A User's KDE 4.3 Experience on PCLinuxOS

by The-One-Who-Uses-It

September 26, 2009

PCLinuxOS is one of the eaiest Linux distribution to install. It is adapted for new users migrating from Windows and allay them of their fears of Linux. It is also used by both seasoned and veteran Linux users. A platoon of community users have risen to the ranks of packagers and developers, wireless and networking gurus, the artists and desktop-decorators, the testers and ISO remaster masters, etc. PCLinuxOS is more than just a Linux distribution. For many, it is a way of life.

As technology sets its pace towards development and the operating system future, PCLinuxOS is right on the heels of big names in Linux. Although PCLinuxOS wasn't on the KDE 4 summit, when Mandriva, Fedora, [add other Linux distros who shipped KDE 4 early in its development] shipped theirs, main developer, Texstar was the smarter for his wait-and-see strategy. It paid off (at least in terms of the stability of the version) and pleased a multitude of PCLinuxOS users who had now upgraded. Short stories and posts of which are abundant in the forum.

KDE 4.3.1 on PCLinuxOS still has its kinks and potholes but a wise PCLinuxOS user's words comes into mind - "No operating system is perfect." The PCLinuxOS repository still lacks several KDE 4 applications that were available on KDE 3.5.x but PCLinuxOS users are assured that these upgrades will be packaged and distributed sooner rather than later. The PCLinuxOS Support Forum has a thread (and hopefully a separate section) for KDE 4.

This article is about my personal experiences using KDE 4.3.x duing the last couple of months. And I should add that it was rather radically simple and satisfying. It was comparable to watching my best friend's son learning to turn over and crawl, walk, run, jump, swim, etc. Certainly, I ran into kernel panics and hanged reboots, and had reinstalled several times but those initial testings were done on VirtualBox so nothing was really lost. Back then KDE 4, was still a hard conversion but leave it to the PCLinuxOS developers and they've come up with the ingenius task-kde4 that ensures an error-free transition to the latest DE version.

For the benefit of this review, I recreated my current installation using VirtualBox so I might be able to include snapshots of the default images for easy references. Typically, any PCLinuxOS install would do but I opted for the best and sensible choice, Minime09. This way, the recreation is minimal.

There are a few important things to bear in mind. Backup your most vital and important files. I am in the habit of saving to a removable hard disk and making remasters. Apart from the visible folders, you might want to take a look at the hidden files which contain your Firefox bookmarks and addons, newsfeeds, received and sent emails, 3D effects settings, etc. The PCLinuxOS Support Forum and #pclinuxos-support on Freenode are at a click of an application to help any users with issues and queries.


A fresh install of PCLinuxOS Minime 09

I had a clean install ... well not exactly. As root I cleaned up all the /home partition of all hidden dot files but left my humongous music, photos and video collections intact. On installing Minime09, I only reformatted the root partition. It took me a bit of work to get some of my old configuration that I had backed up back in place but they're back. I know this may sound a bit foolish but I did get a fresh KDE 4.3.1 to look like my old KDE 3.5.10 setup leaving the KDE 4 touch and feel to it. It seem to be faster, responsive, stylish and more importantly, stable than the previous. Why did I want to set it up to look like KDE 3.5.10? Well, if you are curious, you'll just have to post the question on Sanbox.

In addition, I have modified the GRUB background and splash together with the KDM login manager and KSplash to match the KDE 4's Air theme. The components and configurations are available but since I am not a packager, I have not made it available to anyone who might like to use them. However, if you are interested, you may make the request on the PCLinuxOS Magazine forum.




Modified PCLinuxOS KDE 4 GRUB Menu


Minime09 GRUB Splash


Modified PCLinuxOS KDE 4 GRUB Splash

Like I mentioned, there are still a shortfall of task-specific applications but overall KDE 4.3.1 is a usuable DE. Obviously, we won't have the same preferences so I will not mention my preferred applications like Firefox, KMail, KVirc, GIMP, Inkscape, Amarok, Kino, VLC, etc. but instead comment on the essential system applications and their interactions with KDE 4.3.1 in general.

There was a time long ago when I wondered which was important of the GUIs - Synaptic or the PCLinuxOS Control Center. Yeah, there'll be those who'd say they're rip-offs but that point is moot. For me, they're neither or both. Linux, at a time almost forgotten was apt-get and drakconf. These days, the icons that launches specific tasks are advances towards the right direction. Most won't have to worry about the CLI and focus on getting the job done instead. Still, the command line is the vital nerve to the kernel heart.

Synaptic on KDE 4.3.1 is pretty much the same whether you run it on KDE 3.5.10, GNOME, XFCE, LXDE or E17. It's selecting the applications you'd want to upgrade, install or remove. The PCLinuxOS Control Center is the same as well.


Login Manager for Minime09


KDE 4.3.1


Modification of KDE 4.3.1


KDE Splash for Minime09


KDE 4.3.1


Modification of KDE 4.3.1

One that was actually different is the KDE Control Center. The tree layout is different and the sections (though logical) needed getting familiar with. One minor issue I have is with displaying Xinerama. For whatever reason, I cannot seem to get a 2560x800 wallpaper across the two monitors. Eventually, I may ask the more knowledgeable community members in the support for for any input and solution. So for now, I content myself with the single laptop display.

I use a combination of Plasmoids and Superkarambas, which works out really well for me. I am too selective for my own good. Apart from the common layout of the taskbar, I have replaced a couple of widgets (such as the Plasmoid Smooth-Tasks) and am running a home-brewed system monitor widget. I also use a combination of KDE native 3D effects and Compiz. I must admit that transparencies are better on KDE 4.3.1 than in 3.5.10. And to top it all, I launch applications via Cairo-Dock using the Neon theme adding my own personal touch on the icons.


Default Desktop for Minime09


Default Desktop for PCLinuxOS KDE 4.3.1


A KDE 4.3.1 Desktop

So those were the few good things (and bad). On my wishlist are a fix to the Menu Editor that can't seem to run (D-bus related issues, possibly) and a few more applications I've been waiting to get packaged (like a KDE-native dictionary application, although I'm sure I still have to try out KDing), and better functionalities to Plasma.

One thing I am sure of though. I have ventured to the path of KDE 4.3.x and I know I will continue to use it. Will I still use KDE 3.5.10? If I have to, I won't mind spinning with an old friend.