Kubuntu 8.10

Happy as a clam I followed the instructions to get my Kubuntu 8.04 machines upgraded to 8.10 – and with them KDE from 3.5 to 4.1. It was a swift download, about 30 minutes, and I encountered no problems at all with the installation process. Kudos!

After the reboot, though, the problems started surfacing. Most of them were minor, and the only serious annoyance at this point was the changes to knetworkmanager. Once it didn’t support WPA (which was an item of criminal neglect), while now it was mandatory to use wpa_supplicant. No problem, once it tried to connect to a network that had encrpytion turned on, you just needed to click on the tiny lock icon to set the encryption parameters. 

Why didn’t the setup dialog appear on its own, though, as it used to? I spent a good few hours trying to configure wpa_supplicant manually, and ended up setting the encryption parameters purely randomly. To make things worse, there seems to be no way to change the setup once you choose it the first time – going to the setup and then trying to modify a connection yields nothing useful.

That’s though only a symptom of a much larger problem, one that ended up costing me most of my support for KDE. To state it briefly, KDE 4 is the worst generation of KDE ever created.

What’s wrong with it? Well, the problems with KDE 4.0 were widely reported: barely an alpha release when it came out, even several iterations later it was a challenge to get things to work. I personally recall installing it and playing around in the control center – finding series of dialogs that had no way to save the settings because the Apply and Close buttons were missing and closing the control center would not save settings.

Things have gotten better with KDE 4.1, which is what ships with Kubuntu 8.10, but even a mostly functional KDE 4 is not what I want. I can live with the things missing (like the fact that my KHotKeys don’t work any longer BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED). It’s with the things implemented that I have an issue.

It almost feels like the KDE developers decided to go to the Microsoft school of UI design. The system is cluttered with things that are extremly expensive computationally but have nothing but marginal value for the end user. For instance, and most annoyingly, changing tasks with Alt+Tab now gives you a preview of the application you are switching to on a slick animation. Well, on my T41 the machine freezes in the vain attempt to get the animation going, as it is too computationally intensive to make it work. To switch from one app to another, something that used to take about 10ms, I now have to wait for 10 seconds.

Worst of all, this silly animation business cannot be turned off. No way. The KDE 4 developers were so convinced this stuff was the way to go that they didn’t make it optional. Maybe in KDE 4.2.

I am sitting there and thinking: someone liked the animations and implemented them, but nobody seems to have liked the hot keys. So I upgrade to a new system, and the stuff I care about is not there, but instead there is someting I can’t turn off and can’t stand.

Of course, the RMSs around will start pouncing, telling me that’s the beauty of open source software, that I should just go and implement the stuff that I am missing. After all, I am a professional programmer!

Well, you know what? There are good way of promoting OSS and bad ways. Pushing people who have a legitimate complaint not to complain and to fix the issue may work on the scale of a bug fix, but not when it comes to major feature implementation decisions. I cannot just simply implement turning off the animation and get it into the KDE tree, and I certainly don’t have any inclination to spend months trying to get the KDE maintainers to see the light.

The other thing that has been happening is the advent of netbooks like the one I am typing on. KDE 4 is not going to run on these, I assume, if it has trouble on a T41 with 1.5G of memory. What were they thinking???

This is the second release of KDE (after 4.0) that is, in my view, a flop. I will give KDE another chance with 4.2, and I hope the guys will have addressed my concerns – after that, it’s over.

And this, folks, coming from someone that has been a strong proponent of KDE for many, many years.

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