When we went to the linux user group on Monday we were given Kubuntu 5.04 CDs (not because we were from Microsoft but because we just happened to say yes when offered one).
I hear a lot about how Linux is easier to install today. I know it is true – I used a ’93 slackware distro back in 1995 and that was anything but easy to install, since then I’ve used various Redhat versions up to version 9 and I’ve seen the install improve each time. So given the claim, I thought I’d record my installation experience for the world to see and comment on (should you manage to read to the end and stay awake).
So – not having a spare working machine to install on, I chose to install it in a Virtual PC virtual machine. I know, I know – it’s not supported. It should still work though – it just means that I cant go crying to the Virtual PC team when Kubuntu doesn’t work. So having said that – it should work because the virtual machine presents the guest OS with some pretty basic hardware specs and should just work in most cases. The text based install process went quite well, and it even was smart enough to check for updates on the net and pull them down. My only (minor) niggle was with the message “finished first stage of installation” which took some time to get to and I had no idea how many stages there were. I assumed that was the only stage up to that point. The next stage included checking for updates on the net and pulled them down and installed them. So far so good.
When the system rebooted, the UI (running on an X server) failed to appear correctly. The display was distorted and corrupted. To be more precise the display seemed to be a very wide screen that still only showed half the screen and in very poor colour to the point where it was quite incomprehensible – you could make out menus but not the text when right clicking on the icons. The problem was with the S3 Trio video card driver not working “out of the box” correctly. Fortunately I found the answer on this handy “what works and what doesn’t on Virtual PC” site (which also attests to the “should just work in most cases” comment above). A quick(ish) hack in pico to the X config file and a reboot saw the pretty UI pop up successfully. It took me about 15 minutes to work out how to log out of the incomprehensible UI, find the answer, get to a shell and fix the problem. Once fixed and the system rebooted, I was greeted with a sound card driver error. Great. Sound wasn’t critical to me so I didn’t bother to with fix this.
I found the interface to be fresh – certainly different to the Windows interface. The task bar is bigger, the icons are all completely different and many of them are very nice. The default wallpaper was nice too. So I decided I’d click around and see what I could find of interest.
The first thing you always notice about a KDE environment (and it goes for the gnome environment to a lesser extent too) is that everything has an obscure name that often starts with “k” (in gnome the name occaisionally starts with “g”). Fortunately the interface is helpful and has a more user friendly description in brackets next to the obscure name. For example the “internet” section of the (not) start menu has the following entries: krfb (Desktop Sharing), Kopete (Instant Messenger), KPPP (Internet Dial-Up Tool), Konversation (IRC Chat), Krdc (Remote Desktop Connection), Akregator (RSS Feed Reader), Konqueror (Web Browser), KWiFiManager (Wireless LAN Manager).
I started by finding my way to the System section of the start menu (what do you call it if it doesn’t have a “start” in the name and the writer probably hates Microsoft?) and started KUser (User Manager). After I entered my (not root) password again (why?) – I half expected a nice graphically oriented user manager much like the one in user manager in Windows XP. Oddly enough the icons in the tool bar reminded me of Windows NT 4.0 (could they be the same icons). However, while you do have a tool bar (well – it wasn’t there the last time I looked) you certainly dont have the rich UI that I half expected. I opened the root account and set the password and then closed KUser.
On exiting KUser, I was presented with a graphically nice dialog that informed me of a critical error (SIGSEGV). The dialog helpfully told me that “An application mostly receives the SIGSEGV signal due to a bug in the application. The application was asked to save its documents”. OK. Fine. Incidentally further attempts to use KUser did not result in the same or any error.
Next I started Konqueror (web browser), and took a look a couple of pages. Konqueror has come a long way since I last used it and the pages I visited looked nice and well rendered.
Given that it was getting late (midnightish) I decided to start up Kopete (Instant Messenger) – who makes up these names??? and log on to my MSN account. So I entered my MSN user name and password and then initiated a connection. Soon I had a “incorrect password” dialog. OK. Enter again – maybe I got it wrong…. no – still no go. Hmmm. I never change this password (spot the security flaw), so I’m sure it hasn’t changed…. Try again. Nada, nix -. not happening.
Time to head to bed I think. I’ll tackle it another day.