For past few days I have been beta testing Kubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. Overall, I have this beta release running on my main production system without too much breakage. By the time the real release occurs, most users will be grateful for a stable, reliable and increasingly user friendly release of Kubuntu.
Having lived through a year of Gentoo Linux and its weekly blending edge releases and updates, I feel comfortable helping out with the beta testing of the new Kubuntu. That said, beta testing is only for those that don’t get irritated at breakage. And open source software (Apologies to RMS, free software is like free speech and free markets, but open source has a nicer ring to it.) brings its own kind of beta breakage, since development happens at a much faster pace with the entire community collaborating on the same code. So the breakage and updates come fast and furious. My every computing day starts with an update. And sometimes fixing a crashed upgrade with dpkg.
The battle for Strigi continues everyday. After discovering the usefulness of desktop searching with Google Desktop, I want Strigi to work badly. However after submiting bug reports, installing updates and following a particularly cryptic lead involving pdftotext, nothing seems to work. Actually strigi is more responsive, and takes longer to eat up my processing power, in the end the daemon acts like one and possesses my processor. Only killing it, solves the problem.
Rocking with Amarok
First I used Winamp, and then I discovered Linux and XMMS. And while a soft spot for the ancient XMMS, rests in my heart, my current music player of choice is Amarok. Amarok with its iTunes layout, media library management and plugins beat the pants off all its competitors in both the open and closed source worlds. My favorite features include the seamless music player device management, the lyrics plugin, the podcast aggregator and the soundKonvertor plugin for changing my Ogg collection to MP3s that my MP3 player can handle.
The new version 1.4.7 of Amarok makes the smoothest player out there. Gone is the irritating stealing of keyboard bug that locked up my desktop. The moodbar feature now works out of the box in Ubuntu. Moodbar maps out the dynamics of the song in colours, and displays that info inside the song progress bar.
The Gutsy art team has added new artwork in this release. This includes a nice neutral aqua wallpaper. KDM login manager now includes a nice new theme that includes the standard user list that an unmodified KDM sports. While I personally have not gotten the theme to work (see bug), this new artwork makes Kubuntu more usable. Whoever said art is not functional, was a fool.
An OpenOffice.org Upgrade
OpenOffice version 2.3 is one of the much touted features in Kubuntu and Ubuntu. A new release of OpenOffice does not excite me much anymore. However it is an essential piece of software that I use everyday. Its nice to know that large commercial entites such as Sun Microsystems and IBM, continue to develop, improve and contribute to the entire free open source community. Its got some nice features and all the developers involved with the OpenOffice suite should be warmly applauded of their efforts.
More info on the new features in OpenOffice 2.3.
Progress in Remote Control
One of the few pieces of hardware that can work under Linux, but refuses to work under Ubuntu is my remote control. The issue was that the older version of Ubuntu were missing the kernel modules for Lirc, and hence the ability to use remotes. In Gutsy, the kernel modules are included. And with a bit of configuration, and restarting the Lirc daemon, I can get my remote to work. But the entire process is still a bit hit and miss.
The new release of Ubuntu and hence Kubuntu is working up to be a more user friendly release than Feisty. Most of the must have features are in the Ubuntu variant rather than Kubuntu itself. I believe that the uncertainty and development of KDE4 contributes to this lack of major features for the KDE side of Ubuntu. Also many of the bugs and issues I have dealt with, will disappear by the time the final release of Gutsy. The progress on even the irritating Strigi bugs promises to fix this showstopper bug. So keep your fingers crossed. This next release of Kubuntu maybe the most user friendly release yet.