⌚ August 23, 2012
No Linux distribution has demonstrated better performance and ease of use across various hardware combinations than the beloved Ubuntu 10.10. If one Linux distribution could win the gold medal for outstanding performance and the best Ubuntu distribution of all time, it would be Ubuntu 10.10. Unfortunately, Ubuntu 10.10 is no longer supported, and newer versions have lost what made Ubuntu great to begin with.
In seeking an updated version of Linux while staying within the Ubuntu line and without adopting the putrid digital slumgullion known better as Unity or GNOME3, Kubuntu 12.04 64-bit was installed on the Acer Aspire One 722 netbook to see how it would perform.
NOTE: This applies to the Acer Aspire One 722-0427 model. There appears to be various 722 models available that might produce different incompatibilities with Linux.
This was a surprise. Early LiveCD versions of Xubuntu 10, Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and even Lubuntu installed fine on the Aspire One, but all of the latest 12.04 versions of Xubuntu, Kubuntu, and Linux Mint MATE displayed errors messages during installation from the LiveCD.
Specifically, errors saying something to the effect of “ubi-partmon failed exit code 10” appeared as well as other ubi-console-setup and ubi-usersetup error messages. They asked whether to continue or not and warned that continuing might result in an unusable system.
That was true. Choosing to ignore the errors results in an unusable netbook because the operating systems do not install completely.
The only way to install Kubuntu 12.04 was to use the 12.04 alternate CD. None of the “ubi errors” occurred. Kubuntu installed fine, and a few minutes later, the netbook booted into a fully working KDE system.
The Kubuntu 12.04 Desktop
Installing the New Kernel
Kubuntu 12.04 64-bit uses kernel 3.2.0, so it was updated to version 3.4.7 by downloading and installing kernel 3.4.7 Quantal from http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/.
When updating the kernel, use the Quantal, not Precise version. Quantal requires four files, not three like Precise did.
All kernel deb files were installed as a batch by running,
sudo dpkg -i *.deb
inside the kernel directory.
Update GRUB2 using sudo update-grub and then reboot.
Installing Proprietary Catalyst Video Drivers
The default graphics produce a usable system without the need for proprietary video drivers, but desktop effects require them. Installing the proprietary video driver on Ubuntu 10.10 was a chore. Since Kubuntu 12.04 is the latest version, surely the drivers work better, right?
Not at all. At first, the Catalyst 12.6 drivers were installed. No show. Literally. The drivers would install to a point but report incomplete installation. This was the same error encountered in Ubuntu 10.10 with Catalyst 12.6. Catalyst 12.6 did not work with Kubuntu 12.04, so Catalyst 12.6 was uninstalled and the netbook was rebooted.
This resulted in a screen full of gray pixels upon boot.
The solution was to reboot and select the recovery kernel from the GRUB2 boot menu (hold right shift upon system power on). Then, Kubuntu booted into a basic video mode.
Catalyst 12.4 drivers worked, but they needed source code modification. After installing the Catalyst 12.4 video drivers (scroll down to “Reinstalling 12.4“) in Kubuntu 12.04 the same way as in Ubuntu 10.10, the netbook had full working video with desktop effects.
After this, the desktop effects must be enabled manually. (Check to make sure that Kubuntu is not operating in failsafe mode or else the desktop effects will not enable.)
- Open Desktop Settings > Desktop Effects > Advanced
- Choose the compositing type: OpenGL
- In the General tab, make sure the “Enable desktop effects” is checked.
What About Compiz?
In theory, we should be able to replace kwin with Compiz. This does work, but not completely. Transparency effects are lost, window decorations are missing, and desktop effects, such as Expo, Ring Switcher, and the Desktop Cube, do not work despite hours of twiddling and tweaking. In Ubuntu 10.10, enabling eye-catching features, such as the Desktop Cube, is extremely simple. Just open the CompizConfig Settings Manager and turn it on. Simple.
No such luxury exists in Kubuntu 12.04 (or Ubuntu 12.04 or Xubuntu 12.04 for that matter) despite being the latest version. The default kwin worked best.
Kwin supports desktop effects similar to Compiz, but they are not as complete. There is a desktop cube available in kwin, but Compiz supports more features. Compiz in Ubuntu 10.10 is far superior to kwin in Kubuntu 12.04.
What About Suspend and Hibernate?
Just like Ubuntu 10.10, suspend and hibernate do not work once the proprietary video drivers are installed. The netbook will go into a suspend mode, for example, but the display never wakes up. A forced reboot (hold the netbook’s power button for five seconds) is required.
It is better to shut down the netbook completely rather than enter a power-saving mode.
The power cord beep still exists, but it can be muted using alsamixer. However, this is an annoying “feature” built into the netbook itself, so there is apparently no way to disable it completely. The netbook still beeps (LOUDLY) when plugging or unplugging the power cord before any OS loads.
The microphone recording levels are still low. Just like in Ubuntu 10.10. This appears to be an issue with Linux not fully supporting the hardware since the microphone works properly with Windows 7.
After several months of use running Kubuntu 12.04 on the Acer Aspire One 722 netbook, battery life is the same as in Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7. Kubuntu 12.04 lasts the same amount of time, so there is no advantage in switching to Kubuntu 12.04 hoping to conserve battery life.
Wireless works! Of course, set the wireless adapter as the first boot device in BIOS.
However, it was difficult to find hidden wireless access points. This appears to be an issue with Kubuntu and the knetworkmanager since many users were experiencing the same problem. So, these steps were followed to find the hidden access point:
1. Use ifconfig to locate the name of the wireless adapter.
Usually, it’s wlan0, but it never hurts to double check.
2. Create the wireless connection as normal by clicking on the network icon in the panel and clicking Manage Connections. Enter the settings, password, and anything else needed.
3. Open a terminal and enter this to register the hidden access point:
sudo iwlist wlan0 scan essid "access point name"
For comparison, Ubuntu 10.10 always automatically located hidden access points without needing to do any of this.
Kubuntu has always been a personal favorite (ranking second to GNOME2), so it is nice to see a familiar, updated interface that is not trying too hard to get in the way of using a computer like the Playskool-esque Unity or the annoying GNOME3.
Kubuntu 12.04 uses KDE version 4. It’s a slick-looking desktop environment, and offers some of the best eyecandy available–surpassing even a Mac OS X system. Even so, KDE4 requires a few tweaks after installation to make it more usable. One example is switching the KMenu to the classic view. Classic View is much easier and quicker to navigate.
The visual fireworks offered by KDE Plasma come at a resource price. More memory and a speedy system are needed to best view fluid graphics. Graphics were usually fluid and zippy on the netbook and complete with the sleek-looking, blurred transparency effects. However, slowdown happens more often than it did with Ubuntu 10.10 and Compiz.
How Fast is Kubuntu 12.04 on the Netbook?
These measurements were timed with a plain stopwatch to better emulate the real world.
Three separate installations and tests were performed, one at a time, on the same Acer Aspire One netbook. 7200RPM and 5400RPM hard drives were used to see how the RPM rating would affect loading times.
K.5400 = Kubuntu 12.04 64-bit 5400 RPM K.7200 = Kubuntu 12.04 64-bit 7200 RPM U.5400 = Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit 5400 RPM K.5400 K.7200 U.5400 ------------------------------------------ On-Login 52s 57s 1m11 Login-Desktop 40s 40s 28s On-Desktop 1m32s 1m37s 1m39s Firefox 12s 15s 10s Opera 7s 8s 6s VLC 5s 5s 12s SMPlayer 2s 2s 2s Power off 9s 11s 11s
The measured times are surprising because Kubuntu definitely seems slower than Ubuntu 10.10 even though the numbers say otherwise. No idea why the 7200 RPM Kubuntu took longer in some cases than the same Kubuntu on the 5400 RPM drive.
The numbers were recorded multiple times to check for errors, but the results were always similar to those shown. One thing is clear: Kubuntu 12.04 is more demanding than Ubuntu 10.10. Kubuntu 12.04 running on a 7200 RPM hard drive produces about the same results as Ubuntu 10.10 running on a slower 5400 RPM hard drive.
Not shown, but Ubuntu 10.10 running on a 7200 RPM hard drive outperforms them all.
How much RAM and CPU does Kubuntu 12.04 use during idle after a power up?
Another surpriser. Given how Kubuntu *feels* slower overall than Ubuntu 10.10, it would be assumed that more CPU and RAM are being consumed. Not so. System monitor showed modest resource usage at idle after a fresh power on.
Kubuntu 12.04 System Monitor
Ubuntu 10.10 System Monitor
OS CPU RAM ------------------------------------- Kubuntu 12.04 64-bit ~20% ~480MB Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit ~12-20% ~360MB
Idle CPU usage and memory were about the same, though Ubuntu 10.10 consumed less memory at 360MB compared to 480MB for Kubuntu 12.04.
Is It Worth Upgrading to Kubuntu 12.04 on the Aspire One?
This is a mixed answer because Kubuntu 12.04 does some things better than Ubuntu 10.10 while Ubuntu 10.10 does some things better than Kubuntu 12.04.
After using Kubuntu 12.04 on the netbook for several months, it is safe to say that Kubuntu 12.04 offers very little advantage over Ubuntu 10.10 regarding everyday usage. In fact, the netbook feels like it runs slower than Ubuntu 10.10 due to the fancy graphics. It seems like opening programs and files takes a few seconds longer than it does in Ubuntu 10.10. Of course, once the programs and files have been cached into memory, they open almost instantly.
Many packages, such as libc6 and VLC, are updated, so this is definitely an advantage. Kubuntu 12.04 supports the Quantal kernels, which do not work with Ubuntu 10.10 stuck at Precise kernel 3.4.0.
On the other hand, KDE4 offers one of the most attractive-looking desktop environments available anywhere. Those seeking bling and unobtrusive eyecandy should be thrilled with KDE4.
Dolphin is an outstanding file manager that rises far above Nautilus, Mac Finder, or Windows Explorer. Since Dolphin integrates well with KDE, it offers features and customizations not possible with GNOME desktop environments. Kubuntu is worth using just to use Dolphin in its full glory.
One of the most useful features of Dolphin is how it peeks inside directories for image files and superimposes their previews on top of their parent folder icons. This provides a quick way to see what is inside a folder at a glance without opening it.
Dolphin supports the convenient dual-pane mode that can show two different locations in separate panes. Dolphin provides plenty of customization options. Buttons can be added and removed to customize the interface. Dolphin also runs in GNOME2, but it is missing some features found on a native KDE system.
Kubuntu 12.04 is a good operating system offering superb eyecandy and providing the latest updated software within the Ubuntu-derivative world without insisting upon the dumbed-down Unity/GNOME3 desktops. Those dissatisfied with Unity and GNOME3 might be pleased giving Kubuntu 12.04 a try despite the common complaints regarding KDE4.
Linux Mint MATE/Cinnamon/Debian are also excellent choices, but they would not install on the Acer Aspire One 722 netbook due to “ubi” errors from the LiveCD. Kubuntu 12.04 installed on the netbook, but only from the 12.04 alternate CD.
In general, the Aspire One performs the same as it did with Ubuntu 10.10, but it seems slower due to the higher hardware requirements to run the fancy graphics. The only real advantages to upgrading are for the newer packages, the outstanding Dolphin file manager, and the ability to install the latest Quantal kernels.
Kubuntu 12.04 is definitely worth the time.