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The Official Ubuntu Book, 2e: Using Kubuntu

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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. The goal of Kubuntu is to provide a simple and easy-to-use Linux OS through great graphical tools, an OS that is easy to customize to your desire.
This chapter is from the book

Introduction to Kubuntu

Installing Kubuntu

Navigating in Kubuntu

Customizing Kubuntu

System Administration

Managing Files with Kubuntu

Common Applications

Finding Help and Giving Back to the Community


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. The goal of Kubuntu is to provide a simple and easy-to-use Linux OS through great graphical tools, an OS that is easy to customize to your desire.

Introduction to Kubuntu

Kubuntu is an official product 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 an 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 and 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: Kubuntu will provide 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 than 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 version 3.5.5. 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 they're Web servers, e-mail servers, or database servers—Kubuntu can do that as well.

A History of KDE

In 1996, Matthias Etrich posted a now famous newsgroup post that described some of the problems 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 desktop.... All parts must fit 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 that post he started building the KDE Project. KDE originally stood for the Kool Desktop Environment but 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 tookit, 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 with a free software license. Two projects came about from this debate, one named Ham/Bugsrmony, which would use only 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) and Trolltech (the company that produces the Qt toolkit).

At the time of this writing the current version of KDE is 3.5.5. 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 home page also provides information on how you can help with the project and contribute to the KDE community.

A History of Kubuntu

When Ubuntu was first being discussed there were rumors that it would be based only on GNOME and KDE would be left out. Jonathan Riddell, a KDE developer, posted an article on his blog that soon became the Number 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.] 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 for both Riddell and the others who wanted to participate.

A lot of changes needed to be made to get Kubuntu working correctly. A hardware abstraction layer (HAL) needed to be changed; programs and packages needed to be created, along with a clean KMenu changed to fit the philosophy of Ubuntu; and 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 Badger (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 were almost the same numbers of changes, including the latest version of KDE (then version 3.5.2), the addition of Zeroconf discovery, a new installer, default enabling of Katapult, and CKJ (Chinese, Korean, and Japanese language) support.

After that came Kubuntu 6.10, the Edgy Eft release, which also had many changes. Included in this version was a new theme, updates to OpenOffice.org and Firefox, and as always the latest version of KDE, 3.5.5. A big change in Edgy was its focus on accessibility, including the addition of a screen magnifier (KMag) and a utility to help with mouse clicking for those who have repetitive strain problems (KMouseTool). Kubuntu 6.06 was built around stability, while 6.10 was built to be the foundation for future releases of Kubuntu.

The current version, Kubuntu 7.04, the Feisty Fawn release, expands on the new infrastructure developed in 6.10 and branches out in some exciting new directions. Feature development in Feisty Fawn includes improvements to hardware support in the laptop, desktop, and high-end server markets, as well as aggressive adoption of the emerging desktop technologies. Like all other releases, Kubuntu 7.04 includes the latest version of KDE.

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

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