Review: Kubuntu 8.10 'Intrepid Ibex' Alpha 6 - 20/09/2008 by Andrew
Gaming on the Cutting Edge – Part 5
I've previously looked at Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 2, Mandriva 2009 Beta 1 (KDE4.1), Ubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4 and Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 4. Now, just weeks away from the beta, I'm again looking at the Ubuntu family, starting with Kubuntu 8.10 Alpha 6. This might seem that I'm flogging the 'buntu's for all they're worth, though an OpenSuse, Fedora and another Mandriva revisit will be published soon. Enough about that, let's see what just over a months worth of updates has brought us.
Kubuntu 8.10 'Intrepid Ibex' Alpha 6
I'm not going to kid around with Desktop CD's (that's the Live CD that allows you to try out the system before installing) so I downloaded the Alternate 64bit version and fired up the tired but reliable test box:
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
For those that haven't using an Ubuntu (and family) Alternate CD, it's a simplistic way to install the distribution to your PC and allows you to setup some extra niceities like Linux Software RAID as well as speeding up the whole process of installing (off the top of my head, by about a quarter). It's very retro (dude, that's sooo 2005) and personally, I prefer it.
You can setup a private encrypted directory during the setup, which is very useful if you're planning on keeping confidential information on your PC.
Apart from that, nothing much has changed and it's a very straightforward install. The very first boot was quite slow for some reason and I wasn't given a button to initiate updates. After a quick reboot, things were back to normal.
Desktop, Graphics and Games
It still looks as though KDE4 (in this case KDE 4.1.1) is rough around the edges. I'd love to say that you won't notice unless you dig deep, but you will notice. You will have to decide if having a cutting edge desktop manager is worth a few glitches here and there. This is still an alpha so expect things to continue to get better as the release process continues (after release with system updates).
A number of applications are still from the KDE 3.5.x branch, so there's obviously still work to be done.
One thing that does annoy me is having to 'double shutdown' since after clicking shutdown, you again have to choose shutdown for a second time while a clock counts down from 60 seconds – just in case you change your mind. This is the same for logging out and it is something they need to fix before this goes final.
The Kernel is the very new 2.6.27 which has a host of new enhancements and better support for new hardware (something that's very important if you've just upgraded to a super new motherboard).
Installation of restricted drivers (read: proprietary graphics card drivers that are needed to give you the best 3D performance in games) was much more difficult than Ubuntu. The 'Hardware Drivers' application refused to run forcing me to use the package manager, which crashed the first time though thankfully worked on the second go. I searched for the latest Nvidia 177 driver and kicked off the download. Unfortunately, this just left me with data being incomplete in the xorg.conf – oh the fun. Everything still worked, but 3D looks to be out until some serious behind the scenes hacking takes place. For me, the ability to get 3D up and running quickly and painlessly is the most important post-distro-install task, as without it I can't fire up ET:QW and continue to bring glory to the Makron.
The games that are on offer in the repositories haven't changed much since I had a look in Alpha 4, you still have 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 and Freedroidrpg 0.10.3 as well as huge collection of other games. There should be nothing stopping you installing Neverwinter Nights, UT2004, ET:QW, Doom 3, Quake 4 or whatever your favorite native closed-source game, so long as you can get 3D working.
I really wanted to see a marked improvement from the last time I looked at Kubuntu (8.10 Alpha 4), though it still looks rough and I can't recommend that early adopters should start using it. As much as I'm currently using Gnome as my main desktop manager, I believe that a (relatively) bug free and complete KDE 4 will see me switch and use this full time – looks like I'll be waiting a little while longer. Of course it's still an Alpha, though with just over a month till the final version, the people behind Kubuntu have a lot of work on their hands.