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The Official Ubuntu Book: Using Kubuntu

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The Kubuntu Project strives to take the best of Ubuntu and the best of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) to produce a great Linux distribution. This chapter covers information ranging from what exactly Kubuntu is to how to manage and keep your Kubuntu system up-to-date with the latest applications and fixes.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Chapter 7. Using Kubuntu

  • Introduction to Kubuntu
  • Installing Kubuntu
  • Customizing Kubuntu
  • Systems Administration
  • Managing Files with Kubuntu
  • Common Applications
  • Finding Help and Giving Back to the Community
  • Summary

THE KUBUNTU PROJECT STRIVES to take the best of Ubuntu and the best of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) to produce a great Linux distribution. This chapter will cover information ranging from what exactly Kubuntu is to how to manage and keep your Kubuntu system up-to-date with the latest applications and fixes. The goal of Kubuntu is to provide a great Linux operating system (OS) that provides a simple and easy-to-use OS through great graphical tools and an OS that is easy to customize to your desire.

Introduction to Kubuntu

Kubuntu is an official project of Ubuntu—a complete implementation of the Ubuntu OS led by Jonathan Riddell (an employee of Canonical Ltd.) and an army of developers. However, Kubuntu uses KDE instead of GNOME for Ubuntu. The main goal of Kubuntu is to be a great integrated Linux distribution with all of the great features of Ubuntu, but based on KDE. Since Kubuntu is an official part of the Ubuntu community it adheres to the same Ubuntu manifesto: Great software should be available free of charge and should be usable by people in their own language regardless of disability. Also, people should be able to customize and alter their software in ways they deem fit.

Like Ubuntu, Kubuntu makes the following commitments: the very best translations and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer; Kubuntu will always be free of charge, and there is no extra cost for an "enterprise" version, and Kubuntu will always provide the latest and best software from the KDE community.

Looking for a certain piece of software? Kubuntu has it, with more then 1,000 pieces of software in its repositories including the latest kernel version and, of course, the latest KDE, which at the time of this writing is at version 3.5.2. The standard desktop applications (Web browsing, e-mail, word processing, and spreadsheet applications) allow Kubuntu to replace any current desktop OS. If you are running servers, whether it is a Web server, e-mail server, or database server, Kubuntu can do that as well.

History of KDE

In 1996, Matthias Ettrich posted a now famous newsgroup post that described some of the problems that he had with the Unix Desktop.

Unix popularity grows thanks to the free variants, mostly Linux. But still a consistent, nice looking, free desktop environment is missing. There are several nice either free or low-priced applications available, so that Linux/X11 would almost fit everybody's needs if we could offer a real GUI...

IMHO a GUI should offer a complete graphical environment. It should allow a user to do his everyday tasks with it, like starting applications, reading mail, configuring his dekstop... All parts must fit together and work together....

The goal is NOT to create a GUI for the complete Unix-system or the System-Administrator... The idea is to create a GUI for an ENDUSER.

With this post he started building the KDE Project. KDE originally stood for Kool Desktop Environment but later was adapted to be K Desktop Environment. The mascot for KDE is a green dragon named Konqi, who can be found in various applications.

Matthias chose to develop KDE around the QT Toolkit, and by 1997 the first large complex applications were being released. In 1998, version 1.0 was released. However, there was much debate based on the fact that QT was not licensed around a free software license. Two projects came about from this debate, one named "Harmony" which would only use free libraries and another project called GNOME. In 1998, the QT toolkit was licensed under a new Open Source license called the Q Public License (QPL), and in 2000 QT was released under the Gnu General Public License (GPL).

KDE is primarily a volunteer effort. However, many companies employ developers to work on this project. Some of these companies include Novell (through the purchase of SUSE Linux), Trolltech (the company that produces the QT toolkit), and many others.

At the time of this writing the current version of KDE is 3.5.2. The next major release of KDE will be version 4 and will include many changes. For more information on KDE visit the project's Web site at www.kde.org. The project's homepage also provides information on how you can help out with the project and contribute back to the KDE community.

History of Kubuntu

When Ubuntu was first being discussed there were rumors that it would be only based on GNOME, and KDE would be left out. Jonathan Riddell, a KDE developer, posted an article on his Web log (blog) that soon became the No. 1 hit on Google for Ubuntu Linux. The article states:

The signs are there that this could be something big, more so than the likes of Linspire, Xandros, or Lycrosis. Unlike those companies, they [Canonical Ltd. Software] understand Free Software and open development. It is likely to be a GNOME-based job, but maybe there is a KDE developer out there who is working for them without letting on. If not I'm always available.

This post started a flurry of activity both for Riddell and the others who wanted to participate.

A lot of changes needed to be made to get Kubuntu working correctly. A hardware-accessible library needed to be changed. Programs and packages needed to be created, along with a clean K-menu changed to fit the philosophy of Ubuntu. And along the way more people needed to join the project. It was a conscious decision to keep the default KDE colors and icons in order to remain as close to KDE as possible.

Once a preview release of Ubuntu (Hoary Hedgehog) came out, another flurry of activity ensued that had developers uploading last-minute changes—including some that broke almost everything they had set up—and the first CDs were released. Since this initial release Kubuntu has grown and changed. New items in the Breezy (5.10) release included system settings, automatic mounting when inserting a USB drive, and, of course, the latest KDE. In the next release, Dapper Drake (6.04), there are almost the same numbers of changes the latest version of KDE (version 3.5.2) along with featuring the addition of zerconf discovery, a new installer, Katapult enabled by default, and CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Language) support.

Kubuntu is quickly building up a sizable community of its own. Not only are there new package managers and a dedicated documentation team, but also many community and fan sites to help provide support and the most current information. Kubuntu has grown tremendously from just one developer to a large group as it continues to improve the quality of the distribution.

Navigating in Kubuntu

All of the applications in Kubuntu are stored in the K menu in the left-hand bottom corner of the task bar. This menu is organized in a manner that flows smoothly and makes sense. Items that involve a connection to the Internet are grouped under the Internet section while items that deal with music, videos, or pictures are grouped under Multimedia. Like everything else, this can be customized or changed to fit your needs. This will be discussed later. Any new application installed will find its appropriate spot in the K menu.


Figure 7-1 Katapult provides an easy way to open just about any application without wasting time searching for its location in the K menu.

The next three icons on the task bar are shortcuts to the System Menu, Konqueror, and Kontact. The system menu allows you to navigate quickly to places such as your home directory, a listing of attached media devices, and even remote places. The Konqueror shortcut launches the default file management tool. We cover this in more detail later in the chapter. Kontact is the default Personal Information Manager (PIM) and will be discussed later on as well. To further emphasize the clean look of Kubuntu, there are no icons on the desktop, as Figure 7-2 shows.


Figure 7-2 The clean look of the Kubuntu desktop.

The developers have spent a lot of time making Kubuntu easy to navigate and also very easy to customize.

Shutting Your Computer Down and Logging Out

To shut your computer down, log out, or switch users go to the K menu, and then select the option you would like. Kubuntu is a multiuser (many users per system) OS. You can either lock your session and switch to a new user or just start a new session. The other option is to lock the session so no one else can access your Kubuntu session without the password. The final choice at the bottom of the K menu is to End the Current Session.

Ending a session is the location you would choose to either turn off your computer, reboot, or end the current session (log out). See Figure 7-3, which depicts these options.


Figure 7-3 Logging out of Kubuntu.

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