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KDE 4.04: Bad, Just Plain Bad


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.