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A First Look at Kubuntu-Jaunty (v9.04)

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Are you looking for a Linux distribution with an ultramodern look with plenty of eye candy? One that will run on older desktop computers or current netbooks? Does the well-known stability and security of Linux interest you? Does a high level of user customization( without having to edit configuration files manually) sound like something you'd like? Are you an experienced KDE user who has heard the (accurate) horror stories about early versions of KDE4? A. Lizard thinks that Kubuntu-Jaunty just might be the distribution you are looking for.
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Kubuntu 9.04 ("Jaunty") is the KDE version of the new release of Ubuntu-Jaunty. It uses the new KDE4.2.2, the bug-fixed version of KDE4.x. Figure 1 shows how Kubuntu looks on an Eee PC900 netbook with the panel to the left populated with my choice of applications and the clock swapped out. The font on the default clock is too small for comfortable reading on a small display. (What you can do about this is spelled out later in the article.)

Figure 1 Jaunty desktop

I am delighted to report that KDE4.2.2 is finally ready for prime time. It's stable, has almost all the KDE applications in place, looks great, and is easy to use—though KDE users who are switching directly from KDE3.5.x will have to get used to minor UI differences.

It also has many of the netbook-specific drivers required to make the distro work on many netbooks built into the kernel, meaning no more searches for netbook make/model–specific drivers or hacked kernels with the drivers built in if your specific netbook is supported. Mine is. Yours may not be; do your research before installation.

The OS is sufficiently trouble-free that this will be mainly a review of the UI differences between KDE3.5.10 and KDE4.2.2. If it Just Works, there isn't really much to say about it.


In general, like any other current-generation OS, when you install, accept the defaults unless you have good reason to do otherwise and know what that reason is.

Virtualbox VM/Physical Machine

Just drop in the LiveCD and either start the installation wizard when the CD opens or wait until it gets to the desktop. Make sure that it deals with the physical hardware correctly and click the install icon on the desktop.

Either way, follow the wizard until you reboot to a new KDE desktop. If your hardware is supported, there isn't much to say about it, it should Just Work.


First, make sure that yours is supported by the drivers in Ubuntu-Jaunty by searching it on Google. You may have to install new ones after the installation. Do this via wired connection to the Net if wireless is one of the drivers you need to install. Make sure the peripherals you want are turned on in BIOS.

If you're installing the OS to a laptop hard drive, just accept the default OS/setup choice.

If you're installing the OS to a SSD flash drive, use the default ext3 filesystem, despite the recommendations against it in various places on the Net. There is new thinking based on system tests about the actual wear created by a journaling filesystem such as ext3 that suggests that this is no longer a problem on current-generation SSDs.

You should also create it without a swap file. This will save lots of wear on the SSD and extend its lifespan before you have to buy a replacement.

No swap file tradeoffs:

  • You'll probably run into an occasional crash because of running out of memory (if it's 1G DRAM, the fix is to upgrade to 2G).
  • At that point, you'll have to deal with the consequences of lack of journaling in the filesystem when fsck opens on the reboot…lots of bad directory entries you'll have to click "yes" to in order to get it to work.

    For more explanations, read the Wikipedia article on journaling file systems. And worst of all, configuration files or the filesystem pointers to them can get corrupted in a crash. I fixed the file corruption problem by installing Kubuntu-Jaunty fresh and letting it create a workable default configuration, including an ext3 filesystem.

  • Hibernate will not work because it has nowhere to store the system state to without a swap file, but the fix for that is to create a hibernate.img file and modify the hibernate configuration files to match.
  • I'm still researching this. I believe the trade-off is worth it because SSDs are relatively expensive and use of swap is exactly the kind of high-write usage that reduces their lifespan.

    In the meantime, change the Power Management Configuration (System Settings, Advanced Tab) to turn the system off when the battery is almost out (the default is 5% power) and remember that Suspend lasts for quite a while but not forever. If you expect to be not using your computer for a significant length of time, shut it down before closing the lid.

The how-to on using a Virtualbox installation to prepare an OS flash card to serve as the OS drive for an Eee PC is the procedure I used to get Kubuntu-Jaunty into the netbook. The ease of use for Linux is improving fast enough that how-to information often goes obsolete quickly.

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