My Kubuntu Experience

Well, I got sick of windows again. I switched back to windows quite a while ago when I was doing a lot of QuickBooks work (which didn’t work right with wine…even Crossover). However, in my experience Windows tends to degrade in performance and reliability over time. You end up having to reinstall, or you feel like you’re balancing plates on top of a pool cue. Recently it seemed like every windows update caused me a day of work to get my system working again. I took note of everything I use used on a regular basis, and was surprised to find that there was a linux version for pretty much everything. However, I’ll readily admit that as a web application programmer, the programs I use regularly are probably NOT the same as the average user. Here is what I found (this is NOT a free solution…I try to use what is best for me, not what is free. I use this machine to make my living):
(Many of these actually STARTED on linux and added Windows support later, but for our purpose here, I’m simply going to point out that they have linux support.)

Now for the list of apps that do NOT have linux versions, and what I plan to do about it:

  • Dreamweaver: I really haven’t used this since I got the Aptana plugin for Eclipse. I used it only for CSS auto-completion (something Zend Studio does poorly), but now Eclipse does it fine. so, the short story is…I don’t plan on doing anything about this one.
  • Fireworks: I’m not great at graphics, and fireworks is easy. If I can get used to Gimp, I’m sure it will do everything I need (I outsource most graphic design). Until then, I have Fireworks install on an XP Virtual Machine through VMWare Workstation.
  • Photoshop: Again, I think Gimp will do everything I need eventually. Until then I have Photoshop installed in my Virtual Machine.
  • Internet Explorer: Again, I’ll probably also use my Virtual Machine. I also have CodeWeavers’ Crossover Office, which should work with Internet Explorer 6 (but not 7). I may use this too (the main reason is that I used to use a small script that would open a page in all my browsers…I can’t do that in a VM).

Now for the actual experience. First I had to choose a distribution. There were a TON, but the two I had a hard time choosing between was Fedora and Kubuntu (I prefer the KDE desktop). I ultimately decided on Kubuntu simply because I hadn’t used it before. I may set Fedora up on another system here, but for now I’m quite happy with Kubuntu. Since I was using a VERY new system, and Kubuntu Feisty (7.04) was due to be released approximately a month from when I was setting this all up, I decided to use the beta. It worked pretty well. It installed without a hitch, and I began installing all my applications. The first problem I had was when I went to set up my dual monitors. My 8800GTS card needed the absolute latest nVidia drivers (9755), but there was a bug. Once I figured that out, it worked great. However, they then split the nvidia-glx package into 2 packages (nvidia-glx, and nvidia-glx-new). I had to re-do my fix then. However, I think most of this is my own fault for choosing a beta release. Once it was all set up, I had both monitors set up at their proper resolution (1680×1050), and even Beryl functioned. I had some problems with Beryl crashing KDE, but I asked on IRC and was told to switch my rendering path to copy due to a problem in the nVidia drivers. Now it works fine. The next problem I ran into was setting up my printer. Konica Minolta offers linux drivers as source, or as an RPM. I had problems when I tried to build from source, but Alien was able to convert the rpm to a deb, and it worked great.

My experience of actually moving my data was simple. I moved my profiles for Firefox, Thunderbird, and Filezilla from my Windows system. With Firefox I then removed a couple windows only addons that I had. Firefox still gave me some problems until I found that ColorZilla does not play well with the linux version. I removed that addon, and it works great.

I still have a few small issues that I need to address, but I don’t think there will be any major problems. The most “major” of these is that my keyboard and mouse are Bluetooth, and they use a USB Bluetooth adapter. When I restart my system I have to unplug that adapter, and plug it back in to get my keyboard and mouse working. Again, I’m still on a beta version.

Now that I’ve gone over the problems, here are some of the unexpected beauties of Kubuntu. First, I looked at Beryl as a “pretty” thing, but useless. However, I’ve found it to be extremely useful. I can keep things more organized on separate desktops. You can already do that with KDE, but add in the windows picker (which I have set up to trigger on mouse in either top corner), and the ability to make the “cube” transparent so I can quickly find what I’m looking for, and it has actually increased my productivity. Then there is digiKam. I have a nice digital camera (Canon Rebel XTi), and it came with some nice software. The main thing I liked about the software was it’s ability to pull large amounts of photos from the camera, put them into a directory of my choosing, but sort them into sub directories by date they were taken. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I plugged in my camera, but it offered to launch digiKam. When I let it, digiKam set walked me through setting things up, and a few minutes later it was copying all my photos into sub directories based on date. It was smoother than the expensive software that came with the camera, it has proven to be more flexible, and just as reliable. I was completely amazed.

To sum it up, I think Kubuntu Feisty really has something good going. I’m impressed with it’s package management, software availability, hardware compatibility, and ease of use.