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 !!
*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 … *