KDE 4.2: Finally a new Linux desktop I can like

I won't rehash my feelings about earlier versions of KDE. Suffice it to say I didn't like it and you can review my comments about KDE 4.0 and KDE 4.1 elsewhere. At first glance, I also wasn't impressed with KDE 4.2, but I decided to give it one more try, after some performance fixes in the latest edition, and I'm finally impressed.

What got me to look at KDE 4.2.2 was the unofficial release of openSUSE 11.1 'Reloaded' with KDE 4.2.2 packages. As Joe Brockmeier, openSUSE's community manager told me, "This is an installable live CD, so it's good for anybody who wants to run 11.1 without having to grab all of the updates since December, and for users who want to test out the latest & greatest KDE without having to re-do their system."

Brockmeier, aka Zonker, added "This is not an 'official' release, so it's not gotten the same level of testing as an 'official' release, but should be a relatively good release and is based on packages from 11.1, excepting the later KDE software."

That was good enough for me, so I downloaded the Reloaded CD image and installed it on an HP EliteBook 2530p, a 3-lb. ultra-light notebook that comes with a 1.86-GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 2GBs of RAM. This powerhouse netbook came with Novell SLED 11 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) installed on it so I had no doubts it could handle openSUSE. It also had the horses that I knew KDE 4.2 would require to show its stuff.

Since the EliteBook doesn't have an optical drive, I used an external Sony DVD drive to load the live CD. There's no ready-to-go version for a USB stick at this time.

The installation took about half-an-hour, and the very first thing I noticed that KDE 4.2 was actually running quickly! I had tried to run KDE 4.1.3 on the very same netbook, and I quickly threw it out in favor of GNOME 2.24 because it was too darn slow. Not KDE 4.2.2, this model shows a good turn of speed both on the screen and in running programs.

I also appreciated that FolderView is far more flexible. I like the traditional WIMP (Windows, Icon, Mouse, and Pointer) interface of KDE 3.5x, and with this new version of FolderView I can have it. All I had to do was right-click on the desktop, pick Appearance Settings and set the Desktop Activity Type to FolderView. Ta-da, I'm back to the style of interface I already know how to use. Of course, if you'd rather have a floating FolderView or two, you can do that as well.

KDE 4.2's default look, Ozone/Oxygen isn't for me. But, this Reloaded version of openSUSE and KDE uses the 'Aya' theme. This theme is clean, gives users control over the desktop's colors, and it's just a lot easier on the eyes than Ozone.

KDE 4.2.2 is also a lot easier on the system. Earlier versions of the KDE 4.x series were prone to memory leaks and instability. This latest edition doesn't eat up memory like a famished elephant presented with a dump-truck of peanuts and it's much more stable. In fact, KDE 4.2.2 is the first edition of the KDE 4.x series that I think is good enough for any user, rather than expert Linux users.

Is KDE 4.2.2 going to replace GNOME 2.26 or KDE 3.5.10 as my favorite Linux desktops? No, not yet. But, I am finally looking forward to seeing what comes next from the KDE 4.x family. And, I think any Linux desktop user should now give KDE 4.2.2 a try. You might just find that KDE 4.x is for you.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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