KDE4 is coming of age

This post is one stubborn KDE3 user’s changing view (i.e. my view) toward KDE4 desktop (for Linux). It was originally written in an email to PC literate friends, who do not know so much about Linux.


Linux has two popular desktops that are used by the majority of Linux users: KDE (used mostly in Europe) and Gnome (used mostly in North America). There are also many light weight desktops (with less features but much better performance on older PCs) such as XFCE, LXDE, Enlightenment, IceWM, etc … In my case, I am a big openSUSE KDE fan. More specifically, I am a BIG KDE version-3.5.10 fan. While there is a KDE-4 under development, the key words here are “under development”. At least until recently.

On occasion, I have been playing around with the Linux KDE4 desktop, on a sandbox PC. Now my view had been that KDE4 was being pushed on the KDE community, and a very good reason for that push was that KDE3 was becoming unmaintainable. Keeping unmaintainable software for an operating system as Linux, with decades of use ahead, is not a good idea.

Still, that push does not mean stubborn KDE3 users like myself would prefer KDE4. Just the contrary. And until recently I was not overly impressed with KDE4. Yes, there was progress. Yes it was better than no desktop. But compared to its predecessor KDE3, its performance was relatively poor (which is disappointing since one hoped for goal was to make performance better), it was unstable, it had less eye candy, and the applications coded for it in many cases did not work.

Recently, that has mostly changed.

I installed openSUSE-11.1 with KDE-4.3 from a community Live CD. “KDE Four Live” CD](http://home.kde.org/~binner/kde-four-live/) At first, other than superior stability and some performance enhancements, it did not look much better than KDE-4.1.3 nor KDE-4.2 that had been available previous. But then I installed the proprietary nVidia graphic driver, and then the benefits of KDE-4.3 started to shine.

I installed openSUSE-11.1 KDE-4.3 on a relatively old athlon-1100 PC, with 1GB RAM and a nVidia FX5200 AGP card. [Note the 1GB RAM and reasonable nVidia card are important].

The first thing I noted was the transparency eye candy, which did not function with the Vesa nor openGL (open source) Linux graphic driver, worked very well with the proprietary nVidia graphic driver. The desktop eye candy was much much better with that driver. The ability to change the desktop around with some of the kwin effects “snapped” into place, with instance redraws. Now this was on an old PC (albeit with lots of memory and a reasonable graphic card).

In general, the KDE4 applications now functions better, and for those apps whose KDE4 versions are still not stable or still lacking features, in most cases the KDE3 applications will run well under KDE4.

In fact, in general this KDE4 desktop is “snappy”. Is nice. I can see now I will be migrating to KDE4.

While testing, I was able to configure a KDE4 desktop to look mostly like a KDE3 desktop. Now given that is a “step down” one might ask why I would do that? It was so I would have confidence about updating my 83-year mother’s openSUSE-11.1 (with KDE-3.5.10) to openSUSE-11.2 (to be released in Nov-2009) or 11.3 (to be released approximately in Aug-2010) with a KDE-4.3.x desktop (or newer). I now have that confidence. I can setup KDE-4.3 such that she won’t notice much difference from her KDE-3.5.10, other than perhaps KDE-4 works better. Having no change in a desktop is VERY important to her. KDE-4 can now do that. And it can do that with stability. And it can do that with performance. And KDE4 will have better support (than KDE3).

If one decides to check out KDE-4, in order to fully appreciate it, one needs to use a proprietary nVidia driver with nVidia hardware. The nVidia Linux driver is fairly good (albeit not as good as its Windoze counter-part driver). Also, one other thing of unfortunate note, is the ATI driver for Linux was not very good, especially wrt KDE4. Its possible the ATI proprietary driver still has problems with KDE4 (I do not know if they have fixed that yet - they are working on it).

I found the excellent openSUSE liveCD with KDE-4.3 (which uses the openGL or Vesa graphic driver) if run from the CD, and not installed on the hard drive, does not give one the full KDE-4.3 experience. One needs to install the OS on the hard drive, and then go thru the non-user friendly proprietary driver setup. Its easy to setup for an average Linux user, but a pain for someone new to Linux. Note previous MS-Windows experience does not count nor help here. One needs average (not basic) Linux specific experience.

A caution/warning: one can not easily use the KDE-4.1.3 version that comes with the Novell/SuSE GmbH packaged openSUSE-11.1 liveCD. That 4.1.3version of KDE-4 is far too buggy, and given the rapid KDE4 development it is horribly antiquated and it will give the completely wrong impresssion about KDE-4. One needs KDE-4.3.

So instead one should download the liveCD I noted above: “KDE Four Live” CD](http://home.kde.org/~binner/kde-four-live/) … this liveCD does have its limitations. In order to fit everything on the liveCD, a lot of things had to be cut out. The installer is not as good. Its hardware detection is not as good. Hence for those who want the best openSUSE Linux experience with KDE-4, its likely best to wait until January 2010, when openSUSE-11.2 GM (Gold Mastered) version is released with KDE-4.3.x, where January-2010 is a couple of months after the release, and there has been sufficient time for many bug fixes to be on the Software Repositories for a quick download.

Anyway, its something to keep in mind for any future Linux installs. There is a lot of bad press (and in many cases deserved bad press) circulating about KDE-4, and I think with the most current KDE-4.3 release, this is all “water under the bridge”.

KDE4 is coming of age !! :slight_smile:

*Moderator note - these are my private views - not the views of the forum, nor the views of Novell/SuSE-GmbH
… After all, this IS the Soap Box subforum … *


I still find it breathtakingly slow, compared to Gnome or Windows XP.


Must be the smog in Bochum :slight_smile: Here it’s breathtakingly fast, compared to Gnome and Vista, although admittedly not to XP. But then XP is sooo 20th century…

If that’s the case for you Uwe, then something is wrong. For me kde4.3 is just getting quicker and quicker. What kind of RAM do you have?
WIN XP - I’m not sure what comparison we can make except a very shallow one based on speed. Apart from that XP is archaic compared to KDE4.3
Even windows7 seems nothing special. And, honestly, no M$ OS offers very much, you have a major hunt on your hands to acquire a range of applications to resemble anything like openSUSE. And if it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, it will full of crapware.


Reference WinXP: WinXP has the benefit (and disadvantage for some) of not being able to display the eye candy that KDE-4.3 can display. Hence winXP does NOT have that code base inside. From that perspective, one could say winXP is more light weight ( /me ducks the flames … ) . I suspect there “may” be add-on programs for WinXP that can display KDE-4.3 style eye candy, but I also suspect that if one were to install those programs on WinXP, it would slow down. I also, suspect you know a lot more about WinXP than I, or my friends. Every winXP user/friend that I know, is forced to re-install WinXP every now and then, to get the winXP performance back, as without that, their winXP performance starts to grind to a truely pathetic crawl after a while.

Reference Gnome: Well, I never use it. I like a relatively clean desktop on my computer, but I find Gnome “too clean”. I also find it too rigid. Now I know that is just my preference/perception, but IMHO in terms of desktops, with my very subjective perception, I would take the KDE3 (and now KDE4) over Gnome desktop without hesitiation. (I also have friends who say the same about SIGNIFICANTLY prefering Gnome over KDE3 - and good on 'em - they are still Linux users - and Linux is about choice). Whats important here (for me) is KDE4 is NOW a good choice. For me, KDE4 was not (much of a choice), before KDE-4.3.

As for speed, … I don’t do PC games (except chess). I do play videos. I did not try to rotate “the cube”, but rather had some other more simple but neat eye candy displayed (quick display of 4 desktops, various transparencies … and some other neat stuff). I also tried various video players on KDE4. They worked well. There was no problem with the playback on this old PC on a 1920x1080 resolution (26" monitor). I do not see how it can be any faster with Gnome. What in Gnome do you see faster than KDE4 ? Application launch ? Some games? …

Anyway, for KDE3 users like myself, who until now have been a bit disappointed with KDE4, now may be time to take a second look.

ya’ll slackers. Even kde 4.2.0 was a very decent release and that’s when I jumped on it and used it on a daily basis. I find 4.3.0 having a bit more problems and bugs but still works very fast here

I’m bad. :slight_smile: … Its a 1920x1440 resolution monitor. And the KDE4-3 desktop looks great and its finally ( !! ) stable enough for me.

> ya’ll slackers. Even kde 4.2.0 was a very decent release and that’s when
> I jumped on it and used it on a daily basis.

Me too. I’m still on 4.2.4 though.
I’m in the middle of a bunch of stuff here at work so can’t really take
the time out to do an update and debug session with 4.3.

Soon though.

Yes, its true.KDE rocks.
If some one is facing the slow issues. It may be the RAM or system conf. But if have good conf, and still slow, then i would recommend 64bit OS(if your system is 64). I tried both, and 64bit is too fast with kde4.3.00 than 32bit.

> Yes, its true.KDE rocks.
> If some one is facing the slow issues. It may be the RAM or system
> conf. But if have good conf, and still slow, then i would recommend
> 64bit OS(if your system is 64). I tried both, and 64bit is too fast with
> kde4.3.00 than 32bit.

My experience…xorg.conf has caused my machine to act like a cripple.
Nothing to do with drivers or anything else, just a munged file from
changing video settings.

I have two launchers in the panel. When I find it slow, I use the one over the the other. The two launchers are. kwin with transparency and the other xfwm4 with no transparency(if I want it faster).:stuck_out_tongue:

Well, my experience is that on an Acer One D150, XP is very good and quite fast. However opensuse 11.1/KDE 4.1 is faster.
This week I’d like to find the time to install 11.2/KDE4.3 and see if that is even faster :slight_smile:

I think kde 4.3 is faster even with transparency. Now disabling transparency with kwin is even faster. If I can only have two kwin launchers with one has the option transparency disable and one enable I will not use xfwm4 in kde. If someone can give me a hint to do this I will gladly appreciate it. One nice feature is having different wallpaper again for each desktop like kde 3 is back.

Heh! never used much of kde 4 for a while. Just found out the toggle compositing settings plasmoid can do to turn on/off transparency. Sorry I have to quote my post due to editing time problem.

These days it seems folks have plenty of RAM, you don’t notice much difference either way.

Yay! I’m using 3 gigs of ram is it not enough?:slight_smile:
By the way I can’t make so many adjustments in kde 4.3 in successions, it keeps freezing on my machine. I just want to make it look prettier. It’s frustrating so decided to go back to xfce 4.6.1. Simple & reliable for my needs.lol!

On the side I am going to activate one older machine and load enlightenment.

3GB Same as my Laptop
Screaming fast.

I believe you. Let it run fast just turn down the screaming at dawn, the wife might scream back.lol!
On the side with xfce here I haven’t finish clicking the mouse but the app is starting to come up already.
Can you imagine how quick it is.lol!

I have not seriously tried Xfce for a couple of years. Last time I tried it (some time back) I found it very hard to configure. The XFCE transparency did not work for me then. And the XFCE hotplug automounting of hard drives did not work for me then, while I could get it to work in KDE3. It had other limitations then (that I can no longer remember) that frustrated me, in comparison to KDE3.

In the end, I decided the foreign (to me a big KDE3 fan) nature of XFCE was not worth my time being spent, and I went back to KDE3. Of course that was 2 years ago. A lot can happen to a desktop in 2 years.

Currently, with KDE-4.3 my impression is it IS worth my time. I am sorely tempted to update all my PCs to KDE-4.3, … but conservative soul that I am, and my hating unexpected incompatibilities, I’ll wait until two to three months after openSUSE-11.2 GM version is released, and then update to KDE-4.3. …

… as an aside, I had the cube desktop rotating on my Athlon-1100 with openSUSE-11.1 and KDE4.3 !! It never worked under KDE-3.5.10 on that PC. Now with KDE4.3, one had to be careful not to rotate it too fast (else KDE-4.3 complained there was a lack of processing available - duhhh … no kidding !! – try THAT on winXP - NOT ! :slight_smile: ) but overall, it was pretty neat. Not that I plan to use that feature, but IMHO it shows how far KDE4 has come. A BIG thumbs-up from me now, to KDE4 :good:

The phrase that you quoted is rather exaggerated. It’s just meant as a joke throw at caf.:wink: To be honest kde 4.3 speed is comparable to xfce.

With regards to the transparency maybe it is not the same as two years ago. It is now working smoothly. You can even use kde4-kwin transparency and desktop effects and avail all it’s features inside xfce.

One of the reason for not using kde4 in the past for everyday use during it’s infancy as oppose to your claim is that with xfce the automounting of hard drive automounting/unmounting of cd/dvd, usb stick and alike works flawlessly with my machine.

If xfce is not worthy of your time it is your feeling and choice I am not contesting you with that. It’s good to have a freedom of choice and avail the fruits you can savor from it.:slight_smile:

On a side note. I am freaking out with vista right now. I booted to vista when I saw your post and got interested in answering it but in the middle of writing the response it rebooted because of an update. I have to rewrite this post after that. Isn’t it annoying. Huh!