Kubuntu is a community-developed, desktop Linux distribution sponsored by Canonical Ltd, the same company behind Ubuntu. The latest stable release, Kubuntu 11.04, code-named Natty Narwhal, was released on April 28, 2011. This article presents a detailed review of this KDE-based Linux distribution.
Installer and Installation Process: To install Kubuntu on a 32- or 64-bit computer, you either download a CD or DVD ISO image. A CD image allows you to install (Kubuntu) using a graphical interface, while a DVD image offers the option of the same graphical interface available on the CD image or an ncurses-based interface. There is also a CD installation image that uses just the ncurses installer. This image is the boot menu options from a DVD image.
Graphical Installer The graphical installer offers the same steps for installation that are on the Ubuntu installer. They are essentially the same.
There are automated disk partitioning options as well as a manual option, for those times when you want to create a custom set of partitions. There is no support for LVM, the Linux Logical Volume Manager, and software RAID. Full disk encryption is also not supported, but the installer offers an option to encrypt your home directory. Note that by default, the home directory is not on a separate partition because only two partitions – for /, the root directory, and Swap – are created by the installer. So encrypting your home directory does not offer the same benefits as full disk encryption.
Alternate Installer – This installer supports LVM, encrypted LVM, software RAID and (full) disk encryption. If you have installed Debian, you will feel right at home using this installer. Though LVM is supported, it is not the default. When automated LVM is used, the installer creates a non-LVM partition for /boot plus two logical volumes – for /, the root directory, and Swap. Like the graphical installer, it also offers the option to encrypt your home directory, whether you opt for LVM or the classic partitioning scheme.
If you opt to use LVM, the installer gives you the option to specify what percentage of the disk you want to use. This is important because when setting up LVM, it is not necessary to use all available disk space, just the minimum needed to get the system installed. The unused space left in the Volume Group is supposed to be used for creating additional logical volumes, if needed, or to grow existing logical volumes, if they run out of space.
On either installer, ext4 is the default file system, with ext3, xfs, jfs, and reiserfs also supported. When using LVM, ext2 is the default file system for the /boot partition. Btrfs, the B-Tree File System, is supported, but there are known issues with it on Natty, so evaluate the issues before you install it on a btrfs file system. While previous editions of Kubuntu required less than 3 GB of disk space to install, this edition now recommends a minimum of 3.8 GB (of disk space). On a new installation, only about 2.7 GB of the space allocated is used.
Desktop: Kubuntu ships with KDE 4.6.2. The latest stable edition, released just today (May 6, 2011), is KDE 4.6.3. Like most other KDE-based distributions, the default menu style is the Kickoff style.
Aside from the traditional desktop interface, KDE also offers the Plasma Netbook interface, one of several such (desktop) interfaces designed for use on small screens. Though these interfaces are designed for small screens, they work just as well on desktop and standard notebook computers. One of them, the Unity interface, is now the default desktop interface on Ubuntu, beginning with Ubuntu 11.04. You may view more screenshots of the Plasma Netbook interface here.
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