Experience, Information Technology

First Look at KDE Neon 5.8.6

KDE Neon screen shotI finally got fed up with the sluggish performance of Linux Lite on my I7 Quad-core. I mean a box with 16Gig of RAM, an SSD and an Nvidia card having 384 CUDA core ought to run much better. Indeed it has run much better with other distros but those distros had issues I couldn’t live with and couldn’t take the time to try and fix. Eventually I will be playing with some YOCTO builds on my 6-core AMD so needed to find a responsive distro.

Installation occurred on 3 different machines:

  1. I7 Quad-core HP small form factor desktop with Nvidia card 16Gig RAM
  2. HP laptop (sorry don’t have it handy but believe it to be AMD based) 8Gig RAM
  3. Acer Aspire One 722-0022 netbook AMD C60 dual core 8Gig RAM

When you get the proper OS on that little Acer and get used to the tinier keyboard, it’s a sweet little machine. The only netbook ever made worth buying. Linux Lite was making it run like a dual floppy 286.

Installation on the I7 wasn’t rough, but wasn’t good. Once again I was bitten by the Ubuntu-don’t-test-shit bug. Because this desktop has a primary SSD and a 1TB drive, it booted to a Grub error after install. I’m sooooo used to this I didn’t even flinch at having to pull out my boot repair disk after a fresh install.

The Discover software center is a bit of a train wreck. If you have a lot of updates to apply don’t be surprised if it just stops without error or warning during the update process. When that happens experiment with ways of killing off the Discover package, open up a terminal and use the following commands:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

This assumes you don’t have a lock to deal with. There are plenty of posts on-line about how to get rid of the update lock.

About all you want to do with the Discover package is use it to install Synaptic Package Manager then use this trusted tool which always works to install everything else you want like Thunderbird and Libre Office. Yes, unlike so many other KDE desktop distros, this one didn’t stick you with worthless packages like KMail and Caligra.

Yes, I still had to hack the configuration to make the USB recognize my Doro 626.

sudo nano /etc/usb_modeswitch.conf

Change the line:

DisableSwitching=0

to

DisableSwitching=1

save, exit and reboot. Now when you plug your phone it it behaves as it should.

One of the recent updates might have fixed that though. I just checked my usb_modeswitch.conf file before writing this and it is back to the zero value and my phone still works when plugged in.

The biggest issue you will run into is KDE Neon does not provide a “Drivers” option anywhere in the installed applications. You know, one of those nice little graphical tools which chews on your machine for a while then magically spits up a list of proprietary non-free drivers available for installation. Once again you need to go to the command line:

roland@roland-HP-Compaq-8100-Elite-SFF-PC:~$ sudo ubuntu-drivers devices
== /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:03.0/0000:01:00.0 ==
modalias : pci:v000010DEd00001284sv000019DAsd00001308bc03sc00i00
model    : GK208 [GeForce GT 630 Rev. 2]
vendor   : NVIDIA Corporation
driver   : nvidia-375 - distro non-free recommended
driver   : nvidia-340 - distro non-free
driver   : xserver-xorg-video-nouveau - distro free builtin

== cpu-microcode.py ==
driver   : intel-microcode - distro non-free

Once you have identified the available drivers for your machine use sudo apt install to install them by hand. Yes, I still type apt-get a lot. I realize there is now a synonym of just apt, I just don’t always remember while typing.

After installing your Nvidia driver and rebooting you are ready to install virtualbox and BOINC. If you happen to participate in LHC it won’t take many days before the infamous “virtualbox not installed” notices start to appear. It’s another case of Ubuntu-don’t-test-shit. Sadly, this hack no longer works. The original Ubuntu base has historically had problems with protection settings on the installation directories which the hack used to get around. There appears to be a deeper problem now.

Let’s be honest. If you are professional enough to be running Linux instead of that obsolete Windows platform, you should be helping the LHC project out as well. We can’t live in a real world Star Trek until we get this anti-matter thing all worked out. We just have to get a Linux distro which either A) installs virtualbox correctly or B) automatically adds BOINC to the virtualbox groups so it can read/write to all of the virtualbox directories. Actually, non-YABU (Yet Another uBUntu) distros don’t have this problem. It appears to be a Ubuntu only pooch.

Now we get to the most infuriating part of KDE Neon.

K Desktop developers use KDevelop for everything. I won’t pretend to know much about KDevelop. When I looked at it years ago it made Eclipse seem lightweight. It had syntax and development support built in for every language which had ever been ported to Unix or Linux. Don’t think of it as an editor like UltraEdit with syntax highlighting for a zillion languages, this had full fledged IDE support for each language. I don’t think it is possible to overstate the topic here. Every Bell Labs worker and college student who had to create their own language to achieve some kind of curriculum goal seemed to have added support to KDevelop for their new language which had, at best, 3 users.

If you open up the Synaptic Package Manager and search for “compiler” you will see hundreds of files, but, if you scroll down looking at the descriptions you will see only about a dozen languages. Old standbys like C/C++, COBOL, FORTRAN, ADA and a few others, but all of those really weird 1-5 letter languages are gone. I was shocked there was only a BASIC interpreter now, not a compiler. It appears the BASIC compilers have their own little worlds now and don’t get pulled into distros much. I mean FreeBASIC has been around forever. As one can see, there are still quite a few BASIC compilers out there for Linux. I was really shocked to stumble across KBasic. Given all of the Qt work I do I must admit to never having heard of it.

At any rate, sorry for the diversion there. The K Desktop developers use KDevelop (which has lost about 7/8ths of itself by dropping support for all but a few languages) and KDevelop has its own project, build, etc. They don’t need, want or desire QtCreator because it is not an easy transition between the two worlds. The K Desktop is built uses Qt. All of the libraries and things needed for KDevelop users to code and compile are there. QtCreator, however, will not install. One of its dependencies is too far behind the bleeding edge included with the desktop.

Calibre also will not install due to the same dependency issue so, don’t plan on using it to read ebooks.

Even though I’m a wee bit ticked off about not having QtCreator and Calibre, I must say this desktop feels lighter than a feather on all 3 machines. After I got all done getting the desktop to work “mostly” the way I want, I installed on the HP laptop without a hitch.

The Acer is a different story. No proprietary drivers are listed for its video. The default driver has a nasty flicker problem. I mean when dialogs pop up for a user response it gets all discombobulated flickering back and forth. Sometimes it leaves the dialog in the background. Other times the screen doesn’t repaint itself when the dialog goes away. There was also an oddity installing the Opera Web browser. I used the exact same .deb file on my desktop then the HP laptop without issue, but on the Acer it just would not install. I was able to install from the Opera site though. As I said, it was odd.

I cannot wait for KDE Neon to jettison its Ubuntu baggage and go full on Debian. I have gotten sooooo tired of Ubuntu-don’t-test-shit, especially when it comes to KDE.