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I tried out the latest 64 bit Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 Remix distribution recently and had a very mixed experience. This is not something that I had expected out of Kubuntu since I have had a pretty long and hassle free experience with it.

Firstly, the installation process somehow switched to an all-text mode without even telling me so. That is not something that happened when I try to install the non-KDE4 version of the same operating system. And yes the box I was installing on is the same. The keyboard auto-configure feature is a real pain in all the wrong places. It keeps on asking a seemingly unending series of questions. Of course there is the option of doing the configuration manually too. But still, the auto-configure could be done a lot more elegantly, maybe like the Mac OS. The problem with the text mode is that during partition it appears to be very unfriendly. A nice GUI is always more welcome.

Installation over, I logged into the new system running KDE 4.0. My poor PC is really low on graphics muscles and it was telling rightaway. The effects, once enabled, were jerky and not seamless enough for my liking. Disabling them did not make a huge lot of a difference. There are some nice features of KDE 4.0 of course. The Plasma UI looks good and with the supplied widgets you can actually get rid of the ugly panel at the bottom of the screen. That being said, removing the panel is not something for the faint at heart. You would have to edit a KDE configuration file. So if you are not comfortable with that idea, let it just be there. I moved the panel to the top and the icons just changed automatically. And they were meaningless. The KDE application launcher button changed to the Konqueror down arrow key and remained that way. Not good.

With add/remove programs I added a few essential software. To my surprise and unlike the non-KDE4 version of Kubuntu, the new applications did not appear automatically in the application launcher menu!!! I thought of editing the application launcher menu but just could not find out a way of doing it (of course you can again tinker around with config files, but that apart). Till now things were not looking good and I was very very disappointed. 

What next? There was an announcement on the Kubuntu website that KDE 4.1.1 could now be used with Kubuntu 8.04 and reportedly that had a lot of improvements. Very well then. I followed the instructions available on the Kubuntu website and installed KDE 4.1.1.

So in comes KDE 4.1.1 and things changed. Things changed for the better. Suddenly the UI seemed a bit more responsive. The effects worked better. The panel could be removed without making changes to cryptic configuration files. Newly installed applications showed up immediately in the application launcher menu. The menu editing option was back. There are still some issues with disabling/enabling effects, but nothing major. 

There was one small quirk though, the System Settings menu option appeared on the favorites section of the application launcher, but did not appear in th System menu. Odd. I checked through the menu editor and the option was there, but just did not show up. Is this something deliberate?

The biggest change I noticed was in the Dolphin file manager. Now its a pleasure to use. The previous version was just too unwieldy and I had dumped it in favor of Konqueror. But this time it has a lot of promise. Oh yes, Konqueror still remains.

These are just the initial impressions about the operating system. The only thing I felt was the need of a more powerful graphics processor. I strongly recommend using one that has at least 256 MB of video memory. Unfortunately I was running on a Intel G33/G31 with 64 MB of shared memory.

Kubuntu 8.04 KDE 4 Remix with the KDE 4.1.1 update gives us a glimpse of what the boys and girls at KDE are upto and needlessly to say that whatever they are doing is impressive. I for one am not complaining.