Review: Kubuntu 8.10 'Intrepid Ibex' Alpha 4 - 24/08/2008 by Andrew
Gaming on the Cutting Edge – Part 4
I've previously looked at Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2, Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 (KDE4.1) and Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4. I was planning on reviewing OpenSuse 11.1 Alpha 2 next, though reading through their release notes it seems that it's too early to consider OpenSuse 11.1 Alpha 2 as a cutting edge gaming distro – the alpha issues heavily out way the benefits of accessing the new repositories. So instead, I'm going to look at Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4, an often overlooked distribution due to Ubuntu stealing most of the limelight (and don't forget Xubuntu, which stands in the shadow of both Ubuntu and Kubuntu).
Kubuntu 8.10 'Intrepid Ibex' Alpha 4
You're probably wondering why I'm reviewing Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4, when I've already reviewed Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4 – both of these distributions are looking at the same 'Intrepid Ibex' repositories and therefore have access to exactly the same kernels, proprietary drivers and games. The answer is simple; it's using KDE and not Gnome, and I don't believe Kubuntu gets the attention that they deserve. Truth be told, Kubuntu was the first of the “buntu's” that I tried and it remained my primary distribution for nearly a year (a very long time for me). Apart from the window manager and the programs that they're bundled with, the differences between the “buntu's” is extremely minimal (pretty much limited to different user groups, CDs, artwork, fanbois).
I downloaded the 700-odd megabyte download (Live CD, 64bit) and proceeded to burn a CD and fire up the good old test rig:
AMD Athlon 3200+ (2.0Ghz)
Gigabyte 939 Motherboard (GA-K8NSC-939)
2x512MB Geil DDR400 Dual Channel
Gigabyte 6600GT 256MB AGP 8x
LG DVD Burner (GSA-4163B)
Seagate 40GB 2MB cache ATA100
Logitech G15 keyboard + G5 mouse
Using the Live CD you're able to try Kubuntu out first before deciding to take the plunge and install it permanently. This gives you a good (though not exact) indication as to whether or not your hardware is up to scratch. Reviewing a distro without actually going to the effort of installation is bad form (though I've seen it regularly), so I've clicked the installation icon and proceeded through the various screens asking all the usual questions (where to install, location, keyboard, username and password). After this is completed, it's a simple matter of removing the CD and rebooting.
Desktop, Graphics and Games
As the artwork deadlines have not yet been hit, the artwork and graphics that you'll see will change quite considerably by the 31st of October, 2008. What (probably) won't change is KDE version 4.1. This new version of KDE brings about huge changes to the look and feel compared to version 3.5.x. It's also had it's fair share of criticisms and complaints since it's still not completely finished and when it was first released (version 4.0) it was looking more like an alpha snapshot than a final version. Regardless of these past issues, it's time to look forward and see what Kubuntu 8.10 will bring to the table. Well, even though this is only Alpha 4 and we've still got Alpha 5, 6, Beta and a Release Candidate to go, Kubuntu with KDE 4.1 looks great. While it might not be to everyone's tastes, it does look very cutting edge and has plenty of (sometimes unfinished) eye candy to keep you happy between games or web surfing sessions. It takes a bit of time to get used to the default arrangement though it's not badly designed, just different.
There's a few annoyances, Konqueror is the default browser and not Firefox (though 3.0.1 is available) and the deeper you dig the more style miss-matches you'll come across. Everything considered, I understand why we're needing to take a deep breath and go with KDE 4.x – you can just tell it's going to be great, it just needs a little bit more time and everyone (well, everyone who's into KDE) to get onboard. With just over two months to go before the final version, I've got great confidence that Kubuntu 8.10 will have filled in most, if not all, of the miss-matches that currently exists.
Game wise, you're looking at Nexuiz 2.4.2, OpenArena 0.7.7, Warsow 0.42, Glest 3.1.2, SuperTuxKart 0.5, Alien-arena 7.0, warzone2100 2.1.0~1.beta2 and Freedroidrpg 0.10.3, as well as a host of other games. On the application front, you have OpenOffice 2.4.1, Firefox 3.0.1, Gimp 2.4.6 and version 188.8.131.52 of the kernel (well, the Ubuntu version of that kernel). Just to repeat myself, Kubuntu is looking at exactly the same repositories as Ubuntu, so if it's available in Ubuntu, it's available in Kubuntu.
The big question, since Kubuntu 8.10 has the same repositories as Ubuntu 8.10, is which one to choose if you're thinking about setting up a 'buntu' Linux gaming rig. The answer is obvious; It's up to you. Do you prefer KDE over Gnome? Is KDE 4.x to your liking? Do you prefer the stability of Gnome over KDE 4.1? Or do you prefer Ubuntu as it is arguably the 'number 1' distro being used? - These are questions that only you can answer. I can say that you will, at least at this early stage, encounter more issues in Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4 than in Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4. I'm sure these issues will be ironed out over the next two months, though if you're wanting to have access to the Intrepid Ibex repos right now, I'd personally choose Ubuntu.
Which ever you choose, you can't really go wrong – Kubuntu is a solid distribution that is using a very cutting edge KDE. Wow your friends with the eye candy then tea bag the crap out of them in ET:QW, just turn a blind eye when an application crashes.