Trusty Review

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Trusty Tahr Review

Introduction

  • I installed and evaluated Kubuntu (KDE) in May 2014. I am a longtime Kubuntu (KDE) user and this is still my favourite Linux distribution. I use Kubuntu for a wide variety of servers, desktops, laptops, netbooks, and now as a television interface (from a laptop with remote control). While Ubuntu Unity may hold a lot of promise for this variety of platforms, I have found (when I reviewed it in the past) that it was trying to re-invent the KDE wheel and was playing catch-up on everything but a tablet platform (for which it seemed specifically designed). The KDE desktop can be customised to look and function like Ubuntu Unity pretty easily, but in comparison Ubuntu Unity can't be customised to look and function like KDE without a tremendous amount of effort.
  • Although I tried the Kubuntu Netbook interface in the past, I didn't see the advantage to it. The default KDE desktop already has widgets that have a hundred different ways to customise them. In contrast, the KDE Netbook workspace was difficult for me to customise.
  • I only use LTS (Long-Term Support) versions these days. This review therefore concerns my upgrade from, and comparison of, Precise to Trusty.

Below are the steps I took to run Trusty. I initially tested on a single-core AMD 64-bit processor at 2 MHz with nVidia graphics (and an old monitor) with a wired ethernet connection to a DHCP-capable router. I then tested on a multi-core 64-bit laptop with a wireless connection.

Installation steps

  • I did not try a direct upgrade from Precise to Trusty because I have not been successful with direct upgrades in the past. On all my computers I already have a Kubuntu Precise (or older) installation, and I left it on its own partition while I installed Trusty in a new partition. This allowed me to transfer files and settings from the Precise partition to the Trusty partition (and to make sure Trusty was working before shrinking the Precise partition to a minimal size as an emergency backup).
  • Using KDE Partition Manager in Precise (or from a LiveCD), I therefore created a blank partition (I usually create a partition within the extended partition, which is the last of the 4 "DOS" partitions on my hard drive) with enough space for a new OS (mimimum 25-30 Gb). (I don't use an independent /home partition because a lot of the settings for the OS are particular to that OS only and are stored in the /home partition. Sharing the /home partition becomes problematic for me, after a while, as the common files in /home are changed by each OS that accesses it. However, I don't see a problem with a /sharedfiles partition). If there is not a separate partition that is used for shared files, then the Trusty partition should be made much larger at the outset.
  • While logged into the Precise OS, I adjusted my /boot partition's Grub Legacy config file ( /boot/grub/menu.lst ) and created an entry that will chainload the Grub2 bootloader stored in the new partition. (Fortunately, a simple chainload +1 command from Grub Legacy to Grub2 was accepted by Grub2.)
  • I never install Grub2 to the Master Boot Record. My computers all have Grub Legacy in a standalone boot partition, since Grub Legacy does not require an OS to function (and can chainload the bootloader of every type of OS). In contrast, Grub2 requires a complete OS in order to function and if the (K)Ubuntu OS installation gets screwed up, so does Grub2 (and then you can't boot the computer). I DO always install Grub2 to the partition in which the (K)Ubuntu OS is installed (so that Grub2 manages the bootup for the (K)Ubuntu OS in that partition) and then merely allow Grub Legacy to chainload Grub2. For example, if the (K)Ubuntu OS is installed to /dev/sda6, I install Grub2 to /dev/sda6 only (and NOT to the Master Boot Record, which is also referred to as /dev/sda in the Desktop LiveCD installer).
  • For most of my installations I used Kubuntu 14.04 LTS LiveCD, which I put onto a USB stick using the Startup Disk Creator from my existing Kubuntu Precise. (Installing from a USB pendrive "stick" instead of a CD / DVD is three times as fast. I could install from USB only on computers that allowed booting from a USB "floppy" drive, of course, but this was possible even on my 10-year-old computer.) Except on 32-bit computers, I used a 64-bit version (since none of my regular apps require 32-bit versions any longer).
  • Using the LiveCD, the installation interface seemed a bit slower and more buggy than the one used for Precise. Many times it was hard to tell at times if the installer was functioning or frozen.
  • On my system with nVidia graphics, the installation screen merely remained blank unless I started the LiveCD in a special mode:
Boot from CD -> Initial minimalistic graphic -> <space-bar> -> F6 Other Options -> nomodeset (ticked) -> <Esc> -> Start Kubuntu -> Enter
  • -> Install Kubuntu -> Install this third-party software (unticked) -> Download updates while installing (unticked) -> Continue
Note: When I allowed the system to install proprietary third-party software (i.e. "restricted" packages for mp3 and Flash capabilities, something I usually do later with sudo apt-get install kubuntu-restricted-extras anyway) and also install updates it froze for so long that I never was certain if it was functioning or not, so I gave up on these options for the initial installation.
  • -> Installation type: Manual -> Continue -> <Highlight sda6> -> Change... -> New partition size in megabytes: 32768 -> Use as: Ext4 journaling file system -> Format the partition (ticked) -> Mount point: / -> Device for bootloader installation: /dev/sda6 -> Continue
Note: I happen to use a dedicated boot partition with the MBR already set to point to the dedicated (Grub Legacy) bootloader stored within it. I therefore never select the "sda" bootloader option (which will overwrite the MBR I have previously set up). I only allow the new installation of the Grub2 bootloader to be installed into the same partition as the newly installed OS (in this example /dev/sda6), and then chainload it from the Grub Legacy bootloader stored in my dedicated boot partition. (My system, however, is a complex, flexible one with many different operating systems on it. You may not require such a complex setup.) Also note that I already have a 2048 Mb shared swap drive in /dev/sda5, but the swap partition may also need to be set up manually during this step as well.
  • The remaining user variables are entered in an installation screen while installation simultaneously commences. After completing the initial user input, this allows for an unattended installation thereafter.
  • After finishing the installation on some computers with nVidia graphics cards and rebooting, the screen locked in a strange pattern after logging in as a user. It was possible to suppress this error by editing /etc/default/grub in the Trusty partition (usually while logged in to the existing Precise installation) and uncommenting (or editing) the graphics mode line to read:
GRUB_GFXMODE=1024x768
and editing the relevant line (using sudo nano /etc/default grub) to read:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet nouveau.blacklist=1"
or
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet nomodeset"
It is then necessary to restart in recovery mode in order to reconfigure grub:
Reboot -> <Esc> at Grub2 menu -> Advanced Options for Ubuntu -> Enter -> Ubuntu ... (recovery mode) -> grub - Update grub bootloader -> yes -> Enter -> resume - Resume normal boot -> Ok
  • I then rebooted a second time and chose the proprietary nVidia driver for my system, as the Nouveau driver never quite worked for me. After installing the proprietary drive, I rebooted the system again.
K Menu -> settings -> System Settings -> Driver Manager -> Using NVIDIA legacy binary driver ... (recommended)
  • Unlike with older versions of Kubuntu, I had no problems on my systems that have integrated Intel graphics cards and needed to make no adjustments.
  • While logged in at the server command line the first time I personally like to set a password for the root user using sudo passwd root (so that someone else who might log into the computer later can't do it instead). If installing a full Kubuntu system, I do this later from a command-line terminal.
  • When installing the Server version first, I update and upgrade the server (sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade) to make sure all the server components are current. Then I finally add the Kubuntu desktop (sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop). When I reboot I have a fully functional Kubuntu system. (Kubuntu-desktop installation time: 35 minutes).
  • The KDE desktop used in Trusty has some new idiosyncracies. You can now establish different types of desktops (called "Activities") depending on the purpose of your computer. This is actually pretty cool, especially for mobile or "kiosk" devices. You can establish an Activity optimised to display slides or movies on the desktop (in fact, there is a pre-designed Activity for this purpose). One thing that annoyed me, though, was that the upper-right "Cashew" has the name of the Activity showing. However, if the widgets are un-locked, the Cashew can be slid over to the right and the name of the activity will be hidden that way.
  • There are a lot of customisations to the desktop that can be done at this juncture, and I won't go into them. I happen to like DejaVu Sans 10 for my default font (Settings -> System Settings -> Application Appearance -> Fonts -> Adjust All Fonts), and set that right away. I also turn off all the advanced desktop effects (Settings -> System Settings -> Desktop Effects) until my system is tuned, since they slow down things considerably. I don't use a modem or bluetooth, so I remove both these modules (sudo apt-get remove modemmanager and sudo apt-get remove bluedevil), since I haven't found an effective way to disable them in the settings.
  • I did some final tweaking of my Grub2. I happen to like the graphics included with grub2-splashimages (especially the plasma-lamp Tesla coil), and installed one using this suggestion. I then updated Grub2 (sudo update-grub).
  • Once everything is set up, Trusty initially ran a bit more slowly than Precise did. I turned off startup services I do not need (System Settings -> Startup and Shutdown -> Service Manager -> Startup Services). I also installed Bootup Manager (sudo apt-get install bum) to turn off some other programs I did not wish to automatically start at boot. This did not help appreciably at first, but after a few reboots I guess the configuration changes were stored and the system was faster.
  • One of the first things I do is to create a menu item to be able to launch the Dolphin file manager as the root superuser. I copy the Dolphin menu item, rename the new menu item to "Dolphin as root" and change the command to:
kdesudo dolphin %i -caption "%c" %u
I then add both the regular Dolphin menu item and the "Dolphin as root" menu item to my panel for easy access. (Because I do a lot of stuff in the command terminal, I also add the Konsole Terminal menu item to the panel at the same time.)
  • I am not able to automatically launch the Kate text editor from "Dolphin as root", which is one of my most common tasks (to edit configuration files). Whenever I attempt it, the error appears:
KDEInit could not launch '/usr/bin/kate'
The workaround involves adding a Root Actions Servicemenu to Dolphin which allows functions (including text editing with kate) as the root superuser. I add this service menu to both instances of Dolphin (regular and "Dolphin as root"). This solution is detailed here.
On a positive note, Dolphin sidebars are now more customisable, allowing drive and network locations to be hidden in the sidebar. On a multiple-user system, this is desirable (in order to focus attention on only the drives/network locations accessible to the individual user).
  • After installation, Network Manager was disabled by default ("unmanaged") on my system. In this "unmanaged" configuration, I was able to manually configure my static IP settings as I have been accustomed. There is a change in that I no longer edit resolv.conf directly but add my dns-server list directly to /etc/network/interfaces as discussed here.
  • If I wish to activate Network Manager and allow it to manage the settings, I use the advice detailed here.
  • On my wireless laptop, Network Manager worked at installation (in DHCP mode) without any additional configuration. However, I was able to customise the wireless connections to accept static ("manual") IP addresses and custom DNS servers wihout a problem. Because Network Manager reliably works for me with wireless connections, I did not need to install Wicd (as I have in the past).
  • Firefox is installed by default in Trusty. I configured Firefox and turned off the annoying SSL certificate name in the address bar. I then added my favourite add-ons: NoScript, AdBlock Plus, Bookmark Favicon Change, Hide Tab Bar with One Tab, and Download Helper. I still use AdBlock Plus and Noscript routinely, but have to be careful about the settings, since AdBlock and NoScript now try to "whitelist" a range of sites and "allow non-intrusive advertising" unless you turn off the behavior. I also turned off updates for the add-ons.
  • Firefox allows Bookmarks to be exported and then imported. I therefore exported my Firefox bookmarks from Precise, copied them from Precise to Trusty, and then imported them into the installation of Firefox in Trusty.
  • In Trusty, the classic Muon Package Manager has been removed and replaced by the less-capable Muon Discover, which I found difficult to use. Instead, I installed the Gtk-based Synaptic Package Manager (or installed packages entirely using the command-line as outlined in the rest of this guide).
  • I installed Thunderbird with the Enigmail and Lightning Calendar extensions. I was able to copy my ~/.thunderbird folder directly from Precise to Trusty and it maintained all my settings, addresses, and emails!
  • I still use Firestarter, simply because it is easier for me to turn off and on depending on my task. However, Firestarter uses an old logging system and the newer kernels have changed logging systems. To accommodate Firestarter (and other older programs that still use the old logs), I used the solution here to tweak the logging system to accept the old style of logs. Then Firestarter didn't complain about the logs any longer.
  • Installed PulseAudio Volume Control and PulseAudio Preferences (sudo apt-get install pavucontrol paprefs). There is a new plasma widget (sudo apt-get install plasma-widget-veromix) to control Pulse Audio volume, but I haven't tried it yet.
  • Tweaked k3b to use growisofs so that large data-volumes (> 3.5 GB) could be written to DVD. See this section.
  • I started and adjusted Firestarter after all the apps were seen to be working properly. Some common outgoing ports that ought to be opened/unblocked/"allowed" are 80 (HTTP), 443 (HTTPS), 53 (DNS), 993 (secure IMAP), 465 (secure SMTP), 123 (NTP).
  • To the panel bar I added icons for the menu items I use most frequently. I hid the system tray icons I don't like to see, adjusted the clock a bit, and added the weather widget.
  • I always use the screen locker (System Settings -> Display and Monitor -> Screen Locker), but prefer my own image as the background. I therefore adjusted the screen locker image using the advice here.

Bottom Line

  • The Kubuntu 14.04 LTS LiveCD on a USB drive rapidly became my favourite installation vehicle, and this is what I ended up using on multiple different computers. I was able to install Kubuntu Trusty Tahr on all of my computers.
  • I only needed to make one hardware tweak; all the rest of my hardware works without problems (including multiple graphics cards). This is a bit of an improvement from Precise, in which I originally had needed to make 3 or 4 tweaks on various computers to accommodate old hardware. The implementation of Network Manager is reliable in all configurations.
  • A bug in Dolphin (so that the Kate text editor can't easily be opened when running Dolphin as root) persists, but a workaround (the Root Actions Servicemenu) is available.
  • The Muon Package Manager has disappeared in Trusty and been replaced by the more limited software center called Muon Discover. With it native KDE package management and update control has become more difficult for me. Instead, I now either use the Gtk-based Synaptic Package Manager or have reverted back to the command-line entirely for package management (using commands found in Kubuntuguide).
  • Firefox often does not halt properly when closed and will often run uninterruptedly in the background, forcing me to kill it manually (kdesudo killall firefox).
  • The notifications widget, which was broken in Precise, has been fixed. However, now the "bouncing cursor" feedback on application startup does not reliably work. I find no substantial improvements in performance in Trusty (and, in fact, it seems a bit slower than Precise) and the Firefox and app-startup feedback problems annoy me. For this reason, I have not yet found a compelling reason to switch from Precise.
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