It's no secret to anyone: KDE and its latest implementation, Plasma 5, have been my favorite applications and desktop suite for quite some time now. I started GNU / Linux with Gnome 2 that brought Ubuntu Feisty Fawn but quickly jumped to that unknown ocean, full of strange words with the letter K in them, called Kubuntu.
Coming and going, distros and more distros, until you end up trapped by the Chakra magic and its unique environment. As much as I have tried to change this fact in successive attacks of distro hopping. I have not been able to accommodate myself to anyone other than Cinnamon, although I have missed a few features almost exclusive to Plasma. It also happens in reverse, that is, I think that KDE suffers from some things, but in the balance weighs more, by far, the positive than the negative.
Today we are reviewing a "distribution" (in quotation marks on purpose) that gives us something that at first seems magnificent in its conception: an Ubuntu LTS, 16.04, as a base and a continuous and unstoppable update of the Plasma packages to the latest available versions. Are the developers of KDE those who put at our disposal this repository of software - that's how they refer to their creation, not as a distribution - for use and enjoyment of the stalwarts who can not wait to try the new features of each new editing Plasma 5. So, clarifying that it is a gerund, KDE neon is not a GNU / Linux distribution to use, but rather it is an Ubuntu with PPA of KDE and a "live" edition that allows us to test the set. And that we have done, would miss more.
If something recalls KDE neon is Kubuntu. Aspect vanilla, total environment and absolutely Spartan first, as a good foundation on which to build our ideal Plasma. Both it seems that both share an annoying error when it comes to installing on my computer: an endless amount of time looking for partitions and during the first phase of the process, where only the flashing of the led of the wireless adapter gives me clues as to what the program is entertaining. The resource monitor confirms that data is being downloaded from the network. I think it's okay, but the user is not a fortune teller and not everyone can interpret this as something other than a mistake or a hang-up, and it is very likely that he will get bored, cancel and look for another distro. Sorry for the distro, I do not get to call KDE neon otherwise.
After completing the installation the environment is unusable, which is why this part of the revision is not accompanied by screenshots. When I cannot open Dolphin or even Konsole, I am unable to copy the photos to a partition, which all lose when I have to do the forced restart. To make matters worse, after attending a Grub in which KDE neon identifies itself as GNU / Linux, to dry, the system takes about two minutes to reach the start animation (Plymouth) and make way for the desktop. Rude mistakes and slowness, very bad combination that does not bode well.
Design and graphics
This section could well leave it deserted, like those prizes in which all that are presented are so bad that there is no way to give it to somebody or even to pity. But the point is, once again, that this is not a real distribution, so it is not surprising that no one has noticed the small details of appearance and graphic design. It is, nothing more and nothing less, than a Plasma as delivered by developers, from which each can set the desktop according to their particular tastes. It's not a bad philosophy, just something different from what we're used to seeing, unless we use Arch, Gentoo or any of these. Summary: what I said, vanilla, and I beg your pardon for Anglicism, but it is a word that I love.
Despite the writing, there are some things that I find strange and make me crazy, like the horrible aspect of some GTK applications despite having selected the Breeze theme in the corresponding module of system preferences.
It could be said that I do not remember an installation (note the turn not to re-start the word, distribution) in which you end up with fewer startup programs. Exception made to those mythical - for me - afternoons when I was wearing my adventurous blanket at the head and armed with an iso of Arch Linux I would mount my KDE without anesthesia, at the touch of a keyboard, reaching a level of "fussiness" that only a few will understand. Something similar we will find in KDE neon. Let's see: it comes with Firefox 50, VLC, Discover as application installer, Gwenview, Kwrite, Ark, Dolphin, Konsole, Portfolio Manager, System Preferences, Monitor and Kinfocenter ... and I leave none, I think. Just a dozen installed programs. This is really pure minimalism. Logically, our newly started Plasma eats the incredible 400 Mb of RAM. Take that one. And then they say that KDE is very heavy. Repent, sinners.
There is another application, to tell you the truth, that we can use Discover as a legitimate alternative to install downloaded packages. This is the Gdebi of all life, with a wrapper KDE: Qapt. It works well and there is nothing to reproach.
Having the base you have, Ubuntu Xenial, you are presumed an exceptional device recognition, such as little. Such is the case . I find myself, for a change, with various difficulties that I already resolve by inertia, but that a new user would not be able to solve easily without help. For example, my whimsical HP Laserjet 1018 printer needs firmware private to operate, normally installable via a utility of the company called HPlip. Well, it is impossible to download this utility from Discover, so you should choose to install Synaptic to search for it. However, by hache or by be, the program does not work and should be executed in its terminal mode, using Konsole, something that I have done on more than one occasion in different distributions.
In general, all the devices work properly, including the connection to my Tecno mobile with KDE Connect. The installation of the proprietary drivers of NVIDIA becomes a new Odyssey, unfortunately, given the minimalist character and the non-inclusion of an application that facilitates a little work. This time it was a post on the blog that gave me the key to be able to find the driver manager that was once so easy to locate in Ubuntu and derivatives. Progress, they call this to remove options to the user. After installation, return the donkey to the wheat: once again the entire desk is left hanging, without allowing me to start any application or leave the session. With a CTRL + F3, I open a text console and reboot manually.
In the performance tests of the equipment made, as usual, with the Phoronix suite, KDE neon is not able to improve on Ubuntu Trusty more than in a section of the four tested. It is usual that this decrease is not translated in the daily use of the equipment, something that also happens in this case. The user experience is good, applications open quickly and you do not notice a desktop overhead when running several at a time. As a curiosity, comparing the result with the one obtained in its day by the latest version of Chakra, a technical tie occurs, with two wins for each one, which is not bad at all.
Stability and errors
In discharging the good work of this combination of Ubuntu and the latest Plasma available, I have to say that the two times I had to restart the computer were after installing something. The first, live, after the installation of the system itself and the second, with the owners of NVIDIA. The rest of the time I tried KDE neon I did not find major flaws or major issues. Even though it is not yet clear at all that the last LTS in Ubuntu is really stable - due to bugs I have had with some of its derivatives - I think KDE neon offers a fairly acceptable degree of solidity taking into account the concept that we handle here, with the mixture of a supposedly robust base with programs fresh out of the oven. It is not easy, as you will understand, hence I will not dwell on the small problems detected, for I confess that I expected much more. Recapitulating, in addition to the aforementioned restarts:
Tardanza to start. I mentioned it above; the move from Grub to Plymouth and then to the login manager is eternalized. It is probably due to some conflict with my hardware that is not likely to be repeated with other configurations and other equipment.
Hang up when testing the webcam with VLC. Yes, I know that the roll is very seen to take the hand to walk the camera, but what do you want me to tell you, I am an animal of customs. With the tools provided by KDE neon I came up with VLC for this task, with the result of absolute hanging that did not respond to anything and forced me to resort to ALT + ImprPant + REISUB. And there I felt the urge to photograph my hand.
Slowness in repositories. This, more than a mistake, is a nuisance. In the various editions of Ubuntu is easy to solve, since you just go to "Software and updates" to test the mirrors and change to one that is not so slow. However, to do the same in KDE neon we must pull the solution indicated above in the hardware section for the proprietary drivers: install the package software-properties-kde. The same will allow us to carry out this operation. We will also realize that the repositories of Canonical partners are disabled by default (this is normal in Ubuntu) and we can activate them.
The appearance of KDE neon caused some stir in the GNU / Linux world and was directly related to the semi-abandonment to which Kubuntu is driven or the disappearance of Netrunner. They are different things, in my opinion, although it seems that the link of a union that Jonathan Riddell supposes could make us doubt. Personally, I do not see the need for KDE Neon if it is not, as they never tire of repeating, a distribution but a repository. For that they could have set up a PPP like that of Gnome and Holy Easter. But since it exists, and it will not be me who speaks of putting doors to the field, eye, some will be able to take advantage.
As a fan of Chakra, I did not see any reason to change it for KDE neon. I would lose in stability and I am not able to find benefits to that exchange. Maybe, if anything, to have a few days before the latest Plasma packages, something that does not put me off the dream given the speed with which they often climb to the repositories of the main distributions that bet on KDE, such as openSUSE, Arch, or the Chakra itself. Disenchanted users from other distros based on Ubuntu, such as those from Linux Mint KDE or the defunct Netrunner might find some taste to KDE neon. Beyond that, the truth is that I see no reason to be. Yourself, "KDE neon". I invite you to try it and comment on your impressions.