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The Official Ubuntu Book, 5th Edition: 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.
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
  • 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 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 graphically beautiful and easy-to-use Linux operating system, an OS that is simple 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 as the graphical user interface instead of GNOME, as in 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. 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 toolkit, and by 1997, the first large, complex applications were being released. However, there was much debate because Qt was not licensed with a free software license. Two projects came about from this debate, one named Harmony, 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.

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).

KDE 4.0 came with a great number of changes to the desktop environment, including the introduction of Plasma, Solid, Krunner, and many other infrastructure changes, most of which are discussed throughout this chapter.

KDE 4.4 is the current version of KDE that ships with Kubuntu 10.04. Significant improvements have been made over the first release of KDE.

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 that 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. The hardware abstraction layer (HAL) and other programs and packages had to be changed to fit the philosophy of Ubuntu. A clean Kmenu had be created, and more people were 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.

A lot of great releases have come since the first of Kubuntu, and 10.04 will build on them. Kubuntu was the first released distribution to include KDE 4.0 by default, in Kubuntu 8.10.

Like Ubuntu, Kubuntu 10.04 is a long-term release; however, it is only the second long-term release for the Kubuntu team. As mentioned elsewhere in the book, a long-term release means 10.04 will be supported on the desktop for 3 years.

Prior to the 10.04 release, a group of Kubuntu developers got together to discuss what exactly needed to be changed and improved. Out of these discussions came what has been named "Project Timelord" with the goals to focus on translations, marketing, software, user–developer interaction, and recruitment. An example of this is the Firefox Installer, discussed later in the chapter.

Kubuntu 10.04 also includes the first official release of a netbook-specific edition called Kubuntu Netbook Remix.

Kubuntu is quickly building a sizable community of its own. There are more dedicated package maintainers joining the Kubuntu community as well as a growing and equally dedicated documentation team. In addition, many community and enthusiast sites help provide both support and current information. These include sites such as 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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