KDE 4.3.5 is starting seriously to impress

KDE 4.3.5 is out. Does it finally bring KDE back to it's golden days it enjoyed with 3.5? Read on as Jack Wallen gives you his impressions of the latest release and what this means to the Linux desktop.

For the longest time I have been less than a fan of KDE 4. From the initial release, up until about 4.3.0 I was, well, less than impressed. It was buggy; it felt unstable at all points; and what was worse, for any new user who made the mistake of using a distribution with KDE 4, it gave the Linux operating system a bad name. No one wanted to use a desktop that might crash at any given moment, suck up 100% of a system CPU, or lose data. It simply wasn't worth the effort.

But this morning I decided to give the latest iteration of KDE (4.3.5) a try and see what it had to offer. Could it make stable what had previously been so lacking in stability? And, more importantly, could it make me think KDE was once again a viable desktop for every day use. Let's take a look and see.

Installation You might want to know just how to get 4.3.5 installed, so you can test this new release yourself. I installed on a Ubuntu 9.10 desktop that already had a previous KDE 4.3.x install. In order to install 4.3.5 you have to open up your /etc/apt/sources.list file and uncomment the line:

deb-src http://us.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ karmic-backports main restricted universe multiverse

Then, issue the command sudo apt-get update. Now you can open up your Update Manager and install the latest-greatest. After the installation you will want to log out and log back in to get the full effect. First impressions

I have faith that you will find yourself as impressed with the new release as I. Gone is the feeling that windows are unstable and about to crash any moment. The KDE desktop now feels as solid as good ol' 3.5 did. Windows snap open, move about reliably, minimize quickly, shade without hesitation...it's all there. Finally.

But what did 4.3.5 fix? You can get a full complement of the changes from the 4.3.5 changelog, but the gist is this:

  • KIO: Many bugfixes
  • kfile: Unmounting volume crash fixed
  • kded: Fixed 100% CPU usage in phonon mode
  • dolphin: Shift+Arrow bug fixed
  • konqueror: Multiple bug fixes

What I find really interesting is that compared to the previous release, you would have thought the changelog would be bubbling over with bug fixes. The list is rather unimpressive. But the bug fixes that were done made a huge difference.

Of course near the same time 4.3.5 was released, the announcement of KDE 4.4 came about and it looks really impressive. Take a look at what 4.4 has in store:

  • Plasma Netbook: A special version of Plasma for netbooks.
  • Social Desktop: Interact with social networks from the desktop.
  • Tabbing: Group windows together with tabs.

And a bevy of other improvements.

What does it all mean?

I had pretty much given up on KDE ever being a desktop I would choose. That has changed since 4.3.5. With a stability on par with GNOME and with support for Compiz getting better and better as well as the constant improvement of desktop Widgets, KDE is once again becoming a serious contender on the Linux desktop.

Ultimately what this means is that the desktop wars can heat up again. And although many might roll their eyes and huff at the mere thought of another "war", these wars do lead to innovation. KDE 4 pushed GNOME into re-inventing itself. Soon the release of GNOME 3 will arrive and will re-tool the Linux desktop as we know it. This will force KDE to toss down the gloves and offer something fresh right back. And now that KDE 4 has a solid foundation with which to build upon, this battle could get interesting.

So what I am trying to say, without actually saying it, is that the year of the Linux desktop is nigh. How "nigh" is it? That's hard to say. But with KDE 4 finally reaching a point where it is once again one of the most solid desktops available, the innovation it forces will make the Linux desktops a temptation many simply can not pass up.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....