menu -> System -> System Settings -> Workspace Behavior -> Workspace -> Workspace Type: Netbook

I haven't tried it yet, but the streamlining of the Samba server installation seems like a good idea, and there are a lot of helper apps that are built in to assist with setting up a Samba server. This is quite helpful when in a mixed Windows network. I haven't tried Samba4 because, quite honestly, Samba3 has always worked fine for me (I just add entries for Windows network shares in Dolphin using the format smb://, where the IP address is that of the Windows computer on the LAN).

At first the default Firefox 4 settings were quite irritating to me, and I spent hours customizing it to an acceptable interface. The status bar has changed to "status popups" (and I hate popups). However, once customised, Firefox 4 does deliver more screen for the web pages themselves (with an ability to shrink controls to a minimum of screen space). The power of Firefox, of course, is in its modularity and I use extensions/add-ons (like NoScript and AdBlock Plus) quite a bit.

Rekonq is the default browser in KDE, and I just ignore it, mainly. Chromium / Google Chrome can be installed easily, as well, but I am addicted to my Firefox extensions, so have never gone there. (I also don't like Google integrated apps because I don't like to be tracked.)

I guess I was used to OpenOffice, but LibreOffice has pretty much the same functionality. (OpenOffice can still be installed, if desired.) A purist would have SeaMonkey instead of Firefox, LibreOffice instead of Openoffice, and PostgreSQL instead of MySQL, and Debian instead of Ubuntu. (My opinion is to watch the alternatives but accept the commercial variants if they don't do anything evil.)

There are a few apps that aren't available in Natty, though. QDvdAuthor, for example, must be installed from the Maverick repositories. (It works in Natty without a problem, though, so it isn't a big issue.) Gimp doesn't seem to be working, yet. (I've reverted to Gwenview and Krita).

The Natty repositories do include a lot more QT-oriented apps, though, as Shuttleworth had promised. (I just haven't explored them yet. ) This is attractive to me. This alone probably will make me eventually go to Natty completely.

Everything else seems to work, so far. Maverick sucked eggs, in my opinion, and I never used it and stuck with Lucid.

I chose 32-bit Natty (actually converting from 64-bit Lucid and 64-bit Maverick) in order to compare speeds. I have used some applications (Skype, Lightning Calendar for Thunderbird) that have only come in 32-bit versions. (I think the fact that such widespread 32-bit applications still exist is one of the reasons that 32-bit (K)Ubuntu versions are recommended. I also think Ubuntu recommends 32-bits because of its move to Unity and its desire to accommodate mobile and low-end Atom processors. Historically, however, I have not had a problem with any 64-bit Kubuntu or 64-bit Ubuntu installation, at least after making sure ia32-libs was installed. Nevertheless, I have a handful of 32-bit dinosaur computers, and a handful of 32-bit applications (and the Lightning Calendar app for Thunderbird does not install on 64-bit OS version even with ia32-libs), so I used 32-bit Natty. There is little noticeable change in performance. In fact, 32-bit Natty seems to me faster than both 64-bit Lucid and 64-bit Maverick (I haven't yet tried 64-bit Natty).

Natty is definitely much cleaner than Maverick (fixing notifications problems that occurred in Maverick). Upgrading from Maverick to Natty is a no-brainer for me.

However, I am on the fence about upgrading from Lucid to Natty.

Lucid is clean, and the speed increment in Natty is only marginal. Further, at the moment I haven't found any apps that work in Natty that don't work in Lucid (at least the Lucid 32-bit version, since as I noted above, there are still a few apps out there for 32-bit OS only).

Overall, I think that for the desktop user Natty is an incremental step up from Lucid and a big, big step up from Maverick. For the Netbook/Mobile user, it is a huge leap from both Lucid and Maverick.

I haven't tested any of my servers with Natty. Servers are quite complex and there are so many dependencies that don't always upgrade well from one version to the next. Usually my bottom-line recommendations about whether to upgrade or not revolve around the server functionality.

There were quite a few stumbles between Karmic, Lucid, and Maverick with PHP, MySQL, and PostgreSQL, for example.

I always use the Alternate CD for installation -- it just seems to give me the fewest headaches and most options, and the increase in speed of installation (compared to the GUI version) always appeals to me.

However, the Alternate CD can't be used as a LiveCD, and I do need a LiveCD from time to time (working with partitions, mainly). I usually use the GParted LiveCD or System Rescue LiveCD (or Ubuntu LiveCD) for these types of things, but it is nice if the Kubuntu LiveCD can be used for the same things (now that it has a Partition Manager).

I never do upgrades -- only fresh installs. Since Feisty I've never had a successful upgrade. (IMO, it's better to script package re-installations than to upgrade them.) The challenge becomes migrating databases, settings, and data.

I haven't yet tested Natty on my hardware-challenged computers (old computers, those without temperature sensors, Intel graphics, low RAM), so can't offer advice. (I have one computer that has never been able to run Kubuntu (it's really a Linux kernel problem, so I can't run any flavor of Linux on it) and am keen to see if a hardware workaround for it has been solved.)

I pity the Ubuntu world that has to choose between Unity and Gnome 3, though. (What a mess over there.)

Bottom line:

For my computers which use Lucid and are stable, I have found no compelling reason to upgrade to Natty and won't hurry to do so.

For all my new computers, though, I'll definitely put Natty and highly recommend it.

For my testing/development computer I now have Natty tuned and except for one or two niggles, I like it and will stay with it.

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