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KDE 4.04: Bad, Just Plain Bad

June 25th, 2008 · 22 Comments

I wanted to like KDE 4. I really did. I can’t. It is the most annoying GUI (graphical user interface) I’ve used in years. And, yes, I’m including Vista’s slow as sludge Aero in my evaluation.

Since openSUSE 11 offers KDE 4.04 as one of its three default desktops—the others are KDE 3.5.9 and GNOME 2.22—I decided it was time to really give KDE 4 a try. Besides, some people think that openSUSE 11 offers the best KDE 4 experience around.

If this is the best KDE 4 has to offer, may I never get to see it when it’s being bad. I found KDE 4 to be awful.

I expected to have trouble getting my head around the new KDE 4 icon metaphor. I’d already played with it enough to know that it really wasn’t my cup of tea. What I didn’t realize is that, in KDE 4.0 anyway, just how flat-out annoying this take on icons was gong to be.

Besides being too large, the ‘icons’ have small controls so you can work with the icon itself. Ah… why? This isn’t a Mac, I have a right mouse button key and I’m not afraid to click it. Besides being klutzy—I felt like I was trying to use my computer with oven-mittens on—the icon controls didn’t work. ARGHHH!!!

I’d close an icon, then close the session, reopen it, and there the blasted icon was again. It was the night of the undead icons and all I had to fend them off was a lousy mouse.

The display itself, no matter how I adjusted it, always ended up wasting space on unwanted displays that took up great tracts of screen real estate. My smallest PC displays are 20.1” these days. There was never enough room on them for KDE 4.

OK, maybe that’s just a matter of taste. Maybe some people like having all these pretty and big—did I mention big?–on screen displays and icons. Fine. But, no one likes crashes. Dolphin, the new file manager, which I actually liked when it managed to stayed on screen, crashed a lot. Some new applications, like the 4.0 take on the KDEnetworkManager didn’t crash, but then they didn’t work either.

With KDE 4, I actually saw complete system crashes. I don’t remember ever seeing a total Linux crash this century, but with KDE 4, I saw them. I’m still trying to work out the rhyme and reason to those massive crashes, but I can say that I managed to always get a desktop interface crash by picking an ‘icon’ and then hitting delete. Yes, I was trying once more to kill off an icon once and for all, and, once more, it was back up and doing a zombie, with the very next xsession.

I also found endless small annoyances. Dragging an application icon to the taskbar doesn’t work; the desktop was amazingly slow; and even when the desktop wasn’t crashing, it certainly wasn’t stable.

To make sure it wasn’t just some oddball hardware incompatibility or update glitch, I installed openSUSE 11 with KDE 4.04 on two different systems. First up was my new laptop, a Lenovo R61 ThinkPad that started its life with SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 SP 1 with 2GBs of RAM. I also tried it on my top Linux desktop, an HP A6040N Pavilion Desktop PC with its 1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM and 320 GB of SATA hard drive. I’ve been running SUSE Linux on the last system for well over a year.

So, with start from the bare-metal and work my way up to the full system installation what did I find? I found that KDE 4.04 was still an absolutely miserable interface. I’m told KDE 4.1 Beta 2, which was just released, is much better.

I don’t care. My experiences with KDE 4.04 has left such a bad taste in my mouth that it’s going to be a long, long time before I try KDE 4.anything again.

OpenSUSE 11, itself, is great. I blasted all traces of KDE 4 off both systems, switched them over to KDE 3.5.9, and it was like the difference between night and day. I’ll write a full review of openSUSE 11 soon, but I can already tell you that the bottom line is that it’s an excellent desktop distribution… just so long as you stick go KDE 3.5x or GNOME 2.2x. KDE 4.04 is desktop poison.

Tags: Desktop · Linux · Novell · Operating System

22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 mangoo // Jun 26, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Yeah, I have similar feelings about it.

    They should have released it as 3.9 then. And use a big “STAY OFF” as a release name.

    Otherwise, scared users might not want to use KDE 4.x again, even if it’s officially blessed as “usable”.

  • 2 birger // Jun 26, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Hi,

    I’m also a long term KDE user and I see a lot of problems with KDE 4.0x.

    Could you please test a the beta2 of 4.1 http://www.kde.org/announcements/announce-4.1-beta2.php, and report in some of your issues in bugzilla?

    KDE4 is plagued by a 2 major technical issues. 4.0x was meant as “Ready with platform, please make applications” and there is also an issue with the NVidia drivers making some graphic operations very slow. The first issue has clearly not been highlighted enough.

    Kind Regards
    Birger
    Arendal , Norway

  • 3 jen1963 // Jun 26, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Steve, you’re right about KDE 4. It is horrible!!
    I was a solid KDE fan since I started running Linux on Corel Linux back in the stone age. Like Many KDE Fans I tried KDE 4, I also ran into sluggish performance & crashes. I had a bear of a time trying to figure out how to get the icons on my desktop.
    After a couple of frustrating hours trying to get my desktop just the way I it with KDE 4 I finally gave up and went back to GNOME.
    Somehow I think the KDE folks need to stop trying to emulate M$ on the desktop. It seems KDE tried to emulate an interface similar to M$ Aero and it worked about as well as Aero does too.
    Maybe GNOME doesn’t have the eye candy that KDE does in some respects but I’m not running a GUI for eye candy. My thought is the GUI is supposed to be a simple launchpad for running apps. If I want eye candy I’ll get a Sony Playstation. Wasting system resources on GUI eye candy isn’t going to make your apps run any better. In fact the eye candy can degrade system performance.
    I usually don’t like wading in to the KDE vs GNOME flame wars but KDE really has shot themselves in the foot with KDE 4.X…

  • 4 lyle howard seave // Jun 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    I used it on Kubuntu and had no problems.
    Might I suggest that you are having a problem because you use that POS that is SUSE?

    Besides, I find it interesting that you consider 4.0 to be ready to ship. I’ve read all the KDE posts and all seem to agree what it is and what it isnt. I dont blame the mouthbreathers who parrot what they read but then again if what JoeUser359 says is true and someone put KDE-4.0 as the default, I wonder why you dont blame your favorite distro?

    4.0 is NOT ready. You can call it a production release or a beta release.
    I blame the marketing people at KDE for not making this clear to those who dont follow kde4 development closely.
    I get how people can see a new number 4 appear and think “Voila! Finished product.” but that is not reality.
    4.0 is released, 4.1 will fix the bugs, 4.2 will be ready and nice and tightly wrapped.
    Dont believe me? Just look back.
    I remember when KDE 2.2 came out, distros mostly stopped shipping KDE 1.1.2 and were happy with 2.x.

    I just wish someone who writes about Linux would know how this stuff works. But bad will from Gnomeheads is a given: anything new is bad, anything which gives choice to users is bad, and so on….
    Quelle surprise.

  • 5 sjvn // Jun 26, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I tried it on Kubuntu just long enough to know it was a loser there too.

    As for your other comments about what I know, and don’t know, about Linux, et. al. , you really don’t have a clue who I am do you?

    Steven

  • 6 drseergio // Jun 26, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    As already mentioned in the comments, KDE 4.0.x is not a user-centric release but rather a technological release to show off technologies and provide an environment for developers. This has been made clear many times, for example, if you browse gentoo distribution wiki or forum pages you will see big fat warnings that 4.0.x is for brave only. Most probably by the time KDE shall hit 4.5 (perhaps less) or something it’s going to be really mature and de-facto – it’s just not the time for the mainstream to adopt it. I have also tried the 4th version for the sake of curiosity but then abandoned the idea as I was missing essential functionality.

  • 7 rpedrica // Jun 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Steve, not sure who you, and who you are is not really important, is it? What is important is the point about 4.0 not being fully production ready. 1st, a lot of opensource products don’t follow proprietary software in terms of release numbering and methods. 2nd, and if you’ve done some homework on the subject, the KDE developers have made it clear that 4.0 and perhaps some newer versions were not meant as production ready or an immediate replacement for 3.5.x. 3rd, you have the right to an opinion on whether you like it or not, but to write if off completely is being a bit over the top.

    My own opinion is that stability and usability are not there yet, but the effort and technologies that the KDe devs have put in place as a foundation is phenomenal to say the least and to be respected. I think that 4.x may be a sea change for some in breaking their usability habits but on the other hand, I also see 3rd parties providing mechanisms to allow old style behaviour – one of the nice things about Plasma is that it makes these additions and changes possible.

    So instead of writing a pointless article like this, why not give your feedback into the KDE ecosystem, and if there are enough voices, perhaps the KDE devs will take notice and provide the services, methods and functions you specifically enjoy about 3.5.x. If not, I’m sure someone else will come along and do it. It’s seems these days that it’s all too easy to be negative about something, but I’d prefer to make the effort to be positive and help to make a difference.

    Sincerely, Robby

  • 8 timhodkinson // Jun 26, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I went from KDE 3.5 to 4.0 to Fluxbox, myself. I’ll agree that KDE4 is still in early development and was released as a way to give momentum to the process. However, I became a KDE user (3.5) because of it’s better functionality over Gnome and not for it’s appearance.

    Like sjvn, I would say that KDE4 is adding too many visual enhancements that don’t appear to contribute greater functionality but do seem to be contributing a lot of instability and complexity. They’ll get it all worked out eventually, but perhaps, as sjvn is suggesting (I think) that’s not what all KDE users actually think is most important in a good desktop.

    Incidently, I just recently installed Linux Mint and I found the “mint menu” quite impressive. My first thought was, “This is the menu that KDE4 ought to have”.

  • 9 Carl // Jun 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I have been a Linux user for a very long time– since 1994 when I first installed Slackware from floppies. I have also been a KDE user for a very long time– since before 1.0. I have used Linux/KDE almost exclusively for work and play for nearly 15 years. So to Lyle and rpedrica I think I have enough experience to say “You are full of crap!”

    KDE 4.0 is just plain awful. Nowhere on th KDE site does it say that 4.0 is not meant as a production release and should be avoided. Making that claim flies in the face of the history of KDE where every prior release had useful improvements and was usable far before the release went final. Yes, I’ve heard that all the problems are supposed to be magically fixed in 4.1 but that claim doesn’t make 4.0 any better.

    I’m not a KDE developer so I can’t say for certain but it really appears to me as if the KDE developers attempted more than they are capable of with their rewrite. I’ll stick with 3.5.x.

  • 10 surrey // Jun 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    As much as I can appreciate your frustrations with KDE 4.0.x, it’s been pretty clear from the start that 4.0 isn’t ready for most users. Where’s Kontact and the other major apps that 3.5 users depend upon? The truth is that the apps aren’t there because the platform – in its current nascent state – isn’t ready for widespread use. Think of it as a tech preview, and a promising one.
    In the meantime if you’re open to suggestions, I strongly recommend Gnome 2.2.x for a usable, enjoyable, consistent and – most of all – stable desktop environment. Gnome with SLAB (aka gnome-main-menu) on OpenSUSE 11 is a joy to use.
    Cheers,
    F

  • 11 aseigo // Jun 28, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Steven,

    Your previous article (http://practical-tech.com/infrastructure/kde-41-have-it-our-way/) was factually incorrect; from “no desktop icons” to “hard to set it up the way 3.5 was”, it was riddled with inaccuracy.

    Now in this article, besides not really stepping beyond the icons on the desktop (I suppose you are fixating on that a bit because you really rely on it and are concerned about it), you seem to think that 4.0.4 contains the new icon system (folderview). It doesn’t.

    I’d love an opportunity to explain to you exactly how things work now (4.0.x vs 4.1), how they will work, etc. because it’s not at all what you seem to be thinking.

    As a side note, the slowness you are seeing .. not sure what would be causing that, but perhaps we could discuss that as well if you have the time. I’m going to guess graphics drivers in this case, but it’s hard to say. Should be easy to deduce, though.

    In any case, you probably have my email, and my skype name is aseigo.

    It would be great to clear this up so that you don’t have to remain frustrated and I don’t have to read more of this sort of entry. ;)

  • 12 sjvn // Jun 28, 2008 at 6:58 pm

    The simple fact that you feel you have to explain to me, someone who spends most of the time working on operating systems, what your doing in KDE worries me. A desktop environment that requires explaining is a flawed desktop.

    It seems to me that you’re making a classic engineering mistake. You’re creating a program for you and your fellow developers, not for users.

    Steven

  • 13 I just hate… « Stand on the shoulders of giants // Jul 3, 2008 at 12:13 am

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  • 14 Linux 4 All » Blog Archive » KDE 4.1 nie przestaje rozczarowywa? // Jul 3, 2008 at 3:31 am

    [...] i najwyra?niej nie uda?o si? ich zaspokoi?. Jednym z interesuj?cych g?osów w dyskusji by?y zesz?otygodniowe wypowiedzi Stevena J. Vaughan-Nicholsa, wieloletniego u?ytkownika KDE i redaktora zajmuj?cego si? tematyk? [...]

  • 15 blackbelt_jones // Jul 4, 2008 at 10:41 am

    (quote:)
    This has been made clear many times, for example, if you browse gentoo distribution wiki or forum pages you will see big fat warnings that 4.0.x is for brave only.
    (end of quote)

    And there it is. The fatal tendency to blame the public for KDE’s public relations problem. If we’d have only done the research, we’d know that there’s nothing to worry about. Didn’t you check the Gentoo wiki? Well, then, it’s your own fault.

    I’m not really saying that it’s not our fault. We could have done the research. However, expecting the public to step up and do the research may not be a successful PR strategy, at least compared to taking responsibility for getting the information in front of people. Calling it a development release would have been a pretty easy way to put the information that it’s not finished where someone would find it before installing. It would be in the name of the file. When I downloaded KDE4.0, I remember distinctly that I clicked on a link that said “stable”.

    It looks to me like this while crapstorm is all about a public relations blunder. Chances are, there is nothing wrong with KDE4 other than the fact that it’s not finished. I can’t know for sure, but we probably don’t need a fork, we just need to wait. But releasing unfinished software way ahead of time and then telling users to be patient is a mixed message at best.

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  • 17 mjt // Jul 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    before i get started, i’l like to mention that i’m
    the author of “Inside Linux” and have been
    using Linux since Yggdrasil, SLS, and TAMU
    and since “day 1″ of Slackware, all of which
    means i’ve been working with Linux distros
    before “distro” was a popular term.

    > If this is the best KDE 4 has to offer,

    come on Steven, you know you’re not working
    with the new KDE at its greatest. it’s a well
    known fact that in the IT industry, “x.0″ software
    is never prime time. personally, i do use x.0
    software because it provides me with the incite
    into the future of that software product.

    a more open mind-set should be in order here.
    i am currently running openSuse 11 (BTW – i’ve
    been using SuSE since version 4.2 – the 1st
    version, at around 1996 – still have the box) on
    an MSI motherboard/AMD 64/SATA machine
    with ZERO issues. i also have it running on an
    HP AMD64/SATA laptop with no issues.

    i know, i know, just because it works flawlessly
    for me, doesnt mean it works for everyone else;
    however, i have to interject that just because it
    doesnt work FOR YOU, doesnt mean it’s cr@p
    for everyone else.

    Besides being klutzy [...]icon controls didn’t work[...]

    Klutzy? i dont get it. i find it smooth as silk on
    my end. do you *only* work with icons on your
    desktop? i dont – i use them as shortcuts to the
    real application icons found in the menu system.

    BTW – arrange the icons as you wish, then r-click
    on the desktop, and select Lock Icons.

    > My smallest PC displays are 20.1″ these days.
    > There was never enough room on them for KDE 4.

    probably typical of most users. the laptops i use
    have a 15 and 17 inch display – the point is, i have
    no issues with icon size, because i always reduce
    the size of the Desktop Icons via the setup utility –
    did you investigate that? (i have no issue with the
    dual 30″ Dell displays for the desktop machine).

    > Dolphin [...] crashed a lot.

    again, for whatever reason, on the three personal
    machines i have openSuse running on, Dolphin has
    never crashed (admittedly, it did during the beta
    releases).

    > With KDE 4, I actually saw complete system crashes

    hmmmm. i’ve never had a system crash because
    of KDE4. admittedly, the only system lockup i’ve
    had is when running dvd:rip.

    > the desktop was amazingly slow; and even when the
    > desktop wasn’t crashing, it certainly wasn’t stable.

    i’m amazingly perplexed too – i’ve never experienced
    any crashes.

    > I don’t care. My experiences with KDE 4.04 has left
    > such a bad taste in my mouth that it’s going to be a
    > long, long time before I try KDE 4.anything again.

    then it’s obvious – use KDE 3.x or use GNOME. for
    you to [publicly] berate KDE4 is beyond me. i’d like
    to reiterate that just because it (for whatever reason)
    didnt work for you, doesnt mean it doesnt work for
    others.

    dont get me wrong – i’m not saying that one shouldnt
    present an honest review, but this review appears to
    be a parallel of the hundreds of self-proclaimed
    “technical blogs” that show up on the horizon – a review
    that was executed in haste.

    in closing, let it be known that i run the 64-bit version
    of openSuse 11 on all my machines, to include KDE4,
    with no issues.

    everyone – please read “drseergio” reply. i also appreciate
    “rpedrica’s” reply – both a bit more open minded.

    to “lyle howard seave” – your “[...] POS that is SUSE? [...]”
    statement shows your open-mindedness towards the
    Linux/OSS world”.

    in closing, i’d like to commend the openSuSE team for
    their efforts with hardening KDE4, and mostly, the
    openSuse 11 distro. watch for KDE4.1 and more so for
    the KDE4.2 release.

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  • 19 blackbelt_jones // Jul 15, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I knew all along that I didn’t care much for KDE4, but it wasn’t until about 20-30 hours logged on with several different version that I decided that KDE4 is just plain bad.

    I might be mistaken. It happens all the time. I used to hate Ubuntu, and now I like it fine. But I just can’t imagine a benefit that is going to justify all of this complexity, and I sure as hell can’t understand how all of this complexity can be described as “simplicity”.

    Nobody who doesn’t like KDE4 is going to be quiet about it while the boosters are going around talking it up. Attacking the deveolpers, as some have done, even personally and by name is deplorable and wrong. The software is fair game. We’re all dependant on it, and some of us have worked hard to make our own contribution to FOSS. I have spent hours and hours online and in person teaching people how to use the software. I have written tutorials. In exchange for this, I do not expect anyone to kiss my ass or to consider me above criticism.

    However, I would hate to see the criticism preempt the complete rollout of the developers’ vision. Sure, I think it’s a train wreck. That’s my opinion, and it wasn’t arrieved at in haste, but I would love to be proved wrong, and if they prove me wrong, I won’t be ashamed to say so.

    Maybe next time KDE will choose to aim the unfinished software releases directly at developers, and to not promote the release to the public prematurely. This could go a long way to prevent the need to roll out their release under fire, in a confrontational atmosphere. Right now, everyone with KDE is adamantly admitting that a mistake was made, and insisting that the public is responsible for their public relations problems. I think that when this all over, and the defensive posture is no longer required, they’ll reconsider.

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